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  • 5 reasons to visit Taiwan

    Taiwan

    Taiwan

    Although China is a pretty popular travel destination nowadays, the same can’t really be said about Taiwan, otherwise known the Republic of China. The island of Taiwan has traded hands several times throughout history, and it’s a tricky place: its government is on mainland China, but Taiwan is an entirely different nation.

    If you think that if you’ve seen China there’s not much reason to visit Taiwan, a visit to this beautiful island (called in the past Formosa, meaning ‘beautiful’ in Portuguese) will change your mind. Taiwan is one of the most densely populated places on the planet, and yet there’s still enough space for breathtaking natural beauty. Mountains, beaches, exotic small towns and crowded neon-lit cities will give you plenty of incentives to travel. Here are 5 reasons to visit Taiwan, but there are many more than that!

    The cuisine

    A foodie would have a great time in Taiwan even without paying attention to any of the attractions, natural or otherwise. Taiwanese cuisine is famous, and for good reason. Of course, the influence of China is clearly felt in most dishes, but the cuisine is further spiced up by Japanese, aboriginal, Hoklo and Hakka influences.

    Taste the local specialties: beef noodle soup, oyster omelet, aiyu jelly (made from fig seeds) and Taiwanese porridge. Cities have all sorts of local specialties as well, like mochi cakes in Ilan, sun cakes in Taichung, coffin bread in Tainan.

    Hot springs

    Beitou hot springs, photo by Tydence Davis

    Nearby Japan is not the only island nation with countless hot springs, and even Japanese tourists come to Taiwan to enjoy the relaxing mineral waters in Wulai, Yangmingshan, or Beitou. The hot springs are especially popular in winter, when domestic and foreign tourists come to get the chill out of their bones. It helps that many of the hot springs towns are very scenic too!

    Nature

    Taiwan has a bit of a reputation for being heavily industrialized, which is true if you stick to the big cities that are home to sprawling factories. But stray away from urban areas and you’ll encounter nature in its purest form.

    Taiwan has stunning mountains covered in dense forests, and several great national parks. Hiking and walking opportunities abound, especially in places like the Taroko Gorge, a magnificent canyon on the eastern coast of the island.

    Night markets

    Taipei night market, http2007

    Like in several other Asian countries, if you want to do a good bout of shopping and gorging on delicious street food, you should spend some nights wandering the markets. In large cities like Taipei or Taichung, there are night markets every day, while in smaller towns they might take place only a couple of times a week or a month.

    If you like to haggle, you can do that wherever the prices are not displayed – in fact, you will be expected to haggle! You can buy souvenirs like jade objects, or lots of famous Taiwanese oolong tea.

    Tea

    If you love tea, you will have a great time sampling various Taiwanese specialties. The fragrant and light tie guan-yin oolong tea is delicious any way you drink it, but it’s worth doing it the traditional way, which requires a long and elaborate process and is always served with lots of snacks.

    Lei Cha is another interesting Taiwanese tea, made with tea leaves and ground grain, while bubble tea (or pearl milk tea) is a delicious snack that consists of tea laden with tapioca pearl sipped through a wide straw.

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