Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Exploring Taipei | Part 1

Hello friends! Before I begin this blog post, I would like to say first of all, thank you to everyone who has followed along on our journey by reading and commenting on these blog updates. We arrived in Australia about two weeks ago, when we spent some time in Sydney with our good friends, before making our way back to my hometown. Charlotte is enjoying spending time with her grandparents, and I am enjoying getting back into a home-y routine, and not having to live out of a backpack!
I'm so sorry I haven't posted on here for a long time, but now that we are getting a bit more settled, I will be writing the last posts of the end of our amazing journey. I hope you'll stay around to read them, and enjoy reliving the journey with me :)

Taipei was our last stop in Taiwan, and one of our favourite cities on our whole trip. There is so much to explore in Taipei, from the multi-cultural food options on all the little side streets, to the beach in Tamsui, and the awesome metro system that can take you pretty much anywhere in the city.

We stayed in Taipei for 9 days, mostly in an Airbnb room in New Taipei City, just one bus stop away from Taipei Main Station. We had to move to a different place for our last two nights, but we actually liked our first Airbnb room better, even though it wasn't right in the city center. There were loads of food options around us, from steamed dumplings, to roasted duck and pork.

Taipei is such a family friendly city. First of all, the metro is accessible to everyone, even families with strollers, and people using wheelchairs. The wheelchair accessible entrances were always very clearly marked, making it super easy to get around. Every stop is clearly marked on the metro maps, and is announced in perfect English at each station. Although English speakers are few in Taiwan, it is not hard at all to get around Taipei, and the people are so friendly that they would help you if you seem to be lost.

Here's what we did in Taipei:

Taipei Zoo 
This zoo was one of the highlights of our visit to Taipei. It is super easy to get to, as the metro stop is right outside the zoo! The zoo is quite big, and is divided into different sections, such as the Children's Zoo, Asian Tropical Rainforest Area, and Bird World, just to name a few. The zoo is designed really well, and the garden areas are very pretty, and filled with trees and vines, and bromeliads growing on trees. Charlotte loved sitting up on her daddy's shoulders to get a good view of the animals. As I remember, she was quite whiny that day, and we ended up carrying her a lot and pushing an empty stroller 😏

Rice paddy field inside the zoo grounds

Charlotte and I at the zoo

An alpaca at the Children's Zoo

Charlotte meeting an alpaca

Gardens and orchids growing on trees

Pandas at the zoo

Entrance to the Asian Tropical Rainforest area

Plenty of places to rest around the zoo grounds

A cool mural next to the gorilla enclosure

Enjoying the Bird World Aviary

A beautiful Scarlet Ibis

A pretty peacock sitting in a tree

Inside the reptile house

The penguin house
The zoo grounds were very pretty

After walking around for most of the day inside the zoo, we still didn't manage to see everything! From what I remember, the tickets were quite inexpensive, so for the variety of animals there and the beauty of the gardens, it is well worth spending a day there.

Taipei 101
The Taipei 101 building is a well known landmark building in Taipei, which dominates the skyline. When it was opened in 2004, it was classified as the world's tallest building. Now, in 2017, it has dropped down to number 8 on the tallest buildings list, which is still quite impressive. The building houses a shopping mall, as well as an observatory deck that goes over four floors. We didn't buy tickets for the observatory because it was a cloudy day when we visited, and the tickets are quite expensive. The shopping mall was very shiny and fancy, and we did a bit of window shopping, and I wished we could have stopped for tea at a beautiful, but very expensive, tea shop there.
Taipei 101 Building

A very fancy tea shop

Inside the shopping mall

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall 
Dr Sun Yat Sen was the first president and founding father of the Republic of China, and this memorial hall was built to honor his legacy, and displays information about his life and works in an exhibition hall adjacent to a large statue of Sun Yat Sen. The gardens also looked very beautiful, but as you can see from the pictures, it was not a good day for a stroll outside!

Outside Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

The Taipei 101 in the clouds

Dr Sun Yat Sen's statue

Tamsui is technically a district of New Taipei City, but it seems like a city in its own right. It is about 40 minutes by metro from the center of Taipei, so it's easy to take a day trip there. Tamsui is located on the coast, and is a very popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The Tamsui Old Street is filled with restaurants, shops and cafes. In the evening it is very lively, and we managed to stop for a while with a drink and listen to a musician busking on the street. Further along past the Old Street is the Fisherman's Wharf, with the stand out "Lover's Bridge", and a castle style hotel building. Apparently there are also live music concerts played at the wharf every Friday starting in the summer, around the end of May. After walking around the Fisherman's Wharf and stopping for lunch, we walked back in the direction of the city, and stopped at Fort San Domingo and the Former British Consular Residence. The former Consulate Residence was housed in a pretty red brick building, and is still set up today with its original dining and living areas.

Stopping for a break in Tamsui

'Tamsui in Love' at the Fisherman's Wharf

The castle hotel

Posing with Miffy at the Fisherman's Wharf

On the Lover's Bridge

At the Former Bristish Consular

Inside the Former British Consular

Tamsui City

Grilled squid for dinner

Posing with an old train

Taipei Expo Park and 
Taipei Fine Arts Museum

The Expo Park is a big green open space, not far from Taipei's secondary airport, where you can see planes flying low overhead coming in for landing. The park consists of several different buildings and pavilions, as well as the Fine Arts Museum. We had not visited an art museum on the whole trip, and Nathan had read some good reviews online about the museum, so he suggested we go there. Unfortunately for us, the exhibitions running at the time were not really our taste, and I struggled to find one piece of "art" in there that I really liked. One exhibition was basically an assortment of steel "sculptures" containing random bits of metal and steel wool. Not really what I'd call art, but each to their own haha. The architecture of the building was quite interesting and very modern, and the staff and facilities were excellent, so at least it had that going for it 😜

A large mosaic close to the metro station

A beautiful green living wall

Taipei Expo Park

Taipei Fine Arts Musuem

Pictures from a photography exhibition

An interesting sculpture?
Elephant Rock / Xiangshan
Towards the end of our stay in Taipei, we finally had some really beautiful, sunny weather. On one of those days, we took the metro to Xiangshan, which is a lookout point over the city. We climbed up the many stairs, along with elderly locals, and excited schoolchildren, until we reached the top, and were rewarded with a stunning view across Taipei.

The park at the bottom of Elephant Rock

Xiangshan Metro station entrance

An orchid growing on a tree in the park

The stairs up to Elephant Rock

The view from the top

Colourful sculptures inside the metro station

Wow, that has been a really long post already! I think I'll leave it here, and post a second part to our stay in Taipei later.

Thanks for reading,
Hannah xx