Tioman 2016.

This was a 3D2N trip to Tioman, Malaysia. It was my very first trip to this island and also my very first time trying snorkelling! I was so nervous and afraid of being swallowed by the waters but trust was very important. I trusted this group of friends and hang on to their arms for my dear life even though I had a life jacket on, but i was still frightened just like any non swimmer will. Thank God, I made it alive trying to snorkel without even being a good swimmer. 

This video montage was made to display the epic highs and lows of this amazing trip. I love that each of our different personalities complement one another and make this trip so exciting and memorable.

Looking forward to the next trip with them!

Sydney Autumn 2016.

Finally, my holiday is here! After my last holiday trip which ended in October last year, i was already feeling tired from work and all the daily stuff.. I hadn’t plan to visit Sydney at all thinking that it’s but another city alike Singapore. But as I was looking at the promotional airfares, I thought hey! maybe i could give Sydney a chance.. and here I come!

I was a little hesitant initially, being aware of the terrorist attack news there lately, but as I had been to Melbourne before (and fell in love with the city there), I thought its fair to give this beautiful place a visit. So true enough, it surprises me. 😙

This was the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, although it was so far away from us but we could spot a few groups of bridge climbers on top of the bridge at that time!

 

We even tried to capture both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House together in a picture.. camera angles are very important!

The Grounds of Alexandria is a farm theme inspired cafe situated in the middle of an industrial area in Sydney. It was more accessible by car / taxis than by foot as we had to  walk a few miles only then to arrive here. It was very crowded too, so do make reservations if you are going there for a meal!

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This was the interior of Central Station, so wished our train stations are like that too haha! Impressive architecture!

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I love spacious places..  and it’s something we do not have here in SG.

This was Leura Garage cafe. Cannot remember if it was a garage transformed into a cafe or it’s just a garage theme cafe. They even serve rainwater as a form of beverage. LoL.

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We took a long distance train from Sydney to Katoomba. Then we bought the day pass @ $40++ /pax which gave us unlimited rides around Blue Mountains National Park! Be warned, beautiful scenery pics coming up.

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Nice? That’s the legendary 3 sisters. 😀

Some hiking was required at some areas since it’s a national park. Btw, it was pretty cold up here in the mountains so it’s always good to bring along an extra jacket!

 

Poor mum, we were pretty worried about her knees not able to take the load of hiking upwards.

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This was @ Sublime Point Lookout.

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Beautiful scenery!

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This picture is proof that we went during the autumn season!

We also spent some time exploring the city and the CBD area, there’s this mix of rustic and modern feel around the city when we saw modern and old architecture located just side by side! The clock tower reminds me of London’s Big Ben.

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Lots of walking about although the train stations are nearby. Besides St James Station is Sydney’s own Hyde Park.

 

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Bondi Beach was pretty accessible. We took a bus there and we had brunch at one of the cafes along the street opposite the beach. Highly instagrammable food as you can see.

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And the instafamous Bondi Icebergs swimming pool is just by the ocean.

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Another highly instagrammable shot. Hehe

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We took to the challenge of doing the coastal walk, enjoying the scenery and of course the sea breeze!

 

Decided to take a cliff shot, although it is not advisable because of the risk of falling rocks or a careless step, I may end up swimming in the deep blue ocean.

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Remembering that this was the last meal that we had on the last day before we caught our plane back to SG.

Last but not least, I would say “Kudos!” to the subway network in Sydney, I must say it was a pleasant smooth experience for us travelling with the Opal cards. I learnt that although Australia is one big country, the different cities uses different transport companies and therefore, just like in Melbourne, use the Myki cards. Melbourne was confusing with the Zones 1 or 2. If you visit Melbourne, you will understand what I mean.

Busan 2015. 

This is another one of my belated entry of my travel diary since this trip was made somewhere in April 2015. My last visit to South Korea was in 2007 and it has been almost 8 years since then. Despite this delay in making this trip, I still felt a sense of familiarity with this city upon touching down at Incheon airport. Probably, it was because I have always been watching SK dramas and movies for the longest time. hahaha.

 #0 this was taken at their domestic airport with an awesome view of the aeroplanes. Felt that watching aeroplanes fly and land can be quite therapeutic.
IMG_0018  #1 Took a domestic flight to Busan and we were transported to this Boseong Tea plantation which locals boast it as their finest green tea field in SK.

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#2 mandatory jump shot ?  #2.5 Naganeupseong Folk Village
  #3 reliving my childhood on this super humongous ‘Qiu Qian’

#4 I went up the rocky stairs to this huge rocky platform and sat there. So I insisted my mum to take an arty farty shot of me looking up at the skies. This is it.
  #5 Left the folk village for this Suncheon bay which is one of the top 5 coastal wetlands in the world. I bet this is a UNESCO heritage site since it is being protected and preserved by the country.

 #5.5  suncheon bay

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#6 Gumcheon art culture village

#6.5 so… this is the famous everyone’s heard of Santorini of the Asia.  This is the Gumcheon Art Village which is also famously called the asian version of Santorini. So while we are on the way to see that famous landscape, there were alot of such wall murals that decorated the streets of this quiet place which is also still homes to perhaps some of the poorest oldest citizens of this country.

#7 this is it. Added some filter to enhance the sunlight shining through the camera lens 😛  

#8 Us.

#9 and Us again.  

#10 took quite a number of selfies with the selfie stick hahaha!

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#11
 #11.5 the view at Skywalk Oryudo 

#12 this was taken down at the foot of the rocky hill. Was quite a long way down and I ran up because I felt guilty for eating too much ‘bap’ (meaning: rice) for the past few days. Locals eat bap for almost every meal.

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#13

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#14

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#15 Bulguksa Temple – an UNESCO heritage site, one of the incentives of this trip is been able to visit a few of the many UNESCO heritage sites in the world. To me, its like a check in the bucket list.
 #16 Cheonmachong (Algol Court) in Gyeongju where some of the late king and officials of the Silla Kingdom are buried here. Each ‘hill’ is a tomb for the king or some high ranking official. We visited one of the hill which laid the remains of a king.

#17 Another of nature landscape taken at the Cheonmachong. Overheard that this was the garden where the queen or king would roam around in their free time. Not sure if I remembered correctly, hehe.
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#18 This was Anapji Pond in Gyeongju.

 #19 on the way to lunch, we saw a big field of this yellow flowers and so the tour guide allowed us to alight to take a few pictures as this wasn’t a common sight in this part of the country in this season. This was also gps tagged at Wolsong area. 

#20 After an escapade to the countryside, we took a speed train back to Seoul from Shin GyeongJu Station. Pretty good weather to start with that day.

#21 This itinerary also included back row tickets to the Wedding Musical concert in Seoul and this was one of the actors in the musical.
IMG_0187 #22 Bukchon Hanok Village where the confusing streets of traditional korean houses are cultured together. 

#23 GyeongBokGung Palace.
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#25 we bought alot of MarketO cookies this trip.. it was so much cheaper here than you would get online or at the korean shops in SG.

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#26 aiyah.. i looked so fat here.. didnt wanted to upload this pic but uploaded this to mark my step here to this Teddy Bear Museum in Gwangju.
#27 This was the bonus of the trip where we finally catch a few glimpse of cherry blossoms on our way from/to Incheon airport. I knew our trip is a late one if we had wanted check out the cherry blossoms. Nevertheless, thank God we are still able to see it on our way along the highway.

The pictures are about it, the journey has been fulfilling and lessons learnt as I was so careless in Busan when I lost all my remaining money and the wallet. I really should be more careful and less confident about my alertness.

Kyushu 2014.

Oct/Nov 2014

Although backdated for some time, I really need to start writing about Kyushu and stop procrastinating already.

We took a package tour and went on a red eye flight from SG to Fukuoka and so spent our first night on the plane. Flight was pretty comfortable because it is Singapore Airlines and i managed to catch a few movies on the flight. Hehehe!

We started off from Yanagawa where we took the traditional wooden boat from one end to the other admiring the spring-autumn foliage by the riverside. And then, we had a really awesome eel meat rice bento for lunch for the very first time as I will never try eel meat in Singapore because I never trust that the fishy smell of it will be masked off completely. yanagawariver

#0 Yanagawa river

Then we were off to Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum and the nearby Peace Park for sight seeing. Some of the atomic bomb survivors lived to pen down testimonials and it did indeed send chills down my spine when they describe how the impact of the atomic bomb affected them both mentally and physically. Some of the stories were really heart-wrenching!

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#1 Peace Park Statue

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#2 Nagasaki Peace Park

Very soon it was time for dinner and we were chaffeured off to somewhere for some good ‘mochi’ rice cake set meal. IKR, japanese meals can be that interesting! And yes, i did not remember to take a photo with the lid opened so had to googled for it. This is exactly the set meal we had at the same restaurant as I’d recognised the restaurant name imprinted on the disposable chopsticks holder. After the dinner, we were directed by the tour guide to take a city tram in the city of Nagasaki to our first check in at the Crowne Plaza GloverHill Nagasaki Hotel.

Guzouni (Picture courtesy of Google Images)

Day 2 started off with us getting on board a cruise boat for some dolphin watch! Excited excited excited.. although I am never happy with humans disturbing marine animals like the harmless dolphins and whales. I was so much more well informed after catching the documentary “The Cove” and if you guys are interested, go google about it. Next off, we were send to take a car ferry across Ariake Sea to Kumamoto pier. What’s a car ferry?? It’s a damn huge ferry that takes vehicles across the big ocean! Again, this is my first time… and i could not believe my eyes when i saw how our whole tour bus went into the ferry. I was dumbfounded and in awe of it… hahaha

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#3 Wild dolphins

SO.. we landed on Kumamoto soil. We were headed off to Kumamoto Castle. As you know, castles are almost everywhere in Japan because of their rich castle history in the past. It was almost dark and so we postpone the last activity on the itinerary to the next morning because it is very near to the Kirishima Royal Hotel that we stayed in on the 2nd night. It was also the first night where we started our onsen addiction going on…

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#4 Kirishima castle?

Day 3 morning as planned, we went to Kirishima Shrine and yes.. it is just a temple where all the devotees will walk up the slope of steps to reach the shrine. Camho a bit there as we had nothing much to do besides waiting…

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#5 that’s me lah.. posing with one of the shrine’s lamp post. SG where got such design leh..

Credit: Courtesy of Google Images

#6 Kirishima Shrine

After the shrine visit, we reached this observation platform that requires us to walk a bit distance uphill to the deck itself and then it was overlooking the Nagasaki city scape and the magnificent Sakurajima Volcano.

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#7 Shiroyama Observation Platform overlooking the Nagasaki cityscape

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#8 Volcano Sakurajima captured in the background which is still very active and can be seen from the observation deck.

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#9 Sekino-o waterfall, this is further into the forest where the streams lead to the waterfall

Quickly after the shopping & lunch at Tenmonkan area in the city of Kagoshima and the sightseeing, we were headed off to Miyazaki before the sun sets. It was a pretty long bus journey and I just keep dozing off and waking up to check the time. Our third night was spent at Miyazaki Kanko Hotel which overlooks a very nice lake view.

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#10 Teruha Suspension Bridge

Day 4 was to this Teruha Suspension Bridge at a height of 142m above a valley where this Aya Minami river flows.

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#11 Pretty enjoyed taking shots like that.. hehe

After all the walking, another 2 hours of bus journey to Mt. Aso which is also an even more active volcano. Unfortunately when we were there, the volcano was already erupting and we weren’t allowed up to the observation deck. Sad…

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#12 Mt aso erupting and the emergency alert was everywhere nearby..

That pretty much ends for the day and we were sent to our next 1 night stay hotel at Aso Farm Village. This resort style hotel was much interesting because of the dome shaped rooms we stayed in. And the weather that got much cooler at night became even cooler that night because we were at a pretty higher land in that area hence the temperatures can get lower as you ascend higher.

Day 5 –  After the buffet breakfast at Aso Farm Village, we headed to this old town village in Yufuin. If i’m not wrong, it’s usually called Yufuin Town or Yufuin Floral Village. I just simply adore countries like Japan because of the vast landscapes and natural places like that. Look at the lush aww-mazing landscape that I have captured!

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#13 Yufuin

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#14 Reflection of the morning sun at Yufuin’s lake 😀

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#15 The other side of Yufuin

We left the old town with perfect memories captured of the lake and the amazing landscape, and were told that we will also be going to this safari zoo park. It did not sound as interesting as it should be when the tour guide explained to us. But it was a pretty good experience since we can have such a close encounter with this animals!

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# Feeding the animal KING his food

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# this beast blocking our roads is the …!

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# Giraffe walked towards our safari vehicle and started licking the side mirrors!

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# Never had I seen so many cheetahs this near, even SG Mandai Zoo only had 1 or 2 at one single time and they were not as wild as these four musketeers!

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#16 After the zoo visit, I was almost quite tired already probably due to the sun shining brightly less the cold. We then headed off to the Beppu Death Valley which I remembered is the area where the highest concentration of the onsen spring is found!

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#17 Crystal blue waters at boiling temperatures. I guessed thats why its called a death valley. So before the skies turn dark, we quickly hopped on the tour bus and left for our dinner and the next 1 night stay at Beppu Wan Royal Hotel. After all the unpacking and packing of luggages every night, I must say that joining tours are indeed quite tiring so to speak and I am really not the kind who loves doing that. This is also why this blog is still existent because documenting these journeys down will helped me to recall the times we had and the places we had visited.

So the last day has finally arrived and we were heading back to the city. I can’t wait to try hakata ramen!! The only regret of this trip was not having a taste of the original Ippudo ramen that originated from hakata a.k.a fukuoka. đŸ˜„

We were so in a rush back to the last check in at Canal City Washington Hotel probably due to the long road distances. Kudos, new-found respect for the bus driver who kept us safe and sound throughout this journey. Not forgetting also, thank God for the blessings and protection we have received during this trip.

Hotels that we have stayed during the trip:

crowne plaza gloverhill nagasaki

kirishima royal hotel

miyazaki kanko hotel

aso farm village

beppu wan royal hotel

canal city washington hotel

cheers,

thedarktraveler

Exploring Taiwan 2014.

So this is as promised.. continuation to my earlier entry on my Taiwan trip. This entry will have pictures (!) since they speak a thousand more words than anything 🙂

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#1 I love taking aerial shots from the plane especially when i see beautiful places or geographical areas that are so different from SG.

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#2 the bus 1962 that we took from Airport to where our rented apartment is at Banqiao. But we had to walk quite a distance from the Bus station to the train station.

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#3 the first meal we had in Taiwan was Din Tai Fung and it was really awesome! Especially the veggies which are so much juicer than the ones we had in SG. The veggies are so GREEN and FRESH.. i am drooling now.

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#4 the 1 BR apartment we rented through AirBnB.

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#5 the not so good thing about this apartment is this narrow staircase that we all had to be really careful about climbing up to our bed every night haha

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#6 And then we took the HSR (bullet) train to Taichung.

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#7 ‘Looking excited’ selfie but was actually quite tired as we had to wake up early to catch the earliest train possible so as to maximise whatever time for Taichung.

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#8 Train selfie while on the way since we had nothing to do

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#9 Old England taken from afar.. Did not visit this as i thought it would be pretty lame to visit “England” when we are actually in Taiwan

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#10 CingQing Farm where we’ve finally reached.

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#11 Immediately upon entering the farm, we were greet by this enthusiastic + hungry fella.. she was really pestering us to throw out more of the sheep feed in our hands.

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#12 more and more

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#13 I attempted to walk on their ‘land’ of shit just to get real close with them.. haha

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#14 sudden reaction was because this fella tried to make a move on me and i got scared initially LOLIMG_5510

#15 my friends haha..

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#16 friend.. you need a hair cut soon!! 😛

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#17 more fully grown sheep

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#18 this is the underground railway station.. we took this to the north east side of Taiwan towards Ping Xi.

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#19 first stop – Jing Tong. People said this is a very nice little town.. i beg to differ.

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#20 and then we discovered the lovers bridge.

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#21 Graffiti designed train that only moves along the PingXi line. You gotta take this to be able to visit all the small towns.

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#22 pingxi town is getting quite commercialised with all these…

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#23 Guanyin Waterfall – i am not very sure whether this is a man made waterfall or natural one.. my brother said it is a man made one!

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#24 a pretty calming sight just facing opposite to the waterfall

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#25 we were pretty tired after much walking but still decided to take a look at the 18 bronze monks along the way.. duh.

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#26 Experienced taking their public bus when the gondola up to the Maokong was down for their annual maintenance – bOO!

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#27 the view that we got to see at Mao Kong, they called it the tea paradise in Taipei where only the locals know.

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#28 Really love fresh mangos and its something you can’t get in SG since we only import from other countries.

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#29 the famous Ah Zhong Mian Xian at Ximending.

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#30 Went shopping abit around Ximending. Was packed with crowds but lucky Taiwan is bigger than SG.. nothing of a sandwiched place as yet. 😀

 

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#31 Ximending Red House in the background and the art flea markets in the foreground.

-the end of the album-

i’m glad we got our hands dirty with whatever we could on this trip since we are pretty much on our own. We figured much, planned much and got back a whole deal of experience that one can never get it on a guided tour. Big thanks to the people who have shared with me and a lot of time was put into my research, even the taxi driver was amazed that we know quite a lot about their country. Hehehe… it’s good to be prepared! Hope you guys enjoyed looking through.. i will be back with more pictures of another trip LOL..

Cheers, the dark traveler

Taiwan 2014; transporting around town..

in May when the cool breezy spring had slowly faded into the hot summer.. a very confusing time between the 2 seasons.

So I am going to share a pretty comprehensive guide on the transport modes in Taiwan as I had planned to use them all in this upcoming F&E trip! I must say it was quite hectic for me to first cope with reading chinese words on the Internet during my initial research and planning and then understanding the different transport modes available around Taiwan.

As this trip was originally planned to be a 6d5n trip, daym jetstar promo cancelled the flight to taiwan on 13 May which was Vesak PH! To accommodate my travel buddies’ schedule as well, we had to postponed it to the next day’s flight but keep the return flight as per initial plan. 😩

HSR experience:

A pretty informative entry on the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) which I am sharing it here:
The Mad Traveler Online

Well as far as I’m concerned, I’d read enough blogs that is saying the same thing about booking the train tickets in advance on their website which promises promo rates after a 35% discount -> 20% -> 10% depending on how fast their tickets get sold off each day and yes, I am talking about the RESERVED SEATS. I mean well, you can always squeeze with the crowd and get a non-reserved seat at a cheaper rate but if I don’t read wrong, you will only be able to do so when you are physically at the station. So indeed from here onwards, are what I am going to describe about my experience there in Taiwan. Realistically, here I am suggesting that you should book the HSR tickets beforehand becoz the price you get there on the spot would really be a wet blanket after knowing that you could have booked the tickets 2 weeks or 1 month earlier prior to your trip there.

TRA experience:

The other thing is if you would like a railway train experience as well, you can easily get the train tickets there at the counter at the station which serves Railway transportation. E.g. if I want to travel from Banqiao to Ruifang to PingXi, I can just let the train administrator know that and she would guide me as to where I can purchase the 1 day ticket to/fro PingXi right after she’d helped me with the tickets to Ruifang. Just a thing to note, the TRA covers the entire Taiwan (Taipei, Keelung, Hualien, Taroko Gorge, etc) whereas for the HSR, it is currently only operating on the north coast line of Taiwan (Taoyuan, Banqiao, Hsinchu, Taichung, Kaoshiung, etc). I remember there are a few different train companies and they are classified as ordinary or express trains, inclusive of the selection of reserved or non-reserved seats, so you can reference it to their official website the type of train you prefer to take or you can ask over the counter and then make your payment and collection of the tickets.

Subway experience:

Notice how I had classified the sections here based on the mode of transport as Singapore do not have that much of an extensive transport network. As a Singaporean myself, I was originally very confused trying to understand the transport around Taiwan but nevertheless, Taiwan would still be the best country if you want to have a real hands on experience planning a trip on your own. As a matter of fact, I took the Shinkansen when I was in Japan before but was in a total blur becoz we acted upon everything that the tour guide says! So, just hop on to the Taiwan subway website or do a search for the latest Taiwan subway map and you will be on to a wonderful trip out and about Taipei. It’s really easy and once you get the hang of it.

Taipei city bus experience:

If you are staying outside Taoyuan, this is a good time to give their bus service a try. It is really cheap and affordable and lesser than you will have to pay if you are coming from Taoyuan Intl Airport to your hotel in e.g. Taipei. We took this on 2 occasions 1) from airport to our rented apartment 2) from Taipei zoo station up to Maokong because the gondola service was suspended during the period for their annual maintenance. From what I know, you could get an EasyCard which is like the EzLink card in Singapore or there is a service counter there where you can purchase for a full price or half price ticket depending on your destination along the bus route.

Taxi experience:

Not much to elaborate as we took it down from Maokong and initially, though the taxi driver wanted to quote NT$200, we did not quite believe so we suggested that he turn on the meter but he was not very pleased until he realised that we are from Singapore rather than from HK. Don’t ask me why he became much friendlier after we said that, but the driver did mention that he visited Singapore a few times and really enjoyed himself here. He was then so kind enough to on the meter and we realised that on the way down that we would have shortchanged him becoz the meter was reaching NT$250 when we arrived safely at the Taipei Zoo MRT station. A kind and friendly taxi driver becoz after that, he insisted that we just paid him NT$200 instead of NT$250.

Private driver experience:

We hired a private driver based in Taichung as we aimed to complete the major hotspots that are in Taichung in just 1 day and be back on the same day to Taipei by taking the HSR back. It was a pretty good experience even though, you had to be careful at the same time about hiring the right driver, otherwise you might end up somewhere else that nobody knows. 😛 On a side note, you might have to bear with the driver in case they might want to bring you to other places that are not pre-confirmed on your itinerary just becoz they said that its on the way and usually its to shops that are meant for the tourists.

So that pretty much sums up on how to use the different modes of transport available in Taiwan. I cannot believe we literally covered the major public transport modes in this Taiwan trip. Enlighten me if you think there are other transport modes that I can try on my next trip there as there are still so many other parts of Taiwan that I have yet ventured to and do let me know by posting your comments below if you have anything else you want to know. I might share my pictures in another entry to make it neater this way 🙂

Cheers.

Bangkok 2014.

I am so excited blogging about this post because it is 2014, a new year, a new start and I have already embarked on the first trip of this year this early!

So Bangkok is another place in Thailand that i can now strike off my bucket list of countries that I have visited!

Amidst the protests still happening right now in Bangkok, i was fortunate to be there and back safely during the period of our Chinese New Year.

And thank God with the power of social media nowadays, we relied quite a bit on the updates by @RichardBarrow whilst out and about in Bangkok and managed to avoid a few protest sites in the day.

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#1 Famous wonton mee at Soi Petchburi 19 street.

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#2 Business as usual although a protest is ahead of them. We skipped these streets for safety and took the BTS skywalk.

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#3 peppery bistro for lunch inside one of the big shopping malls

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#4 thai massage just a block away from the hotel to relieve our sore tired feets after a day’s shopping.

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#5 check in at indra regent hotel.

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#6 camho shot in our hotel suite.

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#7 quickly snapped a shot of the congested victory monument area whilst on the BTS.

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#8 Chatuchak!! On a sunny sunday afternoon 🙂 experienced guide aka my bro took us to the more popular alleys and we found nice things along the way!

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#9 bkk’s own version of grass jelly @ chatuchak.

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#10 so as reported in the news, they really have live concerts to entertain the protesters

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#11 it is this jammed under most bridges :O

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#12 ready to fly back to SG.. so sad that the trip is this short but happy to be back home.

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#13 i’d always choose the seats that overlook the wings #idunnowhy

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#14 neighbouring countries I think, can’t recognise if we are on SG land already heee.

I would really love to visit Bangkok again and hopefully the protests would have ended by then. Thank God that the Thailand government have recently lifted the “state of emergency” as hopes are placed highly on reviving the tourism industry.
http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/19/travel/thailand-tourism-state-of-emergency/ 

Hope you enjoyed this short entry as there wasn’t much to write about since I was only there for 3d2n during the CNY holiday period. One thing to note about visiting Bangkok is, the public train transport is really easy to understand and most people even their locals rely heavily on the BTS sky trains and sky walks going from one place to another. There are public buses and tuk tuk as well but when the road traffic gets heavy, it is usually not as convenient as the trains would be.

cheers, lejasmineeee