As most of Taiwan’s natural architecture is composed of mountains and forests, it will come as no surprise that for the true nature lovers amongst us, there is an abundance of choice for hitting the outdoors: whether it is hiking, rafting, kajacking or mountain biking, one is sure to find plenty of these in Taiwan’s many natural parks. If you have enough time to spend, try and catch the super fast bullet train to Taiwan’s lesser visited south. Taiwan’s oldest city, Tainan, is completely different from its larger northern counter part. It is a popular weekend away for stressed out Hong Kong inhabitants and is famous for its many art alleys and laid-back atmosphere. If you thought Taipei is laid-back, Tainan will surely surpass this.
This city is perefct for getting lost in its many beautifully restored old style Chinese alleys filled with more than one curiosity shop, like the Shennong Street. During the day, this street is nothing special, a sleepy residential area yet at night it transforms into a little festive place with lanterns galore, buzzing with life: magical! Another special treat is the area just across the Confucius Temple: a lively neighborhood full of outdoor foodstalls, galleries, speciality shops and much more. For history lovers, there are quite a few reminiscants of the Dutch old VOC-colonial-past: one can still visit the old Dutch fort and some of the old merchant houses in the Anping area. Don’t forget to spot the bizarre Tree House!
As for accommodation, you simply have to book a room via the cute dearbnb.com, a Taiwanese version of airbnb; simple or luxurious, there are special places for everyone’s taste and budget. Be aware, the site is in Chinese, so you will have to brush up your decoding skills:)
I stayed in the lovely Cafe IsShoNi; IsShoNi means ‘together’ in Japanese and this refers to the bubbly owner Sandy and her husband. Neither of them can really speak English, but they go way ‘ out of their way’ to make you feel at home. If you are lucky, you can meet Sandy’s friendly and above all, English speaking neighbour Cliff, who came to help out everyday of my stay in order to find creative ways as to visit Tainan’s best attractions and where to eat the best specialities, and more imporantly, how to order them! In the end, it truly felt like I was part of IsShoNi!
Perhaps Taiwan is better left a hidden destination, definitely not for the crowds, but if you do venture to the ‘Beautiful Island’ remember that its most precious treasure is its extremely friendly and helpful people. An intriguing mixture of traditional China and the friendliness and quirkiness of Japan, Taiwan will certainly linger in your mind for a long time…….