Taiwan is a small island off the coast of China that is the only Mandarin-speaking, fully democratic country. Because Taiwan never experienced the Cultural Revolution, many Chinese traditions still thrive there. So, if you’re fascinated with Chinese history and Chinese culture, head to Taiwan to get the full experience.
No surprise, one of the things that foreigners love about Taiwan is the food. Bubble tea, originally a Taiwanese treat, has taken the world by storm. To get the best, cheapest, and most authentic dishes there, head to a local night market. There are big fancy ones in Taipei, but you can also find small local ones in little villages and smaller cities. Each night market has its own theme (food, clothing, games, etc.) Move from stall to stall and sample delicious food and snacks for a few cents each. You’ll be full and still have money left over to get home.
National Palace Museum
If you’ve been to the Forbidden Palace in China, you’ve probably noticed that it’s empty inside. Where did all the stuff go? The answer is, Taiwan. When the Chinese Nationalist Party (CNP) lost to the Communists in 1949, they fled China, taking with them all the artifacts inside the Forbidden Palace. Today, you can see these items in Taiwan’s National Palace Museum. There are floors filled with paintings, kitchenware, armor, furniture, and other items from the past. Spend an afternoon there to see how people lived thousands of years ago in China.
Huge cities sit along the west coast of Taiwan. But if you head to the southern tip of the island, you’ll find yourself in Ken-Ting, a small, but popular beach town. You can book a room at a local resort to enjoy surfing, swimming, and tanning. Ken-Ting beach is one of the least crowded beaches, despite its popularity because most people prefer to sit in the shade. Tanning isn’t a trend in Taiwan, so feel free to spread your towel out and bake in the sun!
Tainan was the original capital city of Taiwan. It’s still full of old-style buildings from the Japanese-era. And there’s also a Dutch fort, from when the Dutch settled in Taiwan. The streets are narrow and the people mostly speak Taiwanese, not Mandarin, so give yourself some time to communicate with the locals. After all the sightseeing, head to a local restaurant to try the famous turkey and rice dish. If you don’t know how to say it in Taiwanese, simply point to the giant turkey legs that are on display.
Taiwan is a volcanic island, so naturally, hot springs are everywhere. There are many resorts dedicated to hot spring soaks. You can choose to soak in your own room where hot, sulfur-smelling water is piped into your bathtub or you can go sit in a public spring outside. The resorts are easy to get to via tour bus from Taipei. And if you’re really ambitious, take a long trip to Green Island for the rare saltwater hot spring. It’s one of the three in the entire world, so check it out when you’re in Taiwan!