Taiwan is a small island nation 180km east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei, the country’s capital in the north, is known for its busy night markets, Chinese Imperial art at the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101, a 509m-tall, bamboo-shaped skyscraper with an observation deck.
Located among the complex tectonics of Yangtze Plate, Okinawa Plate and Philippine Mobile Belt Plate, Taiwan is an ideal location for mountain trekking or taking day trips away from the labyrinth of skyscrapers. Having spent my last summer backpacking Taiwan, I have come up with a list of places you can go to in and around Taipei without having to spend too much.
Many would have been and heard of Jiufen, but apart from the usual tea sessions overlooking the mountains and seas, there are a few other good eats you need to look out for when exploring the smaller lanes.When you alight from the train or bus from Taipei City, there is a bakery near the interchange that sells Paris Baguette’s replicated Royal Pudding. But this Egg Pudding is eaten straight from its shell and costs only approximately NT30.
While many coffee shops around the world are hyping over the new trend of filtered coffee, there is a humble stall in Jiufen that offers this exquisite beverage at an affordable price. Iced coffee during summer is the best remedy against the scorching heat.
The gold mines that were prosperous during the Japanese colonialism in the 1900s, are turned into museums for the public. I did not know much about mining, let alone being in a mine. Gold Mine Museum would be an ideal place for learning if you want to know more about the industry, or even just to touch real gold!
This area in Taiwan is traditionally known for its gold and copper mines. My eyes lit up immediately as the blazing sun reflected the beautiful shimmers of the Golden Waterfall.
This was actually my favourite place as it is set against the Green Hulk-like Mt Keelung and overlooks the alluring Yin Yang Sea.
There’s a scientific explanation to its attractive physical appearance. Though the gold and copper mines are no longer operational, the rain that seeped into these mines amalgamates with the metal deposits. The chemical reactions result in this stunning coppery Golden Waterfall.
All the water from the waterfall has to go somewhere. The Yin Yang Sea.
We’re all familiar with Kenting as Taiwan’s to-go destination for the perfect tropical retreat. Nested along the southern coast of Taiwan, Kenting is home to several beaches, the most popular ones being Kenting Beach and Nanwan Beach. But come on, nobody wants a beach vacation with hordes of people everywhere!
Bai Sha Wan is a lesser known beach in Kenting, stripped away from the hustle and bustle of Kenting Town. I mean, just look at this panoramic photo I managed to snap without any pesky tourists standing in my way!
There are hot springs, and there’s Wu Lai’s wild mountainside hot springs – hot springs lying by the river and directly channelled from the steaming rocks beneath. Taiwan has several popular hot springs locations, with many of them situated indoors.
With various hot spots to visit, food to eat and activities to undertake, here is our Taipei fun guide with 20 + 1 musts for any whistle-stop to serve up a balanced and entertaining menu with just the right amount of everything.
A wise Chinese proverb says, “good feng shui rotates,” and this, I daresay is evident in Taipei. Popular districts that were traditional hangouts for cool folk and the cognoscenti have gravitated right across the city over the past three decades. Interestingly, as you travel from west Taipei to the east, you also voyage from the past to the present.
Time to feel cultured at the National Palace Museum. The National Palace Museum ( www.npm.gov.tw) has one of the largest collections of ancient Chinese artefacts and artworks in the world, and most of them are high-quality treasures once owned by Chinese emperors. If you’re short on time, just take a peek at the star of the museum – the Jadeite Cabbage. The Chinese cabbage is carved from a piece of jadeite with colours naturally going from white to green; look for the camouflaged grasshopper.
Although the cabbage is the most famous, my personal favourite is the seemingly edible meat-shaped stone (I’m more of a meat person, I guess). Sculpted from a chunk of jasper, the surface and layered hues appear akin to a piece of pork braised in soy sauce with lean meat and fat. It reminds me of my grandmother; she makes absolutely the best braised pork. Yum. The museum’s souvenir shop is filled with hidden humour. You’ll find copies of the cabbage, the meat, and other mini artefacts. Stickers written in calligraphy that say “I know” the way emperors used to refer to themselves are very popular.
Read at midnight. Taipei stays awake all night long, which means you get to see, experience, shop and eat throughout an entire 24-hour day. There are night markets, karaoke places, and lounges with seamless tipples.You might think since you’re only in Taipei for a short period of time, reading at a bookstore would be a waste of time but, trust me, if you haven’t yet, you’ll be hooked.
The bookstore has a large selection in Chinese, English and Japanese, but visitors will find more than books at Eslite. In fact, the brand represents a culture of creativity and promotes anything artistic. Creations and products by local independent artists or designers, for example, can be purchased here.
Taiwan is full with amazing temples i will write about some of them .
Matsu Temple, one of Penghu’s most celebrated spots, has an unusually high and sweeping swallowtail eave roof and a wealth of gorgeous Chaozhou-style woodcarvings. In the main hall there’s a swastika design representing endless good fortune on the wood door panels. The temple’s current appearance is the result of a restoration in 1922. It was helmed by a master designer from Chaozhou in Southern China who clearly infused it with the modest grace of Chaozhou temples.
From the entrance doors with their giant guardians to the 18 lohan reliefs, only top-quality materials and artists, both Taiwanese and foreign, were used to build this awe-inspiring contemporary edifice. Another highlight is the seven-storey indoor pagoda, which was created without any metal nails or screws. Designed by Taipei 101 architect CY Lee, Chung Tai Temple, with its colossal icons and massive halls, almost bring to mind a Totalitarian aesthetic.
This 43-storey temple is more than just one of the quirkiest buildings in Taiwan (think tiled mosque meets Macau’s Grand Lisboa) – it’s a global centre of Buddhist academic research, culture and the arts. Opened in 2001, it represents an international branch of Buddhism founded by the Venerable Master Wei Chueh,
Founded in 1738 by Han immigrants from Fujian, this temple has served as a municipal, guild and self-defence centre, as well as a house of worship. These days it is one of the city’s top religious sites, and a prime venue for exploring both Taiwan’s vibrant folk faith and its unique temple arts and architecture.
Longshan is dedicated to the Bodhisattva of mercy, Guanyin, though in true Taiwanese style there are over 100 other gods and goddesses worshipped in the rear and side halls. Matsu, goddess of the sea, is enshrined in the back centre; Wenchang Dijun, the god of literature, to the far right (come during exam period to see how important he is); red-faced Guan Gong, the god of war and patron of police and gangsters, is enshrined to the far left; and in front of that is the Old Man Under the Moon, known as the Matchmaker or the Chinese cupid.
Taiwan is an mountainous place and is a fantastic place for hiking. Its really great for all hiking and outdoor lovers.
Over 20% of Taiwan is made up of protected land – either in the form of a national park, forest or state reserve – and a further 30% is made up of forest. The country, it seems, is made for hiking.
Taiwan has a well-established network of hundreds of hiking trails, and the vast majority do not require a guide. Hiking tracks are rarely crowded, and visitors are more likely to meet rambling locals than other international visitors.
When to go? While it is possible to hike in the ‘Heart of Asia’ throughout the year, the conditions are at their best in the autumn (late August to early October) when the weather is slightly cooler and the air drier.
Am I fit enough? The choice of hiking routes is vast: ranging from gentle walks to extreme treks (like bagging the 3,952m Jade Mountain), and spanning a number of different climates from tropical to alpine.
Wuling Sixiu Trail, Shei-Pa National Park (north Taiwan)
This trail takes 3-4 days to complete and is one of the most challenging treks in Taiwan. Based in Shei-Pa National Park, the Wuling Sixiu is a group of four mountains, all of which are scaled and descended on this trek.
The trail kicks off with a 1,500m climb, after which you’ll be rewarded with a view of the ‘sea of clouds’ above the Yilan Plain, before continuing up to Taoshan – the peak of Mount Tao – which is 3,324m above sea-level. Stay here for the night.
The trail continues to the top of Mount Chiyou, which boasts sweeping panoramas across Shei-Pa National Park. Spend the second night here, enjoying views of the Milky Way if the sky is clear.
In the morning, earlybirds will witness a dramatic sunrise above the Central Mountain Range, before heading on to Mount Pintian. Towering 3,524m above sea-level, the last stretch of the trail is roughly 300m long and requires a strong nerve as it involves a number of narrow pathways, as well as fixed-rope sections with sheer drops.
It is strongly advised that those wishing to follow the Wuling Sixiu trail do so with a qualified guide.
Zhuilu Old Trail, Taroko National Park (east Taiwan)
The 10.3km Zhuilu Old Trail traverses Taroko National Park, and is one of the most easily-accessible hiking trails in Taiwan.
The trail leads hikers along the only remaining section of the old Hehuan Mountain Road that is still intact. At its most challenging part, it skirts along the side of the 1,100m-high Zhuilu Cliff, where you can walk along a ledge that is just 60cm wide at its narrowest point. The trail boasts bird’s-eye views of the Liwu River, which lies a vertigo-inducing 500m below. A number of hikers have been known to abandon their plans at the sight of where they are going!
Those looking for a gentler version of the Zhuilu Old Trail might want to consider the Lushui-Holiu Trail, which is just 2km long and gives the same spectacular views of the gorge, without the extreme cliff edges!
The Zhuilu Old Trail was reopened in 2008 on a permit-basis only. Please note that applications for the permit must be made at least a week in advance. See the Taroko National Park website for details.
The Beidawushan Trail (south Taiwan)
Beidawushan is the most southerly mountain in Taiwan, reaching over 3,000m above sea-level at its peak. This trail, which is 10km in length, is one of the most popular overnight hikes in Taiwan, as the majority of the trail is easy to follow and it promises some incredible panoramic views.
The Beidawushan Trail begins at an elevation of 1,520m and the majority of the path is clear and simple to follow. The second day of the trail includes a number of narrow ridges, as well as rope sections. You’ll also encounter a 1,000-year-old red cedar tree that is 25m in circumference, as well as Japanese-era shrines and rare forests of hemlock spruce. The trail ends at the summit of Beidawushan, from which you can observe both the Pacific Ocean and the Taiwan Strait on a clear day.
The Beidawushan Trail does require transport to reach and while the journey to the trailhead may be complicated, the trail itself and the views are bound to make up for it.
The Yushan Peaks Trail is incredibly popular with visitors to Taiwan as it is suitable for anyone of average fitness. The route threads through Yushan National Park and leads to the main Yushan Peak (Jade Mountain).
On the first day of the trail to the main Yushan Peak, you’ll encounter views of the Cishan River, and the myriad flora that Taiwan boasts – including rare hemlock forests and collections of dwarf bamboo.
After an early start on the second day (essential if you want to reach the summit for sunrise), you’ll find that as the altitude increases, forests are replaced by fields of rhododendron and juniper, as well as lichens and hardy plants at the peak. From here, you can continue by foot on to the Yushan West, North and South peaks.
You don’t need a guide for this trail, but you must pick up a pass from the Paiyun Visitor Centre before you set off.
This is just some of the things you can see and enjoy in this small island .Accommodation is very easy to find and there is different options for accommodation and range of prices.