Part 2 of our low-cost adventure in Taipei.
Our Japanese-language reporter Go Hatori has a big love for travel, but not a big budget for his trips. With just 50,000 yen (US$370) to spend , Go challenged himself to find round-trip airfare from Japan to Taipei, get a hotel for a night, and still have enough money left to enjoy awesome sights and amazing food. Day 1 went great, with a visit to the rumored inspiration for Spirited Away and the best fried rice in Taipei, but will Go’s luck/budget run out on Day 2? Read on to find out!
Go’s room at the Morwing Hotel Ocean came with free breakfast. To be more specific, it came with a NT$60 (US$2) voucher to a nearby restaurant, so Go headed there to start his day. Interestingly, the place looked like a hamburger restaurant.
A glance at the menu revealed that Go could get the most popular sandwich for less than NT$60, so he ordered that.
It was sweet and spicy pork sandwiched with lettuce between toasted bread. It was reasonably tasty, and just the right amount of food for breakfast.
Then, Go took a walk around the neighborhood before returning to his hotel.
He knew that once he checked out of his hotel, he wouldn’t be going back. His flight was scheduled to leave that night, so he would be carrying around his backpack all day long. After mentally preparing himself for that reality, he checked out early and headed out.
Since he had only about NT$80 left on his Easy Card, he decided to add another $100 to it. He suspected he might have to charge it once more before heading home, but he left it at that for now. After all, once you charge money to the card, you can’t get it back.
Then, Go hopped on a train, headed for…
More food! This time he decided to eat a dish fellow reporter P.K. Sanjun highly recommended: lu rou fan, or braised pork rice bowl. He headed for one of the two biggest lu rou fan restaurants in Tai Pei, called Jin Da Lu Rou Fan.
Go ordered the set that P.K. recommended, which costs NT$85.
It was so good, Go thought he might melt into a puddle of goo!
With one bite, our foodie reporter knew it would have to go into the article. The pork had absorbed every molecule of flavor. It was a whole other level of lu rou fan, far surpassing anything he’d eaten before. The meat just melted in his mouth the moment he bit into it. It was super delicious.
Go’s next goal was something a little different: to get his foot corns removed. He’d done some research ahead of time and found a place that was reasonably cheap with good reviews, so he returned to Taipei Station via the MRT and marched over.
The cost of this procedure was NT$500. After a short wait, Go was greeted by a man who had every appearance of being a pro. He surveyed Go’s calloused feet with an extremely serious expression, then started the process by cutting Go’s toenails with some kind of sharp device that looked almost like a knife.
Then it was time for corn removal!
Go actually found it kind of entertaining to watch such a pro up close.
Go couldn’t help but stare at the man’s look of joy as he worked. Meanwhile…
The man removed a ton of calloused skin from his feet! They were baby smooth and soft after.
On his freshly scraped feet, Go’s next destination was Machi Machi, a boba cafe.
It was such a stylish place, and busy, too, with a steady stream of customers. Go ordered a boba for NT$95…
Which came with a dango-style dumpling skewer on top!
Unsure of how to eat this, Go asked the staff, who told him, “First you dunk the dumplings into the drink, and when they’re soaked, you eat them. Once you’ve finished them, you put the lid on and enjoy the drink.”
The dumplings were delightfully springy, and the drink actually had a cheesy flavor. When Go looked it up later, he learned that Machi Machi is famous for their rave-reviewed “cheese tea of the gods”. No wonder!
By then, it was 2 p.m., and just about time for another meal. Go made an effort to go to restaurants at slightly off times so that he could avoid the lines for the most popular places he was visiting.
This time, Go stopped at a restaurant that P.K. Sanjun had recommended to him over and over again called A Cheng A Rou, which is a restaurant serving goose. Go ordered a set that contained meat, soup, and rice. The order sheet was all in Chinese, so Go didn’t understand much of it, but he had a photo from P.K. to reference, and when he showed it to the staff at the restaurant, they filled the order out for him.
In no time, the food had arrived!
This was it!! Go had been wanting to try this for years. Ever since hearing P.K. rave about it, he’d known in his heart that one day he would try it. The price, by the way, was NT$315 (or about 1,396 yen).
It was absolutely delicious!
Just as delicious as he’d expected. Go was surprised that the goose meat was served cold, and that the soup contained something that seemed like heart meat, but it was all really delicious. And the rice, drizzled with goose fat, was ridiculously good.
Time was marching on, so Go didn’t waste a moment figuring out what to do next. The next item on his list was to buy souvenirs, and he’d already decided that he was going to give everyone Taiwanese soap.
His shop of choice: the supermarket! There were so many different kinds of soaps that Go had never seen before. They had some that were also sold in Singapore and Malaysia, but Go wanted ones exclusive to Taiwan, and he picked up 18 bars for NT$447.
As he was skipping down the sidewalk thinking how excited all of his coworkers and friends were going to be, he found another supermarket. “Might as well check this one’s soaps too…” he decided and headed in.
There was more soap he’d never seen before! And they came in nice boxes! He absolutely had to buy some, so he bought two different kinds that came in boxes of six for a total of NT$204.
Altogether Go bought 30 soaps. He was super excited about it, but most of all he was excited about the boxed soap, which, judging by the characters used on the packaging, had a “brown sugar” scent to it. He couldn’t wait to try it out and see what it smelled like.
With thirty bars of soap stuffed inside, Go’s backpack was now feeling much heavier than before. It was also much colder in Taiwan than Go had expected.
He was thinking he’d get some hot pot or something to warm up with, but what caught his eye just outside of the supermarket was…
A super famous shaved ice place that’s even mentioned in guidebooks! Of course, Go had to go, and of course, he had to order their famous “Brown Sugar Shaved Ice” (NT$90). He left the toppings up to the chef.
It was huge!! The photo doesn’t even do justice to the sheer volume of this dish. The bowl was about the size of a ramen bowl, and it was densely packed with shaved ice. It was probably enough for two or three people, but Go had no choice but to eat it by himself.
A little bit of digging revealed many different ingredients hidden inside, which made it super delicious. Sadly, it did not help warm up Go’s freezing body. It kind of made it worse, actually.
He had to do something about how cold he was, so he tried walking around to warm himself up until he found a massage place that was “so big you don’t need a reservation to get in,” according to reviews
The prices were a little more expensive than the corn removal, but Go was chilled to the bone by that point, so he didn’t care. He just needed to be somewhere warm for a bit.
He requested a full-body shiatsu massage, and just as the review said, he was able to go right in. And unexpectedly, the massage indeed up being just what he needed. The masseuse used not only their fingers but also their elbows (or something of a similar size?), and it felt so, so good.
They also placed a steamed towel over him frequently, which helped defrost him substantially. In fact, he was sweating by the time he was finished. The staff at the massage parlor also understood Japanese, and Go can’t recommend it enough. The massage cost NT$1,100 (about 4,874 yen).
Night had fallen by the time he finished at the massage parlor. He’d already had three meals and two sweets and his stomach was quite full, but he still had a few hours left until his flight, so he figured he’d better eat something first.
He chose to stop by another night market. This one was called the Raohe Night Market, and was close to Songshan Station on the MRT. There were street stalls all over the place, but Go knew what he wanted to eat out of all the food on offer…
Fuzhou Black Pepper Buns!
The food stall by the same name is actually Michelin-recommended, and thus had a little bit of a line, but it moved fast, and in just five minutes, go had a black pepper bun in hand (it cost NT$60).
It was just as delicious as expected! As you would guess from the name, it’s very peppery, but the crisply baked bun had an exquisite balance with the meaty filling. It was definitely worth trying!
Now all that was left for Go to do was return to the airport. He had only NT$50 left on his Easy Card, so he added another $100, then boarded the same Airport MRT train he rode into Taipei to head back. And when he arrived at the airport and checked the balance on his Easy Card…
Just NT$17 (about 75 yen) left! Nice.
In the end, Go ended up charging his Easy Card with a total of NT$600, with the initial $400 and two charges each of $100. If you subtract the remaining $17, that means his transport around Taipei cost him a total of $583 (about 2,573 yen [US$19.07]). For all of the traveling he did, that’s not too bad.
In fact, all in all, Go’s weekend trip to Taiwan was extremely reasonable. Let’s see the breakdown of the total:
Budget airfare from Narita to Taiwan – 25,117 yen
Hotel room – 4,222 yen
Transportation costs in Taiwan – NT$700 (3,102 yen)
Taiwan Railway Bento – NT$80 (354 yen)
Taro Balls Red Bean Tofu Pudding – NT$60 (266 yen)
Peanut Ice Cream Roll – NT$50 (222 yen)
Double Champion Shrimp Fried Rice – NT$100 (443 yen)
Wonton Soup – NT$50 (222 yen)
Soup dumplings – NT$100 (443 yen)
Braised Pork Rice Bowl Set – NT$85 (377 yen)
Foot Corn Removal – NT$500 (2,215 yen)
Bubble tea with Mochi – NT$95 (421 yen)
Goose Cuisine Set – NT$315 (1,396 yen)
18 Souvenir Soaps – NT$315 (1,981 yen)
12 more Souvenir Soaps – NT$204 (904 yen)
Brown Sugar Shaved Ice – NT$90 (399 yen)
Full-body Massage – NT$1,100 (4,874 yen)
Michelin Recommended Black Pepper Bun – NT$60 (266 yen)
Total: 47,224 yen
Remaining: 2,776 yen
As it turns out, you can visit Taiwan for far less than 50,000 yen! Go was able to eat a ton of food, visit Jiufen, and even have some luxuries like the massage and still have money left over. If you plan your trip carefully, you can do it too!
Where should Go go next? Sadly it looks like flight prices are rising across the board, so it might take a little more watching and waiting before his next 50,000-yen travel challenge, but you can be sure he’ll be on the hunt for opportunities. And maybe when he gets to his destination, he’ll follow SoraNews24 tradition and ask for recommendations from a local taxi driver!