Often overlooked by the general masses flocking to Asia, this stunning island on the fringe of South East Asia is home to some of the most glorious sites anywhere on the continent. The pristine lakes, exciting mountain ranges and dramatic coastlines of Taiwan should be the highlight of any trip to Asia. From my visit here are my Top 10 essential things to do in Taiwan…
The capital of Taiwan, once a central hub of industry and cheap labour, has transformed itself into a modern, stylish and high tech city, symbolised by Taipei 101. Styled on the traditional pagodas and temples, this 101 storey building opened as the tallest building in the world in 2004, enjoy panoramic views of the city from one of the many restaurants and coffee houses.
The city itself is pleasant to walk around, with market stalls and traditional Buddhist temples spotted around the bright lights of the night markets in the Shilin District.
Sun Moon Lake
This tranquil body of water is the largest in Taiwan, framed by stunning mountain tops is home to the native Thao tribes. The lake itself has been named as the east side of the lake resembles the sun, whilst the west resembles the moon.
Ever year the lake plays host to tens of thousands of visitors during the Mid-Autumn Festival, a ritual that has been recorded as being celebrated as far back as 3,000 years. Romance is ingrained deep into the setting with boat rides especially catering to newly weds and walks around the mountain ranges by the lake highlighting the picturesque beauty of this fantastically travel destination.
The oldest city in Taiwan was formerly the capital, but still holds as much prestige and beauty despite a complex history of border arguments and mergers. The city is now lovingly nicknames “City of the Pheonix” and has a great range of sights from the traditional Confucian Temple (the countries first) to the night time flower market.
See the basalt cliffs of Penghu
Penghu is said to be the Orient’s answer to the Canary. Blessed with beautiful beaches, glorious temples and a huge array of traditional Chinese-style homes you shouldn’t leave the country without visiting. One of the area’s highlight is the surreally beautiful wind- and water-eroded coastlines of the islands feature stunning basalt cliffs, reefs and some of the finest beaches in the country.
Beitou Hot Springs
For total indulgence and relaxation, a visit to the Beitou district is essential. A district located in North Taipei, takes advantage of the geographical location of sitting right on top of a fault line between two continental plates, resulting in hot springs located around the country. There are several hotels with private baths, but for the budget minded there are public baths at a reasonable NT$40 (about 80p). Swimwear is required for the public baths, but you will find a more ‘natural’ approach is taken at the private springs in the hotels.
Taroko National Park
One of the seven national parks around Taiwan but in my opinion it’s the most impressive, purely based on the quite stunning and literally breathtaking site of Taroko Gorge. Just driving around you will be exposed to some of the greatest views and most stunning drives if you are a bit of a petrol head or a keen cyclist.
Sites of impeccable beauty around the national park are not easy to come by and unforgettable. The shrine built over the Eternal Spring is as stunning as it is a majestic honour to the countries veterans of World War II.
The gorge itself has been created by the Liwu River cutting through the marble over a period of 200 million years, so to see the effect it has had on the area is somewhat spectacular on it’s own. This national park is not only an essential visit of the country, but a must-see world wide.
The tradition of kite making is steeped into eastern tradition, none more so than in the northern city of Hsinchu where traditional kite makers still ply their trade. Purchase a hand crafted kite to fly over the picturesque mountain ranges and within the city parks. Hsinchu’s nickname is the Windy City, in other words perfect for letting your traditionally made kite fly hypnotically in the currents.
Visit the Memorials
The nation’s ‘founding fathers’ are celebrated by two stunning memorials in Taipei. The memorial for Dr. Sun Yatsen can be found on Zhongxiao East Road, whilst the General Chiang Kai-Shek is located on Zhonshan Road. You are free to take pictures and you can enjoy one of the many Tai-Chi displays in the recreation grounds.
Alishan National Scenic Area
This mountain region is home to many of the high altitude tea plantations dotted around the hillsides and with it some clearings that will leave you absolutely breathless. The countless hiking trails around the region are sure to lead you through some of these stunning plantations, streaming waterfalls and through settlements that are home to the indigenous Tsou people, renowned for their hospitality and excitement at the prospect of having tea with a westerner, some of the freshest, sweetest tea you will ever taste, created using their own technique of mixing tea, fruit and milk.
Drink Some Bubble Tea
Along with the many unsavoury delicacies such as pig intestine and snake blood, there are exceptions, the best being the sweet and lovingly named ‘Bubble Tea’. Created in Taichung, this sweet drink is made from iced tea, milk and little balls of tapioca pudding. Enjoy in the capital over a night skyline to complete the perfect trip
Andy has just returned from a three month long trek of Russia through to Asia.
Taiwan is also home to one of the world’s tallest buildings (infographic by Manchesterairport.com a website where you can book car parking at Manchester Airport before you jet-off)…