Richard Liu and his daughters: Elizabeth (then 11) and Paola (9).
Last Christmas holiday, we (Richard, Elizabeth, and Paola) toured Taiwan with Grandma and Grandpa Liu. My wife was in South Korea visiting her mother, so this was a last-minute trip. We went to Taipei, Kenting, and Kaohsiung, and planned the entire trip ourselves. In
Taipei, we saw the National Palace Museum (故宫博物院), the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine (国民革命忠烈祠), the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正纪念堂), and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (国立国父纪念馆). We then took the train to Kaohsiung City. There’s a pleasant short river cruise for only TWD 80 (RMB 17) for adults and TWD 40 (RMB 9) for kids, which offers a nice view of the city from the water.
From Zuoying Station in Kaohsiung, we got a cab to Kenting, a small beachside resort town. It became our little oasis, since there wasn’t a single soul on the beach! We stayed at the Howard Beach Resort Kenting, which had a nice outdoor pool and large rooms. There were plenty of local seafood places to get fresh fish, clams, and shrimp, which you could handpick and have cooked up for you on the spot. We went to the Eluanbi Lighthouse (鹅銮鼻灯塔), Hengchun Township (恒春), and the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium
Since the opening of direct flights in 2008, the RMB 3,700 return flight from Beijing to Taipei with Air China lasts just under 3.5 hours and doesn’t require a visa, as long as you have a valid foreign passport for a year. Taoyuan International Airport (formerly known as Chiang Kai-shek International Airport) in Taipei is a busy, modern airport. However, it’s located outside the city, so expect to pay over TWD 1,100 (RMB 238) for a taxi ride downtown. Or, you can take the Taiwan Highspeed Rail (www.thsrc.com.tw/en) for TWD 350 (RMB 75) for business class, TWD 160 (RMB 34) for economy class, and TWD 80 (RMB 17) for kids.
There are plenty of medium to high end hotels to choose from in Taipei, like the Four Points by Sheraton Taipei, which cost USD 465 (RMB 2,921) for three nights when booked online. The high speed rail will get you from Taipei to Kaohsiung in two hours for TWD 1,950 (RMB 420) or TWD 1,220 (RMB 262) for kids, business class. There are plenty of hotels in Kaohsiung, from the Howard Plaza Hotel Kaohsiung to The Ambassador Hotel Kaohsiung.
The Best Part
Taiwan is much more than just bubble tea; it has an amazing array of food, from international cuisine to street food. Try the wildly popular fried chicken steaks from Taipei’s Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) for only TWD 55 (RMB 12). Xinyi District has some great restaurants, including The Diner (www.thediner.com.tw), Lienyi Steak (www.lien1steak.com), Shin Yeh (www.shinyeh.com.tw) and Siaodu (www.siaodu.com). We also discovered two of the best noodle places in Taiwan: one in Kenting called Taiwan New Beef Noodle House (台湾牛四学士姊妹), and one in Kaohsiung called Gangyuan Beef Noodles (港园牛肉面).
The Chuhuo Special Scenic Area (恒春出火) in Kenting was a unique and safe place to visit. Due to natural gas, flames naturally spurt out of the ground. An old man was cooking popcorn over the open fire; the girls loved making it the old-fashioned way!
This was an easy trip to arrange, as Taiwan’s transportation and tourism infrastructures are well in place. I hadn’t visited the island in 20 years, but this experience has encouraged me to bring my whole family back again in the near future.
English is generally spoken in Taipei and some menus are in English, but knowing Mandarin definitely helps.
Stay near the subway; it’s easy to get around, especially with the Taipei MRT’s EasyCard. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the proper line-ups while going up the subway escalators and the polite manners during rush hour!
Kaohsiung is known for its seafood, but be sure to grab a few boxes of their traditional pineapple cakes (fenglisu, 凤梨酥) as well! My favorite company is Taiwan Shu Shin Co. Ltd. (台湾手信有限公司).).
This article is excerpted from the beijingkids December 2012 issue. View it in PDF form here or contact email@example.com to find out where you can pick up your free copy.