Cycling the East Coast
Cycling fever has taken over the island, and the unspoiled and sparsely populated east coast has emerged as the top destination for multiday trips. Like the sea? Then ride Highway 11, with its stunning coastline, beaches, fishing harbours and funky art villages. Love the mountains? Try the Rift Valley, bounded on each side by lush green ranges. On both routes there are enough roadside cafes, campgrounds, homestays and hot springs to ensure your cycling trip won’t be an exercise in logistics.
There are 15,000 official temples in Taiwan, three times as many as there were 30 years ago. Still the focus of local culture, temples play the role of community centre as much as house of worship. Both Tainan and Lukang boast a wealth of old buildings, from understated Confucius temples to Matsu temples rich in examples of southern folk decorative arts. But if you can only visit one temple in Taiwan, head to Bao’an Temple in Taipei, a showcase of traditional design, rites and festivities.
National Palace Museum
Taiwan houses the greatest collection of Chinese art in the world. With ancient pottery, bronzes and jade, Ming vases, Song landscape paintings and calligraphy even those who are not art lovers can appreciate, Taipei’s National Palace Museum isn’t merely a must-visit, it’s a must-repeat-visit. Why? Out of the nearly 700,000 pieces in the museum’s collection – spanning every Chinese dynasty – only a tiny fraction is ever on display at the one time.
Taiwan’s top tourist draw is a walk-in Chinese painting. Rising above the froth of the blue-green Liwu River, the marble walls of Taroko Gorge swirl with the colours of a master’s palette. Add grey mist, lush vegetation and waterfalls seemingly tumbling down from heaven, and you have a truly classic landscape. Walk along the Swallow Grotto to see the gorge at its most sublime or brave the Jhuilu Old Trail, a vertigo-inducing path 500m above the canyon floor.
A Stationary Feast: Night Markets
Taiwan’s night markets are as numerous as they are varied. Fulfilling the need for both food and entertainment, the markets bring happy crowds almost every night of the week to gorge on a bewildering array of snacks and dishes. Check out the Miaokou Night Market in Keelung, in many ways the grandaddy of them all, for the quintessential experience of eating and people-watching. The night market snacks in Tainan are copied everywhere, but are still best enjoyed on their home turf.