Recently, I had an incredible opportunity to travel to Taiwan for 11 days with STA Travel, My Taiwan Tour, and the Taiwan Tourism Bureau of North America and WOW was it incredible! Every day was filled with so much beauty, adventure and of course, fantastic food!
Sightseeing in Taiwan
We visited some truly unreal places such as Taroko Gorge. There we witnessed the most incredible, milky blue water which carves through cascading mountains made of marble and sat along beaches with the most picturesque sunsets. In other natural wonders, like Yehliu Geopark, we stood in awe of natural formations unlike anything else we’d seen. We also got to walk through the mountain carved market streets of Jiufen before releasing lanterns into the evening sky. Throughout Taipei, we marveled at temples with such intricate, hand carved detail and stood in ancient houses filled with stories of ages past. We even dared to stand 91 stories high in the world’s tallest green technology building as we watched the sun fade away and Taipei’s nightlife come alive.
Nearly nightly, we got to experience night markets where you can find anything from delicious street food, stylish clothes, to selfie sticks. Seeing these places was incredible on its own, but paired with the opportunity to truly understand and immerse ourselves in Taiwanese culture made the experience simply unforgettable. In the mountains surrounding the modern city of Taipei, we got to see the tea fields while understanding the history and cultural significance of tea in the nation. We even had the chance to perform a traditional tea ceremony after learning from multiple tea masters! On the topic of food and drink, we also got to take a cooking class where we bought ingredients at a local market and cooked three delicious traditional Taiwanese dishes. As amazing as our cooking was, it had competition for the best meal as we got to eat at Michelin Star restaurant, Din Tai Fung where we enjoyed food so delightful it could bring tears of joy. To wash all of this amazing food down, we drank an obscene amount of refreshing bubble tea which finds its origins in Taiwan. Each day was something new, something incredible, something unforgettable.
Culture in Taiwan
The culture in Taiwan is one that I truly hope everyone gets the opportunity to experience. People are so friendly and excited to share the beauty of their country. Everyone, from young to old, have an intimate connection to the traditions that have shaped the lifestyle of this beautiful island. Along with this, people in Taiwan love relationships. People who love socializing with others, whether that is over a cup of tea, a meal, or walking through the night markets that are scattered throughout the city. Despite the city being so massive, wherever you go, someone will make you feel known and accepted.
One incredibly unsuspected part of the trip was how incredible each tour was. When I heard we were going on guided tours each day, I was expecting a big bus filled with a bunch of people with a tour guide walking around with a speaker. My Taiwan Tour presented NOTHING like that. Each tour was so incredible and personalized. The guides really wanted us to have the best possible experience and would change things up on the fly to make sure we could do the types of things we were interested in. Each day provided a chance for us to learn so much about Taiwanese culture and history, something I really hoped for. The guides were so friendly, knowledgeable, and helped us understand the culture we got to experience.
On our 8th day in Taiwan we got to travel over to Hualien, the coastal city in which my mom was born. There we experienced our most memorable day in Taiwan. It is a place unlike anywhere else I have seen in the world and one which truly exemplifies the name given to Taiwan by the Portugese: Formosa, meaning beautiful island. While in Hualien,we got to experience the natural wonders that Taiwan has to offer. Here we went to Taroko Gorge and into the central mountains of Taiwan. This is an area that is filled with luscious, green plantlife that is brought to life by the most beautiful, milky, blue streams and waterfalls which cut through mountains made of marble. Everywhere we turned, there was something worthy of being captured and shared.
Must-do in Taiwan
If I were to recommend one thing to a future traveler to Taiwan, it would not be a place or a food, rather a mindset. Taiwan is a country unlike any other, filled with endless possibilities and adventures. So to any future travelers looking to venture into a truly unique experience, go in unafraid. Be unafraid to simply get lost wherever you are, whether in the middle of busy Taipei, or biking around Sun Moon Lake. Get lost in the moment and truly be present as Taiwan has a near infinite number of truly unique experiences. Be unafraid to try anything and everything, from stinky tofu from the night markets, hiking through Taroko Gorge. The food may look different but its taste is unparalleled, and the places you can see and the memories you can make in Taiwan are truly unforgettable, all you need do is say yes.
To describe such an incredible place in a single word is difficult. Taiwan has so much to offer, filled with something for everyone. If I were to try and describe this wondrous place in a single phrase, that would be wondrously eclectic experiences. You can do everything in Taiwan, from hiking, scuba diving, surfing, and swimming in the wondrous outdoors to shopping, clubbing, exploring markets, and standing 91 stories above the city. Even more than that, this can all be done in a single day. Whether traveling alone, as a family, a small group, and no matter what type of experience you wish to have, Taiwan is a place where you can come alive and have the trip of a lifetime. Follow the rest of my adventures on Instagram at @zach_hammer_