May 13, 2014
National Museum of Marine Science & Technology
It’s a glorious April morning as I head out to the train station, and it’s still glorious when I arrive at Ruifang station on the way to the National Museum of Marine Science & Technology (Haikeguan in Chinese). I have been to this station many times but never seen the sun until today. This must bode well!
As this is a live blog of sorts, an update on the train system around Taipei (the TRA or normal trains, not the high-speed rail). If you have an Easycard (an IC card: http://www.easycard.com.tw/english/easycard/index.asp) you can use it to get on the “local” trains, i.e. you don’t need to queue and buy tickets anymore. I arrived at Taipei Main Station and asked the ever helpful information desk (next to the ticket desk) if I could buy a ticket directly to the Museum (knowing that I had to change in Ruifang), and was told that I could go the whole way using my Easycard. Things are really looking good so far!
It’s just a 10 minute train ride to the museum tom Ruifang, on a piece of track especially renovated for the museum. When you get out, remember to flash your Easycard to pay for the trip; it costs a whopping NT$50 from Taipei Main Station. I know I’ve gone on about the fantastic value of public transport before, but it really is a brilliant deal.
As it turns out, the “Museum” actually includes a nature area, an iMax cinema, and several exhibition buildings. I noticed on one map that an aquarium is also in the works, and to top it all off, the whole area is right by the coast. Indeed I am writing this overlooking the small harbour with an ice coffee and tiramisu.
I have to be honest, and when making the trip I was expecting an interesting building that could be seen in a coupe of hours, but once again I am pleasantly surprised with how the day is turning out. The total exhibit area of the main building, which used to be a thermal power station, is far bigger than I expected. If not the largest museum in Taiwan (I couldn’t draw the staff on that), it is certainly the newest at time of writing (the staff were very keen on this one).
And it is certainly modern. I have never seen as many screens, projectors, and hands on displays before in any one place. It is incredibly impressive, with little exhibits seemingly hidden in nooks and crannies around the main halls. Most of the textual displays are in Chinese, English and Japanese, and even the hidden exhibits are really well done. I actually came out feeling that I learned something, by which I mean something beyond Taiwan knowledge (the composition of sea water for example).
The theme of the museum is of course based on the oceans, and there are eight main areas including a Kid’s Exploration Zone and Deep Sea Theater, each of which take advantage of the tremendous amount of space.
There is a restaurant inside, a Family Mart convenience store, an outdoor cafe area by the iMax cinema, and indoor and outdoor seating by the Regional Exploration Building (which is where I am writing this, in near perfect weather still). There is also a large play area for children (under 10 years of age). The kids are allowed in for 1.5-hour sessions, and at the moment it is first come first serve. I am writing this on a Friday and it is not busy at all, but the staff said that the weekends and holidays are packed.
As I mentioned the best way to get here is by train. Entry to the main exhibition area costs NT$200 (including the children’s play area), and iMax films are around NT$100 extra. Both the museum and iMax cinema open at 9am and close at 5pm. I strongly recommend getting here early as there is a lot to see and do. In fact far more than spending a couple of hours, this could easily be a whole day activity. As I pack up to get the train back, I am already planning the next visit…
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