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

Borobudur, The World’s Largest Buddhist Temple

Yesterday we visited Borobudur, a Buddhist temple completed in the early 9th century. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and is the most visited site in Indonesia.

It's difficult to capture the enormity of Borobudur in a single photograph

It’s difficult to capture the enormity of Borobudur in a single photograph

The whole structure consists of six square levels at the bottom and three circular levels at the top.

This expression says "hurry up, Mommy!"

This expression says “hurry up, Mommy!”

The square levels are decorated with bas relief panels on the walls, which altogether are considered the largest collection of Buddhist reliefs in the world.

A detail of one of the relief carvings

A detail of one of the relief carvings

The three circular levels at the top have 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated, bell-shaped stupas.

The weather was perfect for a clear view of the surrounding mountains

The weather was perfect for a clear view of the surrounding mountains

Hugo enjoyed climbing up all the stairs as fast as he could.

"Big steps for little feet."

“Big steps for little feet.”

And climbing around all the stupas at the top.

Going around the stupas was a good way to hide from all the people who wanted to take his picture

Going around the stupas was a good way to hide from all the people who wanted to take his picture

He was less interested in taking selfies with me.

I'm still perfecting my "sweaty and glistening with sunscreen" look

I’m still perfecting my “sweaty and glistening with sunscreen” look

My suggestions for visiting Borobudur with a toddler:

1. Go early in the morning. It’s a two hour drive from Yogyakarta and you don’t want to be climbing in the heat of the day.

2. Carry a backpack with water, extra sunscreen, etc., so that your hands are free to help out the little ones on steep stairs. Hugo was excited to climb up but balked when he saw how steep it was going down. I had to carry him most of the way. But there are sturdy hand rails so don’t worry!

3. There are a LOT of vendors and little restaurants at the bottom. Take some time to sit and enjoy a kelapa muda and some gado gado.

After a morning climbing stairs under the hot sun, your kiddo is sure to enjoy a long nap on the way home!

Big City Life

Don’t mind me, I’m just reading the news on my lightening fast Internet while my clothes are in the tumble dryer.

I also brushed my teeth with tap water earlier, so my breath is minty fresh.

Oh, luxurious Singapore!

We had time to do some sightseeing so we hopped a cab to the historic Raffles Hotel.

A Singapore Sling will set you back about $22. Hm, I guess I'll just have to learn to make one at home.

A Singapore Sling will set you back about $22. Hm, I guess I’ll just have to learn to make one at home.

We wandered around downtown, weaving through the fast-walking and fashionable business people.

When I was a little kid I thought a skyscraper was a kind of airplane. I have no idea why I thought this. When I learned that it was really a building I was very disappointed.

When I was a little kid I thought a skyscraper was a kind of airplane. I have no idea why I thought this. When I learned that it was really a building I was very disappointed.

We ended up by the river and decided to take one of the boats to get a better look at some of Singapore’s most famous sites.

Partly cloudy skies over the Big Durian

Partly cloudy skies over the Big Durian

Hugo, who initially refused to board the boat, decided that boats aren’t so bad after all.

I got him on the boat by telling him we might be able to see some fish in the river. For future reference: you cannot see any fish in the river.

I got him on the boat by telling him we might be able to see some fish in the river. For future reference: you cannot see any fish in the river.

There is futuristic and wonderful architecture everywhere.

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Hugo hates having his picture taken so we often have to wrestle him into submission and then be satisfied with whatever weird expression he's willing to make

Hugo hates having his picture taken so we often have to wrestle him into submission and then be satisfied with whatever weird expression he’s willing to make

It was well past dark when we finally got home, our street in Little India lit with colorful lights and the sidewalks still packed with shoppers.