A gem in the China Seas, Taiwan embodies a unique entangling of
ancient and modern, East and West.
From the bustling commercial centre of the capital city, Taipei, to
the cascading volcanic mountains of Yushan National Park, Taiwan offers the world
traveller an unmatched experience. It is no coincidence that Portuguese explorers named
this island 'Ilha Formosa', or the beautiful island.
Officially known as the Republic of China (R.O.C.), Taiwan should
not be confused with the People's Republic of China, which refers to mainland China.
Within the past 200 years the island has been ruled by the Dutch,
become part of Japan, has been 'returned' to China and is currently striving to become an
internationally recognised sovereign nation.
Taiwan's tumultuous and fascinating history of the Aboriginal,
Taiwanese and Chinese people is revealed through the many cultural festivals held
throughout the year.
Travel to the island in February for the Taiwan Lantern Festival or in
June to watch the world-famous Dragon Boat Races during the Dragon Boat Festival.
One of Taiwan's most prominent cultural symbols is Taipei 101, the world's
tallest building, measuring 508 meters and 101 floors. Finished in 2003, the tower
signifies Taiwan's substantial economic growth from the periphery of the global economy to
become one of the four Asian Tigers, as well as the government's dedication to a
democratic society separate from that of China.
the oldest and fourth largest city on the island, offers a more authentic and less
commercialised window into Taiwanese culture.
Temples and Memorial Arches define this city where the Ching Dynasty
once prayed to the God of War.
Exploration of the thriving urban centres is only one of many ways
to get in touch with Taiwan.
The rugged topography of Taiwan is adorned with magnificent peaks,
lush valleys and dramatic waterfalls.
Yushan National Park is home
to the island's tallest peak, Jade Mountain, which towers at 2,610 meters. Hike to the
summit and take the more technical route down or simply enjoy the breathtaking view from
the Tatachia Visitor Center, accessible directly from the new Central Cross-Island
From Jade Mountain, descend deep into Taroko Gorge on Taiwan's rocky
and secluded east coast. This 12-mile-long canyon is home to the natural open-air Wenshan
hot springs and the Atayal people, one of Taiwan's remaining aboriginal tribes.
The rocky cliffs at the canyon's end are a starting point for those
who wish to travel farther into Taiwan's history. The surrounding Pacific Ocean is
sprinkled with beautiful green islands that have unique native histories and are mostly
accessible by plane or ferry.
Most of the pristine and dramatic destinations are protected by
Taiwan's National Park Department, which offers an array of lodging and guiding services
and has proven to be a well-organised resource for the outdoor sightseer.
From the island's tallest building to its tallest peak, Taiwan has
something exceptional to offer every kind traveller. Travel Taiwan's thriving society and
come face-to-face with an Asian Tiger.
By Frank Johnson.
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