Thursday, December 31, 2015

Trip To Taiwan 台湾: Yilan 宜兰 - Jiaoxi Quan Jia Hot Spring Hotel 礁溪泉嘉温泉会馆


Photo By: Elin Chow
Official Website: Jiaoxi Quan Jia Hot Spring Hotel 礁溪泉嘉温泉会馆
Address: Lane 34, Xinyi Rd, Jiaoxi Township, Yilan Country 宜兰县礁溪乡信义路34巷

Leaving Luodong Night Market 羅东观光夜市, we headed to Jiaoxi Town 礁溪乡 and checked in Jiaoxi Quan Jia Hot Spring Hotel 礁溪泉嘉温泉会馆 for the night.

Jiaoxi Quan Jia Hot Spring Hotel 礁溪泉嘉温泉会馆

Located in the northern part of Yilan Country 宜兰县, Jiaoxi is a small and quaint town famed for its abundance of hot springs. The small town is lined with hot spring hotels, bathhouses and restaurants, making it a popular hot spring destination in northern Taiwan.

When visiting Jiaoxi Town, visitors can choose to bathe at one or more than a dozen small, public bath houses scattered around the town. Besides the public bath houses, most of the hotels in the town also have their own hot spring baths for hotel guests. Some of these hotels actually allow non-staying guests to use their hot springs for a fee, while others do not.

Due to its proximity to Taipei 台北, the town can be extremely crowded on the weekends. I would suggest anyone to visit on a weekday if you wish to avoid the crowds.

Room Types and Rates

To suit different needs, the hotel offers a variety of cozy guesthouses, each decorated in different themes and colors. Each of the room has two floors, with the upper floor containing the bedroom and the lower floor containing a small living room, dry kitchenette and the bathroom.

Since the hotel does not offer a 6-person room, Mr Tsai has booked a 2-person and a 4-person room for us. We paid TWD 3980 for our 2-person room and TWD 4980 for our 4-person room on a weekend. This is the most expensive hotel we had stayed in Taiwan.

The hotel does not publish their room rates on its website, so I am not sure whether the price we paid will apply to other rooms as well. You can call or email the hotel directly for reservation or enquiries on the room rates.


The hotel is located in a good location, within walking distance to a few local eateries and a convenience store 7-Eleven.


We arrived at a spacious reception area with a comfortable sitting area with plenty of seating for relaxing. The area is well-lit by crystal chandeliers, creating a warm and homey atmosphere.



After collecting our keys from the owner at the reception area, we proceeded straight to our room.

4-Person room

Our 2-person and 4-person room are located on the 12th floor of the building.


Upon stepping in, we were immediately greeted by a lovely pink double storey room featuring a small living room, a kitchenette and a bathroom on the lower floor and a bedroom on the upper floor.

The living room is well-equipped with a flat screen satellite TV, a 2-seater sofa set, a small coffee table and a lovely pink wardrobe. Located beside the kitchenette, you will find a queen sized bed adorned with drapes. This is a room that most girls will instantly fall in love with. 

The room was clean but small, with very little space for us to walk after putting our luggage. 

TV selection is good, with plenty of channel to browse through. In addition to that, free unlimited WiFi access is also available throughout the property to keep us connected at all times. We were pleased that the free Wifi is easy to connect to and worked extremely well for us.


The kitchenette is equipped with sink, a sufficient quantity of cups and a mini fridge.

Complimentary bottled mineral water and basic coffee and tea making facilities are also provided in the room. 

The bathroom is equipped with a large stone tiled tub which can accommodate two people and the tub and shower combination features rainfall shower head and spring water bath.

During your stay, you can turn on the tap and enjoy a good hot spring bath in the comfort and privacy of your own room. It feels great to soak in the hot water after a long and tiring day. It helps to improve blood circulation and relieve the fatigue of travelling. The waters are also said to be "water of beauty" that will leave your skin feeling smooth and silky.

Unlike many other hot springs which usually have a strong smell of sulphur, the hot spring water in Jiaoxi is crystal clear and odorless and it maintains a temperature of  about 58 Degree Celsius. The water is said to be extremely rich in sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium and carbonic acid ions.

The water may feel a little too hot for those not used to it. But do not worry as the temperature of the water is adjustable depending how much cold water you allowed to mix with the hot water.

Basic toiletries such as body wash and shampoo are provided in the bathroom.

Apart from that, the hotel also provides disposable toothbrush and toothpaste for each guest. Each of these are packed in individual sachets for single use.

The entire room is decorated in Hello Kitty theme, with walls painted in pink and covered in Hello Kitty stickers. I believe these sweet wall stickers are sure to please any Hello Kitty fans of any age!

On the upper floor, you will find a queen sized bed. The beds were very cozy and comfortable with no unpleasant smell. We enjoyed a great night sleep and woke up feeling refreshed the next morning.


2-Person Room

Modern and tastefully decorated, our 2-person room features a kitchenette, a living room and a bathroom on the lower floor and a bedroom on the upper floor. 

Fitted with wooden parquet and furnishing, our 2-person room was spacious with plenty of space for is to place our luggage without tripping over them. The living room is equipped with a 2-seater sofa, a flat screen satellite TV and a coffee table.  

Unlike the 4-person room, the kitchenette also comes with a small dining table and four comfortable chairs. 

Beside the sofa, there is a large glass window dividing the bathroom and living room that left the shower in full view.

The transparent bathroom is another exciting feature of the hotel, which allows one to watch their partner in shower. However, if you are staying with friends or prefer more privacy while in your shower, a roller blind can be lowered by manually operating the roller shaft.

The upper floor was small, with just enough space for a queen-sized bed and built in wardrobe.


The large built wardrobe provides ample of storage space for our clothes and bags. 


Other than the en-suite hot spring bath, the hotel also features communal baths that can provide you with a relaxing Japanese bath experience. The communal baths are gender-separated, with different baths for men and women.

However, when using the baths, there are certain bathing etiquette that has to be followed. One must remember to strip and wash themselves clean with soap and water first before getting into the tub. Please note that no soap is to be used in the bath to ensure that the hot spring water will stay as clean as possible and entering the water with traces of soap on your body is unacceptable.

No swimwear or towels are allowed in the bath. You are expected to sit completely naked. However, you can bring a small towel with you into the bathing area which can be used to wash your body and cover your private parts when you are outside the water. But do not soak your towel in the water. This is to keep the water clean from dirt.

Please note that the bath is not a place for swimming. Do not splash or jump into the water. The bath is a place to relax and revitalize your body and mind.

However, the nudity policy does not apply to mixed gender communal baths. If you are not comfortable of going naked in front of strangers, I would suggest you to enjoy the hot spring water in the privacy of your own room since the hotel does not have a mixed gender bath.


In addition to that, there was also a small gym with a few basic equipments such as treadmill, elliptical trainer and weight machines.


On the top floor of the building, you will find a rooftop observation deck with plenty of bench seating. The open air observation deck offering a panoramic view over the old town. This would be a nice place to sit, relax and enjoy the expansive view while sipping on a cup of coffee.

However, the view was nothing impressive. 


A complimentary buffet breakfast is served at the hotel restaurant located on the ground floor every morning. While the selection was not large, the food served were tasty. We had a very filling breakfast to start the day.

Overall, I must say that our experience at Jiaoxi Quan Jia Hot Spring Hotel was pleasant, but not awesome. The rooms were very clean and comfortable. However at TWD 3980 per night, we felt that the hotel was slightly overpriced.

We actually arrived too late to enjoy any of the hot spring facilitates at the hotel. For those who are planning to stay at this hotel, please try to arrive as early as possible so that you can enjoy the hot spring baths.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Trip To Taiwan 台湾: Yilan 宜兰 - Luodong Night Market 羅东观光夜市




Photo By: Elin Chow 
Address: Gongyuan Rd, Luodong Township, Yilan Country 宜兰县罗东镇公园路


Luodong Night Market 羅东观光夜市


Luodong Night Market is the largest night market in Luodong Township 罗东镇, Yilan Country 宜兰县, Taiwan. The market is conveniently located in the center of  the town, near Zhongshan Park 中山公园, within walking distance of Luodong Station 罗东车站 of Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) Yilan Line, making it very accessible for both locals and international tourists.



To go to Luodong Night Market, simply alight at Luodong station and head out onto Gongzheng Rd 公正路. Turn left onto Changchun Rd 长春路 and right onto Mingsheng Rd 民生路. You will find the Luodong Night Market at the intersection of Mingsheng Rd and Gongyuan Rd 公园路.

For those who drive, parking is not an issue as there are plenty of private parking available around the area.

Just like other night markets in Taiwan, Luodong Night Market opens daily in the evening around 6 pm till the midnight hour.








A busy and normal city streets in the day, the entire area transform into a lively and vibrant night market in the evenings. Hundreds of vendors and shops lined both sides of the streets, offering a wide selection of local snacks, souvenirs, fashionable clothing and accessories for visitors to choose from.

Apart from market vendors, shop houses and hotels lining both sides of the streets are also open for business.

Some of the local specialties include Oyster Omelette 蛤仔煎, Fried Pork 卜肉, Mutton Herbal Soup 当归羊肉, Dragon Phoenix Rolls 龙凤腿 and Spring Onions Pancakes葱油饼.

In addition to that, you will also find a wide range of game stalls where you can play pinball, dart shooting, basketball shooting and many other exciting games.



Luodong Night Market is one of the most crowded night market in Taiwan. Thousands of people swarmed the streets of the market every night, especially on weekends and public holidays.

Since there is nothing much to do in Luodong in the evenings, most people would flock to the market for food, shopping and entertainment. The night market is the only option for nightlife in the town. Luodong Night Market is undoubtedly the best place to spend your evening shopping for bargains and enjoy local delicacies at a budget price.

The market tends to get more crowded as the night falls. Similar to the Kenting Night Market 垦丁大街, Luodong Night Market is also crazily crowded on a normal weekday. Thus, visiting early on a weekday night is the best way to avoid the massive crowds.

The streets are so packed that sometimes it is almost impossible to move through the crowds at all. Even though the streets are closed off to motor vehicles, it is not difficult to find hordes of scooters cutting through the narrow and extremely crowded streets.


Be prepared to be honked by scooters cutting through the night market flooded with pedestrians. We have constantly stay alert and watch out for the dozen of scooters that drive their way through the crowded market at all time. It was a very annoying experience.



Luodong Night Market is relatively smaller compared to Fengjia Night Market 逢甲夜市 or Kenting Night Market 垦丁大街. Even so, the wide varietyof food will satisfy most taste buds.

So, make sure you visit the night market with an empty stomach so that you have more room to try more varieties of street food.

Be prepared to queue for good food at the popular stores. Just in case if you have no idea what to eat, look out for the stalls with long queue. Chances are that the popular stalls usually have long queue.

However, of all the night market I have visited, Fengjia Night Market in Taichung City is still my favorite due to its spacious streets and the wide variety of food and fashionable items it offers. 

The night market also have some small restaurants offering a number of simple courses that allow people to have a full proper meal without having to eat their way through the night market. Feeling hungry and tired, we stopped by a small restaurant to have a quick meal before we continue to snack our way down the streets.

Luodong Night Market is a famous tourist attraction in Yilan Country. A trip to Yilan is never complete without a visit to Luodong Night Market.  The night market is certainly the best place to taste a number of local specialties at an affordable price.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Trip To Taiwan 台湾: Yilan 宜兰 - Baimi Clog Village 白米木屐村


Photo By: Elin Chow 
Address: No. 174, Yongchun Road, Suao Township, Yilan Country, Taiwan 宜兰县苏澳镇永春路174号

After a sumptuous seafood feast, we left Nanfangao Fishing Port 南方澳渔港 and headed to our next stop of the day - Baimi Clog Village 白米木屐村.

Baimi Clog Village 白米木屐村

Baimi is a small village located in Suao Township 苏澳镇, Yilan Country 宜兰县. The village was once famous for producing traditional wooden clogs. The clog-making industry boomed in the country during the Japanese Occupation in the 1940s and almost everyone owned a pair of clogs. However, the industry has experienced a decreased demand over the years - largely due to the rise of cheap and easy-to-make plastic shoes.

In order to revive the dying industry, the Baimi Clog Museum is established to help to preserve the heritage of traditional clogs. The museum has helped to promote tourism around the area, creating and providing jobs for the villagers.

Operating Hours

The operating hours for the museum is as per below:

Weekdays
9.00 am – 5.00 pm
Weekends & Public Holidays
8.30 am – 5.00 pm

Please note that the museum is closed every Monday (except public holidays) and during Chinese New Year period.


Baimi Clog Museum was originally an abandoned single-storey dormitory for employees of a mining factory.The museum has expanded over the years, into a three-storey building. The expansion not only provided more room for exhibition, but also more space to accommodate the increasing amount of tourists visiting the area.

Admission Price

Admission to the museum is not free. Price of the tickets are as below:

Types
Price
For Who?
Adult
TWD 150
General Public
Discount
TWD 100
Resident of Yilan Country
Senior Aged 65 Years Old and above

The museum is a little expensive to visit. Please note that people with disabilities, children below 115 cm or less than 3 years of age and resident of Suao Township are allowed to enter for free.


Once we paid for the entrance tickets, we were greeted by a local female tour guide, wearing a pair of wooden clogs, who enthusiastically welcomed us. Ti-ti-ta, ta-ta-ti. Her clogs were noisily clapping the floor as she walked us through the museum.


Baimi Clog Museum consists of three floors. We started on the ground floor where a short video was shown to us explaining about the long history of Baimi community and wooden clogs in Suao Township, Yilan.

Although the name "Baimi" literally translated as "white rice" in Chinese, the village does not produce any rice. The name has a very interesting origin. It was said that during the Qing Dynasty, a patrolling official discovered an almost empty creek that was covered with lots of white pebbles. From a distance, the exposed pebbles looked like grains of white rice sitting on the river, thus naming the area "Baimi".

Surrounded by rugged mountains on three sides, the area around the town is rich in natural resources, which provided the perfect environment for growing Jiangmou tree Scheffera Octophylla 江某树 that produce extremely hard wood suitable for manufacturing clogs. Clogs were handmade from the wood coming from Jiangmou tree, with a leather strap nailed to a wooden sole.


During the period of Japanese colonization, there was a high demand for wooden clogs, which developed the clog making industry in the town. Having rich sources of wood needed to make the wooden shoes, Baimi town has become an important and major supplier for clogs in Taiwan.

Other than wood, the mountains are blessed with an abundance of limestone - a main ingredient used to make cement. As a result, the town started develop its mining industry, which eventually replaced the locally handcrafted clog industry.

The environment was severely damaged by the stone mining industry, which severely affected the quality of life. Roads were infected with trucks carrying gravels and dirt. According to statistics, Baimi town has the highest rate of dust pollution in the country.

Locals protested against various industrial pollution and pushed for environmental movements. Thanks to the efforts of the villagers, the environmental quality around the area has improved significantly over time.


The second floor is a craft shop where visitors will learn about the process of making clogs. As the guide narrates, a master craftsman silently demonstrated  how a pair of clogs is made, from cutting the wood to nailing the leather parts together.

The first step is to split a piece of wood into half with an ax.


After cutting the wood, the edges need to be shave into perfectly symmetrical curves.

Wood cutting and sculpting requires a lot of techniques. Once the wooden shoe body is made, one needs to mould and paint the leather strap before nailing it to the shoe.

A wooden clog is easy to make, but it is difficult to make a good one. It takes one a lot of hard work and practice to perfect one's clog making skills


Other than that, the master craftsman also demonstrated his impressive wood carving skill to us. Visitors can even choose from a number of patterns and the master craftsman will have them carved on the wooden feet shape plaque for you.

As the market demand for clogs continue to decrease, young people are leaving the small town for bigger cities to seek for better opportunities.Traditional clog making skills are now in the hands of an ageing population and are in a risk of being lost forever. The skills may become extinct one day.



There is a section selling tourist souvenirs. Visitors will get to observe the artisans at work here and purchase some of their finished products.


Wooden clogs are no longer only a footwear, but also a decoration. You will find decorative pairs of miniature wooden clogs available in different colors and designs. The wooden soles are either painted in different colors or designs or are decorated with fine and intricate carvings.


This would be a great place to buy some locally made souvenirs or gifts for your family and friends back home.



All the decorative clogs can be customized with engraved name and special message, adding personal touch to your gifts or souvenirs.


The museum offers free engraving service with every purchase. Engraving is performed by higly skilled artisans who use a pyrograph to burn the words into the wood.




My husband and I have our names and the date we got married engraved on the mini wooden clog we purchased.



Besides decorative clogs, you will also a small retail section selling wearable clogs.

Every wooden clog produced here is entirely handmade, making each pair of them unique. Each pair of  hand made wooden clogs contains time, passion and love of clog-making craftmen and artisans, who take pride in their work.

As soon as you came to this section, you will see the guide enthusiastically explained about the health benefits of wearing clogs. According to her, one of the benefit of is that you will not develop athlete's foot from wearing clogs.


Wooden clogs were once necessities of life. During Japanese Colonial period, clogs were the most common kind of footwear in the country. Most people would have wore clogs at some time or another.

A new pair of wooden clogs would cost an average family several days of wages. However, the handicraft was once lost to the mass production of plastic shoes, which have gradually replaced clogs and made the wooden shoes redundant.

The rise of cheap and easy-to-make plastic shoes caused the demand for clogs to decrease drastically. It is an undeniable fact that traditional wooden clogs have lost their appeal nowadays. Most of the younger generation would actually prefer the modern plastic shoes to the traditional wooden clogs.


I am not a fan of wooden clogs too. The wooden shoes are very hard since they does not have a padded footbed and thus, can be uncomfortable to walk in. Furthermore, the wooden shoes look really ugly and clunky to me. I certainly could not imagine myself wearing clogs at all.


However, in Baimi Clog Village, these wooden shoes are not just a decoration; they are very much part of everyday life. Most villagers in the village wear clogs, and they wear them all the time.


In the middle of the room, you will find a pair of oversized clogs. The enormous clogs were very photogenic, as well as attractive.


Despite being a famous tourist attraction in Yilan, the museum is not crowded. In fact, we were the only group of visitors visiting on that day.


In order to revitalize the clog industry, the museum began to produce custom hand-decorated wooden shoes. Located in a corner of the room, you will find shelves of  brightly colored clogs, each with its own distinctive style.


Clogs are painted in a large variety of patterns and colors, varying from flowers to your favorite cartoon characters from the television. Only highly skilled artists can hand-paint these wooden shoes with a variety of designs.


Unlike clogs made anywhere else in the world, Baimi clogs are made from one piece of wood.


Descending a flight of stairs to the first floor, we were ushered into an enormous sales area adorned with all manner of decorated clogs costing from TWD 1,000 per pair.



On the third floor, you will find a small library and cafe where you can read a book or just relax with a cup of coffee.


If you are not interested in buying, you may proceed to the Clog Handicraft Studio 木屐工艺馆 located in another building.


A hands-on experience is offered where visitors can try making their own custom wooden shoe key ring.


Visitors can choose the colors and designs and have them painted on the leather strap.


Once you are have finished painting and allowed it to dry thoroughly, the artisan will nail the leather strap into the shoe body for you.



The entire tour was 50 minutes. Although I am not a huge fan of museums, I still enjoyed visiting this place. We were impressed by the warmth and enthusiasm of the villagers. Our guide gave us an excellent tour explaining about the history of Baimi Clog Village.

Baimi Clog Village relied heavily on tourism as a generator of revenue and jobs. It is a great place to experience local culture and learn about the traditional art of clog making.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.