The island nation of Taiwan has something of interest for everyone — scenic, lush-green mountains, lakes, hot springs, culture, cable cars, high-speed trains, museums, malls, amusement parks, beaches and a world class aquarium.
Taiwan, with a population of around 23 million, is not just an industrialised region churning out electronic and other products for global brands but a fusion of multi-cultural traditions and modernity.
The presence of different classes of lodging options in Taiwan and the newly-floated Scoot Airlines grabbing travellers with low fares, Taiwan can also be added to travel destinations for Indians.
It should however be mentioned that language is one issue to be managed here, as English is not widely understood. Also, vegetarians will find Taiwan a bit of a challenge, though hotels do offer vegetarian food. There are also some Indian restaurants.
Around 1.20 a.m. the yellow-painted aircraft took to the skies from Chennai towards Singapore — the Lion City. Scoot offers different kinds of classes, including a baby-free class, so that travellers are not disturbed by crying babies. But one is helpless if the person next to you starts his/her roaring snore!
It was a new experience to have the piping hot, spicy and tasty Nasi Lemak Malay fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk at an unearthly hour of 2.30 a.m. several thousand feet above the earth.
Travel tip: Better carry a small bottle of water as the airline does not provide even a cup of water free.
We (a group of journalists and I) reached Taipei and were received by Francis Wu, an experienced tour guide assigned to us by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.
The next morning we boarded the high-speed train (HST) to Zuoying, around 340 km from Taipei. The plan was to travel back over the next couple of days soaking in Taiwan’s natural beauty and culture.
The train ride was smooth, sans noise and jerks even while changing tracks at over 230 kmph. The green mountains and farm fields that rushed past were a pleasant sight.
From Zuoying station we reached the YoHo Beach Resort at Pingtung for lunch where the Taiwanese food was good. Beach bummers can go to the popular Baisha Bay for a spectacular sunset, setting the mood for much more fun at the resort.
The other popular spot nearby is the Fu An, the God of Earth temple at Che Cheng. The big temple is built in a royal style and the Earth God is said to be very benevolent in acceding to your prayers.
One of the not-to-be-missed tourist spots in Pingtung is the National Museum of Marine Biology & Aquarium where one can watch dolphins and sharks, among others, gliding elegantly inside the overhead glass enclosures.
Walking through the glass tunnel, tourists can see coral reefs and hundreds of fish and also the manual feeding of stingrays by the aquarium’s divers.
The stingray’s underside looks like one of the ghosts in the “Casper the Ghost” comic and its wide mouth like the smiley emoticon!
At the Yunlin County en route to Tainan city, daredevils can try out the “Diving Machine G5”, a high-speed 65-metre vertical fall at the Janfusun Fancy World, a major amusement park. There is also the “Sky Jet” that offers a high-speed 65-metre ascent and a free fall at the park.
The artistically inclined would find the private Chimei Museum housing sculptures and musical instruments interesting.
Yet another picturesque spot in Taiwan is the Sun Moon Lake located 748 metres above sea level that powers several hydel power plants.
From there, via a cable car ride enjoying the green valley below, one can reach the Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Village that narrates the story about the ancient tribes or Austronesans and also hosts cultural shows.
After flying sky lanterns and enjoying the waterfall at the Shifen village it was time to reach Taipei to enjoy the city by night from the 89th floor of the 101-storied Taipei 101 building.
And then it was time to scoot back to Chennai, of course with much reluctance.
By Venkatachari Jagannathan