June 30, 2010
Taipei City Zoo
I am often asked for good places to take children in Taipei, and top of my list is the Taipei City Zoo. And it's not only just for children, there is more than enough to keep adults occupied as well.
Despite the name and actual geographical location, the zoo is actually well outside the high rise buildings of the true city, set in the hills of Mucha. Despite this though, it is incredibly easy to get to as it has its own MRT station. It's also very good value, with tickets costing around US$2 for adults.
The setting then is more like jungle than city, and provides a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the city. As it is in the countryside, do bring insect repellent, and if it's sunny make sure you bring high-factor suntan lotion. There are areas of cover and shade, but you will inevitably be in the open for long stretches.
The zoo covers a large area (90 hectares apparently), and it might be worthwhile planning which areas you would like to see in advance. I'd recommend taking in the Formosan Animal Area (you are in Taiwan after all!) as a must, and you can find a map of the other areas on the official website http://english.zoo.taipei.gov.tw/. Despite the size however, it can get very busy, especially at weekends. The koala and panda enclosures in particular often have long lines to get in, and if there are long lines, I wouldn't wait to get in.
The Taipei Zoo's designers have done a commendable job integrating the layout into the surrounding environment. The the hills around Mucha are carpeted in ferns and other subtropical flora and blend in well with many of the simulated habitats, particularly in the Rainforest Zone. Most, but not all, of the animal habits are spacious with plenty of room for the animals to move about and exercise.
Human contact with the animals is kept to a minimum in most cases. In some of the primate areas, glass barriers allow visitors to get up close and personal with our ape and monkey cousins.
For my money, the primates are the real stars of the Taipei Zoo. The collection includes a wide variety of monkeys, apes great and small, and lemurs. Some of the chimpanzees actually seem to enjoy interacting with visitors, and it was often difficult to tell which primate was mocking the other.
There is a shuttle train that runs around the zoo with several stops, and I recommend taking it if it's not too busy. It's especially good fun for the kids, but the ride is enjoyable for all. It also means you won't miss the penguin house which I think is worth a visit, and it's nice and cool.
You can get food and drinks inside the zoo at various snack bar type places, and you can also bring your own. If the weather is okay then it's a good place for a picnic, but if not there are restaurants outside of the zoo where you can have something a bit more sit down with air conditioning. These are also right by the MRT station, nicely wrapping up what I hope you will feel was a fun trip.
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