You guys know I am documenting my day-by-day account of my first solo travelling experience, right? Before I wrap up my 8-day Taipei Travelogue, let’s spice up the Taiwan series with this post that answers two simple, yet important questions:
“What to buy in Taiwan?”
“What NOT to buy in Taiwan?”
Read on for tips on how to spend your hard-earned money wisely.
Things to Buy in Taiwan?
1. Sheet Masks
Sheet Mask is definitely a must-buy for all tourists visiting Taiwan. In drug stores such as Watsons, Cosmed and Sa Sa, you would see generous and prominent shelf space dedicated to masks. Most of the sheet masks sold in Taiwan were at least half the price as compared to those retailed in Singapore.
My Beauty Diary (MBD) was selling for two boxes at NT$300 (about $13.50) or $7 per box, when it was selling at $14.50 per box in Singapore. Dr Morito was also selling at the same price point as MBD – $7 in Taiwan, but $15 in Singapore.
Naruko sheet masks were retailed at slightly higher price, around NT$300 to NT$400 for two boxes, making each box about $9. Don’t let your jaw drop when I reveal the retail price of Naruko in Singapore. It’s $29.90 per box in Singapore – that’s three times the price! So if you want to get the best value, buy Naruko though I can’t vouch for its effectiveness because I didn’t buy it (only knew the substantial price difference when I was back in Singapore).
Which sheet masks did I buy? Contrary to popular buying trend, I didn’t buy My Beauty Diary (MBD). I have never really been a fan of MBD, because the blue-cover Hyaluronic acid sheet masks broke me out.
My selection criteria in buying a sheet mask in Taiwan was simple. I wanted something that’s not sold in Singapore. A Cosmed sales assistant told me that MBD was mainly popular with Chinese tourists because it was priced steeply in overseas markets.
“Taiwanese prefer brands like Kissui, not MBD”, said the sales assistant. Trusting her advice, I bought three boxes of Kissui, even though it was much pricier, at NT379 per box. Each box contains only five masks while the brands above has 8 to 10 masks. On a per sheet-mask basis, it’s $3.40 for Kissui vs $0.70 for MBD or Dr. Morito.
Kissui was not the most expensive sheet masks I’ve purchased in Taipei. L’Herboflore set me back by NT1000 for a total of only nine sheet masks (assorted). Their masks ranged from NT50 to NT250 per mask.
What? NT250 per mask? L’Herboflore Hyaluronic Acid Moisture Energy Biocellulose Mask better be exceptional! It’s so expensive that I’ve yet to try it….will let you guys know soon on its effectiveness. Stay tuned!
- Update: I’ve tried it! Go get it!!! (L’Herboflore Hyaluronic Acid Biocellulose Mask provides emergency hydration boost)
2. Beauty Products
Two beauty brands I didn’t expect to see outside of Japan were available in Taipei.
Integrate, a product line from Shiseido was sold here. Get the Integrate Real Glamour Volume Mascara if you want luscious and smudge-proof lashes. I love it to bits even after finishing the second tube!
Another highly recommended product is Integrate Mineral Powder Foundation which has received a high score rating.
And don’t forget to load up on made-in-japan sunscreens. I bought two bottles of Suncut Protect Gel Sunscreen in Taipei (after finishing two bottles bought from Japan). Right now, I’m wondering why I didn’t buy more. Mom also complaining. Sigh!
- Must-read: Japan-must-buy: Suncut UV Protect Gel
If you are struggling with dry and chemically damaged hair, grab Opal One Minute Hair Treatment. It will smoothen your hair within one minute as its name suggests.
Holy Grail Hair Treatment: Opal One Minute Hair Treatment rescued me from damaged and entangled hair
Last but not least, do bring home a few tubes of Perfect Whip Foaming Cleanser. I bought some at NT99 per tube (S$4.30) which is way way cheaper than those retailing in Singapore.
3. Local Tea
If you are a tea lover, get yourself some affordable tea pressies from local supermarkets or convenience stores. I bought Oolong tea and Oriental Beauty tea at a very reasonable price (from NT55 to NT90 per box).
Don’t be misled into thinking these economically-priced paper-box tea packs ain’t good. Till now, i’m still enjoying every sachet of these tea and regretted not getting more. Yes, they may not be presentable as gifts (as compared to premium gourmet tea), but a gift to yourself need not be that presentable, right?
By the way, if you know where the hypermarts or decent-sized supermarkets in Taipei are located, can you share with me? I’ve had difficulty locating a good-sized supermarket in Taipei and had to make-do with a tiny supermarket located on basement of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Shopping Mall (新光三越), near Taipei City Hall MRT Station.
4. Taiwan Confectionery
Bought some freshly-made Taiwan Confectionery from basement of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Shopping Mall (新光三越). Such pastries were in ballpark figure of around NT400 per box. Ain’t cheap!
The snack I bought from Yu Jan Shin, a confectionery brand from Tai Chung, received raved reviews from family and friends. You can try them before buying!
You MUST try Ah Chung Mee Sua at Ximending. Let me repeat: It’s a MUST!
But be warned, we are talking about pig innards here or pork intestines to be specific. Heh. See location.
In Raohe night market, try Japanese Omelette, grilled Escargots and Abalone, Black Pepper Bun, Quail Egg Prawn Ball, Shaved Ice desert, Bitter Gourd Honey Juice etc.
Read the following posts to see more food photos and detailed reviews.
In Miaokou night market, try assorted fried seafood.
Don’t forget to buy unique local deserts and drinks from their 24/7 convenience stores. Check out Mung Bean (green been) desert, Papaya milk and Black sesame drink. A little bit sweet though….don’t say I didn’t warn you? Oh, how about a cold Taiwan Honey Beer for a relaxing night, heh. =)
Get fashion jewelries such as ear rings, bracelets and hair bands from Ximending. They are cheap, pretty and stylish.
7. Water-Absorbent Ceramic Coaster
If you visit the tourist attractions in Taiwan, you would likely see Ceramic Coasters as one of the souvenirs to purchase.
These coasters miraculously absorb condensations when you place cold beverages on them. Amazing, no? To avoid getting fake products, read the labels carefully to ensure the ceramic have been heated under high temperature and function as a water-absorbent coaster. Such coasters typically come individually wrapped in brown hard paper.
You will probably see them in most tourist attractions. Just make sure they are made in Taiwan. I got mine long time ago from Fort San Domingo, and repurchased them again in Oct 2016 from a random store in Shifen Old Street for NT100. The former was of better quality.
What Not to Buy?
1. Apparels from Wufenpu
I’d wanted to recommend you getting some apparels in Wufenpu, Taiwan because they were cheap (read my account here), like just NT100 per piece. Luckily, I am so slow that I only churned out this post today. Most of the apparels bought in Wufenpu were unwearable – shrunk, holes, disintegrate, faulty print etc.
Perhaps a disclaimer is warranted. 80% of the clothes bought from sales rack placed outside the stores were defective. So perhaps, those not on sales may be better in quality? Anyone here knows? Can share your experience?
2. International Brands (e.g. Clothes, Cosmetics)
If you are a Singaporean, why not get these international brands in Singapore? I’d found things more expensive in Taiwan departmental stores, and not necessarily better in style.
Here were the food mishaps:
- Grilled squid in Miakou Night Market
- Pork Rib Soup in Raohe
- Braised Pork Rice (applies only to those who do not like fatty meat and oily rice)
- Local snacks with long expiry. Don’t get them if they are sold in Tourist Souvenir shops, because they tend to be overpriced. Get them from supermarkets!
I’ve also created a Free Printable Checklist to help you remember the things to buy when you are in Taiwan. It contains extra recommendations such as food in Luodong, Hualien and Yilan. The checklist also points you to google map locations so that you know where to find those Taiwan great stuff. Don’t forget to download it for free.
You can also find a Taiwan Pocket Itinerary that I’ve specially crafted with Solo Traveler in mind. It will save you time on your travel planning and allow you to indulge in a great solo travel experience without breaking the bank.
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