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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The Taiwan Trip: Taichung

There was a lot of information about the ride to Taichung, but I had just a little time to digest it. When we reached Taipei Main Station, I had to look around and figured out the difference between Taiwan Railway (TRA) and Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR). I must consider both the cost and the speed, but it was made easy by the fact that there was no TRA ticket available for last minute purchase, haha. 

Hence we could only opt for HSR. The next train was about to depart, so I quickly grabbed four tickets with non-reserved seats. My Chinese ain't that good, but I'm quite sure that the officer said non-reserved seats started from car #9. But it wasn't the case for the train we boarded and we were kicked out from our seats at Taoyuan Station. 

When we reached Taichung HSR Station.

For almost an hour, I loitered around the vestibule as I left the luggages inside car #9. My wife Yani was brilliant, though. She entered car #10 and secured the non-reserved seats for the kids and herself. As I couldn't really see the sign of the station, we almost missed our stop. It was a rather unpleasant experience, so the moment we reached Taichung HSR Station, I immediately booked the return tickets with reserved seats. 

We called Uber and headed to La Vida Hotel. Unlike Taipei, there's only one metro line in Taichung and it was of no use to us, so everywhere we went, we had to take Uber. The first sight of Taichung didn't really meet the expectation. The city centre was fine, but Xitun District looked pretty much the same as any other Chinatown. The cramped and poorly maintained low-rise buildings as well as the non-existent pavement reminded me of the place I originally came from.

KFC in Taiwan.

We went to the laundromat next to the hotel, then headed to KFC for early dinner. I am always keen to try out fast food in other countries because there could be a menu or two that were only available in the said country. And the KFC in Taiwan didn't disappoint. The Italian chicken tasted really good. According to my daughter Linda, the rice dumpling was nice, too. 

After our meal, we went back to the hotel. Later that night, we visited the nearby Feng Chia Night Market. But there are only so many night markets you can visit in one trip. It was almost the same as Shilin Night Market in Taipei. And the smell of stinky tofu certainly didn't help. The kids were cranky and we eventually made a U-turn back to hotel. 

Linda, right before we entered Feng Chia Night Market. 

The next morning, after a good breakfast (oh yes, after what we had at Hotel Midtown Richardson in Taipei, I really should mention this), we went to Rainbow Village. It was not an actual village, but a couple of tiny houses painted colorfully by an old soldier who used to live there (he died of old age at 101 earlier this year). Coupled with such a backstory, it was a neat little tourist spot. 

But Rainbow Village was only good for a quick browse. We called Uber and headed to Mitsui Shopping LaLaport Taichung. The mall, comprised of two buildings, was all right. My daughter Audrey had her lunch there, then we continued the journey to Zhongshe Flower Market. 

Mum and daughter at Zhongshe Flower Market. 

Zhongshe is a real flower market, similar to those you can find in Caldecott, Singapore! However the garden was so beautiful that Yani thought it was worth visiting. It was raining for a while when we got there, so only Yani and Linda went out to explore. 

From there, we went to Mala Bay at Lihpao Resort for a swim. Yes, we went swimming at a place that looked like Wild Wild Wet in Singapore! After a few rounds of wave pool and lazy river, it was closing time and we returned to the city. We went to this mall called Tiger City for dinner. I wanted to eat at the Hakka restaurant, but Yani and Linda wanted Don Don Donki instead. As we couldn't reach an agreement, we walked to another mall called Top City.

Lihpao Resort, as we headed to Mala Bay. 

Top City was a high-end shopping mall. The Din Tai Fung had a long queue and apart from that, there weren't much options left. We went to the mall next door, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, and eventually ate there. Then, as we'd be leaving Taichung on the following day, I fancied the idea of enjoying the night by walking back to the hotel. 

Miyahara was the last place we visited in Taichung. It was a souvenir shop that looked like Hogwarts, which probably explained why it was a popular tourist destination. Miyahara also sells ice cream. Linda's choice, the grape flavored ice cream, was a good one. It tasted really good and fruity. 

Audrey and Mama at Miyahara.

There was a train station nearby and I thought that was the one we should go to. However, when we reached there, it didn't look like the one we knew. Again, it got to do with TRA and HSR. Taichung Station was for TRA, so we had to board the commuter train and alight at Xinwuri Station. The passageway then led us to HSR Station. Before we left Taichung, we had lunch at Sukiya.

We didn't return to Taipei this time, but headed to another city called Taoyuan. That's where the international airport is. We checked in at the Novotel next to the airport. The room was big and nice, one of the few that had two toilets and one shower room. The breakfast that we had the next morning was also the best.

At Novotel, before we went to airport for our dinner. 

Anyway, it was late in the afternoon when we were done checking in, so we still had a bit of time before we called it a night. We could have returned to Taoyuan HSR Station to explore Gloria Outlets, but Linda preferred a nearer destination, so we went to the airport instead. 

Now, bear in mind that in Singapore, Changi Airport is a place we visit quite frequently, even when we aren't flying anywhere. It is like a mall and Jewel was right there at the center of it. Due to this habit, I subconsciously couldn't help comparing other airports with Changi. 

The hidden and colourful side of Taoyuan Airport. 

And Taoyuan Airport just wasn't that good. It was small and therefore felt very crowded by the time we were there for check-in the next morning. The atmosphere was neither cozy nor welcoming and the design somehow got me thinking of hospital. From Terminal 2, we took the skytrain to Terminal 1 and eventually had our dinner there. That officially ended our trip to Taiwan. 

So what about Taichung as a tourist destination? For the fact that we went swimming like locals, I think it didn't have much to offer. But to be fair, we also had only one day to explore the city effectively. If we had gone to Cingjing Farm that day, we'd see even less of the city! Taichung and us, we were just not meant to be!

Mum and daughters, Rainbow Village.

Liburan Ke Taiwan: Taichung

Ada banyak informasi tentang kereta ke Taichung, tapi hanya ada sedikit waktu untuk mencernanya. Ketika kita tiba di Taipei Main Station, saya harus melihat penanda jalan dan mencari tahu beda antara Taiwan Railway (TRA) dan Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR). Perbedaan menentukan harga dan durasi perjalanan, tapi akhirnya semua ini dipermudah karena tidak ada tiket TRA yang tersisa untuk dibeli di loket pada hari itu, haha. 

Oleh karena itu kita hanya bisa ke Taichung dengan transportasi HSR. Kereta berikutnya akan segera berangkat, jadi saya bergegas membeli tiket tanpa konfirmasi tempat duduk. Bahasa Mandarin saya tidak begitu bagus, namun saya yakin petugas tiket memberitahukan saya bahwa tempat duduk untuk tiket saya ini mulai dari gerbong sembilan. Akan tetapi terjadi kekeliruan dan kita akhirnya harus mengungsi ke gerbong berikutnya saat penumpang dengan tiket sah naik dari Stasiun Taoyuan. 

Tatkala kita tiba di Taichung HSR Station.

Kurang-lebih sejam lamanya saya harus luntang-lantung di lorong antar gerbong karena koper-koper kita ada di gerbong sembilan. Istri saya Yani bergerak cepat dan mengamankan tempat duduk untuk anak-anak di gerbong sebelah. Karena saya tidak bisa melihat dengan jelas penanda di setiap stasiun yang disinggahi kereta, kita hampir gagal turun di Taichung. Sesudah pengalaman yang kurang menyenangkan ini, saya ke loket stasiun dan langsung membeli tiket pulang dengan nomor tempat duduk yang telah terkonfirmasi. 

Kita lantas memesan Uber dan menuju ke La Vida Hotel. Berbeda dengan Taipei, hanya ada satu jalur metro di Taichung dan jalur ini tidak berguna bagi kita, jadi ke mana pun kita pergi, kita harus menggunakan Uber. Pusat kotanya terlihat maju, tapi Distrik Xitun mirip seperti Pecinan di negara lain. Gedung-gedung yang rendah dan kurang terawat saling berdempetan. Trotoarnya yang dipakai untuk tempat berusaha pun tampak seperti tempat di mana saya berasal

KFC di Taiwan.

Kita mampir ke binatu di samping hotel, lalu lanjut ke KFC untuk makan malam. Saya selalu berminat untuk mencoba makanan cepat saji di negara lain karena biasanya ada menu yang hanya ditemukan di negara tersebut. KFC Taiwan ini tidak mengecewakan. Ayam dengan gaya Italia yang saya pesan sangat sedap rasanya. Menurut Linda, nasi kepalnya pun enak juga. 

Setelah bersantap, kita kembali ke hotel. Di malam itu, kita mengunjungi Pasar Malam Feng Chia. Tapi yang namanya pasar malam cenderung mirip satu sama lain dan yang satu ini tidak berbeda jauh dengan Shilin. Selain itu, aroma tahu busuk benar-benar mengganggu. Anak-anak jadi rewel dan tak lama kemudian kita kembali ke hotel. 

Linda, sebelum kita masuk ke Pasar Malam Feng Chia Night. 

Keesokan paginya, setelah sarapan yang nikmat (oh ya, setelah menu Hotel Midtown Richardson di Taipei, kelezatan sarapan di hotel ini patut disebutkan), kita pergi ke Rainbow Village. Tempat ini bukanlah kampung dalam pemahaman orang Indonesia, tapi lebih condong ke beberapa rumah mungil dalam satu kompleks. Rumah-rumah ini dicat dan dilukis oleh seorang prajurit tua yang dulunya tinggal di sini. Beliau meninggal di usia 101 pada awal tahun ini dan karyanya menjadi tempat wisata. 

Rainbow Village bisa diselesaikan dalam sekejap, jadi kita memanggil Uber lagi dan tujuan kita kali ini adalah Mitsui Shopping LaLaport Taichung. Pusat perbelanjaan ini terdiri dari dua gedung. Putri saya Audrey makan siang di sini, lalu kita lanjut ke Pasar Bunga Zhongshe. 

Yani dan Linda di Pasar Bunga Zhongshe. 

Sesuai dengan namanya, Zhongshe adalah pasar bunga sungguhan seperti yang bisa kita temukan di Caldecott, Singapore! Kebun bunganya bagus, jadi Yani ingin mengunjunginya. Saat kita tiba, hujan deras turun untuk beberapa saat lamanya. Setelah reda, Yani dan Linda pun berfoto-foto di kebun. 

Dari pasar bunga, petualangan berlanjut ke Mala Bay di Lihpao Resort. Ya, kita pergi berenang di tempat yang menyerupai Wild Wild Wet di Singapore! Setelah beberapa ronde di kolam ombak dan kolam sungai yang mengalir, Mala Bay pun tutup saat hari menjelang senja. Kita kembali ke kota dan turun di mal bernama Tiger City. Saya ingin makan di restoran Hakka, tapi Yani dan Linda hendak makan di Don Don Donki. Karena tidak terjadi kesepakatan, kita lantas lanjut ke mal lain bernama Top City.

Di Lihpao Resort, saat kita berjalan ke Mala Bay. 

Top City adalah mal kelas atas yang mirip Takashimaya di Orchard. Din Tai Fung di sana pun panjang antriannya dan tak banyak pilihan makanan lain di sana. Setelah melihat papan restoran-restoran di mal sebelah yang bernama Shin Kong Mitsukoshi, kita akhirnya makan di sana. Berhubung besoknya kita akan meninggalkan Taichung, saya jadi berpikir untuk menikmati malam terakhir di sini dengan berjalan kaki pulang ke hotel.

Miyahara adalah destinasi turis terakhir yang kita singgahi di Taichung. Sebenarnya ini adalah toko oleh-oleh, tapi tata ruangnya mirip Hogwarts sehingga terlihat unik. Miyahara juga menjual es krim dan rasa anggur yang dibeli oleh Linda sungguh lezat dan terasa buahnya. 

Audrey dan Mama di Miyahara.

Ada stasiun kereta yang terletak tak jauh dari Miyahara. Saya sempat mengira bahwa itulah tempat tujuan kita, tapi setelah kita sampai di sana, stasiun kereta tersebut terlihat berbeda. Ternyata yang ini adalah stasiun TRA, jadi kita harus naik kereta menuju Xinwuri Station. Stasiun ini terhubung langsung dengan Taichung HSR Station. Sebelum kita berangkat, kita sempat makan siang dulu di Sukiya.

Kali ini kita tidak kembali ke Taipei, melainkan ke kota di dekatnya yang bernama Taoyuan. Di sinilah letak bandara internasional Taiwan. Kita menginap di Novotel yang berada di sebelah bandara. Kamarnya luas, dilengkapi dengan dua toilet dan satu tempat mandi. Sarapan paginya pun mantap. 

Di Novotel, sebelum kita makan malam di bandara. 

Setelah menaruh koper di kamar, kita masih memiliki waktu untuk makan malam di luar. Sebenarnya kita bisa saja kembali ke Taoyuan HSR Station untuk berjalan-jalan di Gloria Outlets, namun Linda memilih tempat yang lebih dekat, jadi kita akhirnya ke bandara. 

Perlu diingat bahwa Bandara Changi di Singapura cukup sering kita kunjungi, meskipun kita tidak bepergian ke luar negeri. Ini dikarenakan suasananya yang seperti mal dan Jewel yang tersohor juga berada di tengahnya. Karena kebiasaan ini, tanpa sadar saya memiliki tendensi untuk membandingkan bandara di negara lain dengan Changi. 

Sisi tersembunyi di Bandara Taoyuan. 

Dan Bandara Taoyuan tidaklah sebagus Changi. Bandara ini terlihat kecil dan terasa sesak ketika kita check-in keesokan paginya. Suasananya tidak terasa rileks dan nyaman. Entah kenapa desainnya mengingatkan saya dengan rumah sakit. Dari Terminal 2, kita naik kereta ke Terminal 1 dan makan malam di sana. Petualangan kita di Taiwan pun berakhir di situ. 

Jadi apa pendapat saya tentang Taichung sebagai tempat tujuan wisata? Sungguh tidak terbayangkan bahwa kita akan ke kolam renang seperti layaknya turis lokal, jadi saya rasa Taichung tidak memiliki banyak destinasi yang menarik. Di satu sisi, kita sendiri juga hanya memiliki satu hari efektif di Taichung. Bila kita ke Cingjing Farm, bisa dipastikan lebih sedikit lagi yang kita lihat dari kota ini. Saya rasa memang tidak berjodoh dengan Taichung! 

Mama dan dua putrinya di Rainbow Village.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Taiwan Trip: Taipei

I had shared a bit about Taiwan on Roadblog505. Yes, it was a planned trip since last year, but I wasn't always so sure, though. Mainly because there isn't any Hard Rock Cafe in Taiwan, haha. So for a while in early 2024, I was toying with the idea of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But the destinations were vetoed by my wife and daughter because they were worried the Middle East cuisines would be too exotic to their liking. Turned out that food in Taiwan weren't exactly fantastic as well, but more to this later.

My wife did most of the itinerary this time. Between Drinking With Eday and Jerry Seinfeld's one-night show in Singapore, we only have about a week, so Kaohsiung was eventually removed from the list. We took a 3 PM flight to Taipei on Thursday. With all the flight delay and travel time, it was almost midnight when we arrived at Hotel Midtown Richardson. 

Rainbow zebra-crossing in Ximending. 

The actual holiday began only on the following day. After a breakfast that leaned rather heavily towards the traditional Chinese flavour, we walked to Ximending Pedestrian Zone. There was this rainbow zebra crossing and we dressed up for the occasion as the M & M's family.
Our colors didn't match with the rainbow pattern, though. On top of that, there were other tourists wanting to take pictures on the same spot that would be passed by motorbikes and cars when the traffic light was green. So we did it quickly when we had the opportunity. Not much time for us to pose! 

With Linda at Memorial Hall. 

From there, we went to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. By the way, if you are used to taking MRT in Singapore, you'll have no problem in Taipei. It's quite similar and very convenient. Moments later, we reached the destination. My wife was there back in 2007, so it was her second time. The whole area was a square with a memorial hall at the end of it. After a quick glance at the Generalissimo, we headed to Din Tai Fung for lunch.

My daughter Linda was a fan of xiao long bao, so I thought we should go to the original Din Tai Fung in Da'an District, a walking distance from the Memorial Hall. Turned out that it served takeout only, so we went to another Din Tai Fung that was nearby. The food was good and much cheaper in Taiwan. Only SGD 57 for four people, easily half of what we would have paid in Singapore if we ordered the same stuff.

With Audrey at Taipei 101. 

Our next destination was Taipei 101, so we went to the nearest station of Tamsui-Xinyi line and boarded the metro. It was drizzling and the sky was dark, so we didn't go up to the observation deck. I also learnt that if you walked northward to the Taipei City Hall Station, you'd pass by a whole stretch of shopping malls. I was lucky that my wife wasn't much of a shopping type, haha. 

From Taipei City Hall Station, we headed back to Ximen. Stopped at Ice Papa for an overpriced shredded ice, then we took a break at our hotel that is located next to it. When the evening came, we went out again, this time to Jiantan Station because that's where Shilin Night Market is. On our way there, we cut across the 228 Peace Memorial Park.

At Shilin Night Market. 

In Singapore, there's this eatery chain called Shihlin Taiwan Street Snack that sells crispy chicken and oyster mee sua. The actual Shilin (spelled without h in the middle) in Taipei is a night market that sells all this. The night market was packed with people buying snacks from roadside vendors. Quite an experience, but the food is kind of overrated. 

The next day, we booked a car to bring us out of town. It was a smooth ride and our first destination was Shifen. We visited two parts of the town. The waterfall was the first and it got me thinking of my wife's story about the beach in Myanmar: the locals think it's beautiful mostly because they never see a better one out there. 

Posing with our lantern of hopes and wishes.

I'd say the Sky Lantern Square is a more unique experience. While we were here, we bought a lantern and wrote our wishes on four sides of it. Each color represents something, but I think we got it all wrong, haha. Anyway, I wish for my friend Jimmy to join us traveling one day and soon after that, the lantern went up to the sky. The vendor was so accustomed to the fact that he'd need to film it for us that he actually told us the routine, haha. 

Next was Houtong Cat Village. There was this abandoned factory that reminded me of a scene from Double Dragon. But yeah, the whole place looked rather crummy, perhaps to create the village atmosphere. Cats were everywhere, so fat that some were not interested in the cat kibble my daughter was offering them. 

Visiting the Old Street of Jiufen.

Last leg for the day was Jiufen. This one was nice, too. The Old Street was going up and down. We entered Chiu Chunt Dint for early dinner and A-Mei for tea break. Perching on the hill next to the staircase, this teahouse has a nice view facing the sea. I'd say I enjoyed the brief moment here. Then after that, we returned to our hotel. 

We went to Taipei Zoo on the third day. It rained while I was queuing for MacDonald's, so we just had to wait while having our lunch. The black burger was great. The rain stopped but drizzled from time to time, so it was quite distracting for an outdoor activity. The zoo itself was big, but the weather dampened the mood, so we gave up after exploring only ⅕ of the zoo.

Right after the Maokong Gondola ride.

We walked towards Maokong Gondola instead. I don't know if Eiger Express in the Jungfraujoch region or this one is a longer ride, but when we reached, I was sure that we wouldn't go down using the gondola again. After a tea break, we took the public bus instead. I felt safer to be inside the vehicle that was moving on the ground, not hanging high above the ground!

That day eventually ended with a proper visit to Ximending, but what made it all the more memorable was my decision to eat at Taipei Milk King. The food was so bad that we just had to laugh about it. No wonder it had no queue. My wife told me that she noticed people only ordered drinks there. Before we left Ximending, we bought gyudon at Sukiya for the kids. 

Visiting Ximending at night. 

The last day we were in Taipei, we returned to Ximending again for breakfast. Oh yes, we always skipped the hotel breakfast since our first and only time there. We had our meal at Xing Fu Tang Xiao Long Bao instead. The braised pork rice was brilliant! Then we walked around for a bit of shopping before returning to the hotel. That afternoon, we boarded the high speed train to Taichung.

Now, let's stop here first and talk about the Taiwan experience so far. It somehow reminded me of Japan, except for the fact that people speak Chinese there. Taipei is very safe, pavement is wide and the transportation is so convenient, ideal for a family trip. 

One card to rule them all!

But the moment you go out of town, you need a car. This is where it is different from Japan that is so well-connected by train. While the roads are of top quality, I dislike the idea of getting around in a rented car. It feels constrained. 

Food-wise, the roadside snacks and bubble tea are big deals in Taiwan, but I am not exactly a fan. For a proper restaurant, follow the queue. It is long for a good reason (I queued 50 minutes for Din Tai Fung). It's not like in Japan where each eatery is likely to be good. Case in point, the Taipei Milk King!

A glimpse of food we tried in Taipei. Guess which one is Taipei Milk King?

Liburan Ke Taiwan: Taipei

Saya sudah cerita sedikit tentang Taiwan di Roadblog505. Ya, liburan ini memang sudah direncanakan sejak tahun lalu, tapi saya tidak selalu yakin dengan destinasi ini, terutama karena Taiwan tidak memiliki Hard Rock Cafe, haha. Di awal tahun 2024, saya sempat menawarkan Dubai dan Abu Dhabi sebagai gantinya, namun usul saya ditolak oleh istri dan anak karena mereka merasa tidak cocok dengan makanan Timur Tengah yang terlalu eksotis. Setelah liburan usai, baru kita tahu bahwa makanan Taiwan pun tidak terlalu enak, tapi kita bahas lebih lanjut nanti. 

Istri saya Yani yang membuat hampir semua rute perjalanan kali ini. Karena acara Minum Bersama Eday dan pertunjukan Jerry Seinfeld di Singapura, kita hanya memiliki waktu kurang-lebih satu minggu, jadi Kaohsiung pun dicoret dari daftar. Kita naik pesawat jam tiga sore di hari Kamis. Berhubung keberangkatan pesawat agak tertunda, kita akhirnya sampai di Hotel Midtown Richardson menjelang tengah malam. 

Rainbow zebra-crossing in Ximending. 

Liburan baru dimulai pada keesokan harinya. Setelah sarapan pagi yang kental dengan cita rasa Cina, kita berjalan kaki ke Ximending Pedestrian Zone. Di kawasan ini ada tempat penyeberangan bermotif pelangi dan di hari itu kita sekeluarga memakai kaos M & M's. 
Akan tetapi warna baju kita tidak sesuai dengan urutan warna pelangi. Selain itu, ada banyak turis lain yang ingin berfoto di jalan yang dilalui oleh motor dan mobil saat lampu lalu-lintas berganti menjadi warna hijau. Oleh karena itu, kita cepat berfoto selagi ada kesempatan. Tak banyak waktu untuk berpose yang benar! 

Bersama Linda di Memorial Hall. 

Dari sana, kita pergi ke Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Oh ya, bila anda sudah terbiasa dengan MRT di Singapura, anda tidak akan kesulitan di Taipei. Konsepnya sama. Beberapa saat kemudian, kita tiba di tempat tujuan. Yani sudah pernah ke sini di tahun 2007, jadi ini adalah kali keduanya. Tempat wisata ini adalah sebuah lapangan luas dengan aula di ujungnya. Setelah masuk dan melihat patung Jenderal Besar Chiang, kita beranjak ke Din Tai Fung untuk makan siang. 

Putri saya Linda menyukai xiao long bao, jadi terpikir oleh saya untuk mencoba restoran pertama Din Tai Fung di Da'an District yang terletak tidak jauh dari Memorial Hall. Ternyata restoran ini hanya melayani pesanan untuk dibawa pulang, jadi kita pun pergi ke Din Tai Fung lain yang berada di seberang jalan. Masakannya lezat dan jauh lebih murah di Taiwan. Untuk porsi empat orang, harganya cuma IDR 690.000, tak sampai separuh dari harga untuk menu yang sama di Singapura. 

Bersama Audrey di Taipei 101. 

Destinasi berikutnya adalah Taipei 101, jadi kita pun berjalan ke stasiun terdekat dan menaiki kereta jalur Tamsui-Xinyi. Saat itu agak mendung dan gerimis, jadi kita tidak naik ke puncak gedung. Kita lanjut berjalan sampai ke Stasiun Taipei City Hall, melewati deretan mal di kiri-kanan jalan. Untung saja istri saya bukan tipe yang wajib belanja, haha. 

Dari Taipei City Hall Station, kita kembali ke Ximen. Sebelum pulang ke hotel, kita sempat singgah sejenak di Ice Papa untuk icip-icip es parut. Rasanya tawar karena sebagian besar hanyalah parutan es balok. Di malam hari, kita keluar lagi, kali ini ke Stasiun Jiantan karena di sinilah Pasar Malam Shilin berada. Dalam perjalanan ke stasiun, kita potong jalan melewati 228 Peace Memorial Park.

Di Pasar Malam Shilin.

Di Singapura ada yang namanya Shihlin Taiwan Street Snack yang menjual ayam goreng garing dan mee sua kerang. Shilin yang asli di Taipei (penulisannya dieja tanpa huruf h di tengah) adalah pasar malam yang dipadati pengunjung yang sibuk melihat dan membeli makanan ringan di tepi jalan. Pengalaman ini cukup berkesan, tapi makanannya biasa saja. 

Keesokan harinya, mobil yang kita pesan datang menjemput dan membawa kita ke luar kota. Tujuan pertama kita adalah Shifen. Ada dua tempat yang kita kunjungi. Yang pertama adalah air terjun. Saat melihat air terjun tersebut, saya jadi teringat dengan cerita istri saya tentang pantai yang bagus di Myanmar: warga setempat menganggap pantai ini bagus lebih cenderung karena mereka tidak pernah melihat pantai yang lebih bagus di negara lain. 

Berpose sebelum kita menerbangkan lentera.

Menurut saya, justru pengalaman di Sky Lantern Square yang lebih unik. Sewaktu mampir di sini, kita membeli lentera dan menuliskan keinginan kita di empat bidangnya. Setiap warna bidang ada maknanya, tapi kita tidak terlalu peduli, haha. Saya sendiri berharap agar teman saya Jimmy ikut jalan-jalan ke luar negeri dan lentera pun diterbangkan sesudah kita selesai menulis. Karyawan toko terlihat sudah terbiasa mengabadikan pengalaman pelanggannya, jadi dia dengan sigap menjadi pengarah gaya, haha. 

Setelah Shifen, kita lanjut ke Kampung Kucing Houtong. Ada gedung bekas pabrik yang mengingatkan saya pada latar belakang game Double Dragon. Secara keseluruhan, tempat ini nampak tidak terawat, mungkin supaya terlihat seperti kampung. Ada kucing di mana-mana, begitu gemuknya sampai mereka tak lagi tertarik untuk menyantap makanan kucing yang ditawarkan oleh anak saya. 

Di Old Street Jiufen.

Pemberhentian terakhir di hari tersebut adalah Jiufen. Tempat yang satu ini juga menarik. Jalanan di Old Street naik-turun. Kita mampir di Chiu Chunt Dint untuk makan malam dan lanjut ke A-Mei untuk minum teh. Kedai teh ini terletak di atas bukit di samping tangga dan memiliki pemandangan yang menghadap ke laut. Saya suka tempat ini karena mirip seperti kedai teh di film silat kuno. Setelah itu, kita kembali ke hotel. 

Kita mengunjungi Taipei Zoo di hari ketiga. Tiba-tiba hujan turun dengan derasnya saat saya sedang mengantri di MacDonald's, jadi kita pun bersantap siang sambil menanti hujan reda. Namun hujan tidak pernah benar-benar berhenti dan terkadang gerimis lagi, jadi sangat mengganggu. Kebun binatang ini sebenarnya sangat luas, tapi dengan cuaca seperti ini, kita jadi tidak bersemangat. Jadi kira-kira hanya seperlima bagian yang sempat kita jelajahi. 

Di puncak, setelah menaiki Maokong Gondola.

Kita lantas berjalan ke Maokong Gondola. Saya tidak tahu pasti apakah Eiger Express di Jungfraujoch atau yang satu ini yang lebih tinggi dan panjang, tapi yang jelas saya tak mau lagi turun dengan kereta gantung. Setelah berhenti sejenak untuk minum teh, kita naik bis dari puncak ke stasiun MRT terdekat. Saya merasa lebih aman saat kendaraan saya berjalan di permukaan jalan, bukannya bergelantungan pada seutas kabel di ketinggian!

Hari itu berakhir dengan kunjungan ke Ximending, tapi yang lebih berkesan lagi adalah keputusan saya untuk makan di Taipei Milk King. Makanannya sungguh tidak enak, sampai-sampai kita pun tertawa geli. Pantas saja tidak ada yang antri. Istri saya juga mengamati bahwa yang duduk di sekeliling kita juga hanya memesan minuman. Sebelum kita meninggalkan Ximending, kita membeli gyudon di Sukiya untuk anak-anak. 

Mengunjungi Ximending di malam hari. 

Senin pagi, hari terakhir kita di Taipei, kita mengunjungi Ximending lagi untuk sarapan. Semenjak hari pertama, kita kapok makan pagi di hotel. Restoran yang terakhir kita kunjungi di Taipei adalah Xing Fu Tang Xiao Long Bao. Nasi dengan daging babi rebusnya sangat lezat. Setelah jalan-jalan dan berbelanja sejenak, kita kembali ke hotel dan akhirnya berangkat ke Taichung.

Nah, mari berhenti di sini dulu dan bercerita sejenak tentang pengalaman di Taiwan sampai sejauh ini. Taipei mengingatkan saya dengan Jepang. Hanya bahasanya saja yang Mandarin. Ibukota Taiwan ini sangat aman, trotoarnya lebar dan sarana transportasinya sangat gampang dan praktis, jadi cocok untuk liburan keluarga dengan anak-anak yang masih kecil. 

Kartu untuk MRT dan lainnya. 

Begitu kita ke luar kota, kita memerlukan mobil. Ini yang membedakan Taiwan dengan Jepang yang sangat terhubung dengan baik berkat infrastruktur kereta. Meski bagus kualitas jalannya, saya tidak suka bepergian dengan mobil sewaan. Rasanya tidak bebas. 

Bicara tentang makanan, budaya di sana adalah pasar malam dan teh boba, tapi saya bukanlah penggemar dua-duanya. Untuk restoran, pastikan anda memilih yang panjang antriannya. Saya sendiri antri 50 menit di Din Tai Fung. Jadi berbeda dengan Jepang yang setiap rumah makannya bisa dikatakan dijamin lezat. Sebagai contoh kualitas yang tidak ada antrian: Taipei Milk King!

Aneka makanan yang kita coba selama di Taipei. Coba tebak, yang mana masakan Taipei Milk King?

Wednesday, June 12, 2024


Here we are, seven years and counting. I finally made it to the 505th blog post on Roadblog101. The last time such an achievement unlocked was back in October 2021. Almost three years ago. It was during COVID-19, when things were bleak. But just like year 2020, a lot of reading was done, though.
And a lot of things had changed since then. Life returned to some semblance of normalcy in 2022. I'd remember it as the year I finally visited India. In 2023, a long overdue dream came true when we went to Japan. And 2024, as the story continued to unfold, had been one great adventure for the past six months. 

So what does all this mean to It means quite a fair bit of things, really. It means acceptance, to be comfortable with its role as an outlet and a hobby as it is heading to its eighth year. It's not about churning out tons of blog posts anymore, but more of a freedom of being able to write when I'm inspired. 

And I still get inspired. Funny how life is never lack of something new. Even at this age I still have much to learn. For example, I was surprised by recent trips to Phuket and Ipoh. They were nothing like what I had done before and I like it. If I had to sum it up, they were unusually casual

Talking about the word new, during my visit to Taipei, I came to realise why I always like travelling to new places. There is this sensation of something new and foreign that will make you disoriented at first, because you feel so alien in an environment you know so little about. I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of being unsure and overcoming it. 

For instance, when I arrived at Taipei Main Station late at night, I had to look around and absorb as much information as I could from my surroundings and Google Maps, then acted on it partly based on instinct. After a while in Taipei, things became more familiar and I eventually got the hang of it.

And that's the thing with, too. There'll always be something new that I go through and I will need an outlet to note it down, share it out and move onto a new experience. So, yeah, I think the blog is here to stay. See you again, probably in another few years, on Roadblog606...


Setelah tujuh tahun lebih, akhirnya kita tiba di artikel Roadblog101 ke-505. Terakhir kalinya peristiwa serupa tercapai adalah bulan Oktober 2021. Hampir tiga tahun lamanya semenjak itu terjadi. Saat itu COVID-19 dan suram suasananya. Namun sama halnya seperti tahun 2020, banyak buku dibaca di tahun tersebut. 
Dan banyak hal yang sudah berubah setelah itu. Hidup berangsur-angsur kembali normal di tahun 2022. Saya akan selalu mengenangnya sebagai tahun di mana saya akhirnya mengunjungi India. Di tahun 2023, satu impian yang tertunda sejak 2020 pun terwujud ketika kita tiba di Jepang. Dan tahun 2024 yang masih berlangsung ceritanya bisa dijabarkan sebagai satu petualangan yang berlangsung dengan baik dan lancar selama enam bulan terakhir. 

Jadi apa artinya semua ini bagi Bisa beraneka makna, saya kira. Yang utama adalah penerimaan akan perannya sebagai penyaluran dari sebuah hobi yang kini bergulir ke tahun ke-delapan. tak lagi harus menelurkan artikel sebanyak mungkin, tapi lebih merupakan sebuah kebebasan dalam menulis tatkala saya terinspirasi. 

Dan saya masih terinspirasi. Lucu rasanya bahwa hidup ini tidak pernah kehabisan sesuatu yang baru. Bahkan di usia menjelang 44 pun saya masih banyak belajar. Sebagai contoh, saya tertegun dengan liburan ke Phuket dan Ipoh di tahun ini. Dua liburan ini berbeda dengan apa yang saya jalani selama ini dan saya menyukainya. Jika saya harus menyimpulkan, rasanya seperti sebuah pengalaman santai yang tidak lazim bagi orang yang bepergian ke luar negeri untuk liburan. 

Bicara tentang kata baru, saat saya di Taipei, saya menyadari kenapa saya suka bepergian ke tempat baru. Ada kesan disorientasi karena saya merasa asing di tempat yang sama sekali baru dan tidak saya kenal baik ini. Saya suka perasaan suka-cita yang diiringi dengan ketidakpastian dan juga proses mengatasi semua ini.  

Misalnya saja, saat saya tiba di Taipei Main Station di malam yang telah larut, saya harus mengamati sekeliling saya dan juga mencari tahu lewat Google Maps, lalu mengambil tindakan berdasarkan naluri. Setelah beberapa lama di Taipei, saya mulai mengenal apa yang terjadi di sekeliling saya dan bisa beradaptasi. 

Hal serupa juga otomatis terekspresikan lewat Senantiasa ada hal baru yang saya alami dan perlu saya tuangkan supaya saya bisa beralih ke inspirasi berikutnya. Jadi saya rasa akan terus berlanjut. Sampai ketemu lagi beberapa tahun kemudian di episode Roadblog606... 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Singapore Trip 2024

It really has been a while for yours truly, Simon Parno Bong. I never thought of going to Singapore for the fourth times after the Japan trip in 2023. I thought I was grounded for good, but my friend Anthony insisted that I had to go there, taking part in Drinking With Eday. The annual tradition had been going on for a decade, so it was quite a milestone!

Two days before I went to Singapore, I did say to my Mum that I would meet my friends in Singapore. She responded by telling me to wear a nice shirt, hahaha. 

The journey happened to be a long one. The day of my departure, I still opened my shop. Later on that day, I bought yammie, a special delicacy from Pontianak. When I reached the Supadio Airport, I directly went to the gate, but the officer stopped me and he demanded to see my boarding pass. Silly me, so I rushed back to the counter and tried checking in for the flight to Batam. Much to my surprise, I was told that there was no flight to Batam! 

Boarding pass to Jakarta. 

I was redirected to the ticket office. There, the officer in charge told me that I could still go to Batam via Jakarta. Upon hearing that, I felt extremely disappointed, contemplating if I should cancel my trip. I texted Anthony and he said the show must go on. I could imagine missing the last ferry to Singapore and therefore spending a night in Batam. With a weary heart, I boarded the flight to Jakarta. 

When I landed in Jakarta, I ran to the gate to catch the flight to Batam. The boarding time was 21:55 and I touched down in Jakarta at 21:35, so I couldn't help thinking that I was going to miss my connecting flight. Turned out that the flight was delayed, hence my effort was wasted, haha. As I sat there waiting, I became hungry. Bought a bread and and pre-heated rice. When I read the group chat and saw my friends worrying about me, I told them I was okay.  

One night in Batam. 

I eventually reached Batam in the middle of the night. Quickly rushed to the hotel, but before I retired to my room, I asked the receptionist to help me putting the yammie in the fridge. Since I had lost so much time, I wanted to take the earliest ferry to Singapore. By the way, it was 00:55 when I dozed off, so I only slept for three hours. 

Early in the morning, I took the Maxim bike ride and headed to Batam Centre. It was literally smooth sailing and I had no issue entering Singapore. But Anthony and friends didn't pick me up this round. As I wasn't sure where to go, I kept walking by following the signages. To make it worse, the internet on my iPhone didn't work. I was upset, tired and angry. I was desperate for a good connection, but it sucked big time.

Suddenly Anthony called me and advised me to buy a one way ticket. I asked the information counter, but the one way ticket was no longer available. I had to buy a card with five dollars stored inside, so I did exactly that and took the MRT. For a while, I thought I would be stranded in Singapore, haha. 

Reaching Anthony's house. 

In Sengkang, on a wet rainy day, Anthony called and guided to his house. When I arrived there, I was so overwhelmed by tiredness that I lashed out at Anthony and Eday for sitting at home and enjoying their coffee leisurely! Ahh, what a day, but it all paid off with the party we had that night! It was the first time I vomited after drinking too much beer. 

"I won't drink anymore..."

Anyway I am thankful to Anthony, Eday, Yardi and his two daughters, Landak, Taty, Rend, Mr. T and Mei Ing. Thanks for the unforgettable night that I will always remember!!

Drinking With Eday.

Editor's note: editing Parno's work has always been fun but challenging. Below here is a diamond in the rough. Literally!

Its been a while for me as simon parno bong i never thought to go to Singapore for the fourth times well after a japan trip exactly in 2023 , further speaking i thought i was grounded for good but eventualy my friend anthony insist me to go there just for a drink with eday ng for a dacade of memory to remain therefore anthony n friend did persue me to go sg haha 

      Well 2 day before i went to sg , i did said to my mom that i will to meet my friend to sg haha she said ware a good looking shirt hahaha , the long day has come for me to go sg ,the day i depart to sg , i still open my shop thought later i bought yammie a special delicasy from pontianak , n so i arrived at the airport i directly go to the the gateway but the officer stop me n demanding a boarding pass how clumsy i am n then i rush to the ticket to queqe but when i mention a boarding pass ptk batam please, the officer said there no plane to batam today , then he told me to go to that counter n ask explanation he said you can go to batam but must transit to jkt first n then go to batam after hearing that i feel desperate i thought should i cancel my trip ? N i text anthony reply go on ! Wahaha i smile i gonne miss my ferry to sg n ask again what time i be at batam he said 9 pm! What i said i will have a night in batam!! There no other choice i obey the rule with a tired heart go to the gate for boarding to jkt ....

     After i reached jkt i was so in the rush to transit to batam that boarding time is 955 cos the time i touchdown in jkt is 935 so i was so desperate i gonno miss my flight , after rushing to the mentioned gate i was there n find out the flight was delayed i kinda wasted my time on rushing to here , hahaha n sitting there make me hungry n i buy a bread n microwave rice that just like in plane ahahaha there i was sitting just waiting for boarding, my friends in WA group were concerning me , i said i m ok 

     And then finallyi v landed in batam n quickly rush to hotel that i intended before i get in to the room , i urged the receptionist to help me to put my goodies in the freezer cos thats the goodies is for eating , n so he help me to keep it fresh in the freezer , into hotel room , my friend anthony confirmed me to take the early ferry to sg haha i thought i got a little time there , so i choose the early departure haha, by the way the time i was in hotel room was 1255 in the night its almost morning ! N the i slept for 3 hours 

The early morning i took an online bike to go to batam center n then i departed for sg , after i arrrived there i thought i will be hard to enter sg but frankly said its was smoothly done , but this time anthony n friend did not welcome me at the exist haoburfront haha i dont know the where im going to , i just keep on walking see the sign here n there , not for mention the sg number that i got was a shit thing its unusefull ,its me grow my anger to certain emotion yet mix with tired ssome condition , desperated to have a good connection but still suck!! suddenly anthony called me with the phone , he guide me to buy a one way ticket ticket to sengkang , so i ask the information n said to me there is no one way ticket to buy anymore , you have buy a card for 5 dollars n Refill with 5 dollars valued for taking the mrt , so i did it , make my way to sengkang with 5 dollars value card haha , i thought i will be stranded in sg ,   

      At sengkang , i was guided by anthony to reach his home on the wet rainny day , n arrived there i was so emosional tiredless i suddenly mad at anthony n eday ng whose at home enjoying koffee! Ahh what a day , but its all pay off with a friendhip drinking dacade ! ! N the first time i vommited after too much drinking beer

      But anyway i thankfull to anthony , eday ng yard n his 2 daughter landak taty rend mr t n mei ing thanks for Unforgettable night i will always remember!!