Surviving a weekend in Taipei

In hindsight, the trip to Taipei 101 was overambitious; desperate to show La Serpiente the high points of Taipei, I overlooked the possibility that she’d freak out when it came to looking down from the 89th floor. I had to placate her with Hello Kitty based paraphernalia from the gift shop, then beat a retreat for Songshan, only to find our hotel doesn’t have much in the way of warm water, making her bath a less than splendid endeavour.

This morning, however, we sprang from bed nice and early and made it to the zoo before 10am. I’d forgotten quite how big and hilly Taipei Zoo is, or how much walking there would be for a three year old. We got to see the pandas and the penguins, two of La Serpiente’s requests. Uncharacteristically, the pandas were less standoffish than the penguins, who all congregated at one end of their enclosure and never deigned to move about and do anything interesting.

La Serpiente also wanted to see the elephants and the reindeer, and half broke my heart when she said we could go back to see them tomorrow (when we’ll be on the plane back to Singapore) but we did make the most of the tram up and down the hill. It was a shame she was so focussed on the penguins, given the much more exciting reptile house on the way (and that’s before considering the two people dressed up as a tree frog and a turtle, dancing for the children).

We left at about 12, missing out on the Maogong Gondola yet again, in order to get back for Naptime, which went on until almost 4. I was debating whether to take her to the Hello Kitty Cafe (which might be closed) or the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zhongshan, but when I got chastised for not feeding her enough cereal my mind was made up, and off we went to Zhongshan.

We hadn’t been there for years, but the art by the station in Zhongshan is still intact (in London I’m sure it would have been vandalised years ago) and my daughter took every opportunity to sit on enormous ceramic animals. At MoCA itself, most of the museum was shut for a new exhibition and the only exhibit which was available was a bit dark and doleful for a three year old. Luckily there was a purple shark in the foyer and a merry go round being built, and the restaurant was open.

I got a bowl of white rice and some soup; La Serpiente refused any of the rice that was contaminated by soup, but drained a glass churn of milk and shared a cake with me, before having her photo taken by the proprietors and then going outside for jumping practice. Then we walked back to Zhongshan station and wandered around the shops for a bit, until I was flagging and we went back, stopping for more strange photo opportunities.

Once home, it was the very devil to get her to sleep; I don’t think she was down until 10, and then only when she was firmly jammed into my armpit. It’s been a strange weekend; not least because it’s been nearly impossible to find food for the two of us that isn’t a sandwich from the Family Mart or some chocolate coated raisins. I think she enjoyed most of it, and I hope that was because of, rather than despite, having time with her father. Next time I’ll remember to pack less in my backpack, stick to a more rigorous schedule to get stuff done before and after naptime, and remember to let her hold the tokens on the subway. I’ll also make sure my wife gives me recommendations for places to eat in Songshan, rather than the homophonic Zhongshan. Or not stay in Songshan next time. (There’s a Purple Garden Hotel in Zhongshan that I’m sure would delight La Serpiente, in colour if nothing else.)

She’s also one railway-conductor Hello Kitty the richer, and she’s still ebullient on a diet of carbs and fruit. She got given a piece of doughnut as we passed Mr Donut on the way home: maybe mango powered her craziness tonight. And she was talking about how she wants Destroyer and her mother to come to Taipei too next time, so that’s a sign she enjoyed it.

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