When most people make their travel wishlists, Taiwan isn’t usually at the top of it. But our Flightie Allison McWilliam shares five reasons why Taiwan will capture your heart and leave a lasting impression:
Being a travel agent I am a serial traveller; I love to experience every country and culture near and far. Having been to over 55 countries, I always have my next destination in mind or at least a ‘wish list’ of where I’d like to go in the future. I can honestly say Taiwan was not on that list nor had it crossed my mind as a holiday destination, but when the opportunity came up I jumped on it and started my research. The more I read, the more intrigued I was and the more excited I got. I am writing this post to share with you the highlights from one of the most beautiful and unexpectedly fabulous destinations I have been too in a long time. Below is a short summary of the best parts from my 6 days there being hosted by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and Eva Airways.
Taiwan is a Foodie’s Paradise
I am not an adventurous eater by any stretch but I love good food and Taiwan did not disappoint. I was lucky enough to try some of the most famous restaurants in the country and had the pleasure of not having to worry about the menu and ordering. Travelling with a group was great since we ordered a variety of dishes with every meal and got to sample an amazing array of food. The highlights were lunch at Din Tai Fong a famous Dim Sum restaurant. The following day that was upstaged with an amazing 9 course lunch at Formosa Pearl. It is impossible to list everything they used and how beautifully it was presented but the photos speak for themselves. We had dinner at Du Hsiao Yue Taiwanese Noodle Soup house which is a famous venue in Taiwan and was established back in 1895, the soup was incredible and so was everything else that came with it.
In the 6 days we got to sample a bit of everything and see why for the adventurous foodie or just someone like me who loves good food would be in heaven here and have no shortage of options to make every meal a great one.
Sometimes when you think of Asia in general you are not sure what to expect in terms of accommodation. Well let me tell you Taiwan has a fabulous array of hotel options to suit every traveller. On this trip we stayed at the best of the best to verify that even my most high maintenance clients (one of whom also happens to be my husband) would have a perfect night’s sleep. Our first stop was the Regent Hotel in Taipei for 2 nights and when the first thing you notice is a heated toilet seat and the paparazzi outside waiting for Scarlett Johansen you know you have arrived. It was a gorgeous hotel with the perfect blend of east meets west.
In Tainan the second largest city in Taiwan we had the joy of staying at Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel. Up on the 53rd floor the view from my bed in the morning overlooked the entire city and the hotel itself was beautifully appointed. Another treat was the rooftop pool which was open late and we were able to enjoy after a long day of sightseeing. The final hotel I would like to touch on is back in Taipei, The Amba Hotel. I would say this is more of a hip, fun, boutique property in the Ximending Pedestrian Area. It was a great base to walk around and explore the heart of Taipei on foot. Each property had its own unique features but even the pickiest traveller to those on a budget would be able to find a great place for a good night’s rest.
Sun Moon Lake
This destination in Taiwan needed a paragraph of its own. If you love the outdoors, beautiful scenery, biking, hiking, boat rides or cable cars with stunning views, then this is the place for you. With only 24 hours in this beautiful area we were able to see the best of what attracts 6 million visitors each year and is included in the 8 wonders of Taiwan. The whole lake has a great pathway system so we were able to walk to the cable cars and bike along the lake at sunset. The cable cars up over the mountain gave us a bird’s eye view of the entire area and are not for those afraid of heights, they had open windows and lots of glass which made for excellent viewing. I took a boat tour around the lake and it stopped on the other side so we could hike up and see a temple. We also had the joy of staying at the Sun Moon Lake hotel with more breathtaking views to wake up with. One night was not enough and this resort area should be on every traveller’s itinerary.
East Meets West
I was not sure what to expect when we first landed, was this going to be dirty and unsafe like some other Asian countries or was it going to be super modern and advanced like others. I found Taiwan to be entirely its own place with a strong sense of history as we were able to experience with visits to The Longshan Temple, The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, The Wenwu Temple and a performance by the Ten Drum Art Percussion Group. Those were some of the historic highlights that we had the allowed us to see into the past, looking into the future we were equally as enchanted with Taiwan.
On our first day was a visit to Taipei 101 which used to be the world’s tallest building from 2004 until 2010 when the Burj in Dubai took over. It also holds the record for the fastest elevator in the world going up to 60 km’s/hr and getting you up to the 87th floor in only 37 seconds, yes it was crazy and ouch my ears! That was just getting us started on technology and speed, Taiwan has a really efficient high speed rail system that allowed us to travel at speeds of 256 km’s/hr and get around the whole country quickly and efficiently. As you can see we had a great variety of new and old and I was so impressed with how clean, safe efficient and modern of a place it was. Not once did I feel unsafe or uncertain about my surroundings.
A growing trend in North America I had seen the shops popping up all over Calgary but I had yet to try the craze. Well it turns out that bubble tea or also known as Pearl Milk Tea was originally invented in Taiwan in the 1980s and we were lucky enough to visit its birthplace for a lesson. I now proudly have a bubble tea making certificate from Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House and know what all the fuss is about. The oldest known bubble tea consisted of a mixture of hot Taiwanese black tea, small tapioca pearls, condensed milk, and syrup or honey and that was the recipe we used. It was quite simple to make and now the shops popping up seem to mix in all sorts of other variants like fruit, soy milk, alternate tea’s and jelly cubes to offer a variety of flavors and mix things up.
As you can see from my short list Taiwan has something for everyone and offered me a totally unique holiday experience where I just wish I could have had more time. I believe that if you have 3 days or 10 there is something for every traveller on every budget for Taiwan to capture a small part of your heart and leave a lasting impression.