Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 6 - Taipei - Taichung - Sun Moon Lake

Today's itinerary is an educational one. We will be visiting a paper mill and also get our hands dirty with pottery making. We will also experience the High Speed Rail (HSR) for the first time. And most importantly, we will get to meet up with Rachel who was here with her school for her HCL Immersion Trip. All these is enough to excite the 3 kids and the daddy!

But to organise today's journey post some challenge. First, I must check the arrival time of the school. Then, must find out which HSR/ train station near Taichung has luggage deposit service. So grateful for the Sun Moon Lake tourist help desk (their email address: service@sunmoonlake.gov.tw) for their help on this and many more.

Here we go for the day journery...

Taipei HSR station is the same station as Taipei Main Station. Actually the Taipei Main Station has trains that brings you practically everywhere! 

The HSR ticket vending machine is similiar to our MRT vending machine. Simple to use. There is a train arriving every half an hour, so no worry if you misses one. We took the train from Taipei to Taichung (Adult NT700 and Child NT350). We were told that children 6 and below travel free. Its a 45 minutes train ride and although at times its speed reaches 214km/hr, its still as smooth as riding on our MRT train. The seats are comfortable and spacious.
HSR Taipei photo TaipeiHSR1_zps2a82ef34.jpg We alighted at Taichung. Hubby's job was to look after the 2 kiddos while Charmaine and I brought the luggage to the luggage deposit box at the connecting Xinwuri Station (新烏日車站) station. This is the only place you can deposit the big luggage as big luggage is not advisable to bring to SML (Sun Moon Lake). Most of their minsu/ hotel don't allow big luggage into their place.

I was told that each locker can only take maximum dimension of 40x80 but think its bigger than that. 
Instructions are in English and Chinese, so no problem at all. But if one go during the peak season, then there may be problem in securing a locker.

There's actually a bus service at the Taichung HSR station that will bring us down to Puli but we will still need to take a cab to the paper mill and the whole journey will take approximately 2 hour. 

This is the travel advice given by the tourist helpdesk:
台中高鐵至埔里約1至1.5小時,因沒有公車直達廣興紙寮(Guang Xing Paper Mill),
The bus fees is NT130 (A) and NT65 (C)

With young children, its not easy to get them sit still on the bus for that long, so hubby decided to take the cab directly from Taichung to Guang Xing Paper Mill (廣興紙寮) instead. Its a 45 mins taxi ride and the fare comes up to NT1350. We reached the place at 1.30pm. There's no restaurant in sight and we were glad we had a heavy breakfast and some bites at the Taichung HSR station.

We were greeted by their in-house tour guide when we reached and we were being shown around the whole place starting with the introduction of the different types of paper and their uses. Then we were shown different type of barks used for different type of papers. Lastly, he showed us the steps how they uses the bark and water and turn them into the paper we use.

Guang Xing Paper Mill photo Guangxing1_zps9d6ebfda.jpg Then its DIY time! They each choose the "design" they want and the guide guided them along the way. Nicholas was initially not very comfortable putting his hands in the cold milky water but after his sister did it, he gamely gave it a try and enjoys the whole process.

First, they got to "form" their paper, followed by "pressing" to squeeze out the water, then turned it onto the hotplate to dry the paper completely and their paper is done. Finally its the designing time which took up most of the time. By the time they are done, its closed to 3pm. Usually, they don't need such long time but because mine are perfectionist, they do it slowly to get a perfect finish piece.
DIY @ Paper Mill photo papermaking1_zps1adf6865.jpg Rachel still not here when we are done and thus, we had initially wanted to move on but just as we were about to leave for our next program, we saw a group of girls in maroon colour shirt coming in and then, we spotted HER! The siblings were so happy to be united again! Really, absence makes the heart grow fonder! They hugged each other tightly and chatted up. Rachel had lost her voice (as usual whenever she stay out) and so the loving father bought a bottle of honey water for her. We stayed for a while more and left. I'm not sure if we did the right thing to meet her because she was closed to tears when we bid goodbye to her.
 Guang Xing Paper Mill photo Papermill1.jpg We left the paper mill at about 3.30pm after the lady there help us book a cab. The cab will send us to Qin Shou Kiln at No. 1-22, Wun Jheng Lane, Jhong Ming Village, Yuchih, Nantou County. Telephone: 886-49-2898702 and wait for us there for about 45 minutes before sending us to Cherng Yuan Hotel at Ita Thao Pier. It costs us NT700. The journey from the paper mill to the Kiln is about 15 mins and from there to hotel took us another 15 mins. 

Each experience cost NT150. If we decided to bake it, it will cost another NT100. As the baking take days, they are able to ship the completed set to us in Singapore for NT1000 (for 2 items). Thinking back, we should have paid for the freight to bring back the items. It will be a good memories for the kids. Anyhow, they enjoyed their pottery making and although we only paid for 2, they gave Ryan some to play with too! 

Qin Shou Kiln photo pottery1.jpg We paid S$230 (NT8800) for the family room, including breakfast. The price a little steep but I like the location. Its right in the heart of their Ita Thao Village and walking distant to the Cable car station to Formosa Aboriginal Culture village. And the room is nicely decorated, spacious and fantastic view of the pier. The kids fell in love with the room the moment we step in. They were charmed by the beautiful lake view. The owner is very friendly and even helped us with the hand luggage. 

The top pictures are the reception cum bar counter of the hotel.
The bottom pictures are the day and night view from our room.
Cherng Yuan Hotel photo CherngYuan1_zpsebc7ecc2.jpg  

Chased the kiddos out of the room before the shops closes. The shops there closes around 6pm. We had a great time walking around.

Ita Thao shopping photo Itathao1_zps92e4a6f3.jpg  We also caught the Ita Thao performance before dinner. Its just round the corner of our hotel.

We went back to the restaurant next to our hotel for dinner. This place was recommended by the hotel owner. The restaurant name is 福园. The food there is nice and affordable. For NT800, these is what we got!

After the nice filling dinner, we stroll back to our hotel and the kids had a great time in the bathroom...O, did I mentioned there even have a jacuzzi bathtub in our room!!! 

To end the day, we sat down on the bed and the kids listen to me telling them the story of this place.

Ita Thao is called Barawbaw in thao language. The Han people call it North Cave. It was named Te Hua village after the restoration of Taiwan, and is under the administration of Yuchi.

Barawbaw is the last residence of the thao people at Sun Moon Lake. On account of the continuous stream of tourists, many Han people moved here to go into trade. Therefore, Ita Thao becomes the most populous area around the Sun Moon Lake. There are stores, restaurants, and hotels in the village. Also the thao people establishes the "thao Cultural Village" for tourists to appreciate the traditional culture, songs, and dancing of the thao tribe.

The harvest ceremony, the most important and splendid ceremony among all the others held during the year, is held every year during August in lunar calendar. If you visit Ita Thao during this month, you will have the chance to appreciate the culture of thao people. Barawbaw(Ita Thao) is the entrance to the Shuishe Mountain.

At Sun Moon Lake/ Taiwan, the owl symbolised guardian, protection and believing good lucks that Fukurou will bring to the local.

The Ita Thao peoples are the 'expensive' peoples in Taiwan. There are Only left 282 (pure blood) Ita Thao peoples in Taiwan, and they are welcome any man who like to become the Ita Thao husband. The conditions were very attractive! According to the boatman, once you fill up the form, your bank account will automatically receive a welcome fund that's about TWD60,000.00 from Taiwan Government. And men are no need to work in the village, all the expenses of every family will be subsidize monthly by Taiwan Government included their children school fees all the way to University.

The Deer Chasing Legend

The Thao Aborigines claim that their ancestors originated from Alishan. However, according to another legend, they originally came from the area near to Fucheng in Tainan. Many years ago, a group of Thao hunters were hunting in the mountains when they came upon a large, corpulent white deer. Together with their hunting dogs, they crossed over mountain and valley to chase this large white deer. As they chased the deer, they went deep into the other side of the mountain. Along the journey, they used their hunting knives to cut off pieces of bark from the trees so as to mark their route. After chasing the deer for many days, their energy was all but exhausted, and to their amazement, they saw a landscape of lakes and mountains unfold before their very eyes. The white deer that they had been chasing had no way of escape, and rushed into the middle of a lake. The hot hooves that had been on the run were frozen by the ice cold lake waters, become stiff, rigid, and difficult to move.

After the Thao hunting ancestors caught the white deer, countless varieties of fish were attracted to compete for its blood and internal organs. The elderly Thao ancestors scooped up the fish varieties and were the first to carefully taste them. Not only were the fish non-poisonous, but these shoals of fish from the lake were extremely delicious. Only after trying out the fish did they allow the young, strong Thao to eat them. Everyone was very pleased. Not only did the lake area have beautiful, enticing scenery, but there was a plentiful supply of fish in the lake. This truly was a peaceful and good location provided to the ancestors from above. They quickly returned the way they had come, following the marks they had made on the trees, in order to bring the rest of the community to this new place. From that time on, the Thao people have resided at Sun Moon Lake, which has become their native land.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 5 - Baby Boss Taipei

As usual, we woke up early and took our complimentary breakfast in the hotel. I briefed the kids of the day itinerary and they were getting really excited. I planned today's activity on Monday as we will have less crowd to compete with.

MRT exit station to Baby BossLeft the hotel about 9am. We took the MRT blue line to Zhong Xiao FuXing (3rd stop from the Taipei Main station)and exit #5. Once out, just continue to walk straight all the way till we were at in front of the Land Bank where the free "Living Mall Shutter Bus" will pick us up. The whole journey took about 45 minutes (including the waiting time for the bus).

  The waiting area for the free shutter bus
The Living Mall where Baby Boss is located.
Baby Boss Taipei
We spent the WHOLE day at BABY BOSS. There are about 51 activities for the kids to participate in. So definitely, one day will not be able to cover all, so parents have to help plan and choose for the kids. And parents are not allowed to queue for the kids. So no "chopping" of seats. 

Map and schedule for the activities will be given at the entrance and the kids will select the activity they want to do and go straight to the place.
Baby boss map
Baby Boss moneyEach activity lasted about 30-40 minutes and start at different times. Each activity is manned by an "guide" which will guide them through. The kids will put on the uniform and start to explore/work and after each activity, the kids will get "paid". They can then use the Baby Boss money to either go for courses or saved it in the "bank" and earn them interest. 

Its operating hours are from 10am to 6pm and at least 1 adult is needed to accompany the small children through the activity although parents are not allowed into the activity room. Tourist enjoys 20% discount too with the presentation of passport.

I bought the tickets online for 1 adult for daddy and 3 kids (kids below 3 free). That month, they have a promotion for Mothers' Day and mothers enter free.

The first activity we went was to the Airline station. The 2 boys took up the role of the pilot and Charmaine, flight crew. They each was led to a room to put on their uniform and briefed of their "duties". And each parent were given a "boarding pass" to board the plane. I can heard Nicholas's voice over the broadcasting system while I'm in the plane and Charmaine helped push the trolley of served us magazine. Its really role play at it finest!! Cool!
 Airline crew  
After the flight, the little ones came down from the plane and lined in row to thank us for flying with them!
Airline staff  
After the first activity, Charmaine was confident to go explore on her own but the protective daddy still decides to tag along her. She found herself a "job" at the Hospital playing the role of a Paramedic. They were told of the responsibility of the Paramedic and then duty assignment. When all are cleared of their duties, they drove off in a real ambulance (within the mall) to the accident site where a little doll was found on the road "injured". The little ones then helped to fixed the neck brace onto the doll and some lifted the doll onto the stretcher. Charmaine and another girl were tasked to bring the "injured" doll up to the ambulance and back to hospital. Paramedic  
While Charmaine was busy with her job as a Paramedic, the 2 boys went to become Dairy farmers! The briefing was in Mandarin and Ryan had no idea what was going on. Nicholas tried his best to listen to instruction but was distracted by Ryan. The children were told of the usage of the different parts of the cow and how to milk it. They were then given chance to "milk" the cow and that was what they enjoyed most! After the activity, the hardworking farmers were each paid and given a packet of milk as reward.
Dairy Farm 
Girl being girl, after being a Paramedic, she went to the Beauty Salon and took on the job of a manicurist.
queueing @ Baby BossLike I mentioned earlier, parents cannot queue for their kids. The kid had to be physically there queuing and once its full,it will be closed. Spot them? They were queuing to be a FIREMAN!!!

They got to wear the protective suit, slide down the pole, sat on the Fire Engine and best, putting off fire!! Its not difficult guess how happy they were doing their job. 
Baby boss - fire dept  
Just before lunch time, Charmaine had earned enough Baby Boss money to take the baking course at the Pizza Parlor which cost Baby Buck $35. they did the dough from basic and putting on their own ingredients and taking "home" their product - Hawaiian Pizza which she had that as lunch.

 Pizza Parlor This is her pizza

her end product - Hawanii Pizza
While she bakes, Nicholas joined the Golf Driving Range activity which is just next to the Pizza Parlor. Ryan was too young to go for this and so hubby fed him his lunch first. Everyone had a fast lunch as they wanted to go for more activity.
  Golf Driving Range It was closed to Ryan's nap time and so we decided to join the Police Force together. It was very sweet of Charmaine to help her brothers dressed up and looked after them. They practised holding the guns (using their fingers as pretended gun) and squatting and darting when they approached the wanted man.

Police officers Bed time for the oldest and the youngest. Inside the Baby Boss, they have this nice cosy room for adults to rest while the young ones go around "working". The 2 babies slept in no time!
BB loungenap time

So while the Ryan napped, Charmaine and Nicholas did more activities. At the Construction site, they "build", "stack" and mixed the sands.  

Next, they went to queue at the Space Mission Control Center. While they queued, I went to wake the 2 babies up so that Ryan can join im this too. At first, Ryan was still cranky of being woken up from his short nap. So they allowed me to go into their changing room to help get him changed into his astronaut suit. He was excited after the change and I was invited out of their "mission" area.

They went into the spaceship, pretended to take off, came out and was on the "moon". They explored a while and went back to the spaceship and back down to earth. There is a short photo session for parents to take photos of their little cute astronaut after the flight before they went back in to change off the costume.


Next and last  activity before they closed for the day - being a Dentist. It was here that I really felt the high standard of service and patience of the Taiwanese! Ryan was running around and wanted me to go in which of course cannot be acceded. The staff offered to carry him throughout his work briefing to the kids! Its really not easy to carry him and do a show and tell!

They were taught how to correctly brush their teeth, then proceed to the dental chair and do some cleaning job on the dummy's teeth. The kids had lot of fun cleaning the dummy!

With all the earnings, its time to cash out on something at the Baby Boss shop. Depending on how much you have, they have a chart indicating the gift you can exchanged for. 

Redemption counter

After all the fun, we went for dinner and some milk and fruit shopping before going back to the hotel to feast on it.

Summary: - The kids all gave a thumb up for today's activity and asked if we could come back again. Well, we just have to come back again the next time we visit Taiwan or hopefully, Singapore will come out with something similar.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 4 - Jiufen - Taipei Tamsui Fisherman Wharf

A drizzling morning...fog surrounded the whole town and we can't see a thing! The kids were excited though pretending they were above the clouds! silly...
We had our breakfast at the usual place, this time, no rush as morning's itinerary is to explore Jiufen. The boys decided to follow their daddy to relax in the room. We waited for the fog to clear before parting our ways. Charmaine follows me around and we walk every alley and climb every stairs to check out the whole place. 
Its so fun to walk around without the man. We had fun eating, looking and buying little souvenirs.
When we got back to the B&B, the 2 boys were having fun playing with sword while the daddy relax on bed. We check out at 11am and took a cab to Ruifang station for the train ride to Taipei as it was drizzling. The taxi driver was not very honest, he suggested taking us all the way to Taipei for NT1000 claiming that the train will be very pack with tourist. Hubby thought otherwise and he was right. We only paid NT123 for the train ride back to Taipei and its not crowded at all.

Train tickets back to Taipei NT49 for adult and NT25 for child (free seating). The train cabin is similar to our MRT.
ticket from Ruifang to TPE  Photobucket
The kids munched on the herbal tea egg while waiting for the train to arrive. Taipei Main station is really a maze. There is so many levels and exits, so its good to have the exit number on hand.
Saw this "print" at the Taipei Main Station which think its really cool. They have a waiting zone for female passengers at night! Does that mean its not safe for a female to take MRT at night or the Taiwanese are just very thoughtful...?

Anyway, we are back to the same hotel again. It on HuaNing Street, just opposite the Taipei Main Station. After getting our room and luggage back in, chased all out to our next destination - Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf.
MRT ride to Tamsui 

Its a 18-stations train ride (about 1 hour +) from Taipei Main station. All except me slept during the journey there. 

So they missed the beautiful scenic view on the way there...as if they are interested in any... They only interested in games. Look at the clouds covering the mountain! I love it!

Finally after one over hour, we arrived at Tamsui station! This view is taken from the station.
Tamsui old street

PhotobucketOk. Tamsui is very similar to our East Coast Park.The difference:
1. Beautiful scenery
2. a lot of shops around selling snacks and drinks. There are a few game stalls too. 
3. A lot of buskers. We saw this performer pretending to be a human statue and the 2 cutie thought it was a real statue till they saw him moving slowing, teasing them. Too bad Ryan was asleep.
Photobucket  While Ryan nap, the 2 went to some game stalls to play. Each won themselves something which they happily shared with Ryan when we woke up. We proceed on to visit all the food stalls trying out everything. Hubby and I like the squid best (picture on the last row) while the kids prefers all the ice-cream and twirling potatoes crisp.

The original plan was to walk from the station along the Tamsui old street to the Tamsui Church, which suppose to take only 15mins and 25 mins walk to Fort San Domingo from there and another 20mins walk to the Fisherman's Wharf. But we spent nearly 1 hour at the Tamsui old street! With this pace, we never be able to see every thing that was plan. So we have to again change our route and just head straight to Tamsui Wharf to take a boat ride to Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf.
We didn't realised that there were 2 places selling the tickets and we got from the one that is slightly more expensive (Adult NT120 and child NT60 regardless of age for 2 way trip). The one nearer to the pier is cheaper. 

Get everyone to go to the "Public" loo situated along the old street before queuing for the ferry ride. One thing we love about Taiwan is it is very orderly - no pushing and rushing about and definitely no queue cutting! Totally not like us so K.S.

The sunset is beautiful...too bad the camera can't capture it!

The ferry ride to Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf is only about 10 mins. The 2 enjoyed staying out there watching the waves.

So this is Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf. Well, I can only say its a great place for couple to come. Upon reaching there, you can hear "singer" singing those romantic Mandarin love song. We sat there for half an hour just to enjoy the singing.

Lover Bridge of Tamsui

It was so enjoyable and relax that we only leave the place when the "singer" packed up. Took the ferry back to Tamsui pier and grab some cutlets from this famous stall as dinner. Its very crispy as it fried on the spot and taste delicious too!  

After dropping all of them at hotel at 9pm, I had wanted to go to Ximending to walk by myself but was forbade...so sad! Its ridiculous to come Taiwan and not visit Ximending!


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