Taiwan – West Coast Itinerary
We stayed in Taiwan for 16 days in December 2023 and it wasn’t enough to finish the west coast! The countys/ districts we visited were Miaoli (Dahu and Nanzhuang), Chiayi, Kenting, Ruifang and Taipei. I started booking accommodation and air plane tickets in August for this trip during the December school holidays. The weather in December was sunny, most times rainy and cloudy, so we packed our umbrellas and disposable raincoats into our bags.
Tips Travelling in Taiwan
- Get yourself an eSIM either from Klook and collect them at the mobile service provider counters at the airport during your arrival. You can also buy it directly from the counters.
- Get an Easy Card from the train stations or convenience stores like 7 Eleven and Family Mart. You can use this card to take the bus or train.
- Install Uber App on your phone to get taxis.
- Cash is King. Most restaurants and shopping malls in Taipei take credit card and Line Pay. But if you plan to eat at local eateries, shop at local shops or go outside Taipei, it might be a good idea to budget and bring enough cash. Otherwise you can still withdraw cash from the bank machines (sometimes you can find them at convenience stores) but the exchange rate might not be as good.
- Install Google Translate app on your phone if you do not understand Chinese.
- Renting a car and driving around Taiwan is quite easy and convenient. You might need to apply for an International Driving Permit if you want to rent a car in Taiwan. Taiwan is left hand drive, just like China and America.
We took the Scoot airline red-eye flight from Singapore’s Changi International Airport at 1 am and reached Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport at about 5.30 am in the morning. After we cleared the customs and collected our luggage, we went to the basement of the airport to have our breakfast. After breakfast, we collected the 9-seater Ford Tourneo from the Taiwanese car rental company, IWS and set off for our adventure!
MIAOLI, Dahu – Strawberry Land
We had wanted to make a few stops at Houlong Cape of Good Hope and some other attractions before proceeding to the Shengxing Old Mountain Railbike, but due to the heavy traffic on the expressway, we aborted our plans and went straight to the Old Mountain Railbike, not wanting to miss our first expedition. I bought tickets online about a month before. It was worth the ride as apart from the electric-powered train ride, we got to see the ruins of Longteng Bridge. It was a clear sunny day with azure blue skies and the breeze was so cooling. It was such a wonderful experience for the family. Book your tickets here.
After the ride, we walked about the area and bought some snacks along the way like sausages and braised toufu. We went to a teahouse, 十六份人文茶館 to make DIY Lei Cha 雷茶 and mochi (muah chee). It was fun for my kids (12 years to 22 years) to pound the lei cha and mochi and relaxing for me and hub to see them work their muscles.
We proceeded for over an hour drive to Tai’an’s Secret Bamboo Forest. It was a really scary ride up the steep and narrow mountain road. Some parts of the road was wide enough for only 1 car, and most of the times the slopes uphill and downhill were very steep. Sometimes we had to make a sharp left turn at a narrow cliff and I was so scared. I would have cried and given up long ago if I was the one driving but hub was really good and he was driving a 9-seater van! I knew that it was tough for him but we made it to our destination. With just a little bit of daylight left, we quickly took photos and enjoyed the wind, smell and atmosphere in the forest before quickly driving down the mountain road again to head for our BnB before it became dark at 5 pm.
Our homestay was 慈梦柔度假会馆 in Dahu, right next to a strawberry farm and 5 mins walk to the Dahu Wineland Resort. December is the perfect month for picking strawberries in Taiwan. There are also hot spring baths in Dahu. Our homestay had a large room for all six of us and a large hot spring bath tub. It was just so perfect for our family.
We woke up early at 7 am and drove to 三和中西專業早餐 for a Taiwanese breakfast. Pan-fried meat dumplings, pan fried vegetable dumplings, dough fritters (you tiao), egg omelette with ham, braised pork buns, soy milk and many more. I felt so greedy wanting to try everything that this breakfast shop sold. There were so many items and they were all quickly snapped up by their customers who came to do take outs. Business was brisk and good because the food here was affordable and delicious!
We proceeded to the largest strawberry farm in Dahu, 六合高架牛奶草莓農場 and plucked some strawberries. The strawberries were very small and very sweet. Personally, I don’t like to eat strawberries because they always tasted sour but the strawberries here were sweet. The larger strawberries were reserved for their VIP members. There are so many strawberry farms here in Dahu. They are like everywhere, even up in the hills and mountains.
Don’t miss out on the Dahu Wineland Resort. There are many strawberry products sold there – strawberry puffs (heavenly delicious!), strawberry sausages, strawberry wine, deep fried strawberries, strawberry soft toys and so on. It was the perfect place to buy gifts for family and friends!
We had lunch at Route3, which was probably the only western food restaurant around this area before setting off for our next homestay at Nanzhuang.
Nanzhuang Olive Tree was located on the slope of a hill so we had to drive up some narrow mountain road again. This homestay had a cat theme and there were four kitty cats which my kids loved a lot. The cats were mild tempered and well groomed. My children would find every opportunity to pat the kitty cats but not stressing them out.
Personally, I love the decor of this homestay, including the rooms and the quiet surrounding. Soothing piano music of popular Chinese pop songs was played all day. Hub and my room was located on a newer building and we stayed on the top floor with a roof top viewing deck. My youngest son said he didn’t want to go anywhere for the next few days as he wanted to play with the cats while my No. 2 said she was inspired to improve her driving skills so that she could be like daddy, drive herself here the next time.
We went to Nanzhuang Old Street and managed to find free parking near the Kang Ji Suspension Bridge. There was a lot of snacks, food and souvenir shops at Nanzhuang Old Street. The only thing that caught my eye was the black sugar ginger cubes to make hot ginger tea from a donut shop. The ginger was very strong and the tea was delicious, perfect for cold and rainy weather in December. I drank many cups of this ginger tea during our holiday since the weather in Taiwan was rainy and cold. We walked the Lovers Lane to took many instagrammable pictures before buying dinner at 老家米食堂 and heading back to our homestay.
We explored 四十二份湧泉自然生態步道 this morning as it was about 100m from our homestay. The weather was perfect and it was an easy walking trail to see the forest, streams, lily pond, spiders and insects.
After that, we drove on the mountain road up to Shandu Toast Bread which was also nearby. This bakery was rather famous and their kiln-baked bread was sold out daily by 11.30 am, so it was best to pre-order. The road to this bakery was rather steep and narrow and the road was wide enough for only 1 vehicle. We prayed that there was no vehicle coming from the opposite direction, but our prayer was not answered. There was an on-coming truck. Hub’s driving skill was really good. He and the other elderly driver somehow manoeuvred so that both vehicles could get through. We bought 4 loaves of bread and they tasted so delicious. Even at night when I munched on one of them, it was still soft and I finished another loaf while watching Chinese drama in the room.
Next, we drove for about 40 mins to an orange orchard, 橙香森林 to see orange trees. It was an experience for the kids as they had never seen orange trees before. Do remember to dress well, bring a sun hat,sun glasses and props if you come here to take instagrammable photos! We had buffet lunch here since it saved us time driving around to look for restaurants, and we could also use the amount we paid for the tickets to offset the bill for lunch.
We were all very tired from all that walking so we drove back to our homestay to have some rest. The kids didn’t rest, of course, they went to play with the cats!
CHIAYI – to Alishan Mountain
We checked-out and headed for our next homestay in Chiayi, Alishan Mountains. But before that, we made a stopover at Gaomei Wetlands in Taichung to see windmills. There were many paid parking places for cars and buses and clean toilets here. I would have wanted to come here to take sunset photos like many other tourists, but we had to drive to Chiayi .
We reached here at noon and it wasn’t bad at all. We stayed for about an hour and a half enjoying the strong winds and vastness of the earth, watching fiddler crabs, mudskippers, the flora and fauna of this wetland habitat. We would have loved to stay longer but I had to herd everyone up the car so that we could reach the next homestay while there was still some daylight.
We reached our next homestay, Siddhartha Guesthouse, which was up the hills of Alishan Mountains before sunset. It was raining and cold when we arrived and the road up this establishment was narrow and steep, especially for our 9 seater van, but hub did it again. We came down from one mountain from Nanzhuang and then we were up again on another mountain in Chiayi.
Comparing the mountain roads in Miaoli (Dahu and Nanzhuang), the mountain road in Chiayi was a lot wider and smoother.
Dinner was served an hour after we checked-in. It was one of the happiest moment of the day – Hot Pot Dinner!!!! It was cold and rainy outside, and we had hot pot buffet for dinner at a very affordable price – my life was so complete! The vegetables were very fresh as they were grown by the owner of this homestay. The owner even treated us with his homemade sauces and plum wine.
I chose this homestay because it had large glass windows and very stylish modern furnishing. The windows were huge and so perfect to see the spectacular view of mountains and sea of clouds throughout the day and night. We also get to see the city of Chiayi from our balcony. Sunset here was a quiet and magical experience. I sat at the balcony enjoying the cool evening breeze, sipping tea and watched the sun set beneath the horizon. The sea of clouds rose up, enveloped the mountains, moved towards me and then they went away as quickly as they had come. The best room to view all these is Room 202. We stayed in Room 205 which was also quite good.
Breakfast was Taiwanese porridge, pork floss, scrambled egg with mint, pickles and many other delicious side dishes to go along with the porridge. There was also bread, toast, peanut butter jam and some other fruit jam. I loved the breakfast here.
After we filled our stomach, we set off for Alishan National Forest Recreational Area. The tip here is to get your tickets from KLOOK as free parking, free cookies and mochis came with these tickets. What’s more, the tickets were discounted when I bought them!
The weather was terrible though when we reached Alishan. It was raining and cold. We wore raincoats and I brought my umbrella. Our plan was to take a train from Alishan station to Zhaoping station, and then walk / hike to Shenmu Station. Luckily, our plan was an easier route as if we did it the other way round, we would end up doing a lot more climbing uphill. Even then, I was exhausted as I hadn’t exercised for years. My knees and legs were so tired at the end of it, that I had no more energy to visit Fengqihu Old Street.
The wooden carriage Alishan train is only available every Wednesday. The normal carriage train is available at all times.
The rain and all that climbing up and down stairs didn’t give me an enjoyable time here however, my hub and our girls enjoyed this expedition. I only looked forward returning to the homestay for another round of hot pot buffet dinner!!!
Kenting – our Wonderland
Day 6, 7, 8
It rained all day again. I had planned to go for another hiking trail around some tea gardens followed by lunch at an aboriginal restaurant which I have booked, but the rain was heavy and the fog was so thick that I aborted the plan as we decided to quickly set off for south of Taiwan – Kenting. Hopefully the weather down south would be more favourable, but I was so wrong.
The drive down south on the highway to Kenting was about 3 hours 30 mins. We made a pit stop at 7 Eleven and the kids were so thrilled to find Capoo plushies. All of us loaded up the van happily with lots of drinks and snacks and continued our journey to our next homestay.
Sunlight On The Peninsula was voted by my family the best homestay for this entire trip, despite the horrible weather in Kenting. Our stay here was luxurious with lots of snacks and beverages topped up daily, rooms cleaned and toiletries topped up daily, Netflix, heated electronic toilet seats, bath tub, strong shower, clean bedding and modern stylish room design. This is hotel-grade homestay! Best of all, we stayed on the first floor and our bedrooms were next to the other and connected by an external patio overlooking the ocean.
We were so excited when we arrived. However, when we came out from the van, the wind was so strong that it almost blew us away! We quickly took cover and I was so scared that there was going to be a typhoon. The wind blew so hard and howled all night until the next day, it didn’t seem to stop. I asked one of the staff if this phenomena was normal. As we slept, we could still hear the wind howling outside the building.
But before that, we put down our luggages and drove to Kenting Night Market to get our laundry washed at the 24 hour automated laundromat, bought pizzas from the pizza truck, bubble tea and some street food (like corn dogs, deep fried chicken, donuts etc) for dinner. The weather 7km up north from the southern coast of Taiwan was a lot better and the wind wasn’t so strong.
There were many activities for everyone here in Kenting. We visited A-Shin Choco Farm where we saw cocoa trees, fruits and cocoa seeds. It was a very fruitful visit as I got to taste raw cocoa fruit and roasted cocoa seeds for the first time. We did not sign up for the DIY chocolate making session however, as we wanted to go for a ride on the ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) and the go-kart. We wanted to take the semi-submarine too but it was closed due to the bad weather. There were in fact many more activities in Kenting like scuba diving and a lot more places to visit, but my children preferred to stay in the homestay to relax and enjoy the amenities.
Catching sunrise at Longpan Park and Feng Chui Sha
Under Star Lab Cafe / Restaurant
We didn’t visit the Kenting National Park but we managed to check-in at the Southern Most Point of Taiwan, just next to the famous Eluanbi Lighthouse.
RUIFANG – Jiufen and Shifen
Just before we left Kenting, the sun finally came to say hello in the azure blue sky. The morning was bright, sunny and very pleasant but alas! we were leaving after we got used to the howling winds, rain and gloomy weather.
We spent the day driving northwards to Zuoying High Speed Rail station in Kaoshiung to return the rented vehicle and took the High Speed Rail to Taipei Main Station. It was rather tiring for us to drag and carry the luggages to take a train to Ruifang station, and moreover, it was almost sundown during winter, so we got an Uber taxi to drive us to our next homestay instead.
Our homestay in Ruifang district was Promised Land. It was our humble abode for the next three days. The Promised Land was located somewhere up on a hill, next to an iconic attraction (about 4 mins walk), The Remains of the Thirteen Levels, which was built in 1933 to extract precious metals during the Japanese Occupation. It was also a 3 min drive away from the Golden Waterfall. I chose this homestay as the rooms on the second floor had balconies and faced the ocean, north of Taiwan. It was also surrounded by mountains, but the downside of this accommodation was that it was rather difficult to get transport. There were no convenience stores nearby so we had to ensure we had our meals outside before returning or live on instant cup noodles. Breakfast was provided, however.
Day 10 Shifen
On the 1oth day, we lazed around until noon before heading to Jiufen. We took Uber to Ruifang train station and then boarded the train to Shifen train station. It was amazing that as we approached the Shifen train station, there were people left and right of the train and there weren’t any barriers! Apparently, tourists let go of the sky lanterns here on the train tracks.
When we alighted from the train, we were already mesmerised by the sight of several lanterns floating up the sky. By the time we finished taking videos at the train station, the long queue at the very popular and famous chicken wing stall had shortened considerably. Wow! the chicken wings with stuffed calrose rice with pepper, ham and bacon were so delicious!
There were many shops selling mini LED lanterns, Studio Ghibli character figurines and bags, street foods, fireworks and sky lanterns. Each sky lantern cost about TWD 250 and this also included the staff helping to take photos and videos as we let go of the sky lanterns.
After letting off our sky lanterns, we walked to Shifen Waterfall and then hitched a cab to bring us back to Shifen to see the lanterns floating up the evening sky. It was magical and mesmerising as we watched the lanterns floating up the evening sky one after another. It turned dark quickly and hub bought some fireworks for the children to release them at the bridge nearby. There were many youngsters letting off fireworks of all sorts at the bridge, just be careful not to be burnt by stray sparks!
I checked the train schedule and quickly walked to Ruifang station 30 mins before the next train. My common sense saved us as soon there was a huge crowd queuing up behind us. We managed to get seats and the train back to Ruifang station was very packed and long.
We didn’t eat dinner at Shifen as the eateries there were very crowded. When we arrived at Ruifang station, it was already 7.30pm and many eateries and restaurants nearby were closed already. We were lucky to chance upon 幽默食堂 Yo Mo Canteen which was about 150m away and it closed at 9 pm. The food was surprisingly delicious and very affordable.
Day 11 Bitou Cape
We hired a taxi for 4 hours with the help of the landlady at the homestay at noon. This day was sunny with some strata clouds in the blue sky. It was about 25 degrees celsius and a perfect day for hiking. We were going to explore the north eastern coast of Taiwan, especially Bitou Cape. The taxi driver who also played the role of our tour guide, drove us to Bitou Cape first thing and dropped us at one of the entrances, at the New Taipei Bitou Primary School. This is the preferred starting point as it saved us a lot of climbing than if we started from the other entrance near the fishing port. The scenery at Bitou Cape was breathtaking and the hike was quite manageable for someone like me who was on the heavy side and hadn’t exercised for many years! The paths are well-built with handrails and it was rather safe to hike. We chatted with another visitor at the peak and enjoyed the view before heading down towards the other entrance / exit at the fishing port.
Our driver brought us to visit Golden Waterfall, Nanya Rocks, Yin Yang Sea, Remains of the Thirteen Levels and then to Miners Canteen where we bought dinner back to our homestay.
I enjoyed this day a lot, especially the hike up Bitou Cape was breathtaking and unforgettable.
Day 12, 13 Jiufen