EVA Air Economy Quick Review Taipei to Hong Kong

EVA Air Economy Quick Review Taipei to Hong Kong

Here’s a quick trip report on Eva Air Economy on a new A330 equipped with Wifi. If you’re interested in wifi prices then jump straight down to the gallery and view the photo.

Eva air is a 5 star Skytrax airline and was founded in 1989. It’s the alternative to the state owned carrier China Airlines. Here’s my quick review of the pros and cons of Eva Air economy class

  • Fast check in at online check in counters. Well staffed and no queue
  • Boarded at end of process so can’t speak for the priority boarding available but boarding was well managed into zones
  • New A330 with Wifi
  • Seat comfortable. Same seat on longhaul should be comfortable and not “bum numbing” Pitch was nothing special and OK for short haul.
  • Snack good for the short haul flight. Other airlines don’t even provide a tray. Metal cutlery on one sector and special Hello Kitty tray and cutlery on their special Hello Kitty themed plane! Organic and filtered water towel included on the tray
  • Entertainment system was good but limited English new releases. Did also have European new releases though.
  • Nice cockpit display on moving map
  • At seat USB
  • Gate to gate entertainment. Loaded early so no boring taxis and waits on the ground!
  • Use your mobile device at all times!

Overall a very decent experience in economy on this short flight, you can see why they deserve the 5 star Skytrax rating.

Taiwan’s High Speed Rail system.

Taiwan’s High Speed Rail system.

Taiwan is a country known for it’s commerce (check your house, at least one item there will be made in Taiwan!). But did you know it also has one of the best rail systems in the world? No? In that case, allow me to introduce you to Taiwan’s High Speed Rail (THSR) system.


The HSR runs from the north of Taiwan, starting at Nangang, right down into the south, terminating at Zuoying. All in all, the route has 12 stops, including Taipei (2nd stop), Taichung (7th stop), and Yunlin (9th stop). Not all trains stop at all stations, some have less stops from north to south, meaning you can get from Taipei to Zuoying (the stop you need for Kaosiung) in 2 hours. Great if you have limited time to explore.


There are several ticket types available, allowing single or multi-use depending on your needs. They can be purchased from machines in the stations along the route, from ticket offices, and online. The train enquiry feature on the website is a great tool for gauging prices and making advanced bookings. You can search based on destination, class of travel, seat preference, and time and date. It’s easy to use, and has English language options.


Honestly? I travelled from Taipei to Zuoying (and back), and it was easily one of the best rail journeys I’ve taken. The stations are clean and well staffed, so plenty of people to help if you have trouble finding your way. The trains are punctual, spacious, and smooth. There’s plenty of space for luggage, the seating is comfortable, even in standard, and the view is great. That’s one thing I most enjoy about rail journeys; the view. You can enjoy the changing face of Taiwan; the bustling metropolis of Taipei, the expanses of farmland, the little towns, and the many tunnels. Seeing a side of the country you couldn’t see if you flew or drove is an opportunity that’s hard to pass up.


If you have a trip to Taipei planned, and an extra day to spare, why not take the HSR south and see what else Taiwan has to offer.


Kaohsiung in a day.

Kaohsiung in a day.

Kaohsiung is a special municipality located in south-western Taiwan, facing the Taiwan Straight. Kaohsiung International airport is Taiwan’s second largest, and the Port of Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s largest, though it’s technically not part of the city! So, why would you want to visit? Thanks to Taiwan’s High Speed Rail system, you can get there from Taipei with ease and for relatively little money (around $50 per person one way). A week would be a waste, but if you find you have a free day, here’s how to see a good slice of Kaohsiung.

Start: Taipei Main Station.

Let’s just assume you’re starting your journey here. Purchase a ticket for the THSR to Zuoying (this website has a search feature and lists times and fares). I recommend catching a fairly early one, let’s say the 0751, which gets you into Zuoying at 0930. Just in time for breakfast!


Stop by the Movenpick Cafe in Zuoying’s lower level for a tasty breakfast and a well needed caffeine hit. Their rice stews in particular are really good, and filling! Great start for the long day ahead. Next, since you’re in the area, catch yourself a bus (Red Line number 35, NT12/50c) from right outside Zuoying train station to right outside the Lotus Pond. This is a huge man-made lake with pagodas and nods to the Buddhist faith. The first one you’ll come to is Lotus Pond’s most famous; the tiger and dragon pagodas. Enter through the mouth of one mighty beast (the tiger), meander through and marvel at the intricate beauty of the pagodas and their outlook, before exiting through the mouth of the other beast (dragon). From here, take a right, and be sure to stop at the many temples that surround the lake. All are most welcoming, and very typical of Taiwanese-Buddhist architecture. I recommend taking the time to walk around the whole lake, so you don’t miss any of its beauty. There are other pagodas, including one flanked by a magnificent dragon, and another with a giant deity sat serenely atop. It’s truly beautiful. I apologise that all my photos are in the dark, Lotus Pond was my first stop, and it was dark when I arrived! But you get the general idea, and there’s more to see during the day!


Phew! All that walking is bound to build up an appetite! Make your way back to where the bus dropped you off, go to the opposite side of the road and catch the same one back to Zuoying station. Here you’ll transfer to Kaohsiung’s metro system (MRT). Purchase a single journey ticket bound for Yangchengpu (the machines are super easy to use, and all have English options). This will involve a change at Formosa Boulevard. Once you arrive at Yangchengpu, you can either walk to the next destination (around 30-40 minutes, maybe less depending on your pace), or catch a bus. The destination? Ai He! Ai He, or Love River to quote it’s English name, is probably Kaohsiung’s most popular attraction. If you want to sit down and eat, there’s a few nice restaurants and cafes along the river to choose from, or you can grab food on the hop at 7/11. Head down to Love Pier and catch a river cruise! It’s inexpensive (NT300/$9.00), and lasts around half hour. There are two types of boat; a standard open sided vessel, or a gondola! Seriously, a gondola! You can have the Venetian experience without the price tag, perfect for a romantic trip. I, being less romantic, opted for the larger vessel, which comes complete with a tour guide and lots of interesting information about Ai He, which is great if you can speak Mandarin! Once you disembark, head back up to the main road, take a left, and just opposite you’ll see a Catholic Basilica. This is the Rose Basilica, and sits at quite a juxtaposition to its surroundings. It’s a pretty little building, worth more than a passing glance. Catholicism is a minority religion in majority Buddhist Taiwan, so don’t expect to see too many buildings like this. Head back to Yangchengpu, then back to Formosa Boulevard, and exit into the main part of the station to enjoy the Dome Of Light, a stunning art installation that’s a permanent fixture. You’ll also find one or two boutique market stalls here, great for tacky/unique gift buying.


Since you’re already at Formosa Boulevard, why not exit and check out Liuhe Night Market? Taiwan is notorious for its Night Markets, and Kaohsiung is no different. Liuhe is relatively small, but there are some interesting vendors and street foods to sample. An hour here is more than enough time to soak it in. Let’s hop back on the MRT and head to San Ming Vocational school (red line, stop R14) for our final destination; the slightly busier Rei Feng Night Market. This is a more authentic Night Market, not changed to suit tourist tastes. It sits in an enclosed grid type space, and is usually packed out. It’s also not open every night like most, closing on Mondays and Wednesdays. Here you can try all sorts of local delicacies (phallic cake, frogs eggs, offal), as well as some international favourites (the French man selling pastries was one of my favourites), as well as shop for jewellery, electronics, clothing, toys, and items of an “adult nature”. There’s also games to be played and people to accidentally bump into over and over again. Here I recommend a good 2 hours at least, to allow you to really see it all (if you can through the throngs). Once you’ve had your fill, cross out of the chaos and into a shopping street opposite, selling clothing and beauty, amongst other things. You can stroll this on your way back to the MRT station. From here head back to Zuoying, get another ticket for the THSR back to Taipei (last train leaves at 2210), and enjoy one last look at the Taiwanese countryside, albeit in the dark this time.

End: Taipei Main Station.

Done! You’ll even be back in time to catch the last MRT to wherever you’re staying! If you find yourself finished in Kaohsiung early, you can always head to Ximending for one of Taipei’s very best Night Markets.

Extra attractions.

If you have the time, these extras are worth a look.

85 Sky Tower. Kaohsiung’s most famous Sky Scraper, it serves mostly as a hotel but has an observation deck, affording a birds eye view of the metropolis.

Yangchengpu area. The area surrounding the station is good for killing time. Wander through the narrow market-ways and indulge in clothing, tea, jewellery, and more Jade items than you’ve ever seen in your life.

FE21. A large mall complex only a short walk from 85 Sky Tower, great for some retail therapy. It boasts a gym, kids play area, as well as a plethora of name-brand and Taiwan-specific shops.

Final tips.

Budget around $300, especially since the train tickets will be roughly $100 for a round trip. Everything else is relatively inexpensive, especially the MRT and buses, and nothing mentioned has an entrance fee. You could easily keep food spending under $100 if you’re happy to eat light at convenience stores and the street food at the Night Markets. Souvenir wise, I recommend something weird from one of the Night Markets (a tacky T-shirt perhaps, or a phallic cake), or even a cute gift from Zuoying Station’s MRT pop up shop (the postcards are nice and inexpensive, or you can go more extravagant with model trains or photo frames!). It’s best to carry cash as very few places take card. To cut down on costs using the MRT, you can purchase an iCash card from any convenience store for NT500, and top them up at any station. This is more convenient too, as you can tap in and out as you go! Note though that iCash isn’t valid on buses. Take exact change for buses. Most journeys mentioned in this article are NT12.

Taipei’s Metro system.

Taipei’s Metro system.

Getting round a new city can be an intimidating thought; lack of local knowledge, language barriers, price, it can all add stress to what should be exciting and fun. Not so in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city, which has one of the best underground train systems in the world. Why? Take a trip with me and discover why I love it so much.

Their slogan “A world-class metro, a wonderful Taipei” (source: Taipei Metro website) gives you a good insight into how seriously they take customer experience. Taipei is fiercely proud of its Metro system, and for good reason. It’s clean, safe, easy to navigate, and has stops at all the right places. Let’s look at it closer.


I don’t think I’ve ever travelled on a subway system as clean as this one. Trains are gleaming inside and out, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any litter at any station, and users are very good about cleaning up after themselves. The fact that eating and drinking is banned on the trains probably helps. Don’t get caught either, as they impose heavy fines (you can carry food and drinks, just don’t consume it on the train).


Coming from a transport background (mainline trains in the UK), safety is one thing I always look for when using public transport. Happily, this is a major concern for Taipei, with barriers at every station, loud (but pleasant!) warning alarms prior to a trains arrival, and staff at busy stations to help the less able bodied (I’ve watched staff assist blind travellers, they are professional and caring), not once did I fear for my safety. Stations are well lit too, and most of the major stations appear to have staff of some capacity during all times of the day, another plus for solo travellers (especially women).

Easy to navigate.

All signs are in Chinese (Mandarin) and English, so it’s not overwhelming if you can’t read kanji. Announcements are in Chinese, English, and Japanese both at stations and on trains, and electronic displays on the trains in all three of these languages also help you to see where your stop is in plenty of time, so boarding and alighting is a lot less stressful! Prior to boarding, of course you must pay for your journey! Several ways you can do this, depending on how much you will be using the Metro. Let me break it down for you.

  • Single journeys. These can be purchased from either the machines or the manned kiosks near the gates. It’s pretty simple, just look at the metro map near the machines for your stop (in Chinese and English), you’ll see a number on it (for example, if you’re at Taipei Main Station looking to travel to Ximen, you’ll see a 20 on Ximen). This is the fare in Taiwan dollar for that journey. Click on your language (Chinese is automatic, but you can switch to English or Japanese too), select single journey, select the desired fare (20, 25, 30, etc.), insert cash only (coins or notes), and voilà! It’ll issue you with a little plastic disc, like a token, that you can use to tap in at your origin station. At your destination, simply tap then pop it into the slot where it will be eaten up by the gates, allowing you to exit. Just don’t lose it!
  • IC cards. Hit up the closest convenience store (usually a 7/11), to purchase an IC card for 100 Taiwan dollar. These can be topped up with as much as you like at all stations. The machines have an option for top up, just click it, click how much you want to top up (100 for example), tap your card on the plate (it’s pretty obvious, it has a sticker on it showing an IC card) and you’re good to go! 100 Taiwan dollar will get you a lot of journeys, and the gates will show you how much you have on the card as you enter and exit, so you won’t be caught short (don’t worry if you are, there are fare adjustment machines if you need them). Simply tap in and out at every origin and destination! (you can also top up at kiosks if you have issues with the machines).
  • Day passes. These are great for tourists. They are a fixed price and allow unlimited travel on the system for 24 hours. They can only be purchased at the kiosks.


Here’s a map to help you out:

As you can see, this one has both Chinese and English translations. It’s an extensive system, with stops at major attractions such as Taipei 101 (an architectural feat that towers over the city), Shilin (one of Taipei’s biggest night markets), and the Exhibition Centre. Their website has a route map and timetable, as well as links to an app to help you navigate the Metro like a pro: find it here. As a general rule, the closer the station is to Taipei Main Station, the cheaper the fare. There are five lines: Wenhu (brown), Tamsui-Xinyi (red), Songshan-Xindian (green), Zonghe-Xinlu (yellow), and Bannan (blue). If there’s a change to be made, signs will point you in the right direction at stations, as well as announcements and signs on trains. It’s pretty simple. As long as you know the stop you need, and the line it’s on, you’ll have no trouble getting your bearings.

Other things to love.

It’s almost an attraction in itself. There’s a mascot called Majimeow, an adorable cat character poised to greet you and ensure you have a pleasant trip, souvenir shops at major stations allowing you to buy Majimeow and train-themed goods, photo booths so you can commemorate your journey (no joke, I have one from the Taipei 101 stop!), and services such as lockers, free wifi, toilets, and care for disabled users. Want to remember each station you visit? Get yourself a notebook and collect station stamps! These can be found next to kiosks, a great way to see where you’ve been.

Enjoying Taipei couldn’t be easier.

Night markets of Taipei

Night markets of Taipei

Ximen night marketTaiwan. Even if you don’t know much about the country, you’ve almost certainly heard of it, and I’d be willing to bet my breakfast that you own at least one product made in Taiwan. Taiwan’s capital city is Taipei, and to talk about it in one post would not do it justice, so let’s focus on one of its most famous aspects; the night markets.

Taipei is awash with night markets, the biggest being Shilin and Nigxia, which are of course hugely popular with visitors, and are often packed out. I visited Shilin, an easy walk from Jiantan subway station (there’s a stop at Shilin, but it’s further to walk. Jiantan brings you right into the heart). Shilin has plenty to offer; food, shops, and 24 hour reflexology parlours (more on these a little later), it’s a haze of neon and pushy vendors. Despite the hustle and bustle, it actually feels pretty safe, though I highly recommend keeping an eye on valuables as it would be very easy for a pickpocket to take advantage. If you’re looking for fine dining and peace, this is not the place for you. However, if you want something more substantial than street food, there are cafes dotted around serving traditional Taiwanese food and a seat to enjoy it on. Coffee Story has a great range of comfort food, including a sizeable hotpot (a soup-like dish consisting of a pork broth, vegetables, meat, and seafood) that’s served on its own stove. Make sure long hair is tied back! Asian hotpot

Another night market I visited, and by far my favourite, was Ximending. Another neon dream, except interspersed with eateries, up-market shops, and with massage and reflexology parlours on virtually every corner, you can’t turn anywhere without something to do! Whilst we’re on the subject, let’s talk about massage and reflexology. Most places are 24 hours, or open specifically at night to coincide with the markets, and offer a range of services. The most popular is a foot massage, or reflexology. It’s said in Chinese culture to help with a number of ailments, and align things in your psyche that may be out of whack. Whilst I’m skeptical of all this, it did sound like a nice treat for my achy feet! It’s really quite the experience. You pay for a set amount of time, usually 20 to 60 minutes, then sit back, relax (ha!), and let the masseur do her thing. They set a little timer and show you it, so you know how long you have. After a relaxing soak in hot water, it’s time for the massage. No exaggeration, it felt like torture! Thumbs felt like steel balls, and at one point she actually started punching my calves! It was the longest 40 minutes of my life, but it was also an interesting experience. For 500NT (about US $15.00) it wasn’t a bad price, and some of the soreness did go. I’d recommend it if you’re in good health, though maybe not suitable for pregnant ladies, diabetics, and people with heart conditions. Reflexology services

Moving on from the reflexology and into the rest of Ximending, there’s food vendors aplenty. The street food is varied and incredible, from fried quail eggs on a stick to flame grilled steak (literally, they use what looks like a mini flame thrower!), you will be spoilt for choice. My favourite was the hot dogs, which you could have spicy or non, and came cocooned in a tasty rice bun. The flavour was amazing, so much packed into something so small. Thirsty? Wash it down with a famous tapioca bubble drink or a colourful fruit juice, the latter of which comes in a handy re-useable flask. Keep an eye out for some of the more interesting snacks too, particularly the pineapple cake, which comes in a phallic shape… Pineapple cake

Shops sell pretty much anything you could wish for, as well as things you don’t. Clothes and accessories are popular wares, and most are ridiculously cheap in comparison to Western prices. Some of it probably won’t last you all that long, but some is of surprisingly good quality. Other things you’ll find are souvenirs, pet supplies, jewellery, shoes, and toys. There are also “adult” shops; you can probably imagine the type of things they have on offer.

Aside from shops, food, and massages, another thing you can see hidden within Ximending’s folds is a Buddhist temple. Wafts of incense will entice you in, pulling you briefly from the chaos. It’s not open all night, but if you arrive in the early evening, you should still get the chance to walk round. The architecture is atypical of Chinese Buddhist temples; it’s ornate and delicate. Statues stand watch from all sides, there’s a small koi pond filled with foliage and presided over by an elephant statue, and it’s usually vibrant with worshippers. Everyone is welcome to visit, just be respectful of people that are praying.Ximen Temple

Night markets are very easy to get to. The best way to get round is to use Taiwan’s excellent Metro system. Here’s the most convenient stops for 5 of the best markets:

Shilin: Jiantan.

Ximending: Ximen.

Raohe (Taipei’s oldest night market): Songshan.

Ningxia: Zhongshan or Shuangling (it’s about equal distance from both).

Huaxi (once Taipei’s longest market): Longshan Temple.