Monday, 26 August 2013

Taipei Children's Recreation Center

Updated 29/03/2015: Taipei Children's Recreation Center has closed down and been replaced by Taipei Children's Amusement Park.

When Taipei Zoo relocated to the southern outskirts of the city in 1986, it left behind large empty site in the northern suburb of Shilin. Over time, this was transformed into the Taipei Children's Recreation Center, comprising the World of Yesterday, the World of Tomorrow and the World of Amusement, and today it's a place most Taipei children know well. With traditional fairground rides, a science museum and a folk arts museum, it keeps kids interested and amused for whole days, rain or shine.

Taipei Children's Recreation Center is within five minute's walk of Yuanshan MRT station on the red line (leave by exit 2, go under the train line and follow the line of the bright yellow temple wall), so it's extremely easy to get to, and also very cheap. Children don't pay and an adult ticket is only NT$30, or about 70p. Amusement park rides are NT$20 and there are two playgrounds for blowing off steam while grown ups rest their tired legs.

We've been twice in recent months, once as a school field trip and once more recently on a Sunday afternoon outing. The World of Tomorrow is a good bet for a boiling day, as we found on the field trip. The kids could have spent all day at the various exhibits on space and biology. The World of Yesterday is more laid-back but very interesting from the perspective of Chinese cultural history. A collection of buildings with traditional swallow tail or horseback roofs, the idea of symbolism in architecture is clear to see. There's a peach-shaped window to represent longevity, a bottle-shaped door symbolising safety and well-being, and an eight diagram window that brings good luck and avoids evil spirits.

The children had a cracking good time, despite the fact that they were allowed on each amusement park ride only once because of the heat. They finished the day with some traditional gurning for the school photo.
When Conrad and I returned recently we confined our visit to the amusement park. Containing eight or nine rides spread out over an open site, it's pleasantly green and low rise in the middle of a built up area. Most foods that are bad for you are available including Ireland's potato (don't ask), ice-cream and candy floss. Shooting games with cheap plastic toy prizes are refreshingly absent. There's a small area for tiny tots addicted to Thomas the Tank Engine.

Before the days of terrifying roller coasters and death-defying torture vehicles masquerading as 'fun', there were ferris wheels, carousels, spinning tea cups and - for the more adventurous - bumper cars. I must be getting old because I prefer rides like these, where you're only mildly physical challenged or moved gently in one direction in a sedate and civilised manner, rather than experiencing jet fighter g-forces as your life flashes before your eyes. Taipei Children's Recreation Center has the kinds of rides I prefer.

Some visitors didn't enjoy even the mildest rides,

but we spent a very enjoyable two hours at Taipei Children's Recreation Center and not for the last time, I have no doubt.

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