November Expenses

Life in Taipei has been a lot of fun but it can get expensive very fast if we're not careful...

Review of Christmasland in New Taipei City 2018

If you're a foreigner living in Asia, then Christmas can be a bit different. But there are festivities here...

The Cost of Moving to Taiwan: The First Month

How much does it cost to move a family overseas? One important question to consider when moving abroad is: How much will this international move cost?

How to compare cost of living between countries

Will I spend more money in Taiwan compared to my home country? Less money?

Toy bank - aka the Taipei City Parenting Resource Center

Those of you who are parents probably know that kids tire of toys very quickly. So the Taipei city government has this great resource for parents with kids ages 0-6 years old, the toy rental bank!

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Travel adventures: A date with the moon (Yao yue teahouse)

Both of us really love tea and there just happen to be a place nearby where we live in Xindian with beautiful scenery and tea! Best of all, it opens 24/7 even on new years!


There are multiple ways to get here if you take public transit.

The place is about a 15-20 minutes walk from Maokong station on the brown line.

Or you can ride Brown 7 to Wanshou Bridge (MuZha) and then walk over to the Brown 15 or S10 mini bus to Maokong Station (Mini Skywalk). Then it's about a 2-5 minutes walk to the Yao Yue Teahouse.

This teahouse is one of many in the Maokong area as this area is an area with many tea plantations. The teahouse is mostly self-serving so you just go to the owners and pay for your tea (300-500NT depending on what the time that you're staying for, the number of people there are, and the kind of tea). 
 
They give you the tea set with instructions on what to do. There's English on the other side of the Chinese instructions so no worries if you can't read Chinese. 

There are numerous areas to sit, both indoors and outdoors and one area that's even half and half. We got a bit hot from the weather and went to the indoor areas with AC. 





Of course, they sell food also, people are bound to be hungry if they're staying for a while to taste the tea and chat. 

https://yytea.com.tw/product_list

Here's the menu provided in a big booklet. I'm pretty sure there's an English booklet if you ask for it. 

But here's what we got:

We got the hot pot J042 pork hot pot and J182 beef hot pot.

Then the K163 (butter filled buns) that was delicious: https://yytea.com.tw/product_detail_12

We definitely recommend going if you get the chance!

Fun places for toddlers in Taipei: Taiwan National Museum - Railway branch

Our son loves cars and trains so when we heard there was a branch of the National Taiwan museum with trains, it was a must-see for our son.

It actually underwent restoration and was recently re-opened in July of 2020. 

The location is near the North Gate (北門) and accessible by the MRT, as you might have guessed it if you can read Chinese, Beimen station on the green line. 

They are open from 9:30am to 5pm, Tuesday-Sunday, including national holidays (except New Years 1/1 and lunar new years eve which varies from year to year). 

Admission is NT$100, children 6-12, students, military or police personnel, people aged 65 or older are all half price. 

Children under 6 are free. We got the annual membership as it was NT$300 and allows unlimited access to the other 3 branches of the Taiwan museum system. 





There are usually special exhibitions and some of the displays are interactive or captivating to a little boy who loves all things trains. 





There's also a kids' indoor play area where you can ride on the small train, but as there's only one train, the wait time is around 20 minutes on weekend mornings. 


To ride this train you actually need to queue up for a limited number of tickets and then wait in line and watch this train go around.

But if you want to ride the train, make sure to arrive early!

There are two times when tickets are distributed: 9:30am and 1:30pm. We normally arrive between 9:30 and 10:00am, and we always get tickets. You can get up to three tickets per kid, and they're all free. (Each kid can get a 10:00, 11:00, and 12:00 ticket. The 11:00 and 12:00 times are always sold out by 10:30.)

You can also line up to get tickets at 1:30. Again, each kid can get three tickets: for 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00. But the line for these gets REALLY long around 1:00. We've never managed to get tickets for the afternoon slots. (We only go on weekends)

If you want to go on a weekend afternoon, expect to be waiting for a VERY long time. Nobody can get tickets without lining up.

I highly recommend going in the morning. Try to get there around 9:30... but if you get there at 10:00, you should be ok. From 10:30 onwards, you're taking a risk.

Easy recipes: Crispy waffles

 Yes, we have attempted the crispy waffles originally from here and

https://www.inspiredtaste.net/25708/essential-waffle-recipe/

But we actually have made a lot of changes to the recipe to be more Taiwanese

Ingredients

3/4 cup of cake flour

1/4 cup of tapioca starch

1 cup of runny yogurt

1/3 cup of coconut oil

1 Tbsp sugar

1/2 Tsp baking soda

1 egg (best at room temperature)

1 Tsp vanilla extract

Mix the wet ingredients first with blender

Then pour into the dry ingredients

Mix by hand at this point and try not to over mix




Travel adventures: A visit to Alishan

So we went to visit the beautiful Alishan mountains with our kids.

Not having a car, we took the train. 
The mountain route was around $600 NT for adults. Kids under 120 cm do ride for free if they're on laps.


So on the train, car 12 is usually the kids' section but it's on a lottery basis when you buy the tickets online.





We stayed at the Orient luxury hotel in chiayi. We picked this place because there was a multi-floor kids play area right next to the hotel and you do get discounts for being hotel guests. 




Then the Shang Ming Show BnB high up in the mountains of Alishan. 




There's a promenade nearby that overlooks the beautiful tea farms in the mountains of the Alishan. 


All too soon our visit came to an end, but not before we visited the railway storage facility park near the station:

Life in the Xindian New Taipei Area with Kids

We live close to Xindian Station. While we like living here, there are both pros and cons to our area.

Let's start with the downsides...

1. Limited food options

One of the biggest perks about living in Taiwan is all the great (and cheap!) food. But sorry... if you live in the Xindian area, you'll find a hard time finding good food. And the few places that are good will be expensive.

The closer you live to the Xindian/Wenshan border (that is, the further north you live), the less food troubles you'll experience. But if you live close to Xindian Station (or further south), expect to cook for yourself regularly. Delivery services like Food Panda even have limited options for our area.

2. It takes forever to go anywhere

If you live in the center of Taipei, you'll find that public transit can get you anywhere in the city within a matter of minutes. But if you live at the very end of the line (or, in our case, a 20 minute walk from the end of the line), plan on an hour or more if you want to visit all the fun attractions... such as the Children's Amusement Park, the zoo, the parent-child play centers, the toy bank, etc.

I feel like we would go out a lot more often if we lived closer to the center of the city.

So... if life in this area is so inconvenient... why do we still live here?

We like our area because there's still some significant perks to living in Xindian.

1. It's quiet and peaceful 

Here's a view of the bitan recreation area

You'll find us and our kids walking through this area often. 

2. We are close to nature with great kids friendly hiking and biking trails. 





This is the hei mei mountain trail just to the right of the bridge down below. Our kids at age 3 and 2 could go through this trail. 

There's also a bike rental place with kids bikes suitable for those 2 and up and also bikes with baby seat at the front and back for families wanting to bike up the trail. 


Further up the metro green line, there's other kids friendly mountain trails.

One stop up from the end of the line at Xindian to the the green line at Xindian district station you'll find the little lion head (shi tou) mountain trail that's kids friendly but before the age of 3 we haven't hiked this trail.



Then a few stops up, at Jingmei station you'll find the fairy prints (xian ji) mountain trail that we also have yet to hike up. 

3. Kids friendly shopping areas - Carrefour Xindian and IKEA Xindian

IKEA has awesome kids' rooms that my kids love to pretend they live in. I do the same thing with their show rooms.



Carrefour has these great carts that are cars on bottom and grocery rack on top that works well if you only have one child. But not so well if you have just one adult and two kids. Often on the weekends you'd have to go early to grab one of these carts as it gets quite crowded with families. 

Then there are the pre-schools options if you have infants to toddler.

If you copy and paste the words: 幼兒園 (youeryuan)



The ones that seem to be concentrated are near Xindian district office station on Zhongxing road. We saw at least half a dozen on that road just walking up and down on it. 

The one we wanted to go to is called cute mama kindergarten at No. 203 section 1 of zhongxing road. 



There's also a chain preschool by the name of Filex Kids that are around the area: https://www.filexkids.org/2017C1/

Kid castle also has a lot of branches all over the island:


Easy recipe: Instant pot eggplant and carrots curry

So I ran across this recipe and thought it would be great as eggplants are difficult for me to cook on the stove. I tend to either overcook or undercooked them when I do eggplant curry on the stove so figure out an easy way to cook them in the instant pot when I saw this recipe:

https://www.cookwithmanali.com/instant-pot-eggplant-carrot-curry/

Here's my easy version of it:

Ingredients:
1 whole onion - chopped
2 long eggplants or 1 if you have the bigger thicker ones - cubed
2 small carrots or a bag if they're the snack bags - cubed or thinly sliced
2 cans of coconut milk
2 cubes of the curry spices or you can make your own from the receipt linked above
4 cups of water (or 4 in the cans of the coconut milk)

Optional:
3 tomatoes
basil
tofu or any meat on hand




Instant pot
You can do the saute steps like in the recipe linked above or you can just put in all the ingredients and press the soup option like I do.





Travel adventures: Fulong beach

So for my birthday, we traveled to Fulong beach.

We were there for the sand sculpture festival that usually goes from 1st of June until the end of July I believe.



You can take the local or express train from Taipei main station to Fulong station. I'd suggest doing this on a weekday as weekends and holidays the train is very crowded. The round trip for adults are around 150NT each and kids half of that. 

There's also the entrance fee into the beach area, for adults I believe the tickets are 100NT and kids 3-12 are 50NT. 

 Here's the map of the park.


 Our favorite sand sculpture is one that depicts the pandemic heroes. See the mask?

There area is very hot so definitely bring sun hats, umbrellas, shoes that are washable and put on lots of sunscreen and bring a lot of water or hit up the convenience stores in the area.

We actually ate lunch from the stores that are right next to the train store, apparently, the bento boxes are famous from this area.