Taiwan and China
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Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market


Ilha Formosa = Beautiful Island. This is what a group of Portuguese sailors, said to have been the first Westerners to lay eyes on the island, uttered upon seeing Taiwan for the first time.


Taiwan is a beautiful island in Asia featuring amazing landscapes with oversized sea cliffs and forested mountains, large diversity of museums, rich local culture filled with Taoist and Buddhist temples and a wide variety of mouth-watering local delicacies.


Taiwan's total land area is only about 36,000 square kilometers (14,400 square miles) with a population of 23 million. It lies off the south-eastern coast of mainland Asia - about 161 kilometers (100 miles) away from the southeast part of mainland China, about 483 kilometres (300 miles) north of the Philippine island of Luzon and 370 miles southwest of Japan's Okinawa. It is 99 miles (160 km) wide at its narrowest point and 242 miles (140 km) in length


Taiwan lies on the western edge of the Pacific "rim of fire," and continuous tectonic movements have created majestic peaks, rolling hills and plains, basins, coastlines, and other natural wonders. It’s tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate climates provide clear differentiation between the different seasons. There are about 18,400 species of wildlife on the island, with more than 20% being rare or endangered species. Among these are the land-locked salmon, Taiwan mountain goat, Formosan rock monkey, Formosan black bear, blue magpie, Mikado pheasant, Xueshan grass lizard, and many more.


The government has established 8 national parks and 13 national scenic areas to preserve Taiwan's best natural ecological environment and cultural sites. Take a hike in the splendor and sheer heights of the cliffs at Taroko Gorge; take a ride on the Ali Mountain (Alishan) Forest Railway and experience the breath-taking sunrise and sea of clouds; hike up to the summit of Northeast Asia's highest peak, Yu Mountain (Yushan) . You can also soak up the sun in Kending (Kenting) , Asia's version of Hawaii; stand at the edge of Sun Moon Lake; traipse through the East Rift Valley; or visit the offshore islands of Kinmen and Penghu. It's an awesome journey of natural discovery!


Weather -28C to 30C mostly cloudy / scattered storms (heavy rain when we were in Keelung area & Toroko)


Mandarin / Taiwanese / Hakka / Indigenous Languages


Buddhism / Taoism / Christianity / Islam


The Taiwan dollar is displayed as NT$ (1 GBP = 46 NT$) Taiwan uses the local currency exclusively.


The favoured mode of transport is quite clearly the motor-scooter. There are thousands of them, and they all look similar. It’s a sight to see them all accelerate as the traffic lights turn green. You see rows of them parked along the roadside.

Night Markets
Night markets play an important role in Taiwanese culture. One may find lively night markets across every city in Taiwan for a wide array of food stalls, sidewalk vendors, as well as small canteens displaying the splendid social culture of Taiwan at nightfall. Night markets are in different scales with each owning its specials and styles, and some are only available in partial days.



The temples are decorated in bright colours with landscapes, dragons, calligraphy and lanterns. The roofs are ablaze with vividly coloured glazed tiles and animal carvings. Worshippers give offerings and buy spiritual money that they burn in a kiln-like fire opposite the temple in in the hope of happiness, prosperity and long life. Specific individual requests are written on post-it notes and placed, for a fee, on rows of cones – the higher the note the greater the chance of success (and the higher the fee). Many Chinese come to see the Temples as part of the heritage they feel they have lost.



Taipei City, the capital of Taiwan, is the centre of Taiwanese commerce and culture. It is a modern city with newly planned business districts and impressive achievements, such as the construction of Taipei 101, the tallest building in Asia; Taipei World Trade Centre, the exhibition halls, and Eslite Xinyi Bookstore, a twenty four hour book palace. In addition, this city offers a wide range of entertainments, such as shopping malls, night markets, night clubs, and exotic restaurants.


There is a massive construction taking place to build a new motorway that will run directly from the city centre to the airport.



Tipping is not customary in restaurants or taxis (but is still appreciated). However, sometimes a 10% service charge is added to the bill (not sure if this is shared shared with the staff, or not).




The Taiwanese are more polite, sophisticated and advanced than the Chinese

They are more courteous on road crossings

Drivers obey the yellow boxes on junctions whereas the Chinese ignore crossroads creating blockages during rush hours.

There are lots of identical scooters, not many bikes and no cycle lanes in Tapei

Excellent MRT – the trains have faster acceleration (the progress bar of stations is better on the Chinese MRT)

7 Eleven stores – there is one for every 20K of population (also Family Mart)

Lots of Japanese restaurants, - excellent food and value

People are free from the Communist ‘Big brother’ ie more democracy and freedom on internet and in newspapers

The Taipei 101 lift is extremely fast and smooth - it goes up 90 floors in 37 seconds

There is some exceptionally beautiful scenery but not many tourist attractions for old buildings, (Lukang Historic Area is not as charming as Beijing’s Hutong area).

Lots of English signage (with incorrect grammar) although not many museums have translations (except the National Palace Museum)

Plenty of clean toilets at all public places.

They are undergoing a change with much of their manufacturing moving to China


My Top places to visit:

Taroko Gorge

Sun Moon Lake

North Coast – Yehliu, Jiufen, Gold Ecological Park, Nanya Rock Formations

Taipei - National Palace Museum, Miniatures Museum


Alishan (when it has been restored following the typhoon damage)