Taipei: Starbucks 101

Here’s a cheap way to hack Taipei 101: Instead of going up to the observatory on the 89th floor, book yourself a slot at Starbucks on the 35th floor.

There is a minimum spending of 200NTD per person (approx 1 drink + 1 snack) at Starbucks but that is still cheaper than the 600NTD observatory fee. You still get a pretty kickass view and best of all, you enjoy your favourite Starbucks drink! Each appointment is 1.5 hours long.

How to book

  1. Call Starbucks at +886 2 8101 0701 at least 24 hours before your preferred appointment. The staff speaks mostly Mandarin only
  2. Turn up at least 10 minutes before your appointment timing.

Do: Call from a Taiwan number. I tried using Skype to call but could not connect.

Where to wait

Enter via Xin Yi Road, Section.5, Door 7 for the lobby.

This is the lobby you’re looking for.

How to get that window seat

Each batch will head up in two separate lifts. The trick is to ensure that you are the last few to enter in the first batch of lift so that you are first to exit the elevator to grab the window counter seats.

  1. Arrive early enough so that you can count off the persons queueing. Time yourself such that you’re about the 16-18 person to be safe so that you’re at the last of the first batch.
  2. It is best to go in pairs – one person to grab the seat, the second person to queue up for drinks and snacks.

There is no way of avoiding the minimum charge. In the queue, a Starbucks staff will verify your appointment and hand you a Post-It note which will indicate the pax in your party. Hand this Post-It to the cashier when you purchase your food and drinks.

Pro Tip: Most drinks cost about 120NTD so the 80NTD snacks tend to go first. If you like a particular snack, try asking the staff if they have any left.

Attraction Starbucks Taipei 101
Address 10, Taiwan, Taipei City, Xinyi District, Section 5, Xinyi Rd, 7號
Opening hours 0730 – 2000 (Call +886 2 8101 8126 for an appointment)
How to get there Stop at Taipei 101 / World Trade Center metro station
Google Map Starbucks Taipei 101

 

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Taiwan: Star Hostel (Taipei Main Station)

My friends and I joke that instead of going for a holiday, we went for a staycation at Star Hostel (Taipei) because we were too comfy to leave the hostel!

Probably of the higher price point than its competitors, and rightfully so, Star Hostel is one of the more beautiful and comfortable hostels I’ve stayed in despite some minor inconveniences.

The hostel is in the heart of Taipei, being one street away from Taipei Railway, Metro and Bus Station. Nestled within a residential area, it means you’re never short of eating options and convenience stores.

Check in and reception

You’re greeted by this mini tree house when you first step out of the lift.

The check in process is simple enough, pass them your itinerary and passport and you’re on your way.

Red flag no. 1: While Star Hostel states that it is serviced by an elevator, there is still one flight of stairs within the hostel that you may need to climb.

It seems quite common for Taiwanese hostels to require indoor slippers within the facilities. Beep your hostel card at the security door to enter.

Shoe lockers: switch your outdoor shoes for indoor slippers

The 8-bed mixed dorm

We are used to communal living, hence, staying in hostels are the norm for us.

There were a couple of ground rules: No eating and hanging of clothes in the dorm which meant that the room smelled clean at all times.

The bunk was also comfortable, I fell asleep very quickly for most of the times. Each bunk has a locker secured by RFID card. If you have a small-mid sized luggage, it would probably fit into the locker.

Red flag no.2: Although something which I did not get was the design of the shelf which meant that you’d have to think of creative ways to prop your adapters because of the lack of allowance for top cables.

Shower facilities

Red flag no. 3: There are only two female and three mixed gender showers within the hostel to be shared between 5 dorms (approx 36 pax). However, I never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a shower.

Mixed gender showers

I like that there is a wet and dry area within the shower cubicle so that you can dress with ease.

Vanity area in ladies showers

The lounge

Probably our favourite spot in the hostel, we spent most of our nights in the lounge area doing our individual work.

Kitchen, cafe and breakfasts

This is where breakfasts is served in the morning.

Thursday

Friday

Friday

Sunday

Sunday

At night, this turns into a bar

At night, the serving area turns into a bar

Verdict

The Good

  1. The superb location near all modes of transport makes travel really accessible and simple. Moreover, at Taipei Main Railway, you can hop on an express bus to Taoyuan Airport.
  2. The facilities are comfortable and clean, it almost feels like a staycation to us
  3. The ground rules set the hostel up for a great stay. Our roomies were considerate and non-existent for most parts. If you’re looking for a quiet and comfortable stay, this is for you.
  4. A convenience store settles your midnight craves and there are multiple eateries within a few steps. Try the crispy milk donut across the road!

Pro Tip: If you’re having a late night flight, you can leave your luggage at the hostel while you have a wander in the day. When you pick up your stuff, you can also request for a shower and hang out in the lounge. before you leave.

The Not So Goods

  1. Initially, I was worried having to wait for a shower. However, during my 5-night stay, I didn’t have to wait more than 5-10 minutes for a shower.
  2. The design of the power point and shelve in bed really don’t make functional sense to me.
  3. I was a little miffed at their marketing copy which stated that the hostel was serviced by a lift – which is true technically but the hostel failed to share that there were still internal stairs.

During our stay, Star Hostel was at full capacity for most of the time. If you’re looking to stay here, book early!

Hotel Star Hostel
Address 4F, No 50 Huayin St., Datong Dist., Taipei, Taiwan
Opening hours Check in: 1500, Check out: 1100
How to get there Walk from Taipei Main Railway, Metro or Bus Station. From Taoyuan, take KuoKuang Bus 1819 to the last stop.
Google Map Star Hostel

 

Japan Wireless #3

This is my third time using Japan Wireless and I can’t emphasise how much more convenience and accessibility it has brought to my travels in Japan.

On my first two trips to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara, I had used Japan Wireless too.

In Tokyo, I experienced the same superb connection, no breaks nor glitches and great customer service. This trip, I used the Premium 4G wireless egg instead of the Business Wifi I had used on my previous Japan trip in 2015

All about the Premium Wifi

Some comparisons I noticed between the Premium and Business Wifi:

  • Way faster connection at 187Mbps
  • Ability to stream YouTube videos and download necessary apps for navigation
  • Loads apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Pokemon Go instantly
  • Longer battery life of about 10 hours connecting to 3 mobile devices
  • No difference in connections between Tokyo city and suburbs

Collection of Wifi rental

I picked up my Wifi router rental at Narita Airport’s Post Office with no issues. Prior to my arrival, Japan Wireless provided me with a tracking number. I was assured that the Wifi router had reached Narita before I even touched down.

This is what the package contained:

  1. Mobile Wifi
  2. Power bank
  3. Cable
  4. Labelled envelope for easy return
  5. A pouch to hold everything

Travelling with the Wifi

The mobile Wifi is also small and easy to bring around in an outside pocket of your backpack, just chuck the extra power bank in your bag. The mobile Wifi is smaller than an iPhone 6.

The Wifi password is pasted on the mobile Wifi itself and is super easy to set up. Just search for the network and key in the password and you’re gold.

Working perfectly in Yokohama

My friend brought it out for Pokemon hunting at Ueno Park and reaped Dratini returns.

And Ueno

At Ueno Park: A Dratini spawning spot


And.. guess what we managed to catch?

My take on Japan Wireless

There are various packages available at Japan Wireless.

  • Business Wifi: If you’re using the wifi just to stay connected, go for the Business Wifi.
  • Premium Wifi: If you’re Pokemon hunting, Snapchatter, YouTube junkie and hooked on Instagram Stories, Premium Wifi is the way to go.

As with most rentals, the price is cheaper with additional days. Japan Wireless is also perfect if you’re travelling to multiple countries, hence, services like Changi Recommends do not make sense.

Amongst the other rental options, Japan Wireless provides one of the best options in terms of value, ease of picking up/returns and customer service.

As much as Japan is a technology driven country, you’ll be surprised at the lack of wireless options. My friend, who speaks Japanese, did not have data the last time she travelled to Tokyo shared that having data on the go really makes commuting a breeze. You can look up the correct train on the complicated transport system or find the correct exit in a huge station like Shinjuku, Shimbashi or Shibuya.

Returning process

Returning the Pocket Wifi was easy too, just slot everything into the pouch, seal the envelope and drop it into a mailbox or post office.

Rental details

Rent here: http://japan-wireless.com/
Product details: http://japan-wireless.com/products.html

P.S. This post is done in collaboration with Japan Wireless.