Taiwan

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Taiwan is an island nation of about 36,000 km² located off the coast of southeastern mainland China, southwest of Okinawa and north of the Philippines. The island is officially known as and governed by the Republic of China or ROC. Shaped roughly like a sweet potato, the nation is home to more than 23 million people and is one of the most densely populated places in the world. Besides its crowded cities, Taiwan is also known for steep mountains and lush forests. In addition to the island of Taiwan, the Republic of China also governs the tiny Pescadores (Penghu), Quemoy (Kinmen/Jinmen), and Matsu. (less...) (more...)

Population: 23,299,716 people
Area: 35,980 km2
Highest point: 3,952 m
Coastline: 1,566 km
Life expectancy: 79.71 years
GDP per capita: $39,400
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About Taiwan

History

Taiwan has been populated for thousands of years by more than a dozen non-east Asian aboriginal tribes. Written history begins with the partial colonization of Taiwan by the Dutch and then the Portuguese in the early 17th century. (The old name of Taiwan, Formosa, comes from the Portuguese Ilha Formosa for "beautiful island".) Han Chinese immigrants arrived in significant numbers with the onset of European trade. Although controlled by the Dutch, the Ming loyalist Koxinga defeated the Dutch garrisons and set up Taiwan as a rump Ming Empire with the hope of reconquering Qing China. His son surrendered to the Qing in the late 1600s. Although contact between China and Taiwan dates back thousands of years, it was not until larger numbers of Han residents arrived during the Qing dynasty that Taiwan was formally integrated into the rest of China as part of Hokkien (Fujian) province. It became a separate province in 1885. Defeated by the Japanese, the Qing Empire ceded Taiwan to Japan under the terms of the treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. Japan ruled the island all the way until the end of World War II in 1945, and exerted profound influences on its development. The island's entertainment and pop culture was and still is heavily influenced by that of Japan. Much of the Japanese-built infrastructure can still be seen on the island today, and has been in fact continuously used up to the present day (e.g. rail-road crossing gates, administrative buildings, and the old port at Kaohsiung).

In the early 20th century, the Nationalists (Kuomintang, KMT 國民黨) and Communists fought a major bloody civil war in mainland China. Although the two sides were briefly united against Japan during World War II, they quickly began fighting again after the war was over. Eventually, the Communists were victorious in 1949. The Nationalist government, the remnant of their army, and hundreds of thousands of supporters then fled to Taiwan. From Taipei, they continued to assert their right as the sole legitimate government of all China. Initially very repressive, the government began to loosen control in its fourth decade under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek's son, Chiang Ching-kuo. Taiwan also experienced rapid economic growth and modernisation under the leadership of Chiang Ching-kuo, becoming one of the world's richest and most modern economies and earning it a place as one of the East Asian Tigers. Taiwan still remains a leader in consumer electronics and is home to well-known computer brands such as Acer, Asus, Garmin, Gigabyte and HTC. Democratization began in earnest through the 1980s and 1990s, culminating with the first direct presidential elections in 1996, and the first peaceful transition of power between two political parties in 2000.

Taiwanese politics remain dominated by the issue of relations between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, which still claims Taiwan as a "renegade province" and regularly threatens military action if Taiwan attempts to break away from the current awkward One China status quo, where both sides agree that there is only one Chinese nation, but disagree on whether that one nation is governed by the PRC or the ROC. To summarize a very complex situation, the Pan-Blue (泛藍) group spearheaded by the KMT supports eventual unification with the mainland when the political climate is right, while the Pan-Green (泛綠) group led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supports eventual independence under the name "Taiwan". The split extends down to trivial issues like Chinese romanization — the KMT prefers the mainland's Hanyu pinyin, the DPP prefers a Taiwan-made variant called Tongyong pinyin — and political demonstrations and rallies, always turbulent, on occasion even turn violent.

Climate

Lowland Taiwan has a marine tropical climate during the summer, with sweltering, humid weather (above 30°C, 86°F) from Jun-Sep. In the winter the weather is influenced by the nearby continent, and in the northern areas the temperature can go as low as 8°C at night. The best time of year to visit is from Oct-Dec, although even then occasional typhoons can spoil the fun. Spring is also nice, although it rains more than during autumn. During the typhoon season, the east coast bears the brunt of the damage as it is facing the Pacific Ocean.

On the other hand, when you head into the mountainous regions you will encounter more moderate temperate conditions. Rapid weather change can endanger unprepared visitors, so advice on proper preparation should be obtained before visiting those areas. In fact, it snows every year on Taiwan's highest mountains and occasionally even on mountains like Alishan.

Activities

  • Spring Scream (春天吶喊) - A three day outdoor rock concert in Kenting, held every year. In 2011, it will take place on 1-4 April. Tickets are $1,400 for all days, all venues; $650 for one day, one venue. Kenting's entire area gets swarmed by young people coming to party for 3 days, and Taiwanese TV heavily reports on the latest bikini fashions seen on the spot. Be aware, though, that police presence will be strong, as the festival has a reputation for being rife with illegal drugs. [30]
  • Buddha's Birthday (佛祖誕辰) - Colorful but simple ceremonies are held at Buddhist monasteries that generally consist of washing a statue of the Buddha and a vegetarian feast. It is appropriate to make offerings to the monks and nuns at this time, though it is not mandatory. Lunar Calendar 8th day of 4th month.
  • Dragon Boat Festival (龍舟賽) - A festival to commemorate the death of the Chinese patriotic poet Qu Yuan (born 340 BC), who drowned himself in a river out of despair that his beloved country, Chu, was being plundered by a neighboring country as a result of betrayal by his own people. The festival falls on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month (19 June 2008), and is marked by races of colorful dragon boats at various locations throughout the island.
  • Cherry Blossom Season (櫻花季) - Every spring, in Yangmingshan (陽明山).
  • Hot Springs (溫泉) - Taiwan's geographical location between an oceanic trench and volcanic system makes it an ideal hot springs vacation spot. There are several hot springs destinations throughout the country, including Beitou (北投), Wulai (烏來) and Yangmingshan (陽明山). The culture of bathing in hot springs was introduced by the Japanese during the colonial period, and remains firmly entrenched in the local culture to this day.

Gambling

While gambling is technically illegal in Taiwan, mahjong (Mandarin: 麻将 má jiàng; Taiwanese: 麻雀 moâ-chhiok) remains popular. The Taiwanese version of the game differs significantly from the better known Cantonese and Japanese versions, most notably because a hand consists of 16 tiles instead of the 13 used in other version. However, it remains mostly a family and friends affair and there are no publicly advertized mahjong parlors.

Food

Taiwan's cuisine is very well regarded by other East Asians and the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia, and for many of them, the food is the primary (and sometimes only) reason to visit Taiwan.

Generally speaking, the foods of Taiwan are derived from mainland Chinese cuisines. Because most Taiwanese trace their ancestry to Fujian, it comes as no surprise that much of Taiwanese cuisine was derived from the cuisine of Fujian. It is also possible to find Szechuan (四川) food, Hunan (湖南) food, Beifang (北方) food, Cantonese (廣東) food and almost every other Chinese cuisine on the island, because many famous chefs from the mainland fled to Taiwan after the communist victory in 1949. That being said, Taiwanese cuisine has absorbed substantial local influences, as well as significant Japanese influences due to 50 years of Japanese colonial rule, giving it a unique character that distinguishes it from its mainland Chinese counterparts. The Taiwanese are also passionately in love with eggs and seafood. Fruits are another famous part of Taiwanese food. A wide range of fruits can be found at local fruit shops and stations. The subtropical climate allows different fruits to grow nicely.

Taiwan also has many of its own local specialties. A few found island wide include:

  • Beef noodles (牛肉麵 niúròu miàn), noodle soup with chunks of meltingly soft stewed beef and a dash of pickles
  • Oyster omelet (蚵仔煎 ó āh jiān - this is the Taiwanese name, as its Chinese name only exists in characters, but not in oral Mandarin), made from eggs, oysters and the leaves of a local chrysanthemum, topped with sweet red sauce.
  • Aiyu jelly (愛玉 àiyù), made from the seeds of a local fig and usually served on ice — sweet, cool and refreshing on a hot day
  • Taiwan Sausage (香腸 xiāngcháng), usually made from pork, it is a modified version of the Cantonese laap cheong (臘腸) which has been emulsified and is much sweeter in taste. Unlike laap cheong, which is almost always eaten with rice, Taiwanese xiangchang is usually eaten on its own with some garlic.
  • Taiwanese Orange (柳丁 liŭdīng) is a type of citrus fruit which is similar to usual oranges, except that the skin and flesh tend to look more yellowish like lemon. Unlike lemon, it is usually quite sweet.
  • Taiwanese Porridge (粥 zhōu in Mandarin, 糜 beh in Taiwanese) is rice porridge cooked with sweet potato. It is usually eaten with several different dishes.

Most cities and towns in Taiwan are famous for special foods because of the Taiwanese passion for food and influences from many different countries. For example, Ilan (宜蘭) is famous for its mochi (麻吉), a sticky rice snack often flavored with sesame, peanuts or other flavorings. Yonghe (永和), a suburb of Taipei, is famous for its freshly made soy milk (豆漿) and breakfast foods. Taichung is famous for its sun cakes (太陽餅 tàiyáng bǐng), a kind of sweet stuffed pastry and the best place to buy some is arguably Taiyang Tang (太陽堂) along Freedom Road (自由路), where the pastry was supposedly invented. In Chiayi, it's square cookies, also called cubic pastry (方塊酥), crispy layered cookies cut into squares and sprinkled liberally with sesame seeds. Tainan is particularly famous among the Taiwanese for its abundance of good food and should be a stop for all gourmands. The most famous dish is arguably the coffin bread (棺材板). Virtually every city has its own famous specialties; many Taiwanese tourists will visit other cities on the island simply to try the local foods and then return home.

Taiwan also has remarkably good bakery items. Most specialize in sweet Chinese pastries or Western pastries adjusted to local tastes, but look out for We Care bakeries which also offer Western options such as whole wheat loaves, sour breads and ciabatta.

Vegetarians are better catered for in restaurants and variety than in most other countries.

Places to eat

If you're on a budget, the cheapest food can be found in back-alley noodle shops and night market stalls, where you can get a filling bowl of noodles for around NT$35-70.

The Taiwanese love to snack and even many restaurants advertize xiaochi (小吃), literally "small eats", the Taiwanese equivalent of Cantonese dim sum. There are also the standard fast food places such as McDonalds (a standard Big Mac Meal costs NT$115), KFC and MOS Burger. In addition there are large numbers of convenience stores (such as 7-Eleven) that sell things like tea eggs, sandwiches, bento boxes (便當盒) and drinks.

Night markets are also a good place to try some delicious local Taiwanese fare at attractive prices. Examples would be the Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) in Taipei and the Liouho Night Market (六合夜市) in Kaohsiung, each of which has its own special dishes not to be missed.

Etiquette

As with Chinese cuisine elsewhere, food in Taiwan is generally eaten with chopsticks and served on large plates placed at the center of the table. Oftentimes, a serving spoon or pair of chopsticks (公筷 gongkuai) is usually accompanied with the dishes and guests do not use their own chopsticks to transfer food to their plates.

The usual traditional Chinese taboos when eating with chopsticks apply in Taiwan as well. For instance, do not stick your chopsticks straight up or into your bowl of rice. This is reminiscent of incense sticks at a temple, and has connotations of wishing death upon those around you. When putting down chopsticks, either place them on the provided porcelain chopstick rest (at fancier restaurants) or rest the chopsticks across the top of your bowl. Also, do not use your chopsticks to spear your food or move bowls and plates.

Dietary restrictions

All Mahayana Buddhists, which account for the majority of adherents in Taiwan, aspire to be pure vegetarian in deference to the Buddha's teaching of non-violence and compassion. So, vegetarian restaurants (called su-shi 素食 tsan-ting 餐廳 in Mandarin, and often identified with the 卍 symbol) can be found in abundance all over the island, and they run from cheap buffet style to gourmet and organic. Buffet styled restaurants (called 自助餐, which means "Serve Yourself Restaurant") are common in almost every neighborhood in large cities, and unlike the 'all-you-can-eat' buffets (which charge a set price, usually ranging from $250-350 including dessert and coffee/tea), the cost is estimated by the weight of the food on your plate. Rice (there is usually a choice of brown or white) is charged separately, but soup or cold tea is free and you can refill as many times as you like. $90-$120 will buy you a good sized, nutritious meal.

However, if you cannot find a veggie restaurant, don't fret. Taiwanese people are very flexible and most restaurants will be happy to cook you up something to suit your requirements. The following sentences in Mandarin might be helpful: 我吃素 (Wo chi su) - I'm vegetarian, 我不吃肉 (Wo bu chi rou) - I don't eat meat. However, as Mandarin is a tonal language, you might need to say both, plus practice your acting skills to get yourself understood. Good luck! NB: If a restaurant refuses your order, don't push the issue. The reason will not be an unwillingness to accommodate your request, but because the basic ingredients of their dishes may include chicken broth or pork fat.

Taiwanese vegetarianism 素食 isn't simply vegetarianism, for there is a notion of "plainness" to it. In most cases it excludes items such onion, ginger, and garlic. Buddhists and Taoists consider these items "un-plain" because they potentially cause physical excitement, which could hinder the meditative process. Thus, when offering food to a strict vegetarian, be aware that they may not eat food containing onion, ginger, and garlic.

Although vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan do not aspire to vegan principles,almost all non-dessert dishes at Chinese style veggie restaurants will actually be vegan because Taiwanese do not have a tradition of eating dairy products. Ensure that your dish does not contain eggs, however.

Drinks

As Taiwan is a subtropical island with the south part in the tropics, it cannot hurt to drink a lot, especially during summertime. Drink vending machines can be found virtually everywhere and are filled with all kinds of juices, tea and coffee drinks, soy milk and mineral water.

Water

As a general rule, with the exception of Kaohsiung, tap water in Taiwan is safe for drinking after boiling. Any water or ice you are served in restaurants will already have been processed. Water fountains in Taiwan always incorporate filters, and they can be found in practically every lodge or hotel as well as (for example) larger museums and Taipei MRT stations. You can refill and reuse your bottles at these fountains as well. If you can't find one, then you should buy bottled water.

Note that in Kaohsiung, most people do not drink the tap water, even after filtering or boiling, since the water contains trace amounts of arsenic that is detrimental to health. Whether the trace amounts are dangerous or not is debatable, especially if you're just passing through, but the locals obtain potable water using pumps that look like gasoline pumps that are strewn throughout the residential areas. For tourists, most hotels would provide 2 bottles of mineral water in each room and you should use that as your drinking water. If that is not enough, there are many 24 hours convenience stores around so you can get additional bottled water from there.

In most other places in Taiwan it is advised to not drink tap water. In fact, warnings about this can be found in most hotels, particularly the international tourist hotels. Although some Taiwanese do so, even the majority of them prefer to drink boiled water. In some parts of the country (Yunlin County (雲林縣), etc.) the water is often filtered to remove sediment and minerals from the ground water prior to boiling.

Another reason for drinking previously boiled or bottled water in Taiwan is that Taiwan is a seismic active zone. Because of the large number of earthquakes, the water delivery system (pipes) are easily damaged allowing contaminants to enter the water prior to it reaching the tap. Therefore drinking previously boiled or bottled water is probably a wise choice.

Alcohol

Taiwan's legal age to consume alcohol is 18 years of age. Minors caught drinking can face fines ranging from $10000 to $50000. Traditional alcoholic drinks in Taiwan are very strong. Kaoliang (高粱酒) is the most famous alcoholic drink. A distilled grain liquor, it is extremely strong, usually 140 proof or more, and often drunk straight.

Taiwan also produces many types of Shaoxing (紹興酒), rice wine, which are considered by many as being some of the best in the world.

Taiwanese people enjoy beer on ice. A wide variety of imported beers are available, but the standard is Taiwan Beer (台灣啤酒), produced by a former government monopoly. It is brewed with fragrant penglai rice in addition to barley giving it a distinctive flavor. The beer is served cold and recognized as an especially suitable complement to Taiwanese and Japanese cuisine, especially seafood dishes such as sushi and sashimi. Taiwan Beer has won international awards, including the International Monde Selection in 1977 and the Brewing Industry International Awards in 2002.

Beer on tap is uncommon in Taiwan, and most places serve beer in bottles. For a special and rare treat, ask for the Taiwan Draft Beer (台灣生啤酒), which comes in a plain green bottle. This has a 2-week expiration, so it can only be found at the breweries (there are a few scattered around Taiwan) or at select stores and restaurants in the vicinity.

Tea and coffee

Taiwan's specialty teas are High Mountain Oolong (高山烏龍, Gao-shan wulong) - a fragrant, light tea, and Tie Guan-yin (鐵觀音) - a dark, rich brew. Enjoying this tea, served in the traditional way using a very small teapot and tiny cups, is an experience you should not miss. This way of taking tea is called lao ren cha (老人茶) - 'old people's tea', and the name is derived from the fact that only the elderly traditionally had the luxury of time to relax and enjoy tea in this way. Check the small print when visiting a traditional tea house though: in addition to the tea itself, you may be charged a cover (茶水費, literally "tea-water fee") for the elaborate process of preparing it as well as for any nibbles served on the side.

One should also try Lei cha (擂茶; léi chá) a tasty and nourishing Hakka Chinese tea-based beverage consisting of a mix ground tea leaves and grain. Some stores specialize in this product and allows one to grind their own lei cha.

As with Chinese teas elsewhere, Chinese teas in Taiwan are always drunk neat, with the use of milk or sugar unknown. However, Taiwan is also the birthplace of pearl milk tea, which uses sugar and milk.

Pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶 zhēnzhū nǎichá), aka "bubble tea" or "boba tea", is milky tea with chewy balls of tapioca added, drunk through an over-sized straw. Invented in Taiwan in the early 1980s and a huge Asia-wide craze in the 1990s, it's not quite as popular as it once was but can still be found at nearly every coffee/tea shop. Look for a shop where it is freshly made.

The cafe culture has hit Taiwan in a big way, and in addition to an abundance of privately owned cafes, all the major chains, such as Starbucks, have a multitude of branches throughout major towns and cities.

Soft drinks

Taiwan is a great place for fruit drinks. Small fruit-juice bars make them fresh on the spot and are experts at creating fruit-juice cocktails (non-alcoholic, of course). zong-he (mixed) is usually a sweet and sour combination and mu-gwa niou-nai (木瓜牛奶) is iced papaya milk. If you don't want ice (though it is safe in Taiwan, even at road side vendors) say, chu bing (去冰) and no sugar - wu tang (無糖).

Soy milk, or doujiang (豆漿), is a great treat. Try it hot or cold. Savory soy milk is a traditional Taiwanese breakfast dish. It is somewhat of an acquired taste as vinegar is added to curdle the milk. Both sweet and savory soy milk are often ordered with you-tiao (油條), or deep fried dough crullers.

There are a lot of pseudo health drinks in Taiwanese supermarkets and convenience stores. Look out for asparagus juice and lavender milk tea for example.

Shopping

The currency of Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar (NTD, but also referred to as TWD) (新臺幣 or just 臺幣), with one unit known locally as NT, yuan (元 or more formally 圓) when written in Chinese or colloquially in Mandarin as the kuai (塊). One unit is known colloquially as the kho͘ (箍) in the Taiwanese dialect. All $ prices in this guide are in New Taiwan Dollars.

As of March 2011, the exchange rate for US$1 is around $29, or €/$41. Easy rules of thumb are that $100 roughly equals US$3/€2.5; $1000 roughly equals US$30/€25. Coins come in denominations of $0.50, $1, $5, $10, $20 and $50. The $0.50 coin is rare because of its small value and has very little practical use. Banknotes come in denominations of $100, $200, $500, $1000 and $2000. Perhaps due to counterfeiting problems, the $200 and $2000 banknotes are rarely seen.

Taiwanese currency is fully convertible and there are no restrictions on taking currency into or out of the island. Currency exchange is possible internationally, although you will get a much better rate if you wait until you arrive at the airport to exchange currency at the 24 hour window. Most banks in Taipei and Kaohsiung will also exchange money or offer cash advances on credit or debit cards. Should you bring American currency, please be sure to bring newer bills as the banks and exchange-centers (such as in department stores) will only accept the newer bills (bills from 1996 and 2003 are not accepted at most places, due to a high proportion of forgeries bearing these years). Bills which are torn or damaged will probably not be changed, and old-style small-bust bills are not accepted. Taiwan National Bank will take older bank notes and bank notes that are wrinkled or torn for exchange. Department stores will not exchange bills older than 1997. Don't forget to show your passport!

If you've forgotten to bring any money at all, but have your credit or debit card handy, there's no need to fret. Taiwan's banking system is light-years ahead of most other countries, with the ability to use any of the abundant 24-hour ATMs to withdraw cash from anywhere in the world using the Plus or Cirrus systems. Certain banks' ATMs will even tell you your available balance in your own currency or in NT$. There is a per transaction limit of $20,000 for ATM cash withdrawals (HSBC Global Access customers may withdraw $30,000 from HSBC ATMs). Visa debit cards are not accepted in many places, but can be used at ATMs in Chinatrust banks (but not those in 7-Elevens).

Most hotels and department stores accept credit cards, generally Visa and MasterCard as well as JCB. Diners Club, Discover and American Express cards are seldom accepted. Most restaurants and small stores do not accept cards, and cash is the main form of payment. Because street crime is rare, it is common for people in Taiwan to carry large amounts of cash with them.

Costs

Taiwan is fairly expensive by Asian standards, though still significantly cheaper than Japan. For a budget traveler on a bare bones budget, NT$1000 will get you by for a day, but you'll probably want to double that for comfort. A meal at a street stall may cost NT$50 or less, a meal at a Western fast food restaurant will run you about NT$150 and at the fanciest restaurants, you can expect a bill in excess NT$1000. On the high end of the spectrum, hotel rooms at a swanky hotel might cost NT$5000 or more. Costs diminish significantly the further you go out of the big cities. Taxis are quite reasonable and often have a set fare for common destinations, so ask in advance and haggle if you disagree.

Tipping

Tipping is generally not practiced in Taiwan, with the possible exception of bellhops in high end hotels. Full service restaurants typically impose a service charge and that is usually considered to be sufficient. Tipping is also not expected in taxis and drivers would usually return your change to the last dollar.

Shopping

As in many Asian countries, night markets are a staple of Taiwanese entertainment, shopping and eating. Night markets are open-air markets, usually on a street or alleyway, with vendors selling all sorts of wares on every side. Many bargains can be had, and wherever prices are not displayed, haggling is expected. In the larger cities you will have a night market every night and in the same place. In smaller cities, they are only open certain nights of the week, and may move to different streets depending on the day of the week.

Every city has at least one night market; larger cities like Taipei may have a dozen or more. Night markets are crowded, so remember to watch out for your wallet! Shops selling the same items tend to congregate in the same part of the city. If you want to buy something, ask someone to take you to one shop and there will probably be shops selling similar things nearby.

For those who do not like the concept of haggling and fake goods, there are many shopping centres in Taipei where prices are usually fixed and goods are genuine. Otherwise, shopping streets in larger cities like Kaohsiung and Taichung can also easily get you what you want. And of course, there is the trendy Ximending (西門町) in Taipei, where you can pretty much find anything associated with the youths, also at fixed prices.

Bargaining is OK and expected in night markets and small stores. Computer chain shops and department stores normally have fixed prices, but at least in department stores you may get a "registered member discount" if you're shopping a lot. Anyway it's always worth a try!

When bargaining at small stores, please note that the agreed prices are normally cash prices. If you like to use a credit card, the seller normally wants to add anything up to 8% to the price as a "card fee" etc. The fee consists actually of the credit company's commission and also the local sales tax/VAT. Even if you pay cash, you normally don't get an official receipt, as then the seller would have to report & pay their taxes in full. If you ask for a receipt or "fa piao" (發票), you will get it but you may need to pay 3-5% more.

What to buy

Popular things to buy include:

  • Jade. Although it can be hard to know for sure if the item you're buying is real jade or not, some beautiful objects are sold. Most cities have a specific jade market dealing in jade and other precious stones.
  • Computers. Taiwan designs and produces a lot of desktops, laptops, and PC peripherals. Travelers might be interested in visiting the large Information Technology Market at Taiwan for the best prices. Desktop computers and components tend to be the same price in Taiwan as in other areas of the world, though peripherals such as cables and adapters tend to be noticeably cheaper. If you're buying domestic, it's best to go to tourist hangouts to buy your stuff as you might be saddled with Chinese documentation otherwise. Also, notebooks are typically only available with a Chinese Bopomofo and English keyboard.
  • Lingzhi (靈芝). A type of bracket fungus that is often used as a Chinese herb. It supposedly has many health benefits with an apparent absence of side effects, earning it a high reputation in East Asian countries and making it rather expensive. Taiwanese lingzhi is particularly famous for being of the highest quality.
  • Tea. Taiwan is particularly famous for its oolong tea(烏龍茶) and this is available in at many tea shops. Tea tasting in Chinese culture is akin to wine tasting in Western culture and you will find many grades of this same type of tea, with different methods of treating the tea leaves.
  • Iron eggs (鐵蛋) irresistible delicacy

Note: In order to protect the environment, a government policy rules that plastic bags cannot be given freely at stores in Taiwan, but have to be bought (at a flat rate of NT$1) - bakeries being an exception as the items need to be hygienically wrapped. Re-useable canvas and nylon bags are sold at most supermarkets.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Taiwan on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Taiwan

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Taipei is the national capital of the Republic of China, otherwise known as Taiwan. It is in the northern part of the island in a basin between the Yangming Mountains and the Central Mountains. It is, with 2.6 million inhabitants, the fourth largest administrative area of Taiwan, after New Taipei, Kaohsiung ... (read more)

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  • Taipei 101
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Kaohsiung ) is, with over 2.7 millions of inhabitants, the second most populated city in Taiwan after New Taipei and is located in the south of the island. Kaohsiung is known for its harbor, although more for commercial than tourism reasons. Hence it is also known as the Harbor Capital of Taiwan. Its ... (read more)

Interesting places:

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Taichung is located in the west-central part of the island of Taiwan. It has a pleasant climate and a population of just over 2.6 million people, making it the third largest city on the island after New Taipei and Kaohsiung. The city is home to many manufacturers and in recent years has experienced rapid ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • National Museum of Natural Science
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Interesting places:

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  • Sheding Nature Park
  • Kenting National Park
  • Chuhuo Special Scenic Area
  • Maobitou Park
  • 3 hotels

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70 hotels in this place

Tainan is a city in south west Taiwan.

Interesting places:

  • Confucius Temple
  • National Museum of Taiwanese Literature
  • Anping Old Fort
  • Chihkan Tower
  • Koxinga Temple
  • 3 hotels

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  • 12 hotels

  • 38 hotels

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59 hotels in this place

Hualien is a city in Taiwan situated near the spectacular Taroko Gorge.

Interesting places:

  • Taroko National Park
  • Qixingtan Coast Park
  • Pine Garden
  • Guangfu Sugar Factory
  • Ji\'an Keishuin
  • 1 hotels

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  • 15 hotels

  • 38 hotels

  • 4 hotels

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58 hotels in this place

New Taipei (新北市), while officially a city, is more like a region surrounding the cities of Taipei and Keelung in Northern Taiwan. It is considered a part of the Taipei Metropolitan Area.

Interesting places:

  • Fort San Domingo
  • Danshui Fisherman\'s Wharf
  • Sanxia Old Street
  • Taipei County Stadium
  • Wulai Waterfalls
  • 1 hotels

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  • 17 hotels

  • 17 hotels

  • 2 hotels

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37 hotels in this place

Taitung is a city in south east Taiwan.

Interesting places:

  • National Museum of Prehistory
  • Haishan Temple
  • Jigongtang
  • Tianhou Temple
  • Hung Yeh Baseball Museum
  • 0 hotels

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  • 2 hotels

  • 13 hotels

  • 7 hotels

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22 hotels in this place

Hsinchu , is a city in the north-western part of Taiwan.

Interesting places:

  • East Gate
  • Hsinchu Sogo
  • Hsinchu Zoo
  • Glass Museum of Hsinchu City
  • National Tsing Hua University
  • 0 hotels

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  • 1 hotels

  • 13 hotels

  • 4 hotels

  • 2 hotels

20 hotels in this place

Interesting places:

  • Shueishe Pier
  • Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village
  • Ming Temple
  • Wen Wu Chao
  • 0 hotels

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  • 17 hotels

  • 2 hotels

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19 hotels in this place

Jiaoxi is located in the northeast part of Yilan County, Taiwan. The newly completed Hsuehshan tunnel has shortened the traveling time and distance to get to Jiaoxi. Now you can travel from Taipei to Jiaoxi as a day trip. Jiaoxi is a well-known tourist destination for its ground-level hot spring, natural ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Wufengchi Waterfall
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  • 1 hotels

  • 15 hotels

  • 1 hotels

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18 hotels in this place

Taoyuan(桃園) is an industrial city in northern Taiwan.

Interesting places:

  • Orient Golf and Country Club
  • Taoyuan Arena
  • Taoyuan County Stadium
  • National Central University
  • Kimlan Foods Museum
  • 2 hotels

  • 0 hotels

  • 5 hotels

  • 8 hotels

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15 hotels in this place

Interesting places:

  • Ziqiang Night Market
  • 1 hotels

  • 0 hotels

  • 2 hotels

  • 8 hotels

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12 hotels in this place

Chiayi , also spelled Jiayi, is the main city of Chiayi County, southern Taiwan.

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11 hotels in this place

Wujie is a town in Ilan County. Located on the coast near Luodong. The town has a population of around 40,000.

Interesting places:

  • Dongshan River Park
  • National Center for Traditional Arts
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  • 1 hotels

  • 8 hotels

  • 1 hotels

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10 hotels in this place

Keelung, also spelled Chilung (基隆; Jīlóng), is a port city in the north of Taiwan, near the capital, Taipei.

Interesting places:

  • Miaokou Night Market
  • Dianji Temple
  • Songde Park
  • Shihciouling Fort
  • Zhongzheng Park
  • 1 hotels

  • 0 hotels

  • 1 hotels

  • 6 hotels

  • 1 hotels

  • 0 hotels

9 hotels in this place

Puli is a town at the geographic center of Taiwan.

Interesting places:

  • Chung-tai Shan Monastery
  • Lungnan Natural Lacquerware Museum
  • New Era Sculpture Park
  • Paper Dome
  • 0 hotels

  • 0 hotels

  • 2 hotels

  • 7 hotels

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9 hotels in this place

Makung is the only city in the offshore Penghu Islands of Taiwan. The city has many historical sites tracing back to the Ming Dynasty.

Interesting places:

  • Kuanyin Pavilion
  • Penghu Martyrs\' Shrine
  • Ocean Resource Museum
  • Lintou Park
  • Penghu Tianhou Temple
  • 0 hotels

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  • 5 hotels

  • 3 hotels

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8 hotels in this place

Jhongli , also spelt Jungli, Chung-li and Zhōnglì, is a city in Taoyuan County, Taiwan.

Interesting places:

  • Jungli Night Market
  • Ta Shee Golf and Country Club
  • Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium
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  • 1 hotels

  • 5 hotels

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6 hotels in this place

Yilan , also spelled Ilan, (宜蘭; Yilan) is a city on the east coast of Taiwan.

Interesting places:

  • Memorial Hall of Founding of Yilan Administration
  • Yilan Distillery Chia Chi Lan Wine Museum
  • Yilan Dongmen Night Market
  • Luodong Cultural Factory
  • 0 hotels

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  • 4 hotels

  • 2 hotels

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6 hotels in this place

Interesting places:

  • Liyu Lake Visitors Center
  • Xiuguluan River Rafting Service Center
  • Hualien Farglory Ocean Park
  • Shin Kong Chao Feng Ranch and Resort
  • Henan Temple
  • 0 hotels

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  • 1 hotels

  • 2 hotels

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4 hotels in this place

Interesting places:

  • Ching-Shui Cliff
  • Mukumugi Valley
  • Tungmen Hill
  • Zhuilu Old Trail
  • Eternal Spring Shrine
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  • 1 hotels

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3 hotels in this place

Interesting places:

  • Leo Foo Village Theme Park
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3 hotels in this place

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3 hotels in this place

Interesting places:

  • Chung Cheng Aviation Museum
  • 0 hotels

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2 hotels in this place

Interesting places:

  • Crescent Beach
  • 0 hotels

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2 hotels in this place

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2 hotels in this place

Lukang , population around 80,000, is the second oldest town in Taiwan, and is famous for its traditional architecture and food.

Interesting places:

  • Lugang Longshan Temple
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  • 1 hotels

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2 hotels in this place

Toucheng , also Tou-Cheng, is a township in northern Yilan County.

Interesting places:

  • Beiguan Coast Park
  • Giushan Island
  • Lanyang Museum
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2 hotels in this place

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2 hotels in this place

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1 hotels in this place

Zhunan is an urban township in Miaoli County, Taiwan.

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1 hotels in this place

Interesting places:

  • National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium
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  • 1 hotels

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1 hotels in this place

Suao (蘇澳; Sū'ào) is a city in Ilan County. It is famous for seafood and cold springs. Apart from that it's a rather small place and it doesn't seem to be frequented by western tourists. There is a large port and some industry.

Interesting places:

  • Beibin Park
  • Suao Cold Springs
  • Baimi Wooden Clogs Museum
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1 hotels in this place

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0 hotels in this place

Zhunan is an urban township in Miaoli County, Taiwan.

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0 hotels in this place

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Taiwan

Perhaps due to its political ambiguity and lack of global presence, Taiwan has never been a significant destination for Westerners. Nevertheless tourists from Japan and Hong Kong have been visiting Taiwan in droves for a long time, and they are being joined by and increasing number of mainland Chinese. The island is home to many cultural attractions, such as the National Palace Museum in Taipei, and retains its place as a major center of Chinese pop culture. In addition, Taiwan is home to bustling cities with modern, high-tech infrastructure, and good transportation infrastructure means that getting around is easy. For those who have grown weary of the hustle and bustle of cities, Taiwan also offers some very impressive scenery in its rural areas.

Nature

Some people think of Taiwan as a grimy, densely populated industrial island full of hard disk factories, and you may well maintain this perception if you only stick to the densely populated West Coast. However, for those who take time to venture to the more sparsely populated East Coast will quickly find that Taiwan is actually home to some stunning landscapes. The Taroko Gorge (太魯閣) near Hualien in particular is very impressive, and should not be missed. Most of Taiwan is covered with mountains which offer breathtaking views, so hiking opportunities are very diverse.

Taipei 101 - Taipei

Confucius Temple - Tainan

Kaohsiung Museum of History - Kaohsiung

East Gate - Hsinchu

Fort San Domingo - New Taipei City

Luodong Night Market - Luodong

Shueishe Pier - Yuchi

National Museum of Natural Science - Taichung

Memorial Hall of Founding of Yilan Administration - Yilan

Beibin Park - Suao

Miaokou Night Market - Keelung

Dongshan River Park - Wujie

Kuanyin Pavilion - Magong

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall - Taipei

National Theater - Taipei

Taipei 228 Memorial Park - Taipei

National Concert Hall - Taipei

National Taiwan Museum - Taipei

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall - Taipei

Taipei 101 Mall - Taipei

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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