The small island nation of Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China, is well-deserving of a place on your bucket list. With an impressive mixture of ancient Chinese culture, brilliant food and modern ideas and inspirations, Taiwan is fast becoming a highly sought after vacation destination, and it’s easy to see why.
FOOD and DRINK
Much like other parts of Asia, Taiwan doesn’t shy away from producing tasty street food at rock bottom prices. You’ll find traditional dishes such as gua bao — a filled steamed bun, and xiao long bao — a Taiwanese specialty of dumplings filled with soup and deep-fried milk. Most street vendors specialize in one dish, so spend your time making your way around each stall to savor everything on offer. Need something to wash down the delicious treats? Tea fans listen up. Taiwan has been growing tea since it was brought over from China back in the 18th century. Famous for its Oolong Tea, there are plenty of tea rooms you can visit around the island for a refreshing and authentic sample of local culture.
Taiwan is home to around 300 night markets, each with their own character and selling an array of products. Some markets sell street food and snacks, others sell clothing, some even have bingo and carnival games taking place in, or nearby, the market. The capital of Taipei has more than ten markets but you’ll also find them in Taichung and Keelung City. Whatever products you’re looking for and whatever area you’re staying in, you’re guaranteed to find a night market to keep you entertained when the sun goes down.
HISTORY and CULTURE
Taiwan has a rich and fascinating history that can be traced through its architecture and landscape. First inhabited by the Taiwanese, Taiwan was later colonized by the Dutch and the Spanish. Once the Qing Dynasty lost the Sino- Japanese War, Taiwan came under Japanese rule. In 1945, the island was taken back by China. This mixture of cultural influence gives Taiwan its special charm. Head to the UNESCO-recognized Baoan Temple for a snippet of traditional Taiwanese culture or visit the Taipei 101 skyscraper for a more modern excursion.
Taiwan is located on a tectonic joint, meaning it’s a destination full of hot springs. They vary hugely in color, minerals, and temperature, making them a popular spot for tourists. If you want to escape the bustling cities, make your way to the Beitou or Ruislip springs — trust us, you’ll feel completely relaxed.
The transportation in Taiwan may seem like a strange reason to add Taiwan to your bucket list but let us explain why. The island’s mix of traditional and contemporary technology is incomparable when it comes to trains. On the one hand, there’s an incredibly fast high-speed train network. Opened over ten years ago, this network links to the capital city Kaohsiung, located in the south of the island. Passengers onboard a high-speed train will be treated to speeds of up 186mph.
And on the other hand, there’s the Alishan Forest Railway, which opened way back in 1912. The 53-mile narrow gauge railways run through the mountain resorts of Alishan. Travelers can take a small train along the railway, and like the passengers from years ago, enjoy more than 70 wooden bridges, switchbacks, and 50 tunnels. It’s been said that UNESCO is considering giving this Taiwanese site World Heritage Status.
Sage Fitzpatrick is a travel blogger currently living in London. She can be found drinking tea, reading and traveling the world. When she’s not traveling she spends her time blogging about her travels over at A Virtual Postcard.