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Once it was famed for centuries old as Formosa in the old tongue of Portuguese, which was also known as a beautiful isle, Taiwan has indeed lived up to its name even til these days. Boasting its spectacular landscape, Taiwan prospers hugely due to the nature in all its glory that stretches far across this continent. Majestic mountains with peaks stood tall above 3, 000 meters, lushes of greeneries carpeting the foothills, towering sea cliffs and awe-inspiring beauty of its marble-walled gorges are just a glimpse of what Taiwan’s natural splendour has to offer. Taiwan is situated off the coast in the West Pacific between Japan and Philippines with its jurisdiction expands until the archipelagos of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu as well as numerous other islets. Hence, making the total area of Taiwan and its outlying islands to be around 36, 197 square kilometres, the similar size of the Netherlands. Having said so, this roughly sweet-potato-shaped island is home to a nation of more than 23 million people! This is even more populous as compared to the three-quarter of the world’s nation.
Thriving alongside the scenic landscape of Taiwan is its gems of histories, legacies and spirited traditions that makes the cream of its sophistication. Dated far back as the history could remember, partial of southern Taiwan was the first to be colonised by the Dutch while the northern part by the Spanish in the early 17th century. This gives rise to its name of Formosa. Taiwan has been populated by non-Han Chinese aboriginal tribes before the arrival of Han Chinese immigrants brought by the onset of European trade. They were brought into Taiwan in significant crowds after the Ming loyalist defeated the Dutch garrisons in 1662 and set up as a rump Ming Empire in the hope to topple the Qing Empire of China. It was no long than in the late 1600s, Ming’s grandson surrendered to Qing. Thus, Taiwan was formally integrated into the rest of China as part of Hokkien (Fujian) province. But, it doesn’t last long. In 1885, China was defeated by Japanese in the first Sino-Japanese War which makes the Qing Empire ceded Taiwan to Japan under the terms of Shimonoseki Treaty which also led to the formation of Republic of China (ROC). Japan ruled this island until the end of World War II in 1945. Its colonisation brought profound influences to the country’s architecture and development as well as Taiwanese entertainment and pop culture which can still be seen today.
After Japan retreated in WWII, a major bloody civil war erupted between the Nationalists (Kuomintang) and Communists. Their defeat in China’s mainland, brought the ROC Nationalists’ government, armies and thousands of refugees fled to Taiwan. From there onwards, ROC continued exercising effective jurisdiction over the main island of Taiwan and its outlying islands. Thus, both Taiwan and China was separated under the rule of different legitimate governments. Earnest democratisation began with the first direct presidential elections in 1996 which led to the first peaceful power transition between the two political parties in 2000. Despite the complex period of governing, Taiwan has never ceased to be the top in leading rapid economic growth and modernisation which subsequently made it as one of the world’s richest and most modern economies. Therefore, earning it a place as one of the East Asian Tigers. While 95% of the population is claiming to be of Han ancestry and Taiwan been described as predominantly Han Chinese society, the heritage is much more complex as what has been recounted in the above history.
But looking at the brighter side, the successive waves of various subgroups of Chinese immigrants arriving in the 17th century left an immense impact on today’s societies, traditions and customs. The fascinating blend between these made Taiwan to be populated by diverse communities. It is originally populated by indigenous tribes that spoke various Austronesian languages that are closely related to Malay, Tagalog and Indonesian. Today this remaining tribe make up only about 2% of Taiwan with the rest of 98% are Han Chinese which is split further into an original-Taiwan-province person and those who migrated to Taiwan during Ming and Qing Dynasties. Taiwan’s official lingua franca is Mandarin. However taking into account the well-diversified communities here in Taiwan, other dialects are also widely spoken. For instance, Minnan or Hoklo (southern Fujian dialect) are used commonly in the south, Hakka descendants and indigenous tribes have also preserved their languages, and some older generations who were subject to Japanese education during colonial era are also able to speak Japanese. Thus, making Taiwan sui generis with its mixture of cultures, languages and heritage. A traveller can rest assured, as English to is part and parcel of their school curriculum.
To Singaporeans who’d love to travel to Taiwan, don’t sweat, as visas are not required for stays not exceeding 30 days. However, you must have valid transportation documents like passport’s validity of at least six months on entry, onward or return flight proof, sufficient expenses to cover throughout your trip and documents showing proof of purpose of the trip. If you ever wish to exceed your stay more than 30 days, a visa is required and must be obtained even before arrival. You can apply for a visa at the Republic of China (ROC) embassy in Singapore called Taipei Representative Office located at Alexandra Road in PSA Building.
Well push that serious note aside, let us discover more about the Taiwanese specialities! Yes, a topic that will make a gastronomist delighted. Overwhelmed by the wide range of choices, Taiwan is sure the best place for foodies to enjoy. Every town in this country has its specialities. Generally speaking, Taipei is always famous for its beef noodles, hot pots, dumplings, buns and pancakes. You’ll also get to taste the best of Japanese cuisines outside of Japan itself here in Taipei, alongside other Western restaurants. Moving towards Eastern Taiwan, authentic barbecued boar, sticky rice in bamboo tubes and millet wine is exquisite. Other mouth-watering dishes are an oyster omelette, Aiyu jelly, Taiwan sausages, oyster croquettes and many more.
Furthermore, Taiwanese passion for desserts made it as one of the most remarkable bakeries for both local and Western desserts and pastries. The list of desserts in Taiwan is just infinity. From a sticky, sweet, flavorful street dessert called mochi to the simply sweet golden pineapple filling of Pineapple cake (Feng Li Su), all are just sumptuous to be eaten immediately or to be taken home as souvenirs.
Located in Taoyuan, Taoyuan International Airport is the main international airport in Taiwan. The flight from Changi International Airport in Singapore to Taoyuan International Airport will take about 4 hours and 30 minutes with the flight tickets ranging from SGD 100 to SGD 340. Airlines that goes directly from Singapore to Taiwan are Scoot, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Jetstar Asia and EVA Air. Flights from Singapore to make lands at the second busiest airport, Kaohsiung International Airport, located in southern Taiwan. Hop on to the metro line, Taipei Metro from Taoyuan’s airport to get easy access to Taipei, New Taipei City and Taoyuan. This metro line also offers check-in and luggage check at Taipei Main Station. You can also get access to the airport’s public transports, buses and taxis, which are always available around the clock. A few of other domestic airports are Taipei Songshan Airport, Taichung Airport and Tainan airport. Getting around in Taiwan should be easy with the extensive coverage of public transportation like a plane, train, buses, taxis and surprisingly even bicycles.
Taiwan is very much blessed with a diverse range of exquisite and breathtaking beauties where every corner of the island has its unique histories and scenery. This island can be divided into four secret realms for travellers to see, hear, discover and explore — northern of Taiwan where Taipei is located acts as the heart of the nation’s political and cultural embodiment. This town is a mosaic of amazing architectural heritages, nature’s sightseeing, buoyant music and authentic delicacies. You might as well witness yourself the cloud-piercing Taipei 101 Tower in the cosmopolitan town to the quiet and serene countryside. A total time tunnel where the past and the presence coexist. Meanwhile, Central Taiwan is well-known for its mountain ranges and the historical towns scattered across the foothills and beyond. It is the hub filled with historical values and folk art, besides its dazzling beauty of geological landscapes.
Travelling to Eastern Taiwan is yet the very best view that awaits you. With the terrific cliffs plunge into the ocean, sparkling blue waters along the long-stretched beaches and the gentle whispers of sea breeze, are sure to give you the greatest pleasure during your trip to Taiwan. A few of other attractions that you will able to enjoy are marble gorges, ancient hunting trails and prehistorical sites, accompanied by the experience tribal way in its indigenous culture. Each landscape enchants the eye of the beholder accordingly, to the beauty of each season that comes. Lastly, Southern Taiwan is always warm with hospitality to visitors with its splendour of cultures, heritage and scenery.
Jade Mountain which is also known as Mount Jade or Mount Yu, is located in Central Taiwan. It has the highest mountain in Taiwan at 3, 952 meters above sea level. During winter, Yushan is always capped in thick snow which made the peaks shine like bright jades. Thus, it was given such name. This mountain range is also a national park giving a home to various wilderness remains pristine and unperturbed by the modernisation across the island. The Yushan National Park is infamous for its scenic sunrises, sunsets and landscapes. Oh and the most magnificent of all, the sea of clouds where you can view the clouds from the above. Fill in your lungs with clean mountain breeze and embrace the positive charges from the surroundings. Ah, that heavenly experience. You wouldn’t want to miss it!
This fireworks festivals in Yanshui town is not for the faint-hearted. The history goes back in the 19th century when the town was plagued by sickness, and people begged Guandi, the God of War to end the plague. Miraculously, Guandi visited Yanshui, and a huge gathering of townsfolk lighting up firecrackers through every corner of the town, with no alleys was left behind. By the next dawn, the plague was just history. Hence, this festival takes place in every 14th and 15th day of the Lunar New Year. The main spotlight for this event is the beehive fireworks that comprise of large cages filled with bottle rockets that are set off into the crowds like a swarm of angry bees. It’s up to you, to go right up to the cage if you are a dare-devil or enjoy it from a safe distance as many do.
Nestled in the heart of Central Taiwan, Chance Hotel is an ideal spot for you and your loved one to rest after an exhausting day. Strategically located in Taichung, guests can easily access the city’s excitement. A pleasant and comfortable stay for its guest is the hotel’s top-most priority. Hence, they delivery top-notched services and hospitality complemented with a selection of good quality facilities. With prices as cheap as SGD 16.16 to SGD 60.71 per night, this hotel is indeed the base you could ever wish for when you are in Taichung.
If you are in Taipei, stop for the night in Tango Inn. Offering simple and excellent facilities with modern contemporary design will make an unforgettable experience. The convenient location is the best for those who want to experience the city’s life. The rooms prices range from SGD 109 to SGD 154 per night. For travellers who wish for an affordable and hassle-free stay in Taipei, this hotel is definitely worth the try!