Mountains, hot springs and delicacies
Taiwan, which used to be thought of as nothing more than a subtropical part of China, made in the 1990s an endeavor that changed that image forever: they became a state of real democracy. That fact and the changes that followed in the Taiwanese society baffled the mainland China quite a bit, but the process was already unstoppable: the culture on the island was starting to flourish into a diverse mixture of Chinese, Japanese and Western cultures, as well as preserving the very original indigenous flavor. Taiwan if often overlooked by Western travelers, but it has a generous reward for the ones that find their way to the island.
The festivals and food of both Chinese and Taiwanese cultures, the lush temples, all of that is wonderful but it barely scratches the surface. As one proceeds deeper to the inland the amazement only grows – eight national parks, gorgeous mountains, hot springs and the mysterious offshore islands.
The Taiwan Miracle, which stands for the country's transformation into one of the world's strongest economies in less than 50 years, has also led to an image of overpopulation and pollution, which was somewhat unfortunate for the island's reputation as a tourist destination. On top of that, for decades the mainland had been China insisting on Taiwan being its part, even though the island strove so hard to develop its own unique cultural and political identity so as to be recognized as separate from their “big brother”. Eventually though, Taiwan has succeeded in developing a very modern and fluid culture, which also incorporates even some of the Chinese traditions extinct on the mainland.
And did you know that Taiwanese are among one of the friendliest nations in the world? You're up for one welcoming ride: from hospitality workers to taxi drivers and strangers so eager to help you find the way, or a family letting you in for the night – people around the island will likely surprise you with their generosity. Next best thing about Taiwan is the food: whatever your heart (or stomach) desires is here, be it various local cuisine or any kind of Chinese you could imagine. Getting around should be a piece of cake too, even though you might encounter places with no English every once in a while, an example of which could be the island's timetables, most of which are provided in Chinese only. Compared to the countries of Southeast Asia or China Taiwan is relatively wealthy, although at the same time prices do not bite. And don't forget that almost everyone you meet will be ready to help, so it doesn't matter a whole lot after all whether or not you can read signs in Chinese.