Sunday, June 18, 2017

Family fun at the Taipei Zoo

Taiwanese breakfast

We started off the day grabbing some traditional Taiwanese breakfast at Si Hai Soy Milk King.  Not the most nutritious meal, Taiwanese breakfast is simple and delicious.  
Soybean milk is an essential part of breakfast; it is served sweet, salty, plain, hot, or cold.  Twisted cruller, or “you tiao” is basically deep-fried dough.  
In Chinese, “you tiao” literally translates to “oil stick.”  You can eat these oil sticks plain, dipped in soy milk, or wrapped with fried egg.  We dipped our twisted crullers in hot and sweet soy milk.  
We also ordered a side of tasty steamed pork soup dumplings, or “xiao long bao.”  We enjoyed these little dumplings by topping with ginger and dipped in soy sauce.

Taipei Zoo
Our family had a wonderful time at the Taipei Zoo.  
At over 400 acres, the Taipei Zoo is one of the largest zoos in Asia.
We saw plenty of wild animals like koalas, giant pandas, zebras, elephants, and hippopotamuses.  
The exhibits were all very nicely designed.  It felt like we were walking through the jungles and rainforests of Taiwan.  Our son loved running around the open areas.  
For our 21-month old, the entire zoo was too much to explore so we only covered about half of the zoo.  Come with comfortable walking shoes because there is so much ground to cover.  
Other exhibits include an insectarium, reptile house, bird world, and penguin habitat. 

The best part of the Taiwan Zoo was that the entrance fee was only 60NT, around $2 USD - truly an amazing value!  I highly recommend visiting the Taiwan Zoo if you are ever in town.

Located right next to the zoo is the Maokong Gondola, which provides a scenic ride up a mountain to a village at the top.  
Here, you can enjoy tea at a variety of teahouses as well as get beautiful views of Taipei.  Unfortunately, the Gondola was closed on the day we visited the zoo so we did not get a chance to ride it. 

For dinner, we had some delicious Chinese food and Peking duck at Longdu Restaurant.  
We definitely slept well after our long day.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Taipei 101 and Core Pacific City in Taipei, Taiwan

Our family had a great time visiting Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara in Japan.  The next destination on our vacation was Taipei, Taiwan.  I booked us 4 free economy flights for 3 adults (myself, my wife, and my dad) and 1 infant with British Airways Avios transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  Total cost for the 4 of us was only 23,250 Avios and $93.21, great use of Avios.  It was a short 3-hour flight and so we decided to save extra points for future flights. 

We didn’t get to the Osaka Airport (KIX) early enough to try out the lounge (was really looking forward to it!), but we did get some great seats for our flight.  We were lucky to secure the bulkhead seats just behind Business Class.  
Our seats had plenty of legroom and it felt like we were in Premium Economy.  Our flight from Osaka to Taipei took 3.5 hours.            

Taipei 101
After we landed, we went to the Taipei 101 mall to explore and grab lunch.  
Taipei 101 gets its name from its 101 stories.  From 2004 to 2009, the building was ranked the world’s tallest.  For those interested in an amazing view of Taipei, you can take the elevator up to the 89th floor for the indoor observatory or up to the 91st floor for the outdoor observatory.  
At Taipei 101 you will find lots of high end shopping in the first 5 floors, restaurants, a food court and a Jason’s Market Place grocery store in the basement.  We picked up plenty of fresh fruits and snacks to bring back to our hotel.  Look at this selection of Pocky candy!

We had delicious dumplings at our favorite dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Fung.  It wasn’t too busy when we arrived so we did not have to wait long.  
If you come during peak season, the wait time can easily be over 2 hours.  Service is fast and efficient in this busy restaurant.  While you are waiting in line, you are given a paper menu to check off the items you want to eat.  Once you are seated, you hand your order to the waiter.  There's a window where you can see all the dumplings being freshly made.
We had a variety of dumplings and other Taiwanese food.  Everything was very tasty, especially the juicy pork dumpling (xiao long bao) and truffle dumplings.
Core Pacific City
Due to gloomy weather and slight rain, we spent our afternoon inside Core Pacific City, also known as the Living Mall.  
This massive city within a city is made up of two buildings – an L shaped building surrounding a sphere shaped building.  The architectural design of the mall is very unique.  Outside the mall, the sphere is quite a unique sight to see. Inside, you will find round circular walkways around a smaller sphere.  
When the mall first opened, it operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Core Pacific City has 12 stories above ground and 7 underground levels.  
Inside the mall, you will find tons of clothing stores, toy stores, a food court, and 3 levels dedicated to children’s activities.  Our son had so much fun playing with the various kids rides and running around the Toys R Us toy store.
Our first day in Taipei was great.  It was funny to see how our son had the best time ever inside a toy store.  Our son loved the Core Pacific City mall so much that we came back a few days later.  

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