Taiwan – the Other China
Split from mainland China after WWII, Taiwan has steadily become one of the world’s economic powerhouses in the past 50 to 60 years. This tiny island situated just miles away from the Chinese coast has succeeded despite an adverse international environment, economic sanctions and a low population. Taiwan and especially its capital, Taipei, is today one of those places about which everyone thinks that it has travelled back in time from the future. And maybe this is the biggest drive for visitors to come to Taiwan.
Most of the people coming are, of course, businessmen looking for opportunities or taking part in meetings or buying products from Taiwan. Taipei is the only entry gate to the country, as it houses the biggest airport and port. The main landmark of this 7 million megalopolis is Taipei 101. Formerly the tallest building on Earth, between 2004 and 2010, the 508 meters skyscraper guards the island – some say it can be seen even from mainland China, although this is highly unlikely. The tower has an interesting system that makes it resist earthquakes and typhoons that come its way, as well as a spectacular observation deck. The other main attraction of the city (other than the fancy restaurants and shops) is the Chang-Kay Shek Memorial, dedicated to the founder and ruler (for many years) of the island.
Outside Taipei, natural monuments are the most interesting attraction. The Taroko Gorges and Canyon, an amazing maze dug by the Taroko River in the mountains stretches for miles through the homonymous national park. The Mengjia Longshan Temple, an 18th century Buddhist temple built by settlers lies on the outskirts of Taipei, the Chinese Dragons present all over the walls and roof awaiting their visitors. As for marks of the Colonial era, the Fort Zeelandia, built by the Dutch East Indies Company, is one of the most visited sites on the coast.
For the lovers of Asian culture and society, a visit to Taiwan will be a valuable experience. For history-aficionados, Taiwan resembles what China would have been if the Communists were not victorious after WWII. All in all, Taiwan can be packed as a two or three day trip – no need for more. But prepare: open your mind for a new cultural experience!