Introduction: Chinese New Year In Taiwan

Filed Under: Family, Kids

As I’ve explained briefly before, my family doesn’t pick our travel destinations as much as follow the cheap fares. Sure, we have ideas of places we’d like to go someday, but for the most part we just go where the low fares take us. If it’s to a new country, that’s even better, as I’d love to hit them all at some point.

I realize this somewhat random approach to trip planning isn’t for everyone, but it works perfectly for my wife and I — and our growing family.

The problem of late has been that there are just a ton of decent international fares. Whereas the oligopoly and strong economy in the US seems to keep fares high, the rest of the world is actually paying attention to the price at the pump and is pricing tickets accordingly.

When they’re forced to, US airlines will compete, which means it’s often possible to fly to the other side of the world for just a bit more than it costs to go coast-to-coast here (and often significantly less than it would cost to visit my in-laws).

Why Taiwan?

Last fall, United was selling tickets to Taipei for the mid $600s. We’d never been to Taiwan, and it kind-of-sort-not-really would count as a new country for us, at least in so much as we’d been to China a couple of times previously.

Even better, one of my wife’s good friends is Taiwanese-American. She and her husband go back to Taiwan fairly frequently as she still has a lot of family there, and they also happen to have two kids who are interspersed in age between ours, and we’ve talked about doing a double family adventure at some point.

We quickly pinged them to see if they wanted to tag along with us, or more accurately, to see if we could join their next trip to Taiwan. I mean, who doesn’t want to take a trip to Asia with five kids under five, right?

They are clearly our kind of people because it took all of about 15 minutes for them to say yes. When our friends suggested we all go over Chinese New Year, I really didn’t know what to expect. I figured we might get some fireworks, parades, or general revelry, which all sounded pretty good to us.

Due to family and work schedules, we (and our collective five children under age five) didn’t actually fly together. A couple planeloads of people out there should be thanking us for that.

Taipei Group
Our crew in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Taipei

We decided to stay at the Grand Hyatt Taipei as there was availability for Diamond Suite Upgrades, the Hyatt has a club lounge, and the rates were pretty good. Our friends decided to stay there for the overlapping days of the trip which worked out really well.

As with many of our travels, we stayed in the city proper the entire time. Some may find that odd considering that we are definitely not city people. But maybe that’s what makes it fun for us — we spend so little time in the city back home that doing just that while traveling is something different. All that notwithstanding, the reality is that it takes a lot of effort to move our family — an almost 5 year old boy, a 3.5 year old girl, and a 6-month baby — such that there is a certain attractiveness to settling in for a while.

Taipei 101

My general philosophy on trip reports is not so much to provide a detailed accounting of every flight, lounge, and hotel room of our adventure, but rather to fill some gaps that might get less attention here on the blog. For this trip, that translates to the following installments:

  • Introduction: Chinese New Year in Taiwan
  • Review: United Transpacific Flights in Economy
  • Review: The Grand Hyatt Taipei
  • 6 Things To Do In Taipei With Kids
  • Review: Baby Boss City Taipei

Overall, we loved our week in Taipei and left thinking this might become one of our favorite cities in Asia.

I hope you enjoy reading about it!

  1. I’m excited to read more! Planning to take my 6 year old this summer to Taipei and meet up with my mom there (she has a place in New Taipei). We are also flying United in Economy.

    Wasn’t sure if there are much to do for toddlers other than going to Hello Kitty themed places 😛 Granted the last time I went to Taiwan was when I was a kid about 20+ years ago and all I remembered were the stinky alleys, traffic and the little sidewalk goldfish games with paper nets! One thing I do look forward to is the FOOD!!! Been watching Mark Weins youtube videos and they make me salivate 🙂

  2. While I’m not a United fan, it’s really nice to have them included in at least a few reviews, and economy at that.

  3. Nice, Taipei is one of my favorite cities as well. It looks like you hiked up Elephant Mountain. Good choice!
    Looking forward to the trip report.

  4. “We’d never been to Taiwan, and it kind-of-sort-not-really would count as a new country for us, at least in so much as we’d been to China a couple of times previously.”

    Wow. That’s a surprisingly ignorant sentence, even coming from this blog.

  5. Hi Travis, great name! I’m especially excited for the review as my family, including two kids ages 5 and 3 will be visiting Taipei this November. We have never been there before and have been looking into kid friendly activities. Also debating between the Grand Hyatt and the Marriott there. Looking forward to the reviews!

  6. Taipei is a chill place for family trip. But Grand Hyatt Taipei actually has some haunted stories, I think the situation got better since two years ago.

  7. @Helixcardinal:

    Can we leave inter-strait politics out of this, just this once? Please? Regardless of your personal beliefs about whether Taiwan is a renegade province harboring dangerous elements, home to a government-in-exile, or independent, I’m pretty confident in saying that there is nothing that Travis is going to write that will promulgate any of those three points of view. Just chalk it up to him not knowing any better and move on. There are better forums to discuss it than a seats-and-rooms travel blog.


    Given the recent commenters, I suspect you’re going to regret that sentence, as innocent as it may have seemed at the time.

  8. Goodie! This brings memories from a couple of years ago when I spent 5-nights in the “Haunted House” as Grand Hyatt Taipei is known. It is just steps away from Taipei 101, once the tallest structure in the world until Burj Khalifa in Dubai took over that distinction…

    Must’ve been fun being there for the “Spring Festival” aka CNY festivities.

  9. @steven: that’s exactly why I used the adjective ignorant. He doesn’t know any better. I’m not looking for a debate, but maybe he’ll either think twice next time or read up on it a little and form his own opinion.

  10. Airlines don’t price based on their input prices (fuel). They price based on demand in the market. International airfares are cheap because the dollar is strong and demand from other countries is somewhat weaker. So airlines discount to raise prices. Domestically demand is strong, people are willing to pay, so no need for fire sale prices. Supply and demand.

  11. the more accurate way to say Chinese New Year is Lunar New Year. That’s why New York city government name it as ” Asian Lunar New Year”.

  12. – Baby Boss
    – Grand (Yuan Shan) Hotel
    – Hello Kitty Cafe on Da-an Road
    – Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Park
    – Leo’s Playground
    – Bei Tou for hot sulfur spring baths in resort setting.
    – Yilan (take uber, get there in 30 mins, ask him to drive you around endless miles of rice paddies. Serene, beautiful, and mountains in the backdrop)
    – Actually easiest is hire a mini-bus, and everyone rides together. Ask ur concierge. Its common to do, and relatively cheap
    – Top of 101, and basement food court of 101. Yummy.

    – Shin Yeh to get good, taiwanese food in clean, restaurant setting
    – Beef Noodles: 3 most popular spots are Taoyuan Street Beef Noodle, Yong Yang Street Beef Noodle, and cant remember the other one, lol.
    – Tong Hua night market (no need to go to the exotic one like snake alley. Tong hua has much better food and locals know that)
    – Ask a local whats a good “Hot/Quick Stir Fry” place or Kuai (4) Tsow (3). So delicious for Taiwanese stiry fry dishes!

    I’m Johnny, i run a ecommerce in taipei called, and i been taking my 6 amd 3 yr old daughters to taiwan every year.

    Enjoy your trip!

  13. Awesome! I really like Taipei and think it is an excellent “off-the-radar” destination for individuals, couples, and families. Looking forward to your reports! (Flew there myself in United economy plus and business.)

  14. Taipei (along with the rest of Taiwan) is truly a fantastic and underrated destination. The infrastructure is good, it’s easier to deal with than China (in terms of much less pollution, fewer crowds, less likely to be scammed, better customer service, better level of English, generally friendlier people than in the PRC), and in many ways traditional Chinese culture is more in evidence (e.g. old temples) here than on the mainland where they seem ready to bulldoze anything and everything. Great food, great natural scenery, and interesting cities and towns, all laid out on a fairly compact island.

    Since no one has mentioned it – the National Palace Museum is one of those must-see places. The Palace in the name is of course in Beijing, but some of the greatest examples of Chinese art are here, as a result of the Chinese civil war that followed the end of World War II.

    @Jason: It’s true airlines don’t price based on the cost of fuel DIRECTLY, but it does play a significant role. Part of the reason we’re seeing so many low international fares is that with lower fuel prices airlines can drop fares and still remain profitable, whereas if fuel prices were higher many routes might have been dropped. Part of this is a capacity issue – the US legacy carriers have maintained “capacity discipline” on domestic routes in the US, but internationally they’re facing much more capacity in the market from foreign (especially low-cost) carriers. A lot of that has been enabled by low fuel prices. You wouldn’t see so many carriers offering $600 transatlantic roundtrips if fuel were at $100/barrel.

    BTW it should be “works perfect for my wife and me” not “and I.”

  15. I also visited Taiwan 2 years ago for the first time ever. Loved it. Stayed at Le Meridien Taipei – it was awesome. I stayed at many hotel properties and that hotel was among the top few hotels I ever stayed at.

    There are some hauntings story on Grand Hyatt so you can always google it if you are into that sort of thing. Also just something to keep in mind esp for those people who are sensitive to that sort of thing.

    Looking forward to reading more!

  16. Give adventurous travelers the benefit of the doubt rather than roasting them for an ambiguously worded comment regarding a foreign land’s status.

    It’s not like he’s saying “I decided to pass on Taiwan because I had already been to China and am looking to add countries to our visited list.” He’s ACTUALLY excitedly traveling there, presumably with some intent to learn new things, in general.

    Take it easy, people.

  17. @Shannon

    I believe Travis used the right term. After all, NYC gov maybe not as professional on this issue as Chinese do, no? 🙂

    Also, there are both articles of Chinese New Year and Lunar New Year on Wikipedia. That might be helpful.

  18. @Shannon
    People talks about about the “correct” name of Chinese New Year, and claim that it should be called Lunar new year. Well NO, there is nothing wrong with it being refer as Chinese New Year.
    It is a Chinese tradition and other cultures just adopt it. Celebrating others tradition or even modify it wouldn’t change its name.
    Japanese use some Chinese characters in their language and still refer them as 漢字(Han-zi), which means Chinese words. American eat that much of French fries and still include French in their menu. Just because some non-Chinese celebrate Chinese tradition, does not mean they can try to CHANGE its name to lunar new year?

  19. The “kind-of-sort-not-really” description is actually more thoughtful and reflect a deeper understanding than some of you commenters above realize it is. It is intentionally vague and points to the ambiguous status Taiwan has on the international stage.

    The alternative is to either call Taiwan a new country, or suggest that it’s linked to China. Both views have plenty of supporters, and both can be regarded as politically incorrect.

  20. @ Peter – In China, the government doesn’t just “kind-of-sort-not-really” throw anybody they want to in prison, so unless the old guard KMT somehow resurrect Chiang Kai-shek, people in Taiwan are safe from unreaonable search and seizure. That alone makes China and Taiwan worlds apart.

  21. While internationally it is ambiguous when it comes to China and Taiwan, it is always nice to be addressed as Taiwanese, instead of Chinese. It is just so degrading that others think we are the same as those pooping-in-the-aircraft mainlanders. We have much better education system, social structure, etc. While internationally we are both known as China, but if you understand Chinese, you will know that the country names, as printed on our passports, are not the same. We are the “Republic of China”, a country that has existed long before 1949, when “People’s Republic of China” came around.

  22. Peter — Thank you for interpreting the phrasing the way it was intended.

    All —

    To be clear, I’m wasn’t aiming to make a political statement, just selfishly trying to decide whether I can increment my “countries visited” counter in my OMAAT bio. As much as I’d like to say “yeah, I’ve now been to X+1 countries”, it feels a little kind-of-sort-of in my head. Some would say
    yes, it counts”, others would say “no, it does not.”

    Either way, we loved Taiwan and can’t wait go back and explore more of the island beyond just Taipei.

  23. @Travis
    You can most certainly increment your “countries visited” counter! Last year, I visited Hawaii, Alaska, South Carolina and the United States. I then promptly incremented my “countries visited” counter by 4. But alas, South Carolina took down the confederate flag shortly thereafter, so now my counter increment has to drop to 3. But no worries, just as South Carolina took 100+ years to face reality, Taiwan may take that much time, so you can safely keep your counter increment for your entire lifetime 🙂

    Actually, the politically incorrect thing isto honor that Honest Abe in Washington DC. The Lincoln Memorial should be tore down and Americans should spit on his statue, for he was the disgraceful president who conquered another country: the confederate.

    “Republic of China” and “People’s Republic of China” are political entities fighting over control of the same, one and only country: China. But it’s ok – those Confederate States took more than 100+ years *after* being united, to come to their senses. So what better can be expected of from Taiwan, which has not even been united yet? That’s not a problem at all, because the Chinese has a long history of 5000 years during which separation and union has occured repeatedly. 100+ years of separation is just a paragraph in the history book. It must be noted though that in the history book, separatists have always been regarded as traitors and shamed for generations to come. Anyway, who am I to lecture you. You know your own Chinese history better than me 🙂

  24. @Anqi @Eric
    I dont even know why you would want to *downgrade* your “New Year” to become “Chinese New Year”. Do Westerners call Jan 1st “American New Year”, “French New Year”, “German New Year”? No! it is The New Year .

    The term “Chinese New Year” is used only by westerners to downgrade and to distinguish it from their own “New Year”. Why would you, as a Chinese, add a modifier in front to downgrade it? The first day of the Chinese calendar is simply “New Year” – not “Chinese New Year”, or “Vietnamese New Year”, or “Korean New Year” – just “New Year’. January 1st is “Western New Year”.

    Do you go about wishing your relatives “Happy New Year” or “Happy Chinese New Year”? (Or worse, follow the Communist Party’s way of reserving “New Year” to January 1st, and downgrading your own new year to become “Spring Festival”? Outside of mainland China (e.g. Taiwan!), where Chinese traditional culture are even stronger than on the mainland, people don’t even downgrade it to “Spring Festival”. It is the “New Year”. Period.)

  25. @XinNianKuaiLe

    I have no idea how that “downgrade” comes from. We are discussing about the English name here, not the Chinese name. I am originally from Taiwan and of course I know that we just say 新年快樂 during new year. (Happy New Year.) However it is its English name that we are talking about, between “Chinese New Year” or “Lunar New Year”. which is different from “New Year”.

    English is spoken in western world, and of course you need to include “Chinese” when talking about a Chinese New Year. From your opinion, we should not use Chinese food, Chinese movie, Chinese people….. because these are all used only by westerners to downgrade and to distinguish it from their own “food”, “movie”, “people”. We may not say “Italian Sausage”, “Belgian Waffle “, “Korean BBQ”….. because we are downgrading them from “Sausage”, “Waffle”, “BBQ”. One more example, in Taiwan we call the date 2/14 as “Western Valentine’s Day (西洋情人節)”. Similarly, will you call this a downgrade from “Valentine’s Day”, which is used in USA?

    LOL do you see how funny your logic sounds?

  26. Lunar or Chinese New Year is symantics. As long as it gets the meaning across. Who cares what you call it.

    The only reason taiwan is not recognised as a country, is because most of the super powers are so indebted to China, they don’t dare to piss China off.

    this isn’t a case of a state wanting to secede and be its own country, (see Texas). For all intents and purposes, taiwan its own country with its own passport, government, currency.

    @john where the hell did you get the idea that taiwan wants to take over China?

  27. @John – what an incredibly ignorant comment. Taiwan, while not recognized by most countries, is for all intents and purposes, an independent country. Saying that it will “come to its senses” is insulting and shows that you clearly do not understand the issues. Taiwan does not and will never want to be a part of the PRC.

    If you don’t understand the issues, then who are you to lecture others? China is now essentially a dictatorship and is showing signs of a new cultural revolution. Why would Taiwan ever want to give up democracy and freedom to be a part of that??

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