Sights: Taipei Zoo

Okay this, like many posts I’m hoping to put up in the coming weeks, has been a long time coming.  Last summer a few friends and I planned an outing to Taipei Zoo.  It just so happened that a typhoon developed that week, and was just off the coast of Taiwan that day.  Needless to say we had a wet, cloudy, sometimes sunny, and very muggy day wandering around what is a very nice zoo, nestled up against the Mountains to the South of the city.

I haven’t got any pictures of the day, because one – they’d mostly be of animals, and two – the weather was pretty bad at times, so my camera stayed in my backpack.

It’s not hard to get to the Zoo.  Take the MRT Brown Line to the last stop, which is called Taipei Zoo Station.  This is the same station you get off at to go to Maokong via the gondola.  Actually, both can easily be done as part of day-trip, and you’d still have plenty of time (perhaps not the energy though) to visit a night market that night!

Entrance to the Zoo is NT$60 for adults, and when you realise how big it actually is, and how long you can while away in there, it’s a very good deal.  There’s a small buggy-train thing inside the Zoo too, which can help take you from place to place.

There’s a good mix of animals, and habitats as you walk through.  The main attraction though are the Panda’s (especially baby) and there’s plenty of panda paraphernalia you can pick up at the enclosure too.  There are also quite a few monkeys & apes at the Zoo, which are always fun to watch.  For me, it was also good to see some of the Aussie animals there, such as the resident emus.

All up, Taipei Zoo (and Maokong) make a good whole-day trip, if you are looking for something to do, especially with children in tow.  Just try to avoid a Typhoon 😉

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Sights: Taroko Gorge (Taxi Guide)

This is a very quick post – the last time I was in Taiwan (2011) I did visit Taroko Gorge.  I hired a taxi from Hualien city, and the taxi driver played the role of both tour guide, driver & language tutor 😉  I just thought I’d share the details with you all, in case anyone is interested in using this method to see Taroko Gorge (best part is that it allows you a deal of flexibility too).

Her name is Tiffany, she or her husband would be your guides for the day.  Tiffany speaks reasonable English, though I’m not sure about her husband.  They will take you on the following route:

  • (Pick up) Hualien train station or hotel
  • Cingshuei Cliff *(Extra charge)
  • Entrance of Taroko
  • National Park – Shakadang Trail – Eternal Spring Shrine – Swallow Grotto – Tunnel of Nine Turns – Tzu Mu Bridge – Holiu Suspension Bridge – Tienhsiang
  • Baiyang Waterfall Trail *(Extra charge)
  • Return to Hualien

The costs are as follows:

(Cost per car)

  • one person – two people – NT2200
  • three – four people – NT2500
  • five – six people – NT3000

※ Cingshuei Cliff –  NT500 / per car
※ Baiyang Waterfall Trail ( It’s a 2-hour hiking trail ) –  NT500 / per car

※ Taroko tour takes about 5 hours.
※ Taroko tour + Cingshuei Cliffs takes about 6 hours.
※ Taroko tour + Baiyang Waterfall Trail takes about 7 hours.
※ Taroko tour + Cingshuei Cliffs + Baiyang Waterfall Trail takes about 8 hours.
If the trip extends beyond the above times, an extra NT500 is charged per hour.
If you’re interested, you can contact Tiffany by email (tiffany_935lk@yahoo.com.tw) or telephone (+886 912 522118).

Sights: National Palace Museum

So … it rains a lot here in Taipei.  Here’s a good list of suggestions for what to do on rainy days in Taipei.  One thing you can definitely do is make a visit to the National Palace Museum (aka GuGong) at Shilin.  The museum has 3 floors (well, 5 if you include the giftshop basement & top floor tea house) and a vast collection of artefacts, manuscripts, paintings etc. from the dynasties that ruled over China.  Pretty much what you’d expect from any museum, right?

The museum, obviously, is a stopping point for tour groups, so you’ll sometimes find yourself having to crane your neck around hordes of Koreans, Japanese or Chinese to catch a glimpse.  Going on a rainy day also means that you’ll have more Taiwanese people there too, so it’ll be a busy place.  But don’t let that deter you.  I believe the museum itself also runs English language tours, you can find out more information from their site.

Level 3 is where the ‘big ticket’ displays are. On particularly busy days, the museum will cordon off these sections & regulate the flow of people.  So you may have to line up a little while here.  The rest of level 3, and the rest of the museum is open for you to wander around as you wish.  There’s no eating/drinking allowed inside so make sure you’ve had a good feed before you go in.  Also, there’s no photography allowed & they do keep an eye out for that fairly rigorously.

My tip for tackling the museum would be to start at room 101 (orientation room) to get an idea of the different dynastic periods that are covered at the museum, then make your way directly to level 3 and start from there.  In this way you’ll still be fresh & eager when you get to the main exhibits, rather than doing them at the end when you may be at your wits end.  Work your way down from level 3.  Obviously being a large museum, displays & exhibits do change from time to time.

It’s easy to spend 4 hours plus inside the museum, and you’ll undoubtedly find something there that makes you go “wow, cool/beautiful”.   You can also pick up an audio guide (I didn’t so can’t comment on the usefulness) before heading in.  I would recommend going there with a partner (or group) though.  Going alone can make things fairly monotonous, fairly quickly.

For most, getting there is a combination of MRT & Bus.  The best way is to take the MRT to Shilin station (red line) and then take one of the many buses that go to the museum.  The museum is commonly referred to as GuGong so listen out of that (or ask people using that term). More transport information at the museum’s website.

Sights: NTU Farm – Taipei

NTU Farm is a very nice place to go early in the morning, or makes for a good starting point to explore the Gongguan area (including Treasure Hill).  I go to language school at NTU (National Taiwan University, also know as TaiDa), but was surprised to find out that there was a farm on the university campus.

I went along on a Saturday morning & was pleasantly surprised.  It’s amazing to find such a place in the middle of the city, but the farm area & the lake that’s next to it make a great spot for photography, or just chilling out.  When I went there were children planting corn.  The kids were having a great time, though I’m not sure how families can arrange to join in on these activities.  There’s also a rice museum located just beyond the farm (on the opposite side of the road to the pastures).  Though there’s no English, the guides there are patient with non-native Chinese speakers & I was able to get the gist of what they were saying.

NTU Farm is also has very nice ice cream, which is sold (along with plenty of other items) at the school store, located on the main road through the university (you’ll see it as you walk to the farm from Gongguan station).

Getting to NTU Farm, take a train or a bus to MRT Gongguan Station.  Find Exit 2, and there will be an entrance to the university behind it.  Walk up that road & you’ll see the school shop on your left & eventually get to the lake & farm (over a small bridge) on your left.

Sights: Lin An-Tai Residence

Sure, this place isn’t towards the top of “must sees” in Taipei, however after reading about at My Kafkaesque Life, I decided to go & have a look.

I was pleasantly surprised.  Despite being located under the flightpath of Songshan Airport, it was a particularly peaceful place.  It wasn’t full of hordes of people, and was a very nice place to just spend an afternoon.  You may see a few people doing photo shoots, but that’s really about it.

The residence itself has been relocated from a previous location, however the grounds are very nice & spacious.  The main residence itself doubles as a museum, showcasing various items & describing the old way of life.  There’s plenty of see outside of the main house too, with a small lake, with pagodas surrounding it which makes a nice place to relax.  There’s a trail that goes around the grounds, which is nice to follow at a leisurely pace.

To get there, you can either take the bus, or walk from Yuanshan MRT station.  It’s a nice walk (about 15 minutes) through parks.  More information on how to get there at the Lin An-Tai Historical House website.

The below photos were taken on an Olympus Pen EE-3 (old half-frame film camera).

Sight: Yehliu GeoPark

This trip to the Yehliu GeoPark was my first trip to the North Coast of Taiwan.  Getting to the Park is extremely easy from Taipei, however it is one of the “must see” places in Taiwan, and is often crowded with tour groups.  That said, it’s big enough that it’s easy to lose the crowds after some time.

I would really recommend the park for anyone travelling to/around Taiwan with kids – they’ll have an awesome time running among the strange looking rock formations.  It would also be a nice day trip idea for couples looking to get out of Taipei easily.

Entry to the park will set you back NT$50 (students can get in for NT$25).  You can walk all the way to the tip of the peninsula, which stretches out some 1.7km into the Pacific Ocean.  I’m sure it looks amazing on a clear, sunny day (unfortunately I went on the cold & windy type of day).

Neil Wade has listed several ways to reach the park on his blog.  A few other details below:

  • Park Entry: NT$50
  • Bus (from Taipei): NT$96
  • Train (Taipei – Keelung): NT$41 + Bus (from Keelung): NT$30
  • To get to the park from the bus stop takes about 10 minutes walking through a small fishing village.  Follow the blue path.

There’s also Ocean World park next to the park entrance, which has regular shows featuring different sea creatures.  There’s also a good looking market/souvenir place next to the park entrance.