Roundabout Taiwan

Lungshan temple, Taipei

Most people never consider visiting Taiwan, yet many actually have a stopover on their transpacific flights in Taipei. While it may not be worth to get off the airport for just a few hours, why not make your stopover into a tour? Taipei is certainly offering many attractions and to get a taste of it you will need to spend at least one night and two full days to make the it worth your time. You can catch an elevator to the top Taipei 101, until two years ago the tallest building in the world. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a must to refresh your understanding of Taiwan’s emergence in the political aftermath of the late 1940s. Taipei has many temples but the oldest and one representing the most remarkable sample of temple architecture is Lungshan. Market not to miss is the famous Shihlin Night Market.

But needless to say visiting Taipei you’ll be just scratching the surface. To see the real Taiwan you have to get out of the city. Have a look at the map, and you can immediately notice that the west part of Taiwan is crisscrossed by highways. It is here that lies the industrial heartland of Taiwan, while the opposite half of the island is mountainous, considerably pristine and devoid of development, with the major artery following only the coast. You may not have time to tour the entire island but your itinerary can always be customized to fit your time schedule.

If you are willing to spend three to five days, then you are best off to focus on the northern part of the island. You can tour the rock formations of Yeliou Geo Park, and the volcanic landscape of the Yangmingshan National Park, both short distance from Taipei. You can take an outing to the springs district of Wulai and you can make two day side trip to Taroko Gorge in the north-western part of Taiwan, hailed as the only marble gorge in the world.

For a glimpse of Taiwan’s ancient beginnings consider visit to Lukang, a charming 3rd century old town which despite not being engulfed by major industrial development, it’s lovely old streets, Tien Hou Kung Temple, the Lukang Lungshan Temple make the trip a great experience.

But from here on if you want to add south of Taiwan you need to tailor in more days. Your first stop should be the deep interior of the island that is best tasted by a sojourn at the Sun Moon Lake. Her you must visit the Wen Wu Temple, Holy Monk Shrine, Tze-En Pagoda and drop in the Tehua aboriginal village. Above all you should take some leisurely walks and one that is wonderful to do is the Mt. Mao-Lan trail.

After Sun Moon Lake you have to head south to Tainan, and see the Chikan Tower, Confucius Temple and the Anping Fort. Nearby is Taiwan’s biggest port, Kaohsiung. Though it’s buzzing with business and industrial activity, its landmarks will be part of your itinerary, notably the Dragon and Tiger Pagoda and the Spring and Autumn Pavilion.

Taiwan’s south is just a hop from here. A must stop is the famous Foguanshan Monastery, the largest in Taiwan. From here continue to the extreme south which is associated with the beach resort of Kenting. You can take a dip in the ocean here and then continue enjoying the splendid views of the Pacific Ocean all along the lesser populated Taiwan’s east coast all the way to Hualien. There most wonderful places are in Taitung county, specifically around Taidong. Stop at Chihpen hot-springs, Siaoyeliou and aboriginal town of Dulan. The head further north and marvel at the rock formations at Sansiantai, and finally arrive Hualien, the gateway to the Taroko National Park.

For an idea how can all these places be tailored into your itinerary, review the Taiwan Discovery tour. The key point here is that Taiwan has a lot more to offer than meets the eye. Should two week just be too long time to spare for you, we can always narrow the program to fewer days.

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