Who does not wish to see paradise on earth? Just like many others, if you wish to visit a picturesque paradise then plan a visit to Taiwan – a small island nation – which is 180 km east of China and a short 50-minute flight away from Hong Kong. This island has contemporary cities, hot springs resorts, majestic beaches and dramatic mountainous terrain, that will leave you wanting more in the name of rejuvenating yourself. Before you take your flight to Taiwan, make sure you get a window seat as you can’t afford to miss the aerial view minutes before landing. A beautiful view of the coasts, ports and huge ships sailing in the sea gives you an idea that how beautiful the country is.
Even though sometimes one is presented with the language barrier; their smiles and expressions will touch your heart. To enjoy to your heart’s content and to explore more within a short span of time, remember to hire a tour guide who will make an itinerary and will also organise the ground arrangements.
Once you land into Kaohsiung International Airport, you can go to Pingtung city in Southern Taiwan. Here, you will get artistic resorts near the beaches that are affordable. You can get vegetarian food as well non-vegetarian, all cooked in Taiwanese style. If you are a sea-food lover, then Taiwanese cuisine will be a gourmet’s delight.
Watching a sun-set at White Sand Bay, also known as Baishawan beach in Pingtung City and taking a dive in the blue sea is an experience equal to a relaxing spa after a tiring day. The white beach is formed by shell sand and embraced by the beautiful coral reefs. You can take a walk along the shore, enjoy the view of the blue sky and ocean, the calm waves make it a suitable spot for swimming and scuba diving.
The longest bike trail in Taiwan starts from Baisha, the trail belongs to the territory of Kenting National Park, without the barrier of architecture, and you can cycle among the beautiful tropical plants. Here, you can take candid shots as the scenic beauty is mesmerizing.
Before you go to bed, you can’t miss one of Taiwan’s popular Kenting Street Night Market—that is almost 2 kilometer long and bustling night market. Thousands of people swarm here every night, especially on weekends. This is the biggest market in southern Taiwan, only second to Fengjia Night Market in Taichung. Starting from Kenting National Park, the long line of food (specifically sea-food) and game stands stretches to Caesar Park Hotel. You can find some creative foods around here, like fried Oreos and street bars serving beer and cocktails accompanied with fun music. All the bar tenders dance and call you to come and have a drink and enjoy the night-life. An extremely safe place, here you can walk around till the wee hours!
Taiwanese food is a reflection of the country in that it, too, is a blend of tastes from around Asia. The food culture has Japanese and Western influences, the aboriginal people and the Chinese who immigrated to Taiwan. Chinese and Taiwanese food are very different, however, you can still find many similarities and the resulting food fusions are a real treat for the taste buds.
The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium is home to fascinating ocean life. Take the kids to this exciting center so they can learn about the magnificent creatures and play with penguins and seals. The museum has several sections with specialties, such as local fish or coral wonders. The 84 meters long underwater tunnel where visitors can enjoy the beautiful reef without having to get wet is the most popular facility in the museum, where admiring the underwater world only a glass away.
Explore 'The Waters of the World' a 3D virtual reality water free aquarium. The underwater habitat is simulated with machines in different themes. From Ancient Time Ocean, Underwater Forest, Arctic Waters and Deep Oceans, it guides guest to explore the wonders of seas from all around the world. Kenting National Park (beautiful scenery), Eluanbi (nice park to stroll around), Longpan Park (the view is breathtaking, windy with blue sky and sea), Hengchun Old Town ( a town with beautiful history), White Lighthouse (light house with side scenic view) are the other best places that can be visited in Pingtung city. To add to your adventure, Janfunsun Fancy World is the one of best amusement park in Taoyuang, in North-Western Taiwan, that features both land and water based-rides. And once you are done with all the jaw-dropping rides, you will definitely say—It’s Crazy! The Sky Plaza has many world-class rides that only Janfusun Fancyworld has in Taiwan, such as the Sky Jet roller coaster and the Diving Machine G5. Standing at 88 metres tall, the Sky Wheel is the tallest Ferris wheel in Taiwan with 50 passenger capsules.
Haunted Theater has the world’s only 4D Horrorwood Haunted Theater, created by Hollywood’s best special effects team. Covering more than 16,528 square meters, Janfusun Kiddy Land is Taiwan’s largest indoor amusement park especially designed for children and families. Enjoy the dramatic mountain terrain of Alishan Mountain in Central Taiwan which is the combination of cool weather and beautiful mountain scenery that has made this place the most popular summer getaway in Taiwan.
You can reach here by taking the toy train that is run by the Alishan Forest railway. In the two hour journey to Fenchihu station, you will see several scenic views, passing through dramatic tunnels. There is also a local market here from where you can buy souvenirs and local sweetmeats.
Alishan National Scenic Area, with altitudes ranging from 1400 to 2600, covers four different environment zones. The tropic, sub-tropic, temperate and cold zones co-exist thanks to the variety of flora and fauna. With abundant rain and pleasant environment, the area is covered with endless forests. The magnificent of sunrises and sunsets in the sea of clouds is a must see at Crag Top. The view is never the same and it’s very addictive. The fire-fly watching season spans from April to June and is a pleasant seasonal surprise.
Apart from this, these hills are a paradise for tea-lovers. You will get variety of finest-quality and award-winning tea and you can taste each one of them before taking it back home. Zi Nan Temple, in Central Taiwan, which honors the Chinese earth God Tu Di Gong and his wife, attracts thousands of believers every year who wait in lines kilometers long to get special coins believed to bring wealth if placed in the right spot at home or in the office according to Feng Shui rules.The Tu Di Gong is perceived as the God of Wealth by local businesses.
And if want to cherish the feeling of being in heaven, visit the Sun-Moon Lake. Nestled at 760 meters, this lake is famous for its clear, sparkling blue water set against a picturesque mountain backdrop. Huddled by rims of undulating mountains, the invitation for lyrical romance hangs thick in the air at Sun Moon Lake. This lake is surrounded with the world’s breath-taking cycling tracks, in terms of beauty, where you can hire a bicycle and cycle around the lake.
This sanctuary will qualify as your favourite spot in a nation which is filled with natural attractions To reach Taipei — the Capital of Taiwan, take the high speed train that runs approximately 345 km along the west coast of Taiwan, from the southern city of Kaohsiung. From the high speed train station you can take a metro to Taipei 101, and formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center – is a landmark supertall skyscraper in Xinyi District, Taipei. The 101 Building is a must-do attraction while in Taipei. 508 meters tall and completed in 1999, Taipei 101 contains a 5-storey shopping center. Visitors pay an entrance fee to reach the top of the tower for spectacular views of the surrounding city.
The visit to Taipei 101 is incomplete unless you enjoy a delicious Din Tai Fung dinner, with Xiao Long Bao, Steamed Dumplings, Hot and Sour Soup, Fried Rice and Steamed Red Bean Xiao Long Bao as dessert. Taipei comes alive at night, and the city buzzes with nightlife, food and shopping. You can eat and shop simultaneously – the food markets are generally also all-night bazaars. Bursting with a cacophony of sounds and a veritable riot of colours, Taipei’s chaotic night markets are a treat to visit as is the Guang Hua 3C Electronics Market offers electronic items at cheaper prices. Sky Lanterns at Shifen Old Street is another tourist attraction.
Originally built to transport coal, the Shifen Old Street stop has now become one of the most popular on the Pingxi rail-line. It is easy to see why so many are drawn here - local food, souvenir shops and stream trains add to the charm of this little gem, as well as make it a fantastic place for photography. You can paint your wishes with calligraphy before releasing the lanterns into the sky.
Before, leaving Taipei, Yehliu Geological Park is a must visit. This place is a home to some of the most famous eroded rock formations in the world. Due to the rather soft limestone composition of the rock layers, this area is prone to erosion from a combination of seawater, wave, and wind forces. The constant effect of these factors over time has resulted in a geological landscape that seems other-worldly.
(The author’s trip to Taiwan was organised by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, India Office)