Nov 20, 2018


taichung is my favourite part of taiwan! tai chung (which literally means 'central taiwan') has lots of nature, mountains, and a more relaxed vibe compared with taipei. you get farms, better shopping at feng jia night market, some cool architecture, and there's also sun moon lake if you're hankering for more natural scenery. ok la i might be biased but i really like taichung's vibe. plus my parents prefer all lush nature and fresh air so including a couple of days in taichung in the great koh family trip itinerary was a no-brainer. 
first up: 清境青青草原區! 
cingjing farm is tourist attraction at the mountains of nantou district. LOTS OF FRESH AIR, FRESH MILK, FLUFFY FARM ANIMALS, BLUE SKIES. 
milk popsicles!  
also it was late evening by the time we got there and we were too late to have the 'get up close and personal with friendly sheep experience'. however, our tour guide drove to us to an area where the sheep were all ready to rest for the night hahahah so we got to see some sheep!! 
then one ambled up to us
then i began strategically dropping wildflowers on its back hehehehe  
after that we checked into our onsen hotel (BUT GRACE DID NOT INFORM US THAT BATHING SUITS WERE REQUIRED FOR THE ONSEN SO NO ONE GOT TO EXPERIENCE THE ONSEN BUT IN HER DEFENSE WE WERE SUPPOSED TO READ THE HOTEL DESCRIPTION BUT C'MON) so we spent the rest of the night chilling in the room. i escaped in the evening to take some phots of the sunset. 
our hotel was sorta in the middle of nowhere (except for a 7-11 some 15 minutes away on foot,  which bro later went to at night, braving sub-zero temperatures in the dark because he just really wanted some coffee and cake for supper haha)
some friends have commented that they didn't enjoy the cingjing area at all (because 'there's nothing to do here!') but i really love the views of these mountain ranges. taiwan has the highest density of mountains in the world after all. 
hippo making another appearance. me and grace spent all our coins on these gachapon machines. as the same machine selling these animal series was everywhere - at random 7-11s, night markets, bookstores. i think i wanted the seal but we kept getting other animals. this hippo was grace's favourite, though. it was also good distraction for the kids. 
this was our final, complete collection! at fengjia night market, we found a shop that's full of gachapon machines, but obviously we zero-ed in on this particular animal series machine. then we proceeded to spend all our coins on that machine (AND GOT THAT KANGAROO. WHO WANTS KANGAROOS C'MON) lol and the shop owner noticed us and he began talking to grace ('wow you guys are from malaysia!') so he told us that if we liked the shop's facebook page he'd give us extra coins to try our luck again so we did but we kept getting pugs or whatever so finally he opened the gachapon machine to dig for the seal that i wanted HEHEHE. and that's how i became a lifelong fan of feng jia night market. 


-back to normal taichung channel-

the next day, we visited a viewing point to check out the scenery of the mountainous area. it's just a nice walkway built for visitors to enjoy the area and watch sheep. lol. 
sheep doing sheep things. 
 after that, it's an hour's drive from the mountains to get to central taichung - the old town area of taichung city to visit this beautiful cafe (WHICH WAS THE ONLY THING I WANTED TO DO BECAUSE THEY MAKE THEIR DESSERTS FROM JUTE INSTEAD OF MATCHA). 

we entered the cafe, took a seat, and while we were looking at the menu, bro had to go, 'um, tour guide.. are there any lu rou fan (braised pork rice bowls) around here?'. AND THAT WAS IT. WE LEFT THE CAFE FOR THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN FOR SOME HERITAGE BRAISED PORK BOWLS, NEVER TO RETURN. damnit. 

lol i'm still sore from this. the rice bowls were ok but i want my cake!!!! and desserts!!! and tea!!!
also checked out the beautiful luce chapel designed by IM Pei at tung hai university. i've always wanted to visit it after a classmate told me about it hehehe. it was a horribly humid day though; and everyone was just sweating buckets while trying to admire the building lol 
the rest of the trip at taichung: went to miyahara 宮原眼科 for ice cream (gorgeous space; impressive variety of ice cream and toppings; but ... seriously... i have to say that inside scoop's ice creams are vastly superior. malaysians are spoiled lah.). 

we then checked into a super tiny one-room airbnb with 4 bunk beds. 

(um. there are 6 adults and 2 kids.) 

and that was when i was truly impressed with my sister in law forevermore. without batting an eye she set to organising us and settling the kids and we all tried to make the best that we can out of the situation. 

location-wise, it was great as it's just right next to feng jia night market (SHOPPING GALORE) but it takes an impressive amount of patience to share a one-bedroom, one-bathroom space with your entire family lol. we survived though. the room had a giant hello kitty rug nailed to the wall. and one television which only played jay chou music videos. HAHAHAHAHHA. 

anyhow. we survived that night. and that is all that matters. 
and this! we mentioned to the tour guide that we'd like to buy some local pineapple cakes and the very next day, he brought us here. usually i'm skeptical of all the 'sunny cakes' or whatever touristy stores but i'm completely taken in by this place. Ruyi Sunny Cake takes customer service to the next level. it's a pastry store, make no mistake (albeit with award-winning sunny cakes), but the set-up was like a comfortable japanese-style cafe. everything was free, all the samples you'd care to try (and more), plus free refillable coffee and tea. from the moment we stepped in, the ladies sat us down, began cutting up sizeable portions of their baked goods and brought us cups of coffee and tea. (basically the reason our tour guide brought us there is because this way, we'd get to have free breakfast. HAHAHAHHAHAH). 
but the cakes are good la. and we ended up spending way more than we should. all orders are done at your table as you're still snacking on delicate pastries, plus you can also check out their kitchens where staff are crafting pastries and cakes at full speed. check them out if you're ever in taichung! 
another place to visit in taichung - chun shui tang - also known as the birthplace/inventor of bubble tea. their tapioca pearls are smaller than usual, but it's actually more flavourful. they also offer bubble tea making class, in case anyone's interested. 


and that's it for our super quick 3 days 2 nights visit to taichung! after that we headed back to taipei ximending for more adventures but it's obvious that mom preferred taichung over taipei too. fresh air beats city subway lol. 


in the summer of 2017 the kohs set off on our biggest family trip to date - to taipei ♡ 
we haven't travelled much together as a family since my childhood years - there were vague memories of fun times visiting pulau tioman, tasik chini, pulau redang, kelongs in johor, ipoh, penang, malacca and other cuti-cuti malaysia destinations, but trips as a family tapered off after we kids went off to boarding school etc etc. so when someone proposed the idea of going to taiwan for a family trip - the trip planner role somehow went to grace. hehehe. i had gone so many trips with my friends; yet i'd never really thought about planning a trip with family. so this was definitely a great adventure with my parents, nephew, and baby niece in tow! 
first day in taipei - try all the yoghurt drinks! 
exploring the posh neihu neighbourhood while the kids take a nap.
cats of taipei - this one looks like it's up to no good
a beautiful children's art studio in the area
someone doesn't want breakfast. 
'當我開始學會做蛋餅 才發現你 不吃早餐~'
cutest song ♡ 
 some giant waterfall at shifen
exploring the little towns out of taipei 
 sky lantern-making experience - grace drawing mr koh
 'little prince noodles'
took a train ride from shifen!
very vintage train (spot the rounded train carriage!) 
grace levitating in and out of public transport..
 levitating through the alleys of jiufen...
things i ate and liked - this tofu.  
 more things i ate and liked - these taroballs. SO GOOD. i'm usually underwhelmed by most things i had in taiwan - chicken chop, sausages, pork buns, shabu-shabu etc. i mean, i WANT to love them, i know taiwan's street food is more than this, and i kinda like them, but those dishes just weren't things i'd make a pilgrimage for. BUT these taroballs at jiufen is why i'm plotting another trip here in the near future hehehhe. 
found a disposable camera at a random souvenir shop! jiufen - of cliff-side town facing the ocean and of inspiring hayao miyazaki of spirited away fame - is a very picturesque but tourist-laden town. some parts are quite commercialised and IT'S SUPER CROWDED but some of the charm is still there. best not to make it a day trip. try to stay a night to experience the place sans crowds~
levitating her way into teahouses
there's a cool little cinema museum (it's FREE) at jiufen. look at these old ticket stubs! 
display items of old movie.. flyers?  
rough translation - 'donald duck's ice skating experience'
more cinema memorabilia
jiufen is one photogenic little town. they were incredibly prosperous back then as a gold-mining town during the japanese occupation, but it all slowly dwindled down into today's quiet place. jiufen reminds me of sungai lembing (a small tin-mining town in malaysia) actually. 
back in taipei! 

brought our gachapon hippo out for a walk in the taipei zoo.  
unique animals can be found at the zoo.  
this. one of the best meals i'd had in taiwan! it was a tea-based restaurant at maokong, a scenic spot overlooking taipei near the mrt taipei zoo station. it was raining heavily so we picked this restaurant at random and ordered some meal package. everything is made using simple tea-based ingredients, and for the first time i began to appreciate taiwanese cuisine. 
recycling bins at the taipei zoo.  
 in memoriam of a certain publishing house. 
 poop wall at the zoo
yong he dou jiang!

i've wanted to try savoury dou jiang ever since i read about it on eatingasia, so i ordered it (picture above: the bowl of brownish stuff next to the bamboo basket of dumplings). and boy, everyone at the table hated it HAHAHAHHAHA. 
levitating her way through 自由广场 
AY CHUNG MIAN XIAN YUS i know it's touristy and blah blah blah but i still like it hahahhahah. best for rainy nights and you just can't find that flavour elsewhere! that being said i'm open to suggestions for other rice noodle joints too! after neihu, we actually visited taichung for a couple more days (but that's a post for another day). after taichung, we returned to taipei and stayed for a night (or two) at ximending. hence the mian xian excitement. hehehhe. 
 our last morning in taipei! rainy as always. 
took a quick detour for one last bowl of beef noodles :( 
we had a superb tour guide who shared so much about taiwan (and japan, as you can't talk about this place without mentioning the occupation which lasted for 50 years.). he had lots of insights into the history and current political climate of taiwan, plus he could answer all of mom's questions (mom (being the curious bear) likes to ask about the weirdest stuff like 'what kind of plant is it'? we all thought it was paddy but it turned out to be some other random taiwanese crop - bamboo shoots I THINK). i mean, we were all really impressed. are all tour guides in taiwan so knowledgeable???

it was only on our last night at taipei when he dropped the bomb by casually revealing that he was a major general in the taiwanese army before retiring to become a mountain hiking guide! did you know that taiwan has the highest density of high mountains in the world? there are 286 mountain summits over 3000 meters above sea level! see. the fun stuff you learn by having a really good tour guide. 
shots of our gachapon seal as we finally leave taipei to head towards taoyuan airport :( 

goodbye taipei! you've been swell ♡♡♡

up next: taichung!