“Nothing develops intelligence like travel.” – Emile Zola
Travelling to Taiwan, aka the Republic of China, in the South China Sea between Japan and the Philippines, is a great way to shatter any preconceptions you may have about the place. While everyone has probably seen “Made in Taiwan” on a product, the country is a blend of tradition and modernity and is home to beautiful countrysides and cultural heritage.
23.58 million people live in Taiwan and most of the population lives on the west coast in a vast urban sprawl stretching from Keelung in the north to Kaohsiung in the south.
In 2018, 11 million tourists visited Taiwan.
Despite tensions between the People’s Republic of China, which is looking to incorporate the island into its territory, and the government of Taiwan led by Tsai Ing-wen, which seeking independence, tourism in Taiwan has continued to grow.
In this article, we’re going to look at the top 10 reasons to visit Taiwan!
There’s evidence of humans on Taiwanese territory from 14,000 to 30,000 years ago.
It’s hardly surprising why Portuguese explorers called it beautiful! (Source: mengfanxi)
More recently, there was an Austronesian population inhabiting the island from around 4,000BCE until the 17th century when Europeans arrived in the 17th century. Europeans became aware of the island for the first time in 1542 by Portuguese explorers travelling to Japan.
Upon seeing the island in front of them, they exclaimed “Isla formosa” (the beautiful island), which gave the island its previous name of “Formosa”.
In the 17th century, Formosa was colonised by the Dutch who spread Christianity to the island. The latter encouraged mass Chinese migration to cultivate the land, which irreversibly changed the Austronesian population.
Once the Dutch were driven out in 1662, the population doubled under the Ming Dynasty.
In 1895, after China’s defeat against the Japanese Empire, the Republic of Taiwan became a Japanese colony until 1945 when the empire collapsed and was ceded to China while under the control of the United States of America.
The nationalist dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek led to the industrialisation of the island and, eventually, a democratic regime.
Given its special situation, Taiwan’s slogan is “One country, two systems”. Taiwan belongs to the People’s Republic of China and can’t promote its sovereignty through international diplomatic relations, but it can organise its democratic politics with its parliament, government, and direct universal suffrage.
While Taiwan is a liberal society with a capitalist market, it’s been marked by Chinese, Japanese, Buddhist, and Taoist culture.
Find out more about the best sights in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s history has left its mark on the island, but the population identifies as Taiwanese and not Chinese. It’s not even part of mainland China, for one. There are quite several differences between China and Taiwan.
Make sure you don’t refer to the locals as Chinese.
While some westerners may think that they eat Chinese food and can celebrate the Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, and Lantern Festival, Taiwan has its customs and culture.
For example, unlike the Chinese, spitting or throwing chewing gum or cigarette ends on the floor is frowned upon and you won’t see rubbish or littering.
The Taiwanese respect personal space in a similar way to European cultures as opposed to the Chinese, who are known to have no problems in crowds. In other terms, the less you know someone, the more space they’ll give you.
Taiwanese food shares similarities with Chinese food.
There’s plenty of great Taiwanese food to try in the night markets. (Source: 3005398)
You can eat for cheap from street vendors or in traditional restaurants and the food’s often fresh. Taiwan cares about its food and there are many vegetarian options, like in other developed countries. You can also get meatballs, noodle soup, stinky tofu, dumplings, xiaolongbao, rice, durian cakes, and tea.
Taiwan is very safe and there are very low rates of theft and violence. This is far from Latin America and parts of Europe. It’s not uncommon to see bicycles left unchained in the street and neither men nor women will feel threatened.
This is one of the main reasons to visit Taiwan. The people are friendly, generous, and caring. While they can seem shy, wait until they come out of their shells. It’s very unlikely that you’ll have any complaints about the people by the end of your stay there.
With mountains in the north, the national parks in the centre, the beaches at Hsinchu, and the Kenting National Park, Taiwan looks like a mountain floating in the ocean. It’s also covered in a dense tropical forest. The coast, mountains, plains, rice fields, and tea plantations paint the landscape a broad spectrum of colours.
You obviously won’t be visiting Taiwan for its industry!
Find out more about the best time to visit Taiwan.
Taiwan is a country where you can find a lot of hot springs. Discovered by the Japanese, these hot springs have become popular tourist attractions. You can hike in Yangmingshan National Park and enjoy beautiful hot springs.
Make sure you check the weather as there are risks of typhoons and monsoons at the end of autumn.
In Beitou, Taroko (the Wenshan Hot Springs), the Antong Hot Springs, you can relax in warm waters. There are many others including Tai’an, Guguan, Dongpu (Yu-Shan), Guanziling, Baolai, and Bulao.
If you love a bit of comfort when you travel, you’re in luck as travel in Taiwan is easy! The railways in Taiwan have been home to high-speed rail since 2007. Trains travel at speeds up to 186mph, cutting the journey from to Taipei to Kaohsiung to just 2 and a half hours. You can get to Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, or Kaohsiung from Taipei all in under 3 hours.
Taiwan is home to an excellent transport infrastructure. (Source: bairi)
Taipei has an expansive metro system with six traditional lines and one automatic line. The Taichung metro will be opened in 2020 with 3 new lines.
Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second city, has two metro lines, 38 stations, and 27 miles of track.
Most Taiwanese cities are served by the train, which is quite rare for islands, except for Japan and the UK.
6 bus companies operate between Taiwan’s biggest urban areas: Kuo-Kuang Bus, Free Go Bus, Air Bus, UBus, Evergreen et Taoyuan Bus.
It’s very easy to travel around Taiwan in comfort.
Find out more about accommodation in Taiwan.
There’s one thing that you’ll probably find very odd in Taiwan, the dustbin lorries at the end of the day play Beethoven’s Für Elise as they arrive much like an ice cream van. The lorry pulls up and all the residents, with their rubbish and recycling sorted, will chuck their rubbish in.
The island, with its tropical climate and high temperatures, used to deal with a lot of pollution, littering, and cockroaches scurrying around in the dark. To change this, a new system was introduced in 2006 and the island has benefited massively from the change.
You need to visit Taiwan now because it’s yet to be taken over by tourists.
The best thing about Taiwan? It’s relatively undiscovered! (Source: jaboczw)
While 24 million people live on a slither of land just 186 miles long, 70% of it’s covered by vegetation (bananas, tea, rice, and dense tropical forest), and the centre is made up of mountains, there’s still space to breathe.
11 million tourists visit Taiwan each year for one good reason, it’s not just a province of the People’s Republic of China. With China being officially communist and Taiwan being unable to cultivate its diplomatic relations of its own, many tourists still opt for other countries in Asia (Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, or Thailand.
There are plenty of great hiking trails, magnificent white sandy beaches, mountainous regions, surfing spots, Green Island and Orchid Island, and something for everyone.
Taiwan is a great destination, as long as it remains a secret!
If you’d like to learn a bit of the language before you go, consider getting help from one of the many talented private tutors on Superprof. There are three main types of tutorials available: group tutorials, online tutorials, and face-to-face tutorials.
Group tutorials are similar to classes from school, with one teacher or tutor and multiple students. This is a good option for those on a budget or a group of people who’ll all be going to Taiwan together as you can share the cost of your lessons and all learn alongside one another.
Face-to-face tutorials are more costly but you’ll get tailored lessons and can learn exactly what you want in them. These are generally the most cost-effective tutorials.
Finally, online tutorials include one tutor and one student but take place using video conferencing or a call. This means your tutor won’t be in the same room as you but they do tend to be cheaper than face-to-face tutorials as the tutors have fewer outgoings to worry about.