Thursday, January 31, 2013

TRAVEL: Taiwan Day 1 (Part II)

Here's our massive, insanely comfy and once-you-lie-down-you-can't-get-up bed! :DDD Okay, this photo was taken towards the end of the trip because I didn't have the good sense to take any on the first day, when everything was neat and tidy. So... There aren't other photos of the room because everything was really messy. Lol. To the left of the bed, sat 2 chairs and a table. Our clothes were scattered ALL over the chairs and right beneath the table, were ourmy loots. M kept his luggage there as well. To the right, were my luggage and our tea table. Our room was a tad squeezy, with our luggage and all, but there was this other room that we took a peek of and it was more roomy. I guess it depends which area of the floor you get.

To get into the room, you have to do some complicated maneuver with the key (Insert the key in, twist the key to the left till you hear a click and then, push the handle down. Something like that. Haha.). You have a card for the lights and electricity and each time you place the card in or take it out of its pocket, it is registered at the hotel's desk and the housekeepers' room (So they know when to come in to tidy up your room!).

Each level was equipped with free Wi-Fi (Take that, Sydney's Swissotel!) and each room had a bed, a sitting area, a tea table, a dresser table, a telly (With so many friggin' channels.) and a pretty spacious bathroom (Bathtub.).

After spending our evening sleeping away our fatigue, we headed to Shilin Night Market (士林夜市). And yep, it looked really empty because... This is just the side of it! Haha!

The fringe of the market was lined with carts here and there, selling tons of fried, oily and the most sinful and delicious stuff ever! Haha. Okay, I didn't actually eat much on the first day because I don'tdidn't quite fancy fried food. But I got more adventurous towards the end (I had to!), so yay!

There were many carts and stores selling these iron eggs (鐵蛋). I have seen them in SG before but uhhh... I know they are supposed to be really yummy and chewy and all but they don't look all that appealing to me. :\ And I don't know of anyone who has actually eaten them.

And this, THIS was Shilin Night Market (士林夜市), on a Monday night!!! The blues certainly didn't exist in Taiwan! This was around 9 or 10pm. The crowd only started petering out around 11.30pm or so.

At the front of the night market, sat Top Pot Bakery and we only went in there because it was very crowded. Haha. On other nights when we were there, there was a queue to get into the store! It was really difficult moving around the store because everyone was just crowding around the shelves of BREAD!

But it was totally worth squeezing through! I tried the Raisin and Cream Cheese, NT$100. It was infused with red wine and there were chunks of cream cheese and big specks of raisins in it! I bought a huge doughnut of it back (I have no idea where my photo of it is. ):) but I only finished like half of it on the 3rd day, before I threw it away (M doesn't like alcohol.). I wasn't sure how long I could keep it for, especially when there were cheese chunks in it. :\

TOP POT BAKERY (Shilin District)
No. 11-7, Dàdōng Rd
Shilin District
Tel.:+886 2 2883 5122

In the middle of the night market, there were those 'illegal' carts. They either laid their goods out like above or had small carts. When the police came, they would pack up and run like crazy. Do keep a lookout for them actually because they are 'running for their lives' and will bulldoze anyone who's in their way. :\

This is a quiet part of the night market, which was mostly populated by tourists. There were those really, really old games that we used to see in our own night markets! Dad used to bring me there and there was once when he won this insanely huge, gold watch/ clock. Haha. We hung it on the wall for a while before it got too ostentatious for our eyes.

There's a escalator near the games area, which leads to a basement of food! And okay, when you first enter, the composition of all the different smells hit you and it's really... Questionable! Haha. M's friend told him that this was the place to eat and I was like "ARE YOU SURE?!? I can't breathe!!!".

Food, glorious food!!!

After making an entire round, we decided to make a stop here and were accosted by this really loud and friendly lady. The store was quite crowded actually so obviously, we decided to park our tired selves there.

M LOVES squids and ordered this gooey bowl of them. And he really liked it! He had another bowl on our last night, I think. Haha.

I had a bowl of fishball noodles there (Can't find my photo! :\) and the yellow noodles were really bouncy and tangy! They were really fun to eat! Haha. But I didn't quite like their fishballs. They were really soft and I think, literally made up of fish meat.

M's first fried chicken cutlet (I can't bite with my front teeth so you will rarely see me chomping off big chunks of meat without cutlery.) was from Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken (豪大大鸡排)! Everyone queued in a line and this man would come around giving out plastic bags.

Dousing the fried, oily goodness in red chili powder!

TADAHHH!!! Your unhealthy but very yummy, fried and oily chicken cutlet! Haha. M found it just alright though... Like it was nothing much? Haha. Maybe he should have tried the other chicken cutlets first then, this would be wow! I mean, this is supposed to be really good! Haha.

(Psst! This is actually available in Singapore, at City Square Mall!)

And yep, that concludes our first day in Taiwan. Haha. Will blog about Day 2 over the weekends! :D


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TRAVEL: Taiwan Day 1 (Part I)

Okay, so the front part of this entry is still pre-Taiwan. Haha. M's nephew, Lucas, went to the airport for the first time to send us off. The photos were taken when he just woke up, hence the grouchy and blur faces. Haha. But once he was all warmed up, he started walking everywhere. He was particularly enthralled by the departure board and the constant flipping of characters and blinking lights.

Ahhh... Little kids. (:

The difference between a boy and a girl (Mine's the heavier one, of course!). Haha. M was a little shocked because we had only purchased 10kg extra baggage allowance on our way back. In the end, we purchased another 15kg. Haha.

And because I'm a beauty junkie, we headed straight to Nuance-Watson upon checking in. Look at all these Revlon goodies!!! I wish they were available outside of the airport. And at these amazing prices. ):

All the lovely sets and deals! Though I do think prices are still higher than what you can get online!

Adorable Shu Uemura's Cleansing Oil travel set!

Swatches of YSL's Touche Éclats! I really, really wanted to get this. I have been wanting it since the last time I saw it, right before I left for Korea with Fel. But Fel was like "WHAT?!?" when she saw the price and kept going how expensive it was, that I shouldn't buy and I have way too much makeup already. Which is very true... Even though it shouldn't count for anything because hello?!? YSL here!

So anyway, I was determined to get it this time round. And just when I was about to take my Touche Éclat and head to the cashier, all of a sudden, I heard a little Fel's voice going on in my head, 'nagging' and 'nagging' me not to buy them, reminding me about the drawers of stuff I have... I swear I grabbed M and told him to take me far, far away!

We spent the rest of our time at the canteen on the 2nd floor, with Maccas and Subway. Yes, even though we were gonna have plane food. Heh. We boarded the plane at 12.55am and left without any delay.

Bye, Singapore!
Hello, Taiwan!

We reached Terminal 2, Taoyuan International Airport at 5.10am! Haha. Just before we exited the arrival area, we collected all the relevant Taiwan maps in English. After exiting, we collected the Youth Travel Cards from the Visitor Centers of Tourism Bureau by showing our passports.

Meant for travelers who are between the ages of 15 and 30, the Youth Travel Cards entitle you to discounts or little gifts... But ummm, they were pretty useless for us. We weren't very interested in the places where discounts were given and Din Tai Fung(鼎泰豐) was supposed to give us little Xiao Long Baos (小笼包) as handphone charms but the promotion ended just before we arrived. )':

For those who reach Taoyuan International Airport at unearthly hours and want to get prepaid cards... Unfortunately, the earliest that you can get one is at 7am. So what we did was to head up to 7-Eleven, which is on level 2, to have some food. Haha!

(Alternatively, you can make your way to Burger King, plug in your laptop and start updating your Facebook status, tweet, Instagram etc. Haha.)

M's very first bowl of cup noodles in Taiwan! The boy is as nutty over cup noodles as I am over beauty products! He said that this was just normal though, nothing special.

I had a Black Sugar Mantou (黑糖饅頭), that was really warm and strange. In the end, I bought the same bowl of cup noodles. Haha!

Taiwan has 3 major telecom operators; Chunghwa Telecom(中華電信), Taiwan Mobile (台灣大哥大) and Far EasTone. The outlets, however, are all opened at 8am except for the Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信) outlet at Terminal 2's Departure Hall, which opens at 7am. Please note that you need to present your passport and identification card in order to buy a prepaid card.

M paid NT$500 for 10 days of unlimited internet usage and was given complimentary 120 minutes of talk time.

After collecting whatever there was to collect and getting whatever there was to get, we took a cab down to our hotel. Our driver was Henry (Tel.: 0936-055-790, if you can SMS in Mandarin. Otherwise, you can SMS in English to his wife, Eva, at 0913-285-200. She drove us to the airport on the last day.).

The above's a really bad shot of the cab but anyway, the cab was luxurious. It was even equipped with Wi-Fi! What on earth right?!? Anyway, when you reach the arrival hall, you will actually be greeted by many cab drivers and most will quote a fare of NT$1000.

As aforementioned, you can take the Airport Bus to Taipei Main Station but do take note that you need to climb down a long flight of stairs to get to the tracks. :\ Unless your luggage's small and light, I would actually advise you to take a cab... Okay, I'm exactly like Dad. I will pay for convenience.

Oh yes! Henry thought M and I were on our honeymoon. Heh. Most people did, which I guess is understandable but whatever. It made me happy! Heh. :DDD

And TADAHHH!!! This is our hotel! :D Being a paranoid person, I was really afraid it would be shoddy or that our room would be like my Sydney one *shudders*, but nuh-uh! It was such a great stay! :D The staff and housekeepers were really friendly and helpful! :D

Diagonally opposite was Family Mart. Just a lane behind it, was 7-Eleven.

Subway and a few other eateries, both Western and Chinese, were opposite.

We deposited our luggage at the front desk and headed down to Taipei Main Station to find Lilin and Jessica, who were leaving Taiwan that afternoon! I think it's really, really awesome to be able to meet friends on trips (OMG! Wait till I tell you a story that happened in the middle of our trip!!!).

Taipei has its own MRT and EZ-link cards, except that they are called EasyCards. We actually collected our complimentary EasyCards, with NT$50 in them, from the Taiwan Visitors Association in Singapore! Apparently, the gifts differ each season. To redeem them, you need to show physical copies of the confirmation of your airplane tickets and hotel accommodations.

30 Raffles Place, #10-01
Chevron House, (S)048622
Tel.: +65 6223 6546/7

Taipei Main Station, as mentioned before, is where all the train lines in Taiwan meet; Taiwan High Speed Rail (Bullet train.), Taiwan Railway and Taipei Metro. The station is also made up of several underground malls that close at 9.30pm.

We walked through the Front Metro Mall (Exit Z) to get to Lilin and Jessica's hotel and TADAHHH!!! Cosmed was there in all of its orange glory!!! Hehehe. For the uninitiated, Cosmed is like Watsons, except ten times better. Haha. Well, Cosmed seemed to have more deals and sets when I was there. I think I only walked into Watsons twice. The rest of the time, I was in Cosmed!

After meeting the 2 ladies, all of us headed down to Maccas to grab breakfast and then, went back to the hotel. M and I were supposed to share the Big Breakfast but I was too zonked out and promptly fell asleep on Lilin's and Jessica's bed. :\ M said the chicken patty tasted different and the scrambled eggs were less milky.

When the 2 ladies left, we walked around a little but the buildings around Exit Z were mostly banks and financial institutions, so there wasn't really much to do. A random shoe shop here and there, a Christian bookstore, some small eateries...

We dropped by Shin Kong Mitsukoshi (新光三越), which is a departmental store and everything was really expensive. Most stores were selling winter wear and they had the loveliest coats! It's just too bad that SG is summer all year round! ):

Oh yes! The roads were filled with yellow cabs and bikes! And it was pretty scary crossing roads because there were vehicles zooming past me left and right, directly in front and behind! Even when it was a red light! Like what the... I took so long to cross a road and M was always like "You must just walk!" and rambled on about not being scared of the vehicles and that they should be scared of you or something like that. Haha.

A peek of the hotel room and Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) are up next! :D

P.S.: I know my tenses are really wonky here but I can't be bothered anymore! Been mulling over it for a night; what should be present, what should be past and what sounded right. JH, help me!!!


FILM: Heathers

"The extreme always seems to make an impression."

Took a break from editing photos with Heathers. I really like Winona Ryder. Anyway, this website here spoke beautifully about the film. I'm not quite sure what to make out of it though, now that I'm approaching a quarter of a century. Even when I was a teen, I never really got to know teen angst and pretty much cared for my zits and grades on equal levels.


Monday, January 28, 2013

RAMBLINGS: And it's one year...

Whenever I tell him I can't sleep, he calls me immediately and sings songs to me till I do.
Happy one year, soulmate. (:

TRAVEL: Pre-Taiwan (Part II)

Here's Part II, where it's all about hotel booking and some websites I found. (:

M and I decided to spend our entire trip in Taipei because we didn't want to lug our luggage around. For Dor and her friends, they traveled around Taiwan and stayed in various homestay inns民宿. These inns usually have websites. To make a reservation, all you have to do is to email them directly. Dor mentioned that she paid S$20 per day, if I remembered it right (I'll check with her again!).

Anyway, we booked our hotel accommodation via Agoda because that was where Audrey booked hers. And it's really easy to navigate the website. First, you key in details of your stay.

Second, pick the area of Taiwan that you will be staying in.

And you get a long list of hotels, along with their ratings, that are available. You can also filter your search with the checklist on the right. (: Little boxes will also appear from the bottom on the right to tell you which room was booked ___(insert number)___ minutes ago.

We picked the Star Beauty Resort. Located in the Shilin士林 District, it is a 5-minute walk from the Taipei Metro Jiantan劍潭 Station. Around the hotel, you have (I'm just listing the more important ones!):

A huge fruit store (With the SWEETEST fruits.),
Bank of Taiwan (Which allows the conversion of Singapore dollars to New Taiwan dollars.),
Family Mart,
7-Eleven and

And right on one side of the station is Shilin Night Market士林夜市! How conveninent! For me, this was the best night market and we visited it on 5 nights (Out of 10.)! We would go back to the hotel around 9pm, deposit ourmy loots and then, head down to the night market for a walk and well, supper! Haha. Explains the weight gain, huh? Haha. Photos will be published in the next few entries (Have yet to edit them. Heh.)! :D

Lilin and Jessica stayed in CityInn Hotel when they were there. This hotel is located near the Taipei Main Station, which is where all the train lines in Taiwan meet; Taiwan High Speed Rail (Bullet train.), Taiwan Railway and Taipei Metro. It is a really convenient place too, where travelling is concerned. It is also near the location where the Airport Bus drops passengers (Click here for the schedule and fare (M and I took the cab to our hotel instead.).

Anyway, here are the websites which I thought were really helpful:

Taiwan Railway Administration:
This website allows you to check the railway schedule for Express and Ordinary trains to the different parts of Taiwan. You can book your tickets here using credit cards. Alternatively, you can purchase the tickets from the machines at the railway stations.

How to Book (Railway) Train Tickets:
This author wrote a really detailed description on how to book railway tickets online. He has also penned down his 8-day Taiwan trip in 2009.

Tourist Kitty:
This author provided tons of tips on travelling in Taiwan! Do click on her Taiwan label to check out the places she visited. It was a joy reading her blog. (:

Hardwarezone Forums: Prepaid 3G Data Sim Card:
Hardwarezone is a rich source of information for tons of stuff! People there are really helpful. In this thread, they gave information about the prepaid phone cards you can purchase in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

For iPhone users who are going to be in Taipei, you can download the Taipei Metro (MRT) and Taipei Street Map Offline apps.

I hope these 2 entries have been helpful. If you have any questions, please leave me a comment, drop me an email or tweet me! Will start blogging about our trip later in the day (Or maybe on Tuesday!). Goodnight! (:

P.S.: We changed money at The Arcade in Raffles Place at 23.3808. Do shop around for money exchangers on the 2nd floor!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

TRAVEL: Pre-Taiwan (Part I)

On January 7th, M and I went for the first of our many 'honeymoons'. Haha. It was actually a graduation trip. Yes, wohoo!!! Both of us are finally out of school and all ready to enter the workforce (M actually started work last Monday!). We decided on Taiwan because I was/ am really poor and Taiwan's a lot less expensive than Australia (Which is going to be this year's trip! Taiwan is counted as last year's.).

And because I am still very excited about the trip, my Taiwan travelogue is going to be pretty 'massive', with tons of details so if you don't really care for these, just scroll on and mentally erase the words. And just a note, we barely did any sightseeing because it was raining most of the time and visibility was really bad. And ummm... I'm really not a sightseeing person. So what can you expect from this travelogue?!? FOOD and MORE FOOD, of course!!! Haha. I gained like 1.1kg (I just got myself weighed at True Fitness last week. Lol. And I have started my 14-day trial with them. Double lol.).

So anyway, this entry and the next are all about the boring stuff; booking, tickets, our research etc. It's really information meant for all the newbies out there. For those who aren't, I hope it helps too, if you are new to booking with Scoot and Agoda or need new resources. (:

I first encountered Scoot back in July, when I was at the Kingsford Smith International Airport, Sydney, Australia. There was this guy, all decked out in Scoot's colours, calling for the passengers to "Please head this way!" with a cheery and friendly smile. And I thought it was really nice, came home, did my research, found out it was a subsidiary company of Singapore Airlines and decided to book my tickets to Taiwan with them.

Recently, the budget airline has been fraught with way too many problems. If you were to head on over to their Facebook page now, you can actually see tons of complaints. I was really worried before our flight but thankfully for us, other than a slight delay when we were coming back, we had no other problems. Everything went pretty smoothly.

For our trips to and fro, we arrived way before check-ins were opened so we weren't bumped (To be bumped is to be denied a seat when you have already paid for your ticket. It is actually a very common practice among airlines, especially so for budget airlines, because this helps to reduce their losses when passengers don't turn up for their flights.). Leg room was alright, we were given our pre-paid meals on board the planes (There was a mix-up on the way back but everything was resolved in a minute. The complaints online were that meals were sold to passengers who didn't pre-purchase them first so then, whatever that remained were given to passengers who actually pre-purchased their meals. And there were instances when the latter didn't receive what they paid for because the meals were sold out.), got our baggage allowances increased twice without much trouble, received our luggage and everything went pretty much smoothly. Our Scoot experience was actually pretty good.

So in spite of the recent happenings, we would fly with Scoot again but it would depend on our destination, the duration of the flight, prices, and of course, the public's feedback on social media platforms. I do think that the airline is biting off more than it can chew though. With only 4 aircrafts, it is really stretching itself.

And that's my two cents worth. Anyway, back to the booking procedure. After keying in your destination, dates and the number of tickets you want to book in the orange box on the top right corner, there are 4 simple steps involved:

Step 1: Select Flights
Step 2: Passenger Details
Step 3: Pick A Seat
Step 4: Review & Pay

Step 1: Select Flights
7 flights, along with the ticket prices, on 7 consecutive days are provided for each trip. Most of the departure flights leave slightly after midnight. The approximate flight duration is 4 hours and 13-45 minutes, so you will reach around 5-6am, so do plan your itinerary accordingly. Most hotels' check-in time is at 3pm. You can leave your luggage with the hotel and go shopping... 'Stoned', if you can't sleep on flights. Or alternatively, use the time that you are 'stoned' to travel to another part of Taiwan (For instance, you can take the bullet train to Kaohsiung高雄. The ride's about 2 hours plus and the train's really comfy so you can take a nap.). That way, you kind of 'maximize' your time. (:

Scoot has 4 different options for passengers:

Fly: Yourself + Hand-carry 7kg + Laptop 3kg.
There is no complimentary baggage allowance, but you can purchase a minimum of 15kg up to 40kg.
FlyBag: Yourself + Hand-carry 7kg + Laptop 3kg + Complimentary baggage allowance 15kg.
FlyBagEat: Yourself + Hand-carry baggage 7kg + Laptop 3kg + Complimentary baggage allowance 15kg + Meal.
ScootBiz: Yourself + Hand-carry 7kg + Laptop 3kg + Complimentary baggage allowance 15kg + Meal + In-flight entertainment. And you get to board first.

We chose FlyBagEat because we can't live for more than 3 hours without food. Boarding is done in an orderly manner, according to row numbers.

Step 2: Passenger Details
This is where you list your personal information, purchase additional baggage allowance, in-flight entertainment and insurance and select your meal options. Prices will all be indicated in the beige box on your right.

On our flight to Taiwan, we both had the Turkey Ham and Cheese Croissants. Each came with a bottle of Evian, an Evian bag tag and a packet of dried fruit chips. The croissants were pretty alright (Slightly salty.), except that they were cold. A ex-crew member friend mentioned that we could have got them heated up but the Scoot crew didn't say anything. We didn't mind but if we had that option, we would have opted for it because it was pretty cold on the plane.

On our flight back, I had the Roast Chicken Focaccia and M had the Soya Sauce Chicken. Again, each was accompanied with a bottle of Evian, an Evian bag tag and a packet of dried fruit chips. My sandwich was decent, though cold. M's meal was a little of a disappointment to him because there wasn't any braised egg, unlike what was pictured on the website. Haha. The rice was like those rice dumpling粽子's kind of glutinous rice.

Step 3: Pick A Seat
Self-explanatory... Remember to pick seats near the toilets and nearer to the front of the aircraft, if you don't like waiting!

Step 4: Review & Pay
Key in your credit card details and start counting down (For IPhone users, you can download the T-Zero Countdown Timer app! Haha!).

Once everything is done, you will be sent a copy of your itinerary and your certificate of insurance (If you had purchased it.). Please remember to print out a copy of your itinerary and bring it to the airport with you! No physical copy of the itinerary, no holiday for you! :\

And just a little more information on increasing your baggage allowance after booking/ during your trip... You can purchase additional baggage allowance online via the 'Manage My Booking' feature on Scoot's website. This has to be done at least 2 days before your flight. Alternatively, you can purchase it by calling Scoot's customer service executives at +65 3158 3388. The line's open 24/7 (We called around 2am and were placed through immediately.). (:

Alrightly, on to hotel booking and miscellaneous information!

P.S.: We paid Scoot S$925.10 in total, for 2. (:

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