Totally Taipei

By Sam Braybon 2023-08-03 15:31:34

A trip for every family

For those accustomed to making the most of travel opportunities that life in Shanghai offers, these past few years have been, we might say, a little complicated. But with an exciting new era of restriction-free travel upon us, we’re faced with an unexpected problem: the sudden abundance of potential destinations is entirely overwhelming!

Stuck for inspiration? Then follow in our footsteps and make Taipei your first stop. Just a quick two-hour hop from Shanghai by plane, a recent visit to this buzzing city reminded us of how much it has to offer across the board. Whatever your interests, Taipei will have something up its sleeve that suits. And to prove the point we’ve compiled a little list of tips based on different traveling styles so that you and your family can get planning right away.

Taipei has earned a reputation as something of a gourmet capital and with excellent eating opportunities on literally every corner, it’s impossible to disagree! Kids will, of course, love the bustling night markets in which you can easily check off as many of the famous xiaochi as your stomach can handle. We’ve far too many favourites to list here, but special shout outs go to guabao (stewed pork in a fluffy bao bun) and beef noodles, not to mention the truly incredible array of shaved ice desserts that are uniformly delicious and impressively photogenic. For a shortcut to the best of the best, take a tour with the food fanatics at Taipei Eats, who’ll ensure you taste all the classic street eats before setting you up with great dining tips for the rest of your stay. They have a range of routes, but we like the Old School Food Tour which explores the Dadaocheng area with its funky historic streets.



The Hikers

Here’s what many people might not know about Taipei: the city is surrounded by magnificent mountains traversed by walking trails that provide an appealing escape from the hectic city center. Families with youngsters might want to stick to the short, but still pretty sweaty schlep up Elephant Mountain with its views over the city skyline. But those who enjoy a real workout should aim higher by tackling the city’s tallest peak, Qixingshan. Standing at an impressive 1,120 m, this dormant volcano offers dramatic paths that pass sulphur-spewing fumaroles and even the occasional wild water buffalo. Those looking for further routes should check out Parkbus, a locally- based company that arranges day trips out to some spectacular mountain trails offering varying levels of difficulty matched to your stamina and ability. They often take families out to hard-to-reach Taipingshan National Park, for example, or can even arrange night safaris on trails closer to the city.



The Culture Vultures

There is no shortage of interesting cultural venues in Taipei, from top notch art galleries to excellent museums, so it’s a case of pick-your-own-adventure here, and the good news is that many of them have dedicated activities aimed at kids in both English and Chinese. Whilst the Palace Museum, home to many fine works of art that were once in Beijing’s Forbidden City, is the draw for many, a lesser-known favourite of ours is the Juming Museum. Located high up on the mountainside in nearby Jinshan and boasting wonderful views across the ocean, this sprawling garden is dedicated to the arresting works of renowned sculptor Ju Ming, and offers plenty of quirky surprises as well as fun family photo ops. The museum also has a special kid zone with hands-on activities and even a little splash pool for the warmer months. It makes an excellent day trip out of town when combined with some other nearby sites, like the lively Jinshan Old Street, which is stacked with casual restaurants and street food stands, making for the perfect lunch stop.



The Epic Adventurers

If you really want to max out those vacation days, Taipei can set the stage for longer trips that take place in other parts of Taiwan. Mark Pemberton has lived here for twenty-five years and founded his tour company, Life of Taiwan, to show off the very best parts of the island to visitors. “This is truly one of the best places you can travel with children,” he says. “People here love kids, and it’s a great way to strike up a conversation with locals. Not to mention, it’s exceptionally safe.” His team creates custom-designed trips that can take in everything from historic cities to beaches and high mountain areas, and also includes special activities like bubble tea making. Mark suggests heading beyond Taipei to Hualien, where you can relax in a luxury hotel featuring an infinity pool overlooking spectacular Taroko Gorge, or taking in the mountain resort of Alishan with historic railways that wind their way through forested slopes clad in swirling mists. Either way, having access to a top-notch driver and guide ensure that, not only can you get that bit further off the beaten track whilst moving at your own pace, but also that you’ll get far more insight about the fascinating history and culture of the region.