Asian Elegance: Taiwan
Most Westerners know Taiwan from frequent news bulletins and
updates about its conflict with China - China claims Taiwan as its
province; Taiwan proclaims itself a separate state. Although this
disagreement has strained relations between the two entities for
decades, peace has essentially been negotiated and maintained.
Consequently, today's travellers should make every attempt to visit
the islands of this enchanting land.
The main island known as Taiwan, called Formosa until the
twentieth century, can fairly be termed a study of the principles
of yin and yang, opposite elements if you will; modern bustling
cities lie within miles of Zen-like scenery of picturesque
mountains and clear lakes of blue and jade waters. This is ideal
for the traveller who thrives on variety because Taiwan seems to
have something for every taste.
Located some eighty miles off the coast of mainland China,
Taiwan is separated from that country by the Taiwan Strait. It is
bordered by the East China Sea in the Northwest and the South China
Sea on the southwest. Taiwan covers an area of about 14,000 square
miles (slightly larger than Belgium) but is home to a staggering
population of nearly twenty-three million people. The capital of
Taiwan is Taipei located in the north. The official language of the
country is Mandarin Chinese.
Visitors to Taiwan will not be disappointed with the variety of
things to do and see in this nation. There is also a wide range of
cuisine available in Taiwan due to the many different peoples who
have passed through or settled on the island. Hungry travellers who
pass through nearly any of the cosmopolitan regions will have their
pick of Taiwanese, Cantonese, Beijing, Shangainese and Sichuanese
cooking. Many different peoples have left their mark on the island
including the Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, British, Spanish and even
raiding groups of pirates.
East coast of Taiwan, near Hualien
Travellers will have a wide range of things to do and sites to
see when visiting Taiwan. Some of the more famous, not-to-be-missed
landmarks include National Palace Museum (Taipei), Taipei Fine Arts
Museum, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial (Taipai), Formosan Aboriginal
Culture Village (western Taiwan, Shadau Beach (Kending National
Park), Ami Culture Village (Hualien), Taroko Gorge (Hualien), Sun
Moon Lake (Nantou County), and Chung Tai Chan Temple (near Puli).
There is hiking, swimming, sailing for outdoor enthusiasts as well
as a rich urban nightlife for visitors to the cities.
Capital: Taipei City
Languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka
Time: GMT +8 hrs
Currency: New Taiwan dollar (NT$)
Before visiting Taiwan, try to immerse yourself in a bit of the
island's colourful history to get a sense of how far it has come.
Although many languages are spoken in Taiwan, it may be helpful to
learn a few Mandarin Chinese phrases.