Thursday, December 4, 2014

Taipei and Cingjing for the kids

Some friends asked for our 9D8N Taipei / Cingjing itinerary, so here's a summary of our trip, packed with activities for the kids and just one or two for the adults:
  • Day 1 - Ximending / Modern Toilet Restaurant / Ah Zhong Mian Xian  
  • Day 2 - Songshan Cultural and Creativity Park / Wufenpu / Hello Kitty Sweet Cafe
  • Day 3 - Leofoo Village Theme Park / Huaxi Street Night Market
  • Day 4 - Houtong Cat Village, Shifen, Pingxi Old Street and Sky Lantern, via Pingxi Line
  • Day 5 - Beitou Thermal Valley / Public Hot Spring Pool / Beitou Hot Spring Museum / Maji Maji Square 
  • Day 6 - Cingjing Sheep Farm / Little Swiss / Carton King 
  • Day 7 - Feeling 18C Chocolate / Xinshe Castle 
  • Day 8 - BabyBoss / Miramar Entertainment Par
  • Day 9 - Home Sweet Home 
If you have any questions, post a comment and I'll try to help if I can.

Day 1 - Ximending / Modern Toilet Restaurant / Ah Zhong Mian Xian
First day in Taipei and totally shacked out by the early flight. Kena harassed by a taxi tout at the airport, who slashed prices by the second and then scolded us for wanting to take the airport bus instead.

Spent 45 hungry minutes searching for Modern Toilet Restaurant (Google Maps is no use man), and finally found it after asking countless people. Had fun eating shit though, lol.

Nothing much to buy in Ximending, but finally tried out the Ah Zhong Mian Xian.

Day 2 - Songshan Cultural and Creativity Park / Wufenpu
We stayed near Taipei Main Station and on the way to take the MRT, the shops wasn't opened yet. Lo and behold, the shop shutters were painted with all sorts of interesting designs like Chinese face masks, cartoon characters and landscape scenes.

Decided to be adventurous and went to the Songshan Cultural and Creativity Park. A bit of a disappointment, not much to explore. We had a great time at the shopping mall next to it, which carries plenty of creative and nicely designed stuff. We were impressed, Taipei really has very talented people.

Wufenpu was a bummer. Most of the shops were selling cold wear, nothing suitable for SG weather. Left after an hour and hopped on a cab to the nearest shopping mall. I guess that's the beauty of free and easy. 

Day 2 (Night) - Hello Kitty Sweets Cafe
The kids have been excited since we told them we will be going to the Hello Kitty Sweets Cafe, and it did not disappoint.

Everything came in Kitty inspired designs - Kitty burgers, Kitty coasters, Kitty sofas... well, you get the drift... We got a bit dizzy and high from the cuteness overload...

The place was full house, so luckily we made reservations a week in advance. Our seats were on the first floor, but the second floor decor is a bit nicer. Heard rave reviews about the female toilet too!

Food wise, it wasn't that fantastic. Service was so-so too, but as a friend said, nobody comes for the Bill came up to NT2000 plus...

Day 3 - Leofoo Village Theme Park
If there is one thing they love, it's theme parks. So we got up early and took a 30 min ride on the HSR to Hsinchu, followed by another 30 min taxi ride before finally reaching Leofoo Village Theme Park.

It's their 35th anniversary and it shows. While things were generally adequately maintained, the rides and decor were quite dated, especially since we went to three Gold Coast theme parks last year.

Not that the kids mind though, going for rides after rides. Hazel was the daredevil again, going for stomach-churning rides and wide roller-coasters that toss you upside down. And I had to go with her... Darn.

Two of the rides made us super wet, no fun in the chilly weather. And there were two rides which thankfully Hazel was too short for. Heng arh! I told her next time, go with her bf instead.

But when it comes to feeding carrots to the park's goats and horses, Rachel is the daring one. Quite funny to see the younger one running towards the animals and the older one running away from them.

Theme parks always make us giddy - the kids are giddy from all the fun they had, while the adults are feeling giddy from all that tossing round and round in the rides they had.

Day 3 (Night) - Huaxi Street Night Market
We told the kids we are going to see the 夜市人生 place. Not quite, but close enough lar...

So we just walked and walked, stop when something catches our attention and eat when the food looks nice. Or when there is a queue. Singaporeans know you can never go wrong if there is a queue.

And that's how we ended up with piping hot pork ribs noodles (perfect for the cool weather), smelly toufu, roasted corn, muah chee and assorted Taiwanese snacks.


Day 4 - Houtong Cat Village, Shifen and Pingxi Old Street, via Pingxi Line
Went on a train excursion along the old school Pingxi Line (which is relatively modern by the way). First stop at Houtong Cat Village, a place where cats roamed aplenty, even in the retail shops with fragile goods!

Travelled along the line and ended up at Shifen. It was great fun seeing the tourists cross the railway track, only to quickly scamper to safety once a train arrives. And it seems that every alternate shop is selling the same stuff, aka the sky lantern.

It was drizzling the whole day, which was a pity. Wanted to visit the Shifen Waterfall but the rain put paid to that plan.

Last stop was at Pingxi Old Street, which was a little bit less touristy than Shifen. The kids had a blast filling in a postcard and sending it back to Singapore. Hopefully the postcard will arrive before we go back to SG next Tuesday. (Edit - Nope, it didn't. One week after we posted it, still has not arrived in the mail.)

Day 4 (Night) - Sky Lantern
Wish for good health - checked.
Prosperity - checked.
A phone for Christmas - checked.
Elsa's magic powers - what!?!??

We just hope that whoever receives our sky lantern will be able to understand Mandarin, English, and a bit of Singlish!

Day 5 - Beitou Thermal Valley / Public Hot Spring Pool / Beitou Hot Spring Museum

It's an educational day as we make the trip north to Beitou Thermal Valley. The smell of sulphur, accompanying the stream rising up from the jade green pool, makes for an interesting story on how the water comes from a volcano.

And how sulphur is used in camping to drive away snakes, to which Rachel promptly declares that Papa is scared of sulphur. Erm, cos Papa is born in the year of the snake...

Feeling quite adventurous, we went to the public hot spring pool! It's an open setting, with a few pools in different temperatures and lots of elderly folks. The kids didn't really enjoy the sulphuric water, so we left after a short while. We did feel our skin was a bit smoother, maybe it's a psychological effect.

Entrance is cheap, just NT40 for adults and NT20 for kids. We brought our own swimwear, but bought some small towels for NT30 each at a nearby provision shop. Not for the squeamish though, it's a public pool after all.

Also learnt about the culture of hot springs at the Beitou Hot Spring Museum, on how it was discovered by a German, and prospered under Japanese influence. But alas, the kids were more interested in doing yoga poses on the tatami mats.

Day 5 (Night) - Maji Maji Square

Most interesting gem of a find - Maji Maji Square. It's a hotspot of creative people and a flea market of their chic creations.

From handmade leather goods to quirky jewellery, though a small place, it's surprises at every turn and corner. There's even a carousel in the middle of the place!

Lots of cafes and restaurants too, and dinner was accompanied by a large screen projection of Mandarin MTVs. There's also a live band belting out soulful renditions of English ballads.

The place is designed by Harlem Yu, and it shows. We simply love the energy of this place.

Day 6 - Cingjing Sheep Farm
Next stop: Cingjing, as we make our way to Taichung via the HSR and an 2hr 30 mins bus ride to our destination.

Didn't realise we had reached Taichung HSR, and got off the train with seconds to spare. It would have been a disaster cos the train would then have gone on to Zuoying, which is at the the other end of Taiwan. Phew.

Cingjing Sheep Farm was a hoot. Sheep were roaming the grasslands, and visitors bought food for the sheep to eat it out of their hands. It was comical to see the fearless Hazel scream and run away from all the sheep, while animal lover Rachel had the sheep eating out of her hand.

Felt a bit ripped off by the horse ride, which was just one small round and took about a minute. Oh well.

The farm is really hilly, a really good workout for us urban folks. Pity about the misty weather, the scenery would have been superb with the mountains in the distance.

Day 6 (Night) - Little Swiss / Carton King
The sun sets early in Taiwan and by 5.30pm, it's almost complete darkness. So we dropped by Little Swiss Garden and added to our collection of family photos.

Was expecting it to be super cold in Cingjing, but it turned out ok. Probably just a light jacket will do. Plus all that walking up-slope and climbing of steps will already warm up the body.

Heard a lot about Carton King, so had dinner there. Taiwan really is quite creative when it comes to dining options. Most of the furniture, cups and bowls were made from paper, save for the steamboat stove and the metal cutlery. Plus the cardboard bench could actually support my weight!

And the amount of things that can be made from cardboard is amazing, with a life-sized giraffe sculpture, paper lanterns and even paper drink cartons that you can bring back and reuse as coin banks.

Day 7 - Feeling 18C Chocolate / Xinshe Castle
When in Cingjing, a driver and car is inevitable. So we set out for ice-cream and chocolates at Feeling18巧克力工房, so named because the owner believes that the best temperature to eat chocolates is at 18 degrees Celsius.

Wanted to go to the Lavender Farm, but due to a major flower show, there were massive jams along the narrow mountain roads.

Ended up at Xinshe Castle instead, a beautiful park with castles, lush landscapes and swans. I can imagine plenty of bridal shoots taking place here, though it kinda beats me why there is a park with castles in the middle of nowhere.

Cos of the major traffic jams, couldn't visit more attractions. What a bummer.

Day 8 - BabyBoss
We figured we will end off with a day at BabyBoss, the Taiwanese version of Kidzania. The kids went wild, learning how to be astronuts, cheerleaders, miners, fashion designers, firemen, paramedics, and many many more.

Compared to Kidzania, we kind of slightly like BabyBoss a bit better. Each session lasts about half an hour, which starts with a briefing and then a task. It's quite educational.

Complete the tasks and get 'paid', which the kids later exchanged it for a mechanical pencil. When they went to Kidzania, they couldn't even earn enough to buy the most basic things.

Downside is every session has a timetable and you got to really plan which one to go. We went on a Monday so managed to get in at all the scheduled timeslots.

And erm, the kids made us promise to bring them back. Heh, we shall see...

Day 8 (Night) - Miramar Entertainment Park
This was a bit unplanned, but just across our hotel is a 70m high ferris wheel. So on our last night in Taipei, we went for a ride accompanied by the cold chilly wind.

The night scene of Taipei is an interesting one, with the bright lights of skyscrapers together with the homely lights of the low rise residential areas. Also managed to spot Taipei 101 in the distance.

And that's the end of our trip, with just the flight home the following morning. If you have a question, leave it in the comments box and I'll try to help if I can.

Have fun planning for your own trip! 

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