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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

[TRIPOOL] Jiufen Custom Tour - Nanya, Golden Waterfall, Buyan Pavilion, Jiufen Old Street, Houtong, Shifen Waterfall, Shifen Old Street

I blogged about an exclusive discount code if you wish to book RoundTaiwanRound's Jiufen custom tour here.

I was so thrilled to find out that my relatives are visiting Taiwan in October as I can share with them about this revolutionary travel service product, Tripool. Tripool is similar to uberPOOL/GrabShare concept - getting to your desired destination at a cheaper rate. In this case, travellers are allowed to customize their itinerary while enjoying the cost-benefits of carpooling with the rest. 

A huge thank you to Cher Chang for inviting my relatives to experience this seamless Tripool service. πŸ˜‡ 

More about RoundTaiwanRound (RTR):
  • Received TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence 3 years in a row
  • Lonely Planet local tour partner, Jetstar, AirAsia content partner
  • Handcrafted more than 50,000 customized itineraries for global trotters
  • More than 10% of English speaking visitors have used our site to plan their itineraries
  • Each year, more than 1,500 groups of international tourists enjoy our hospitality & superb service
  • More than 2,000 different Taiwan destinations to introduce and 100,000+ beautiful images all photographed by RTR
RTR focuses on promoting Taiwan travel experiences the smart & fun way. They engage with travellers from all walks of life to ensure that they get the most out of this wanderlust, experiencing Taiwan authentically. More than a licensed travel agency, their online travel planning platform provides instant quotes, hassle-free reservation & planning services and professional tour guide to provide an unforgettable voyage. To find out more about their reviews, please click here.

My aunt plans to visit 6 tour spots in Jiufen - Houtong, Shifen old street, Shifen waterfall, Jiufen old street, PingXi and Jingtong. However, there are 2 groups who joined them for this Tripool service so my relatives get to experience an additional 5 tour spots πŸ˜†

They are not kidding when they claim that their website has 100,000+ images (see above). What I love about RTR's website is that they bother to attach the image to every tour spots you can find in Taiwan. You may even refer to their recommended spots if you need inspiration whilst planning your Taiwan trip. Saw that button in orange at the bottom right? Hit them up with any questions and they will answer your queries via online chat.

Even though the website states that Jiufen custom tour may take up to 9 hours, please do not plan anything on the same day as you will never know how many riders are taking the same route as you. The exact pickup time and vehicle plate number will be provided via email 1 day before the tour. Generally, the tour starts at 8.30am and ends at 6.30pm in summer (Apr to Sep), or starts at 8.00am and ends at 6.00pm in winter (Oct to Mar).

7-seater sedan

For your information, the vehicle used will be based on the total number of participants for the shared trip.

The pickup location is at Westgate Hotel in Ximending. It was a gloomy Wednesday morning for my relatives to explore Jiufen 😲 fret not, the driver provides umbrellas and even gave them bananas πŸ˜† Not sure if this is part of the standard operating procedures haha. He is an affable gentleman and my aunt is glad that he is mindful of the timing at every stop. Whenever they visit a tour spot, the driver will set a timing to gather before moving on to the next destination.

*I'm only sharing certain tour spots which they have covered on that day*

1. Nanya (南雅)
"Nanya is the northernmost attraction of this area and is a powerful example of the wondrous forces of nature at work. The weathering and wave erosion of this sandstone that has taken place over time have carved out alien-like shapes and revealed the layering of iron deposits in these stones." - RTR

 Pictures taken by my aunt

They stayed at Nanya for a good 5 to 10 minutes and the driver may or may not alight together with the participants. As mentioned, Nanya is not part of my aunt's desired itinerary so they are given the option to either stay in the van or explore the unplanned tour spot 😊

2. Golden Waterfall (黄金瀑布)
"Although real gold flowing from these falls would be too good to be true, the water is certainly a beautiful gold colour as a result of the combination of regular rainfall in this mining area and the abundance of heavy metal elements deposited in the riverbed. The cascade of gold flowing down the hillside contrasts to the luminous green grass at its head." - RTR

Here's the friendly driver at the bottom left!

Please don't give in to your temptation to touch the golden rocks. Both the rocks and water are highly toxic and it's toxicity makes it unsafe even for touching.

Time spent here: ~15 minutes

3. Buyan Pavilion (不厭亭)
"Buyan Pavilion is the best spot to see the beautiful scenery of Shuangxi district, Ruifang district and the sea because it was built at the border between Shuangxi district and Ruifang district. The name of Buyan Pavilion refers to a poem which was made by a famous Chinese poet, Li Bai(ζŽη™½). No matter how long people stay to see the scenery, they never feel bored, which is the meaning of this pavilion." - bigcoinonline

Pictures taken from RTR website as my dad only took 1 shot here πŸ˜›

4. Jiufen Old Street (九份老著)
"Tea houses and coffee shops line the old streets of Jiufen and provide exquisite views of the sleepy mountainside town and Keelung Harbor, providing a great place to rest your feet!

Fun Fact: A long time ago, there were only nine families living in the area. As there were no roads serving it, goods could only be delivered by ship. Due to the inefficiency of transportation to the region, the families used to reserve nine portions of household goods to be delivered at one time. Thus, the name Jiufen, "Nine Portions", is stuck and has been the name of the town ever since." - RTR

Random temple near Jiufen old street

Peanut icecream!!! I miss this πŸ˜ͺ

Also, check out my blogpost on Jiufen and Shifen here!

Time spent: ~45 minutes

5. Houtong (猴瑐)
 "One of Taiwan's largest coal-mining sites until 1970s. However, oil later replaced coal when electric trains took over. The coal mining industry began to fall in the 1990s. As a result, Houtong became just another train stop along the Yilan Line that most travellers bypassed. Whether by chance of design, cats began to appear on the scene and have replaced the once vibrant human population. The village is not only a paradise for cats but also a must-visit spot for cat lovers. You are guaranteed to see plenty of wide-eyed visitors snapping hundreds of photos of the lazy yet infinitely cute cats." - RTR

Houtong train station

 They have this vision hall aka a coal mining museum in Houtong! Free admission

Time spent: ~1 hour 15 minutes

6. Shifen Waterfall (εεˆ†η€‘εΈƒ)
"Shifen Waterfall is the most reowned cascading waterfall (40metres) in Taiwan. Recessed within a beautiful forested mountainside setting, this waterfall often delight visitors with a bright rainbow on sunny days. At various points along the river, the uneven flow of the water creates vortexes that traps passing rocks, causing them to spin and carve deep holes. This constant erosive action has produced potholes and are in greatest abundance in the area." - RTR

Bridge to Shifen Waterfall
Photos taken by my aunt/dad

Now I kinda regret not making a trip here as I only stayed at Shifen old street πŸ˜’ Next time I'll definitely be back and make use of this Tripool service (if applicable)!!!

Time spent: ~45 minutes

7. Shifen Old Street (εεˆ†θ€θ‘—)
"Shifen Old Street stop has now become one of the most popular along the Pingxi rail line. It is easy to see why visitors are drawn here - local food, souvenir shops and puffing trains add to the charms of this little gem, as well as make it a fantastic place for photography. The sky lanterns were once used as a signaling system for those living and working in the railroad industry. Today, visitors paint their wishes with calligraphy ink before releasing the lanterns to the sky." - RTR


Candid shot at its best πŸ˜‰

You will also find the food street near the sky lantern area. Be sure to try some of their local snacks or else you'll get hungry - preparing your sky lantern with calligraphy ink may take up quite sometime due to your preference and wishes. You are strongly advised to brainstorm beforehand πŸ˜„

Time spent: ~1 hour 30 minutes

After spending the day by using Tripool, the driver will drop you off at your preferred location. The other groups that joined my relatives are also Singaporeans, hence they befriended them effortlessly 😳 Quite amused that they could click well by using the same travel service.

What are you waiting for? Start designing your customized Jiufen tour with RoundTaiwanRound now. 
Simply quote mshuiling before checking out your cart HERE to obtain 10%* off! 
*Discount code ends on 31 December 2017. Fastest fingers first! Please also refer to the terms and conditions before confirming your shared tour. They have this pop-up chat located at the bottom right-hand corner to answer every queries you may have. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Day 6 of 9 in Japan: Tsutenkaku Tower, Shinsekai shopping, Harukoma Sushi, HEP Five Ferris Wheel, Umeda Sky Building Observatory

Woke up early in the morning for Tsutenkaku Tower and Shinsekai shopping on day 6. Stay tuned for the BEST SUSHI RESTAURANT IN OSAKA!!! πŸ™‹ I seriously can't wait to visit the restaurant again...

Directions: Alight at Ebisucho station (brown line) and follow the signage that leads you to Shinsekai! 

The entire Ebisuhigashi is Shinsekai!!!

Tsutenkaku Tower's concept is a steel tower that looks like Eiffel Tower on a building designed in the image of the Arch of Triumph. The word "Tsutenkaku" means to build leading to heaven. (Credits here

The original adult ticket cost 700yen/pax. However, we have complimentary access to their observatory platform thanks to our Osaka Amazing pass! Please visit their official website for the terms and conditions first to avoid disappointment. If my memory doesn't fail me, you may use your Amazing pass to gain complimentary access on weekdays only. 

Feels great when you can beat the queue and proceed straight to the attraction πŸ˜„

Their lift reminds me of Alice in wonderland!

Say hi to Billiken!

A deity believed that you will receive good luck if you rub the soles of Billiken. We couldn't find the popular Billiken in Shinsekai so is that why I still can't win the 1 million TOTO in Singapore...? 😞

Taken at the observatory platform.

To sum up the experience at Tsutenkaku Tower, there are around 6 Billiken on the same level and there are some games at additional surcharge for you to play. The view is magnificent but not as awesome as Umeda Sky building. Hence, I would only recommend to those who has complimentary access to the observatory platform. 

As we were making our move down the tower, there's a Glico store hidden in Glico exhibition. The complimentary games are quite engaging and I can't believe we spent a good 1.5 hours there 😱 It's just an exhibition to showcase their products, accompanied with interactive games, coin machine and Glico store!

We spent most of our time using this coin souvenir machine! You may purchase the coin design on the right first (price varies from 600yen to 900yen) and slot your coin into the machine on the left. There is a keyboard for you to key in your preferred name, date or even message before it stamps onto your coin.

Decided to show the coin design only as I feel quite embarrassed to show my personalized message - the other coin is for JY πŸ˜‡

As for Shinsekai shopping, it was a major disappointment or probably we went there too early. Most of the shops were closed and the Shinsekai market doesn't sell interesting items or even food. We left in less than 15 minutes to our next destination, which is also known as the BEST Sushi stall in Osaka - Harukoma Sushi!

Where to eat in Osaka? Definitely Harukoma Sushi located at Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street, also known as one of the longest stretch of shops in Osaka.

Directions: Alight at Tenjimbashisuji 6-chome station (purple/brown line) and get ready to indulge in the yummiest and cheapest Sushi... 

Tenjimbashi shopping street has many other interesting shops (even Daiso!) which is worth spending an hour here. There are anello bags, watch, japanese food, pharmacies, convenience stores etc

Remember to watch out for this sign
There are 2 Harukoma Sushi at the same area. 

You can't avoid the queue for Harukoma. Just join the queue and wait for your turn...

The restaurant is very small, can only fit up to less than 30 pax πŸ˜…

Forgot to capture their menu and price so I think the above photo would suffice... πŸ™ˆ Look at Dad's satisfied expression and an unglam shot of Mum~

Photos taken using Samsung S7

No filter required. No adjustment to the lighting as well. You can't even spot the rice beneath that Tamago. Their "liao" is super thick, fresh and juicy and the rice is kept to a minimal. In Singapore, you'll feel damn full consuming Sushi because they gave too much rice and the tamago has no sweet taste 😑 Worst still, you're paying more in Singapore to get low quality sushi.

2 Tamago sushi cost 100yen, which is equivalent to SGD1.20 and 2 Unagi sushi cost 150yen (I THINK), equivalent to SGD1.80. AIYO WHERE TO FIND SUCH AN AWESOME DEAL? Top-notch quality food for less than SGD2!

Even if the queue is super long, please wait patiently as it is gonna be so worth it. No regrets coming here man. We even took the risk of missing our plane on the last day just to takeaway Harukoma sushi leh! Tenjimbashi station is quite far from the airport ok 😱

Here's the address for your information:

5-5-2 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan
Nearest train station: Tenjimbashisuji 6-chome, Exit 12 or 13 (staircase only)

Next up, we headed to Umeda station for the iconic HEP Five Ferris Wheel in red, followed by Umeda Sky Building Observatory.

I guess there isn't a need for directions to Umeda as it is one of the biggest train station in Osaka. There is no way for you to miss Umeda station 😏

The ferris wheel is much bigger as compared to Tempozan Ferris Wheel (located beside the Aquarium) and I don't even dare to enjoy the view of Umeda........... 😰

Each cabin has a speaker that can be connected to your phone. I used it to keep me distracted and it really works. Strongly recommend to take this ride even if you have to pay for it! Yes, you've got it right - we used our Osaka Amazing Pass for complimentary access!!!

I followed the directions provided here in order to reach Umeda Sky building accurately. Kudos to the owner of that website as the directions shown is very clear and you won't get lost for sure.

Keep a lookout for this blue/red sign as there are many entrances to the enormous building.

 Love lock area, similar to N seoul tower
 All bright colours are glowing at the observatory deck! πŸ’“

I'm loving this observatory deck but we spent about 15 minutes to queue for the lift. Wah this is one of the scariest lift ride in my whole life. The speed of the lift is incredible and I feel like a wonderwoman stucked in a confined space with many strangers πŸ‘€

Just gonna post one scenery view as the rest looks the same to me lololol

It was a fruitful day for me as my tummy is extremely satisfied from Harukoma and we maximised the usage of Amazing Pass. I KO-ed immediately after brushing my teeth on that night 😊

Check out Day 1 & 2 in Japan here
Check out Day 3 in Japan here
Check out Day 4 & 5 in Japan here