Baby V’s First Trip – Taiwan Escapade (Part 1)
Months before we welcomed baby V, we were toying with the idea of travelling after the confinement period. But after she arrived, we couldn’t bear to leave her here in Singapore while we were miles away. So eventually, we decided to bring her along and my parents as support team. LOL. Proper planning is definitely required especially when bringing a baby overseas. For a checklist on what and how to pack the luggage, our previous article might help ease those nerves.
We had about 7 days in Taiwan and our route was: Taipei > Taichung > Cing Jing > Taipei, approx. 2 nights at each area. As first time parents plus first time flying with a baby, we did have several considerations (including eventually bringing my parents along. Oops!), so to new parents in the same shoes: It’s not undoable (is there such a word??)!! We came back
in one piece happy! :P
Day 1: [Singapore – Taipei – Taichung] Beacon Hotel – Feng Jia Night Market
Almost 4hours later, we arrived at Taipei International Airport, hopped on the shuttle bus headed for the Taipei HSR Main Station (there’s only 1 bus that goes there! Get tickets from the right counter.) where we were due to take our pre-booked train ride to Taichung. Journey to Taichung takes about 30minutes by the High Speed Rail. We booked the Business Class seats as my parents wanted a more comfy ride. It was definitely more spacious, chairs are bigger (2-seater instead of 3-seater at Economy Class) and drinks (choice of juice, hot tea, coffee, water) and a small cake were served.
Upon reaching Taichung stop, we headed to the McDonald’s at the station to meet the local driver uncle who was to send us to the hotel. Journey to Beacon Hotel took about 40 minutes but the ride didn’t seem that long as the traffic was pretty smooth in the evening and it was a 7-seater (yay!) so all’s good. Despite the travelling, my energy level shot up instantly upon discovering that Feng Jia Night Market was literally at our doorsteps! REJOICE!! We checked into the room, freshened up baby Vera and scooted out pronto – that explains the lack of pictures of the room.. LOL!
Hotel rooms in Taiwan are usually “just right” or sometimes less spacious. With a king sized bed plonked in the centre, a mini fridge, full height 2-door wardrobe, 42″ LCD TV, toilet amenities with glass-doored partitioned shower area and a study table + chair; we couldn’t ask for more knowing it’s going to be a place to
snooze re-energize. Baby cots are available upon request during booking, and the room came equipped when we entered. Only to realize it became a white elephant because baby Vera has been co-sleeping with us at home anyway, what more with a King sized bed now! The attentive folks at the reception asked if we needed a bath tub too, so do note to request from them as well, if you’re planning a trip with your baby. It was a simple Combi bath tub, good enough but just be careful if baby is learning to crawl or likes moving around as it does get slippery in there if you’re used to using a bath mat or other accessories for added friction.
Feng Jia Night Market is hailed as a must-go place when visiting Taichung, and prices are presumably cheaper compared to Taipei city. It covers a pretty big area and there were several food stalls with long queues (especially the 大肠包小肠 stall that was just next to the hotel. Hub immediately proclaimed that he was going for it!), and we noticed quite a few strollers being pushed around. We opted to skip the stroller and simply put Vera into our carrier since it was already night time when we arrived and we weren’t planning to stay out too late. Glad with this decision because it freed up our hands when we scouting around for snacks and munching them as dinner so we didn’t have to fumble with manouvring a stroller. With a carrier, it is also easy for me to nurse her on-the-go whenever she needs to fill up.
The night ended quite early (by our standards of a usual Taiwan trip) as we didn’t wish to overtire Vera and turn her schedule topsy-turvy. Indeed, she snoozed like a log after nursing to sleep – we actually had some proper rest as she slept right through; it’s been a long time! Things were looking rosy :D
Day 2: Local Produce Store – Hong Rui Zhen Sandwich – Miyahara Eye Hospital – Dong Dong Yu Yuan – Xinshe Castle – Mushroom Town – Feng Jia Night Market
We started the day with breakfast at the hotel’s café and baby V had her share of plain porridge from the buffet line. Seeing that we were all eating, she felt left out I suppose. So we put her on the high chair and took turns “entertaining” her while we
After breakfast, driver uncle came to pick us at the lobby and we discussed the itinerary for the day. First stop was a store to get the “best Tai Yang Bing (Sun Cakes)” as he proclaims. They were very generous with samples and gave each of us a full piece. I tried them but wasn’t too impressed, so I didn’t get any and I obviously didn’t remember its name either. Oops.
Along the way to Miyahara Eye Hospital, we stopped by Hong Rui Zhen Sandwich, as driver uncle was sharing that it’s popular among the locals for its fresh and soft sandwiches, and they have only one store in the whole of Taiwan. Tastes soft and fresh but a tad sweet for me.
Before we came, I did some research on what to see/do at Taichung, and Miyahara Eye Hospital (宮原眼科- Gong Yuan Yan Ke) came up in the searches, and it looks too interesting and pretty to miss! With a unique story proposition like being converted from an eye hospital, and turning it into a spanking new snacks boutique with pretty packaging. They are part of Dawn Cakes, the same team who are famous for pineapple cakes and the works. But at the eye hospital, packaging sells. There’s a sit-down restaurant on the second floor, so if you’re planning for a date or high tea, this can be a nice option too. Let the pictures tell you more!
We didn’t get to try the ice cream cos the queue was soooo long!? Have seen others raving about the unique flavours, but seriously, with what seemed like 40 pax in the queue – no thanks, man, because queues are off-putting (to me, at least. not very Singaporean, hor? LOL)
Next stop: Xin She Castle (新社古堡). There’s a Lavender Cottage (薰衣草森林) that some tourists recommended too but my mum isn’t too much a fan of flowers and grass (as she claims), so we skipped that. Along the way to Xin She Castle, we swung by Dong Dong Yu Yuan for yam balls and sweet potato balls that drive uncle was raving about. Seems like there’s only one of this shop too, and apparently popular with the folks in Tai Chung.
Xin She Castle is at an open space area with a mini man-made waterfall too. But the weather was scorching, so it wasn’t too enjoyable. Fortunately, i remembered to whip out baby V’s sunblock! And then i forgot about myself, had to dig out the sunblock we bought from Watsons’ the day before. So much cheaper to get it in Taiwan, especially since it’s Summer, most sunblocks/sunscreens/anti-UV/BB creams/CC creams and whatnots were on sale! Happy bee!
Baby V’s Mustela sun protection cream was easy to spread and didn’t leave unsightly white patches on her skin. It didn’t really feel sticky too, so that was a good thing! For adults (okay, basically I was the only one who bothered to apply sunblock), Biore Super UV Milk was light on the body’s skin, spreads easily due to its watery nature and seems to turn abit powdery, without a sense of stickiness. On my face, Aqualabel UV Milk bought in Watsons Singapore was watery and spreads with no fuss, but it seemed to give me a tinge of white on my face/pearly effect, so it made me look whiter according to Hub. Maybe application was done hurriedly so I scrambled to spread it out for fear of scaring people. LOL.
So we toured the area in under an hour, took some pictures. The gift store is a miss – items from different parts of the world put there tagged with high prices. The entrance ticket comes with vouchers to offset your purchase (i think it was TWD$100?) but nothing was priced at that value and we couldn’t find anything worth buying so we walked out in 5mins. Along the drive to our next destination, driver uncle mentioned that his 17 year old daughter was holidaying in Singapore for the first time, with her friend. It was her first overseas trip etc etc… so we were casually chatting away. Until later, we understood why…
It was nearing noon, so driver uncle said that he will bring us to a place to dine at their popular mushroom eateries. Apparently, that whole stretch of road houses various restaurants that focus on mushrooms. Interesting to know, because many of them have their own mushroomy farms so it’s basically hort (hot, geddit, geddit??) off the soil! Was a tad disappointed with the place he took us to, as it wasn’t like what he had described. We had a steamboat of mushrooms and veggies, stir-fried veggies and meat. Soup-based was herbal but slightly bland. Excuse the lack of pictures here, but i guess you can check out that stretch for many mushroom dining places. My colleague went to an indoor one and she said it was good. Ours was a little rundown, and it was outdoors, and the weather was rather hot, plus steamboat smoke in our faces! Haha what were we thinking?! At this juncture, drive uncle told us that his daughter just rang him, and that she was arriving in Taipei soon but didn’t know how to get home from the Tai Chung airport (?!) and driver uncle needed to pick her from the airport instead. So, he pre-arranged for another driver to send us around. As ours was a 7-seater, we asked him if it’d be the same type of vehicle. Well, after our meal, the other driver came and it was a regular 4-passenger yellow cab! So we squeezed our barang barangs in the boot and ended up like sardines with 3 adults sitting at the back and a baby. Gosh! Oh well, I mean, what can we say or do, right?
We spoke with this stand-in driver uncle that we wanted to go shopping elsewhere apart from Feng Jia Night Market, so he brought us to another area for shopping. Can’t recall the name, but it’s those typical night market format. Unfortunately, it started pouring not too long from the start of our shopping. The grounds were wet and shelter was limited. The men (my dad and the hub) went to purchase some brollys so we walked for another half an hour or so while waiting gingerly for the rain to cease. It started to get heavier, so we decided to call for the driver uncle to pick us up, and we headed back to the hotel to clean up as well as bathe baby Vera before making our way to Feng Jia Night Market for our second round of shopping plus tummy fillers!
Day 3: Rainbow Village – Cultural Village – King Garden – Paper Dome – Feeling 18deg Cafe –
Cing Jing (Star Villa)
The day started with breakfast at the hotel again and we were kinda sad as it was pretty much the same food offered. Nonetheless, after a quick breakfast, we hopped onto our 7-seater (our actual driver+car came back! LOL) and started to plan the day with him.
First stop, Rainbow Village (台中彩虹眷村), where we saw loads of coloured walls adorned with illustrations. These murals were done by a 90-year old uncle (彩虹爺爺), who was present at the site for autography too! He beautified the walls in a bid to save the area from redevelopment, and successfully turned it into a talking point as well as a place to visit for tourists and locals alike. There was also a street performer who sang Chinese songs under the scorching Sun. The weather was a killer, seriously but we managed to get some postcards as mementos too.
As its name suggests, all things cultural there. Traditional toys and games, exhibits, food stalls, food variety and presentation style etc were in sync. We explored Carton King, one of the places to visit when you’re there, and also because we were told it’s free entry here as opposed to the store at Cing Jing. To be fair, this store was bigger than Cing Jing’s. Lunch was a meal of minced meat noodles (not the same as Bah Chor Mee, okay!) and my legs were getting tired from all the walking. Had to nurse and eat at the same time, which was often done during the trip. Haha, multi-tasking takes on a new level!
After our meal, we popped back into the van feeling full and tired at the same time. We made our way to King Garden ((元首館), where an English-looking establishment with giant chess pieces and a horse carriage greeted us. Several visitors were posing with these props for photo moments, and many others were streaming into the building. With the scorching weather, being indoors was the best bet. Inside, it was akin to stepping into the confectionary section of a department store – displays of snacks such as their local favourites of pineapple cakes and tea were sitting on the shelves. There was even a bakery and that explained the crusty aroma of fresh bakes. The hub couldn’t resist it and we bought some bread to share with the family. Mum’s attention was caught by a lady selling nougats. These came in multiple flavours from sweet to savory, and soft or hard types too. Mum sampled a couple of flavours and ended up buy over a dozen sticks! Baby V was also in a jovial mood, flashing cheeky smiles when I whipped out my mobile :P
After getting some food for my colleagues, we left to make out way to Paper Dome (紙教堂).
Driver uncle recommended this place as it held memories of a major earthquake that destroyed the actual church in Kobe. Shigeru Ban, an internationally known Japanese architect, then came up with an idea to recreate the temporary church using only paper (cardboard tubes). It has since been transported over to Taichung, sitting in a garden-like area which is opened to public, NT$100/pax fee applies which can be used to offset purchases in the small shops/stalls within the area.
Tip: In fact, you can simply spend that NT$100 value like money, without any minimum purchase. We got some cute hair clips for baby Vera and hand-sketched postcards from the local folks there from the shops deeper in the area. Skip the first shop you see, unless you’d like to get a drink.
By then, it was around early evening, so we started to drive towards Cing Jing, which is estimated to take about 2 hours or so on a direct trip. Before embarking on the route, driver uncle raved about a coffee place that was very popular in Taichung. He asked if we take coffee, and it was a unanimous “yes!” from us. LOL. The best thing was, everyone gets to drink for free! Why is that? Basically, the FREE coffee and tea serve as crowd pullers (or lost leaders in business sense), and the real deal comes from the sale of chocolates and cakes. In fact, Feeling 18deg Café (18度巧克力工房) is generous with their cake samples too, so some folks (including us!) “hid” at the bakery to stay in the air-conditioned area cos the evening sun wasn’t very kind. If your skin is thick, you can keep grabbing their cake samples to go along with your free cup of drink. And surprise, surprise! The queue to purchase chocolates was snaking long too! The entire style of the place is clean and pretty Japanese too.
After we finished our drink, we hopped onto the van to proceed with our drive to Cing Jing. Our accommodation for the night was Star Villa at Cing Jing, and the town is known not have any night life. So before we got banished up in the highlands, driver uncle arranged for our dinner near our hotel. Homecooked local fare to fill our tummies, followed up a visit to the nearby 7-11 to stock up on food or drinks we might need. The men got some alcohol and instant noodles. And, off to our mountain home we go!
My legs started to feel the chilling wind during the dinner. After our meal, we headed to check into Star Villa. Mind you, since it was on high grounds, lots of climbing expected as there weren’t lifts. Parents with babies and young children might want to request for rooms on the first level (ours was on 3rd and superbly big, and parents took the 4th floor) but those rooms might be the smaller ones. You will need to lug PLENTY of things: luggage, stroller, diaper bag – basically, pre-empt your hubby on the impeding workout, alright? Keeps him warm, anyway :P
After checking in and cleaning up baby Vera, we took turns to shower and got ready for a good rest in the uber big bed! Oh, not forgetting to eat some peaches that we bought along the journey up. Taiwan peaches are famed for being juicy and sweet, but they spoil easily so buy what you can eat so food is not wasted. Off to lala land in the cold mountains! :)
We toured Cing JIng the next day, and made an amazing discovery which many do not know of yet! Look out for the next article – Baby V’s First Trip – Taiwan Escapade (Part 2)!