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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.

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