The Beautiful Isle
I had a nickname at school. It wasn’t all that flattering so I’m not going to tell you what it was! I should add that nobody was being mean, it’s just my name lent itself to some interesting alterations…
I would’ve much preferred to have the nickname Taiwan has – the Beautiful Isle. Whoever decided that Taiwan should be known as this was clearly a fan, but the name has stuck and for those who have visited it’s very obvious why. It’s an island and it’s oh-so-beautiful.
Tree-lined gorges, steep cliffs plunging into the ocean, formidable mountain peaks and enough beautiful temples to fill an Australia-sized island.
My favourite thing about Taiwan is one of the most common greetings: ‘have you eaten?’ How cool is that! I wish people in England greeted each other that way. The answer if you’re in Taiwan would probably invariably be a slightly stuffed yes because the food there is delectable. The food, much like the culture generally, seems to have cherry-picked the best bits from its neighbours in China and Japan while ignoring some of the things they didn’t like. Those who know say Taiwan has the best Japanese food outside of Tokyo and Chinese food as good as anywhere. My mouth started watering when I read about Hakka stir-fries, Taipei beef noodles and aboriginal style boar. Then I read on to discover that night markets are a big deal in Taiwan, so the snacking commences and doesn’t stop all evening. Oyster omelettes, dumplings, shrimp rolls… Excuse me briefly, I’m going to have to order some delivery food!
Ok I’m back.
So, if I could manage to drag myself away from the food I would head straight for the nearest natural hot spring. Is there anything more wholesome-sounding than a natural hot spring? Surely there’s nothing better on this earth to soak in. And that’s coming from a bathing aficionado. I know more than most about relaxing in water.
Taiwan is a place you are going to want to explore if you go so there is a strong argument for staying in a couple of different places and using them as bases from which to enjoy the country.
First stop has to be the capital Taipei, because this is where you’ll find shed loads of those foodie night markets I mentioned as well as a lot of the glorious-looking temples. If you feel like having a particularly unusual experience, head to a baseball game. Locals love the sport as much as Americans (if not more!).
The island is too diverse to leave it at that though. If you’re like me and you’re after a fix of luxury hot springs, head to the all-suite spa sanctuary (what a delightful sounding collection of words!) Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi. It’s right by Tangweigou Hot Springs Park, which makes Hyde Park in London and Central Park in New York sound a little less exciting! The hotel has four of its own natural hot spring pools and the excursions sound ridiculously fun – hot air balloon rides and waterfall climbing!
If I survived the waterfall and the balloon I would have to head to The Old England Manor in Renai Township next, in the hills of Nantou County. As a Brit I enjoy seeing what influence we’ve had across the world, and here in this remote part of little Taiwan is a Tudor-style hotel that could be dropped in central London and nobody would bat an eyelid. I’d recommend not bringing it to London, though, because the rooftop bar has some of the best views on the planet right where it is.
The bell has just ding donged. My dumplings are here so I have to dash.
If you’ve been to Taiwan and have any favourite spots I’d love to hear about them. See you next week!