Taiwan? Still think it’s that island off the coast of China with the label that used to be on the bottom of every cheap toy in the shop?
Well you’ve got a nice surprise heading your way. Taiwan has morphed into an advanced island of technology with a diversity of traditional folk customs, rich culture and heritage, fabulous food and drop-dead gorgeous scenery.
A trip here offers friendly people, fabulously high mountains, top museums and tall buildings, bustling night markets and a whole lot more.
Here’s 10 things I like about Taiwan
1 Street food
It seems like everywhere you go in Taiwan there are stalls selling an amazing array of foods. They range from surprisingly fabulous to downright disgusting. When Mike Parker Brown first mentioned rolled pancakes filled with shaved peanut brittle, a scoop of strawberry and vanilla ice cream and topped with chopped coriander, I was sceptical. Once tasted, these gems are addictive and I would go back to Taiwan to try them alone.
Dumplings are another Taiwanese speciality that really rocked my tastebuds. I just loved Din ta fung.
Stinky tofu is not something I ever want to try again and those members of my travelling group who liked it, you are so wrong.
More on Taiwanese snacks
|Danger - this man is cooking stinky tofu|
2 MountainsWe journeyed along both sides of Taiwan taking in the Alishan National Scenic Area and the Taroko National Park. Both places gave amazing scenery and sights that will be hard to forget.
My favourite would be the lush green, rainforest shrouded mountains of Alishan. We got up before dawn to see the sunrise which is spectacular but rain left us with only a hint of what might have been and another reason to return.
3 ChefsTaiwanese cuisine is similar to Chinese but I found it more enjoyable and highly inventive. My personal highlight was visiting Yiaozhong’s innovative indigenous restaurant where the owner is both hunter/gatherer and chef.
He takes his daily catch, supplements it with produce from his own garden and the local market, and creates a daily degustation menu from totally local ingredients. Not only does his innovative cuisine taste fabulous, it’s also exquisitely presented as though styled for a photo shoot.
|Chao Li Alishan House|
4 HotelsThroughout Taiwan we stayed in a great selection of hotels at all budget levels. My picks from the trip were the super lush Chao Li Alishan House and the super cute Westgate Hotel Taipei
I’ve stayed in some pretty lush places but Chao Li Alishan House blew me away with the combo of two king-sized beds, a fireplace, a balcony with views over the cedar forest, huge bath also with views of the cedar forest, a heated toilet seat and a bidet. True!
Westgate Hotel Taipei I liked for its central location and close proximity to interesting restaurants and markets, plus the quirky décor. It’s also very reasonably priced.
5 PeopleFriendly – that’s my overall impression of Taiwanese locals. They were always smiling and nice to be around. They often asked to have their photo taken with our group members and were overjoyed when we jumped into their photos for fun.
It was a great travelling experience as they were eager to share and exchange ideas and customs.
They do trains well in Taiwan from the High Speed Rail Bullet train from Taoyuan to Chaiyl to the Alishan Mountain Railway. The bullet train is, of course, very fast but it’s also super organised and easy to travel on. I managed a few naps on the journey when I wasn’t enjoying the scenery.
The Aishan Mountain Railway was a blast from the past and a bit crowded but it’s also a top tourist spot and a great experience. A train journey gives the traveller a chance to observe locals and the customs without seeming like a voyeur.
7 Tropic of Cancer
Did you know the Tropic of Cancer passes through the middle of Taiwan? We found a few of the markers on our journey and also enjoyed the chance to act up like kids for a while.
Another trip highlight was a dinner in the Ami Tribal Indigenous Cultural Area where we enjoyed a traditional Ami tribal Hot Pot on a hard rock dinner set with cups make from palm leaves. The Ami people are famous for their singing and the group at the next table broke into song several times during their dinner to celebrate the birthdays of two of their relatives who were also priests. We clapped to show our appreciation of the singing and joined to sing Happy Birthday and they shared the cake with us!
9. Flying there
Our journey was with Scoot and I’ve blogged a review of the flights here. The stop over at Changi Airport was as comfortable as an airport stopover gets with a snooze lounge, plenty of power points to recharge devices everywhere, a sunflower garden and ample food opportunities. It was easy to withdraw some local currency from an auto teller and just relax between flights. I even had a nap.
10 Just weird stuff
This is one of the strangest meals I’ve eaten – a beef curry out of a bowl that looks like a toilet. Yes I was at Modern Toilet http://www.moderntoilet.com.tw/en/about.asp and the curry was only one of the interesting meals that we ordered and ate that night. Taipei is a city full of interesting restaurants.
Best tip: Put Taiwan on your bucket list
Bottom line: Not the cheapest destination but worth exploring.
Disclaimer: Ed+bK travelled as the guest of Taiwan Tourism and Scoot