I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first visit to the often unknown Taiwan. Nestled off the coast of China, less than a two-hour flight from Hong Kong, I’ve found it to be a modest country full of natural beauty, kind people and a deeply rooted culture that I yearn to explore more of. You could go as far to say, I’m infatuated with Taiwan.
This trip has been a fast one. Only long enough to get a brief overview of the capital Taipei, and the mountainous region of Hualien and the beaches of Fulong to the east. It’s also made me want to come back and explore the island more fully, and re-learn the little Mandarin Chinese I do know to better communicate when I travel within the region.
One of the things I like the most about Taiwan is the authenticity. The country hasn’t been taken over with the rapid expansion – both sprawling outwards and upwards – that many Asian countries are currently experiencing; and while the city has many high rises, there’s a new trend towards preserving buildings with historic significance, called the Urban Renewal Stations (URS).
One narrow lane way I encountered in particular houses traditional Chinese herb shops in URS buldings, alongside modern cafes; Historic buildings are taken over by art galleries.
Throughout the trip, I have only seen a small handful of tourists, all in Taipei at the main attractions of Taipei 101 or Longshan Temple.
Currently, the bulk of tourists to Taiwan come from Mainland China or Japan. Don’t worry though because English is commonly spoken and many of the signs throughout the country are in both Chinese and English.
Being a big kid at heart, I’m a huge fan of the ke’ai (cute) found around the city. If you’re a Hello Kitty fan, being your journey to Taiwan right by flying onboard one of EVA Airway’s Hello Kitty-themed planes. From the boarding passes to the meals, even the toilet paper, everything is Hello Kitty-themed.
Hello Kitty items and objects dominate the city. From helmets to cafes, and themed goods throughout markets. You’ll find plenty of other anime and Disney characters (particularly Stitch and Monsters Inc.) characters adorning clothing, food and signs.
If you’re a foodie then Taiwan is the place for you. I have never eaten so well in my life.. or so much!
If you’ve got a tight budget to stick to, check out any one of the markets scattered around the city. I’d recommend the Shilin Market – located in the cities east – as a top pick. Unlike markets in other cities the foods aren’t repeated over and over again, instead there are hundreds of dishes to choose from the vendors.
If you’re looking for something quirky, check out one of the themed cafes. I went to the Hello Kitty restaurant and while the food was good, you’re paying more for the experience.
Buddhism is the largest religion in Taiwan and so great vegetarian food can be found throughout the city. The scallion pancakes and sweet potato balls were two of my favourite dishes.
If you share a sweet tooth, like me, then Taiwan is sure to have something that will cure your cravings. From mochi to ornate cakes, shaved ice topped with fresh fruit, fresh fruit juices or bubble tea.
Speaking of food, if you know me you’ll know that I don’t like dumplings; I love them. Taiwan is the home of Din Tai Fung. Famed for their Xiao Long Bao, or ‘soup dumplings’, the restaurant has been awarded one Michelin star five years in a row.
Make the pilgrimage to their flagship store, still located in Dongmen, to taste these famed dumplings or one of their other popular dishes. I recommend the pork Xiao Long Bao and chicken Xiao Long Bao.
Before coming to Taiwan, the only impression I had of the country was through my expat friends teaching English in cities along the west coast of the country and through eating at Din Tai Fung. What neither of these shared with me was about the natural beauty of the country.
It is stunning.
From the mountains surrounding Taipei to Taroko Gorge, the second most popular tourist site in the country behind Taipei 101, or even the waterfront drive along the east coast to reach Fulong, passing by dozens of scuba divers taking to the rocky waters – Taiwan has plenty on offer.
In five days, I have seen only a glimmer of the country and I’ve liked what I’ve seen. No, scrap that. I love what I’ve seen and already planning a return trip in my head.
Now if only EVA Airways could launch a Hello Kitty plane on their route to Brisbane…
Now it’s over to you
Is Taiwan on your bucket list?
When travelling what are you in search for –
food, culture, nature, something else?
How to get there
I chose to fly Cathay Pacific and sister airline Dragonair for my trip to Taiwan (via. Hong Kong).
Cathay operates flights out of most Australian major cities to Hong Kong, where you can connect with either Cathay Pacific or Dragonair to fly the under two-hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan.
Cathay Pacific and Dragonair are part of the OneWorld alliance, which Qantas is also part of.
Currently, EVA Airways operates a direct flight from Brisbane to Taipei, Taiwan.
China Airways operates direct flights from Brisbane, Sydney and Christchurch (via. SYD).
Want to read more about Taiwan?
My trip to Taiwan was arranged by Taiwan Tourism.
All thoughts, opinions, and kilograms I put on from the food are, as always, my own.