Recently I had the chance to travel to Taiwan for a two-week summer program, in Taichung to be exact! The last time I went abroad was when I was in elementary school (7 or 8 years ago) and this time I was on my own with some friends. Heading off to unfamiliar region and a pretty far one with language I don’t speak really made me nervous in the beginning. Nonetheless, I was excited for my first travel to an East Asian country!
Taichung is the second biggest city in Taiwan after the capital city Taipei. It is located in the center of Taiwan. As expected from a subtropical country, it is summertime in July and the weather is hot! A different kind of hot from Surabaya. In Surabaya, even though it’s hot it would still be a little windy at times because Surabaya is close to the coast. However, the heat in Taichung is stifling — it’s not only hot but also humid as well.
How the journey started
I booked a flight from Surabaya to Taipei using Singapore Airlines with an 18-hour transit in Singapore (so that we can go out to the city hahaha! It was an awesome quick trip!). I traveled with a few friends. We arrived in Taoyuan International Airport and then we took the bus to Taichung. The bus fare was 280 NTD — it was fairly affordable compared to riding train or the famous high-speed rail (HSR) with the consequence of longer travel time. The bus trip was around two hours. I heard that if you take HSR it would only last for 50 minutes! But then again, the price for a single HSR ticket is 700 NTD so no wonder!
The bus dropped us near Taichung Bus Station. After that, we were supposed to take the city bus to the campus (Asia University) where we had the program. But that was our first day and we didn’t understand a single thing about Taichung! We had some instructions from our friends who had arrived earlier, but unfortunately we were still confused! We asked a random Taiwanese boy near the bus stop, he was very kind to point us which bus to take with broken English. Despite all the help, we really just couldn’t understand so we ended up getting a taxi to take us to the campus and divided the fare. We ended up regretting later because apparently it was so easy to get to campus and we could have saved more money lol.
Getting around Taichung with city bus
The public transportation in Taichung is already quite well-developed. There are buses which can take you anywhere around town — you only need to figure out the right bus number! City buses are numbered in three digits, while out-of-town buses are using four digits. The system is apparently very easy and accessible on GoogleMaps (our lifesaver!) We didn’t understand how this worked on our first day, but we got used to it very quickly! Just google your destination and choose the bus option, the application would show you which bus numbers you can take and from which bus stop!
First thing to do in order to master travelling by bus in Taichung is getting an EasyCard. This card can be bought in convenient stores with the price of 100 NTD. After that, don’t forget to top it up regularly. When you get in the bus, tap it on the device and you’re done. Then wait until your destination and don’t forget to tap the card again before getting off. The machine will show you how much your trip cost and how much credit you have left!
In order to encourage people to ride public transportation, the government has issued a 10-km free cost! So if your trip is less than 10 km, they wouldn’t cut anything from your EasyCard credit. While for every bus stop after 10 km, they will charge you 1 NTD. Pretty cheap, right? Most places in Taichung are accessible within 10 km distance so that was really convenient! Our public transportation in Surabaya isn’t well-developed yet so riding buses in Taichung had been an extremely fascinating experience.
Where did I go in Taichung?
During my two-week stay in Taichung, I had opportunities to explore the city after courses and at the weekend. We had seen pics of Sun Moon Lake on the internet and it was gorgeous! However, we didn’t manage to go there… but we still got to visit some other awesome places!
1. Night Markets
Taiwan is well-known for its bustling night markets and there are also a few popular ones in Taichung. We went to Yizhong and Feng Chia Night Market!
Yizhong is one-hour bus ride from my campus and it is located near Chung Yo Department Store. Oh and that is a mall by the way. Along the streets there would be food stalls selling various kinds of food as well as souvenirs! I tried the fried squid and chicken here as well as the bubble tea! You cannot go to Taiwan and not taste the local food at the night markets.
Not only food and souvenirs, there are also clothing stores along Yizhong street. I personally like the fashion in Taiwan, it’s cute and simple. I even bought a pair of culotte in here in the color of rusty brown! So pretty <3 However, the price can vary from store to store so be sure to look out for the ones in the small lanes! Usually, they offer much cheaper price than the ones located near the main street. I also got six pairs of cute socks for 100 NTD! Around the market, there were also a big bookstore, and western brands (like Adidas, Nike, H&M) which made it one of the biggest shopping district!
On the other hand, Feng Chia is located really far from my campus — we had to take two buses in order to reach it and the travel time was almost two hours. However, it was completely worth the hassle because this market is MUCH bigger than Yizhong. Almost thrice if I must say and I haven’t even explored the most of it even though I had been there twice! I can’t really tell the entrance of this market, but the popular landmark is the gate of Feng Chia University. The market is spread around that landmark.
Feng Chia Night Market has food stalls, clothing stores, souvenir shops, even popular cosmetics and skincare brands! Innisfree, Skinfood, Etude House, The Saem, you name it… Even Watsons and Cosmed (similar to Watsons but with a cheaper price). I bought some sheet masks from The Saem because there was a buy one get one sale — the prices were SO CHEAP. I also went to this cute souvenir shop and got myself fluffy Totoro keychains because they were just so cuuute asdfagdfdjf The highlight of my visit to Feng Chia though was the fried chicken with cheese on the inside. It was yummy and the way the cheese melt in my mouth was amaaaaazing. A Taiwanese friend also showed us a delicious bubble tea shop and the bubbles felt so soft in my mouth!
For your information, the food prices in these markets are generally around 40-100 NTD — the fried chicken I usually bought was 70 NTD. While bubble teas are usually 40-70 NTD depending on the taste and the kind of topping you choose. Also, clothes are 150-500 NTD and souvenirs are 70-300 NTD.
2. Guangfu Village
There is a village located in Wufeng District, only 15 minutes away by bus from my campus. It is called Guangfu Village. Basically, the people turned their houses to stores which sell homemade products such as tea, coffee, wool items and many more. However, the way they decorated their houses made the whole village look aesthetic and beautiful! I took many photographs in here hahaha. Really enjoyed the stroll because the interior and exterior of the stores made the atmosphere so pleasurable.
Another interesting village which sadly I didn’t manage to visit was Rainbow Village. A short history: a former soldier who resides in this area decided to paint the dying village with animals, human and cartoon characters. A few years ago, local people discovered this village and now it’s one of a famous tourist attractions in Taichung! It was small though so you can finish the visit in probably less than 30 minutes but the pictures taken here are gorgeous! So definitely do that when you come here! I heard when you’re lucky, you get to meet the solder who had given the village a huuuge makeover!
3. Art Galleries
As a person who appreciate art and aesthetic things, I really love the art galleries and space in Taichung. One place I thought was quite interesting was Dali Art, located in the Dali District of Taichung. It is basically a park with artistic statues of gigantic colored people. In addition, there is also a small corridor where artists arranged their working space and showcase it to public for free! You’re not allowed to touch anything though 😉 The paintings and items on the desk were arranged beautifully. I think it is the place to take lots of aesthetic photographs haha
National Taichung Theater also showcased products and art. However, the difference is they also sell them to people but for an expensive price. The building has six floors and at the rooftop, there is actually a garden which looks like something straight out of Teletubbies series! Me and my friends took a lot of photos here because the view was awesome! You can take a stroll around and watch the scenery from above too.
4. Lin’s Family Garden
This was the last place I visited in Taichung before I went back. Located in Wufeng, it is also really close to my campus. I thought that it was the same with Lin’s Family Mansion but turns out those two are different parts. You don’t have to pay anything to enter the garden, just let the officer know and leave your passport at the gate and then you have access to explore the garden.
The garden is not very big, but I thought it was gorgeous — a sign of culture in Taiwan other than the busy modern city.
5. Exploring Central District in Taichung
We went sight-seeing at the heart of Taichung and the streets were lined up with stores which sell abundant varieties of things, starting from clothes, electronic devices, souvenirs, authentic traditional cakes, cosmetics, food, and many more! It is also super close to Taichung Bus Terminal. Me and my friends ate delicious pork and chicken at a restaurant here for a reasonably cheap price!
One store you should put on your must-visit list is Miyahara. This place sells ice-cream, teas and pastries. I didn’t buy anything because the prices were out of my budget but the interior of the store gave me a vintage feel.
Another tip is if you’re looking for pineapple cakes to bring back home, this area has tons of them! Many stores sell pineapple cakes with various prices and long expiration date. I brought a few for my friends and family back home 🙂
6. LINE Store in Shin Kong Mitsukoshi
Seeing Brown with my own two eyes had been high on my wish list ever since I saw my seniors taking pictures with it at the store in Thailand. Back then I thought, “If I went to LINE Store, I would love to do the same too!”
And my wish was granted last month when I saw that gigantic doll! Brown was sooooo cute and I managed to snap some pictures with it <3
And that is my adventure in Taichung! To wrap it up, it was definitely an eye-opening trip. Riding the buses and experiencing public facilities at a more advanced city than my own… I will never forget the feelings. And one thing which made me proud was I was able to go to places and explore the city without getting lost! It made me realize that there are endless possibilities if you have the courage to try. There were some places I wish I could have visited like the Rainbow Village or Gaomei Wetlands. Heck, I even wanted to go Sun Moon Lake. Hopefully, one day I can go back here again and tick off some places from my bucket-list! <3
Note: All the photographs in this post are taken by yours truly.