I was writing the highlights of my trip to Taiwan from last month and realised that because we saw too many things in two full days, it would be best if I wrote it as a list. We were invited by by Eva Air, Taiwan Tourism and Jeron Travel. It was my first time to see Taiwan, and I found a lot of pleasant surprises.
Here are the 10 reasons to love Taiwan from a first-timer’s point of view.
I’ve heard it many times before I left, “Ooh, Taiwan. The street food!” And it’s true. It is street food paradise. The night markets are lined with food carts that cook everything from “stinky tofu” to roti to tempura mushrooms. But we also went beyond the market stalls and enjoyed fine restaurants.
On the first night Old Manila Walks‘ Ivan Man Dy had to have his “Stinky Tofu”
One of our best meals was at Have Hot Pot. I don’t have the exact address but it’s near Exit 2 of Shuanglian MRT Station facing Minsheng West Road. Thank goodness my colleague Anton of Our Awesome Planet was taking notes.
We loved the hotpot experience. But I have to say that the most unforgettable detail of this restaurant was its extra-crunchy yet extra-juicy fried chicken. I don’t have a photo of it because I got my hands dirty and bit into the fried chicken right away. My tummy just growled writing that.
Taiwan is so close to the Philippines and yet it has all four seasons! So if you are into chasing the cold, you can go to Taiwan in the winter months. There is always some kind of festival going on no matter what season. While we were there, we got to see the Fulong Sand Sculpting Art Festival. It took about an hour by train to get to Fulong. We were transported to a picturesque town by the beach.
I couldn’t believe the incredible detail that went into these sculptures. The Sand Sculpting festival ended last June 30th. Watch out for next year’s event.
03 Night Markets
04 Quaint old town of Jiufen
I was smitten by Jiufen. We only got to spend about an hour there, but I was hooked by the charm of the place. Jiufen is a popular tourist destination. There are busloads of tourists that visit this place. But despite the popularity with tourists, the place is not that touristy. You can still feel the strong local spirit – in their food, handicrafts, tea shops. You won’t see much gentrification here except for maybe the one 7-11 landmark on the top of the hill. Jiufen was founded in the end of the 19th century when a gold rush transformed the formerly poor village with nine-households (there’s a play of the word “nine” in the name of the town) into a prosperous mining town of 4,000 families. The gold rush reached its peak during the Japanese colonial period in 1895 to 1945 but it declined when the mining stopped. Jiufen became the setting of an award-winning movie A City of Sadness, which revived its popularity as a tourist spot. I’m more attached to it because of Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away.
The picturesque drive to the gold mining towns in Riufang District. Located off the Jinguashi-Shuinandong Highway, Golden Waterfall is fed by rainwater that seeps into the mines and mixes with pyrite and enargite.
The charming tea house that inspired the movie Spirited Away. My hair is screaming Lion King here. This was because we spent the morning under the sun in Fulong beach, then got rained on at the gold mine and here in Jiufen. But nothing could dampen my spirit…
Jiufen is so charming. I watched Spirited Away again when I got home.
More tiled exterior treatments. I asked our guide why. He said it’s for practical reasons. It often rains in Taiwan. The tiles act as some sort of weather-proofing. On the left, an interesting take on window grills.
05 Gold mining
The gold rush during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan played an important role in the development of the towns in Northern Riufang District. Many factories and refineries were built and with that, towns developed to house workers and managers. By the time gold sources were exhausted, the villages were abandoned. It was only until the early 2000’s that the heritage of these old towns were rediscovered and preserved. We spent a couple of hours walking through the Gold Ecological Park in Jinguashi, a pretty mountain area where the old mines were located. The walk up to the Gold museum was lovely. I particularly liked the wooden boardwalk and old railroad tracks. We actually experienced going through the Benshan Fifth Tunnel and had a Miner’s Lunch at a quaint Japanese-period building. I like the concept of an ecological-museum in a park environment. It was a great way to know more about the Japanese colonial period of Taiwan. Yay for heritage conservation.
To see Part Two of 10 Things to Love about Taiwan, click here.