"Now showing: Katrina and her Nissan's Excellent Adventure. Today's episode includes driving into and along the scooter lane trying to get up onto highway 1, meeting a truck head-on on a one-way dirt road, being refused entry to a school carpark, and finding not one but two Barbie museums ... I was leaning out the window yelling, "save me!" in Chinese. Finally a factory worker came over and directed me, which resulted in us driving into a factory yard full of dogs, and me repeating the mantra, "We will get home alive." That was all AFTER the 200 meter quick-reverse as a long-haul truck came racing toward us. My son did tell me it was his best day out EVER..."
This blog sure don't come easy.
Was it worth it? Every minute that was taken off my life, as a result of my writing down the wrong character for the street address and not paying attention to the "機車" that was most likely fading on the road at the entrance of the motorcycle lane.
Why was it worth it? Because, I learned a great deal about the history of Mattel and toymaking in Taiwan, saw some amazing works of design made by seamstresses in the area, and got to meet the wonderfully spirited staff of the Mei Ning Workshop.
The Day Out Starts Here:
Take Highway 1 south from Taipei city, getting off at the Wugu exit. Follow the signs to Taishan. Your first stop should be the Taishan Cultural Center. I didn't actually know about this place, and only found it because I had the wrong address to the Mei Ning Workshop, and because all the Barbie Museum signs lead to the Center. Park in the underground carpark and walk out to the rather run-down building at the edge of the spacious park. The Barbie Museum is on the fourth floor of the building. You need to put on slippers. Take one of the pink photocopied handouts, as it has English on one side. If you speak Chinese, you are in luck, as you can enjoy a detailed guided tour through the museum. It looks very small from the entrance, but is a little maze, with a large central room at the back where you can be amazed by beautiful clothes, including some made from recycled materials, some made by Taiwan's top designers, and some made by local high school students. There are photos of the sports and cultural teams that were part of Mattel's personnel support, and a scale model of the factory that once produced all the Barbies for the world market. I even saw the very Crystal Barbie I got for Christmas when I was a child.
|Taishan Cultural Center|
|Park in front of the center, from the carpark entrance|
The park outside the Cultural Center is a very nice place for children to run around. You can collect leaves to take home for artwork later on, or just let the kids run out some steam.
Due to politics, there are currently no signs showing you directions to Mei Ning workshop, and there are no signs on the road, either. It is off the road in a community, across the road from a highschool. If you are driving, you can either park behind the school (you must drive up there, so you can see a real missile and maybe even go up to the presidential park on the hill), or ask the guard at the school to let you into their carpark. The day I went there was a big mixup and the guard on duty wouldn't let me in. But, you should be able to park there if you point to the Mei Ning workshop across the road so they know you want to visit there. Don't try and park on the red line, as cars are towed regularly.
There is no charge to enter the workshop. I highly recommend the DIY activities! I don't often like DIY, but here your children can be taught by professional seamstresses who are very warm, kind, and generous. For TWD200, you can make a Barbie dress. For TWD600, you can make a dress and take the Barbie home. There are also a selection of traditional beanbag games and pencil covers to make. We made the beanbag game, which was also TWD200. If you are a Barbie enthusiast, you can select a handmade outfit from around TWD1,500 to TWD6,000. Or let your child choose an outfit for Barbie or Ken; clothes plus accessories for just TWD100.
Before You Leave Taishan:
Do stop and have dinner at the Italian cafe/restaurant next to the Mei Ning workshop. The food is fantastic. Menu is limited - four or five choices, written in Chinese, but the chef speaks English and is very helpful. Pasta TWD100 a huge plate, soup TWD40. As you can see by their displayed food, they use authentic ingredients, and their pasta is nothing like "Taiwan-Italian". They also give you free Assam tea (well, actually, they force it upon you, but that is not something to complain about.) It's just two doors down from the Mei Ning workshop, next to the community guard's little office.
I told the staff at the workshop that I have this blog, and they took some photos to put up here. So, here they are:
|Children with their DIY projects.|
|Daughter outside the workshop|
How to get to Taishan:
1. There is a free bus from Taipei. The link is in Chinese but worth printing out and asking about.
2. Drive on highway 1 from Taipei to WuGu exit. When you get off the ramp, veer left and then stay to the right, following the signs to Taishan.
1F No. 10-6, Cinsiou Road, Taishan Township, New Taipei City (地址：台北縣泰山鄉辭修路10-7號 (泰山高中校門口正對面)
Hours: Tues-Sat 9am-6pm. (On Mondays, please call first)
Taishan Cultural Center:
**A BIG thank you to reader Andre, for giving us this information:
No. 26號, 楓江路26巷, Taishan Township
Taipei County, Taiwan 243
Also, a restaurant I recommend in the area is 好麥餃子館 (haomai dumpling house).
Address in chinese: 台北縣泰山鄉明志路一段82號 (Ming Ji Road Sec 1, No. 82)
I couldn't find any english info, but below are some blog write-ups in chinese: