Formerly known as Formosa(meaning 'Beautiful Island', as named by the Portuguese), the island of Taiwan has undergone tremendous changes since its early aboriginal days over the past few centuries.
From the Han Chinese to the Dutch, Japanese and back to communism of China, the country has seen its transformation and its continuous struggle with the sovereignty claims over China as a whole country under the ROC (Republic of China), denied by the PRC (People Republic of China) who staked themselves as the rightful owner of China and Taiwan to fall under its name as the 23rd province.
Relatively a new country with only a few centuries of history under her belt, Taiwan has risen from its tumultuous past and has today emerged as one of the strongest countries in both Asia and the world, ranking at 19th internationally.
One of the Four Tigers of Asia, Taiwan has proven her competency's worth with the rapid economy growth in the country, focusing on industrialization to mark its strong and consistent rise in its yearly GDP.
Home to more than 23 million people, Taiwan is today one of the world's rising countries and has attracted visitors and immigrants from all over the world to the country for study, work and leisure. Many have chosen to reside in Taipei, the capital of the country and a global city with world-class infrastructure boasting of more than half of Taiwan's entire population with its count of approximately 17 million residents.
With such statistics, Taipei is no doubt the soul of Taiwan with its dense population and incoming tourism adds more to the crowds on an annual basis. It is not surprising that the metropolitan city, situated at the northern part of the country (hence the name Taipei - which means Northern Taiwan) is the ideal spot for a taste of Taiwan's culture as the city's large population and its status as the capital of Taiwan along with it being the home to the country's main international airport, Taoyuan International Airport, are all the reasons where the crowds are gathered.
Taiwan, though an island, is famed for her natural beauty and sceneries, besides the economy and political sector and is one of the favorite travel destinations in the world. The country's natural geographical location provided a perfect setting for the mountainous valleys, hot springs, inactive volcanic formations with sulphurous deposits in its various national parks which had visitors awe-struck with its wonders. The sub tropical climate in the region also spawned an amazing variety of trees, plants and flowers, and is just perfect for travel and settlement with its comfortable temperature all year long.
Filled with the many attractions on Taiwan's list, there is no doubt visitors all around the world flock to Taiwan to experience the beautiful nature and surroundings the country has to offer. A short stay will not suffice to enjoy all that the country has to offer, and it is best to plan with a focus destination in mind and with additional time to spare, it would allow one more luxury to get to know the country better by exploring the other regions.
I would recommend Taipei as one of the first destination, as the city, mentioned above is the center where most of happenings take place besides it being the nucleus of Taiwan's economy, politics and culture. The dense population in this metropolitan city which covers the areas of Taipei city, New Taipei and Keelung (typically Taipei would refer to the overall area of the trio while Taipei city refers to the city itself) says something about the city where most of the Taiwanese are gathered.
Taipei provided much insight into the identity of Taiwan, with its myriad of offerings; from the preservation of its past in the historic streets/places such as Bo Pi Liao Street, Longshan Temple, to a glimpse of the national monuments and treasures at National Palace Museum, and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and to the best of nature's wonders at its national park, Yangmingshan and the amazing Geothermal Valley of Beitou and the natural hot springs at Beitou and Wulai.
Enjoy a stroll down the Tamsui's Old Street and Waterfront, and take in the sunset at the Fisherman's Wharf, then head on to the night markets (which are just everywhere); namely the famous Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, just to name a few and stuff yourself with the street food just like a local Taiwanese would while taking in the colorful culture and night life in the city.
Take a glimpse or blend in with the busy crowds on the streets of Taipei's premier shopping and lifestyle center in the Xinyi District, where the chic and upscale fashion brands are based stalked by the city's stylish congregation. The city buzzes with life throughout the day, and lights up beautifully at night; both of which can be seen with an aerial view from its tallest establishment, Taipei 101; once named the tallest building in the world. The building towers over the city, and while it has been displaced from its position in the world, Taipei 101 is still Taiwan's tallest building and a proud landmark of the country's accomplishments in engineering.
The Taiwanese are not all self-absorbed in their own culture, as shown by the younger and trendy generation with their reception or adoption of cultures from the other parts of the world. Take a stroll in the hip and happening streets in Ximending and enjoy the blend of the local culture and those from other countries with the crowd in the area which depicts the open mindset of the young towards the world out there. Ximending is not all modern, and one can see the reminder of the past with the Red House Theater standing right in the middle of the stylish district frequented by the young Taiwanese.
While I could not really pick my favorite destination from the list in the city, I must also mention that one should not leave without making a quick detour out of Taipei to the Nantou County to witness the inspiring beauty of the ever famous Sun Moon Lake, defined by the many interesting stories around the lake and its aboriginal origins.
(The aboriginal tribes of Taiwan have formed the past and remains till today, very much a part of Taiwan's culture. In fact, the aboriginal culture has only lent more towards the making of a colorful potpourri of Taiwan's identity today and outlined the features of its many attractions around the country).
The Taiwanese has much to boast of, with its many natural scenic wonders and vogue city lifestyle, there is just no end to the list of gems Taiwan has on her turf.
The Taiwanese are generally known to be friendly people, and I have heard of their reputation since my childhood from elder relatives who have visited the country and it is indeed admirable that this notion has not left the minds of the authorities as they continue to educate their next generation on the importance of values and proper ethics to form a breed of cultured society. It is something that many nations have to focus on, and I am sure the Taiwanese would be able to maintain their status as a friendly nation with continuous efforts and their strong religious roots for many more generations to come.
I have left the country with many memories; and the images of the beautiful landscape and urban lifestyle has been etched into my mind. Though I had only spent most of my time in Taipei, I had enjoyed an enriching experience with the many sights and amazing wonders from what the capital has to offer, and Taipei has indeed been a wonderful insight into the overall culture which formed Taiwan.
It may have only been Taipei that I have visited, but this Window to Taiwan has carved in me memories of a lifetime, and urging me to plan for my next visit to the country, to explore the rest of what Taiwan has to offer on its outskirts and away from Taipei.
P.S: If you will excuse me, I definitely has some research and travel planning for my next visit to Taiwan... :-)