Disclaimer: This is a backlog entry, just for recording my past travel experience with very young kids.
Some years back, we visited Taiwan with the kids. It was summer. Bad choice as this means scorching hot weather that is worse than in Singapore if not as hot. Actually we knew it would be hot but we thought it could be better than monsoon season with lots of rain. So we tried and but wished the weather was better
The last time we visited Taiwan, we only went for a short trip to Taipei. That was without the kids. I remember walking and shopping and eating until the feet ache every night. And of course, with the kids, is a different story. Here’s our route map for the trip.
We went mainly to the Taipei area and the furthest we went was Hualian. We didn’t even make it to SunMoon Lake as most people would have done. That, we would have to do it another time, on another trip. *Excuse to go back there.
The best part of this trip, was, really was, our driver. We got the recommendation from a friend who raved about this taxi driver who communicates only in Chinese and you can contact him via email. It was a challenge as I have never written emails in full Chinese and I think my Chinese writing improved loads after this trip! What we were really impressed, even until now, was the kind of dedication, sincerity and enthusiasm our driver Mr Lai showed, during the email communications all the way until we completed the trip. We only had to tell him where we wanted to do or go for this trip and he planned everything else for us! He could even help us book hotel rooms at very good rates if we aren’t fussy. But, we are fussy. We preferred to book our own. So didn’t manage to save as much as we could have. In short, Mr Lai doubled up as our taxi driver cum tour guide. It was impressive as he didn’t have tour guide qualifications but show equally good communication and coordination skills like a real tour guide.
Having our own transport was really convenient for us as we were able to have a good rest in between destinations and the kids love to nap during car rides. We sometimes also leave our things in the car while we do a quick visit to some of the places, without having to carry very heavy things, like the super heavy hot water flask for the children’s milk and cereals.
Caesar Park Hotel
For the part in Taipei, we chose Caesar Park Hotel. It was the 1 of the few hotels we could find on Agoda that allowed us to book connecting rooms. 1 for the grandparents, 1 for us. It was a nice room for a family as there was a little hall and separated from the bedroom. and there’s a door adjoining to the next room where the grandparents took. So the hall became the family activity cum meeting area and we had our meals here too on days that we were too exhausted to eat out.
Taiwanese Min Su(民宿)
For the trip to Hualian, we booked another hotel from Agoda. But in the end we forgo it as Mr Lai recommended us to stay at a Min Su (民宿), famous in Taiwan for a true Taiwanese experience. We went for it and was impressed by Agoda for the easy cancellation and full refund of rooms even until the last minute. Thumbs up!
We stayed at 2 Min Su in fact, as the room was only available for 1 night so we had to shift for the second night. Quite a hassle but Mr Lai was so enthusiastic about it we had to try. So how was the Truly Taiwanese experience? Hmm, we decided that we are still the city kids and perhaps would still very much prefer a nice hotel room with every amenity provided and spacious room nicely air conditioned with no mozzies flying around
We learned later, after we went home, that actually there were nicer of these Min Su. Some like boutique hotels and some themed with all sorts of interesting designs. I guess our dear Mr Lai had wanted us to try the non fancy and economical ones instead.
The last part of it, was the highlight of the trip. Leofoo resort hotel! Even Mr Lai went, wow, so expensive.
The highlight wasn’t just the room itself. It was the amazing view from the room. They actually build a mini zoo right in the middle of the resort! Do be tolerant of the zoo-y smells from animals here though. You can’t smell it when you are in the room but only when you are outside, so we were quite ok with it. Didn’t lose sleep over the smells.
I remember visiting lots of animal farms, seeing lots of animals on this trip because we planned for it. There was nothing much for kids this young but they get easily excited when they see animals. So we did plenty of that. We considered the hugely popular Qing Jing Farm but had decided it’s too much of stairs for the old folks and quite a bit of travelling to reach. So we gave that up.There was also this Flying Cow ranch that’s popular but we didn’t go since we were already planning lots of other farms.
LeoFoo Village (http://w2.leofoo.com.tw/village/en/)
The resort that we stayed at was the main accommodation for the nearby theme park LeoFoo Village. You will be amazed that this place is just like a Disneyland, Taiwanese version. There’s a park for rides, a park for safari and a water park. We didn’t really go for the rides. Only the safari and water play park
Nic, surprisingly was happier in this park than when she was in Disneyland! Maybe because the attractions were more friendly for young kids.
Farms – Shin Kong Chao Feng Ranch (http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002124&id=15)
Hubby found this farm during his research for the trip and we requested Mr Lai to bring us here. He suggested a few more but we still came here just to take a look. It was a huge farm! Split into different sections for vegetation and animals. It was lucky they had buggy rides for rent that we could take to go around the park. Otherwise we will all be toasted crispy under the hot sun. Hubby was excited the self-drive experience.
We had some nice steamboat here for lunch. Although it would be enjoyable if the weather was cool. The milk soup steamboat sounded fanciful but it actually like the fish head steamboat we had back in Singapore except that the milk used here was fresh milk. So the taste was slightly more bland compared to evaporated milk that we use for fish head steamboat
The pumpkin soup steamboat sounded fanciful too but we can’t actually taste the pumpkin in there. It was made diluted so we don’t feel overwhelmed by the richness of pumpkin.
Farm – Unknown Farm
Mr Lai brought us to this small privately owned farm where I forgot to take down the name of it. It was enjoyable for the kids as they get to feed small animals and the animal feed was priced very cheaply and optional! We were impressed by it and the kids were thrilled by all that feeding!
Miniature World, Taoyuan (http://www.woc.com.tw/index_en.aspx)
We dropped by this place mainly because we were nearby. Turns out, the miniature buildings were really impressive! At least at that time we visited because we haven’t actually been to many of these miniature world yet. they not only made static iconic buildings around the world, they made things that move around those buildings! Like, mini trains, moving planes and vehicles.
We didn’t go to Baby Boss on this trip as our kids are still too young for it. Perhaps the next time when both of them are old enough.
Food was not a problem in general in Taiwan. They have lovely, yummy Taiwanese pearly rice, similar to Japanese rice that the kids love and couldn’t get enough of it. The only problem was at those outskirts, mountainous areas where the food was not really to their liking. Luckily we prepared lots of baby cereals, even pre-prepared baby food like rice and soup, biscuits and lots of milk. But the portion was not really enough for 1 kid, so should have brought along more of it.
Here’s some of the food we had as we travel
1 of the most memorable meal we ate has to be this. Charcoal roasted chicken till perfect tenderness. If you watch Taiwanese travel programs, you might have seen this before. It was really as good as their exaggerated expressions told. The chicken was so tender it almost melts after putting into the mouth. The chef would debone the meat exactly in this state and it was effortless. The best part of this dish, however, has to be the sauce. It’s legendary. We still can’t get over the taste till today. The chicken, after marination would be roasted in the oven for almost a day and the melted fats with the marinate collected in a small cup and served together when it’s ready to eat. We could just eat plain rice with the sauce and nothing else for a fully satisfying meal. It was that good. The bad thing is I forgot to take down the address or the name of the shop. But i guess it’s quite common over there, so we probably need to do a research to find it if we are ever going back.
Finally, don’t forget to try out the food at those old streets, night markets for all the yummy Taiwanese local food. Salivating just as I’m typing this. 🙂