Asia

Traveling in Taiwan

written by | Posted on May 1st, 2010

The Wisteria Teahouse is still another must-see in Taipei, particularly for those interested in Taiwanese culture. It’s a traditional teahouse in every sense of the word, not unlike a traditional Japanese teahouse, replete with ceremonial tea preparation, tatami rooms where you sit on cushions under low tables and there’s art work throughout the maze of rooms as well as a pleasant Zen-like garden. The tea is prepared at the table in the traditional way and patrons can select from a variety of confection snacks or order a full meal if they wish. It’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed.

The National Palace Museum in Taipei offers myriad period and art pieces, including priceless pottery, and furniture utilized by royalty and wealthy merchants and landowners in China that reflect not only the artisan’s skills, but the cultural nuances and traditions of the original owners. The exhibits are too numerous to list here, but take our word for it, this is one Taipei attraction that’s a must on the to-do list for your clients when they visit Taiwan.

No visit to Taipei is complete without seeing one of its favorite attractions—Taipei 101 Observatory and Mall. True, this incredible monolith lost its rating as the tallest building in the world to Dubai’s newest tower, but that doesn’t make this gargantuan tower any less impressive. First, before you even get to the floor where you’re able to access the sky-high observatory via high-speed elevator, you go through several floors of shopping venues sporting some of the most luxurious retail names in the world. Once you do get up to the observatory, there are still more opportunities for shopping at souvenir, jewelry and food stands. There’s also a bird’s-eye view of an incredible apparatus that is designed to provide stability to the building in the face of the high winds that are constantly buffeting the building, as well as typhoons and earthquakes.

Later, it’s time for the Night Market, the Asian excuse for a late-night shopping fest, that basically comes in two parts—an indoor area with a variety of game booths, vendors selling toys and other products, but mostly it’s a giant food court with dozens of food stands selling a variety of Taiwanese dishes. They range from sausages, chicken and fish, to an omelet-like dish served thin like a pancake but containing a variety of ingredients including pork, shrimp, vegetables and apparently whatever else they’ve got sitting around.

The other part of the Night Market is outside and consists mainly of walking up a street containing retail outlets that are there and open for business during the day. The difference here is the thousands of people mobbing the streets, with store personnel hawking their wares at the top of their lungs or over loudspeakers, adding to the cacophony and friendly chaos of the event.

sansia & kaohsiung Nearby Sansia—a town which was once an important goods distribution center when inland river transport was the main source of transport—is home to the Zushih Temple, originally built in 1769, and the town’s major tourist and religious attraction. To get there, you cross a bridge lined with hawkers, food stands and a musician playing to the crowds with a number of classic instruments, from a violin type of instrument to various flutes. The temple itself is a gorgeous piece of architecture with a variety of intricate carvings and paintings that adds to its classic Asian look. The temple has actually been rebuilt three times, the first time after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1833; then again after the occupying Japanese army burned it in 1895; and finally, after the island returned to Chinese rule in 1945. The last restoration included the introduction of Western artistic concepts to the temple and the country’s best craftsmen were recruited to rebuild the shrine.

Train enthusiasts will want to take a day and head off from Taipei on Taiwan’s high-speed rail train to Kaohsiung in the south, traveling at speeds up to 186 mph covering the ground from Taipei City to Kaohsiung City in about 90 minutes, compared to 4.5 hours for a train on the conventional western trunk line. Despite the speed, however, it’s a smooth ride with food cart service and comfortable seating. There are only about four stops on the journey and the rail stations on both ends are modern with, again, more than enough English signage for tourists.