Travel Taiwan – Accommodation

Travel Period : 30th October – 6th November 2012

Over the course of our travel in Taiwan, we chose to stay mainly in these small family-owned ‘Homestay’, ‘Bed & Breakfast’ (B&B) or ‘Minsu 民宿’. It’s a common style of accommodation in Taiwan where the locals convert part of their housing specially to accommodate travellers. They are usually small with a few rooms so we would only see a few guests and interact more with the owners.

We felt it would be nice to experience the life there with the locals and gather tips on interesting places from them. Due to some family matters, we had to postpone our entire trip to a fortnight later and all the minsu and hotel that we stayed were helpful to proceed with our postponement without any additional charges. Here are our reviews of the places we stayed in and what we think.

Day 1 – Alishan (Chiayi County)

1) Alishan Tea Garden Homestay 茶香花園民宿

Website : http://www.alishan-home.com.tw

(The Before): It is difficult for us to book a nice Minsu on Alishan as we wanted only those that travellers had reviewed on Trip Advisor or through blogs. The one we wanted did not reply to us and a few did not allow children that is ‘less than 10 years of age’. I guess they are saving their rooms for honeymoon couples and a child would be a ‘noise nuisance’. This was reviewed on a blog and we felt it looked very pretty.

(The After): When we arrived in the late morning at the minsu while en route to Alishan Recreation Park, it was the younger brother (the minsu, which consists of two different branches, is owned by two brothers) who were present to welcome us. There was some confusion initially when we arrived on our hired cab as he started talking to our cab driver instead of us in their dialect, and they ended up thinking we had gone to the wrong branch.

It was until I took the initiative to pass the printed email to one of his helpers that they realised who we were. We were then told that our room was not ready yet, despite we informing them of our estimated time of arrival before we departed Singapore. Since our main objective was just to leave our luggage at the minsu, this didn’t bother us much and we continued our journey to Alishan Recreation Park after dropping our luggage at the main hall.

Tea Garden was located before Fenchihu and Forest Alishan Recreation Area and we visited Fenchihu before returning to the minsu. When we returned at the minsu at dusk, it was the elder brother who was manning the place. Like his brother, he wasn’t much of a conversationist so we didn’t talk much except going through the necessary procedures and him giving us the reminders for the breakfast and sunrise timing.

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The room was however as beautiful as we had seen from their website, with a nicely furnished bathroom, wooden structures and nice scenery as we looked out of the sliding doors. The key was attached to a fragrant bag and the room/bathroom was also fragrant with a nice pleasing aroma that made us feel at ease.

We had booked a room with two double beds so there was plenty of space. Beds were comfy too, though it got pretty cold at night even with our sweat pjs and thick covers as we wanted some ventilation and left the side window open under the curtains. We woke up with some blocked noses due to that.

Wifi was quite strong within the complex. Dar and I also went over to the main hall where we sat in front of the unlit fireplace, enjoying each other’s company. Cat was already sick with cold before the trip so she stayed inside the room to rest. There was a hot/cold water dispenser and coffee/tea was available freely as well. The deco by the fireplace was nice and cosy.

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It was also Dar’s most favourite place of stay in our Taiwan trip as he kept saying he wanted to go back to ‘the house with the roof’ even though we had already left the Alishan area. Sunrise over the mountains could be viewed after walking to a path from the minsu but we didn’t manage to see it as the sky was cloudy and misty. We enjoyed some highland tea from the minsu and bought a can of highland tea from them.

{ Breakfast }

Breakfast at the main hall was also satisfactory, consisting of toasts, bacon, eggs and salad. The beautiful scenery just outside the windows and doors certainly helped lifted our appetite.

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Day 2 – Sun Moon Lake (Nantou County)

2) Doris Home 朵麗絲的家

Website : http://doris.okgo.tw/index.html

(The Before): This was not our first choice because they are located in the little town area instead of right next to the lake so there isn’t a view. However, the homestay we wanted didn’t reply to us at all. As Cat and Dar like cats, we thought it would be nice to play with their pet cats and live in a cat decorated place.

We were lucky to get a slot here as all the places were taken up for the whole month even though we were looking at it more than one month ago! I like it that they have a calendar of the dates they are available to visitors and they would hold the slot for us for three days till we pay up 50% deposit of the room rate through paypal or credit card.

On our original travel date, that particular day was reserved and the owner allowed us to queue in case the person cancelled. By some twist of fate, the person cancelled the booking and we got the place. Then when we were checking its website for our new date after the postponement, we were glad that that room was also vacant (all other days were fully booked) and so we managed to stay in this minsu despite its popularity.

The person in charge, Mr Greg Yu, was extremely helpful and kept replying to us on information we needed even though they were not related to our stay. We even got the driver for the first four days of our trip through the recommendation by them. As we prefer not to sleep on the floor (they provide a mattress for the third person) and also want to save some money, we only booked the queen bed and breakfast for three people.

(The After): Before our arrival, we had already read that the minsu was converted from the back of their pharmacy shop, so we weren’t really surprised when our cab driver dropped us in front of the shop.

The minsu owners (Mr Yu 朵爸,Mrs Yu 朵妈 和 Mr Greg Yu) were quick to welcome us and offered to carry the luggage for us as they led us through the pharmacy, past their living/dining area before we arrived at the minsu area. There were also two adorable cats at the pharmacy named ‘Nunu’ and ‘果浆 ‘, though both were shy to visitors. A pity Nunu kept escaping from Dar because they were afraid of children treating them roughly. Dar love cats and would have caresssed them.

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The minsu area was beautifully furnished with woodwork and many cat-themed decorations, spanning three storeys. The first storey was the common area for the visitors, with a dining area, television and hi-fi. Fruits were prepared for us and kept in the fridge for us to consume as and when we liked.We were offered pineapple and guava.Coffee and tea were available too.

The second storey was where the minsu’s three rooms were situated, with our ‘Garfield’ room being the inner-most room. Entering our room, we felt at ease despite the absence of any window. Instead, a small garden was situated beside the bathroom which provided some greenery and serenity to our room. The third storey led to the owners’ living/dining areas followed by the pharmacy. There was also a nicely setup garden with a small lake just behind the minsu.

Walking out of the garden led us to the back of the place, where the famous Sun Moon Restaurant was located right beside the minsu. This was also the exit we took for our cycling trip.

Despite our short stay, we managed to mingle with the owners in their living/dining area while we played with the two adorable cats (they kept avoiding us though). The owners were very friendly and there was much to talk about. This is how living in a minsu should be all about — living in the quarters of the local residents and learning more about their lives and the area through interaction. The owners also provided advice to plan for our day trip and the subsequent morning cycling trip we wanted.

There were two bicycles available for free at the minsu but we only took one, as I rented the other bicycle with a child seat from the rental shop just opposite the minsu (from the garden’s exit), which opened as early as 6am+.The owners also offered cheaper tickets for the ferry ride, ropeway and entrance to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (九族文化村).

The only thing that bothered us with the room was the transparent door leading to the toilet/bathroom. It was situated such that the toilet bowl was facing the room so whatever we did in the toilet was clearly visible to the rest who were in the room. The bathroom was shielded with a wall so bathing was not too obvious.

This is a common characteristics of Taiwan’s hotels so before the trip we actually considered the transparencies of the bathrooms of several homestays/hotels by looking at their photographs on the website. Still, we were rather surprised when we saw the actual area as the room was very small and the bed was just right outside the bathroom area. Cat thought up a way of using a towel to cover halfway over the door by latching onto the handle part and it offered privacy when we need to use the toilet. Sometimes, one of us would leave the room to give the other privacy. [updated:(as of 2014) The bathroom doors are now frosted, offering privacy! ]

It would be difficult if we are just relatives or friends living in the same room. Basically, no one can stay inside the room when one person need to use the toilet. The other two rooms had their bathrooms even more exposed with full glass doors across. Wifi was also very weak from our room (also mentioned on a notice on our table) so to get good Wifi connection, we needed to go down to the common area. It was not a favourite place for Dar though as he didn’t like it that there was no windows.

We did regret not having a separate mattress in the end because it was really too cramped for three of us on that small double bed (It felt even smaller than our queen bed at home where we sometimes squeeze with Dar). Oh well, it was just for one night. Other than these, we were satisfied with our stay because the owners were really hospitable and provided a lot of help to us. The location was also easy to go to nearby attractions as we just need to walk to the Shui She Pier to take a boat to Itashao. No wonder it had such rave reviews.

{ Breakfast }

Breakfast consisted of toasts, bacon and eggs with a nice glass of warm soya milk. There’s also some special things such as sweet potato with cheese and a delicious fruit/veggie/egg mayonaise salad. You can also ask for tea or coffee.

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Day 3 – CingJing Park (Nantou County)

3) Misty Villa 雲濛仙境

Website : http://www.misting.com.tw

(The Before): We booked the three-person room from them. The owner was quick to reply and patient to our enquiries. We were interested in this because of the views we could see through the windows of the room itself.

(The After): We arrived at the minsu in the late afternoon when the skies were already darkening since daytime is short during the end of the year. The lady boss of the minsu saw our vehicle arriving and came down from the restaurant area to welcome us. After identifying us, she asked our cab driver to drive up and behind the building instead since our room was situated high up and more accessible from the back.

At first sight, we were awed as the room was very big. Coming from the small room in Sun Moon Lake, it was a huge refreshing change. As a comparison, it was as if two bedrooms were joined together.

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We could go out to the balcony and view the nice scenery unobstructed. The owner told us that we could see the sunrise straight from our room, provided the weather was clear then. The bathroom was located near the entrance. It was a bit too spacious for us and was not partitioned from the toilet area so it got pretty cold when we were showering in it as the the cold air still seeped in.

The hot/cold water dispenser (the brown cabinet next to the clothes hanging area) was situated at the corner of our room so it was convenient filling up our water bottles. Wifi connection in the room was relatively strong and stable.

After the night in Alishan, we knew we need to close the balcony door and not let in any cold air so the room was at a comfortable temperature. Despite the cold air, the beds were very comfy with an extremely thick comforter so we didn’t feel cold when we slept in our sweat pjs.

The place was also near the Small Swiss Garden and the convenience store, Seven Eleven and that was one of the reasons why we chose this minsu to stay in. Climbing up and down stairs could be a chore though since three-person rooms were all situated at the highest floor and we needed to get to the ground floor of the minsu before we could get to any of our destination.

The ground floor consisted of their restaurant with an adorable parrot perching near the counter. The owner offered good directions and advices for our travel plans and was selling tickets to the Little Swiss Garden and Green Green Grassland at cheaper rates. She provided us transport to go to Green Green Grassland in the morning and the driver informed us how to come back by walking. They also provide dinner with a few courses of chinese dishes at an extra charge but dinner starts and ends early so we decided to go and visit the attractions instead. We didn’t manage to interact much with her as we were really rush for time in Cingjing but she’s also very friendly and helpful.

{ Breakfast }

Breakfast the next morning had a buffet setup, with reasonable variety to choose from. A good change for us after consuming breakfast consisting of the same combination.

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Day 4, 5, 6 – New Taipei City (Taipei County)

4) Shin Shih Hotel 新仕商務飯店

Website : http://www.shin-shih.com.tw

(The Before): We took some time to find the right hotel for our three days stay in Taipei. Those we checked out and nice were either sold out or too far from the Metro station. In the end, we managed to find this and viewed the distance from the hotel to the metro station virtually through Google Map. We would need to travel by foot to the metro station quite often and is worried it would be difficult for Dar to walk so far.

(The After): We arrived at the hotel’s entrance by cab from Taipei Station, which costs around NT$100 (about SGD$4) for our 15-minute ride. If not with the help of Google Map’s Street View prior to our trip, we might have difficulty locating the place since it’s situated in between the shop houses. The Mackay Hospital which is situated directly opposite of the hotel is a good landmark when telling the cab driver our destination though. 2012_TaiwanAccomodation4

Though the hotel looked small from the outside, we didn’t have a crampy feeling after entering through the entrance, passing by the dining area, lift and then the reception counter. After checking in, we took the lift up to our room on the sixth floor with the room facing the alley instead of the main road, as we had requested previously (Room 601).We were worried that the siren from the ambulance from the hospital might disrupt our sleep, so having a room far from the hospital prevented this from happening.

The room was not as big as we had thought (we booked the three-person room) but was comfortable enough for us with a double bed and a single bed for Dar. There was a bathtub with massaging features so that was a bonus. We only managed to use it on our third and last night and it was a soothing experience. Dar loved it very much too.

Wifi is pretty strong in the room with a few hotspots to choose from. Throughout our entire stay, we had kept the air-conditioning off as the room was already quite cold without it. Sufficient air ventilation was also present. Cleaning was done daily when we were out as we had to deposit our keys with them and breakfast vouchers were given when we collect the keys back.

The nearest Metro Station is the Shuanglien Metro Station, just two stops away from the Taipei Metro Station. It takes about 7-10mins to walk there from our hotel but we didn’t feel any tiredness because it was very cool. There was a convenience store located along the street while we walked and we could get any drinks or food we need.

{ Breakfast }

Breakfast was nothing to shout about, consisting of buffet style with some variety, western (eggs, bacon, toast) and eastern (porridge, veggie dishes, chinese sausage, beehoon). Still, this hotel is definitely value for money (they had a slight discount for stays of three nights or more).

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Day 7 – Taroko Gorge (Hualien County)

5) Hualien Bay Minsu 洄瀾灣渡假民宿

Website : http://www.hualienbay.com

(The Before): While reading reviews about Taiwan and deciding where to go, I came across this minsu with rave reviews. As we changed our itinerary around, we almost did not book this place. The owner was very friendly in our email exchanges and helpful on information on how to get there. We also booked a tour guide with him to Taroko Gorge. It was the first destination we wanted to go to in Taiwan. As we did not want to tire ourselves in climbing the mountainous region just after arrival from Singapore, we decided to place it as the last day of our tour and go back hopefully with happy natural memories. 😉 We also love that it is only a walking distance to the sea. It was also the only homestay that didn’t need us to pay a deposit beforehand because they trust us from Singapore.

(The After): Mrs Chen personally greeted us at the station with the driver they recommended whom took us on a day tour of the Taroko Gorge and dropped us at the Hualien Town area before driving us to the minsu. We arrived at the minsu at 8pm+ and were impressed by the beauty of the exterior of the minsu, with a nice garden and small lake in front.

Mr Chen told us later that they actually did the landscaping, farming and gardening all by themselves. Very impressive. As business happened to be slow that night, Mrs Chen, the Lady boss of the minsu offered us a free upgrade of our room to 5-person room (which would cost NT$2800) overseeing the ocean and sunrise after noting that Dar is quite big to share a bed with us. We weren’t sure whether to take up that offer since we had already decided on our original room, but in the end still couldn’t refuse her kind intentions.

Prior to our arrival, we had bought a sky lantern and some fireworks with the help of the driver Mr Li, so we went back down to the front yard after putting down our luggage. Mr Andy Chen was very helpful in guiding us with setting up the sky latern and how to light the fireworks, and we had a great time with them that night. His grandson was present that night too and Dar enjoyed his company as they were of the same age. They also had two nice dogs roaming around the place.

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The interior of the room was older than the other minsu we had stayed, but I guess that’s the rustic feel of a house situated in the rural areas. It was huge with a piano, two double beds and one single bed. The view from the room stares out into the frontyard of the minsu. The toilet had a partition between the bathroom and the toilet bowl.

I didn’t have a good night’s sleep unfortunately as the room was too big, and I had to sleep beside this empty bed. Wifi was strong and stable though. The next morning, we woke up very early and ventured to the nearby beach for a stroll, followed by a tour at their farm located at the back of their minsu. We were surprised to see many animals such as rabbits, a pig, goats, roosters, ducks, geese and even turkeys, and had a fun time watching and taking photos of them.Mrs Chen let them out of the yards specially for us after feeding them so we could take a closer look. Dar had so much fun interacting with the animals.

Overall we loved the environment and enjoyed our stay, especially with the farm animals. Mr and Mrs Chen was so hospitable and very fatherly and motherly that we didn’t feel like guests living with them. We enjoyed chatting with them and like their simple country lifestyle. If we stayed longer, we might learn even more things from them as Mr Chen is good in gardening (He’s a retired teacher) while Mrs Chen is an art teacher and still teaches handicrafts.

{ Breakfast }

Breakfast consisted of bread with some pineapple jam, some fruits, pieces of toasted bread with cheese and a packed sandwich. Cat and Dar ate some porridge with pork floss. She loves the porridge with the medium cooked egg. We took away two of the sandwiches to eat before our flight as there wasn’t time for a full lunch. Mr Andy Chen specially prepared the soya milk with just enough sugar so it was delicious. I even requested to fill up one of our water bottles with them.

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  1. LIN HANWEI October 22, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Hi firstly thank you for your wonderful write up. I’m visiting Taiwan from 31/10/14-08/11/14 with my wife. I think my way of planning travel is somewhat like you but you are so very detailed! In the end I just decided to follow your itinerary with some minor adjustments 😉 Few things that I would appreciate your kind advice on.

    Doris home: You mention this was not your first choice. Can I ask which was your first choice? Tried to book them on 05/11 but all rooms are out can’t even get on waiting list. Any other places you would recommend around the area then?

    1. Cat October 24, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      Hi Hanwei,
      Thank you for the kind comments! I’m sure you would have a wonderful time there.
      My first choice was this place: http://www.jade-chalet.com.tw/ because of a beautiful lake view from the rooms. But I think it was also fully booked then or something… can’t remember.

  2. Vandy April 16, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful write up and great info provided! Is going to be a great help for my planning 🙂

  3. KH August 3, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks for the sharing. May I know how much did you spend for the accommodation and transport (estimate)? Thanks so much!

  4. Ray September 22, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the great write up on alishan minshu. It was insightful and nice to get some info plus reviews. I’m also planning to stay at the alishan tea garden and is currently torn between the Tuscany or the mountain home branch. Is there any difference a did you could provide your opinion which one would be better? Would be grateful to receive your comments soon.

    Regards,
    Ray

    1. Cat September 27, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      Since we only stayed for one night in one, we couldn’t compare. However, I remember we chose the higher mountain one because we prefer places with higher view and fresher air and closer proximity to Alishan. Think the other one is lower?

  5. Michelle September 19, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    Hi, how did you hire the transport from Chia Yi to Alishan? It will really helps if you reply :). I am going Taiwan in October and is curious how to get there other than car, is train assessable to there?

    Thanks!

    1. Vin September 20, 2016 at 11:19 am

      Hi Michelle,

      We hired a taxi to bring us there. He’s the same driver who drove us around in the first few days of our trip.

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