14th December 2012, 11:50 PM
Re: Taiwan trip planning need some help
When we made our reservation with Misty Villa they required a credit card number for reservation and no deposit. (In the event there is a no show without prior notification, the minsu will then charge a night's stay to the credit card. This is very much the standard practice with many hotels around the globe.) During check-in, Misty's policy requires the guest to pay the full fare in NT$ (i.e. cash) and will void the credit card receipt used for reservation. Talking about NT$, pls note there are fewer places where you can change money in Taiwan compared with Sgp. You can change SGD to NT$ at Taoyuan Airport and only some banks in Taipei (not sure about the other cities), no one seems to be able to find the money changer stalls that are common in Sgp. We managed to change some $ at Mega Bank near Taipei MRT Ximen Station Exit 4 (ximending, taipei - Google Maps). Note the bank requires your passport for foreigner verification. Other travellers reported the exchange rate there is better than in Sgp and I had the same encounter (that's at Taoyuan Airport as well).
Originally Posted by ech123
Misty Villa and the Little Swiss Garden are at an altitude of about 1800m; Starry minsu should be at about 2000m and the Green Green Grassland somewhere in between. Weather permitting, you should be able to see stars (no pun intended) at different places in Cingjing. I have a photo of the view from our room balcony at Panoramio - Photo of 180-degree view from Misty Villa, Cingjing, and you can see we were not blessed with clear skies during our stay. If your room faces east there is a chance to view the sunrise too, again weather permitting. Also the entire Hualien coast faces east out to the vast Pacific Ocean so that's a good location to catch a nice sunrise as well.
Regarding the minsu's response to your reservations, try call them over the phone to enquire (in mandarin) if you still do not receive a response after 3 days. Since your travel is in May it is unlikely they are already fully booked, nevertheless I have a feeling that might be the case. Also try to draft your email in chinese to make them feel more comfortable in handling your enquiry.
Not sure if I understand your intentions correctly, if your group plan to travel from Cingjing to Taipei without staying a night in between, then the most direct route has to be via the west coast (you'll then make the choice to postpone Taroko Gorge & Hualien to the next trip). If you plan to visit Taroko Gorge after Cingjing (i.e. go east) then you would need a stopover between Taroko and Taipei (usually that's Hualien). From Hualien to Taipei you could take the TRA or hire a taxi; both will bring you north along the east coast. If you did not manage to book TRA tickets online then Plan B is to ask if your Hualien minsu owner can help you book tickets (as timwongek has mentioned earlier, the locals have alloted seats for reservations, I have read). Mountain ranges cover most of central Taiwan from north to south, and the Taichung-Puli-Cingjing-Taroko road is one of the few east-west lateral connections on the island. That is to say you could do Taipei/Taoyuan-Hualien-Taroko Gorge-Cingjing-SML-Taipei in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. From Taipei/Taoyuan to Cingjing I've read there are fruit & flower farms that allow fruit picking by visitors (in Miaoli County). If you plan to visit Tainan then Taipei/Taoyuan-HSR-Tainan-Alishan-SML-Cingjing is a possibility too.
Regarding the car size, if you plan to do regular laundry and only carry backpacks then the 7-seater may do the job for you. On the other hand if you have five 25" or larger luggage cases the driver will have to collapse the third seat row of a Toyota Wish in order to accomodate them, leaving one front seat and second row for 5 pax. You could size up a Wish cabin area in Sgp when you have the opportunity.
For a customized whole-day sight-seeing trip around the Taipei area, I've heard from a cab driver his rate is NT$4500 (Mr Gao, the one with a maxi-cab). We did not do the Shifen-Pingxi excursion due to wet weather forecast, nevertheless the other forumers have posted useful suggestions. There's also many blogs about Taiwan F&E travel; I think you might be able to find many useful information at this blog (Investing in SG and US Markets: Taiwan Trip 2011).
Some other points for your consideration are,
* Check-in time at most hotels/minsu is 1500-1600hrs. Check-out time is usually 1100-1200hrs. After checkout, you may be able to 'park' your luggage at most hotels and some minsu, go for a short excursion and return to pick those up later in the day. The reverse is also true; i.e. if you reach the hotel/minsu before check-in time most likely you can leave your luggage there. This and the estimated travel time from your previous rest stop to the next will provide the outline of your itinerary.
* Usually many daytime hours are spent travelling from one stopover to another, leaving you less time for actual sight-seeing and activities. It would be more enjoyable if you could plan your trip such that you get to do more of the latter than the former. Staying more than 1N at each stopover usually helps.
* You can save travelling time by hiring drivers who also provide personal tour guide service, but maybe at a price premium compared to taking public transport. The other option is to take public transport, which may mean you are left with less time for sighting-seeing and there are additional stuff to worry about (such as not getting lost).
Lastly I think the service apartments around the Taipei Central Station are interesting and conveniently-located accomodation options you can consider. We did not manage to book one for our stay in Taipei, however would recommend the Tomato Rooms service apartment if you stopover at Taichung.
Last edited by terabyte; 14th December 2012 at 11:55 PM.
17th December 2012, 12:59 PM
Re: Taiwan trip planning need some help
Thats alot of very useful information. I guess for now my route will be quite fixed and this all thanks to all the help and advices given from friends here. Have to wait for all confirmation from minsu and drivers. Then i'll be able to search on the exact transportation route to each destinations and the food there! HAHA.
Thanks again everyone for sharing your experiences. Feel free to share more of your experiences