Leofoo village 六福村

One place which I feel is a must-visit for children visiting Taipei is Leofoo Village (六福村). Ted enjoyed himself tremendously and it was the place he talked most about when we returned to Singapore.

Leofoo Village is essentially a very large amusement park about 2 hours’ bus ride away from Taipei central but if you want to save on the long commute to and fro, you have the option of staying in their resort nearby. Since this was our first trip abroad with the little boy, to minimise the shifting of our heavy luggage around, we decided to stay only in one hotel in Taipei throughout our trip.

We started our journey by making our way to Songshan Airport station via the metro. The bus terminal is located right outside the airport, and there are signs within the metro station that point you to the bus terminal. We took the E-go bus which would take us directly to the park. The link is in Chinese, but you won’t miss it because it is the last stop on this route.

The strange thing is, you do not buy your tickets before you board – you sit on the bus for about 1 and a half hours before you arrive at Longtan Station (龙潭总站) and you alight for 5 minutes to purchase tickets. It’s NTD 1200 per adult for a round trip (Taipei to Leofoo and back to Taipei) and it includes the entrance ticket to Leofoo Village. For us, it worked out to be less than SGD60 per person and toddlers enter free! After purchasing your tickets, you show them to the bus driver and continue on the rest of the journey to Leofoo Village.

It’s a long journey (about 2 hours on the bus) so make sure you bring food and entertainment for the children. We had brought along some snacks, a banana and an ipad and although I don’t really like to rely on the ipad too much, it’s really great for such situations when we really just want a little rest.

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When we first entered the park, we were greeted by loud upbeat music. After a short walk, we came to a central clearing where there was a procession of floats and mascots waving enthusiastically from them. It was Halloween season when we visited, so most of the floats were Halloween themed.

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Leofoo Village is made up of a number of smaller themed parks and I think it is not possible to explore them all in one day. With a toddler in tow, we only managed to explore a fraction of the parks.

The first part we visited was the Safari, which is pretty much like a small zoo. There were animals such as tigers, camels and birds in enclosures for you to observe up close.

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There is also a bus ride that takes you into the safari area where tigers, lions and monkeys roam freely. We were there on a weekday that didn’t fall within the school holidays so the park was not crowded. We waited about 15 minutes for the bus. We saw about 10-15 tigers, 10-15 lions and about a 100 monkeys roaming freely and over a rather large expanse of space. It was pretty fun because some of the animals came up really close to the bus and we could see them really close up.

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There were also some animal themed rides within the safari park. This baboon one was our favourite. It’s a rickety car on a monorail which moves by a manual pedal. The ride takes you around the safari park and you can see some of the enclosed animals such as baboons, flamingos and tigers from above. The fun part was you can take your time to pedal (although we had to be considerate of the people waiting in line for their turn on the ride) and you can spend a little more time at certain spots where the animals were and pedal really quickly when you move to the next spot.

It was a great hit with Ted, who would constantly mention the “big brown car” that he took.

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We found a mini Ferris wheel with only 6 cars which was perfect for little kids. There is no height limit for this ride although there is a minimum height limit of 90 cm for most other rides.

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We also took a couple of other rides for children – some twice.

We took a leisurely boat ride that went around a little pond.

We took a ride on some spinning birds in which you could control the birds’ vertical movements. We took it twice in a row because Ted enjoyed it so much.

We also sat on a large boat that looked like a mini viking and which we thought was only going to sway gently back and forth. We got a surprise when it started spinning but it got Ted grinning excitedly. He insisted we take it again and again but twice was all we could manage.

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There were plenty of rides for bigger children and adults – many of which we did not sit on mainly because of height restrictions and the fact that some of them looked a little dangerous. There were rides that went in many giddy loops and some that went vertically up several storeys. We explored the park leisurely and then settled down for a quick dinner.

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For the ride home, we simply waited at the bus stop outside Leofoo Village for the next E-go bus. It would go straight to Songshan Airport station but it made a few stops around Taipei city central. We decided to hop off at a random place within Taipei city which was brightly lit and looked like it had some big shopping centres and stopped there for an evening walk before we had dinner and headed back to our hotel.

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If I ever visit Taipei again, I would certainly come back to Leofoo Village, but I think this time, I will arrange for a stay within the resort so that we can spend more time exploring the park.

Shifen

The weather was good and we decided to spend our day at Shifen (十分) and explore the rustic old streets described by the guide books.

We took the subway to Taipei Main Station, followed the signs to the Taipei Railways Administration (TRA) counter and bought ourselves tickets to and from Ruifang (瑞芳). The tickets cost NTD 76 (<SGD 4) for reserved seats and the ride was about 45 minutes in each direction.

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At Ruifang (瑞芳), we purchased day passes for the Pingxi Line (平溪线) for about NTD 68, which on hindsight, was not a great idea. The trains on this line come infrequently and it is unlikely you will have time to visit more than a couple of places on the line unless you start your journey early and plan your trip really well. A return ticket to and from shifen (十分) would have cost us about NTD 40 each.

While waiting for the train to arrive, we explored a little around Ruifang Old Street (瑞芳老街). It was a quiet street that didn’t look like it saw or expect many foreigners given that most signs were written in Chinese and most of the food stalls were selling “古早味” or “old school flavoured” local dishes and drinks. There was a Taiwanese mother exploring the streets with her 5-year old daughter and we thought this was probably the sort of place young mothers in the cities bring their children to show them what life was like in Taiwan when they were growing up.

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We were told that this line gets incredibly crowded on the weekends but on this late weekday morning, being one of the first few to queue up to get onto the train, we managed to find ourselves a seat. Lucky us!

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The main attractions of Shifen (十分) are the 2 streets of shops built along the train tracks. It was bustling with visitors (from what we could tell, there was a good mix of local Taiwanese, Chinese and Hong Kong visitors, with the occasional Singaporeans, Koreans and Japanese).

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Most visitors are here for the Sky Lanterns (天灯). You write your wishes on these giant lanterns (each colour represents a category such as love, wealth or health) and then you release them into the sky where you hope they will reach someone who can grant those wishes. It has become commercialised enough that most people touting these were telling us about how the backdrop from a certain location is more beautiful and that they can help take photos of us from certain premium spots.

There were plenty of people setting the lanterns off even during midday but this place gets crowded in the evenings when the dark skies make a beautiful contrast against the light from the lanterns and you can see the lanterns go up a long way.

We had intended to purchase ourselves a lantern to set afloat after lunch, but Ted, being tired out from the long journey, fell asleep even as we were having lunch, and we abandoned Plan A.

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We had 2 large pieces of Taiwan’s famous deep fried chicken chop for lunch. I know, we are bad parents, but there were not many toddler / stroller friendly eating places here, and we just wanted to get lunch out of the way so we can continue our holidaying.

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As Ted fell asleep shortly after lunch, we decided to explore the streets, in particular the Shifen Waterfall, which a lot of guidebooks claim to be 15 minutes away from the station. It wasn’t. It was more like an hour’s walk towards the Shifen Visitors’ Centre, after which you still need to cross a suspension bridge to get to view it. Unluckily for us, we were told after our very long walk there that it was closed. We sat around to enjoy the greenery for a while anyway before we made our way back to the station.

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We took some more random pictures on the way back to the station.

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We didn’t spend more than a couple of hours at Shifen and by the time we were back in Taipei, the sun had already set. I think next time we will plan our travelling time more wisely, or just splurge on a taxi ride that will bring us comfortably to the many tourist areas around the area.