Our Taipei holiday in pictures

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We had a great time in Taipei. I would highly recommend Taiwan to anyone thinking about a holiday in Asia. It’s clean, things work like clockwork, the food is fab, there’s a a lot to see in Taipei, there are apparently great beaches (although we didn’t get to experience them as we visited in February) and great hiking and cycling spots (that we didn’t get to experience given that we have two young children). All in all, Taiwan was fab.

Although, sometimes it felt like you didn’t know which way to look or where to stand (see photo below).



The upside-down house, Huashan creative park (this isn’t photoshopped)


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The point that I want to make with this photo is not to do with road safety, but, instead, it reminds me of what my kids’ push chair used to look like when they were younger


DIY Reflexology. Walking without shoes on a pebbled footpath (photo below) was really painful. The kids nevertheless managed to walk all the way to the monument, and back, for which they received applauds from a row of spectators.  It made me think that maybe on Brighton beach they should erect signs: ‘Reflexology for free’.





We love food and drink – so there is a disproportionately high number of food related photos here. Sorry.

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A Taiwanese delicacy: Shaved ice (one portion feeds an army!)


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Din Tai Fung, and its famous xiao long bao (dumplings) – the food there was fabulous and we ate way too much!


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Fruit tea (with a foil/plastic seal over the cup), usually carried around in a plastic bag, a bit like a can of Scrumpy Jack (i.e. cider) at a music festival.


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Night Market (note the ice on the vegetables although not on the meat)


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Street food (left hand side tidbits look like something from Aliens and scared the living hell out of our 4-year old)



Menu of a seafood restaurant

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The balcony on the top floor of our hotel, which multitasked as the hotel’s kitchen!



I had never associated Taipei (or Taiwan) with art, but Taipei has a huge art scene. There were quirky arts and craft galleries everywhere! See photos below.

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There were some really cool graffiti in the Ximen area of the city (see photos below).

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We also found an empty Natural History Museum. Pretty amazing for two dinosaur enthusiasts! See photos below.

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A couple of photos of the city


Scooters in Taipei are like bicycles in Amsterdam – everyone seems to have one.

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Finally, Taipei’s most famous sight: Taipei 101, as viewed from the Elephant mountain



You can find my other blog posts re our trip to Taiwan here:

Nutty Professor

Do you want a flake with your pig knuckle ice cream?

Lantern festival

Stinky Tofu


Stinky Tofu


It looks innocent, but if an odour could kill…


You might not have heard of (or tried) stinky tofu unless you’ve visited Taiwan, and to be honest it’s probably for the best if you haven’t tried it. I mean, if you thought that the pig knuckle ice cream (I wrote about it here) would send your taste buds to an early grave, you have no idea!

Stinky tofu is tofu but a really really really stinky, fermented, version of it. It’s so stinky that I have to breath through my mouth every time I walk past a stinky tofu vendor! The tofu’s smell reminds me of raw sewage and a teenage boy’s armpit. It is so pungent that it gives me a headache. In fact when we smelled it for the first time on the roads of Taipei city we thought some toxic waste, harmful to living organisms, had been accidentally released into the air. But it was just the waft of a stinky tofu vendor’s pot.

I am not the only person who doesn’t like the smell of stinky tofu since, in the presence of a stinky tofu vendor, many people cover their mouth/nose with clothing, pinch their nose or generally just look as distressed as if they have just swam in raw sewage.

I’m guessing the question on your lips is: Have you tried it?

And the answer is: No. To be honest, I don’t know who would want to try it!

I don’t have a very sensitive stomach or a selective palate, which would explain me not having tried stinky tofu. After all, (a) I love blue cheese and Finnish salty liquorice and (b) I have tried natto (Japanese fermented beans famous for their unpleasant rotten smell and slimy texture) and durian (a south Asian fruit with a notoriously strong and disgusting smell of blue cheese combined with poo, so much so that durian’s possession is banned, for instance, in hospitals in Taipei (see photo below), and also in many hotels and on public transport. The point is that I have tried, and in some cases like, flavours that many people consider unpalatable, but I feel that stinky tofu is one of those things that should not be consumed by anyone.

Before I wrap this stinky blog post up, I might just mention that we had a bit of a stinky day today – we had to go to the hospital. My daughter’s insulin cannula site had got infected (which I presume is not stinky tofu fumes related). She is now recovering with a 5-day course of antibiotics, just in time for the second part of our holiday – a week on the beaches of the Philippines!


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Lantern Festival


Yesterday (22nd Feb 2016) was the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, the day of lighted lamps. The main place in Taiwan to celebrate this day is the Pingxi district in the mountains east of Taipei where they hold an annual Lantern Festival on the day. And it truly is a spectacular Lantern festival, given that thousands of lanterns float over the mountains of Pingxi that evening (I understand that in the days following the festival, teams of council run cleaners hike through the hillsides collecting the used lanterns from the area to dispose of them).

Since we were lucky enough to be in Taiwan during the festival (although my husband would insist it was his expert planning), we, along with thousands of others, went to Pingxi to experience it.

As expected, Pingxi was as busy as the Southern English town of Lewes during their famous Bonfire Night (i.e. it was rammed), but the transportation worked like a dream. There were hundreds of buses carrying people back and forth between the terminal metro stop and Pingxi (about 40min bus ride) for £2 /person for a return journey. Even tough there were thousands of people there, we didn’t really have to queue for the shuttle buses at either end. It still beats me how they did that! When it comes to efficiency, order and planning, maybe somewhat unexpectedly, based on our experience, Taiwan totally plays in the same league as Japan.

The festival consisted of three main parts:

1. Food stalls

Like any festival, at the Lantern festival you could fill you stomach with all sorts of food, like fried chicken, meat/seafood skewers, fruit, sweets and stinky tofu.



2. Your messages to the World/Universe/Higher being

During the afternoon, before the main lantern event started at 6pm, many people sent their own lanterns into the sky, including us.





You can buy a lantern (for £3-4), write a message on the four sides of it and send it up into the sky. The main location for the spectators’ lantern lighting and sending off seemed to be the train track (see photos) – an operating train track I might add!

We quickly learned what happens when there is a train coming: with about 20 seconds of warning, someone starts blowing a whistle, people start shouting and screaming, and in a state of panic people rush to the side of the track (see photos below to see how close the public is to the passing train!).





The colour of the lantern signifies different fortunes. Our children chose two lanterns: red and pink, whose colour represented health/longevity and happiness, respectively.

The messages and wishes that we wrote on them were things like:

-World peace (although, I got distracted and misspelt it, so it ended up saying: Worl peace)

-I wish that everyone had clean water

-Greetings from Finland, England and Japan

-Princesses and Super Heroes 4ever

-I want to be a dinosaur scientist (which came out looking like it just said I want to be a dinosaur).



3. Lantern Festival show

This is the part of the festival of which you might have seen photos. Because we didn’t want to push into the most crowded part of the festival, we were not at the actual area where they sent the lanterns off. Instead, we parked ourselves about 100 meters away on a bridge with a good view of the area. The lanterns were beautiful! (see video footage below)




Nutty Professor


Greetings, not from Osaka, but from Taipei! We are currently on holiday in Taiwan. Our first impression of Taipei is great! It’s slightly warmer here than in Osaka, and so it already feels like the spring here, people are friendly and helpful, food is good, and there is lots to see.

We took the taxi from the airport to the hotel last night, and I am happy we did, as otherwise we would have never found our hotel. Even when the taxi driver pointed at the entrance, it took us a good 15 minutes to find the reception – partly because the hotel had changed its name since our booking, partly because the reception was on the 12th floor, and party because they had done a pretty good job in camouflaging the hotel amongst the local street vendors’ shops (see a photo of the entrance to the hotel below).


But when we did manage to find the reception, the hotel staff were extremely helpful, they even wrote down the name of the closest English speaking hospital in Chinese for any emergencies. You see, I forgot to take with us our daughter’s emergency injection, a glucagon vial + syringe, which we are meant to use if her blood glucose level falls so low that she passes our and/or convulses. We’ve never had to use that injection before (but many other parents of Type 1 diabetic children have) and our preparation for the journey was a bit chaotic due to the fact that my husband got to Japan only two days before our holiday, and me having been very busy and stressed for work until literally moments before we headed to the airport, so I just forgot all about the glucagon injection (until we were already in Taiwan).

Well, so far so good: No-one’s passed out or convulsed, although I did nearly have a fit when I discovered what my husband had packed.

When we were packing our bags for the trip, I asked my husband to pack the scales. Given that we have to carefully monitor our daughter’s carbohydrate intake, so that we can give her the equivalent amount of insulin to counterbalance the carbs that she’s consumed (thus, we need to weigh pretty much any carb-containing food before she puts it in her mouth) I assumed that the term ‘scales’ was enough to translate to ‘kitchen scales’. But obviously it wasn’t since when I checked our hand luggage at Taipei airport for some travel documents, I discovered a full size personal scales in my husband’s hand-luggage. Like what the hell!? Have you lost your mind? Why have we ferried a bloody personal scales from Osaka to Taipei?! Maybe my husband is sending me a message along the lines of:

Just in case you wanted to see the damage that those 3 pork buns you munched today have done…

In any case, for the next two weeks, we’ll be weighing 4-year old’s portion sizes on those personal scales i.e. things like three grapes or 20g of porridge oats! But on a positive note, at least I can keep my own pork bun intake in check.

When we got to our hotel room, while I was getting the kids ready for bed, my husband went back out to buy some bottled water (apparently it’s not advisable to drink tap water in Taiwan) and some food as an evening snack before bed. I mentioned to him that he shouldn’t buy any fresh foods, due to the fact that fresh food in Taiwan might have been washed in tap water (or not stored properly) and may therefore have hepatitis A, typhoid or the germs that cause gastroenteritis (this is not my advice but the vaccination clinic’s advice in Osaka). So I suggested that he should buy something like pot noodles or cup-a-soups, crackers, fruit with peel on (like bananas), and some wine. He came back with some sushi! I didn’t kick off because instead of wine he had found some Strongbow cider, the encounter of which makes my brain scream Hallelujah!

I should say that despite my slagging off my husband, I think that generally he is quite switched on, especially at work. Maybe he is a bit like one of those nutty professors who talks about brain science all day but then can’t remember where they have parked their car. To back this up, his handwriting is indecipherable, even to him. I think sometimes he writes half a word then can’t be bothered writing the rest and so finishes with a little squiggle.

After having now spent one night in our hotel, I think our room is not bad, but my husband is a little disappointed, namely because we don’t have a good view from our room. And not just a good view, we don’t even have any windows! Well, unless you count this little fellow (see photo below).


Our hotel room window

And if you do count it, then I suppose we do have a view. The window just kind of gets a bit in the way of things (see photo below).


The view


But who cares – we are not going to spend that much time in our hotel room, when we’ll be exploring what Taipei has to offer.