Taiwan lies like a spindle in the southeast of Asia. Geographically separated from Mainland China, this precious island is known as Typhoon Island from whence its name. It is a rare tropical mountain-island in the world, two thirds of which is covered with high mountain ranges.
Taiwan is home to a large number of impressive scenic sites, and Taipei is a cultural center of entertainment and leisure activities. The island is also a center of Chinese pop culture with a substantial entertainment industry.
The Japanese and increasing number of mainland Chinese enjoy taking short trips to come over and stay and enjoy its neighboring hospitalities. Taiwan is home to some of the well known international companies such as Acer, MSI, Asus, HTC, and Giant Bicycles, whose technologies are some of the most advanced in the world.
Taiwanese culture is largely based on traditional Chinese culture, particularly that of Fujian province, because most Taiwanese are ethnic Chinese whose ancestors migrated to Taiwan from that region. However, due to recent historical events, Taiwanese culture has also somewhat diverged from that of mainland China. Substantial Japanese influences can be seen in modern Taiwanese culture because of 50 years of Japanese rule, and this can be seen in its cuisine and in its pop culture. In addition, the Japanese introduced baseball and hot-spring bathing to Taiwan, and these remain popular pastimes for the Taiwanese to this day. The Taiwanese have also retained many elements of traditional Chinese culture that have been lost in mainland China because Taiwan was spared from the excesses of the Cultural Revolution that devastated mainland China.
Located in the subtropical ocean, Taiwan offers visitors comfortable weather and has no winter all the year round. With the pleasant climate, it can sustain vast biology resources. It is a place worth visiting for its natural sights, such as the high and steep mountains and the dense atmosphere of seashore holidays.
Taipei is the seat of government of Taiwan ROC, as well as the center of commerce and culture. Taipei is also home to Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers.
Hsinchu is a center of hi-tech industry, and one of the world’s leading manufacturers of hi-tech components. Hsinchu Science Park is the home to many hi-tech companies.
Hualien is located near Taroko Gorge, and is considered one of the most pleasant of Taiwan’s cities.
Jiufen this former gold mining town located on the northeast coast is now a popular tourist destination.
Kaohsiung is the second-largest city on the island. It has one of the busiest sea ports (the Port of Kaohsiung) in the world and it has the island’s second-largest airport, Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH IATA).
Keelung is a center of transshipment in the north, and is located about a thirty minute drive or a twenty minute bicycle ride from downtown Taipei.
Taichung is located in the center-western region of Taiwan, and famous among the Taiwanese for its pastries such as sun cakes and pineapple cakes.
Puli is located at the geographical center of the island, making it a good base for exploring the central mountains and Sun Moon Lake.
Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and was the capital during imperial times. It is famous for its historic buildings.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
It is the primary international airport of Taiwan. Located 40 km to the southwest of Taipei, it has good connections to neighbouring countries and North America, and decent connections to Europe and Oceania. The airport has a MRT (metro/subway) connection to Taipei, and direct buses to Taipei, Taichung and other nearby cities. Alternatively, the MRT train and U-Bus company shuttles reach HSR Taoyuan station for high-speed train connections to other cities; and to Zhongli Station for mainline TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration train and southbound bus connections to Tainan, Hsinchu.
Kaohsiung International Airport
It is the largest airport in southern Taiwan, with decent connections to neighbouring countries and domestic destinations.
It is a smaller airport in downtown Taipei which serves mostly domestic flights with some flights to China, Tokyo Haneda Airport and Seoul Gimpo Airport.
It serves domestic and international flights to Hong Kong, Vietnam and China.
It serves domestic flights and some international charter flights to Japan, South Korea and Macau. It is also one of the airports designated to serve cross-strait direct flights.
Taiwan’s train system is excellent, with stops in all major cities. Train stations are often located in the centers of most cities and towns and serve as a convenient hub for most types of transportation. In addition, the train system allows you to bypass the highways, which can become extremely crowded on weekends and national holidays.
Taiwan has an extensive bus network, run mostly by private bus companies. Travelling by bus is generally cheaper than by train, especially for long-distance trips. However, on holidays, travel time may be much longer and tickets are more likely to be sold out. There are two categories: intercity buses and local buses.
Taiwan Tourist Shuttle is a set of distinctly branded bus routes (some intercity, some local) that serve tourist sites, and are generally easier to use than regular routes. The official website offers route maps, timetables and recommended itineraries, but is somewhat confusing to navigate. There is, however, a toll-free number for inquiries. There are also information desks at major transport hubs.
The following areas are served by metro, also known as MRT:
Taipei and New Taipei by Taipei Metro
Linkou Plateau, western Taipei and northeastern Taoyuan City by Taoyuan Metro
Kaohsiung by Kaohsiung MRT
Taxis are very common in major Taiwanese cities. You don’t need to look for a taxi – they’ll be looking for you. The standard yellow taxis scour roads looking for potential riders such as lost foreigners. It is possible but generally unnecessary to phone for a taxi. To hail one, simply place your hand in front of you parallel to the ground. But they’ll often stop for you even if you’re just waiting to cross the street or for a bus. In less heavily trafficked areas further out from the transit hubs, taxis are always available by calling taxi dispatch centers or using mobile apps.
Scooters with an engine size of 50cc require a license to drive, and should be insured and registered in the owner’s name. Foreign nationals with stay less than 30 days do not have an easy way to get a scooter license. Until 2003 it wasn’t possible to get a scooter above 150cc. Many of the scooters within cities are only 50cc and incapable of going faster than 80 km/h (50 mph). The more powerful versions known as zhongxing scooters are now quite common and can be rented for short-term use, or found for sale used at English In Taiwan if you’re going to need it for a while. They are not allowed on freeways even if they are capable of going faster than 100 km/h (62 mph) unless used for certain police purposes, but that just means you have to take the scenic route.
While Taiwanese themselves don’t generally hitchhike, foreigners will have it very easy to find a hitch. However, in rural areas people may not recognize the thumb in the air symbol, and you may try pointing your hand to the ground and waving towards you. It is very easy to flag down a car in rural and mountain regions. So, instead of waiting for that one bus a day that goes by, just hitch a ride.
Alishan is not a single mountain, but a range on Taiwan’s spine, averaging 2,500 m in high and with the highest peak Datashan reaching 2,663 m. Taiwan’s highest mountain, Yushan (3,952 m) is easily visible from Alishan.
If you’re an early riser, you can also walk (the whole way is lit, albeit weakly), it’s a not overly strenuous one hour from the 7-Eleven – this also allows you to go early before the crowds and enjoy the amazing pre-dawn twilight colours and tranquility, which you will miss if you take the train. There’s a viewing platform right next to the station, but it’s worth it to hike an extra 15-20 minutes past the helicopter pad to the very top, where the crowds are a little thinner. As the sun is already up behind the mountain, the sky is already quite light by the time you get to the top, and the sun is very bright when rising up
Two scenic little ponds in the forest. The Elder Sister Pond, the larger of the two, has a much-photographed octagonal little pavilion in the middle.
Kenting National Forest Recreation Area is between 150 and 300 m above sea level and the total area is 466.8 ha. Since the landform of Hengchun Peninsula is complicated and the weather is highly changeable, it breeds abundant and special rare plant resources. The forest landscape is roughly divided into three layers. The first layer is arbores. Moraceae and lauraceae are dominant. The second layer is bushes, primarily small palmae. The third layer is chamaephyte. Low grasses and liana are dominant. It is a rich and adequate forest with more than 1,200 kinds of ornamental and conserved plants.
Rising high coral limestone is everywhere in Kenting National Forest Recreation Area. The limestone is primarily composed of sedimentation of corals, foraminifers and nullipores. According to research, this area is supposed to be under sea level ten millions years ago. After weathering and sea water erosion, the coral limestone has gradually become stalagmites, stalactite caves, columns, notches and stalactites. Especially stalagmites and stalactites, they are formed by deposition of calcium carbonate which is precipitated from mineralized water solutions. An average growth rate is 1 cm every 30 years. They are rare and precious stone resources.
Entering from the memorial archway in Kenting National Forest Recreation Area, along the forest trail, there are old trees on both sides of the road. Among them, there is a 300-year-old giant Chinese pistache. Heading inside the recreation area, everywhere, there are spots worth a visit. Aquatic plants area, stalagmites cave, Silver Leaves and Roots, Fairy Cave, Labyrinth Forest, Sky in a Line, Falling Banyan Valley, Silver Dragon Cave, No.1 Gorge, Umbrella Pavilion and Ape Cliff are geographic landscape that you can’t miss.
A sculpture representing the southernmost tip of Taiwan. Famous with the locals for pictures and a great sunset spot.
The surrounding park area is well worth the trip past Kenting. The lighthouse is pretty bland, but the easy hiking trails are pleasant and near the ocean.
A scenic geological formation formed by levels of the coast separately lowering and getting washed away by the sea. Now, a very green and picturesque coast line and cliff.
A large and picturesque dune. You can walk down it on its right flank.
An interesting sight where natural gas escapes from under the earth through porous rock. It is alighted and constantly burns. You can even alight smaller spots by yourself with a lighter – there are about 6-7 of them where gas emerges. Best time to come here is during sunset when the place dives into the night and allows for great pictures, given you have the right photo equipment.
A beautiful black cliff and coastal area, which is great for sunsets. The rock formation is supposed to look like a lying cat, with a lot of imagination. Nevertheless, the price is probably not worth the tiny walkway, seems more like a tourist trap. You should rather go for Longpan Park instead – equally or more beautiful. Parking NT$10-50, Entrance NT$30/15 full/concession.
A mildly picturesque and small harbour. Just nearby, also a coral and power exhibition can be found – quite obvious with the nuclear plant right to the east.
This is a region of magnificent mountains, creek valleys, rare animals and plants.
Nestled at 760 meters, this lake is famous for its clear, sparkling blue water set against a picturesque mountain backdrop. This is the largest lake in Taiwan and a traditional spot for newlywed couples to take their honeymoon. It has also been a center of aboriginal life for thousands of years, with aboriginal people involved in its tourist industry since the 1930s.
The biggest temple on the Northern bank of the lake.
This Chinese style pagoda is a must and the best place to overview the lake. It’s 46 meters tall and was built by the Chiang Kai-shek in memory of his mother. It was completed in 1971 and sits on the hill southeast of the lake.
The village of the Thao Aborigines, and also called Dehua village (德化社). edit
In the middle of the lake. Lalu (lit. “Lake Island”) is the name the Thao tribe, the original inhabitants of the area, gave to this sacred land, though it was changed to Guanghua during Chiang Kai-shek’s rule of Taiwan. After 1999’s September 21 earthquake the Taiwanese government, attempting to show greater respect and political awareness towards the Thao, reverted the island’s name back to its original Lalu.
The most phenomenal aspect of the park is the amazing relief. In a single afternoon you can travel from rugged coastal cliffs through a maze of subtropical forested canyons to high elevation sub-alpine coniferous forests. In about 60 km the landscape rises from sea level to some of the tallest peaks in Taiwan at over 3400 m. That’s steep!
The force behind the steep valleys and narrow canyons is a (geologically speaking) relatively fast rate of uplift combined with ample water. Over the last 70 million years, these two forces collaborated to form the world’s deepest marble canyon. The slot canyons here are remarkable with narrows sections 300 m high and only a dozen meters apart, reminiscent of the Virgin River in Zion National Park in Utah, USA. Ignore the fact that Zion is in the desert, and made of sandstone and Taroko is subtropical and comprised of marble, and these two gorges have a lot in common.
Shakadang Trail is also known as “Mysterious Valley Trail”, which is named because more than 40 years ago a group of young folks entered the river valley and found it very secretive. This place has attracted more and more travellers, and thus everyone is used to calling it “Mysterious Valley”. However, its name was reverted to “Shakadang Trail” in 2001, according to the name of the river. This trail is built along the river cliff so travelers can easily observe both the folded rocks and ecosystem beside the river shore.
In 1987 the cliffs of the rivers destroyed the pavilion nearby the Changchun Shrine, but it was restored and reopened to the public 10 years later. In the back of the Changchun Shrine, there are stairs leading to Kuanyin Caves, Taroko Tower, the Bell Tower, and through a hanging bridge called “Heaven Trail”, to Changuang Temple. The river valley next to the Changuang Temple has a calabash shape, and is accordingly named Calabash Valley (Hu-lu Gu).
Named for the cave at the end of the trail, where water literally pours down in sheets from the roof. Hiking to this point on the Baiyang Waterfall trail takes one through many very long, completely unlit tunnels—an experience in and of itself. Be sure to take a torch, or you’ll be walking in pitch black darkness.
Azaleas, cherry blossoms every spring, in Yangming Park (Houshan Park).
The panorama of Taipei (especially attractive at night) from an observation platform at the entrance to Zhuzi-hu (bamboo lake).
The fumaroles at Xiaoyoukeng.
The best grassland in Taipei, Qingtiangang. This area is popular with picnicking students and families.
The Master of Humor – Lin Yutang was one of the well-known scholars in China and Taiwan. His former residence is one of the most popular tourist spots in Yangmingshan. The Lin Yutang House ‘s address: 141 Yangde Blvd Sec. 2. Open: 10:00 – 21:00.
Yangming Shuwu, 12 Zhongxin Road. Also often called Yangming Villa, is an historical building built by former President Chiang Kai-shek for receiving foreign dignitaries.
Yushan is one of the favorites among Taiwanese mountain climbers. It also attracts climbers from all over the world. With panoramic views, overlapping mountains, and deep, plunging valleys, Yushan National Parkis well known for its scenery, sunrises, sunsets, geological features, and views of the clouds from above. Sea of clouds often fill the valleys, giving you the impression that you’re standing on top of the world. Indisputably, Yushan is the focal point of the park.
Beef noodles , noodle soup with chunks of meltingly soft stewed beef and a dash of pickles
Oyster omelet – this is the Taiwanese name, as its Chinese name only exists in characters, but not in oral Mandarin), made from eggs, oysters and the leaves of a local chrysanthemum, topped with sweet red sauce.
Aiyu jelly, made from the seeds of a local fig and usually served on ice — sweet, cool and refreshing on a hot day
Taiwan Sausage, usually made from pork, it is a modified version of the Cantonese laap cheong which has been emulsified and is much sweeter in taste. Unlike laap cheong, which is almost always eaten with rice, Taiwanese xiangchang is usually eaten on its own with some garlic.
Taiwanese Orange is a type of citrus fruit which is similar to usual oranges, except that the skin and flesh tend to look more yellowish like lemon. Unlike lemon, it is usually quite sweet.
Taiwanese Porridge is rice porridge cooked with sweet potato. It is usually eaten with several different dishes.
For the budget-minded, there are hostels in Taipei and most other sizable cities. Some hostels are under table which mean they don’t have valid license.
Motels can be easily found in suburbs of major cities. Despite the name, these have little if anything to do with the cheap functional hotels that use the name elsewhere; in Taiwan, motels are intended for romantic trysts and can be quite extravagant in decor and facilities. Many feature enormous baths with massage jets, separate massage showers, marble tiles, and so forth. Suites come with flat screen TVs and centrally controlled sound systems. During the daytime, most offer “rests” of a few hours, and indeed check-in times for overnight stays can be as late at 22:00. Taichung is considered the motel-capital of Taiwan.
Taiwanese hotels range in quality from seedy to very luxurious. Despite the complexities of doing business with both mainland China and Taiwan, most Western hotel chains operate in Taiwan such as Sheraton, Westin and Hyatt. Also, there are plenty of five-star hotels around. Keep in mind, however, that many of the international hotels tend to be outrageously expensive, while comparable and much cheaper accommodation is usually available in the same vicinity. For example, the airport hotel at CKS International charges about three or four times as much as a hotel in Taoyuan which is a half hour cab ride away. Taxi drivers and tourist offices are invaluable resources for finding cheaper hotels.
A uniquely Taiwanese form of accommodation is known as the minsu, which is similar to Bed and Breakfast accommodation that you usually find in the UK. Although typically cheaper than hotels, the facilities can often be as good as those of some higher end hotels, and many are designed around a specific theme (like fairy tale castle, nature lodge) Accommodation at a minsu typically includes breakfast the next morning, and higher end ones sometimes also give you the option of having a home-cooked style dinner. The downside is that most minsu are either located in residential suburbs or in the countryside, meaning that transportation is typically less convenient that at centrally located hotels, and the availability of wi-fi can be a hit or miss. In addition, most minsu advertise in Chinese only.
As in many Asian countries, night markets are a staple of Taiwanese entertainment, shopping and eating. Night markets are open-air markets, usually on a street or alleyway, with vendors selling all sorts of wares on every side. In the larger cities you will have a night market every night and in the same place. In smaller cities, they are only open certain nights of the week, and may move to different streets depending on the day of the week.
Every city has at least one night market; larger cities like Taipei may have a dozen or more. Night markets are crowded, so remember to watch out for your wallet! Shops selling the same items tend to congregate in the same part of the city. If you want to buy something, ask someone to take you to one shop and there will probably be shops selling similar things nearby.Share this tour
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