The first time I mentioned to friends that I was going to Taiwan they didn’t give much of a response, it was little more than, “Oh, great…” As I was leaving they said, “Have a great time in Thailand!” This tells me three things, one, my friends don’t listen to me, two, people don’t think Thailand is very special and three, people have not thought about visiting Taiwan.
So, tell me reasons why I should visit Taiwan, is it that special? I could just say that Taiwan is wonderful, you should visit and this is very true, but that is not the reason you are here. I have visited many, many countries but Taiwan is the one that I have decided to settle down in. The island is simply enchanting, the people are very polite, helpful and kind, the weather is good for much of the year. It has a wonderful blend of high mountains and big cities, many things to see and do such as old temples, hot springs, sumptuous food and much more. Last but not least, Taiwan is very affordable! You want reasons to visit, here they are.
1. It is Relatively Undiscovered
Have no disillusion, Taiwan is not a destination that westerners choose to go to and this is the number one reason why you should visit. Take a look at other popular holiday destinations such as Bali, Thailand, Spain, Greece. I could go on. Many of these places have become reliant on tourism, when you go there you are “just another tourist”. That is not the case in Taiwan, there are just not many foreigners here. This is more apparent when you get outside of the capital Taipei. Although Taiwan is still very “Chinese” it has adopted a significant amount of western values. Taiwan was also under Japanese rule for many years and this influence is also apparent.
2. The People
Taiwanese people are some of the friendliest people on earth. From a westerners viewpoint they are also very interesting. One of the reasons we travel is to immerse ourselves in different cultures and learn from the experience. Taiwan is full of cultural contrasts. Sit and people watch for a while, you will see why you came to Taiwan.
I have spent a lot of time away from the cities and I cannot emphasise enough how friendly and warm the people are. They are helpful, kind and very generous. You will make friends here that you will remember for the rest of your life!
3. The Food
I’m a self confessed foodie, when I lived in England I would always be in search of great restaurants to eat at and Chinese food was towards the top of my list when it came to eating out. The food in Taiwan is nothing like the Chinese food available in England, it is diverse, strange, appealing and fascinating, but most of all it is tasty! It is definitely one of the reasons for visiting Taiwan. All price ranges and tastes are catered for, ranging from street food to fine cuisine in sumptuous restaurants. There is something for everyone.
Taiwanese Night Markets
I could not have a section on food without mentioning Taiwanese night markets. They are numerous and every city or town will have them. They are your chance to try an extraordinary mix of food and drink. Imagine walking past stall after stall, each offering a different taste or challenge for you! There are regular favourites such as fried chicken or beef. No night market would be complete without the famous “Stinky Tofu”, you will definitely smell it before you see it!
4. The Climate
Some travellers are looking for extremes when they travel, They want to experience the scorching hot, the freezing cold. Taiwan is generally neither of those, it is not extreme. The summers are typically hot and sultry whilst the winters can be cool. Bear in mind that Taipei in the north has different weather to Kaohsiung in the south. Taipei has cooler and wetter winters whereas Kaohsiung has warm dry winters.
You have undoubtedly heard about the typhoons, well, yes, the typhoon season runs from July to September (roughly) and they can happen but don’t let that put you off, it is all part of the experience. The east coast gets affected much worse as the typhoons build and grow in the Pacific Ocean.
For such a small island it is incredibly diverse, Taiwan has everything from warm, sandy beaches to high mountain ranges. The cities are large metropolises with a mixture of the old and the new. You will find temples, restaurants, hot springs and almost everything you can think of. If you really want to get off the beaten track then head out to some of Taiwan’s islands. I can personally recommend the Matsu islands having visited them twice in recent years. The Penghu islands are also a beautiful, unspoilt location.
The Taiwanese love their shopping! The sheer variety on the high street is a wonder to behold. Whilst there are dedicated shopping malls, you do not need to travel far to find great shops! For everyday items there are the convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and Family Mart. These are masterpieces! They stock most of the things you desire. They also offer many services. They have ATM machines, you can send and receive packages, you can book a taxi or buy train tickets. They are also everywhere, oh, and did I mention they are open 24 hours a day?
Cities have special shopping areas and malls too. Traditional department stores still exist here. They seem unaffected by online sales. As I write, there is no Amazon or eBay in Taiwan. If you are looking for something specific, such as a camera or similar then there will be a “street” that specialises in that.
I have added this section because it is something that sets Taiwan apart from most western countries. When you walk around a typical Taiwanese city the shops and services you need are always nearby. There will be a convenience store, a restaurant, a tea shop, a coffee shop, a drugstore, a doctors, a dentist nearby. You probably can just walk there.
7. The Ease of Travel
There are two main airports in Taiwan, the main one is Taoyuan International airport which is located 40km (25miles) west of Taipei, and Kaohsiung International airport on the southern end of the city. Both are modern, well organised and are easy to get to. Most major cities have an airport so domestic flights are available.
Travel Tip Unless you really want to start your trip in Taipei, don’t automatically choose to fly into Taipei, check out the options for Kaohsiung. You may find a better price. Kaohsiung airport is in a very convenient location for the city, just a short trip on the M.R.T will have you into the city and at your hotel. Which is just what you want after a long flight. A side note here for cyclists, if you are flying with a bicycle then Kaohsiung is a much better choice. Why? You cannot take a bicycle on the M.R.T from Taoyuan Airport into the centre of Taipei, they are not allowed on. The M.R.T in Kaohsiung does allow bicycles though.
There are many modern options for rail travel, you can take the high speed rail network that runs down the west side of the island from Taipei to Kaohsiung stopping at the major cities, or you can opt for the slower, more conventional train service.
The rail network runs around the outside of the island giving access to both the east and west coasts. Trains do not run east to west because of the mountains.
There is a frequent bus service that covers the whole of the island. You can be sure that you will be able to get where you want to go.
Why do I say bicycle? I believe that we should do more to promote healthy, green transport and Taiwan has considerable pedigree when it comes to bicycles. Chances are that your bicycle or parts of it, were manufactured here. It also has a network of cycle paths and lanes. Whilst not on the grand scale of countries like Holland and Belgium, it is something that the Taiwanese government is promoting.
One of the “To Do’s” for many Taiwanese is to cycle around the island via the famous route 1 cycle path. I must admit that I haven’t done it myself yet, but, it is on my list for next year.
I hope that I have given you some reasons to visit Taiwan, this website is new and I will add many more articles sharing with you aspects of this wonderful island. One thing is for sure, you will never regret a visit here! So what are you waiting for? Book your tickets, pack your bags and head to Taiwan!