Our last week in the wonderful country of Taiwan was to be spent in the capital. It may not have been that much time but we had to make the most of it to finish our five weeks in the seventh country along our family’s world adventure.
Not long before we got back to Taipei they had been experiencing some incredibly hot days, but thankfully once we arrived, the temperatures had cooled slightly and we had plenty of opportunities to explore some more of the wonderful green spaces we had been seeing in other parts of the country. We also had plans to reunite with a couple of other travelling families we had met in Vietnam and we also literally bumped into another UK family one afternoon at the park. It has been so cool to meet other families in similar situations and even better when we get to see them more than once.One day we decided to head out of the city and visit Fulong Beach, a simple hour train trip northeast, as Logan had read that the International Sand Sculpture Festival was currently on. It was something different to see and a good excuse to get some more beach time. It was an easy walk from the Fulong railway station to the beach and we paid on entrance fees (100 NTD/$4.78 NZD per adult and 50 NTD per child), we noticed this was a year round fee to enter Fulong Beach itself and didn’t actually have anything to do with the festival.We headed over the bridge towards the beach and were already taken back by how big some of the sculptures were; but it wasn’t until we were down next to them walking around that we truely saw the detail and effort that had gone into them. Many of the sculptures were about 2-3 metres across and high, however there was one, named “Upside Down”, that was huge. About 10 metres in height with an intricately detailed upside down city on one side and a massive dragon on the other.
We had a fantastic time wandering around the different sculptures but it was incredibly hot with no shade or reprieve from the sun, so we headed to the water to cool down. For some reason Logan and I had decided not to bring out togs but the boys were straight into the water, thankfully it did cloud over a little so we didn’t melt completely while watching the boys have a great time in the waves.
The boy’s swim was interrupted by Taiwan’s annual air raid drill, we knew it was going to be on so we followed instructions and moved off the beach. The roads were clear of all traffic and most shops had put a stop to trading for the period. It was an erie 30 minutes and put a little blimp in our rhythm so we decided to call it a day and head back to Taipei a little earlier than we were intending. A pretty cheap and entertaining day out with the return train tickets costings us a total of $684 NTD/$33 NZD, the beach entrance fees and a bit of lunch and some snacks.
Another activity we really wanted to see in person was a “changing of the guards” so we decided to head to a ceremony one afternoon. There are three places in Taipei that you can watch this and we chose to go to the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, which was set amongst some beautiful grounds in the middle of the city.It was a Wednesday afternoon but still very busy so we headed inside the hall the 3.45pm to try to get a good viewing spot. We didn’t do too badly and watched in silence at the incredible precision of these guards. As the new guards were getting into place one headed straight for us, Braxton was on my shoulders and Lincoln was standing in the front and he was thinking he was about to get hit. But of course, the guard was on point and turned right at the last moment.And of course, you couldn’t visit Taipei without at least seeing the famous ‘Taipei 101’ building. At 509.2m in height (as measured to its height architectural top/spire) it was not only the first building in the world to break the half-kilometer mark in height, but also the world’s tallest building from March 2004 to 10 March 2010. As we know, the Burj Khalifa now has that title, however Taipei 101 still remains the tallest and largest ‘green’ building in the world and has been awarded the LEED platinum certificate, the highest award from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The environment seems to be of very strong importance around the whole country and this is evident everywhere we have been. It has been incredibly refreshing, especially after seeing so much rubbish in these beautiful locations throughout SE Asia. They have even “recycled” some of the tower’s retired elevator cable that was in service between January 2005 – May 2010 and have had a stunning sculpture commissioned.As with most large buildings or structures around the world, you can head up the building itself to view the city from above. But for our family, even with Braxton being under 115cm and therefore being free, it would still have cost us $1,740 NTD/$83 NZD. The weather was starting to turn with more cloudy days and some occasional rain so we decided without a completely clear day we wouldn’t fork out the money. Instead, we got some beautiful photos of it on a couple of occasions, thanks to Logan’s arty photography stylings.
Taiwan has been next level to Southeast Asia; there is order, there are rules and they are adhered to. Scooters don’t drive or park all over the footpaths, traffic lights are obeyed and it is safe to use pedestrian crossings. While it was still hard to find a public rubbish bin, there was barely any litter. In general, public transport was efficient, cheap and very clean. While we enjoyed the food, there was quite a lot of deep fried stuff, and we would find some really tasty dishes in some parts of the country but then never see them again. The people were so friendly and helpful, even if they didn’t speak much English they would still try to help; this was so incredible and made us feel very welcome in their country. Price wise it was a bit more than we had become accustomed to throughout SE Asia but still not as expensive as back home. And they certainly love a claw machine here, not an array of video games but simply just a space, often quite small and usually open 24/7, filled with as many claw machine games as can fit in with a small aisle for people to shuffle round. We tried to divert the boys away from them as often as possible but they were everywhere, even places you wouldn’t have even thought of. We had a few attempts, but between those and Logan’s attempt at a Taiwanese scratchy, all we got in return was Lincoln winning a lucky dip prize. And what was in it….. a green highlighter pen!!Overall, Taiwan was a huge surprise, we are so pleased we added it to our itinerary and would highly recommend it to anyone that doesn’t have it on their radar to visit.
Average Daily Spend – Taipei: $151.15 NZD ($21.35 under budget per day)
Average Daily Spend – Taiwan: $141.32 NZD ($31.18 under budget per day)