Taiwan – Lanterns, mining towns and biking

  • View from Taipei 101

We went to Taipei the capital of Taiwan in the middle of Typhoon season and got A LOT of rain but we still had the most amazing trip to this beautiful and mystical country – one of the places on earth where you are most likely to be hit by an earthquake or typhoon while you are there.

We luckily only had torrential rain and a small earthquake we didn’t even notice when we were there the first week of October during Chinese New Year. Seemed like a perfect time to go from China to Taiwan since the plane was only half full …a very rare situation on a Chinese flight. During our stay we met very few tourists other than local tourists.

We stayed at the very nice Dandy Hotel Tianmu branch. A bit far from the city center but in a nice neighborhood with tons of restaurants – a lot of them international since this is also a favorite amongst Taipei expats

Here comes a list of our favorite experiences in and around Taipei:

Jiufen – Taiwans famous old mining town. Amazing scenery and special atmosphere. We went directly by Uber from our hotel to Jiufen. Price for the around 1 hour long drive was less than 300 rmb. You can also go by train to Ruifang Station and take a bus from there.

Jiufen is famous for its narrow lanes, lively snack streets and because a famous film was shot here. We loved the atmosphere, the food and views from the city that is hanging on the mountainside.

Jiufen is also the hometown of a famous goldmine that was up and running until sometime after Second World War. We were to impatient to wait for the bus so took a taxi from Jiufen to go see the mining museum and touch the worlds apparently biggest gold bar. The coolest thing here was absolutely the walk through the old mining tunnels with the kids. They felt sorry for the miners that used to spend most of their lives in here.

Pingxi Line and putting up Lanterns in Pingxi

After Jiufen we took a taxi down the mountain to Ruifang Station to jump on the old pingxi line train. A scenic route through mountains and lush greenery. Simply stunning. You can get of the train at several stations. We only had the late afternoon and evening left so we settled for one stop.Pingxi – a tiny town with houses so close to the rail track that you won’t believe. Pingshi is famous for its lanterns and here you can buy a huge lantern for around 150 rmb, decorate it with all your wishes for the future and send it to the sky. A very popular activity among local tourists. We never tried anything like that before and thought it was a magic experience…and so much fun seeing what the kids wrote on the lanterns…like my son who wished that we could fly business class in the future hmm. He is still waiting for that to happen!

Taipei 101 is the tallest building in Taiwan and was once the tallest in the world. An iconic building often shrouded in clouds due to Taiwans shifting weather. If you are in town on a clear day don’t save it for later. Go now. You never know what the weather will be like tomorrow. On the way up you get to ride the worlds fastest elevator and in the observatory you can watch and learn about the big ball at the top of the tower that is preventing the tower from collapsing during earthquakes and typhoons.

Biking trip to Taipei’s Bali and Tamsui River

Take the metro to Tamsui. Continue to the last stop of the red line and you end up in the beautiful laid back area where Tamsui River meets the ocean. In front of the station on the left you see a Starbucks. Go there and turn right around the corner. Here is a shop where you can rent nice bikes for a very reasonable price.

We went along the river and ended up in a marina from where we took a small ferry back and another ferry that crossed the river. The other site of the river is Taiwans Bali and it has very nice biking paths in beautiful scenery.

We spent all day biking around this area and took a ferry back just before sunset to enjoy it from the other side of the river where there is a nice, long promenade with lots of nice bars and restaurants.

Taiwan is a heaven for food lovers. We found the most delicious local and western cuisine here. Went to a couple of amazing Italian restaurant because the kids always prefer pizza. Found a favorite breakfast and late night dinner place …Jakes country kitchen. Run by a Taiwanese guy who used to work for the American expat families that stayed here until the American military presence ended in Taiwan. During that time he fell in love with the American kitchen so he decided to open Jakes Country Kitchen which has been up and running for around 30 years now. Huge menu and delicious food.

We of course also tried the snacks at some of Taiwans famous night markets. They are a must too. We found the biggest fashion market we have ever seen in Taipei I never saw so much clothes in my life before. It was dirt cheap so lots of good bargains but make sure to check the spelling before you buy. I think this is the place where all the mistakes in the clothes production for the western world ends up.

Maokong Gondola is a glass bottom gondola that lifts you up over the beautiful tea terraces on the outskirts of Taipei. A very nice trip that we thoroughly enjoyed although it was raining heavily and got a bit windy by the end. When we got to the top all the tea houses were virtually deserted so we had the place to ourselves because of the bad weather. The kids learned how to to a proper tea and Jonas made the tea ceremony for us after the waitress demonstrated it for us. When we decided to go down the weather had gotten so bad they closed the gondola which meant we got a very exciting trip down the mountain in a local minibus racing downhill in high speed playing loud classical music. Another fun memory to add to the list.

We didn’t go to the National Museum where all the treasures from Beijings Forbidden City was taken by Kunmingtan in the past because the kids refused to go there and we didn’t want to take the struggle but after visiting Forbidden City a couple of times now I really wish we would have gone. It is definitely on my bucket list for next time if we ever get the chance to go again.

Taiwan is a wonderful country. Friendly people, safe and easy to travel with kids. Many Taiwanese speak English very well.

We only discovered a bit of the country. During my research I found so many other places, I wanted to go. So yes I can definitely recommend traveling in Taiwan with children and yes we would love to come back