Yet to find its place among the popular destinations frequented by India outbound, the Western Pacific island of Taiwan has many unique attractions ranging from a vibrant culture to natural beauty. It is in fact an Asian destination that could be of much interest to Indian travellers, in particular families, the MICE sector and honeymooners. Not many know that the official name of Taiwan is the Republic of China (ROC). There are six big cities in Taiwan and it has a population of 23.4 million. With an area of 36,000 sq km, it has one of the highest population densities in the world.
The varied topography of Taiwan and its natural beauty led the Portuguese to call it Formosa, which means ‘beautiful island’. Among the many beautiful beaches that attract both local and international travellers is the White Sand Beach in Kenting Peninsula, which is popular for water sports and other activities. The area has many high end resorts, beach hotels and B&B accommodation options for travellers of all categories, mostly coming from Hong Kong and Mainland China. The destination is now focusing on the Middle East market also, and the Moroccan themed luxurious boutique property, Amanda Hotel, is an interesting stay option with excellent restaurants. The Kenting night market is a big draw for visitors who want to enjoy street food and do some bargain shopping.
For tourists the most popular event in Kenting is Spring Scream, the outdoor rock festival held in the month of April every year. The festival attracts performers from across Taiwan and overseas. The Kenting National Park (in Hengchun Peninsula) has walking trails and nature resorts, and promotes eco tourism. The commonly sighted fauna comprises birds, reptiles and Formosan macaques.
The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium near Kenting is one of the largest and interesting displays of marine life in this part of the world. It is a perfect place to spend a whole day, going through the many galleries like the Coral Kingdom Pavilion, Waters of Taiwan, and Waters of the World. The Coral Kingdom has both hard and soft corals. The latter grow about a centimetre and the biggest alive coral is called the Biological Castle. The Undersea Tunnel is vast and has three segments, sting rays and sharks being the popular exhibits. One of the highlights is the recreated Sunken Ship, with shoals of colourful fish and various marine organisms. At the Marine Mammal Gallery, it is a visual treat to see beautiful white beluga whales swimming in the water. There are many interactive exhibits and visitors can listen to ocean sounds, eco location, acoustic signature of dolphins, and also their different sounds (infants, courtship, flapping and when threatened). Among the largest displays in Waters of the World is the kelp forest (brought from the US), and provides extensive information about this particular ecosystem around the world. The show of the Jurassic ocean at the 3D theatre is both educative as well as informative, and is a particular favourite with school children.
Tale of two cities
The vibrant city Kaohsiung is among the must-visit places in Taiwan. One of the iconic landmarks of Kaohsiung city is the towering Sky Tower Hotel, which is the tallest building in the country after Taipei 101. The property offers stunning views of the harbour with ships and boats dotting the horizon. The lobby of the hotel is on the 39th floor, while the View Deck (observation deck) is located on the 74th floor. With 592 rooms, it is a perfect MICE hotel, that would be of much interest to Indian corporates.
Of particular interest to Indian visitors would be the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Centre in Kaohsiung city. This is the headquarters of one of the four major Buddhist organisations in Taiwan. The highlight is the gigantic statue of Buddha and the fact that the centre houses one of Buddha’s tooth relics (brought from India). The whole complex with its museum, the impressive architecture, along with the philosophy and the way of life that it advocates, is a truly global destination for visitors who want to explore beyond the routine touristy places.
A short distance from Kaohsiung city is Tainan, the historic capital of Taiwan. Also, famous as the oldest city in the country, the architecture and environment is marked by a sense of history. The heritage city is home to many temples. The most famous is undoubtedly the Taiwan Confucius Temple, also called the Scholarly Temple. Established in 1665, it is legendary as the country’s first institute of learning.
Getaway for families
At Janfusun Fancyworld theme park, children and those young at heart can spend a fun-filled day enjoying the many attractions. The Sky Plaza has 27 world-class entertainment facilities including the longest roller in Asia. Among the new displays is the museum of Taiwanese gods, where children through visually vibrant and interactive exhibits get to know about the dieties and their special powers. The Coffee & Tea Museum, Vicky the Viking Theme Park, Horrorwood Haunted Theater and Kiddy Land are the key zones. Along with amusement facilities, there are many shops and interesting F&B outlets.
Another perfect getaway for families is the Alishan National Scenic Area. The one and a half hours train ride on the Alishan Mountain Railway passes through scenic vistas, across beautiful valleys and mountains with ever changing vegetation. Visitors have to take the train from Peimen station, which was built in 1912. The train ride terminates at Fenchihu. The railway, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012, was built during Japanese occupation of Taiwan.
There are two old areas in Fenchihu. The old street near the station is lined with souvenir shops and stores selling local sweets. The area is famous for growing wasabi, so a lot of eatables on sale in the market, like nuts, crackers, etc, are wasabi flavoured. Its other famous produce is tea. The drive to tea plantations passes through tea gardens that reminds one of similar vistas in India. A visit to Cheng Le Farm is an educative experience on Taiwan’s tea industry. It is also a good opportunity to do some tea shopping.
The Long Yum Leisure Farm is a unique stay option in the region, with rooms facing the valleys and many activities. The farm is run by a local family who took great effort to cook Indian meals, including delectable vegetarian food. All visitors to the area take a trip at the break of dawn to watch sunrise at Crag Top.
The drive from Alishan mountains to the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area passes through plantations growing banana, dragon fruit, guava, etc. The lake, which is one of the important tourist landmarks in Taiwan, has many high-end properties. It is a popular MICE and wedding destination. The nearby Wen Wu Temple is a huge complex with many temples.
For all visitors to Taiwan’s capital, the must visit is Taipei 101, which is the country’s most iconic symbol. The 101 storey tower was once the world’s tallest building and offers spectacular views of the city from its observation deck. The CKS Memorial Hall and the Yehliu Geopark are the other tourism highlights of the city. The many shopping outlets and a vibrant restaurant scenario are the other key attractions for the India market.