This island surrounded by over 100 smaller islands off the coast of China and south of Japan is officially known as the Republic of China. A semi tropical paradise, Taiwan was originally named of Ilha Formosa, Beautiful Island , by Portuguese sailors.
Lowlands and Highlands
Over sixty percent of Taiwan’s area is covered by forested mountains. The rest consists of hilly country, platforms and highlands, coastal plains and basins. The Central Mountain Range rises along the entire island north to south, making a natural divide for rivers on the eastern and western sides of the island. Yushan Mountain reaches 13,113 feet, the highest mountain peak in Northeast Asia located on the west side of Taiwan.
The capital city of Taipei is a pulsing metropolis known for its financial empires and awesome shopping. Yet, quiet solitude can be found in what many call the best hot springs in the world sprinkled from one end of Taiwan to the other.
Mountain and Sea Sights
The lush mountains of Wulai, the chiseled basalt cliffs of Penghu, the excellent hiking in Taroko Gorge, or sightseeing along the east or west coastlines mean great opportunities for beautiful vistas. Taiwan is considered by travelers in the know to be one of the most diverse destinations in Asia.
Seven National Parks offer nature lovers a wealth of experiences from the Yangmingshan National Park near Taipie in the north to the Kenting National Park on Taiwan’s southern tip. The Dongsha Atoll Marine National Park teams with aquatic life.
Point of Entry
Most visitors enter through Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), about 50 minutes from the heart of downtown Taipei. Taiwan’s other international airports are Siaogang Airport (KHH) in Kaohsiung and Cing Cyuan Gang Airport (RMQ) in Taichung. TPE handles traffic from around the world, while most of the international traffic into and out of Siaogang Airport and Cing Cyuan Gang Airport comes from Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.
A modern rail system links most large towns and cities in Taiwan, and a new high-speed railway opened in January 2007 between the two biggest cities, Taipei and Kaohsiung.
The Best Time To Go
Some say that Taiwan has no seasons, but experienced travelers know that usually autumn (September to November) is best, as conditions tend to be warm and dry. Visiting in spring (March to May) is mixed with days that are clear and dry, or wet and grey. Summer (June to August) is a great time to visit the east coast, especially for outdoor activities, but be aware of typhoons, which can hit the island from June to October. Beach lovers can swim comfortably anywhere from May to October.
Taiwan attracts many tourists who come to savor Chinese specialty foods, ranging from small steamed buns to water-boiled dumplings. Traditional Chinese food to be found in Taiwan, next to Taiwanese and Hakka-style dishes, includes dishes from Fujian, Guangdang, Jiangxi, Shanghai, Hunan, Sichuan and Beijing.
In Taiwan, cooking techniques from all areas of China have merged, and the Taiwanese not only master the traditional local Chinese specialties, but also continuously use traditional techniques to develop new culinary treats.
Taiwan’s unique historical and geographical background, make for a rich and versatile culture with elements from many different ethnic groups, including the Aborigines, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Japanese and the Han-Chinese. Customs and traditions that make up Taiwan’s culture as we know it today are extremely vivid and cross different cultures as a result. The people that previously inhabited Taiwan left many cultural remnants that can still be found around Taiwan today, including traditional architecture, relics of past civilizations, folk art and traditional performances.
Shopping is a varied as the culture. Several theme streets have sprung up, exhibiting an exciting blend of history and style, including Taipei’s Simending and Kaohsiung’s New Jyuejiang commercial areas, each attracting different consumer groups. Other venues, including the weekend jade markets and computer lane in Taipei’s Guanghua commercial plaza, are great places to find unexpected bargains.
All-in-all Taiwan is one Asian adventure you don’t want to miss.