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Sitting off the south-east coast of mainland China, the island nation of Taiwan – governed by the Republic of China - is one of the most densely populated places in the world. With the interior of the island being mountainous, the majority of its 23 million strong population lives in cities strung out along the flatter west coastal belt. Taiwan is therefore a land of contrasts; crowded cities with a plethora of restaurants, shops and entertainment options in one part, and lush forested mountains, sandy beaches and marble-walled gorges in the other. It may surprise some people to know that Taiwan has eight national parks protecting its wildlife-rich tropical forest.
The capital of Taiwan is Taipei, a modern metropolis with a centre packed full of glistening skyscrapers pointing tooth-like up into the sky. In 2003, the 509 metre Taipei 101 building achieved the coveted ‘tallest building in the world’ status before losing it in 2010 when the 828 metre Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai.Read more
Taipei – like any city in Taiwan – is a great place to try the local cuisine. The choices of eating establishments are endless from fast-cooked stir-fried snacks from street stalls in the bustling night markets to Michelin starred restaurants. If you want to try a recent Taiwanese speciality, tuck into a bowl of mango shaved ice – invented in Taipei in the 1990s. Don’t miss Din Tai Fung – steamed dumplings - sticky rice sausage fresh from the grill, oyster omelettes, beef noodles or a whole range of vegetarian stir-fries and tofu dishes. The full range of Chinese cuisines are all to be found – Cantonese, Sichuanese, Beijing-style – as well as Japanese food which is considered to be the best outside of Tokyo.
Despite the trappings of modern life, many Taiwanese still hold on to classic Chinese traditions celebrating festivals, worshiping gods and goddesses and warding off plague demons. Taiwan has around 15,000 temples and strong following of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. One of the most popular festivals is the Wang Yeh boat burning festival. The Wang Yeh was once worshipped for their ability to prevent plague and other diseases. Held once every three years, the festival culminates in the burning of a traditional Wang Yeh boat; as it goes up in flames, evil spirits and worshipers’ problems are taken away. Such is its popularity, the ceremony is attended by tens of thousands of people. Other key celebrations include Chinese New Year, the Hungry Ghost Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival.
Places of interest in Taiwan
Home to some 2.6 million people, Taiwan’s capital city is the political, cultural and economic centre of...
The Sun Moon Lake is largest body of fresh water in Taiwan and is classed as a National Scenic Area – and one of...
The flagship feature of the Taroko National Park, the Taroko Gorge is a dramatic 19km gorge made mainly of marble....
The Alishan National Scenic Area is a mountainous region full of high altitude tea plantations, gushing waterfalls...
Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and was the capital during imperial times. It’s currently the fifth largest...
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