Taiwan may have only six port cities on its map but it has everything from beautiful sunset beaches to local delicacies to night markets to spiritual retreats and temples and monasteries to explore, as Sangeeta Yadav finds out on a footloose holiday
Be it escaping into the world of spirituality, travelling solo or experiencing a city and it’s glamourous night life or going on an adventure, Taiwan as it is referred to, is a place to be in for those looking for a wholesome experience.
There’s no better way to explore a city than on foot. With its bright and colourfull lights and large number of locals on the streets, one can identify Taiwan and its culture with its night markets which are famous for its local delicacies that sell like hot cakes. The lively street of the Kenting Night Market is one such hub in Pingtung City.
The woks tossing sea food like crabs, octopus, snails, shellfish, squids, to Taiwanese specialities like pork and beef dum sums, iron eggs, tea eggs, oyster omelet, shrimp and pork meatballs, duck tongue, beef noodle soup, pork and rice, turkey and rice etc are mouthwatering. You can see your food made by the hawkers live on their cooking stations alongside the roadside.
If you are a vegetarian, go for lip-smacking ice creams that come in all fruit flavours. The best is pineapple which one can see being made right in front of your eyes. If you like to mix ice cream with fruits, go for shaved ice which is a mix of fresh fruits drowned in rich syrup or condensed milk. It is made in a special spinning machine that shaves off the bottom layer of ice cream into thin ribbons. Some ice cream sellers play hand tricks to make you catch your attention. If you don’t like ice creams, go for sun cakes and sticky rice balls which is a speciality of Taiwan.
A striking feature of these markets is that you will find people carrying their dogs in the cute looking baby pram. At first, you think there’s a baby sitting, but on closer look, you’ll find an adorable looking dog sitting happily watching people from its net-covered window and having fun as their owners go about trying different foods. As for the dog, there are shops that sell face marks, collars, ties, snacks, etc which keeps them happy as well.
The Ximending Walking Street in Taipei is a shopper’s paradise. As you walk along the road, you will come across various artists playing music, performing Zen art fire dance, or doing a balancing act or shooting a film or a concert taking place.
Then there are 7Eleven shops at every 4km that are open 24X7 and sell local Taiwanese drinks, snacks, etc. If you want to buy souvenirs and made in Taiwan eateries like pineapple cakes, sticky rice balls or snacks, Taipei Observatory Centre at Xinyi District has something for everyone. Apart from being a shoppers delight and said to be the tallest skyscraper in the world, it stands at 508 metre and offers a panoramic views of Taipei. Though to reach to that height one has to buy a ticket that costs new Taiwanese $500 and there is a long queue to get to its 89th floor in a high-speed passenger elevator.
If you love the sea, head to Baisha Bay. Soak up the sun at one of the best Baishawan beaches in Kenting at Pingtung Country which is 500 metres long and 40 metres wide. Walk barefoot on the shell sand, listen to sound of waves, take a dip in the deep blue waters or go snorkeling.
Baishawan is a hot spot for many filmmakers too. Remember the scene in Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi where Pi finally reached the land and was saved by local residents? Where the Pi and the tiger named Richard Parker part ways forever, the scene was shot at Baishawan beach. Another blockbuster Taiwanese film that was shot at the beach is Cape No 7 which was praised a lot for its picturesque locales.
Take in the soothing soft chanting, the sound of the bells and fragrance of the burning incense as you walk towards the main hall of one of the biggest monasteries Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center. Situated in Kaohsiung, the monastery is famous for its108 metre tall Buddha statue, beautiful landscaping and architecture with intricate hand painted ceiling.
The centre, which was opened to the public in 2011, houses a tooth relic of Gautama Buddha. It covers an area of more than 30 hectares, which includes shrines, university buildings, exhibition hall, museum, art gallery, and much more. There is a welcoming hall as well, the famous eight Chinese pagodas representing the eightfold path, photo terrace, memorial hall and four stupas representing the four noble truths.
Then there is Confucius Temple in Tainan city build in 1665, also known as Scholarly Temple. Besides the religious scriptures documented Confucian principles, schools, academy and other study facilities, what catches your attention is the huge manuscript hanging on the walls.
Get transported to the world of Vickyland at Janfusun Fancyworld Theme Park which is situated at the foot of the Coastal Mountain Range and Taiwan’s famous tea and coffee town —Gukeng in Yunlin County. Get a peek in to the lives of the Vikings, who came in their giant ships, having long moustache with beard plaits and wearing horned headgears and armour.
The adventure park covers 60 hectares of area and is famous for its 88-metre tall Sky Wheel, the tallest ferris wheel from where one can view the Chianan Plain. The park has a variety of land and water rides like Sky Jet roller coaster, the giant drop and the Diving Machine G5, 4D Horrorwood Haunted Theater, etc. The park has recently opened Wonderful Museum that showcases various Gods of wealth, good fortune and health, and also houses Coffee and Tea Museum featuring the art of tea and coffee making and its significance. For those who love go-carting, the Taroko National Park is the place to be at that has a huge Suzuki Circuit Park.
(The article got published in The Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/far-easts-bay-of-plenty.html)