Taiwan Main

taiwan-main

You could go to Taiwan strictly for the food (arguably the world's finest Chinese cuisine) or the cosmopolitan pleasures of Taipei (now a city of more than 6 million), but what may surprise you is what awaits outside the island's major cities - a magnificent canvas of mountainous landscapes, national parks and even white-sand beaches that dazzles hikers and tour bus passengers alike.

From Yangminshan National Park in the north, where trails lead to waterfalls and hot springs, to Kenting National Park at the southern tip of the island, where travel-poster-like tropical beaches and coves line the coast, this an island that lives up to the name first given to it by the Portuguese centuries ago, Formosa - Latin for beautiful.

But it is also a place where the traditions of Chinese culture still run deep. Exotic festivals fill the calendar and lavish temples showcase classical architecture and artwork, most notably in the southern city of Tainan, home to more than 200 temples, including the 17th-century Confucius Temple and Kaiyuan, a Buddhist temple set amid beautifully landscaped grounds scattered with pagodas.

In the end, this is an island where in a day you can go from frenetic city life to rural lowlands where the land is still worked by water buffalo, from the elegance of Taipei's National Palace Museum (with more than 600,000 treasures, the world's largest collection of Chinese art) to Yingke, a small northern town devoted to pottery, from simple tea sets to exquisite replicas of ancient Ming vases - a never-ending celebration of China past and present.