Go’s latest experiment to see how far he can stretch 50,000 yen on a vacation.

For many people, the cost of traveling can be prohibitively expensive, but if you know how to work the system, you can make traveling on a budget easy, fun, and even luxurious! Our Japanese-language reporter Go Hatori is experimenting with budget travel by visiting different places with a strict budget of just 50,000 yen (which is currently about US$370), which includes the flight, hotels, food, entertainment, and travel costs.

He already managed to make 50,000 yen stretch on a trip to Thailand, which ended up being a great time, so for the next time, he decided to give Taiwan a chance. Would 50,000 yen be enough for a one-night, two-day trip to Taiwan? Let’s find out!

Let’s start with the flight. Like last time, Go used Expedia to search for his flight, and he made his purchase at the beginning of December. The flight he booked was through Scoot, a low-cost carrier, and departed from Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Roundtrip, the flight cost a total of 25,117 yen, including all the fees. That was really cheap!

Next, Go used Expedia again to search for a hotel. The options for budget accommodation in central Taipei were limited to dormitories and single rooms with shared bathrooms, but having a private toilet and shower was something Go couldn’t do without, so he had to make some compromises.

In the end, he found a single room with a toilet and shower attached, plus a free breakfast coupon, just outside of the city center of Taipei. The price was just 4,222 yen for the night, so he immediately booked it.

The total for the flight and hotel was 29,339 yen, leaving him 20,661 yen to play with during his two days, which was plenty. He began to plan how he was going to use it right away.

Go did some research before his departure and learned that the rates for exchanging money don’t vary much between the airport in Taipei and the city, so he decided to convert the full 20,000 yen at Taoyuan Airport before heading out to town.

After that, he prepared to board the Airport MRT for Taipei Station, but first, he had to buy a ticket. He wavered for a bit about whether to buy a ticket or an Easy Card, which seemed like Taiwan’s version of a Suica card, which you can load in advance and use in lieu of a paper ticket. The Easy Card seemed much more convenient, so Go decided to use that, though the idea of navigating the machine in Mandarin made him somewhat anxious.

To his surprise (and great relief), the ticket machines had a Japanese-language option (and an English one too).

He had no problem buying an Easy Card, which he got for 500 New Taiwan dollars, including the cost of the card (NT$100) and $400 charged on the card. Like Suica cards, you can check the balance and recharge the card at the stations’ machines, so if the $400 didn’t end up being enough later, Go could easily add more.

He then hopped on the Airport MRT and headed for Taipei Station. The fare was about NT$150. Since Go planned to take the same train back to the airport the next day, he needed to make sure he had that much left on his Easy Card at the end of his trip.

There was a reason Go set Taipei Station as his destination: he had to try the Taiwan Railway Bento. He’d had a recreation of it once in Japan and remembered it being insanely delicious, so he had to taste the real thing in its place of origin.

Go ordered the Pork Rib Bento, which sold for NT$80 (about 354 yen or US$2.62).

It was piping hot! For a moment Go wondered where he could eat it, until, after wandering around, he found people eating their lunches in seats all over the station. Go decided to join them.

So how was it?

“Soooo gooooood!!!”

The meat had soaked up the sweet and spicy sauce, and the seasoned egg, what looked like radish leaves, and the fish cakes were all super delicious. This was already enough to make Go feel satisfied about coming to Taiwan!

With a full belly, Go decided to visit one of the places rumored to be a model for the setting in the Ghibli film Spirited Away. It’s a famous sightseeing spot called Jiufen.

After communicating with a station attendant through gestures, Go gathered that if he took a train to Ruifang, he could switch to a bus heading for Jiufen. The attendant was kind enough to tell Go the platform number and arrival time, so he knew exactly where and when to go.

About 30 minutes later, the train arrived!

50 minutes later, he arrived at Ruifang Station.

The bus stop for Jiufen was a little ways down the road, but Go managed to find it and board without difficulty.

In no time at all, he made it to Jiufen!

The place immediately had a great atmosphere.

The first thing Go did was stop by Jiufen Douhua, a street stall selling a local dish called douhua, or tofu pudding. Go ordered a version that comes with taro balls and red beans for NT$60.

And here it is!

Go dug inside the middle of the dish and pulled out something bright yellow along with some tofu pudding. Could this be a taro ball?

“Ohhh…haochi (“delicious”)!”

Unable to resist temptation, Go also went to the stall right next door, which sells Peanut Ice Cream Rolls for NT$50 (about 222 yen).

It was a unique dessert that had cilantro in it, so Go had to wonder what it would taste like.

He took a bite…

It was definitely different…but definitely good too!

After that, Go decided to stroll around Jiufen.

It was a rainy and freezing cold winter day, but…

Once they turned on the lanterns around 5 p.m., the place was gorgeous!

No wonder it’s said to be an inspiration for Spirited Away!

It did have a very romantic feel to it, so Go did feel somewhat lonely being there by himself. When he’d had his fill of all the romance, he got back on the bus to return to Ruifang, where he took a train to Taipei Station, transferred to the MRT, and headed for Taiwan’s biggest night market, the Shilin Night Market.

Go’s goal was, of course, food. He headed for the first basement level, where the Food Court was located, with a specific restaurant in mind.

This restaurant had a Mandarin name that Go couldn’t read, but it was apparently famous for serving shrimp fried rice that won the Taipei Fried Rice Competition. As someone who loves fried rice, Go naturally had to try it.

“There it is!”

It was called Double Champion Shrimp Fried Rice. That was a pretty impressive name, but it made it easy to understand what to order. But does “double champion” mean that it won twice?

While Go was still wondering about that, his food, which had arrived in no time at all, was placed in front of him.

The shrimp were huge!

And as for the flavor…

“Ri.di.cu.lous.ly. de.li.cious!!!!”

Out of all the things Go had eaten and would eat on his trip to Taiwan, this was by far the most delicious. The fact that you can eat such delicious shrimp fried rice for just NT$100 (or 443 yen)…Taiwan, you’re incredible!

Go also ordered wonton soup (NT$50) and soup dumplings (NT$100), which were also supremely tasty. Go had to assume that anything the restaurant served was good, though he didn’t have room to try any more than these three.

Stuffed to the brim and supremely satisfied, Go headed off to finish off his first day at his hotel. He took the BL line from Taipei Station to Fuzhong Station, which was just six stops away.

From there, Go walked steadily for 10 minutes until finally…

He arrived at his hotel, the Morwing Hotel Ocean. Upon entering the hotel to check in, the first thing he saw was…

A giant manta ray floating up by the lobby’s ceiling! True to its name, the entire Morwing Hotel Ocean is ocean-themed.

Just in front of the elevators on the third floor was a surfboard.

Go passed by walls decorated with lifesavers to room 306, where he’d be staying the night.

What a room! It was very loudly decorated in colorful beach themes, but it was super clean, especially the bathroom…

And it had plenty of amenities

Including two free bottles of water!! Go probably wouldn’t have to buy water tomorrow with those.

It also had a TV…

Which had Japanese as an option for the menu, and all the movies were free!!

With this, Go felt perfectly comfortable and ready for rest. As he drifted off to sleep, thoughts of all the things he still wanted to see, do, and eat were dancing through his head, but would he be able to do them while still sticking to his 50,000-yen budget for the entire trip?

Since Go needs his rest, we’ll say goodnight to him here, but we’ll be back soon with Day 2 of his budget travel adventure in Taiwan.

Photos © SoraNews24
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