Taiwan is the kind of country that is both intriguing and elusive, one that you might not put at the top of your travel bucket list at first, but once you bask in what the country has to offer, it really is an unforgettable experience.
Among the beautiful things about Taiwan are the warm and friendly locals, abundant travel wonders to discover, and that the best destinations aren’t just found in its capital city of Taipei, but in many places and cities around the country.
The iconic landmark that comes first to most people’s minds upon the topic of Taiwan is Taipei 101. The skyscraper stands tall with – officially – 101 storeys, just like the name, and is a reminiscent of bamboo growing tall, symbolising progress and prosperity in Chinese culture.
While Taipei 101 is home to leading dining and shopping destinations, be sure you make time to take the tour and unveil the architectural mechanism of the building. On the 101st floor of Taipei 101, visitors can find a 360-degree Observatory Deck where they can marvel at the views of Taiwan’s capital city from high up above, behind glass windows. When visiting Taipei 101 we suggest you literally take it up another level by taking up the Walk in the Clouds offer.
This programme has limited slots, so you might want to make arrangements in advance so you can go up to level 102 and observe the city from the outdoor deck. Forget glass windows, forget an air-conditioned indoors, here you can actually feel the windy outdoors and take a memorable picture that will give you the right to brag later on.
From the capital, head south to Taichung city to find Rainbow Village. The story of the village is as enchanting as the name itself. It started when a small housing complex reserved for war veterans faced demolition to be turned into a commercial development. The residents started to leave one by one until there were only 11 houses left, when one of the residents, former soldier Huang Yung-Fu, who has an artistic flair, started to paint and draw on the abandoned houses. His painting style is colourful and child-like, creating vibrant sights to behold.
One day, a group of university students came across the village and were so mesmerised by what they saw that they decided they needed to hear the story. With the pure intention to help Huang keep his home, the students campaigned to save the village, which went viral. The effort resulted in the authorities deciding to preserve the village and make it a destination so that more people could see and enjoy it. If you’re lucky, you will get to meet Huang on your visit to Rainbow Village.
Sun Moon Lake
In the middle of Taiwan, in the Nantou district to be exact, is the country’s largest body of water, Sun Moon Lake. Located at 748m above sea level, the area surrounding Sun Moon Lake has a pretty cool climate all year round. The air is fresh, the natural surroundings are lush and picturesque – a great getaway destination for a break from the busy city life.
Veiled in verdant vegetation, the neighbourhood around Sun Moon Lake has that small-town vibe. That being said, the area is home to many interesting destinations and lavish accommodations. Xuanguang Temple offers both wonderful architectural details and magnificent elevated views of the lake. Meanwhile, boasting a polar opposite kind of design, Xiangshan Visitor Center also offers exceptional architecture and views.
If you have one day to spare, visit the nearby Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village by cable car. Combining an indigenous cultural hub with a fun and exciting theme park, the village can be an entertaining destination for everyone in the family.
One activity that you should not skip while at Sun Moon Lake is riding a bike around the lake – or halfway around if the full route is too challenging for you. This way you get to really bask in the picture-postcard scenery, while enjoying the fresh mountain air.
One thing that is outstanding about Taiwan is how welcoming the country is. No matter what kind of background or preference you have, Taiwan has everything for everyone. In conjunction with that notion, not too long ago, the country started to promote halal tourism to cater to Muslim travellers. It’s really impressive to see how many of the public places in Taiwan, including Taipei 101, provide a dedicated prayer room.
Finding certified halal restaurants is very easy in Taiwan. Whitedeerkiln in Nantou district serves a halal and vegetarian pizza selection that is really delicious, while the charming and quaint Hui Guan Restaurant in Taipei offers a wide array of delectable Asian comfort foods. More and more hotels also provide halal-only menus to choose from, such as Suz & Catorze hotel in Taipei, Fullon Hotel Lihpao Land in Taichung, and Fleur de Chine Sun Moon Lake Hotel in Nantou.
Speaking of halal food, you can’t visit Taiwan without tasting the signature beef noodle soup made from stewed or braised beef, topped with succulent beef chunks and different toppings depending on where you get it. Jiang Guzi Beef Noodle restaurant in Taoyuan City is one of the most popular restaurants for this dish.
Asia Dreams May – July 2020