A cultural tour of Taipei

For the culturally inclined traveller, Taipei offers a vibrant museum scene. That Taipei boasts several internationally respected museums is well known.

Less publicized is the fact that Taipei is home to a bevy of smaller, more obscure places of culture. Some are obscure because their narrow focus naturally attracts a smaller audience; others are just plain small, states a travelogue on thingsasian.com.

Nanjing East Road’s Miniatures Museum of Taiwan (MMoT) revels in the minuscule. In this private museum dedicated to the art of minute craftsmanship you’ll find a host of ornate miniaturized items, from a working postage-stamp sized television set to a 40-bulb chandelier small enough to be inhaled. Fully-furnished palaces scaled down to minute proportions are just some of the items at the MMoT that will leave visitors marvelling at what can be achieved by artisans with supernaturally dexterous digits.

A short hop away sits another Taipei museum devoted to meticulous craftsmanship. Operated by a group of artisans and performers with generation-spanning experience in the world of Taiwanese puppetry, the Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum has four floors of exhibits and attractions devoted to puppetry, and an attached theatre for performances. Visitors can watch puppets being produced by the artists.

Those looking for more serious pursuits should head west to Taiwan’s Museum of World Religions (MoWR). A strong contender for the title of ‘world’s serenest museum,’ MoWR takes visitors through a series of integrated and multi-dimensional exhibitions designed to illustrate the philosophies, ceremonies, rituals and cultures of 10 of the world’s major religions. Highlights include scale models of some of the world’s most sacred religious sites, most of which can be visited virtually via tiny, movable cameras located inside the models.

For something light and sweet, you can visit a museum devoted entirely to candy? The Taiwan Nougat Museum, (TNM) is a candy factory and museum in Taipei’s far-Western suburb of Tucheng. The family-run operation contains two floors of exhibits, including the world’s biggest chunk of nougat (covered in edible gold, naturally). There’s also a number of multimedia presentations about nougat, and a special factory walk through in which visitors can watch candy and wedding cakes being made.

The National Taiwan Science Education Center (NTSEC), though billed as a children’s museum, is cool enough to make travellers without children consider borrowing a friend’s kid for the day just to have an excuse for going. At the NTSEC, located just a few blocks north of the famous Shilin night market, you will find a plethora of interactive exhibits guaranteed to thrill and enlighten. There’s the hall of anatomy, featuring a walk-through digestive tract, a cat-head shaped helmet that bestows on the wearer feline hearing powers, and several hours worth of assorted hands-on exhibits that kids aged six to 60 should enjoy.

For a balanced mix of education and just plain strange, head north to Danshui’s left-bank town of Bali to find one of Taipei county’s newer and best laid out museums, the Shihsanheng Museum of Archaeology (SMoA). With architectural design reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright, SMoA has exhibits on the archeological history of Taiwan’s earliest residents, charting the origins and movements of the various tribes who inhabited the Isle Formosa long before the first Han settlers ever laid eyes on the island. Interactive installations chart the island’s indigenous culture, and children will enjoy checking out the display containing dated but still-deadly aboriginal weaponry.

Back across the river on the cobblestone pedestrian mall of Gongming Street you’ll find the Believe it or Not Museum. This apartment-sized museum is stuffed with bric-a-brac designed to make your inner carnival geek salivate. Be honest: who hasn’t dreamed of having their picture taken with a majestic stuffed albino gorilla or gazing in wonder at a two-headed calf pickled in brine? Though mostly family oriented, the museum also has a back section dedicated to exhibits of a decidedly adult nature.

The discriminating Taipei traveller may want to take an afternoon stroll through Taiwan’s most renowned (and recently-renovated-at-great-cost) National Palace Museum, with its vast collection of ancient, priceless treasures spanning five millennia of Chinese history.


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