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Enjoy the taste of Taipei

By Shamlal Puri | Jul 17th 2016 | 5 min read

For many years, I never thought much about Taiwan beyond the ubiquitous Made in Taiwan label on a large number of electronic equipment.  

But Taiwan is not just about electronics — it is also an exciting a holiday destination.

The country, formerly known as Formosa later renamed The Republic of China and Taiwan to avoid confusion with the its former political adversary the Peoples’ Republic of China, has a rich culture, beautiful scenery and some of the friendliest people.

For many years it was largely considered an off the beaten track destination in the tourist world compared with other countries in Southeast Asia. When they did get foreign visitors, ordinary Taiwanese are happy to see them.

Today, more foreigners are visiting Taiwan, including those from the mainland China.

Foreigners visit Taiwan mainly for business or to learn Chinese by living and working there. Of late however, affluent western tourists, mainly from the US and Europe have started holidaying.

Official figures showed that Taiwan received 910,323 visitors in the first quarter of 2016. Of this, 433,110 were from Europe, USA, Japan, Australia and New Zealand while others were overseas Chinese.

Taiwan has a population of 23 million largely made up of people from Peoples’ Republic of China, a country with which Taiwan has been at political loggerheads. Taiwan has its own inhabitants —  500,000 indigenous people from 16 tribes.

Shaped like a leaf that narrows at both ends, this 14,400 square miles country lies at the southern coast of mainland Asia across the Taiwan Strait from Mainland China. To the north is Japan and Philippines to the south.

Its capital, Taipei City is a modern metropolis known for its vibrant life, high-rise buildings, Japanese style lanes, night markets, tantalising culinary delights and shopping districts.

Located in the Taipei Basin in northern Taiwan, Taipei is has a population of 2.7 million. Taipei’s changing skyline boasts many high-rise buildings, including the cloud-piercing 508 metre-tall bamboo-shaped Taipei 101 skyscraper. Take a 37-second ride up the elevator to the top and watch the city’s stunning view from an observatory on the 89th Floor.

Nature is at its best just a few minutes away from the heart of the city where you can soak away leisurely in the mineral-rich hot springs at the foot hills of the Taipei Basin.

Taiwanese are deeply religious people as is seen by the number of temples in Taiwan — over 5,000, including several in Taipei and still growing.

Your welcome in Taipei starts with incense-veiled temples dating back to the dynastic times. They blend effortlessly with the modern times and bright neon lights in the streets.

Bamboo products

One of the most famous is the 270-year old Lungshan Temple in Taipei which houses hundreds of statues of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian deities.

Its palace-like structure is adorned with figures of dragons, phoenix and other revered creatures. The mosaic art is simply beautiful.

The Taiwanese who worship here say the Gods really deliver results! These could be for problems ranging from fertility, protection, luck in marriage — you can get it all at Longshan Temple.

Many tourists also take a stroll around Dihua Street to see the Taipei Xia-Hei Temple in the Dadaocheng suburb. Local worshippers make their way for prayers daily and interestingly, the temple’s workers also act as overseas matchmakers.

Here you will also find small shops which sell traditional groceries and woven bamboo lifestyle products. Nearby is the Yongle Fabric Market selling beautifully patterned and fine-textured textiles — a true feast for the eyes.

The Taipei 101 Mall is a showcase of the world’s top brands offering a high-end shopping experience. The mall has Taipei’s largest indoor sky café and restaurant on the 85th floor. The place is worth a visit either in the day or in the evenings when there will be displays of lights.

Designed in the style of Chinese palace is the world class Taipei National Palace Museum which contains an extensive collection of treasures — some 690,000 artefacts — from generations of Emperors ruling from the Forbidden City, Beijing going back to 5,000 years of China’s artistic achievements.

These were brought down from China to save them from been stolen. This is a must visit place for art and history lovers.

Though some nice beaches in Taiwan are found along the east and south coast, that does not mean Taipei in north does not have its own.

Not far from New Taipei City is the golden sands Fulong Beach at the mouth of the Shuang River. It is among the most popular with Taipei residents.

Most tourists prefer to pay and visit the private beach on a secluded part area of the river bank.

The Baisha Bay Beach in Shimen has white sands and is relatively uncrowded. Known as a water sports paradise, it attracts those interested in water adventures.

If you have the time, travel to Kenting National Park beach resort in south Taiwan for a luxurious holiday.

Taipei’s world-class restaurants offer some of the best Chinese cuisines. If you miss out on the city’s night markets, well, you have not seen Taipei.

There are more than 100 traditional markets in Taiwan that offer an exciting fast food street food scene. They offer a wonderful experience where you can savour mouth-watering evening snacks as you watch the excitement and the chaos of the crowds enjoying their night out.

The famous and the largest is the 117-year old Shilin Night Market with its 539 food stalls and kiosks that sell various items including clothes and accessories.

It is famous for its aromatic flavours of sesame, spices, soya, wine, meats and frying oils wafting in the air. The wide and varied menu includes sausages in herbal soup, glutinous rice, stir-fried squids, stewed ribs, oyster omelettes and big chicken cutlets.

If you are tired of walking, step into a foot massage shops!

Taipei offers an extensive choice of attractions and if you have the time for a longer holiday travel by rail to other parts of this beautiful country for an unforgettable holiday.

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