Finding the new in the familiar: The Taiwan you’ve always loved is beckoning with new adventures
Discover scenic cycling and biking trails, sustainable living and gastronomic delights at this popular travel destination.
With borders re-opening and more flights taking to the skies, plenty among us are planning to finally turn those pent-up travel daydreams into reality. And just four hours away by air, it’s not a stretch to say that Taiwan places high on many Singaporeans’ wish list.
The attraction-laden island naturally gives other destinations a run for their money – and every traveller, value for theirs. The people are famously hospitable – a bonus for visitors travelling during this period. Taipei City was even named as a Top 10 City to Travel to in 2022 by Lonely Planet.
From the cultural hub that is Kaohsiung to the bustling gateway city of Hualien, the diversity and charms of Taiwan are well documented. It’s this familiarity that makes itinerary planning that much easier, while its spirited dynamism ensures there’s always something new to discover.
UNFORGETTABLE GREEN ADVENTURES
If you, like many, have discovered the joys of cycling through park connectors or traipsing through hiking trails in Singapore’s patches of reserves during these past two years, then Taiwan is a bona fide playground for you.
Trails in Taiwan always reward with scenic views. Even 15-minute ones like Xiangshan – accessible by subway – grants a stunning vista of the city, with Taipei 101 stretching into the sky. And while Taroko Gorge remains famous for its gorgeous green valleys and dreamy turquoise streams, travellers are exploring some of Taiwan’s other locations to discover a different set of views.
The highest volcano in Taiwan happens to be in the Beitou district of Taipei, and Qixingshan promises quite the show, peaking at 1,120m tall. A hike here is made easy with clearly marked paths, and brings you through dramatic sulphurous fumaroles, green pastures and swaying bamboo groves.
Further out, the Linmei Shipan trail in Yilan county is all about fern-filled forests and roaring waterfalls, rewarding one with hot springs to retire to after the hike. For a multi-day expedition, you’ll want to investigate the Wuling Sixiu trail in Shei-Pa National Park. This multi-climate trek will have you traversing four mountain passes offering up misty forests, above-cloud vistas and flower-filled valleys.
Did you know that Taiwan is also known as the Bicycle Kingdom? The nation is well-established for producing up to 70 per cent of the world’s mid- to high-end bicycles, along with a welcoming cycling culture.
As with hiking, visitors can approach this two ways. Take it easy with breezy rides through Yun Shan Shui in Hualien or the majority of Taitung, travelling through woodlands and lakes in the former, and rice fields and coasts in the other.
Those raring for a bucket-list challenge will also not be disappointed. The Duo Tower challenge pits one against time as you start from the island’s northernmost tip at Fuguijiao Lighthouse and complete your route all the way to the southernmost Eluanbi Lighthouse within 24 hours. Up for an even more competitive route? The Taiwan KOM Challenge is one of the most recognised events on the international racing calendar, totalling 105km and traversing elevation ranges from sea level in Hualien to 3,275m at Wuling Pass.
Taiwan is continuing to grow its scale in cycling activities and as the pandemic eases, one can hope for other events like the Taiwan Cycling Festival to return.
ADOPTING CONSCIENTIOUS TRAVEL
Two years of pared down tourism have had an impact on the environment. The return of precious natural beauty has in turn encouraged a more conscientious mindset for sustainable travel.
Like many other global destinations, Taiwan is nurturing a greener society, with a goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Incredible success stories like the island’s high recycling rate (55 per cent) and an almost two-third reduction of personal daily waste disposal since 1998 are assurances that your visit will leave that much less of a carbon footprint.
Another reason is the number of vegetarians on the island – East Asia’s highest at 13 per cent – and the sumptuous offerings found locally might have something to do with that. For those interested to explore this path, there’s no better place to start than at Taipei’s first vegan restaurant Ooh Cha Cha. Located at Da’an and Zhongzheng, one can pick from appetising lentil salads, zesty balsamic mushroom sandwiches and fragrant lemongrass tofu bowls. Other options include Herban Kitchen & Bar, while Mayur Indian Kitchen serves up a delectable Indian menu. Even Michelin-approved restaurants like Le Palais, Ya Ge and Serenity are dishing up plant-based delicacies.
If you have the opportunity to partake in one of those meals, you’ll immediately understand why Taiwan is primed for such a green lifestyle – the tasty produce here benefits from freshness, supplied by native farms found across the nation. Stroll through a few when you visit Alishan, or visit Taipei’s Baishihu tourist-farm area in Neihu to witness the incredible process in person with various tours.
Delicious Taiwan cuisine is indiscriminate in its presentation and can be found in casual institutions such as the Shilin and Raohe night markets, or even further at Jiufen Old Street. Who can resist the reward of lining up for a Taiwanese breakfast of egg crepes, fried fritters and soy milk at Fu Hang Doujiang, or the national comfort food that is beef noodle soup at Taoyuan Street? Soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung? Say no more. And with a growing awareness of faith-based needs, Taiwan serves up plenty of halal options for Muslim travellers.
The burgeoning food scene includes wonderful fine dining delights, too. With 28 Michelin-starred restaurants in Taipei and Taichung, it’s worth exploring the other culinary side of Taiwan. Chef Andre Chiang who used to have his flagship restaurant in Singapore has since relocated closer to his roots. With Raw, you’ll once again be able to experience his imitable skill in delivering memorable dining events. For something even more local, Mipon refines home-style Taiwanese classics, while Fujin Tree Taiwanese Cuisine & Champagne introduces champagne pairing to local food.
The global rise of speakeasies can also be experienced in Taiwan. The laidback AHA Saloon enjoys crafting its drinks with native produce like oolong tea and fermented pineapple amid a vintage musical setting, while Hanko 60 – accessible only past a seemingly dodgy cinema – scores high on bold vessels and shocking themes. If you only want the best, visit Indulge Experimental Bistro. The cocktail scene stalwart pitches every glass perfectly and has attained a reigning rank every year since 2017 in William Reed’s Asia’s 50 Best Bars list.
These imaginative and skilful offerings speak of a new experience brewing on the island. Say cheers to the new Taiwan.