Don't Miss Places In Taiwan
The island of Taiwan is separated from mainland China by the narrow Formosa Strait. Formosa which means “beautiful one” was the name given to Taiwan by Portuguese sailors in the 1500’s. Much of the island is mountainous and forested. On the lower ground in the western part is where most people live. The moist and tropical weather enables farmers to grow crops like rice and pineapples, although only one-fourth of its land can be farmed. Industry and tourism have become very important to the country’s economy.
About one third of Taiwan’s workers now have jobs that specialize in manufacturing electronic goods and products that has passed industry standards and eligible to be exported all over the world.
Discover the rest of the island as you explore these top ten not to be missed places in Taiwan.
This ropeway which is about 4 kilometers in just 30 minutes takes you to the amazing agricultural suburb of Taipei, where you can enjoy delicious tea, admire the tallest tower in Taiwan, see the cherry blossoms, and taste the delicious dim sum dish called the Samova. It offers a striking contrast between the urbanized Taipei and the calm spirit of this place. You can walk from the end of the fourth to the third station of the gondola (the temple) and also walk down from this point. The Maokong Gondola is a great place that is worth a visit if you are in Taipei.
On weekends, there are tourists who always queue unless it does not rain. There are two types of cabins - the conventional and glass bottom (Eyes of Maokong Gondola). The price is the same, regardless of the type of cabin. If you want to ride in the cabin with a transparent bottom, then you need to take a separate voucher which will indicate the time at which you must go through the gate. Upstairs there are a lot of cafes serving different tea. Try having the 4 different types and you are going to love it. In general there is always something new up there but for a simple thrill, enjoy the beautiful views while slowly sipping your perfectly brewed tea.
The Xiangshan Mountain (Elephant Mountain) is located in the heart of Taipei. If you want to look at the urban landscape, the mountain peak of Xiangshan is one of the best places for that. You can expect some difficulties such as climbing on foot within 15-20 minutes, but from the mountain top it offers a beautiful view on one of the tallest buildings in the world – the Taipei 101 skyscraper. To reach this attraction, arrange for a taxi to take you to the foot of the mountain. Then, it is time for some tedious legwork where you will pass by a Buddhist temple and climb the mountain to the temple as its starting point. It says that the road is approximately 1100 steps.
The steps are of different size, so someone, especially the elderly will probably find it hard to climb. When you climb on both sides of the stairs there is a bench where you can sit, rest, and admire the magnificent views. In January, the weather is a tolerable one and it is not hot. Going up the stairs, you are constantly in the shadow of the trees. Over the road you are surrounded by tropical plants. Admission to the mountain is free, but before starting the trail be sure to bring enough food and water.
Chiang Kai - Shek Memorial Hall
This memorial mausoleum in memory and honor of Chiang Kai-shek is a grand white ensemble topped roofs with colored tiles. It is located at the head of a large garden that also contains a concert hall and a theater. The set has character and worth a visit but it falls into the excesses of this kind of construction. The museum is located in the basement and fully dedicated to the life of the General.
The main hall contains a huge statue of Chiang Kai-shek with a curious smile on his lips. It gives an impression of gentleness and benevolence that is a bit condescending. There are many family photos and take note of the two black Cadillac with tinted windows.
The changing of the guard is a spectacle that takes place every hour and it is a real show that draws most of the crowd to stop and watch as it goes on. The soldiers move like robots and some of them wear heavy military boots with white laces and they all seem to dance and follow a routine choreography.
In addition, the delivery takes too long (20 minutes) that eventually turn to be the best way to end the visit. If you do not go and visit the Chiang Kai- Shek Memorial, you miss the pomp and glamour of their presentation and how Taiwan’s history is best understood.
Taiwan National Palace Museum
The most important museum of Taiwan is always full of exhibits for tourists from all over China and Korea. If you are keen about oriental artifacts, it certainly deserves a visit. The most important piece is a sculpture depicting a jade cabbage with two insects. There are long queues and interesting works in jade and ivory. Every weekend, lots of temporary exhibitions featuring the latest artworks of contemporary artists in Taiwan. The collections it contain makes it one of the most valued museums in the world, if not the most prominent in the field of Chinese art.
All the exhibit guides and information are available in many languages (Chinese, Italian, Russian, English and French).
The Taiwan National Palace Museum contains an outstanding collection of objects belonging to the Chinese history from prehistory up to the present day. The set up is very nice and oriented not only to historians and specialists. For those who are not fully aware about China’s history, the guidance halls with tables that summarize the characteristics of the various historical periods will prove to be very useful. The size of the museum is truly remarkable and it is essential to organize your visit well.
The famous Taipei 101 is a very high and beautiful building with a height of about 525 meters. The building itself is truly original with its unique and wonderful design. There are places where you can picture memorializing the tower completely. The main entrance to reach the top starts in the lobby of the shopping mall. You need to stand and wait in a long queue to buy a ticket but it's all worth it. The observation deck is big and nice. Inside you can see a giant ball-damper which increases the stability of the building.
If you climb even higher, you can get to an open area where the wind is howling and you can walk up to just on the edge of the fence to take gorgeous pictures of the view down below. The top area is not covered in glass so be extremely cautious. There are three fine dining restaurants on this skyscraper that is worth a visit and where you can book a table in advance to have a romantic dinner with views of Taipei City. It is no secret that the Taipei 101 is the number one tourist attraction as it can be seen from almost everywhere in the capital. Do not be lazy and go up to the observation deck but try to choose a clear day when doing so.
The Lungshan Temple is easy to reach by the metro train (MRT) which has a stop that is just called Long Shan Temple (on the blue line, Yongning direction). It is a great example of religious architecture in Taiwan. Even if it was rebuilt 3 times due to a bomb of the 2nd world war and numerous earthquakes, it still has its unique beauty and charm. In the octagonal bamboo window to the right of the entrance, there is an inscription that says "firecrackers announce that all is well". The first 4 columns in cast bronze are unique of its kind in Taiwan. The old roofs are typically in gondola style with intricate ceramic decorations and marks of beautiful dragons and colorful peacocks.
The main temple hall has beautiful wooden columns at the entrance and two large golden brass braziers. In the back room is where they kept the remains of the Taoist goddess Mazu, who is very popular here and protector of fishermen. It is very interesting and gets touched by dozens of people that go to make a prayer during the workday. This goddess is also the reason why the devoted burn thousands of incense sticks that leave a pleasant scent of intense air. The temple has a well organized bathroom (entering on the left, at the end of a staircase that descends to the lower level) complete with air conditioning and fans. It is very clean despite the influx of hundreds of people a day.
Fo Guang Shan Monastery
Despite the fact that the Fo Guang Shan Monastery was founded in the second half of the 20th century immigrant from mainland China, it has accumulated an amazing spiritual potential. The monastery enjoys enormous prestige in the Buddhist world. The main temple impresses with its size and at the same time intimate which is achieved due to the location of thousands of small Buddha on all the walls of the temple.
Unfortunately, you cannot take pictures inside the temples. The monastery has its own garden, reading room, museum, and all that is necessary for the spiritual life. In Kaohsiung, this monastery is what everyone cheered as one of the great things to see in Taiwan.
If you are interested in the story of Buddha and plan to study and meditate on his life this is the best place to learn about him. The dimensions of the monastery are huge and covers at least a mile long.
On the other hand, all the rooms inside are super equipped and suited for large crowds of pilgrims and tourists. There is air conditioning throughout, numerous bathrooms, elevators for the elderly and disabled, signs anywhere in Mandarin and English. The explanations under each Buddha statue are both in Chinese and English. Prepare to see tens of thousands of tourist buses in a number of groups with Chinese guides leading the way by megaphone or radio transmitters.
Yeh Liu Geo Park
The Yeh Liu Geo Park is located on a beautiful headland northeast of Taiwan (Xinbei). There are wonderful shapes created by the erosion of the sea that has dug into the rock around the stones that remain virtually suspended in the air. For those who want more from this place, after visiting the park on the left follow the path up to the top of the promontory. The spectacular views that can be enjoyed from the top repays the effort that is certainly not excessive.
From this point of view (the best view and along the path) you can also observe a block structure which enters the sea like a road that dips (for those who know it recalls the Irish Giant's Causeway). Outside the park there is a nice flea market where the prices of jade vases are certainly competitive with those of 101 or the palace with the traditional market in Taipei.
The Taroko Gorge in the Hualien region is one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan. There is a massive roar of the water that falls for these high gorges. Very interesting are the temples perched on these mountains that dominate the landscape. The only way to reach this place is by bus. Some stretches you can do on foot but only if equipped with a helmet and rock climbing gears protective equipments for possible rock falls. The interesting trail is made of rope bridges that cross several ravines. There is also the possibility of staying in some hotels are not very cheap if you wish to stay overnight.
Taiwan High Speed Rail Taichung Station
The station is very big and looks more like an airport than a train station. A trip to the base on the technology of the Japanese Shinkansen train is a first-class experience. With 300 kmh over the rail, the train ride is very quiet, punctual, comfortable and fast. The ticket prices are very cheap.
The seats are very comfortable; the speed cannot be realized unless it is displayed. There are also hardly any vibration and most passengers hardly notice it. The stations seem very modern, if not futuristic. Incidentally, you can see a great part of the landscape of Taiwan when you look out the window as the train starts to blaze through the countryside.