In November, I have embarked on a one month trip to Asia. My plan was to visit Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and a city in China. I did not know what to expect, as this was my first trip to Asia – a world of the unknown was waiting for me, after a 15-hour flight.
Taiwan was my first stop, as I was lucky to be part of the Taiwan Rotaract Roundtrip this year.
Here are my 15 reasons to visit Taiwan, at least once in your lifetime (because after visiting once, you will want to go back):
1. The people
I don’t even know where to start talking about how impressed I was by the people of Taiwan. And I mean everyone – from my friends there to people that were selling products at the night markets, people that you only get to see once – everyone was so friendly, honest and open. During my two and a half weeks there, I have never felt in danger, never heard people arguing and walking the streets of Taipei at 12 or 2 AM, all by myself was a relaxing experience.
Not everyone speaks English there, but everyone will try to help you if you have a question or need something.
One night, I was at a pharmacy and the teller spoke no English, but he made the sign of ‘I have an idea’, brought his phone, with Google translate and everything was clear from there. I have to admit that I have never experienced that in Europe.
2. The delicious food
While the dishes tend to be based around rice, seafood, pork and chicken they are so different and diverse, that you will not be able to stop eating or at least trying them. The Taiwanese cuisine has influences from both China and Japan, with a local twist. Hakka cuisine is also something that you can find in Taiwan and I would strongly encourage you to try it.
I loved that fact that during each meal, we had over 5 plates on the table (depending on how many people were eating), everything was in the middle and everyone shared. This enables you to experience so many dishes, dishes that you probably would not have tried otherwise, as there is that much that you can eat in one sitting.
Here are some of the dishes that are a must try, in Taiwan: hoe-joe-bah-png (rice with turkey and pickled radish), bah-oan(large dumplings), bi-hun (rice noodles), kong-oan in soup, iron eggs, mullet roe, oyster omelette, bait, minced pork rice, pork cracklings, spicy hotpot, tamsui a gei, Taiwanese sausages, all Hakka food, Taiwanese cake and the super-delicious pineapple cake.
Taiwan is also very famous for its bubble tea, which was invented in Taichung, a lovely city that I have also got the chance to visit. You must try bubble tea in Taiwan!
You will also love Taiwan if you are a vegetarian – plenty of dishes to choose from, all delicious. Tofu & dishes made out of fresh veggies, perfectly cooked and seasoned are everywhere.
3. The strange food
Because you can’t have one without the other, you will also find some strange food in Taiwan, but I strongly recommend you to try it.
Here are some of the strange dishes that you can find at the night markets and not only: stinky tofu, pig’s blood rice cake, chicken butts, chicken feet, chicken comb, century egg, plum vinegar, squid on a stick, sea snails, candied tomatoes, duck tongues and many others. It was not an easy task for me at first to try them, but I have to admit that I most of them were not that bad, while the others, I would not necessarily jump at them, if given the opportunity.
4. The night markets
Another thing that I loved about the night markets are the games – you can play different games at many of them, by yourself or with friends! Playing games was so much fun and we always won something – so everyone was happy.
5. The massage
Ok. I have to admit, I was spoiled in Taiwan. And not only from a food perspective but I also got over 10 massages while I was there. Almost every night was a massage night. And my absolute favourite was the foot massage. Let’s face it – nothing beats foot massage. In Taiwan you can find ‘massage spas’ all over the place. Even at the night markets. The prices are very reasonable, for example, I used to pay about 10£ for a 40-minute foot massage – and it was heavenly every single time. Also, I was really surprised at how many people, local people went for a foot massage at the end of the day. If you visit Taiwan, don’t forget to try foot massage at least once!
The prices are very reasonable, for example, I used to pay about 10£ for a 40-minute foot massage – and it was heavenly every single time. Also, I was really surprised at how many people, local people went for a foot massage at the end of the day. If you visit Taiwan, don’t forget to try foot massage at least once!
Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan and it’s a must to spend at least 3 days in the city, if you visit the country, as it has so much to offer. Taipei is home to over 2.7 million people and there are so many things to do there on a daily basis that you would never get bored. From historical buildings, modern buildings, extremely tall buildings (like Taipei 101), night markets, parks, creative spots, great restaurants, a technology districts, shopping malls and fun parks, fabulous views, Taipei has it all. You can read my recommendations about what to do in Taipei here.
7. The history
Taiwan has an interesting history, history which rendered the country to go through many changes. Dutch and Spanish colonists have been to Taiwan and the island was also ruled by both Japan and China. At the present, China has no rule over Taiwan, but claims it as part of its territory. There are different historical buildings that you can visit while in Taiwan and a few of them are: The Red House, Taiwan Democracy Memorial Park, The Presidential Office, Fort San Domingo, Anping Old Fort, Tamsui Old Street, National Museum of History and many others.
8. The Safety
I have travelled a lot, especially in Europe and also in parts of the Middle East, Africa and in the US. I think the safest I have ever felt when travelling was in Taiwan. If you have been to Paris, Miami, Prague or Cairo, you know what I am talking about. I’m not saying I felt scared in other places, but I haven’t felt quite as safe as in any of the cities that I’ve been to in Taiwan.
Everybody is minding their own business and people are kind and very open to tourists. Plus, Taiwan will potentially be the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, so you will feel at home in Taiwan as a member of the GLBT community.
9. The ease of getting from one place to another
Being a travel bug, Idon’t like staying in the same place when I travel. I love to explore around and travel from place to place. That is why my destination is almost never a city but a region or a country. In the case of Taiwan, I only got the chance to explore the north, West and Central part of the country, leaving the East and South for my next visit.
It was so easy to travel around Taiwan! Everything is marked in both English and Chinese, taxis, trains and buses are affordable and getting from one place to another is so quick and easy. If you go to Taiwan, you should roam around – it’s quick, cheap and easy to do!
10. The nature
When the Portuguese called Taiwan ‘Formosa’ (which means beautiful) they were right to do so. The island is simply beautiful. The scenery and the landscapes are simply breathtaking. I was impressed with all the natural diversity of the island. Over 250 mountain summits that are over 3,000 meters tall, forests that make you feel like you are in wonderland, gorgeous beaches and beautiful rivers, Taiwan has it all.
11. The prices
Taiwan is not an expensive country to visit and everything is reasonably priced. You might even find that certain things, like food, transportation, contact lenses (yes, there are so many to pick from in Taiwan), beauty products from Taiwan and Korea and different types of services.
12. The Temples
I fell in love with the temples in Taiwan. When you visit Taiwan, it is a must to see at least 5 temples. you will learn so much about history, Taiwanese culture and about yourself as well. I think I have visited more than 10 temples while I was there and each and every one of them was unique
13. The Tranquillity
Don’t ask me why but everything just feels so peaceful in Taiwan and I can say that it was so easy for me to find my balance there. The only exception would be the noisy scooters, but that’s another story. When you look at people, smile and they smile back, when the food is delicious and when a two-hour walk feels like just 15 minutes because of all the beauty that surrounds you, that is when you get that feeling of tranquillity. When you are on a roof terrace, with a drink in your hand, surrounded by tall buildings and there is traffic all around you and yet you can see all the stars, breathe in, relax and enjoy the evening – this is the perfect recipe for me.
Taiwan might not be a shopping destination like some other countries are, but I have found some lovely and pretty affordable things to bring back home from Taiwan. If you plan to do some shopping as well while visiting Taiwan, I definitely recommend beauty products (both from Taiwan and Korea), food and accessories (I’ve bought the most adorable socks ever from Taiwan). Fashion can feel pretty expensive in Taiwan, if you compare the prices with other holidays that are more targeted for ‘fashion deals’, so I haven’t spent that much in this area – most of my money went on food and on experiences.
p.s. – you have to try (and bring home) pineapple pie – it’s simply delicious!
15. The Hot Springs
Taiwan is famous for its hot springs. Because of its geographical location, the island has a unique environment that produces very hot crystal-clear water which is not only clean but potable as well and is used in many spas and resorts.
After visiting the Qixing Mountain (Seven Star Mountain) I went to a proper Taiwanese spa. Nothing fancy, as I was really interested in exploring this from a local perspective. You can find fancy spas pretty much everywhere but when in Taiwan I really wanted to go to a hot springs spa as one of the locals. At the beginning it felt a bit strange as you get into one room, you have a bath and you simply create your own ‘spa’. You can set the temperature of the water at your own preference, sit however you want and even get butt-naked and soak in the hot spring water – it’s just you – so enjoy!
Exploring Taiwan has been an amazing experience! I definitely recommend the country to anyone out there who loves to travel, loves food and enjoys travelling like a local. Also, I am positive that once you go to the island, you will find more than 15 reasons to visit Taiwan!
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