The Life Changing Experiences of Taiwan
Taiwan has always had a jaw dropping landscape-over sized sea cliffs and densely forested mountains barely start to describe its majesty. And then there’s the museums, which are simply bursting with treasures (including the best of imperial China, spirited across the strait after WWII), plus a thriving folk culture that includes some wild displays of Taoist and Buddhist worship. In terms of cuisine, Taiwan is a fusion and slow food showcase, with influences from across the island and greater Asia, all whipped up using the freshest of locally sourced ingredients.
Strangely enough, it was only in 2002-after the first change in ruling parties for 50 years-that anyone thought about building a tourism industry around this heritage, and the world quickly took notice. Tourism numbers have more than doubled in the past 10 years, and even during the Asian economic crisis they grew by 18% a year.
So why you should visit Taiwan? Because Taiwan is best seen on two wheels and in recent years the authorities have embraced the biking market with surprising enthusiasm, vision and (most importantly) funding. This year sees the linking of thousands of kilometers of paths, including two round the island routes, and a host of other cycling friendly infrastructure projects. More than 40 countries also now enjoy visa free entry, and while you won’t find English widely spoken outside the cities, gestures such as big smiles and little acts of helpfulness will demonstrate just how welcome you really are.
To understood why Taiwan was once called Ilha Formosa (The Beautiful Isle), ride up marble-walled Taroko Gorge: a Chinese landscape painting come to life. Better yet continue on to Wuling Pass (3275m), and 86 km journey from the sea through forests of dripping subtropical vegetation to a final rolling alpine meadow land of dwarf bamboo. Fuel up along the way on local aboriginal fate like barbecued mountain pig and sticky rice steamed in bamboo tubes.
Festivals And Events in Taiwan
- In Donggang, believers in Wang Yeh (a collection of plague gods) gather every three years for a Boat Burning Festival to, yep, torch a 14m long handcrafted ship. The Taoist rituals accompanying the ceremonies (in Oct or Nov) are sublime.
- Follow a statue of Taiwan’s patron deity on a tour of central Taiwan. The nine day 350 km Matsu Pilgrimage ( in late March or early April) showcases the local faith at its most devout, firework-friendly and exhausting.
- With celebrations that include dazzling laser shows and mass releases of paper sky lanterns, the Lantern Festival (two weeks after the Chinese New Year) draws in the crowds. The main events in 2012 will be held in the historic town of Lukang.
Taiwan Recent Fad
Through covering just 0.025% of the world’s landmass, Taiwan possesses and astounding 2.5% of the earth’s species of plants and animals. Plenty of land has been set aside to protect this natural heritage, and in recent years ecotours focusing on the many hundreds of bird and butterfly species have proven popular with North American and European travellers
Hot Topic of The Day
For many in Taiwan, the 2012 presidential elections have at stake nothing less than whether their island can remain free and independent from China’s growing commercial, political and military clout. Only the environment could be a hotter issue: can this Asian tiger finally make the leap from heavy industry to a greener economy?
Random Facts About Taiwan
- Taiwan boasts over 15,000 remples, which is bout the same, per capita ratio, as convenience stores
- The Penghu archipelago is the windiest place in the northern hemisphere in autumn and is widely considered Asia’s top windsurfing destination
- Formed by the collision of two major tectonic plates, Taiwan is cursed with earthquakes but blessed with one of the world’s highest concentrations of hot springs.
- Every winter some 10 – 15 million purple butterflies winter in the warm valleys around Maolin in the south.
Most Bizzare Sight in Taiwan
Yenshui’s annual Fireworks Festival (two weeks after Chines New Year) is noted for something mum definitely wouldn’t approve of. The fireworks – big booming ‘beehives’ of them – are shot directly at you. think of the event as running with the bulls at Pamplona and being asked not to move.