Our trip to Taipei, Taiwan with twin toddlers: Part 3 (Taipei Children’s Amusement Park, Fu Hang Dou Jiang, Mid-Autumn Festival)

My last post on my trip to Taipei with twin toddlers included:

  • Reuniting with Yong He Soy Milk (Taiwanese breakfast stall)
  • Discovering the playground at Da’an Forest Park
  • Eating at the original Din Tai Fung outlet
  • Enjoying the scenery at Taipei 101
  • Sweating endlessly at the Taipei Zoo

This post will detail the last few days of our trip and include some final words of wisdom.

Day 5: McDonald’s, Eslite 24 hour bookstore, Yu’s Almond Tofu, Jin Man Yuan Pai Gu pork chop rice

Still exhausted from the previous day’s outing to the Taipei Zoo, we decided to take it easy on day 5 of our trip. We had McD’s for breakfast (slightly better than Singapore but the coffee was bitter; note that almost all the coffee in Taipei is unpleasantly bitter) and headed to the Eslite 24 hour bookstore near Zhongxiao Dunhua. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any children’s selections, but we enjoyed the air conditioned bookstore and cafe.

In the afternoon, we bought some souvenirs in Ximending and had a snack at Yu’s Almond Tofu, where we enjoyed our almond shaved ice with milk. For dinner, we had pork chop rice at Jin Man Yuan Pai Gu in Ximending. In Taiwan, pork chops are seasoned with salt and pepper (and probably MSG), deep fried, and served with rice and pickles.

Day 6: Taipei Children’s Amusement Park, empanadas at Maji Square, burger at Meat Up

Feeling rejuvenated after a relatively easy day, on day 6, we headed to the Taipei Children’s Amusement Park.

Our kids were only allowed to go on a few rides since they are just over 90 cm, but the outdoor and indoor playgrounds were enjoyable. Since it was unbearably hot, we spent most of our time at the indoor playground on the second floor (Kawai Candy Land). I highly recommend this play area for younger children (the playground is meant for those under age 6), as the play area is extremely clean, and there are lots of activities (ball pits, slides, play cars, pretend grocery store, kinetic sand). Each play session is for 1 hour and 50 minutes, and the staff spend 10 minutes cleaning in between sessions.

After our session was over, we headed to Maji Square for tacos. The tacos were decent with a respectable corn tortilla, but the empanadas at Mecato were absolutely amazing (FYI, empanadas are like curry puffs but with a crispier pastry dough and meatier filling). Maji Square also has food from other cultures, but we were floored by the empanadas! We enjoyed them with a fruity beer from the nearby deli.

My husband and I discovered another food gem after our kids went to bed. We wandered around Ximending and found Meat Up, a burger / smoothie joint. The burger was customisable and delicious, and the smoothies were Instagram worthy.

Continue reading “Our trip to Taipei, Taiwan with twin toddlers: Part 3 (Taipei Children’s Amusement Park, Fu Hang Dou Jiang, Mid-Autumn Festival)”

Our trip to Taipei, Taiwan with twin toddlers: Part 1 (helper visa, Airbnb, EVA Air flight, travel resources)

My husband and I uncharacteristically decided to book a last minute family vacation to Taipei, Taiwan with our twin toddlers a few weeks ago. We returned from our 8 day, 7 night trip last week. It was mostly exhausting with some fun in between. In this first post, I’ll outline our trip preparation and some general advice for traveling in Taipei. The next few posts will detail our itinerary, including our favorite restaurants and attractions.

The n+1 rule

When traveling with young children, I firmly believe in having n+1 caretakers, where n = the number of children. So my husband and I decided to bring our helper along for the trip.

We applied for our helper’s 30 day visa at the Taipei Representative Office of Singapore, which is located in the PSA Building on Alexandra Road. The visa cost $65 SGD and required 2 passport photos. I also had to sign a letter stating that I was responsible for my helper during the trip. Her visa was available the next afternoon.  You may also apply for a visa online. It takes about 3-4 working days (according to online forums).

Choosing an accommodation

We only booked our trip a week before the departure date. With 3 adults, 2 children, and a relatively tight budget, our accommodation choices were limited. Our only criteria were to have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and proximity to an MRT station.

We chose a two bedroom apartment near Ximen MRT, which had its advantages and disadvantages. We were close to the Ximending night market, countless shopping areas, and early morning breakfast spots. But our area was extremely polluted with cigarette smoke and motorbike exhaust. Our apartment was in a rundown building (government housing?) with a gambling parlor on the third floor, and cigarette smoke was always lingering in the air.

For families, I would recommend staying in a less congested part of Taipei, even if it is less central.

Flying to Taipei

Our 4-4.5 hour flight on EVA Air was relatively uneventful. Our kids were entertained by the in flight television and YouTube videos we had downloaded onto our iPhones. I also packed a small activity bag with Daiso magnetic doodle boards, Daiso stickers, crayons (ones with edges so they don’t roll off), and a homemade activity book (stapled A4 sheets of paper with drawings for coloring).

My husband and I each brought a bag of snacks, 5 diapers, wet wipes, bibs, empty water bottles (which we filled at the gate after going through security), kids’ headphones, and alcohol wipes to sanitise the airplane seats and tray.

Although our flight to Taipei was during their naptime, our kids enjoyed the flight and were relatively well behaved. They even managed to nap for almost an hour. On the way back, they had a few small meltdowns since we had to wake up early for our morning flight, but overall, they seemed to enjoy their airplane ride.

Traveling with a stroller

Whenever we travel, our twins become extremely timid and reluctant to walk longer distances, so we brought our Maclaren Twin Triumph stroller. It was a huge help for traversing through the airports and around the streets of Taipei.

We took our stroller everywhere in Taipei, since our Airbnb accommodation was about 600 meters from the MRT station. 600 meters doesn’t seem very far, but with cranky toddlers in 34 degree C heat and 80% humidity, a stroller was a must!

Taipei was relatively stroller friendly. Department stores and tourist landmarks had elevators, as did all MRT stations. But only certain MRT exits had elevators, while others had a combination of stairs and escalators. Most MRT elevators had a long queue, so we often had one caretaker fold the stroller and carry it out of the subway station, while the other two caretakers carried one child each.

Resources

Here are some helpful websites I used for planning our trip:

KKday – Offers discounted admission to tourist attractions, airport transfers, etc. We used KKday for traveling to and from Taoyuan Airport. For 200 NT (about $9 SGD), you can book car seats in advance. While booking online, request the seats in the comment section. KKday will message you requesting your child’s date of birth, height, and weight. The car seats aren’t in the best shape, but they served their purpose. The car seat fee should be paid in cash to the driver.

A Toddler in Taipei – Blog with activities categorised by age, location and occasion.

A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei – My favorite Taipei foodie blog with restaurant reviews. The author also indicates whether the restaurants she reviews are child friendly.

How to manage sick twin toddlers

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This post is based on my personal experiences.

My twin toddlers started half day child care at 15 months. Since then, they have become sick at least once a month. Yes, my twins’ vaccines are all up to date, and we maintain a reasonable level of hygiene by washing hands regularly, but this has not prevented us from continuous challenges with common childhood pathogens.

Here are some anecdotes and tips based on our experiences so far.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD)

Interestingly, my twins contracted HFMD around 9 months–before starting child care. I suspect they came in contact with contaminated high chairs at a cafe.

My little girl first developed small, red spots on her knees, which I thought were an allergic reaction to the new floor cleaner we were using. She quickly developed the same spots on her hands, and her pediatrician confirmed that she had HFMD. Her brother caught it as well, and so did I. We experienced a mild case of HFMD, but the mouth ulcers were rather painful.

Tips:

  • I instructed my husband and helper to wash their hands thoroughly after changing diapers. HFMD can be transmitted through contaminated stool.
  • Eating and swallowing can be painful, so offer frozen breast milk or fruit juice to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid sharing food or utensils as soon as possible. I contracted HFMD from eating my children’s leftover food.

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5 ways to manage toddler tantrums

My toddler twins began their terrible twos long before their 2nd birthday. Even though they can speak relatively well, sometimes their emotions overcome them. Here are some ways my husband and I have managed their tantrums.

1. Ignore 

How often we do this: Rarely

When we do this: In the beginning, my husband I used to ignore tantrums but found this ineffective. Toddlers often throw tantrums because their “upstairs brain” (responsible for reasoning, thought) is not as developed as their “downstairs brain” (controls emotion, basic instincts), according to Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr Tina Bryson. Their book No Drama Discipline emphasizes that parents and caregivers should aim to nurture the development of both parts of the brain when managing tantrums.

2. Talk at eye level

How often we do this: Most of the time

When we do this: In most situations, this method is effective. Lately, the most common reason for tantrums is when twin A snatches a toy or book from twin B. Sometimes we leave our twins to settle the argument between themselves, but this often leads to hitting. So we mediate by saying, “Let B finish his turn. Then you can have your turn.” Speaking to them at eye level is often most effective rather than shouting from a distance.

3. Distract

How often we do this: Sometimes

When we do this: In the toy stealing situation described above, sometimes A is inconsolable when we insist that B finishes his time with the book or toy. A rarely finds solace on her own so we try to distract her with another item. We also praise A when she settles down from her tantrum and thank B when he finishes his turn with the item.

4. Naughty corner

How often we do this: Sometimes

When we do this: Currently, our kids’ worst habits are intentionally throwing food on the ground and hitting each other. When these situations occur, I often tell them in a stern voice, “Please do not hit” or, “Please do not throw food on the ground.” Sometimes they repeat the offending behavior, so I repeat my warning. On rare occasions, the bad behavior is continuously repeated, so we will send the naughty child to a designated corner to cool off.

5. Cuddle

How often we do this: Sometimes

When we do this: Toddlers are almost biologically incapable of managing their emotions at a young age. When hunger or tiredness overcomes our kids, we just hold them for a nice cuddle to help them settle down.

 

Toddler tantrums were extremely difficult to manage in the beginning. I remember spending several gloomy nights unwinding with wine and mindless television. It took me 4-5 months to learn how to manage endless crying and whining effectively (most of the time). I often cool down (if I’m feeling agitated–which was frequent in the beginning), assess the situation, and moderate to the best of my ability.

Traveling on a long haul flight with twin toddlers

….was so traumatising! My first piece of advice–if you don’t have to, don’t!

I read all the blog posts on long haul travel beforehand, packed lots of toys and snacks, put my kids to bed as usual (we had a midnight flight), but our flight was simply awful.

My 19 month old twins’ bedtime is 7pm. We left Singapore at 12am, and they had 3 hours of sleep before our departure. They only slept a bit during hour 4 of our 6 hour flight to Incheon, South Korea. At Incheon Airport, we tried to tire them out by letting them run around and play in the children’s area, but they hardly slept during the 11 hour flight to Los Angeles.

By the time we landed at LAX, our kids were screaming, and we were a huge mess. Luckily, US customs felt sorry for us and expedited our family to the front of the long, winding customs line (we arrived at 6am and the wait seemed to be at least an hour).

Our flight back to Singapore was equally bad. Coupled by the fact that our return flight was 1-1.5 hours longer, we were exhausted by the time we got home.

Although we had a bad travel experience, we learned some valuable lessons:

1. If you can upgrade to business class or premium economy, do it! All those credit card / frequent flyer points will come in handy.

2. We sleep trained our twins a bit too well. They are firmly accustomed to sleeping in their own cribs that they have serious issues sleeping elsewhere. We brought all of their loveys, sleep sacks, and blankets, but they still refused to sleep on the plane.

3. Don’t overpack your carry on. There are plenty of “toys” on the plane to keep your kids occupied (entertainment remotes, flight catalogs). Ask the flight attendants for snacks. Family friendly airlines like Singapore Air provide activity packs for kids.

We probably won’t fly with our kids for another year or two, but if you have to do it, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.