Monday, November 18, 2013

Taiwan budget stay review

Taroko (Hualien) > Hualien City > Taitung > Kaoshiung > Taichung > Taipei

Since we did my Taiwan trip on a shoestring, but not totally. We did stayed at dorms and opted for accommodation below RM50 per night. Everything is kinda cheap in Taiwan, but not accommodation really. When I told my Uncle (who frequently visits Taiwan) I was gonna bring RM2k, he said I'll need more because accommodation would be expensive. But since only 2 young girls went, we figured staying at dorms should not be a problem. 

We booked ALL our accommodation before leaving for Taiwan. However because we were busy with our convocation, I only managed to make reservation 3 days before we departed. I opened 3 main websites: Taiwan Youth Hostel, and So using these 3 websites, I made the comparisons for the cheapest, but yet the most accessible and hostel with the best reviews.

Over 8 days 7 nights in Taiwan, we stayed at 6 different places! Because we wanted to cover as many places as possible so we were on the move most of the time. It is always better to write your hostel/hotel name in Chinese because it would be easier to ask around or hire a taxi. Below are the pros and cons of the hostels/hotels we booked:

(1) Hualien - Liwu Inn International Hotel via Taiwan Youth Hostel
Address: No.242-2, Fushi. Xiulin Township. Hualien County (near by Taroko)
Phone number: 886 3 861-0769
Cost: TWD300/night (4 female bunk beds room)

for more photos please visit Taiwan Youth Hostel

Comment: If you didn't inform them earlier, you will need to check-in by 10PM. Because it was our first day and we traveled to Hualien right after landing in Taoyuan International Airport, we arrived at the hostel at 10.30PM. Thank God we met 2 awesomely good Samaritans who not only helped us get cell phone cards, also drove us to the hostel. The hostel is located near XinCheng train station, quite a distance from Hualien City. When we arrived, the owners were about to leave! We made it just in time to check-in. After he showed us our room and the shower, they left. Owners were really nice and friendly! We were so tired and didn't know we paid extra for the room, the next day the owner told us he made some miscalculation and returned the balance to us. We were the only occupants in the hostel that night. Not really creepy because the bed, pillow and blanket were awesome! Super comfy. The bunk beds had own sockets and curtains for privacy. We slept so well. Hair dryer was provided. The shower room is nearby but the heater malfunctioned, the water got either too hot or too cold, so to get the right temperature we had to switch frequently. Besides the heater, wifi was weak inside our room, but you can always use it at the corridor where chairs and tables are provided. And Liwu Inn is really located just next to the bus stop to Taroko National Park. We didn't know we need to wave to get a bus to stop so we ended up walking to Taroko (which was actually do-able from the hostel and we actually enjoyed the scenery on the way)

Verdict: 4 stars!

(2) Hualien CYC International Youth Hostel via Taiwan Youth Hostel
Address: No.41-11, Gongyuan Rd. Hualien City. Hualien County 970
Phone number: 886-3-8324124
Cost: TWD350/night (8 female bunk beds room)

for more photos please visit Taiwan Youth Hostel

Comment: This one kinda shocked us. We didn't know how it looks like and where exactly is the location. We only know it is in Hualien and probably near to Hualien Train Station where we supposed to take train to Taitung. The good Samaritans from the day before were thankfully from Hualien and they of course knew the place well. After our dinner together, he drove us there. And to our surprise, it was a school (or maybe still a school). It is a school dormitory. The area is huge. The receptionists were more like at a counter where you need to settle your school fees (because the place also offer workshops and classes like Yoga and Taichi). The bed is however as hard as rock, but we were tired and still slept well. Toilet is dorm style, separated shower rooms in a row. Heater didn't create any problem, worked perfectly. Washing machine and hair dryer were also provided. The only problem was that there was only one socket near the door. Thank God were brought our own extension cable. For CYC, there was a TV with all 100+ Taiwan channels. We spent the night watching a figure skating competition Lol.

Verdict: 3.8 stars!

(3) Traveler Hotel Taitung via
Address: 42 An Ching Street. Taitung, 950. Taiwan
Phone number: 88689326456
Cost: TWD1080/night (private double)

for more photos please visit Traveler Hotel Taitung at

Comment: For Taitung, I couldn't find any youth hostel or more budget dorm stay. However for a double room at TWD1080, meaning it was only TWD540 per person, almost a great deal for a private room without shared bathroom! When we arrived, I saw the hotel also has a "Hosteling International" logo on the entrance. I figured that it must be one of the youth choice due to the price. This is not a dorm but a proper hostel so we didn't have much to complain. The receptionists were helpful. Ding Dong Bus Station (Mountain Route) bus station were just nearby, DingDong Bus Station (Sea Route) is a distance away, around 15 minutes on foot. Hairdryer provided, famous eateries are nearby, bicycle and motorcycle rentals provided. Even though there are not much to see in Taitung compared to other county, it was our best (private) stay so far, we spent the night watching a Taiwanese reality show before calling it a day.

Verdict: 4.2 stars!

(4) Kaohsiung Backpackers Hostel via
Address: No.40, Jianguo 3rd Rd., Sanmin District, Kaohsiung
Phone number: 886-72888028
Cost: TWD389/night (4 female bunk beds room)

visit for more photos

Comment: For dorm stay, this was probably the best place. It is super near to the Kaoshiung main station were you take the regular train, MRT (also to High Speed Railway station) and the bus. Only 5 minutes walk. It is 2 lots away from 7-11 and opposite the road there is another 7-11! Receptionist was sooo friendly! We stayed on the 4th floor, was tiring but it was new and the environment was nice! They used password security lock rather than keys so it was so convenient. You can check-in late on your own as they will provide you the password and room number through email. And you can check-out with no problem, just take you stuffs and leave! That night we had a Taiwanese and a HongKong roommates, both were friendly~ Again, sockets for every beds, reading lights provided, hairdryer not provided but shower rooms were really nice and refreshing! I loved their interior designs (I realized most items are from IKEA) very much, simple and clean! From our Taiwanese roommate, we found out that they have a branch in Taipei exactly in Xi Men Ding area. We quickly cancel our initial booking with "The Meeting Place" (to be commented on later) and made booking with Taipei Backpackers Hostel.

Verdict: 4.5 stars!

(5) Unicorn Hostel via
Address: No.18, Lane 83, Xing Lin Road. Xitun District. Taichung.Taiwan
Phone number: 886-912378070
Cost: TWD399/night (4 female bunk beds room)

for more photos please visit Unicorn Hostel at

Comment: One thing I will always remember about Unicorn Hostel, the receptionist Yoyo is super friendly! She is a young girl probably my age and maybe working part time. We arrived very late as well that night and almost got lost. Called up Yoyo and she came out welcoming us with our roommate from China. Unicorn Hostel did surprise us because it is actually a terrace house lot made into a hostel. They only have 2 room, 4 bunks female and 8 bunks mix. Besides the location, everything about it is nice! The shower was perfect (though it is downstairs but there were only 3 girls and 1 shy HongKong guy so it doesn't matter), dining room where we tapao-ed our food from the Night Market and ate dinner. The nearby night market is Fengjia Night market. Yoyo said it is 10 minutes but I think we took half an hour to reach, they should change the time approximate. Taking a bus from regular railway station or high speed rail to the hostel was not a problem. The problem was the other way round. There were way too many buses, we waited for almost an hour, finally gave up and took taxi. There is also a mall nearby (Xin Guang San Yue) where we watched a movie on the second night because besides night market Taichung can be quiet at night. If you will be visiting the Formosa Cultural Village at Sun Moon Lake, I would suggest you to stay overnight at Sun Moon Lake (there are buses to Taichung and Taipei direct from Sun Moon Lake), else half a day or day trip to Sun Moon Lake would be sufficient.

Verdict: 4 stars!

(6) Taipei Backpackers Hostel via receptionist at Kaohsiung Backpackers Hostel 
-you can always visit to book for either Kaoshiung or Taipei Backapackers Hotel-
Address: No.41, Sec 2, Hankou St., Taipei (MRT Ximen Station)
Phone number: 8862-2311-9559
Cost: TWD1100/night (private double)

cr: Visit for more photos

Comment: Though we had a great experience at Kaoshiung branch, Taipei branch (at least for Xi Men Ding MRT branch) was totally a disappointment. The receptionist (particularly one with short hair) was very rude, didn't bother to look at us while talking. Because we check-in early and the room was not ready, we left our luggage at the receptionist and went on to explore Taipei. When we came back around 9PM, no one bothered to show us to our room. We actually went up the wrong place and didn't know the other branch is on building (if you see their website, they have 2 on the same street). And our room was at the very end, next to the washing machine and window (kinda noisy with cars and people talking at night because Xi Men Ding is a busy area). Room was quite squeezy compared to Kaoshiung's 4 people dorm. Other facilities are alright, good thing Xi Men Ding made up for it. I was just pissed that nobody told us that our room was at a totally different building, quite far across the street, and of course the rude receptionist. Most expensive stay but not the most comfortable. Area is nice but would probably request for a room further in next time.

Verdict: 3.8 stars!

And about "The Meeting Place" which is highly rated and which I booked through in advance, I canceled my booking after I found out from the Taiwanese friend we met in Kaoshiung that Nangang, where the hostel is located, is far from main town. I emailed them twice but didn't get any reply. I made the cancellation 3 days in advance (they said I should cancel 24 hours in advance so 3 days is of course a good thing right?). Up till today I am not sure whether they received my cancellation, but obviously I didn't turn up and they didn't bother calling or emailing me?? And hopefully they didn't charge my credit card else I would totally rage, cause that would mean they pretended not to read my email (??)

Will blog about our detailed Taiwan itinerary soon (hopefully)! Managed to eat, sleep and play in Taiwan for RM1.6k in 8days 7nights, is this considered cheap?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

7 days in the Philippines

Before I go for my next trip, I figured it's better to get this wayyy back dated post done. Since the first trip I made, I (and my travel mates) did most of the plannings ourselves. I've never went on any package trip or trip with tour group. At most we planned the location and got local tour guide for a day trip.

This Philippines trip (4 January to 11 January 2013) has got to be the most random trip I have been to so far. I don't even remember what we did for which day so I'll just blog it as a sum up post wtf. Prior to the trip, we were all very busy. Nobody had sufficient time to plan for the trip. Thus, this has to be one of the most useless travel post on Philippines fml. I will however guide you through places to go and why we made such choices.

Following are the routes we picked very last minute. Picked different route to and fro so that we can experience different views along the way.

I am currently planning for Taiwan trip, full plan with accommodation, where to go, how to get there, all the prices and opening hours etc. Boy, a random trip/"free and easy" could be so much easier and relax. I, however, wouldn't want to miss important spots in Taiwan.

I am glad we chose Boracay over Manila. I've always wanted to visit places for their natural beauties and scenery, not the shopping malls and busy traffic. Thus, I present you the most random trip, with lots of food photos. We didn't even know where were we going, didn't book hotel in advance and did planning on the road itself.

Due to my passport tragedy which I blogged earlier, we had to depart a day later. We landed at Clark International Airport, after meeting up with my friends at a Hotel nearby, we went to the mall to get lunch and some snacks. Then we made our trip to Baguio right away in a bus (Our plan was to get to Sagada, but we need to stop at Baguio). The Victory Liner bus was really empty, and quipped with WiFi! Check schedule here:

The thing about Philippines buses (not only this one to Baguio but also other buses we took after), they doesn't seem like they have a final destination. As in it can stop anywhere without proper signage, we didn't even know where we were already at our destination. Some stop were just at the road side, not even proper bus terminals =.= What we did, we just kept asking the driver whether we were at our destination. And after veryyyy long hours on the bus, it stopped at a roadside and asked us to get off. It is dark, and approximately 8PM. We were not even sure where we were but when we got off the bus, it was cold! It felt like Autumn in South Korea :D 

The location were we got off, there was a van waiting. Probably seeing us so lost, truth is we didn't even know where to stay, so the driver offered us to stay at a hotel nearby. The price was not bad for that hour, and for the desperate us. The driver requested for tip! I still dislike tipping countries >_<

The hotel, couldn't recall the name, is uphill and located near a 7-11 mart! It was so humid and cold, one of the bed kinda broke. But just for an overnight stay we endured. Before getting in bed, we wondered off to the nearby 7-11 in the blissful weather! How I miss being in such perfect weather. Ate Pork Noodle for supper!


And because it was after Christmas, we saw Christmas decorations at the petrol station next to 7-11. We figured that the area was occupied by Koreans. There is a Korean Restaurant (Bulgogi!!), Korean-English Learning Center and bumped into Korean teenager at the 7-11. Honestly the hotel in Clark was also run by Korean owner, with lots of Korean customers. We saw many Koreans in the mall, I guess Koreans really like the Philippines?

Christmas decorations at the petrol station

The next day we woke up early for Church! It was Sunday and being in a Christian dominant country, we wouldn't want to miss the chance. took a taxi from the hotel upon request. It was not very far away. And the Cathedral was sooo beautiful! Unlike many modern designed churches in Malaysia, Cathedral Baguio still preserve the classic look!

After church which was sooo early, it was still pitch black when we arranged. We went back to our hotel for breakfast, pork is served everywhere in the Philippines. Even though I really love pork, I was in need to more vegetables towards the end of the trip fml.

Checked-out from Hotel
We then went to Baguio/Besao bus terminal and took a bus to Sagada. The bus we took was GL Trans (website here:  and we had to queue quite long (at quite a disorganized terminal). Not to mention standing in a queue behind the carbon monoxide releasing bus's exhaust FOL. And, sitting at the pathway (not window or aisle seats) but exactly in the middle on small mini chairs) just to get there on time because the bus is full. Got us backache because of the mountain road. Try to be early next time.

At one of the rest stop, my friend bought Balut!

Balut, one of Philippines exotic food.

Also some snacks for our longgg journey. Again, we knew we were going to Sagada but we didn't know how that place will look like. Didn't even check the weather and because we sat at the pathway fml, we didn't get much view. On the next stop, the driver had to fix something on the bus. I looked out the window and figured there must be many people smoking outside fml. Went we stepped out of the bus, it was cold! It was the fog/mist and we were at the highest point of Sagada.

Rice terrace

On the way I've jotted down places to stay in Sagada (Sagada webpage: Due to the tiring journey and the hilly paths, we settled for somewhere closer and also with good review and price. Residential Lodge! It is in fact the highest rated place to stay in Sagada. Glad it wasn't booked out because we didn't make any reservation. Should you go there, do call Mary Daoas +639196728744. The view and weather were really nice, I loved it! Upon arrival at Sagada, you need toto register and pay a miniscule fee of Php20.00. 

After check-in, we went around Sagada. Walking in the perfect weather! 
And by night, settled dinner at a nearby eatery.

For supper we went for pie! The famous pie of Sagada located at The Sagada Lemon Pie House ( Sagada is not really big, you can walk around the small town (with mostly hostels) in half a day or less. We actually spent our evening walking towards the village nearby.

The next day, booked the earliest tour for caving and hanging coffin! There are 2 routes but we chose the shorter route due to physical strength  and time constraint :D We had a tour guide and a driver who will bring us around. You can choose to walk but we didn't have much time as we plan to depart to Bontoc in the afternoon on the same day.

Hanging coffins, but you'll have to be there to have a clearer view

Sagada and it's wonderful weather in the morning!

Starting our caving!
We were not wearing appropriate clothes because we didn't do much research, just go with the package offered at the Tourist Information Centre. We were actually not really prepared for what we signed up for. We went for Sumaging Cave and came out through the same route. The longer route would take you exiting through the other side of the cave.

Was really dark, no proper path. We just stepped on all the bats' poo and whatever we walked past because the only person with light source was the tour guide. And because I was taking photos so practically the last person

 It was however, totally worth it! The view in the cave was marvelous! Definitely a must visit in Sagada.

And this was not really the most challenging part. There were many parts where the tour guide need to help us get up and get down the steep and slippery paths. For someone just slightly bigger than me, kudos for his strength!

God knows where this hole leads to. Have you watched "Sanctum"?

If you picked the longer route, you would've exit at where the Hanging Coffins were located. But since we took the shorter route, we went to the location via van.

After getting back to our lodge and cleaning up, the bats' poo stained clothes was almost "unrecoverable" Fol. We took a jeepney to Bontoc. And we rode ON TOP of the jeepney. It was an exciting experience despite the risk (of doing that on a mountain road) and the pain our asses had to suffer. The view of the mountains and rice terraces were what we really looked forward to. No photos due to the fear of dropping my camera, and I was busy keeping my hair in place Lol.

Lunch at Bontoc while we wait for our bus to Manila! Have I mention how Filipinos love meat, specifically pork? We ordered everything on their mix rice menu and everything was pork!

Of course if you are not on budget like we are, you can always hire a van and tour guide for Baguio, Sagada, Bontoc and Banaue tour.

Here comes the bad experience, so bad I didn't have time or energy to take any photos. So again we only knew we were going to Manila but didn't know where exactly to stop. We arrived town around midnight and were asked to get off at an petrol station! At that time we were not even sure whether we were already in Manila Fol. Everything was closed and what we did was to look around and I saw a motel. Because we were so exhausted from the long journey, we just check-in. The receptionist didn't understand English we so we just said "2 rooms ok" wtf. We went to our rooms and they were...small and very run down. Rather than sleeping, we just lie on the (oddly smelling bed) and waited for daylight. 

At daylight, we took a cab nearby and left for the airport. Only then we realized we were in Manila, after looking at sign boards, flags all over and the horrifying traffic. So practically we unknowing stayed in Manila for one night (at probably the worst hotel in Manila) and "drop past" Manila city in a taxi.

After that was all what we were anticipating, trip to Boracay. Though it was a direct trip like I expected. Just like Koh Samui, we landed at an airport quite far away. Had to take bus then ferry to arrive at the beautiful island.

The rest is history. Boracay accommodation was booked. The view was nice. We also booked a half day tour to the other side of the "less disturbed" beach and to the highest peak of Boracay. Though the weather was much hotter than Sagada, the view was a whole different thing. We partied at night (one of the best night life!) and due to budget, didn't do much water activities. Would totally go back there!

Dinner on the beach! With sun setting behind us.

Shakey's for brunch before we headed for day tour!

"Less disturbed" Puka beach

View of Boracay from the top spot!

After Boracay, we went back to Clark before our flight back to Malaysia. Stayed at a hotel near the airport and went to the mall nearby! Bought some Philippines made goods and ate Philippines food buffet at Cabalen! Must try if you didn't manage to try all the Philippines food~

For supper, ordered delivery Jollibee. Maybe it was delivery and we didn't know what is best so it was so-so to us. Will definitely try Jollibee again since I've seen many good reviews about it!

End of Philippines Tour!