Before visiting Taiwan in 2013, veteran travel writer Matt Long knew very little about the country. Once he arrived, he was blown away.
Date: May 17, 2018
By: Matt Long
“There simply is nothing else like it,” he says. “It’s totally unique.”
Founder of LandLopers.com, Matt has visited dozens of countries. What impressed him most about Taiwan was its astounding natural beauty combined with a unique commingling of cultures. Visitors can listen to traditional indigenous music at Tiehua Music Village one day; the next, visit old Dutch forts and step inside Qing Dynasty temples.
From innovative restaurants in Taipei to lush mountain gorges in Hualien and historic architecture in Tainan, the island holds something for every traveler. Only slightly larger than the state of Maryland, Taiwan is easy to traverse, with major sights only a few hours from each other connected by a robust network of high-speed rail, trains and buses.
“If you’re an affirmed urban explorer, Taipei and Tainan can keep you occupied for days with shops, cafes, restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. But if you’re more of an outdoorsy type, the options are truly incredible,” says Matt. “No matter what you decide to do, be sure to slow down and connect with the local culture. Spend some time eating dinner at a night market or pull up a stool for an impromptu lunch. Food is an important part of the travel experience in Taiwan, and one that shouldn’t be an afterthought.”
A gateway to Asia, Taiwan is an ideal stopover destination. Not only is it safe and affordable, but the locals are also exceptionally friendly and hospitable. What’s more, U.S. passport holders can visit without a visa. Drawing on Matt’s experiences, we developed a five-day itinerary featuring Taiwan’s must-see highlights. Though eight to 12 days is the ideal amount of time to experience the country, five days is the perfect addition to any Asia itinerary. Starting in the capital city of Taipei and looping around the coast to Tainan, this trip will introduce you to the best of Taiwan, both contemporary and historic.
Day 1 – Taipei City
Taipei is a strikingly modern and global city. Neon billboards and international stores dominate its streets, and in certain areas you feel like you’re walking through Times Square, Matt recalls. “It’s as advanced a city as exists in the world,” he says. However, reminders of old Taiwan are ever-present. Constantly evolving, the city simultaneously embraces its roots.
Begin your first full day in Taiwan at Longshan Temple. Set against the backdrop of modern skyscrapers, it is a colorful reminder of a bygone era. Built in the mid 18th century by immigrants from China’s Fujian province, today Longshan Temple is a cultural centerpiece of the city. Inside, time seems to stand still. Intricately carved dragons survey passersby from their rooftop stations, incense swirls in and out of quiet rooms, and the faithful bow in prayer. [FULL STORY]