Ah, Taiwan, one of Asia’s best kept secrets.
When I tell people I live in Taiwan, a lot of times I’ll get a blank stare or the response, “so what’s Thailand like?” Sure, it is undoubtedly one of the lesser talked about places in Asia, often overlooked by the wild full moon parties in Thailand, blissful yoga retreats in Bali, the cultural wonders of China, and the iconic temples of Cambodia. Well, I’m here to finally let the secret out and tell you why Taiwan should move to the very top of your bucket list.
Taiwan is an itty-bitty island, smack dab in the middle of Asia. You can cross the entire country in a mere 6 hours by bus, or 90 minutes by train. This is pretty incredible, considering it takes me 5 hours just to fly all the way across my home country, Canada.
The middle of the country is densely made up of lush green mountains, while its buzzing and dynamic cities can be found dotted along the stunning, vibrant blue coastlines. This is what makes Taiwan such a unique destination to travel to – urban cities and awe-inspiring natural landscapes are both equally within reach at all times.
1. Impressive Temples, Everywhere
Taiwan is home to some of the most impressive temples I have ever seen. More than 15,000 temples can be found across the country, tucked away in quiet pockets of busy cities, perched on cliffsides with dramatic waterfalls (Eternal Spring Shrine), and even in mysterious subterranean caves (Keelung Fairy Cave).
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas are my absolute favourite, and no trip to the southern part of Taiwan (Kaohsiung city) is complete without paying them a visit. Two, vibrant, 7-storey pagodas float on Lotus Pond, surrounded by a spectacular display of bobbing, bright pink lotus flowers. Click here to read more.
Fo Guang Shan is a remarkable structure. Not only is it the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, but is also features the highest bronze statue of a seated Buddha in the world. Pretty cool for little Taiwan, huh? Click here for more about Fo Guang Shan.
2. Remote Islands With Jaw-Dropping Scenery
This already small island is surrounded by even smaller islands, which remain considerably untouched and are remarkably beautiful as a result. Lanyu (Orchid Island) is the most magical of them all. The dazzling, stark contrast of the jungle-like cliffs against the brilliant, turquoise waters alone is enough to leave you swooning. Add a scooter drive through a glowing cotton-candy sunset, surrounded by dozens of adorable, freely grazing goats, and you’ll find yourself in a real love affair with Taiwan.
3. Sunny Beaches With Rich Marine Life
With all that coastline (I mean it’s an island after all!), there’s gotta be a beach somewhere, right? ABSOLUTELY. Even though this little slice of heaven in Asia may not have a beach holiday reputation (not yet at least), there are countless beaches to laze and unwind at. From beaches with powdery, soft yellow or black sand, to beaches blanketed with amazing coral formations – Taiwan has a beach for every type of beach bum out there.
My favourite beach destination in all of Taiwan is Kenting. Found at the southern tip of the country, Kenting is about a 2 hour drive from Kaohsiung. It’s a very popular weekend getaway spot among locals, expats, and tourists alike.
Fun Fact: The beach scenes from the movie Life of Pi were filmed at Baisha Bay in Kenting (pictured above). The director of Life of Pi, Ang Lee, is Taiwanese and was born in Chaozhou, a small township just outside of Kenting.
What makes beaches in Taiwan even more awesome? Many of them are snorkelling hot spots, with deep trenches of coral, lying just below the surface, bustling with a diverse variety of marine life. You can be sure to swim alongside a colourful assortment of tropical fish and might even find yourself bumping heads with some gargantuan sea turtles. Some sites alone are home to over 200 green sea turtles. My favourite snorkelling destination in the entire country is Little Liuchiu, Taiwan’s snorkelling paradise, which you can read all about here.
4. Incredibly Friendly People
The Taiwanese are hands down some of the friendliest people in the world. Eh, I’m saying this and I’m from Canada (I mean, other than maple syrup, that’s what we’re known for, right?)!
Although I’m ashamed to admit it, I have learned under 10 Chinese words since I’ve lived here. Yet, I have managed to get by day-to-day through the overflowing generosity of people eager to help. Whether I’m finding myself struggling to translate instructions on my phone to the bank teller for a complicated bank transaction, or just at 7-Eleven trying to order a coffee, someone is always rushing over to help me.
5. Oh-So-Tasty Night Markets
Night markets in Taiwan are every self-proclaimed foodie’s dream come true. Each city in the country has multiple open-air street food markets that come alive once the sun fades away. In labyrinths of narrow alleys, hundreds upon hundreds of vendors serve up an infinite variety of mouth-watering eats – for prices that don’t break the bank.
But, that’s not all. You can test your luck and skill with an assortment of Taiwanese midway games, indulge in cheap (and surprisingly good) massages, and reveal your destiny through unusual fortune telling administered by birds.
If you’re in Taipei, be sure to check out Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, or Ningxia Night Market. If you’re making a trip to Kaohsiung in the south, head to Ruifeng Night Market.
6. Fast, Efficient, Affordable Transportation
Getting around is an absolute breeze on this tiny island. Whatever your transportation preference and budget may be, Taiwan has a wide range of options for you!
For those looking to get around on a budget, map out your routes using the MRT (Taiwan’s metro system), the “slow” trains of the TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration), oBike, and intercity buses. These are all efficient, affordable, and widely available throughout the majority of the country. When travelling shorter distances within cities that aren’t easy to get to by metro or subway, taxis and Uber are the way to go. Fares vary, but are significantly cheaper than in western countries.
If you don’t have a lot of time to spare and have a few extra dollars to dish out, experience ultimate transportation efficiency and buy yourself an HSR (High Speed Rail) ticket. The HSR will get you across the entire country, from Taipei to Kaohsiung, in a mere 90 minutes.
For the adventurous souls, why not cruise around in style and rent your very own scooter? You can find scooter rental shops scattered throughout Taiwan, charging around $200 NT ($8 CAD) per day. Don’t forget your passport and IDP (International Driver’s License)!
For more details about these transportation options, fares, and routes, check out my complete guide to getting around Taiwan.
7. Chase Waterfalls + Relax in Hot Springs
Taiwan is every nature lover’s dream. The entire middle of the country is made up of lush, towering mountains, complete with rushing waterfalls pouring into turquoise blue pools, and natural Hot Springs. Most waterfalls and hot springs are swimmable, season and weather permitting.
Late September through early November is the ideal time to go chasing waterfalls (contrary to what TLC might say). Usually by this time of year, the heavy summer rainfalls have subsided, and the oh-so-blue, natural pools are full of water. If you visit waterfalls in late November and early December onwards, you might be disappointed to find many of them already dried up. Waterfall enthusiast and blogger, Follow Xiaofei, has all the information you need for planning your Taiwan waterfall experiences. Seriously, this guy’s good – he must have been to every waterfall across the country, and provides some pretty solid tips.
Hot springs can be visited year round. Many of them are located in the mountains, set in some incredibly serene landscapes. These can be a bit more difficult to get to, and may require a scooter or a bit of a hike, such as the Wenshan Hot Spring in Taroko National Park. If you’re looking for a more local hot spring experience, head to Beitou Hot Springs, located within the Taipei area.
8. One of the Safest Destinations in the World
Ever experienced complete peace of mind while travelling? Well, if you haven’t already, you surely will in Taiwan!
Taiwan is considered one of the safest countries on the planet, making it an ideal destination for solo travellers. In fact, my first solo trip back in January of 2017, was to Taiwan. I never once felt uneasy or threatened. In fact, travelling to Taiwan solo was what gave me the confidence to travel to other destinations by myself!
While living in Taiwan, I’ve left my scooter keys in my scooter overnight… multiple times (I know, I know), and have always found my scooter right where I left it the next morning. I’ve walked back to my apartment alone in the middle of the night countless times, without ever once feeling in danger.
I truly believe that Taiwan is the place for first-timers to Asia, or those looking to embark on their first solo adventure! It’s a great place to ease into all of the energy, excitement, and chaos that comes with travelling through Asia, all within an exceptionally safe environment.
What about you, have you ever been to Taiwan?
What did you love most about this amazing island?
The post 8 Reasons Why Taiwan Should Move To The Top Of Your Bucket List appeared first on A Broader Tale.