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By Guest Blogger Ruth Sheffer

The lure and magic of the East with the comforts of the West – what could be more tempting?

After living in China for a while, the attraction of modern toilets and a clean environment could never be overstated. So with this in mind we hopped on a ferry boat to the island of Jinmen. From there we boarded a small domestic flight and soon found ourselves in the heart of the capital city,Taipei.

How can I describe Taipei – bustling, cultured, fascinating, illuminated? All of these are true, but not enough to capture the charm of the city.

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Taipei – blending East and West. Photo by Luke Ma

Taipei has a great subway system, cheap and easily navigated even by those who don’t read Chinese characters. It has skyscrapers, the famous Taipei 101  being one of them. It has Asian markets full of cheap knockoff goods, but also exclusive glitzy fashion stores for the fashion conscious, and boasts every style of restaurant imaginable; from the hole in the wall noodle guy to the fancy elegant upscale Seafood place.

Taipei also has a fascinating history with enough museums to prove it, as well as art galleries and exhibitions galore. We were lucky enough to be here during a Hello Kitty exhibition in a building formerly a tobacco factory.

Must-sees in Taipei are The Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Palace (which explains why Taiwan is not China), Taipei 101 building and surrounding shopping area, the temples of the old Wanhua neighbourhood, which in itself deserves a small walk, and the National Museum. Optional extras are the National University area and the Red House area.

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Taipei 101 building. Photo by Francisco Diez

After a great 4 days of non stop action in Tapei we jumped on the fast train for a 90 minute ride heading south to the second largest city in Taiwan- Kaohsiung (pronounced “Gaoshung”).

While not a historic capital like Taiwan, Kaohsiung still has a certain charm to it, and is a good place to relax and unwind after the whirlwind of Taipei before continuing to the southern tip of the island.

It is a very large and sprawling port, but with a pleasant central area where you can walk along the riverbank and enjoy the plentiful Taiwanese snacks on offer.

We were fortunate enough to be here during the visit of the famed Rubber Duck, whose presence could be felt all over the city both in the shape of toys, T shirts and even sweets.

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His presence was felt all over the city. Photo by Ruth Sheffer.

From Kaohsiung we rented a car (very easy to do in Taiwan if you have an International Drivers licence) and drove down the coast to the Southern tip of Taiwan, to Kenting National Park.

The view along the way was not as great as we had expected, but the scenery when we arrived was certainly impressive.

Driving down to the Kenting National Park you can stop off occasionally to admire the view and take some pictures. There is plenty of surfing and other beach sports available in this area.

The sea is beautiful and the pace of life relaxed, and of course there is a wide variety of restaurants from local cuisine to Indian, American and Italian.

We stopped off  for a couple of nights at a place called Nanwan Beach, about 30 minutes drive from Kenting National Park. The beach is lovely and there are several pleasant guest houses and restaurants right on the seafront. We went into Bossa Nova, a Western style restaurant with really cool jazz music and a wonderful owner who fixed us up a place to stay right next door.

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Nanwan Beach. Photo by Ruth Sheffer.

 

One of the most scenic spots around this part of the coast was called Maobitou, which has some amazing rock formations  and cliffs which provide some great sea views, including a place called the Kissing Rocks.

You can fly into Taiwan at Taipei or Kaohsiung, and the whole island definitely deserves a longer visit than we were able to give it- so perhaps we will be lucky enough to return and explore the Eastern side of the island.

Ruth Sheffer is an Ex Brit, now living in Jerusalem, having recently retired from teaching High School English as a Foreign Language.

Her website Piglet’s House documents her travels around Asia and the globe.

    12 Comments

  1. Interested to run through the kissing rocks soon with my young family nearly || soon on coming August.. Already we plaaned a trips to greece || next month, but we should plan the next trip to Taipei. I have heard a lot about the hotel accommodation in a reasonable cost in Taipei..

    • Kissing rock is the perfect day trip for a young family – really good choice of destination, you’ll all have a great time! Very jealous that you’re heading to Greece – it’s one of those bucket list destinations I haven’t yet discovered. Also an amazing spot for a family vacation!

      Safe travels 🙂

  2. I would really love to go to the summit of the Taipei 101 building. I am not sure what my deal is with skyscrapers around the world but one of my goals is to climb to the top of all the leading high-rise buildings around the world. I have been fortunate enough to visit many of the leading skyscrapers in the western hemisphere such as the CN Tower, Willis Tower, Empire State but some of these in Asia are really appealing and honestly where the architecture is taken to the next level to get the real tall scrapers.

    But of course Taiwan is so much more than just a beautiful skyline. There are so many attractive destinations here that make this very appealing and I just hope that I get to experience this sooner rather than later.

    • Taipei 101 would definitely be an amazing one to add to your belt! I’ve got some catching up to do lol I haven’t done any of the skyscrapers you mentioned, but I might start adding them to my bucket list!

      You should plan a stop over on your next trip back to Australia ;)!

    • It’s definitely an underrated destination! Such an amazing country 🙂

  3. Lucy Duck is feeling somewhat insignificant after seeing theTaiwan rubbery deity.

    • He definitely takes centre stage that’s for sure!!

  4. I would love to visit Taiwan soon.I was also thinking about teaching English there.I love to travel Asia its like a second home to see.Ans Taiwan has so much I want to see and do.is it fairly cheap to get around there. Love your pictures and notes of what you did there thanks

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Lee – the fab thing I love about Asia in general is it’s all very cheap to get around – teaching English is a brilliant option for spending a lot of quality time and really immersing yourself into Taiwan.

      Stay in touch and let us know how your trip goes! Happy travels!

  5. We are planning Taiwan as a stop over and I really look forward to seeing the nature and environment. Looks very traditional for such a modern nation.

    • Have a wonderful trip! You’ll love it in Taiwan, really is such a wonderful blend of the authenticity of the East with the comforts of the West 🙂

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