Officially Taiwan is still a part of China, a sort of renegade province, or an unruly child if you will. Unofficially, however, it has long ceased to be part of the motherland. Ever since the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek fled the mainland and established their Republic of China on Taiwan, the island has slowly been drifting further and further away from the mainland. Unification might be a distant dream for the Communist government in Beijing, it isn’t an option for the Taiwanese, who see themselves as a distinct country and nationality, despite treading carefully diplomatically.
The ‘other’ China is a high-tech, capitalist, mountainous island, where traditional Chinese culture still holds strong without ever having been hampered by such pesky notions as Mao’s, Great Leap Forward, which destroyed so much of the mainland’s cultural and traditional heritage. But it is not just Chinese culture, there is also a strong indigenous tradition, and the islands customs are a unique blend of the two.
Surprisingly, given its high population density, Taiwan has a lot of nature to offer. The mountainous interior is sparsely populated and covered in dense forests, ideal for hiking and other outdoor activities. Taiwan is a mix of futuristic cities, and traditional villages, of skyscrapers and high mountains, of four-lane highways and jungle tracks, of modern architecture and age old temples, of Chinese and aboriginals customs.
Try the street food in Taipei, trek through Taroko Gorge, learn about indigenous culture in Taitung, sip tea among the tea plantations of Maokong, or climb a mountain Shei-pa National Park.
Time to hop on that plane and let Taiwan surprise you!
Hints and Tips for Taiwan
- Get a phrasebook, as signs in Chinese can be tricky.
- Most (western) countries don’t need a visa to enter Taiwan.
- Public transport is good and cheap.
- Typhoon season is roughly from June till October