The Top Things To Do In Taiwan

taipei_101-TaiwanThe relationship between Taiwan and mainland China hasn’t been the most cordial over the last half century, and the differing philosophies can be seen in the different path that Taiwan has taken.  The impressive city centre in Taipei is the epitome of modern capitalism, and it is a particularly popular place to come shopping and to socialize.  For those visiting the island, Taiwan is a wonderful combination of historic buildings, events, modern city and natural beautiful scenery.

Visit The National Palace Museum

The history of the NationalPalaceMuseum is as interesting as that of Taiwan itself, having originally been based in the Forbidden City in Beijing.  The collections include some of the most important pieces from the Imperial history of China, and these were first evacuated from the Forbidden City in 1933 during the Japanese invasion, and relocated to Shanghai.  As the civil war in China intensified in the late 1940s, the collections of the museum were then evacuated to the island of Taiwan.

Today the museum is one of the most popular tourist sites in the country, and has a collection of nearly 700,000 items.  There are over 1,000 years of Chinese painting shown in the artwork on display, and also has a large collection of calligraphy which is particularly important in China.  There are also many examples of carving and sculpture to be seen, with an interesting series of carvings in Jade particularly popular, including the unusual and ornate Jadeite Cabbage.

Enjoy The Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is an event that is celebrated across many parts of Asia, particularly those that have been influenced by China.  The most significant part of the festival in Taiwan is the racing of the dragon boats, which are usually raced over short to medium distances and packed with teams of rowers that will have one paddle each and sit in two rows in the boat.  As well as the boat races themselves, it is also traditional to eat rice dumplings and drinking realgar wine.

Visit The Taroko Gorge

The Taroko Gorge is at the heart of one of the most famous national parks in Taiwan, and is popular because of the amazingly steep and high gorge sides that rise hundreds of feet above the river.  The tricky roads that travel along the course of the gorge are narrow and can be particularly treacherous as many cyclists along with tourist buses share these roads in the TarokoNational Park.  During the summer, the gorge can also be enjoyed from a different perspective, as a number of rafting groups run trips down the river at the bottom of the gorge itself.

See The Skyscape From Taipei 101

Taipei 101 is one of the world’s largest skyscrapers, and actually held the title between 2004 and 2010.  Standing at a huge 509 meters tall, the tower stretches high into the air and has a distinctive shape due to the need for the tower to be able to resist the strong typhoon winds that can hit the city.  On a clear day, the best place to see the city is from the outdoor observatory which offers stunning views over the city of Taipei, and is also often lit up and surrounded by fireworks during special events and festivals.

Visit Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is a large building erected in memory of the military leader who brought the Nationalist government of China to the island of Taiwan as their fortunes in the civil war waned.  The hall stands among large open grounds and ornate gardens, at the end of a broad avenue which is flanked by the National Concert Hall and the National Theatre before reaching the hall.  The hall itself also has a library and museum dedicated to the memory of the country’s former leader.

Gourmet Food in Taiwan

taiwan food

Traveling to Taiwan is a glorious experience for anyone who loves food, because as Taiwan was always a cultural melting pot and economic center of Asia, it has brought together a lot of different food traditions – from mainland China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and South East Asia as well as some of the Pacific Islands and Indian fare to the west, Taiwan has a grand mixture of tastes and recipes.

A saying in Taiwan goes: “A snack bar is within three steps of you and a large restaurant within five.”

Chinese fare

For a start, in Taiwan you can get every type of local and regional food from China – such as Tianjiang, Beijing, Shandong and southern food such as Sichuanese, Hunanese, Zheijiangan and Guangdong.

International food
Since Taiwan is a multicultural global hub, any tourist there who wants to experience food from back home will find it very easily. From any type of junk food from the USA, to Italian pizza, to Mexican tacos and Spanish fajitas; from halal to kosher everything is available in large quantities.

Local food
Local food is largely based on the staples – rice and noodles. These are flavored with natural and fresh flavors, such as fresh meat (pork, beef, chicken) and vegetables. Food that seems exotic to a tourist but that is a delicacy enjoyed by locals are snakes, dogs, spiders, cockroaches, grasshoppers and monkeys. All sorts of seafood are also used and not much is spared unless it is truly toxic.

Another specialty of Taiwanese food is that it is often mixed with medicinal herbs and plants. Thus medicine in Taiwan is most often consumed in this way and it also depends on the season.

Some famous Taiwanese snacks are pearl milk tea (made from tea, milk and sago pearls which are chewy).

Famous Festivals in Taiwan

taiwan lantern festival

taiwan lantern festival

Taiwan is world famous for its festivals which date back to thousands of years ago.

Taiwan Lantern Festival
Every year for example they hold the Taiwan Lantern Festival. This now 20 years old and takes on ideas from ancient Chinese culture. Lanterns represent dead relatives and other spirits and are released into the air or onto rivers in their thousands during the Chinese New Year and the Lunar Festival.

In the Taiwan Lantern Festival, participants parade through the streets carrying lanterns in their hands.

Taipei and Kaohsiung Lantern Festival
There is also a Taipei and Kaohsiung Lantern Festival which is celebrated as a national festival as well as a major event in both cities.

The festival takes place at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial hall and there is even a gigantic lantern which is made to represent the current Chinese zodiac animal. During this festival the Love River is ablaze with thousands of lanterns slowly sailing out to sea.

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

The unique event of the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is when thousands of lanterns are released into the sky with some helium. The lanterns hovering through the air are beautiful to behold but have ironically contributed to many UFO sightings as well. Lanterns were used in the past in this way as warning signals to let family members know that you are safe. Today they are used as a symbol of good fortune.

Yenshui Fireworks Festival

The Taiwanese have been using fireworks and gunpowder for about 5,000 years – in fact, it was Marco Polo who brought this item back to Europe in the 15th century.

During the fire festival to the God of War in the temple in Yenshui, there is a massive fireworks display that is hard to forget if you’ve ever seen it. There is also a parade throughout the city with firecrackers being hurled day and night for several days.