A Day in Taipei

These days, when we’re all stuck at home, I find myself longing for far-flung getaways more and more. So I decided to dust off the travel journal I wrote two years ago, shortly after returning from an epic family vacation to Taiwan. I mean, who couldn’t use a little armchair travel right now??

The Journey Begins

We left on the first day of April in 2018. My husband Brett and I had traveled to the island eleven years earlier, and were looking forward to sharing it with our kids. Our daughter (C) was ten, and our son (D) was almost eight: old enough to be relatively self-sufficient travelers, but still delighted by simple things.

For them, even the 13-hour plane ride was an exciting part of the journey. Once we got settled into our seats, C&D were amazed that they each had an entire TV screen all to themselves. They couldn’t wait for the screen-time free-for-all.

But thirteen hours is a very long time to be sitting on a plane. We tried to mix it up a little, especially since they both had homework packets to complete, but eventually we all became zombie-ish. None of us were successful in falling asleep, either.

Mealtimes provided a nice break to the general monotony. Well… mostly nice. As I noted in the journal entry I jotted down later:

The food was okay, a chickpea curry (too spicy) for lunch and pita sandwich with a very messy tabbouleh and not nearly enough hummus inside. But all in all not bad. Later, though, C threw up in my hands. Very messy and now let us never speak of it again. 

Yeah, no need to belabor that point. I cleaned up as best I could, but it wasn’t a perfect job. Lucky for us, the apartment in Taipei where we were staying had a washing machine. So, once we’d landed, cleared customs, collected our bags, navigated to the airport metro, transferred to the Taipei metro, and found our way to the apartment, we were able to shower and toss those yucky clothes straight into the washer. Then we crashed out, exhausted after our long day of travel.

An Early Start

Of course, we all woke up around 3am in a jet-lagged stupor, unable to get back to sleep. We tried to doze for a few hours before leaving our room, not wanting to disturb our hosts. (We were incredibly fortunate to stay with our dear friends Janice and Mo, their two adorable children, and Janice’s parents, in her family’s spacious apartment right in the heart of Taipei.)

Alley in Taipei. Four parked scooters in the foreground, one very sleek car, and older buildings covered in red tile with plants growing up the walls.
Taipei alleyway

When the kids started getting too antsy to stay in our room any longer, Janice’s dad, also an early riser, took us across the street to a charming elementary school. It was already full of people walking the track and doing tai chi in the basketball court.   

An old school building, three stories tall, made of white brick with arched windows lining the exterior walkways, and lots of trees in the foreground.
The school building

We bought breakfast from a street vendor and sat down at a picnic table. A woman doing stretches nearby chatted with us in English as we ate. I had my first fan tuan of the trip (sticky rice wrapped around pickled vegetables and you tiao, a fried bread stick), along with some warm dou jiang (fresh soy milk). It was excellent, though C wasn’t a fan of the milk’s super-beany flavor. “It tastes like fatty acids,” she said.

my veggie fan tuan
Ah, delicious fan tuan…

Later that morning, we headed out with our friends to do a little grocery shopping. We stopped at the fruit market for grapes, oranges, watermelon and lian wu (wax apples, which are satisfyingly crisp and refreshing). I wanted to get some good pics of the market stand, but was in charge of keeping track of all the kids, so I figured I’d better focus on that instead!

Next Stop: Taipei 101

Not too long afterward, we hopped on the metro and headed to Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world. 

Taipei 101, from the ground
Taipei 101, from the ground

My son was particularly jazzed about this outing – he had long been dreaming about visiting the observation decks on the 89th (indoor) and 90th (outdoor) floors. And once the super-fast elevators had delivered us there at lightning speed, he was not disappointed. Nor were we. It was amazing to view the city from up so high. We felt like we were literally on top of the world!

the city of Taipei from on high
Gazing out at the city below

On the outdoor observation deck, the wind blowing through the metal railings made a surreal, low-pitched tone. We sat outside in the wind, which felt amazing on the hot day, basking in the sun and eating a few snacks (always having to be mindful that wrappers didn’t get blown away in the strong breeze!). 

After a few hours at the top, we zipped back down to the base of the tower and found our way back to the metro. All of us were totally exhausted, so we decided to get some rest before heading out for dinner that evening.

An Incredible Feast

As soon as we got back home, we crashed once more. It was extremely hard to get up from our afternoon naps, but at least we knew we’d be rewarded for it! We had reservations at a nearby vegetarian dim sum restaurant that sounded amazing. I couldn’t wait to eat, but staggered along the sidewalk as we made our way there, feeling like I was still half asleep. The walk seemed to take forever, but by the time we arrived I was much more awake.

The feast that followed was incredible. I was so jet-lagged that I didn’t think to get photos of the food, but according to the (lamentably ineloquent) description in my journal:

We had green beans w/mushrooms, veggie humbow, sui mai, veggies w/basil, these odd nori rolls with fried pumpkin bits that were delicious, some other kind of steamed bun that was fabulous, taro cakes, radish cake, spring rolls, turnips in pastry (a chef specialty that was really really good), noodles, and more. One of my favorite dishes was a mu shu type thing with pancakes, tofu, some sort of fried dough, cucumber strips, and a barbecue plum sauce. It was SO. GOOD. 

On the way back, we walked through a small night market and bought our first of many souvenirs. After that, we crashed into bed and were lulled to sleep by the sweet sounds of garbage trucks blasting Für Elise as they made their 9pm rounds. It was a fitting ending to our whirlwind day in Taipei!

Your Thoughts

Where have you traveled lately (virtually or in person)? Have you had the joy of enduring a long plane ride with kids? Do you keep detailed notes of everything you eat while traveling, or is that just me? Let me know in the comments below!

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