Taiwan is a place which mixes the old traditions with modern verve, a part of China, yet an island apart, and a place which packs over 23 million people into a 13,000 square mile island that features majestic mountain tops, tropical jungles, and Pacific beaches. Taiwan is certainly a place filled with electricity and energy, and is a great place for the more active traveler.
Taiwan, and its exciting and massive capital, Taipei, seem to be a city in a country which never sleeps. Any time of the day or night, there are plenty of activities going on, restaurants open for business, and bars, cafes, and shopping centers bustling with people. In fact, the city has a number of “night market” that only open during the evenings in alleyways and side streets which offer clothes, snacks, jewelry, and other goods, in a unique, lively atmosphere. In the past, night markets were places where pirated goods were available, but this practice has all but disappeared in favor of more legitimate ones. Visiting the night markets is a great way to get right into the middle of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of traditional Taiwan.
One of the least traditional, but most impressive sights that Taiwan has to offer is the Taipei 101 building, currently the tallest in the world. The behemothâ€™s full name is the Taipei International Financial Centre 101, and the building is as tall and imposing as its name implies. Standing 508 meters and boasting 101 floors, the building is a gorgeous example of modern architecture, and is built to invoke bamboo and rope. On the lower levels, Taipei 101 boasts an upscale shopping mall and gigantic food court. Visitors who arenâ€™t afraid of heights can make their ways to one of the two observatory floors (located on the 89th and 91st levels) and will be rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of the city. Although the building has only been open since 2004, it has quickly become a known landmark, featured in movies, commercials, and has been named one of the Seven New Wonders of the World.
Food lovers visiting Taiwan and China will be amazed at the blend of flavor, variety of offerings, and affordability of dishes that are available. For the most affordable meals in town, street vendors offer noodle and rice dishes that are as delicious as they are cheap. For just a dollar or two a day, budget travelers can find cheap, delicious, and nutritious plates and bowls. Of course, more demanding gourmands can find upscale restaurants offering world-class, modern dishes in cutting-edge environments. Vegetarians will have no problems fulfilling their needs, as the large Buddhist population assures that most restaurants offer meatless dishes, or can cater to most tastes and needs.
Although most people know that Taiwan is located in a sub-tropical zone, and may have seen the occasional typhoons that hit the island, certain times of the year and certain locations can get quite cold. In fact, the mountains regularly see snow in the winter (December to February) and also are swept by strong winter winds which can send the temperature plummeting in just a couple of hours. During the summers, the whole of the island is hot and humid, and heavy downpours are the norm.
Taiwan is a fascinating place, caught between trying to keep its own identity separate from China, but still being ethnically, economically, and (perhaps) politically tied to the mainland. The people are open and friendly, and levels of crime are about the same as in most big cities. A trip to this country combines the old traditions with the all the fascinating advances that modern life has to offer, and travelers will be rewarded with an experience you will never forget.