10 family-friendly things to do in Taiwan
The travel experience varies depending on which group you’re sharing these new experiences with. Are you on a honeymoon, are you going alone, or are you going with the entire household?
Taiwan, just a short flight away from Manila, is a great choice for families looking for a quick vacation.
Here are 10 things to do with your family while visiting:
1. Eat! Eat! Eat!
Taiwan has the best Chinese food as far as I'm concerned.It is usually very simple and fresh. They don't mask their food with so much flavoring. So if you eat pork, you taste the pork; if you eat beef, you taste beef; if you eat vegetables... well you get the picture. (READ: Must-try food in Taipei)
For this gastronomic adventure, start with traditional Taiwanese food. Go to Wan Lin Taiwanese Dishes Seafood at No. 217 Xizang Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei or at Jiulinluroufan, No. 32 Minzhu East Road, Taipei, Taiwan.
It’s best to have a local with you so he can help you order the really good ones.
You may try my grandpa's favorite, the Lu Rou Fan or braised pork rice, a Chinese-style donburi commonly seen throughout Taiwan and southern Fujian province and my Dad's favorite, the steamed cold Bamboo shoot with mayo!
Make sure you don't leave Taiwan without trying the xiao long bao or dumpling with soup inside at Din Tai Fung.
Cap the day by trying all the street food at the Shilin night market (Food aplenty!).
Tips for parents: Although some kids are not too adventurous with food, it's good to expose them early on so that they get to enjoy it with you sooner.
2. Explore the night markets
Taiwan has many night markets. And Shilin is definitely the largest and most famous night market in the city. It boasts of a vibrant long street with various colorful shops and eating places where you will find absolutely anything and everything that you are looking for.
Here's a photo of the entrace to Raohe Street Night Market, another popular option.
Of course, for me the food is paramount. Try the stinky tofu, star flattened fried chicken, carbon beef barbecue with leeks, and the shaved ice. This is just for starters!
You will also enjoy the sort of "play" that they have when a night-shift policeman strolls along the shopping street. As if on cue, all the vendors scamper away and hide in the sidestreets. And once the policeman is gone, they instantly reappear and go about their merry ways. It's like a scripted cat and mouse game.
Tips for parents: The night market is very safe and kid-friendly. Just make sure you instruct the kids to always stay by your side, establish a meeting place if somebody strays and give them a hotel calling card just in case they get lost.
3. Taste the original milk tea
The worldwide phenomenon that is the famous Milk Tea originated from Taiwan. Kids love it!
The Taiwanese view it as an art form mixed with science and mathematics when they order their milk tea: 32% sugar, 27% pearl, 16% taro, 10% yakult and 110% milk! Would you believe no two orders are alike? Only the foreigners order the boring 100% everything.
There are many strong and popular Milk Tea brands. But leading the pack is 50lan which boasts of 500 outlets across Taiwan. You'll find one in almost every street corner. It's actually now in the Philippines under the name Fiftea.
4. Shop at Sogo
For those who love shopping, Sogo is the superstore in Taiwan. It's like Rustan's and SM rolled into one. It's a Japanese chain that is very dominant in Taiwan.
Get a thrill as their elevator ladies welcome you to their elevators garbed in full flight attendant-like uniform complete with white gloves.
The grocery is usually on the ground floor, department stores in the middle floors and the restaurants on the top floors.
My favorite shabu-shabu place is at the top floor of the Sogo white building.
Tips for parents: The kids can check out the sprawling toy store, where there are plenty of options to choose from, or just tinker with.
5. Get a dose of culture at the museums
Now, this is a must see. Very educational. Perfect for the dose of culture kids need nowadays.
Many of the most valuable cultural treasures are all housed in the National Palace Museum.
Two things that are must-see exhibits are the Jadeite Cabbage with Insects display and the Pork stone or The “Meat-Shaped Stone,” which is made from jasper and resembles stewed pork. If there are no long lines, go see these displays first.
The rule of thumb: wherever there are lots of people milling around, that display is important and popular.
After the museum tour, go to the dimsum place above the museum which serves really great food.
Tips for parents: Come and bring the kids' school IDs to get a discount. Rent a tour headphone with a built-in iPhone. While walking around the museum, there are numbered labels on the display. Just type in the number and the iPhone will tell you all about the display. No need for a tour guide here.
6. Roam around Taipei 101
The tallest structure in Taipei at 101 storeys (wonder no more where it got its name), this is a must-see.
Walk around the nice shops on the lower floors of the building, and check out the great selection of food at the basement food court.
Go to the very top (you have to pay for the high-speed elevator ride) to check out the view of Taipei's skyline. Take some time to wander through the huge Eslite book store at the top of the mall.
Do the compulsory photo at the base of the building outside with your family. The photographer must be good at bending down or even lying on the ground to try to get the perfect shot of your family with Taipei 101 in the background. Try to include in the picture the tip of the tower!
7. Meet the creatures at the Taipei Zoo
This one is a favorite among kids. Taipei Zoo boasts of a vast area with plenty of animals for the kids to see.
It's very accessible as you can go there by train. And the entrance fee is very inexpensive.
Highlights of the zoo are the African predators and the panda which recently gave birth. At the middle of the Zoo, there is a store that sells really good milk-flavored ice cream and hotdogs. You gotta try them.
At the end of the zoo trip, the kids are tired and sleepy. So you have time for yourself, which makes the zoo a good idea.
8. Savor the unique ambiance of the Modern Toilet restaurant
Another favorite among kids. This hip and funny novelty restaurant is what you think it is, a Toilet-themed dining place.
They serve ice cream, sandwiches and fries in a toilet-style dish
To complete the concept, the seats are like toilet seats and even the restroom sink is for a lavatory. In the end, you come home with lots of funny pictures and stories. The kids had a blast!
Remember: This place is always full so call ahead for reservation.
9. Take a selfie at the Red House theater
Often called the Red Chamber Theater or Red Play House, this is a historic theater in Ximending. You will see Red House Theater when you get off the Ximending train station.
Ximending is actually the second most famous street in Taipei that is ideal for strolling. Here, you can get lost in the array of shops and variety of street food stalls.
It's fun to look at the display about the history of the structure as well as the shops featuring independent artists. Take a selfie or two.
As a fitting finale, there is a quaint little café you can try as well.
10. Enjoy the Wulai Aboriginal Tour
My dad always told us that the original people in Taiwan looked much like the original tribal people in the Philippines as well.
Join the Wulai Aboriginal Tour and you will find out more about Taiwan's Tai Ya Tribe. They have a nice sights-and-sounds show that talks about these fascinating people.
Try the street food at the bottom of the mountain. – Rappler.com
Rommel Juan is an avid foodie and an excited traveler. He is the founder and CEO of the native fast food chain, Binalot. He is also active in the automotive industry and is a pioneer in the local electric vehicle industry. He is the current President of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines