Monday, October 17, 2011

Stay in Bukit Tinggi Colmar Tropicale 法国村

Finally meet my family again on Hari Raya Holiday. My nephew, Ealhdun is getting bigger and he can speaks already now!

Have been doing lots of research but seems like the accommodation choice is very limited on Bukit Tinggi aka Berjaya Hills. Saw Meranti Park Suites and The Chauteau on the way up to Colmar Tropicale, where we booked our stay. However, they are lack of information on the internet.

We booked our standard room (2 pax) at a rate of RM233++ after 5% early-bird discount. This is probably the most expensive accommodation that I book myself which break my rule as a backpacker. Below is the discount rate for early-bird, which make quite a big difference on price.
5% discount, if book 7 days in advance.
10% discount, if book 14 days in advance.
25% discount, if book 30 days in advance.

I ask for a upstairs room during check-in. The receptionist said they run out of Standard Room at upstairs so they upgrade us to 1-bedroom suite for free. I was so happy but end up the suite is really not what I expected. Colmar Tropicale is a 4-star rated Hotel, however, it's really disappointed on the accommodation they have given. 4-star price, worst than a RM60 per night budget hotel. Please find my comment on TripAdvisor.
look at the tv
the kitchen
our bedroom
shower + toilet

The accommodation come with complimentary entry to Japanese Garden and Botanical Garden on Bukit Tinggi. We had a nice walk an Japanese Garden. Worth for seeing but once would be enough. The Botanical Garden looks more like a nursery with poorly handled plants. Tools and soil for plants are all over the place. We don't even bother to check it out.

We went to the Rabbit Farm also which costs us RM3 per person. Pretty nice because we are allow to go into the fence and touch the rabbits. Bitbit and Loklok like it too. :D
my kids
The ridiculous part is we need to take the shuttle back to Colmar Tropicale before we can take another shuttle to another destination, which make a long waiting time following their schedule.
Do bring your swimming suit as they have a swimming pool there and there's nothing much else you can do.

The Mondiva shows is the most interesting of all, despite they have several shows per day, all are the same. The show bring lots of fun and merries. Ealhdun watch until not blinking and have tears in his eyes. Silly boy... :D

We had our lunch at La Flamme with pizza and Le Poulet Roti Roast Chicken for dinner. The pizza is good and my dad said their pasta is not bad either. The Rosted Chicken Meal is kinda small in portion and not very impressive. Overall the price of food is extremely high compare to other major tourist spot in Malaysia. The main course costs between RM20 to RM40 each. It's really expensive for a tasted-not-so-good meal.
Pizza at La Flamme
Hotel buffet breakfast held at Le Blason Restaurant which also provides buffet lunch and dinner. Customers staying in Colmar Tropicale are covered with the complimentary buffet breakfast here. The breakfast is quite standard but with more variety. The have cereal, ham and sausage, toast, fried noodles and kuey teow, porridge, omelette cook as per order, and plenty choices of French pastry.

It's not cold at all during daytime. Just normal Malaysian attire, t-shirt and shorts will do. There are some cold air at night time, light sweater is recommended.

Bukit Tinggi is only good if you are looking for some nearer getaway with no expectation. LOL...
Good Luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Taiwan Travel Tips & Tricks 台灣旅遊提示

There are several things many people do not aware of before depart to Taiwan. The goodies that offer by Taiwan Tourism Council are really care for backpackers like us. I hope you found my blog way before your departure. :)

Digital Tour Buddy 寶貝機
Digital Tour Buddy is a mobile phone with sim card provided by Taiwan Youth Travel.
You do not need to worry getting a prepaid card in Taiwan, and wondering how much it burns when you not using it anymore.

Digital Tour Buddy come with a SIM card with NT100. We don't need much money in it because it's only for emergency in case any of us get lost. If you need more credit, just top up at the convenient store.

All you need to do is fill up the form online, and collect it at the airport when you arrive. It can be collected at the Customer Service counter that you can see it once you step out from the Arrival Hall. Air Asia from Malaysia will be arrived at Tower 2. You are required to leave your Identification Card or Driving License to the Customer Service, you will get it back when you return the phone to them before your departure from Taiwan International Airport.

Youth Travel Card 台灣青年旅遊卡
The Youth Travel Card is eligible for traveler aged between 15-30. They have various of discount on restaurant, shopping and entrance ticket to place of interest. We use it when we went to The Taipei Zoo (Muzha Zoo 木柵動物園) and it only cost us NT30 for the ticket, which is 50% discount from the original price. Apply the Card at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Customer Service Counter, same place where you collect the Digital Tour Buddy.

With the Youth Travel Card, it allows us to join the tour package offer by Taiwan Tour Bus through Tour Buddy Program. We joined the Taroko Gorge One-day Tour (太魯閣峽谷觀光一日遊) with NT890 per pax where it supposed to cost NT988. The program assigned a tour buddy with us through out the trip. She is a friendly and easy-going university student major in tourism. She pick us up at Hualian Train Station and take us to where we suppose to take the tour bus. She is helpful in all way and we have lots of fun together.

photo with tour buddy

High Speed Rail Discount 台灣高鐵早鳥優惠
High Speed Railway obviously means it's much faster than the normal train. However, it is expensive as everybody knows. Ouh.. but wait! It's not expensive in Taiwan~ If you know there's an early bird promotion!

You get 30% discount on the fares if you purchase 15 days before the departure date. It could be cheaper than the normal train! You have the option to purchase it online, which is more convenient for oversea traveler and collect them in any 7-11 store with a fees of NT50. If you are a bit late to notice it, you still get 10% discount if you purchase 8 days ahead. Shouldn't waste such a benefit!

Easy Card 悠遊卡
Easy Card is something like Touch n' Go in Malaysia. It can be used as the pass for all buses and trains in Taipei. The only difference is you don't get discount with Touch n' Go Card when you take the train. However, you can, with Easy Card~ Every swipe is cheaper than you purchase the ticket at counter or pay directly when you taking a bus. You can buy it in any MRT station. NT500 for adult, with NT400 of credit and NT100 deposit. You will get refunded for your full balance and deposit with a charge of NT20 termination fee, as long as your card is still in good condition.

There are Day Passes for Easy Card too. After precise calculation on our itinerary :D, I found it not really worth it as we don't really take that much of public vehicles in a day. So that's depends on your itinerary, do not get cheated by the sounds-too-good stuff.

Taiwan Tourist Shuttle 台灣好行景點接駁公車
Taiwan Tourist Shuttle previously provides free shuttle service, but now I think they started to make charges. However, it might be still useful as it runs mostly on tourist attractions. Convenient for traveler as do not need to take public bus that run extra destination, save on time and energy to find the correct route. Schedule and fares can be check from their website.

Taiwan Tour Bus 台灣觀光巴士
Taiwan Tour Bus is different from the Tourist Shuttle as it focus on day tour package instead of just pick-and-drop passenger. If you bringing elderly or kids, probably is a good choice as you need not worry about the tentativeness of public transport.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Taiwan Homestay @ 台灣之旅 . 民宿篇

Back in April, went to Taiwan with V and V's sistersss, yes, sisterssss...:D
A bit late to write this, but better than none I guess.

10 days trip is a bit difficult to put it in words. So I might only focus on accommodation and transportation first, the 2 most basic things that travelers concern.
This is the first travel accommodation and transportation planning by myself for an oversea destination.

For Chinese version of our Taiwan travel experience please find V's blog - Life's Simple Pleasure
中文版台灣遊記請看V's 部落格 - Life's Simple Pleasure

Taipei City Hostel - Ximen Branch  西门橙舍
Our first stop is Taipei City Hostel - Ximen Branch (西门橙舍).
After come out from the Arrival Hall (Tower 2 for Air Asia from Malaysia) turn left and look for the bus counter signboard. Go straight and it's on your left.

We took the Free Go Airport Bus (飛狗巴士) which is "direct" bus to Ximen Taipei City Hostel. In fact, when the bus reach town area, it stops and we need to get down from the bus and change to another smaller bus then only take us to our hostel. It's not exactly "direct" though.
We just need to walk a bit and cross the road to reach the hostel. X is the hostel location.

漢口街二段 Hankou Street
------------------      -------------------
                  |漢 |   (Free Go)
                  |中 |
                  |街 |
   Hanzhong Street

When we reach the hostel, the owner is expecting us there already. We feel really welcome.
The place is pretty and clean, which is exactly the same as the photo in their website. The bed is comfortable and the shower and toilet are clean. It is equipped with everything you might needed, including washing machine, free wifi with a notebook on each floor for use.

The drawback is the shower and toilet are pretty small, but we don't really care much as only spend not more than 15 mins in the shower. Another thing is the rooms are located up to 4th floor but only staircase is available. But I guess that's the signature of Taiwan's buildings.
Spot the building
double decker 6 pax dorm
Hanzhong Street is a buzzy street where you can find various of food and shop till you drop. We only managed to shop in few shops but it was enough to spend lots of our money. Go straight on the Hanzhong Street you will reach Ximen MRT Station (Exit 6) in less than 5 mins, which I find really convenient and that's the main reason why I choose Taipei City Hostel.

Hanlin Homestay 翰林居民宿
Next day, we going to Hualian for Taroko (太魯閣) sightseeing. We leave our luggage at the hostel as they provide lockers for us, one of the nicest thing from them.

Hanlin Homestay is at Hualian Back Station (花莲火车站后站) Just across the big big road in front of the station. You will see a 7-11 at the corner shoplot. Hanlin is at the upstairs of the 7-11.
Hanlin is only basic for a place to stay. They have hot shower, soap and towel are provided. And most important and basic, water dispenser. You can't imagine how important it is for a backpacker. They do not have extra things like washing machine nor a kitchen, but I think it's pretty good enough for a short stay. We stay in the Japanese Style Room for 4 (日式四人套房301) + 1 extra bed at NT1700 on Sunday.

They are clean and comfortable. Do not worry about the mattress is too thin whereby it's on the floor. They are comfortable and make us a good sleep.

paiseh we already mess up the room

Taipei Backpackers 台北橙舍
Back to Taipei, we stay at another branch of Taipei City Hostel, named Taipei Backpackers (台北橙舍) located near Taipei Main Station  as we need to depart from the Main Station with High Speed Rail (高鐵) on the next day.

The hostel is not hard to find but the Exit of Taipei Main Station is really hard to find. We need to find the Exit Y9 of the Station in order to get to the hostel. You need to look for the Train Station Map to make sure you are on the right direction to Y9. The station is really big and too many branches and exits. Try your best to find signboard to Section Y or the Underground Street (地下街) in the station where lots of shops and stalls reside, they will lead you nearer to the Y9 exit.

Once you out from Exit Y9, you will see a 7-11 on ur right. Beside the 7-11 there's a really small alley, do not hesitate, that's the correct way to Taipei Backpackers. Turn into the alley, then turn left again, the hostel is 3 to 4 shops away on your left.

Taipei Backpackers is as good as it's branch. They have kitchen and cup noodles in their common hall. You just need to pay for the noodles by inserting the money to the container provider. All based on trust, which I really admire. Both of their branches are running keyless system, we only need to memorize the password and enter it on the key pad at main entrance and our room. This is really convenient where you have several travel partners and you do not need to wait for each other for return when only have 1 set of key.
as nice as ximen branch

Shin Shin Homestay 阿里山欣欣民宿
Shin Shin Homestay (阿里山欣欣民宿) is the final decision after surveying a lot on Alishan accommodation. As it is Sakura Season (櫻花季), most of the accommodation is extremely expensive. Although lack of confidence, but it's my final choice with it's location, condition and price.
Shin Shin located just beside the 7-11 (left hand side if you facing 7-11) once you step out from the bus from Jiayi. The train station is about 5 mins walking distance, it's very near just takes time because we need to deal with the staircase.
The boss is extremely friendly. He guided us with a map on the route that we should take for the trail and tell us what to do like where's the station and we need to buy the train ticket in the evening for tomorrow sunrise. Outside of the homestay, the boss is selling some local goodies and he keep wanna give us for free. So nice of him.
photo with the boss
gift from Shin Shin's boss
They have extra sweater at lobby that can borrow from the boss. Remember to try their hot jelly (烧鲜草), pretty special but not sure what exactly it called in English.

Fengchia Home 台中逢甲夜宿館 (逢甲星)
Stop by at Taizhong on our way back to Taipei. Stayed in Fengchia Home 逢甲夜宿館 (逢甲星) . It's pretty basic like Hanlin Homestay, I guess because normally people won't stay long in these places, basic is enough. They do not have water dispenser but they gave us few bottles of mineral water. It's 3-5 minutes walking distance to Fengchia night market (逢甲夜市). Be careful as need to cross a really big and busy street.

白海豚 4人房

We stay at Taipei City Hostel (西門橙舍) for the rest of our trip. The place really gives us comfort and really think for traveler on what they really need. This is my favorite stay among the homestay we had in Taiwan and I highly recommended it.

FAQ 常見問題
Q1:什麼是台鐵火車後站? 前站和後站有甚麼差別?
Q1:What is Back/Rear Station? What's the different between Front and Rear Train Station in Taiwan?
A1:Basically it means the front and back door of the train station. It allows travelers exit to different streets as normally the station is very big. You need to get the platform ticket from the ground staff if you need to walk from front station to rear station or vice verse. 

Q2:Do I need to pay deposit to book the accomodation/homestay?
A2:For the homestay/hostel that I mentioned above, we did not pay for any deposit except for Shin Shin Homestay at Alishan. Just pay full amount when you check-in. Shin Shin uses Paypal for oversea transaction. The cons is we need to pay service charge to Paypal.

Q3:Is breakfast provided at hostel/homestay?
A3:No, breakfast not included in above mentioned hostel and homestay.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Penang Hill Photowalk

Went to Photowalk on Penang Hill last week. We couldn't wake up to catch the 6.30am cable car for sunrise. We need to wake up at 5++am, it's too killing especially we already shoot the sunrise at the same place before already, so we 顺理成章 refuse to wake up. :) We catch the 8am cable car and get to the top.

The waiting hall is more spacious and the train is much much faster now. It tooks about 8 minutes up and 4 minutes down. Keep ur ticket well as it's a return ticket. The train has air-conditioned but it's still quite small for the crowd as only one train every half an hour. However, the air circulation is much better and comfortable.
waiting hall

Even we were late, we were so lucky to catch the "Jesus Light" once we step out from the cable car station. That's was so beautiful, V said, it's looks exactly like the CG (computer graphic) End of The World scene. I couldn't agree more.

There's a Hindu Temple and a mosque on the hill. I wonder why it doesn't have chinese temple.

 There are some walking trails surrounded. Walking and shooting along the trail, there are some colonial houses on the hill, mostly private. Just found out from this trip, nowadays, they have buggy car (like those golf cart) ready to fetch visitors to stroll around the trail.
just happened we met the midst

Stingy kind of me, rather walk. I like it as I can stop whenever I want, although sometimes feel really lazy. We walk for about 1-2 hours to and fro our starting point (the Hindu Temple), we didn't finish the trail, and I wonder how far it goes.
little stall on the trail
Nothing much to shoot if you ask me (I'm not favour in flower and plant shooting), but walk in flora & fauna feel really refreshing and relax for a weekend.

There's a food stall on Penang Hill too where you can have some local delicious before you take the trail. There are laksa, char koay teow, nasi lemak & etc.

However, for Assam Laksa, you should try the famous Ayer Itam Asam Laksa which is just nearby the foot of Penang Hill.
How to Go Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera) & Ayer Itam Assam Laksa
GPS Coordinate:
N 5 24.482 E 100 16.638

If you are coming from Georgetown, passing through State Mosque, keep following Ayer Itam signboard. You will reach a Roundabout, take the 2nd exit (12 o'clock direction) will lead you to Bukit Bendera. Taking 1st exit (9 o'clock direction), you will passing by Ayer Itam Police Station on right and reach Air Itam town (same direction to Kek Lok Si). You will know When you reach Air Itam town, because it's a very buzzy street. Take note on your right-hand side for a junction which also the route to Kek Lok Si. When you turn into right, you will see the Assam Laksa stall on left and a old food court on your right. (You will see Penang and Malaysia Flag at the stall :D) Beside the stall is Ayer Itam Wet Market.

Cable Car Price/Fares & Schedule:
I forgot to shoot Malaysian Price (with your MyKad/IC) as below:
Adult (below 55 year-old) : RM8
Children(3 to 12 year-old) , Student & Senior Citizen (below 55 year-old): RM4

Picture below is price for Non-Malaysian:

Buggy Car/Cart Fares:
RM30-RM60 for 25-40 minutes ride. The cart have 4-8 seats (depends on the size of the cart), I'm not sure how exactly they count the price though.