For every traveler going on his or her first solo adventure to a foreign land—with locals speaking a different language, and streets and signage emblazoned with unknown characters—the fear of getting lost will be ever present. But as they say, it is only when one is lost, that one is found.
And so, from April 11 to 14, I decided to immerse myself in this great unknown. But surprising as it may seem, I always found my way in the end—and believe me, emerged wiser and better from my journey.
My destination: Taiwan.
While the closest neighboring country of the Philippines up north, Taiwan, unfortunately, remains to be one of the most underrated Asian destinations among Filipinos. Currently topping our must-visit list these days are Japan and South Korea, besides perennial favorites, Hong Kong and Singapore.
But after seeing and experiencing the country—particularly its capital Taipei—for four days, I can say that it is high time Taiwan gets the attention it so fittingly deserves.
Through my eyes, I share the many reasons why:
National Palace Museum
On top of the must-visit places in Taipei, Taiwan is its National Palace Museum that houses over 2,000 articles some dating 4,000 years old. Of these, 80 percent were transferred from China’s Forbidden City by the late President Chang Kai-Shek in a mission to preserve the Chinese heritage. Some of the most notable exhibits include those featuring jade, bronze and pottery.
The Red House
The Red House is a Western style, redbrick building erected in 1908 as Taiwan’s first public market. But after going through cultural transformations in 2007, it has established itself as a major location for the development of culturatis and creatives. Millions have visited this landmark to view thousands of arts- and literature-themed events in its movie theater, live house, and exhibit venues. (Right photo) New Noise artist Wei Ling Chang is one of the many artists who proudly display their unique, and handmade creations inside The Red House.
The shrine of the National Revolutionary Martyrs of the country is another example of a perfectly preserved establishment that reminds the Taiwanese, and teaches tourists about history. It was built in the 1950s to honor the country’s founding father, Dr. Sun Yat Sen and his followers that led the revolution. (Inset photo) Inside the shrine, 18-year-old honor guards execute their duty after being selected by the Taiwanese government.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
Inscribed on top of the late, great Chiang Kai-Shek, are the words “Ethics, Democracy and Science,” which served as his pillars of leadership. His memorial shrine was completed in 1980, five years after his death. About 5,000 tourists come to visit here in a day, mostly from China who, wish to discover more about their former Chinese president.
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A taste of Taipei Street food
When spotting a food stall while walking around, don’t hesitate and try. Street food in Taipei is certified delicious and clean, not to mention affordable. Must try are their dimsum, pot stickers, oyster omelets, and rice dumplings. Also remember that language should never be a barrier to enjoy good food.
All the way from Japan
Although its origins and base go all the way to Japan, fast food giants Mister Donut and Mos Burger are both hits in Taiwan with locals frequenting their chains all throughout the day. It is highly recommended to eat here to get a feel of the community. Take note, Mister Donut doughnuts from Taiwan are different from the brand’s products here in the Philippines.
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For the young and hip, there is the Ximending Commercial District in Taipei. Likened to Japan’s Shibuya for its blazing neon signage and lights, the district houses famous lifestyle labels for fashion and beauty, technology and sports. But the district is not only for high-end products as it is also a hodgepodge of local retailers selling just about everything. Besides retail, there are also places to try authentic Chinese food, as well as other modern cuisines.
Underneath the streets of Taipei City lies a shopping district that overflows with an assortment of goods, including specialty souvenirs for tourists, affordable clothes, shoes and accessories for fashionistas, and collectibles toys and items for geeks.
Eslite for bookworms
Taipei is renowned for its homegrown bookstore brand Eslite. In the capital city alone, a number of branches are scattered in important districts. There is even one that is open for 24 hours, seven days a week, and welcomes booklovers of all sorts to just enjoy reading from its wide range of Taiwanese and foreign publications. Yes, buying is not required.
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Walk the streets, talk to locals, visit a temple, spot art, and discover the world.
To go to Taiwan, book with the nation’s homegrown airline company, EVA Air, with 13 weekly flights from Manila. Visit www.eraair.com.
For tours, contact Dennis Kuo of Edison Travel Service Co. Ltd. at firstname.lastname@example.org.