From north to south, Taiwan is overflowing with culture, history & beauty. From the food, to the museums, to the famous Taipei 101, this place knows how to tantalize your senses and enrich your travel experience.
With the shape of a sweet potato, the political ‘hot potato’ that goes by the name of Taiwan, is a topic that can sometimes leave a hint of awkwardness when brought up in conversation here in mainland China due to a complicated history. Hence, the reason this piece will strictly focus on Taiwan’s aesthetic appeal from my own working tourist’s perspective.
I was fortunate enough to have a business trip that would take me the entire length of the Taiwanese west coast, which is primarily where the population and infrastructure is situated as a result of the proximity to its nearest mainland point of contact, Fujian province. Some may opt for the boat from Fujian to its island neighbor, but my time constraints necessitated a flight choice to one of Taiwan’s several airports.
My anticipation was palpable as I gradually glimpsed the enormous structure in irregular bursts upon approaching.
A schedule that would take me from south to north along virtually the whole length of the high speed train network began after arriving at Kaosiung airport and a fairly straight forward process that permits foreigners to remain for a month without a formal visa application. My first stop was the city of Taiwan’s former capital, Tainan, and a cheeky hour of enjoying the fine art at the Chimei museum. After that, it was an hour’s train ride to Taichung where I sampled some utterly delicious freshly caught seafood.
One thing that became more apparent as the days went by, was the fact that Taiwan still uses traditional Chinese characters, not dissimilar to Hong Kong or Macau. I also noticed the dialect steadily changing to more standardized Mandarin the further north I ventured. By the time I reached my next stop, Hsinchu city, I was regularly being told how good my spoken ‘Taiwanese’ was.
Hsinchu was my first experience of the assault on the senses that is Taiwan’s famed night market. A melee of open air street food that surpassed anything I had ever experienced in mainland China. I pretty much wanted to try everything I saw, but after much deliberation, opted for the traditional Taiwanese sausage fried with onions and cinnamon. The evening was followed by a brief glance at some of Taiwan’s many temples and a rather bizarre puppet show resembling ‘Punch and Judy’, touching on the local history.
Finally it was time to hit the capital and from the get go I had penciled in to visit ‘Taipei 101’, which was for a fleeting time the tallest building in the world. My anticipation was palpable as I gradually glimpsed the enormous structure in irregular bursts upon approaching. After a satisfying look at the city’s panorama from the viewing platform I came down to earth and glugged down some suds at the Mercedes AMG bar at its base.
With the week over, I nipped into a local 7-11 store to buy my train ticket and headed back to the nearby airport, wishing I could have had a little more time to explore the island’s lesser known east coast. Alas. All good things come to an end, but the bucket list for next year is to head back and investigate what else this pearl of the orient has to offer.