My Taiwan Chronicles – Day 4

Panda, Beitou and Tamsui

It’s weekend in Taipei. Time to see my favorite animal on earth, the Giant Panda. Taipei Zoo has a pair of Giant Pandas as a permanent exhibition. Said to be one of the largest zoos in Asia, Taipei Zoo in its second and current location provides extensive display of animals, the most popular are the Giant Pandas.

My visit to Taipei Zoo was specifically for these black-and-white creatures.

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Taipei Zoo received two Giant Pandas in 2008. The two pandas were named Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan as a gesture of unity. It caused quite a stir 3 years prior as many Taiwanese disagreed on the gesture itself. But with the acceptance from the Taiwanese president of the endangered animals, it has made Taipei Zoo even more popular.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan had an offspring, Yuan Zai, the first panda cub born in Taiwan.

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Pandas at the Taipei Zoo MRT Station

Reaching the zoo is just as easy as hopping on the brown line and getting off at the Taipei Zoo Station. I skipped the gondola ride for now since I had no plans to see the Zhinan and Sanxuan Temples nor explore the rest of the exhibition in the zoo. I am pressed for time so I just went directly to the Giant Panda House.

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And there they were, in the Giant Panda House. There was a queue for the two glass confinements. Each glass exhibit has a giant panda. Visitors can only have that one time to get near to the glass to see and take pictures of the adorable creatures. Unfortunately, the pandas were sleeping when I got my turn to see them up close. By the time they were awake, I was already at the exit of the line. I took photos from a circular ramp that led to the Panda Shop and the Panda Café.

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Panda, fresh from slumber

To completely fill this Panda experience, I had lunch at the Panda Café.

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Panda Café

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Panda Meal

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Pasta for the Panda lover

Then it’s time to leave Taipei Zoo. I made sure that I took a lot of photos inside the Giant Panda House.

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From Zoo to a Bath House

It was humid and hot in Taipei last August. From Taipei Zoo, I returned to the hostel to rest for a bit and to escape the scorching heat of noontime. A few hours after, I found myself at the Beitou station, waiting for a ride to Xinbeitou.

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There’s a cute diorama-of-sort display at the Beitou station, depicting a bath house scene. There’s a separate MRT line from Beitou to Xinbeitou – a place most popular for its hot springs, bath houses and spas. The bath houses trace their popularity back in the early 1900s and are heavily influenced by the Japanese.

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From the terminal station of Xinbeitou, you need to hike for several minutes to get to the Thermal Valley. En route, you get to pass by the Beitou Hot Springs Museum, Taipei Public Library, Ketagalan Culture Center and the Plum Garden.

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Beitou Hot Springs Museum

Do not miss to visit Beitou Hot Springs Museum. The architecture is Victorian, a wood-and-brick 2-storey building said to be the largest public bath house in the area. Now a museum, the exhibits showcase the baths and stories on Beitou’s glorious bath house era.

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One of the many baths in the museum

As the ultimate destination for the hike, Beitou Thermal Valley is a natural hot spring. It’s more like a huge steaming pond with a slight odor of sulphur, or rotten eggs as you may. It had a feel that you were in a sauna as the breeze was hot and steamy.

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Bear in mind as well that the rocks in the Thermal Valley may seemed to be ‘radioactive’. Locals say that this rare type of rocks contain Radium, a radioactive element. Visitors are not allowed to take a dip in the Thermal Valley because the water temperature ranges between 80-100 degrees Celsius.

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Thermal Valley

Tamsui District

On weekends, Tamsui District is very much vibrant and alive. Tourists flock to Tamsui mostly in the afternoon, starting with the visit to the historical and cultural stretch bearing Tamsui Old Street, the Fort Santo Domingo, Oxford College and Old British buildings, then finally the Fisherman’s Wharf to wait for the sunset over the Lover’s Bridge.

From Tamsui Station, you need to take the bus (R26) to get to all the sites. I started with the visit to Fort Santo Domingo which is in the same vicinity as the Old Residence of the British Consul, the Oxford College and the Little White House.

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Fort Santo Domingo

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Former Residence of the British Consulate

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The Old Oxford College Building

Another bus ride took me to Fisherman’s Wharf where I get to see the wonderful sunset.

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Oppie at the Fisherman’s Wharf with a
view of Lover’s Bridge

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Tamsui Marina

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Tamsui sunset marks another day well-spent in Taipei.

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