If you want to see the REAL China, you should travel to Taiwan, a city filled with beautiful scenery, rich history, interesting culture and proves quite entertaining for adults and kids alike.
We started our Taipei City tour with David, the best tour guide we encountered during our Asian adventure. Pictured below is the beautiful Chiang Kai-Shek memorial with the best changing guard ceremony we have witnessed to date. The guard on duty stood almost 100% still (including blinking it seemed) for a FULL 50 minutes, as if in some sort of meditative trance.
The following day, we visited Taipei 101, the tallest building in Taiwan. It was built using wind damper (see yellow ball). When strong winds are blowing this huge ball automatically moves against it helping the building to withstand them.
After our building tour, we were off to Din Tai Fung where we had the best dumplings EVER! They are manually made with such precision to make sure they have the best taste. There are teams of 5 to make different types of dumplings. We tried fish, chicken, dates, vegetables and some other dumplings. They also offer a small tour for their customers where you can see for yourself the entire process! They now have restaurants in the USA now and we highly recommend them!
We then continued our day by visiting the Tao, Buddhist and Confucius temples and played ancient games with arrows. Our guide was amazing and explained the nature of these 3 religions. Some offerings that people give to the Gods are SO interesting. We're Just wondering what they had in the Dior shopping bag ???
For dinner, we are at one of the most authentic places in Taipei Expo Park. We couldn't really understand the waitstaff so we feel we have to give Google Translate a HUGE shoutuout here! PS- the chicken skewers were delicious (or at least we THINK it was chicken)...
The next day, we explored Taiwan's Northeast coastline and loved the beautiful rocky shores and shallow sandy beaches filled with algae, seashells, and hermit crabs.
This next activity was the highligh of our trip-Let's Make a wish Sky Lantern! We built a lantern from the scratch, made a wish, wrote it on our lantern and let it fly. This is a long Taiwanese tradition and is SUCH a cool activity for the whole family.
We continued our day exploring old railroads, hanging bridges, and seeing an AMAZING and MAJESTIC waterfall.
We then finished our day with dinner purchased at the Night Market - the food was good, cheap, and most importantly, authentic.
For our third day in Taiwan we decided to not take any tours and just wandered around Taipei. The taxi rides were super cheap and you can get from most 2 points from $3 to $10.
We then proceeded to the beautiful gardens of Shilin and the Songshan Cultural and Creative Parks where you can find many shops by local artists. It's a great place to visit with kids as they have various art and glass making classes.
When we walked through the city we found a super cool art shop where an artist built a car from used cell phones.
In summary, we felt Taipei was super safe and you can leave anything outside and nobody would steal it (for example, we witnessed numerous bikers leaving their helmets just laying on the bikes).
We finished the night at the night market where we gave our stomachs a break and ate just some unknown (and super delicious) fruits for dinner.
On our last day in Taiwan, we participated in a volunteer project to help single moms in Taiwan - Sweet Potato Mama. Genesis organization supports single moms by providing them with everything that they need to sell baked sweet potatoes on the streets. With the money that they make, they put some aside and use the rest to purchase more potatoes to sell. After 2-3 years they save enough money and "graduate" to do something on their own. It's a great way to help them come off government assistance and increase their standard of living.
Our business partners in Taiwan started the program for the tourists where people from various countries help sell potatoes with the ladies on the streets of Taipei. Today we set a new record for volunteers by selling 21 potatoes in 45 minutes. It would be a great experience for families with kids visiting Taiwan.
After pour voluntee project, we visited the old Confucius and Tao temples with fantastic guides Jonathan and Fred. We finished our tour and were ready to head back to the hotel and depart back home!