family life · travel

Taiwan Nov 2013 – 5 things I learnt from our trip

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At Danshui’s Lover’s Bridge

Do you ever get the post-holiday feeling like you are glad to be back in your own bed but at the same time are disappointed that you’re no longer on holiday? Well, the only way to get over it is to plan another trip, and I’m sure we’ll be back in Taiwan again.

This was our first adventure together as a family since we had Scout, which was probably long overdue, but I was never quite keen to bring the entire gang before, especially since there are so many little people to look after. If I only had ONE kid it’d be a whole different story.

These are a few things I learnt from our Taiwan trip:

1. Go with friends recommendations on tried and tested (with kids!) destinations, drivers, etc.

My SIL selected a free and easy travel agent from Google, who suggested an itinerary, arranged for accommodation and a driver for us, but left A LOT to be desired in her advice (you can read more about it on my subsequent posts). Now that we’ve been there I feel so much better equipped to plan a good holiday the next round.

We had such amazing luck to have had probably the worst driver in all of Taiwan. Everyone has stories about how good their drivers and guides were, but our driver hardly smiled, and from the point he met us (previously when it was only my SIL and 11YO nephew he was apparently ok, although not impressive). He became more and more black faced over the 2.5 days. He rarely initiated conversation, was prone to chasing us out of the van at destinations and sometimes at meal time left without a word after dropping us off. Worse was that he was pretty inconsiderate, parking and expecting us to walk a distance IN THE RAIN! WITH YOUNG KIDS! instead of dropping us first then going to park the van, OR parking closer. He also always sounded resigned and exasperated whenever we had requests and even scolded the boys once for constantly edging each other, but that’s just how boys are. And even after I complained to the agent who said the driver received a stern warning, there was no improvement.

So please, go with a recommendation from friends and go with tried and tested tour operators.

2. Have a plan that is flexible and can be altered due to weather conditions.

We were brought to somewhere near Yanmingshan on a day that was rainy, so the visibility was about 1km. Ignoring the fact that it was pretty pointless to drive up the mountain to see nothing, we were then led to climb slippery steps to apparently another view point, where probably we would have again, saw nothing. About 5 minutes into the journey I asked how long more it was going to be (I was carrying Scout at this point), and was told it was going to be around another 20 minutes. I thought that was crazy and turned back. So it was a trip that was thoroughly wasted.

I wish I had asked the agent clearly what we could do at each point of interest to make sure that they were child-friendly. We did emphasize that we were travelling with small kids, but only mummy (and other mummies) know best. And I wish we had a driver who would’ve been willing to also let us know the conditions ahead and plan with us to optimise our time there.

I think this is my nephew. Look at what a lovely clear day it is -.-
This is my nephew. I think. I can hardly tell! Look at what a lovely clear day it is -.-

3.If you are heading to Jiufen, Shifen, Pingxi etc consider the train instead of driving.

I had read online that taking a car to these towns is not exactly the nicest ride,  so I checked with the agent whether the journey would be ok and she assured me it would be. But not a single person in our group enjoyed the journey, with the majority feeling rather ill, but luckily no one threw up. So only take a car if the convenience (no need to lug things around, comfy personal space, etc) outweighs the very high possibility of arriving with green faces, or if everyone in your group confirm chop won’t get motion sickness. Also it’s so easy to take the train and I hear it’s a lovely scenic route.

4. Kids will be kids.

Kids aren’t really bothered about whether they’ve seen all of the required tourist sites. AT ALL. Sometimes they’re just happy to be in a hotel! So when travelling with kids I will need to be more mindful of what appeals to them and to balance their needs with our wants – which is to experience a different culture, climate, food, etc. My intention of going to Taiwan was to immerse them in a environment that is completely Chinese, and I think we achieved that, but given that we subjected them to motion sickness and a sometimes poorly planned itinerary, I think they did really really well.

Who doesn't love the playground?
Who doesn’t love the playground?

5. I’m not really a fan of Taiwanese food.

We tried a couple of “famous” and highly recommended places, and I can’t say that I was blown over. Some were very tasty and quite good, but they weren’t like the BEST.THING.EVER. I even think our 油条 tastes better, and I can’t see the hype over the pineapple tarts, nor their famous ba zhang. So I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m really a Straits Chinese person.

At least the kids did enjoy most of the food!
At least the kids did enjoy most of the food!

So there were definitely some hits and quite a number of misses on the trip, but overall we had a really good time, and we’re pretty sure we can do better next time 🙂 I will tell you more about the trip in upcoming posts!

Please see my other posts on Taiwan here:
1. Day 1 and 2 – Taoyuan – Flying Cow Ranch
2. Day 3 and 4 – Yanmingshan, Danshui, Shifen, Jiufen, Taipei
3. Day 5 and 6 – Taipei 101, Da’an

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