Do not let the size of Taiwan fool you. It may be a compact country but there are a lot to see and do. Hopefully this short article can give justice on the beauty and simplicity of Taiwan.
Taiwan was formerly known as Formosa and occupied by Taiwanese aborigines. In the succeeding years Dutch, Spaniards, and Chinese started to settle in the islands. Aside from towering skyscrapers and cityscape, Taiwan is famous for the luscious greenery and panoramic views. Taiwan’s culture and entertainment is like no other.
Taiwan is an autonomous state in East Asia but governed by the Republic of China. The main island, which is in the shape of a sweet potato, comprises 99 percent of the state.
The remaining one percent of the nation are isles and islets including Pescadores or Penghu, Quemoy, and Matsu. To the west of Taiwan is China, to the east and northeast is Japan, and to the south is the Philippines.
Taiwan is generally a marine tropical country. From June to September Taiwan experiences a hot and humid summer with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius. On the other hand winters are cold and temperatures could drop as low as 8 degrees Celsius.
When visiting Taiwan, the best time would be from October to December. But be wary of these months because the country is usually battered by storms.
In 2013 the nation had a total population of approximately 23.4 million people. The large quantity of people living in such a limited space makes it one of the densest places.
Of the millions of people, majority or more than 95 percent of the population are Han Chinese. The official language is Mandarin and widely taught in schools.
Banun dancer in traditional aboriginal attire
Other languages spoken include Taiwanese Hokkien and Formosan language. As for writing, they use Traditional Chinese.
There is no strict religion and people are free to choose their own beliefs. The five largest religions are Buddhism (35.1 percent), Taoism (33 percent), Yiguandao (3.5 percent), Protestantism (2.6 percent), and Roman Catholicism (1.3 percent).
The easiest and most convenient way to get to Taiwan is via plane at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport near 40 kilometers southwest of Taipei.
Other airports include Kaohsiung International Airport – international flights are limited to Asian countries, Taipei Songshan Airport – serves only domestic flights, Taichung Airport, and Hualien Airport.
There are also airports at the islands of Makung, Taitung, and Kinmen. The official airline carrier of the country is EVA Air. Other airlines serving the country are AirAsia, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Jetstar Asia, KLM Asia, Malaysia Airlines, TransAsua Airways and many more.
Since Taiwan is an island country, it is common to get to the country via boat. There are scheduled ferries and cruises to and from Hong Kong, mainland China, and Japan.
Getting around Taiwan is easy; there are various modes of transportation available.
One of which is the plane. There are regular and frequent flights to get in and out of the different Taiwanese Islands. Travelling via air to the islands is practical and the best option.
The second best way to travel around is via train. There are two train systems: Taiwan High Speed Rail and Taiwan Railway Administration. The train is the best option in long distance and intercity travels.
Buses are also available. Among the three modes of transportation this is the most affordable in long distance.
Taxis or yellow cabs are also very common on the streets of Taiwan. It is not difficult to hail a cab; the problem would be conversing with the driver. More often than not, Taiwanese drivers have difficulty in conversing English.
Other modes of transportation in the city include scooters, motorcycles, private cars, and bicycles.
WHAT COULD BE DONE IN TAIWAN
After discussing the basics of Taiwan such as the location, climate, the people and transportation we now proceed to what could be done in the country.
PARTICIPATE AND ENJOY THE FESTIVITIES
Taiwanese celebrated traditional Chinese festivals throughout the year. Listed below are a few of the popular Chinese festivals in Taiwan.
• Chinese New Year
Lion dance costume
The highlight of all festivals is Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is celebrated for fifteen days but the first three days are the most anticipated. During the three days majority of the shops and restaurants are closed.
• Ching Ming Festival
Ching Ming Festival is celebrated in honor of their deceased ancestors.
• Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival was made in honor of Qu Yuan – a patriotic official who died by committing suicide at the nearby river when Chu was conquered.
The villagers would throw rice dumplings and beat drums on a dragon boat on the river to frighten fishes and prevent them from eating his body. From then own, the dragon boat racing and eating of rice dumpling had been a tradition.
• Hungry Ghost Festival
The Chinese believed that during this time the gates of hell are open and hungry ghost are free to roam around. To protect themselves, the people of Taiwan would offer them food and burn joss paper. Furthermore, to soothe these ghosts performances like the Chinese opera and Chinese shows were done.
• Mid-Autumn Festival
The tradition began when Chang E swallowed divine pills that prevented her husband from becoming immortal. She feared for her life and decided to escape to the moon. They say that the moon shines brightest during this day. To commemorate this, Taiwanese would hang colorful and beautiful lanterns along the streets, parks and shops. They would also east mooncake.
TAKE A TOUR AMONG FAMOUS LANDMARKS IN TAIPEI
• Taipei 101
Taipei World Financial Center or now called Taipei 101 is the most notable landmark in Taipei. It is a fusion between technology and Asian tradition. There are postmodern and traditional elements in the building.
As the name implies, there are 101 floors above ground and5 underground floors. In 2004 to 2009 it was the tallest skyscraper in the world. And in 2011 it was awarded with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification; at the same time it was known as the “largest green building in the world.”
• National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was constructed in honor of Chiang Kai-shek, a former president of the country. It is a national monument and a famous landmark and tourist attraction in Taipei.
• National Palace Museum
A visit to the National Palace Museum would get tourists immersed with a unique Taiwanese culture. The museum is one of the national museums located in Taipei which showcases more than 695,000 antique art, sculptures, and artifacts. One can get a glimpse of China dating back to the Neolithic age to the late Qing Dynasty.
• Mengjia Longshan Temple
Another interesting place in Taiwan is Mengjia Longshan Temple in Taipei. It was built by Chinese in 1738 and served as a place of worship.
Unfortunately the temple was destroyed due to earthquakes and fires. But luckily the Taiwanese rebuilt and reconstructed the said temple adding a few Taiwanese elements. Currently it is used as a Buddhist and Taoist temple.
VISIT NEIGHBORING CITIES AS WELL AS THEIR LANDMARKS
• Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village
Totem poles in Formosa Aboriginal Cultural Village
The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is an amusement park in Nantou County. It is known for its unique theme – Formosan aboriginal culture. Inside the park tourists could enjoy rides and attractions such as the tallest free-fall ride in the country, the largest European gardens in Taiwan, and the bell tower.
• Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center
Fo Guang Buddha at the Buddha Memorial Hall
Another attraction in Taiwan is Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center which is located in Kaohsiung City. It is a Buddhist cultural, religious and educational complex. It is best known for housing of the tooth relics of Gautama Buddha.
• Dragon and Tiger Pagodas
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas were built in 1976 at Lotus Lake in Kaohsiung City. The two towers are named Tiger Tower and the other Dragon Tower.
Each tower has seven floors, with yellow walls, red pillars, and orange tiles. In front is a bridge connecting the towers to the shore. The inside of the pagodas are paintings showing Ksitigarbha.
ADMIRE THE BEAUTY OF NATURE IN TAIWAN
When it comes to nature, there are a lot of beautiful sights that tourists could visit.
• Qingshui Cliff
Qingshui Cliff in Hualien County is a must see. It spans a total of 21 kilometers of coastal cliffs with heights averaging 800 meters. The highest summit is 2408 meters at Qingshui Mountain.
• Liyu or Carp Lake
There are many beautiful natural places in Taiwan, one of which is Liyu or Carp lake in Hualien County. It is the largest inland lake in the area with measurements of 1.6 kilometers in length and 930 meters in width.
Tourists could enjoy different recreational activities like sailing, water sports, and biking. Aside from these recreational activities one could enjoy scenic views such as old logging trains, logging displays, and aboriginal culture.
• Shifen Waterfall
Another scenic attraction is Shifen Waterfall in New Taipei City. The said waterfall has a height of 20 meters and a width of 40 meters. With this width, it is the broadest in Taiwan.