Several cities in Asia that were once far from the mind of tourists are quickly becoming the newest posh Asian destinations. From Seoul, to Bangkok, to Kuala Lumpur, exotic travel is more popular now than ever. One such city is Taipei, Taiwan. Although it is easy to think of the small island nation of Taiwan as being part of China, the unique Taiwanese heritage is palpable throughout the island, but most prominently in the massive capital of Taipei. This city of over seven million people offers up an incredible amount of cultural and touristic opportunities for a city of its size, and is easily accessible from North America by airplane. If looking for a unique destination in Asia, Taipei is the place to start.
The nation of Taiwan was founded on an island off of the Mainland Chinese coast in 1949 by a government fleeing a newly established Communist government. Although the Taiwanese had been living on the island for hundreds of years with a distinct culture, millions of Chinese refugees and government officials relocated to the island. These influences left Taiwan at the intersection of two very colorful ancient cultures. Taipei, as the capital and largest city, contains a concentration of both of these cultures, leaving tourists with plenty to do. After arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, The Taipei Metro train system safely and efficiently whisks visitors into the heart of the city.
Hotels are plentiful in Taipei, with the most famous being the Grand Hotel. Tourists to Taipei have been staying in this fabulously decorated Taiwanese hotel for decades. Even if looking to spend less money, there are plenty of hotels in Taipei that both give a great cultural experience, as well as provide modern amenities. Yonghe Doujiang is a local chain that is open 24 hours a day and serves traditional northern Chinese breakfast. Fuhang Doujiang is also a popular eatery in Taipei that serves snacks from China. Be sure to be open minded when trying Taiwanese and Chinese specialties, as they are vastly different from any North American foods.
The Longshan Temple was built in 1738 in the traditional style and is a favorite of tourists to Taipei. The colorful dragons and lush tropical wildlife create a scene closer to that of Southern Japan than of Mainland China. Da’an Park in central Taipei is dotted with palm trees and lush azalea bushes and is one of the most romantic and traditional spots in Taipei. In fact, for a taste of culture, arrive early in the morning to watch many older citizens complete their daily tai-chi physical activities.
Other main attractions include the Zhisan Garden and National Palace, the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, as well as the posh Ximending shopping district. For a vertical view of the city, head to the top of the Taipei 101 Building which stands at over 1,400 feet tall. As there are literally hundreds of other attractions in Taipei, be sure to do some research here.