When I reflect on some of the adventures I’ve had, one that will always have a special place in my heart is Taiwan. From its stinky tofu to its bustling night markets, to its volcanic ruggedness and its pristine beaches, Taiwan as a whole will always bring me amazing memories.
Taiwan introduced me to the roadside duck. It was the first place I rode my first scooter. It was home to my first earthquake. And it is home to quite possibly some of the nicest people you will ever meet.
People told me not to travel to Taiwan during Lunar New Year. They told me that Taipei is dead and that everyone leaves to be with their families. They told me that everything shuts down and that, in a nutshell, there’s nothing to do. So when I was planning how I would spend my vacation, I decided that Taiwan during Lunar New Year was the best place. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to those people.
Now I’m going to keep this short because the country in and of itself is only 394 kms long but the experiences you get all around the small island nation are unique in their own way. In Taipei, you have amazing night markets (including snake alley), Taipei 101, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, beer floats (that’s right people, beer and ice cream), stinky tofu, and free Taiwanese rock concerts. Head southeast and you land in Hualien – palm trees, Taroko Gorge, and earthquakes. Make your way to the tip of the country and you’re in surf country. The laid back, reggae vibe is present in the strangest of places. It was here that everyone flocks to during New Years it seems and there are no vacancies anywhere in the town. If you get stranded without a place to stay, like I did, set up shop on the beach – there are lots of people who bring their tents and set up shop there – set up a bonfire and make friends, you’ll never be alone. Eventually you’ll have to make your way back to Taipei to fly back to wherever you came from but first, take a pit stop in Kaohsiung. I wish I had spent more time in Kaohsiung but that didn’t happen but Kaohsiung is the perfect balance of ancient and modern – or so I’ve heard from friends that have lived there.
Taiwan seems to always get overlooked by people looking at traveling the Asia circuit. Some put Japan, Korea, and China on their list, or go the South-Eastern route and put Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia but if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten track and offers a LOT in a small package – Taiwan is top on my list.