A Walk Through Taichung Park

Taichung Park (台中公園 Táizhōng gōngyuán) is the oldest park in Taichung city, built in 1903 during the Japanese occupation.

Footpaths shaded by broad trees criss-cross the park

Footpaths shaded by broad trees criss-cross the park

It contains a large man-made lake full of ducks and turtles.

Looking for turtles

Looking for turtles

Situated in the center of the lake is the Lake Heart Pavilion, built in 1908 for Japanese Prince Kanin-no-miya Kotohito.

A view of the pavilion from across the lake

A view of the pavilion from across the lake

You can cross a foot bridge to go inside the pavilion. It is almost entirely made of wood. Even though the park is in the middle of a busy urban area, from inside the pavilion all you hear is creaking wood and the lapping water of the lake under the floorboards.

Checking out the view from the pavilion. On most days you can rent paddle boats on the lake (the small blue boats in the background), but today the day we were  there they were closed.

Checking out the view from the pavilion. On most days you can rent paddle boats on the lake (the small blue boats in the background), but the day we were there they were closed.

In 1999, Taichung Park was granted historical landmark status.

There is a small waterfall and koi pond tucked in among the trees.

There is a small waterfall and koi pond tucked in among the trees.

Today the park is popular with families because of the large playground, and people looking for a shady spot to walk their dogs.

Hugo explores every corner of the playground

Hugo explores every corner of the playground

It is also the site of large celebrations for Lantern Festival, marking the end of Chinese New Year. I imagine the lake and pavilion are beautiful on a cool night in early Spring, lit only by twinkling red lanterns.

IMG_20150427_101911908

Taichung Park Visitor’s Notes:

  • Name in Chinese: 台中公園 Táizhōng gōngyuán
  • Map
Advertisements

Feng Jia Night Market

The Feng Jia Night Market (逢甲夜市 féngjiǎ yèshì, map) is the biggest one in Taichung, and I can’t believe it has taken us two weeks to get here. Night markets are a big attraction in Taiwan, and are a great place to walk, people-watch, sample foods, and shop for pretty much anything you can imagine.

We arrived around 5:30pm, and as you can see it was already busy.

We arrived around 5:30pm, and as you can see it was already busy.

The night market fills the side streets around Feng Jia University. At every corner there are new shops and stalls to explore. Sometimes the choices were overwhelming. Night markets here are really focused on food. It is kind of the opposite of what we saw at the Sunday market in Chiang Mai where it was mostly things like clothing and art for sale, with the odd food cart thrown in.

IMG_20150420_194517598

The Porky Box was delicious!

If you catch yourself thinking “I really want to eat an entire roasted squid! If only it were flattened and on a stick so I could eat it while walking through a crowded market,” have I got the place for you!

Squid on display.

Sesame squid!

I was really hoping for a Beijing-style jianbing, but we had to settle for a small egg crepe.

Our crepe on the griddle.

Our crepe on the griddle.

Can you get good jianbing anywhere outside of Beijing? Is it available near my house? Am I going to have to open my own jianbing cart and sell them myself in order to introduce their deliciousness to the Pacific Northwest? Shall I do a kickstarter?

IMG_20150420_174711480

Roasted ducks hanging in a row.

As the night grew darker, the crowds grew bigger. We left the food area to check out some of the other shops.

Clothing, books, shoes, music...

Clothing, books, shoes, music…

Hugo’s favorite was the toy store.

Hugo's favorite was the toy store!

Unfortunately all the toys were wrapped in plastic, so there wasn’t a chance to give them a try.

There were even carnival-style games!

Our round of balloon darts did not go well.

Our round of balloon darts did not go well. Although I’m not sure what we would have done with a giant stuffed chipmunk anyway. If you can’t read the sign, it says that men have to pop 7 to win, but women only have to pop 6.

We left with tired eyes and full bellies.

Feng Jia Night Market Visitor’s Notes:

  • Chinese name: 逢甲夜市 féngjiǎ yèshì
  • Map
  • The map pinpoints the center of the market, but it extends to all the side streets around. If you’re taking a taxi, I recommend getting out at the intersection of Fuxing Lu and Fengjia Lu
  • Hours: every day after 5pm

24 Hours In Taipei

We got up early and headed to the high speed rail station (HSR or 高鐵站 gāo tiě zhàn, which is different from the train station or 火車站 huǒ chē zhàn. Be sure you’re headed to the right one!) to hop on a train to Taipei.

High speed trains leave Taichung for Taipei about every 20 minutes, and the journey takes about an hour.

High speed trains leave Taichung for Taipei about every 20 minutes, and the journey takes about an hour.

We bought our tickets in advance at a 7-11, but it turns out that you can easily just arrive at the station, buy a ticket, and board the next incoming train.

Our train pulls into the station

Our train pulls into the station

Our first stop in Taipei was the National Palace Museum, which houses a dizzying array of Chinese art and artifacts.

Checking out the jade collection. It turns out you're not supposed to take photos in the  museum, so after being chastised by the security guard I sheepishly put away my camera.

Checking out the jade collection. It turns out you’re not supposed to take photos in the museum, so after being chastised by the security guard I sheepishly put away my camera.

National Palace Museum Visitor’s Notes:

  • In Chinese it is called 故宮 gù gōng
  • Admission is $250 NTD for adults. There is a student discount of $150 NTD, and children are free.
  • We were there on a Saturday and it was very, very crowded.
  • Website
  • Map

Since the weather was nice and it was still too early to check in to our hotel, we decided to take a walk through a couple of Taipei’s many parks.

There is a small park with a fish pond right next to the Palace Museum.  Admission to this park was $20 NTD. You can feed the fish and black swans, and explore the pavilions and walkways. It was a nice contrast to the noise and crowds of the museum.

There is a small park with a fish pond right next to the Palace Museum. Admission to this park was $20 NTD. You can feed the fish and black swans, and explore the pavilions and walkways. It was a nice contrast to the noise and crowds of the museum.

We found a fantastic playground in a large park just behind our hotel, too.

For a short time we had it all to ourselves.

For a short time we had it all to ourselves.

There is an extensive network of city parks in Taipei, and a lot of mountain hiking in the hills around town. We didn’t have a chance to go into the mountains on such a short trip, but I’ve heard they’re worth it if you have the time.

After checking in to our hotel and having a bit of a rest, we headed out to dinner. Everyone raves about the night markets in Taipei, but unfortunately a torrential rainstorm started just as we were leaving. So we headed toward Yongkang Street (永康街 yǒngkāng jiē) to meet with the group for dinner. Yongkang Street is a small lane full of popular restaurants, so if it’s a rainy night and you have to skip the night market it’s a great place to experience the different foods that Taipei has to offer.

We ate ourselves silly at James Kitchen (大隠 酒食  dàyǐn jiǔshí, then began the arduous task of finding a cab home in the rain.

We ate ourselves silly at James Kitchen (大隠 酒食 dàyǐn jiǔshí, then began the arduous task of finding a cab home in the rain.

The rain had cleared by morning, and after checking out of our hotel we headed downtown to Taipei 101.

Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world until 2004 when it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

The view from the bottom. Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world until 2004 when it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

We whizzed up the super fast elevator…

Up we go!

Up we go!

…to the 91st floor observation deck to check out the views.

The skies were a bit gray and hazy but the views were still spectacular. There's something thrilling about being so high and seeing a grand cityscape in miniature.

The skies were a bit gray and hazy but the views were still spectacular. There’s something thrilling about being so high and seeing a grand cityscape in miniature.

And to prove that I was there:

Look, Mom! I'm at the top of a tall building!

Look, Mom! I’m at the top of a tall building!

If you are interested in such technical architectural features, there is a 660 ton steel pendulum that helps prevent damage to the building in high winds.

This giant golden orb is the largest damper sphere in the world. Take that, Burj Khalifa!

This giant golden orb is the largest damper sphere in the world. Take that, Burj Khalifa!

You can even hop an elevator to the 91st floor to an outdoor observation deck. Due to high winds that day, most of this deck was closed while we were there. However, we could still go out onto one section.

Here I am, carrying my backpack since we had already checked out of our hotel. Because the bars obstructed the view it was actually much nicer to look out from the indoor observation deck.

Here I am, carrying my backpack since we had already checked out of our hotel. Because the bars obstructed the view it was actually much nicer to look out from the indoor observation deck.

If perchance you think Hugo is always a happy-go-lucky travel companion, this is the expression he wore most of the time in Taipei 101.

Sure, he looks pretty miserable here and refused to get out of his stroller and look around, but if you ask him what he did in Taipei he will excitedly tell you he went to the top of the world's tallest building.

Sure, he looks pretty miserable here and refused to get out of his stroller and look around, but if you ask him what he did in Taipei he will excitedly tell you he went to the top of the world’s tallest building.

After zipping back down the elevator, we grabbed some lunch at the Taipei 101 mall, then caught our train back to Taichung.

Taipei 101 Visitors Notes:

  • Tickets were $500 NTD for an adult, children are free
  • We got there first thing in the morning and there was no wait to go up. However, we had to wait in a long(ish) line to come back down, about 15-20 minutes. I’ve heard from other people that it can get very crowded, so I definitely recommend going on a weekday morning.
  • There is a subway stop for Taipei 101, so getting there is very easy
  • Map

Calligraphy Greenway and the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Calligraphy Greenway is a long, narrow park and sculpture garden that stretches from the National Museum of Natural History to the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a wonderful greenbelt oasis in the middle of a bustling downtown, connecting museums, shopping and dining areas along meandering shaded walkways and open grassy fields.

We hopped on the BRT (the Bus Rapid Transit system, which is a free and efficient way to get around town!), got off by the Natural History Museum, then headed south into the park.

The northernmost point of Calligraphy Greenway. As you can see, this would also be a great place to go for a run!

The northernmost point of Calligraphy Greenway. As you can see, this would also be a great place to go for a run!

There are lots of little things to discover along the way, like this Reading Bar:

This is just like the Little Free Libraries we have in the US, where you can take and leave books, or just borrow one to read on one of the park benches.

This is just like the Little Free Libraries we have in the US, where you can take and leave books, or just borrow one to read on one of the park benches.

These rental bikes are very popular and available in lots of parks around the city.

You just make a deposit at the kiosk, then return the bike when you're finished. See those people in the background in the orange shirts? It was a ballroom dance class!

You just make a deposit at the kiosk, then return the bike when you’re finished. See those people in the background in the orange shirts? It was a ballroom dance class!

There is public art all along the walkway.

Pretending we're in Chicago and taking a photo of our reflection in a mirrored sculpture

Pretending we’re in Chicago and taking a photo of our reflection in a mirrored sculpture

After a couple of miles of walking, taking time to stop at the various fountains and playgrounds along the way, we finally reached our destination: the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts.

There was a garden of giant pink ladybugs out in front

There was a garden of giant pink ladybugs out in front

The museum is free, and has a variety of temporary and permanent exhibits. My 3 year old is not very interested in fine arts museums generally, but this one has a special Family Room full of interactive art projects for children.

Building block patterns

Building block patterns

Almost every surface has something interactive for the children.

Painting with water! There were also white boards, crayons, paper, and sculpture materials available.

Painting with water! There were also white boards, crayons, paper, and sculpture materials available.

Did I mention there were blocks? So many kinds of blocks.

Hugo says he's building a train. Some of the older children were making very elaborate, multi-room structures that they could climb into.

Hugo says he’s building a train. Some of the older children were making very elaborate, multi-room structures that they could climb into.

I’d recommend the Family Room for kids under age 8, since most of the activities are geared toward younger children. We’ll definitely be back again before we leave Taichung!

Taichung Botanical Garden

The Taichung Botanical Garden is part of the National Museum of Natural Science. It includes a large outdoor park and gardens, as well as a multi-story rainforest greenhouse.

IMG_20150412_095622395

Approaching the main entrance to the greenhouse

IMG_20150412_104232274

A giant birdwing butterfly guards the entrance to the conservatory

Entering the greenhouse gives you an otherworldly feeling. The sounds of the city fade away and all you can hear is the sound of the waterfall in the central pond.

IMG_20150412_100057366

Hugo races ahead

We paused to look out from behind the waterfall.

IMG_20150412_100131505

The pathway will take you down to the lower level of the greenhouse and the galleries

Down on the lower level, we made a surprising discovery:

IMG_20150412_103830288

Hugo House!

The first character, 雨 (pronounced “yu”) means rain, and the second, 果 (“guo”), means fruit. The “rain fruit” house is a fitting name for the galleries and cafe inside the rainforest conservatory, don’t you think? This is also the common Chinese translation of Hugo’s name.

And what should we find inside the Hugo House?

IMG_20150412_101026083

Fish!

And also tree frogs:

IMG_20150412_101535279

If you look closely you can see a yellow one in the center

It looks like the sunshine has found us once again.

A view across the fish pond in front of the conservatory

A view across the fish pond in front of the conservatory

Visitor Info:

The gardens are free, but it is NT$20 to go into the conservatory/greenhouse

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-5pm

Address: 1 Guanqian Road

Map

Rainy Day Distractions

As I mentioned before, a cold front moved in, bringing with it gusting winds, brisk (to us) temperatures in the 60s, and lots of rain. Lucky for us, just around the corner is a two story, 24-hour pet store! All the free rainy day entertainment you might want, close to home and under one roof!

Does your local Petco have a moray eel and a zebra shark in the front window? I didn't think so.

Does your local Petco have a moray eel and a zebra shark in the front window? I didn’t think so.

It turns out this place is pretty amazing for fish lovers.

IMG_20150411_092421632

Row after row of aquariums

There were fancy goldfish with their brains on the outside:

IMG_20150411_092535646

And regular goldfish with their brains on the inside:

IMG_20150411_092431793

There were even more exotic things that I’ve never seen for sale in a regular fish store before (I feel like I’ve been in a lot of fish stores.  More than the average person at least. I’m a sucker for easy kid entertainment.), like stingrays and jellyfish.

When Hugo is older and can take care of a tank himself, maybe we'll get one of these gorgeous discus fish

When Hugo is older and can take care of a tank himself, maybe we’ll get one of these gorgeous discus fish

Hopefully it clears up soon and we can head back outside.

In the meantime, we’ll make do with tapping on the shark tank.

IMG_20150411_093418424

The weirdest thing about these black tip reef sharks is they didn’t have any teeth. How do you go about removing a shark’s teeth? Is that normal practice for shark-keepers? What do you feed a toothless shark? So many unanswered questions…

Running in Taichung: Wenxin Forest Park

After taking two months off while we were in Indonesia, I’m happy to fire up my Garmin, lace up my shoes and get back out on the road!

Taichung has a lot of parks and tree-lined roads, so I’m excited to get back out there and find some good routes. Unfortunately on the more major roads the sidewalks are often used more for scooter parking than for pedestrians, so I’m going to have to wind my way around on side roads more often than not.

We’re lucky enough to be living in walking (running) distance of the Wenxin Forest Park, which contrary to its name doesn’t actually contain a forest. There are a lot of new trees planted, though, so maybe in 10 years it will be more properly live up to its name.

There is a large amphitheater in the park which hosts a lot of performances, and winding around the park is a biking and pedestrian track.

IMG_20150409_100847244

The track is divided into lanes and lightly rubberized, so it’s a slightly softer surface than running on a regular sidewalk.

You can see that the trees in this picture are meant to provide shade for the path but aren’t quite big enough yet.

There are also sidewalks that wind around the park, grassy fields, and an outdoor a roller skating rink.

IMG_20150409_101349901

There are a couple of moderate hills as the path circles the amphitheater

There is also a large playground, so if you bring the kids, be sure to stop and let them run amok!

IMG_20150409_094755702

The National Museum of Natural Science

Something happened today that I never expected would happen on this trip:

It got cold.

Not cold cold, but it’s 61 degrees F out right now. I had to dig into the recesses of my suitcase to find Hugo’s long sleeve shirt.

Actually, I’m pretty proud of myself for not complaining loudly in every blog entry about how hot it’s been. Blazing sunshine and swampy crotches make me long for the mild misty Pacific Northwest. I’m going to get weird google hits for saying “swampy crotches,” but I’m just telling it like it is.

ANYHOW, today I put on some jeans and we went to the National Museum of Natural Science.

IMG_20150408_103501616

Please do not climb on the mammoth

After this morning’s first surprise (cool weather), we had another exciting surprise: this museum is free on Wednesdays before 10am! There you go, a money-saving tidbit as a reward for reading my blog! Kids under 6 are always free, but there is an elaborate pricing scheme for all the other activities available.

This place is really, really enormous. We were there for about two and a half hours and only visited the exhibition, the gallery and the science center. I’m sure we’ll head back to visit the conservatory another day. There are also two theaters there (including an IMAX), but Hugo’s not the type to sit through a movie, so we skipped those too.

IMG_20150408_093521821

For the dinosaur lovers, there is a room of full-sized skeletons and animatronic dinosaurs. They move and roar loudly, so your small child may hide his face in fear and make you carry him swiftly through (my kid) or squeal with glee (other peoples’ kids). And, yes, there is a bright spotlight shining on the Tyrannosaurus’ butt, and, no, I don’t know why. 

The museum is really geared toward older children, although because it was free day a lot of people were there with toddlers early in the morning.

IMG_20150408_092907773

An etched glass display at the beginning of the hall of evolution

The museum has detailed, interactive displays across three broad categories: Life Science, Human Cultures, and Global Environment. Unfortunately, almost all of the information plaques and all of the videos are in Chinese. However, don’t let that be a deterrent to visiting. It’s still a great place to walk around and talk with younger kids about what they’re seeing, and older children who have already studied some of these subjects in school will still get a lot out of seeing the displays.

There is a lot of space in the museum dedicated to Chinese culture and history with artifacts and elaborate models of ancient Chinese technology, as well as a hall dedicated to Austronesians in Taiwan.

IMG_20150408_103030297

There are some beautiful models of ancient Chinese architectural achievements. This part was more like a traditional museum and not as interactive as the science areas.

There are a lot of temporary exhibitions happening at any given time.

IMG_20150408_103541904

From the interior of The Magic of Plants, which had a lot of interactive features and giant models to explore

There was a “mini-zoo” which featured mostly fish and reptiles.

IMG_20150408_100027852

Guess who loved the fish tanks?

My original plan was to visit the museum and Botanical Garden all in one trip, have lunch, then be home for nap time. I didn’t realize how big the museum was, so I decided to save the gardens for another day.

Now I’d better go put on a sweater or something, lest I get frostbite.