Sunday, March 31, 2019

Floral Fantasy Blossoms at Gardens by the Bay

[Media Invite]

More excitement awaits at Gardens by the Bay this coming April as Floral Fantasy , the latest thematic attraction unfolds and open its doors to the public on 14 April 2019!

Located at Bayfront Plaza, next to Bayfront MRT station, the 1,500 sq m indoor floral garden with more than 3000 plants and more than 150 species, hopes visitors will have a fantastical experience.

Floral Fantasy comprises of four diverse garden landscapes, each showcasing a different artistic concept.

DANCE (花之舞)

We were welcomed by a colourful sight upon entering Floral Fantasy! Greeted by lush, brightly coloured tableau of flowering plants suspended from the ceiling, the rainbow canopy lifted our spirits instantly as we walked through the space.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Taiwan Trip Day 3 - Nantou (南投) | Xitou Monster Village | Dalunshan Ginkgo Forest | Totoro Bus Stop | Master of Mushroom

3 December 2018

Day 3 (Part 1) - Taiwan Itinerary (Nantou)
1) Totoro Bus Stop
2) Dalunshan Ginkgo Forest
3) Bamboo Forest
4) Xitou Monster Village
5) Lunch at Master of Mushroom

8:30am - It has been a restful 2 nights stay as we check out from Mini Hotel - Taichung Station. Before we journey on towards Nantou, I asked to stop by Totoro Bus Stop (大里龍貓車站) which is only 5 minutes drive away from the hotel. For Studio Ghibli's fans, this is a nice IG spot not to be missed.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Where to Stay in Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) - Blue Sky Bay BnB (藍天水灣民宿)

I was pondering over a few considerations when I was booking for our room in Sun Moon Lake.

- Proximity to Ferry terminal
- Sun Rise / Sun Set View
- Easy access to Bicycle rentals
- Accessibility to eateries/minimart
- Price & Comfort

Blue Sky Bay BnB (藍天水灣民宿)
Date of Stay : 3 - 4 December 2018

Where to stay in Sun Moon Lake?
There are 3 ferry terminals in Sun Moon Lake - Shuishe, Ita Thao and Xuan Guang. Most of the accommodation options are located near Shuishe and Ita Thao with hotels and guesthouses that are in the mid-high range pricing.

Some preferred to stay in Ita Thao (伊達邵) as it is located near Ita Thao night market offering more food options and the atmosphere in the evening is more vibrant. This area is also probably the best place to dine in Sun Moon Lake. It is also near to the waterfront where you can take a stroll and enjoy the view of the boats at the docks.

Shuishe (水社‭) though not as lively than Ita Thao, allows travelers to have greater accessibility to buses and bicycle rentals. Many buses (to Taipei/Alishan etc) arrive and depart near Shuishe Visitor's Centre including the round the lake shuttle bus around Sun Moon Lake. This allows travelers more convenience to get to their next destination. In addition, I checked with the hotels from Ita Thao, and Shuishe and it seems there is a better chance to catch the sunrise from Shuishe instead of Ita Thao.

After researching and weighing our options, I decided to settle in for an accommodation at Shuishe, mainly because of the easy transport accessibility as well as to check out the sun rise view.

There are many lodging options in Shuishe and ideally, I was looking for one that is near to Shuishe Visiting Center, offering clean and neat room with a window view of Sun Moon Lake. Unfortunately, hotels that fit those criteria comes with a hefty price.

Blue Sky Bay B&B

I chanced upon Blue Sky Bay B&B (藍天水灣民宿) which has received many wonderful reviews and decided to book our stay with them via Agoda. Paid near to SGD380 for 2 nights stay for a Quadruple room (~SGD190 per night). Our second most expensive accommodation throughout our trip. However, the great hospitality, delicious breakfast, and comfortable room made up for it. Located near to Shuishe Pier, it is only minutes walk to Shuishe Visitor Center.

We had a full day tour in the day and arrived late at Blue Sky Bay (~5.40pm). Nevertheless, the lady owner of the B&B (游女士) received us warmly and helped us settle in quickly. We stayed on the 5th floor and am delighted to be welcomed into a bright, clean and spacious room! This is by far our favourite accommodation throughout our Taiwan trip!

Check out the Video Tour of our room.

Clean and comfortable double beds

Separate toilet and bathroom

I like the idea of the bathtub being on the floor level. Ample space to put our soap and dry ourselves after bath. The children enjoy taking their bath too and does not need any reminders for us to wash up. After a long walk, it is so relaxing to soak your body and rest your feet.

Oliva del Mediterraneo shower products and toiletries provided.

Nice decor and gives a homey feeling

Blue Sky Bay has adopted a Nautical theme in their interior design. You can tell from the decor and accessories around the B&B. 
Lift lobby (outside rooms) and stairways

Entrance & Breakfast area

A welcoming space as you enter the B&B. Long breakfast table where all the guests sit together to start their day.

Reception area (shape of the front boat) where lady boss sits and shares her cycling discount vouchers with stay-in guests.

Sumptuous spread of home-made breakfast for guests! Lady boss wakes up early to prepare all these just in time for the breakfast hours (8am - 10am). However, she is also very accommodating to help get the breakfast ready (~730am) should we need to leave or check-out early.

Assorted dishes (eggs, hotdogs, nuggets, hashbrowns etc)

Porridge and side dishes

Toast and spread

Soy milk / orange juice

We are always looking forward to our breakfast at Blue Sky Bay

View from our balcony at Blue Sky Bay B&B

Thank you Lady Boss for your hospitality! We really appreciate your help and advice provided and most importantly ensuring the breakfast is ready for our early check-out! We had a memorable stay at Blue Sky Bay B&B.

Summary Notes:
- Free Wifi
- Air-condition
- Window view
- Flooring - Wooden
- Water Flask - available
- Safety Box - not available
- Hair Dryer - available
- Phone - available
- Mini Fridge - available

- Bath towels are provided
- Separated Toilet and Bath/Shower room
- Hot shower available.
- Bathtub available
- Disposable toothbrush/toothpaste/comb provided

Blue Sky Bay B&B (藍天水灣民宿)
Address: No. 21, Zhongxing Road, Township, Nantou County pond
Tel: 0910-355503, 049-2856815

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Taiwan Trip Day 2 - Changhua & Taichung (彰化, 台中) | Lukang | Taiwan Glass Gallery | Glass Temple | Yizhong Street Night Market

2 December 2018 (Part II)

Day 2 (Part 2) - Taiwan Itinerary (Lukang/Taichung)
1) Longshan Temple (龙山寺) - Lukang
2) Nine-Turns Lane (九曲巷)
3) Sunset at Lukang
4) Taiwan Glass Gallery
5) Glass Temple
6) Yizhong Street Night Market

It was about 25 minutes drive from Fangyuan to Lukang (鹿港). Have heard a lot about the historical town and its well-preserved cultural and heritages. Located in Changhua County, its name translate to "Deer Port" and used to be an important sea port int he 18th and 19th century.

3pm: It was a crowded Sunday and our driver advised us the easier and faster way to tour Lukang is by bicycles! So we put our riding skills to a test! It started off smoothly but we got shaky on the roads. At the end of our ride, our boy commented : 'We nearly died umpteenth of times!' It was definitely an unforgettable riding experience!

'Shanmen' - entrance to Longshan Temple

3.05pm: 鹿港龙山寺 - The largest temple in Lukang, is highly valued and awarded as the "National Monument" of Taiwan. Also known as the first Buddhist temple in Taiwan, it is well-preserved displaying fine and unique craftsmanship in its architecture. The historical temple (over 300 years old) has withstand multiple major earthquakes.

A pair of dragon poles - ascending and descending to each other.

门神 - Door God Paintings at the Five Portal Hall, with five pairs of entry doors, to protect and ward off evil spirits

Impressive carvings and colourful interiors on the octagonal shape ceiling that looks like a 'Ba Gua' (八卦) with interlocking wooden beams and supported by interlocking brackets held together  without using a single nail, is raised above the roof level. It is possibly the oldest and largest existing caisson in Taiwan that helps to ward off evil spirits

The layout of the temple consist of three rows of buildings separated by two courtyards. Entering from the main gate (Shanmen), to the Five Portal Hall (Wumen) and rear Hall (Houdian). Every angle is a beauty and it is indeed a gorgeous heritage that is not to be missed visiting.

Hopping back onto our bicycles and we followed our guide closely on the main roads and into the small alleys.

Streets of Lukang

3:50pm - One of the charms of Lukang has to be the wealth of narrow and winding lanes with Nine-Turns Lane (九曲巷), now known as Chinsheng Lane (金盛巷) as the best preserved among all. In the earlier days, when villages were developed, many residents were built alongside the curve watercourse which naturally form how some of the winding lanes are today. This phenomenon helped to prevent and diminish the effects of the northwestern September wind and moderate the temperature in the winter. The crooked alleyways also confused the pirates who tend to get lost in the maze of twists and turns.

Shiyilou (十宜楼) is one of the historic sites along the Nine Turns Lane. It is the remainder of the buildings belonging to the largest ancient Amoy-Taiwan Trading Company, "Qingchang Hao", of Lukang. Shiyi (Ten amusements) refers to "Ancient Qin, Board game, Poem, Wine, Painting, Flower, Moon, Chess, Tobacco, Tea" (琴、棋、詩、酒、畫、花、月、博、煙、茶). It has been a place for poets and writers to get together in the old times.

Nearby is a gun tower functioning as street fortifications and you can also find Wine Bottle Wall (甕牆). There are a few sayings about the wine bottle walls, our guide shares that during the Japanese occupation days, the Japanese robbed the villagers of their provisions and wealth. Hence the residents will hide their rice and jewelry in the wine bottles which also act as a decoration to their homes. Another explanation is when there are babies born in the family, Shaoxing wine will be buried in the ground. If the son grows up and top the rank in the studies, Shaoxing Banquet will be hosted, called "Zhongyuanhong". If the daughter grew up and get married, the wine will be called "Daughter Red" and be used as one of the dowry items.

A hand-pumped well found in the winding lanes. 

3:55pm - We probably picked the wrong day to tour Lukang as there was a huge crowd everywhere! With temple festival processions and celebrations happening, it was challenging to wriggle our way on the streets. We had to temporary 'parked' our bicycles outside the food stall while taking turns to try a bowl of vermicelli.

Sun setting at Lukang

4:20pm - Unfortunately we had little time left to explore the heritage town further as we have to make our way to catch the sunset. While waiting for our guide to get his vehicle to pick us up, we had a quick glance at 鹿港丁家古厝 which was built in the Qing Dynasty and is a national monument as well.

Feeling thirsty and quickly bought a bottled tea from 孩堤咖啡

4:40pm - I love to see the scenery outside as we moved between destinations. At times, you may spot a scene that brings a smile on your face.

4:55pm - Sun was almost setting when we reached the western coastal shores of Lukang. Thankfully, we managed to catch a glimpse of it. It was so therapeutic to just stood by the side, embracing the wind and admiring the windmills together with the orange hew of the skyline.

5:15pm - Taiwan Glass Gallery holds many glass art-crafts and its a place for Taiwan's local artists to display their work. The gallery is divided into Arts, Glass Information and Household Product halls. At times, visitors can also catch the glass craftsman demonstrate how the art glass pieces are made.

Taking pictures with the glass kaleidoscope. 

Display of various glass artworks

Initially I was a little hesitant to visit the Golden Tunnel (黃金隧道). However for only NT100 (less than SGD5), you get the opportunity to experience walking through a spectacular 72m glass tunnel plus a free gift and a pair of rubber slippers! It was a steal and definitely worth a go!

*Entrance fee to the Golden Tunnel has increased to NT150 wef 1 March 2019.

Pick the type of slippers of your preference and your size. The slippers are comfortable and pretty good! All the slippers are in blue and white which are the traditional colours of Taiwan. Definitely worth a space in our luggage to take back home. 

Inside the Golden Tunnel assembled by 3600 glass mirrors. Thanks to the rubber slippers and gloves, we were able to maneuver easily without scratching or placing more finger prints on the glass.

5:55pm - Hu Sheng Glass Temple (玻璃妈祖庙) is located next to Taiwan Glass Gallery and it is best viewed when the night falls. Being one of the few glass temples in the world with most of the structure transparent, it is absolutely stunning at night. During the day, the sun shines through the glass, giving it a brighter space. At night, more than 100,000 changing LED lights illuminate the temple making it beautiful and dazzling. It is an amazing architecture which can withstand strong winds as well as earthquake.

Within the temple is a small pond where we threw coins in to make a wish. Love the reflection of the lights on the water too.

Mazu is being worship in the Glass Temple and behind the statue is a glass artwork of Yushan, the highest mountain in Taiwan. 

7:30pm - It was more than 1 hour drive from Lukang back to Taichung - Yizhong Street Night Market. We are very thankful to our guide who has not only brought us to various interesting places but also helped us take photographs. From this point forward, we will be exploring the night market and walking back to the hotel on our way.

Yizhong Street Night Market (一中街夜市) - Surrounded by many trendy shops selling fashionable clothing and accessories, and located near to high school and universities, it is a popular hang out for students. About 15 minutes walk away from Taichung Train Station, there is plenty to shop and eat at Yizhong Street Night Market which is more accessible by travelers if you are not staying near Feng Jia.

Brown Sugar Pearl Milk Tea is in the trend now and we can see this selling at almost every bubble tea shop. Decided to try our first cup for NT55 at Perfect Life tea shop (花好月圓) and we feel it is by far one of the better ones we had!

We love to explore the night markets as there are so many food options and we can picked the street food that appeal to us.

Assorted dim sum 

Smelly toufu (NT70)

Cheesy Fried Chicken (NT120)

Beef Cubes (NT100) - One of my favourite street food though it comes at a higher price.

Another tea shop selling nice milk tea (NT25)

Zhuang Yuan Gao (NT80) - comes in cheese or peanut filling. The peanut filling definitely paste better.

It is not only just snacking at the night market, but also having some fun at the game stalls!

Spotted this gigantic Gachapon machine (扭蛋机) and decided to pay NT100 for the fun of it. 

9:15pm - The best way to digest our food after a late night dinner, is taking a 30 minutes walk back to the hotel. We passed by Taichung Park on our way back which is the oldest park in Taichung built during the Japanese era.

Pretty landscapes in Taichung Park with arch bridge, artificial lake and pavilions. 

We were back at Mini Hotel by 10pm. Looking back through our day 2. even I find it amazing how we managed to cover so many activities and destinations in a day! Plus, we even managed to wash our dirty laundry before heading off to bed.

Check out our Vlog - Day 2 (Changhua & Taichung)

Taiwan Family Travel - Day 2 @ Changhua & Taichung (彰化, 台中) Part 1

Taiwan Family Travel - Day 3 @ Nantou (南投) Part 1

More photos @ BPDGTravels Facebook page
Check out our 2 Weeks Taiwan Itinerary Family Trip here