Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Taiwan: Island of wonders

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Taiwan rarely makes it into most travelers' Asian bucket list, which is a shame. The country is small, a little larger than Maryland, but filled with amazing sights, natural and man-made.

In Taipei, the capital city, you'll find one of the world's finest museums with arguably the world's best collection of Chinese creativity. The National Palace Museum houses the best of China's cultural heritage which was rescued from invading Japanese by Chiang Kai-shek in 1931 and eventually transferred to Taiwan in 1948-49.

Also one of the finest bookstores, Eslite, five stories of literature that's open 24 hours a day.

Tip: Travelers from the U. S. and a number of other countries who find themselves at the Taipei airport with at least seven hours to spare between connections can take advantage of a free, visa exempt tour. Depending on the time, it might hit city highlights, nearby villages or night markets.

Gourmets will want to try the world famous dumplings turned out in steamy profusion at Din Tai Fung.

Tip: Levelers, this restaurant is four floors of invariably full tables and booths. Stairs are narrow and there is no elevator, but make the effort if you can. The steamed crabmeat and pork dumplings are to die for. Don't be deterred by the crowd standing around in front of this hole-in-the-wall; most are waiting for take-out orders.

Night markets, the CKS Memorial Hall, temples adorned with brightly-colored Chiao-Chi pottery figures and wonderful wood and stone carvings are just a few of the city's other delights you don't want to miss.

Taiwan is a mountainous country and Taroko Gorge is one of the most mountainous spots (up to 9,000 feet with 27 of the country's 100 tallest peaks) but that's no excuse for Levelers' missing it.

The scenery is phenomenal at Taiwan's Grand Canyon and its surrounding mountains. Marble lined and tree-filled with more twists than an Ocean's movie plot, Taroko will take your breath away.

A 30-minute flight from Taipei to Hualien then an unforgettable 20-minute drive along the sea-hugging Chingsui Cliff will get you there.

Tip: You can drive or take a motorized tour to many of the high-spots, the best of which is the Tunnel of Nine Turns. This engineering marvel will take you via a relatively flat, paved surface that winds through tunnels and along cliffs for a bird's-eye view of the gorgeous gorge carved over the centuries by the Liwu River. Don't miss it.
Click here for a full-length feature on Taroko Gorge and Taiwan

National Palace Museum
Sun Moon Lake
Taiwan Aboriginal Cultural Park
Taiwan Fine Arts Museum
National Theater

Taroko Gorge


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