Blog - Taiwan

Added on Monday, 2014-02-17 09:37 CET in category Traveling
For years and years now my wife and I have had a good friend in Taiwan: Jeremy. Because he lives all the way in Taiwan (not quite the other side of the world, but still…) we had only visited him once, back in 2009. We were way overdue for another trip :)

Republic Of China (ROC, Taiwan)

But first, some history. What exactly is Taiwan? Most people think of it as a country, but most countries don't recognize it as such.

It all started in 1912, with the founding of the Republic Of China, which encompassed current mainland China and the island of Taiwan. All was (sort of) well, until the long-lasting Chinese Civil War effectively split the country in two in the 50s, into the People's Republic Of China (PRC, taking control of mainland China) and the Republic Of China (Taiwan) (ROC, taking control of the island of Taiwan).

Fun fact 1: Taiwanese years, which are used everywhere, start counting from 1912, the year the Republic Of China was founded. So 2014 = 103.

Since then both states officially consider the other a "break-away" province as it were, and officially they both want the other back. Over time more and more countries recognized the PRC as "the" China, leaving the ROC in a bit of a predicament internationally.

Fun fact 2: since this separation, the people in mainland China are the Chinese, while the people in Taiwan are the Taiwanese. Though ethnically, they're pretty much all Han Chinese. Except for the indigenous tribes. Complicated stuff :)

Starting in the 70s Taiwan experienced huge growth and industrialization, mainly through the export of bananas, and later IT (big brands as Asus, Acer and Pegatron are all Taiwanese), making it the 3rd most prosperous country in South-East Asia (after Singapore and Japan).

Seeing Taiwan

When we visited Jeremy in 2009, we mainly visited Taipei, with a short side trip to Jiufen. This time we stayed longer, and managed to see quite a lot of the island. A picture says more than a thousand words, so I'll mainly be focusing on that.


The first town we visited was Wulai, set up around its indigenous tribe:

Beautiful templeTourist train Temple in a rockIndigenous us


In Taipei we visited the National Palace Museum (no taking pictures there…) and a few temples:

National Palace MuseumTemple 1 Temple 2Temple 3

Hualien / Taroko National Park

He wasn't able to come with himself, but Jeremy did book us a beautiful trip to Hualien and its nearby Taroko National Park.

Taroko highwayTaroko Gorge Taroko chimesPacific ocean

New Year's

Although we first and foremost came to visit Jeremy, we also planned our trip around the end of January, so we could partake in celebrating the Chinese (lunar) New Year. This involved lots of (unusual/completely unknown/actually rather tasty) food and alcohol, and of course fireworks :) Although it's being touted as "the new year's" (it is now the year of the horse), it has no relation to their actual calendar (be it 2014 or 103, which start January 1st, as usual). It's still lots of fun, of course :)

Monkeys and Foguangshan

The area we stayed had wild monkeys, and a musician :P Later on we visited the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center.

Wild monkeyMusician Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial CenterBig Buddha


Tiger and dragon!

Temple in KaohsiungTiger and Dragon temple


Chiayi Park with its Sun-Shooting Tower, and karaoke! :)

Chiayi TowerLooking down...Karaoke!


Alishan National Scenic Area with a beautiful sunrise, and an actual Vicky the Viking theme park :D

BlossomSunrise :)Vicky the Viking!


The final destination of our trip was Kenting, the southernmost tip of Taiwan, which is perfect for that amazing sun/sea/beach feeling :) Unfortunately, I fell ill with a few different diseases pretty much when we got there, so I missed out on it all :( I guess only the more reason to come back in a few years :)

To go short, we've had an amazing vacation in Taiwan. Thanks to Jeremy, Rebecca and their families for a great warm welcome and an amazing stay!

P.S.: random oddness and coolness

Taiwan being such a completely different country than home, it obviously leads to all kinds of random oddness and coolness :) A few outtakes:
  • Chinese writing is, well, quite unusual :) Some characters look like what they represent, like 火 for fire, or 口 for gate. Others, well, you can't convince me 台灣 actually looks like Taiwan :P

    Besides them being pretty much impossible to read (except for the really basic ones like entrance (入口) or exit (出口)), I noticed there were no spaces, very big full stops (。), and everything, literally everything, is fixed width (variable width English on the left, fixed width Chinese on the right):
    Narrow (western) timeWide (Chinese) time
  • The Taiwanese hardly speak English :(
  • Lots of houses have no hallway, you enter the living room straightaway;
  • There are practically no public trash cans;
  • There is an abundance of scooters and bicycles, though :)
  • If you ask for a glass of water, it'll be warm;
  • Local food was great! We tried melon bread, rice burger, tofu, beef noodles, longan candy, amazing soft-serve ice cream at 7 Eleven, McDonald's (only their local Chinese menu), and lots of food we can't really properly describe :P
(See also the Russian versions.)