Updated: Aug 29, 2018
Temples, Tea and Taiwainese culture. Taipei has a lot to offer if you're looking for a long weekend getaway or combining Taiwan's beautiful mountain scenery with an edgy city visit. Philip tells his tales from our three days in Taipei.
Content by Philip Juul Nyegaard / Written by Mathilde Moyell Juul
Up high, nice view and we're in the city! This picture was taken on our first day in Taipei - a scenery that was quite a surprise to us. Hustle and bustle, telephone wires galore, the smell of Chinese food, but then woop, in 20 min. we were up here in Maokong. All quiet, walking in the lush green mountains and learning about Taiwanese tea... We weren't sure what to expect on our 3-day trip to Taipei, all I knew is that we were going with my great friend Inigo and his family and that we could practice our Chinese there. I wasn't expecting rocket elevators, wonton heaven and fancy Cadillacs!
Anyway, let's start from the beginning.
Ask Chris what was the best part of this trip, and he'd probably say "flyver" (airplane in Danish) and "tog" (train) - watch the video below and you'll see what I mean! We arrived for dinner time in Taipei, and after checking into our great hotel, Ambience, we went straight out to find a pizza place. Yes, not very Taiwanese, but with 6 kids to please, after a long'ish flight, both Dominos and Pizza Hut seemed like the right choice at the time. But.. turned out they weren't sit down venues, so we opted for a very local joint just next door. Very local and very fun - quite the party adventure that got us tasting the real Taiwan straight away.
The restaurant had every speciality in the book and the most hilarious indoor playground right in the middle! Also, if you look at our video below, you will see an authentic Taiwanese men's club right behind us! And sorry, we didn't get the name of it - but look for Pizza Hut and it's a couple of doors down - and do it!
Day 1 - Zoo, tea, Temples & 89 floors
We decided on an early start. Mum had been recommended the zoo by a family residing in Taipei, who we'd met in the Philippines. In fact, I think everything we did was recommended by her - so thanks Hiskia for that, and it also meant that we went without a Lonely Planet - travel advice from our locals was plenty for our 3 days there.
Now, Sienna and I have been to quite a lot of zoos, but our little brother (despite turning 2 years old in one month) had never had the chance to see all his beloved animals from books, cartoons and his toys, in real life. So our excitement was more for Chris, than for us, but we were pleasantly surprised to what the zoo had to offer.
We began or morning in Taipei Zoo with the big one, the PANDA and actually realised that Sienna and I had never seen a panda either! ...unless you count the sleepy one in Berlin Zoo when I was 1 years old. They were super cute, scoffing away on leaves and walking around looking like real life teddy bears and Chris was pretty excited to say the least!
Then it went on from there - we'd gone early to avoid the scorching sun (Mid-May is a hot time to go to Taipei!), and walked up the hill that took us past some great animals that Chris immediately recognised. See the great pictures here, but also his reactions to seeing the animals in our video "Taipei - Nature" further down.
E'fant! Hiipoo! 'Ino!
Our favourites were the hippos, we got really close and could see them fight or kiss, hard to tell what they were doing! As we'd walked to the top, we took a giraffe painted shuttle down, just in time to meet our friends who'd slept in.. We were ready to join them in walking to the nearby cable car and get up high to the Maokong tea plantations!
....but, the cable car was under refurbishment. In fact, quite a few things were while we were there, so perhaps May being less touristy, is the time they fix things in Taipei. Not to worry, we got two taxis up there and after a nice lunch at a restaurant with a view and cold exotic refreshments, we were ready for some more exploring.
We walked along the Jiankang Trail, that takes you through a teahouse museum: Taipei Tea Promotion Centre, and across the tea plantations. We saw a film and an exhibition on how you make tea and also got to see how they do it for real at the restaurant we had a drink at, later on.
Check out our video of Maokong (and zoo) and Philip reading signs in Chinese here:
We cheated somewhat on the last part of the trail as too far for us kids, and took a taxi to Zhinan Temple. Also under refurbishment, but still really impressive and with an amazing view!
We had prayed, we had sacrificed, donated, made wishes, burned incense sticks.
But our day wasn't over.
Taipei 101 - Ok, so a lot of cities have these buildings, like everyone has the London Flyer, but a building this format has to hold a record and for this one, it's the speed at which you reach the top. TAIPEI 101 Observatory’s elevators are Guinness Record-breaking high-speed pressurized elevators, with a speed of 1010 meters per minute. It takes only 37 seconds to reach the 89th Floor. For us boys, it was pretty cool. And eating Italian afterwards, not bad either.
DAY 2 - Chinese culture, Swan Boating & Market eats
After an action-packed first day, we had a chilled Sunday morning, which continued into a chilled afternoon at Xindian, Bitan. But before this, a bit of culture of course (!). We went to see The National Palace Museum , who hold one of the largest collection of Chinese artworks and artifacts.
Didn't sound terribly exciting for us kids, but to make it more fun for us, we got to choose one exhibition each from the list and to our surprise it turned out to be a great place - especially the kids arts & crafts in the basement, where we got to write on scrolls and a lot of other old-school stuff.
You wouldn't believe it, but we actually didn't want to leave the National Palace Museum, especially after eating the best wontons on our trip at their restaurant!
But Sundays are also for lazing about, and this is what many people in Taipei choose to do in Bitan Xindian. Nice and airy, a good Sunday crowd without there being too many people + incidentally - a fantastic concert.
Bitan is a very green area with a beautiful turqouise coloured river with (mediocre) café's and restaurants by the bank. You can rent peddle or powered boats and chill for an hour on the river itself. The bridge crossing the river is incredible for the view over this area too.
We were pretty exhausted by the afternoon, so only dad and I joined Inigo and his family for another authentic culinary Taiwanese experience at the Raoehe nightmarket.
Back to the hustle and bustle, local fried specialities (some even recommended by the Michelin guide !), games and fun. And I was out in flash when we got back...
DAY 3- the emperor and aRTSY TAipei
We'd been busy, but somehow we knew we were maximizing on this trip with only 3 days available, and as long as I got to see Inigo here and there, I was pretty happy. A slow morning at the hotel had been nice today, but we actually enjoyed the activities, despite starting off with another museum. And for Chris, this definitely helped:
This is what former leader of Taiwan preferred to drive, and it wasn't the only Cadillac at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall! He was a well respected man, something we didn't just learn at the museum, but when we saw the guards change and bow to his statue.
We'd seen some new, but mostly old sights in Taiwan. Our last stop would be old-turned-new. Songshan Cultural and Creative Park is an old tobacco factory that has been converted into funky houses for the arts and modern interiour.
I really loved this architect competition exhibition, where the students had to come up with a project on how to make Taipei more green, and Sienna loved the many shops that had the coolest local designs on cameras, jewellery and other knick-knack. We spent hours in Songshan while Chris took his nap, just browsing, playing the piano and having coffee and cake at Cafe Sole.
We left Taipei that evening and although a little out of breath, amazed how much we'd experienced in only 3 days! Mum and dad were amazed to how child-friendly Taipei was and would love to come back for hiking and more mountains when more time.
See all our cultural outings on video here:
TRANSPORT: 4, 5 hours flight return Singapore-Taipei, 25 min. taxi-ride to and from airport.
REASON: We had met some great people who live in Taipei on our travels + a chance for a last trip with our friends leaving Singapore (Taipei was on their bucket list)
ITINEARY: May 2018, 3 nights Taipei..
PRICERANGE: Taipei is not expensive, our hotel was midrange, but nice and modern, kids loved it.
STRETCH: 3 nights and 3 days.
PHILIP: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐ MATHILDE: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Hotel: Hotel Ambience : https://www.ambiencehotel.com.tw/en/