National Palace Museum
This extraordinary collection was begun during the 10th century, when Chinese Emperors began to annex art treasures. In the 20th century, thousands of artworks were ferried in crates from city to city, and finally to Taiwan to escape invading armies. Miraculously, most of the collection survived and is considered the top collection of Chinese art in the world.
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This very scenic 2km-long lake (Lǐyú Tán), shaped somewhat like a carp (lǐyú means 'carp' in Chinese), sits in the foothills of the Central Mountain Range about 19km southwest of Hualien. It's the largest natural inland lake in Taiwan, and has a splendid backdrop of lush green hills. It's also blessedly free of overdevelopment. There are pavilions and walking trails and even boat rental shops along the shores, but they are mostly of wood-and-stone construction and blend in nicely with the environment.
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A beautiful oasis in Taipei's funky west side, the Botanical Gardens has greenhouses featuring a vast variety of lush plants, literature- and Chinese-zodiac-themed gardens and a marvellous lotus pond.
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Children's Recreation Centre
The large Children's Recreation Centre features a 'world of yesterday' with historical Chinese toys and folk arts, and a 'world of tomorrow' with, among other things, a planetarium.
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Modelled after the temple in Confucius' native town of Shandong, the Confucius Temple is based on classical Chinese temple architecture. Confucius (551-479 BC) is generally acknowledged as China's greatest educator and scholar. In his day, education was exclusive to nobility but Confucius successfully promoted popular education.
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Religious life in Taiwan is alive and kicking seven days a
week at the Longshan temple. Though not the biggest temple in the city, there is
something unique and beautiful about the vibe at Longshan that keeps people coming
The temple dates back to 1738. As the story
goes, a passer-by left an amulet of the Guanyin (goddess of mercy) hanging on a tree
on the site of the present temple, and the amulet shone so brightly, even after
dark, that all who passed by knew the site was blessed. Nearly three centuries
later, the spot still exudes a certain warmth. The stones that line the courtyard of
the temple were originally ballast on the ships that ferried immigrants from Fujian
province across the often treacherous Taiwan Straits, and the waterfall inside the
courtyard is a favourite spot for shutterbugs. Once you enter the main building,
expect a riot of scarlet and gold in the form of enormous bronze incense burners and
carved-stone columns. The best times to visit are around 6am, 8am and 5pm when
crowds of worshippers gather and engage in hypnotic chanting.
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National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum is home to what could quite easily
be termed the world's largest and finest collection of Chinese art; it is
unfortunate that the overall interior setup of the museum does not match with the
grandeur of the collection. The museum's interior is poorly lit and for the most
part its grand collection is laid out with little sense of theme or design, giving
the museum a stagnant feel overall. This is especially strange in light of the fact
that the exhibits are rotated frequently; the vast collection (much of it liberated
from mainland China during the last retreat of the KMT) is far too large to exhibit
at any given time. Nonetheless, the sheer volume and beauty of the museum's
treasures still makes it a must visit.
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National Taiwan Science Education Centre
If this place doesn't bring out the kid in you, than there's no kid in you to be brought out. The National Taiwan Science Education Centre is one of the coolest children's museums we've yet to find in Asia. Interactive exhibits cover the gamut of scientific knowledge, from anatomy (a walk-through digestive tract!) to zoology (a cat-head-shaped helmet that gives the wearer feline hearing powers).
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Shung Ye Museum Of Formosan Aborigines
The Shung Ye Museum Of Formosan Aborigines features highlights
of nine Taiwanese indigenous tribes. These Austronesian peoples are related through
blood or linguistic ties to people across precolonial Oceania, as far away as
Madagascar. The tribes developed pottery, basketry, wood carvings, musical
instruments and colourful costumes. Fine examples of Taiwanese aboriginal
handicrafts are displayed and video footage offers an educational summary of the
histories of the tribes themselves.
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Towering above the city like the gigantic bamboo stalk it was designed to resemble, Taipei 101 is impossible to miss. At 508m, Taipei International Financial Centre 101, as it's officially named, is the world's tallest building (Dubai eat your heart out, for now at least!). In addition to holding the world record for height, Taipei 101 also holds the record for having the world's fastest elevator.
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Taipei Astronomical Museum
Opened in 1997, the Taipei Astronomical Museum houses four floors of constellations, ancient astronomy, space science and technology, telescopes and observatories. Though a good place to while away an hour with the kids, what keeps this otherwise excellent museum from being a must-visit is a dearth of English content though every exhibit features English and Chinese, but most of the actual information is in the latter language only.
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Zhishan Cultural & Ecological Garden
Just south of Tianmu's Yangming hospital and a few blocks east of the Zhishan MRT sits one of our favourite parks, a jungle-filled mountain just north of the Shuangxi river (also a lovely park in its own right). It's filled with gardens and shrines and the top of the mountain has a temple dedicated to a much revered Sage and General called Chen Yuan Kwang who lived 1500 years ago.
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