Taiwan 101

Taiwan’s a destination that typically doesn’t make it to our bucket lists easily. But once you visit it, Taiwan remains in your memory, as a poetic island, with high cliffs facing the blue sea. Taiwan, is more than the liveliness of Taipei. It is an island with very friendly people, a unique cuisine that challenges you at times, with landscapes taken off from a cloudy Chinese painting.

Welcome to Taiwan.

Duration: My recommendation for time pressed corporate travelers such as myself, would be a 3 night, 4 day stay in Taipei. A extended 3 day weekend break, coupled with a day of personal leave is a great way of visiting Taiwan.

Top experiences in Taiwan include:

Taroko Gorge, and Hualien: The beauty of Taroko Gorge is obvious when you visit it. It’s a mountainous gorges surrounded by a verdant green, till the horizon. Honestly, what makes it a standout, compared to other similar regions like the Himalayan foothills, is not the gorge itself, but rather the picturesque shrines, the fresh mulberry juice, and mountain snacks, served by the native Taroko tribes. It is this scenery that makes it a canvas showcasing a beautiful Chinese paintings in which you are there for one whole day.

A quick tip for those planning a trip would be to spend a night in the neighbouring city of Hua Lien, instead of undertaking a day trip from Taipei. Hualien presents a great picture of the Taiwanese countryside – a far cry from the glitsy streets of Taipei. Restaurants here close around 9, in sharp contrast to night markets that are mostly a city feature.

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Night markets of Taipei: A walk into the parallel universe that emerges in the night, is a must to for a complete Taiwanese experience. Honestly, it’s simply amazing to see how the city re-awakens in the night, everyday to bring together a motley of street artisans, hawkers, and restaurants whose only business is to serve you.

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The National Palace Museum: Walk back into time for 3 hours, in a monument housed with rare chinese artifacts ranging from exquisite pottery, to precious jade. Some must watch sections are those devoted to Chinese pottery, Jade, and Tribal Art from Mongolia and Tibet. The visit is not complete with a tour outside, where the majestic chinese architecture stands in the green hues of surrounding hills.

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The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall: A number of thoughts rush through your mind when you see the beautiful architecture. The first is the sheer beauty of the architecture. The second is whether it is legitimate for any democratic leader to build all of this for himself. The third, is a sense of respect for a small country like Taiwan, standing to a behemoth. A walk across the monuments, will first awe you, and then make you pensive.

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Bao’an Temple: Built in 1760s, by chinese immigrants from Fujian, the Bao’on temple has serene walkways that transport you out of Taipei’s noise and commotion. The moral fabric of the city, resurfaces in serene spots such as these. I was fortunate to visit the Temple, during the Chinese New Year. This gave me a spectacular overview of the religious devotion that prevails in a modern Chinese city, and an insight into Chinese rituals like the lighting of incense sticks, and the generous flower offerings scenting up the air.

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Taipei 101: Reflects the ambition of Taipei – to stand out as a modern city, against the backdrop of commotion. The architecture of Taipei is modern, yet brings out the Chinese influence through the side arches.  

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Meals/Stay: The Grand Hotel of Taipei: The food is not that great, with tastier alternatives available in food stalls in the night markets. But the overall experience of dining in state royalty, where all heads of state visiting Taiwan, is like walking into a class of international relations from a Taiwanese perspective.  

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