........................ HELPING YOU TO TRAVEL TAIWAN

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The Far east

Our Friends Mike and Jordana Starr-Schilling created a short description of some of the cities in our region. Many of you will come from or go to China when visiting Taiwan and hopefully the following will help you understand some of the places better:

taiwan is a small, subtropical island located off the southeastern coast of mainland china that experienced a turbulent history of aboriginal, dutch, chinese, and japanese rule. though the republic of china regained taiwan after the second world war, chinese civil war forced this government, as well as many scholars, artists, and writers, to flee from the mainland to taiwan. though its status as an independent nation is still disputed on an international level, in practice taiwan is a capitalist democracy that operates as a sovereign nation. mike lived in taiwan as an exchange student between high school and college. after earning their degrees, mike and jordana moved to taiwan to live and work.



china is one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations. prior to the 19th century, china was one of the most advanced societies and economies in the world, but through successive dynasties it missed the industrial revolution and began to decline. civil war tore the country apart after the second world war, and the rise of communism led to widespread famine and cultural destruction. reforms starting in the late ’70s, however, laid the foundation for the manufacturing and export powerhouse mainland china has become today. mike studied in china during college and jordana, missing him so, joined him for a two-week adventure on the east coast of mainland china.
taipei 台北

taipei is the capital city of taiwan, where mike lived as an exchange student for a year, and where mike and jordana also lived together for 13 months after graduating college. jordana and mike lived in a bustling commercial area, adjacent to tunghua nightmarket where they would indulge in taipei’s finest street food and shop like locals. down the street stood the taipei world trade center and what was, at the time, the tallest building in the world: taipei 101. it was in this landmark where mike and jordana purchased their black jade wedding rings—two years before they got engaged!


shilin 士林

shilin nightmarket is taiwan’s largest nightmarket, featuring block after block of tightly packed stalls selling everything from cheap (but super-trendy!) clothes, toys, jewelry, snacks of all kinds, electronics, household goods, and even pets! a separate food court houses over 530 stalls, serving up edibles that range from utterly delicious to distinctly awful.


ximending   西門町

ask a young taiwanese where to go on a saturday night, and he’ll direct you to ximending. as taipei’s first pedestrian area, ximending is the source of taiwan’s fashion, subculture, and japanese culture. since the 1930s ximending has been a destination for theater-goers, and today has over 20 theaters and 6,000 vendors. ximending is jam-packed with unique restaurants, countless arcades, and even ballroom dance halls, and is a popular area for small concerts, album launches, film festivals, and street performances.

longshan 龍山

taipei ’s longshan temple was built in 1738 by settlers from fujian, china. it served as a place of worship and a gathering place for the chinese settlers. though the temple has been destroyed either in full or in part by numerous earthquakes and fires—and even american bombers during the second world war— taipei residents have nevertheless consistently rebuilt and renovated it. longshan is seen as an emblematic example of taiwanese classical architecture, with southern chinese influences commonly seen in older buildings. like most temples in taiwan, the temple worships a mixture of buddhist, taoist, and folk deities.


beitou 北投

in the northernmost part of taipei lies beitou, the mountainous district famous for its natural hot springs and luxurious day spas. during taiwan’s cool winters, relaxing in beitou’s hot springs is a welcome respite from hectic city life.


maokong 貓空

nestled high above taipei city on yangmingshan ( mt. yangming), maokong is home to taipei’s tea culture. what used to be the biggest tea growing area of taipei is now a popular place for visitors to enjoy tea and snacks while taking in the vista of taipei city below. the old footpaths used to transport tea have become hiking trails, and the fairly recent addition of the maokong cable car has made it easy to ascend the mountain from its base.



dazhi 大直

every spring, people from all around taipei county flock to the dazhi riverside park for the dragon boast festival. this event, which commemorates the life and death of the chinese scholar qu yuan, attracts teams of rowers from around the world who race against each other in colorfully painted dragon-shaped boats.


yingge 鶯歌

famous for its porcelain production and an abundance of art studios and shops, yingge is one of jordana’s favorite places to visit. according to the locals, the history of ceramics in yingge began 200 years ago when wu an immigrated from china to become the first potter in the area. today, yingge is the largest center for ceramic production in taiwan, with over 800 ceramic-related businesses in the area. mike and jordana’s favorite tea set, which was used in this evening’s tea ceremony, came from a shop in yingge’s historical pedestrian area.


danshui 淡水

danshui is a seaside town north of taipei that boasts the best view of the sun setting over the taiwan strait. once a major port for dutch and spanish traders, danshui reverted to a small fishing town after the second world war. in the last ten years, however, danshui has become a popular tourist destination, featuring several riverside parks, open-air markets, a fisherman’s wharf, and scenic boat rides.




sanyi 三 義

nestled in the mountains of northwestern taiwan, sanyi is reknown for its woodcarving industry. the town’s main drag is packed with hundreds of little shops offering everything from slotted tea trays to massive pieces of intricately carved furniture. in this woodcarving capital, the smell of sandalwood, camphor, and other fragrant woods permeates the air.


taroko 太魯閣

taroko gorge and its surrounding area are well known for their abundant supply of marble, leading to its nickname, “the marble gorge.” the rock now seen in taroko began over 200 million years ago as sediment on the bottom of the ocean. the gorge itself was carved into the marble by the erosive power of the liwu river. today, hikers come to taroko for the breathtaking views and to visit shrines located high up the mountainside.


hualien 花蓮

situated on the east coast of taiwan, hualien was the last region in taiwan to be settled by the han chinese. its late development allowed for the preservation of many aboriginal cultures, who make up one-fourth of the population of hualien. turbulent geologic activity has made haulien’s jade market a destination for mineral enthusiasts who prize the beautiful and incredibly rare rainbow jade.





taitung 台南

along the southeast coast of taiwan lies taitung, an isolated county known for its fertile land. taitung has put itself on the map for its award-winning rice and the largest sugar apple production in the world. due to its remote location, taitung has been least-affected by han chinese colonization, maintaining a diversity of aboriginal cultures even today. taitung is also home to the national museum of prehistory, which was built near the largest archeological excavation site in taiwan and is dedicated to the preservation and study of taiwanese prehistoric culture.


lu dao 綠島

just ten minutes by plane from the east coast of taiwan, lu dao, or green island, is home to the oldest known coral reef. once a penal colony for political prisoners, green island is today the most-popular scuba diving destination in taiwan. the small volcanic island’s natural saltwater hot springs are also a popular attraction for local families and the occasional foreign visitor.


lukang 鹿港

the old city of lukang, in central taiwan, has remained remarkably unchanged since its heyday as a major seaport in the 18th and 19th centuries. once the most populous city in taiwan, the silting of the harbor and the city’s refusal to allow railroads to pass through the city led to losses in trade and commerce, which, in turn, led to lukang’s decline. this same decline, however, averted the modernization processes that demolished historical buildings throughout taiwan, preserving lukang’s historical architecture and its 200 temples.

puli 埔里

located in central taiwan, puli is famous for producing shaoxing wine, a fragrant rice wine that is fermented in ceramic urns. the puli brewery also houses the wine culture museum . on the nearby mountain sits chung-tai chan monastery, a large buddhist monastery reknown for its modern architecture and beautifully landscaped grounds. when the winds are right, puli is also a fantastic paragliding destination (and if you’re like mike, you just might land in a rice paddy)!


taichung 台 中

along the western coastal plain of taiwan lies the island’s third-largest city, taichung. as the original capital city of taiwan province under the qing dynasty rule, taichung was also the first taiwanese city to be modernized under japanese occupation. historically, taichung’s economy has centered around small businesses, and the city’s downtown is still vibrant with family-owned restaurants and shops, including chun shui tang teahouse, where bubble tea was first invented.


alishan 阿里山

high up in the mountains of southwestern taiwan lies alishan national scenic area, a resort and natural preserve that has become a national landmark. famous for its production of the finest oolong tea in the world and wasabi, alishan is popular among tourists, mountain climbers, and tea enthusiasts like mike and jordana. the alishan forest railway, which was originally constructed to facilitate the logging of cypress and taiwania wood, now allows tourists to relax as they ascend the mountain from the city of chiayi below.

kending 墾丁

at the southernmost tip of taiwan lies kending, a tropical resort destination with lots of surf, sand, and sunshine. nearby, the national museum of marine biology and aquarium, features an 81-meter glass-enclosed underwater moving track—the largest underwater tunnel in asia—that allows visitors to view sea life from a diver’s perspective. every april, flocks of young taiwanese make a pilgrimage to kending for the spring scream music festival.


shanghai 上海

as the most populous city in china and one of the most populous cities in the world, shanghai exerts influence over global commerce, finance, culture, art, fashion, research and entertainment. the city is a tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks such as the bund and city god temple, and its modern and ever-expanding pudong skyline including the oriental pearl tower. shanghai also has the distinction of being the first chinese city mike and jordana ever visited together.


hangzhou 杭州

the picturesque capital of china’s zhejiang province, hangzhou has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in china for much of the last 1,000 years. home to zhejiang university, where mike studied for a semester, hangzhou has been associated with many scholars, national heroes, and revolutionary martyrs. in addition, ancient buildings, stone caves, and engraved tablets surrounding the misty and tranquil west lake are among the most cherished national treasures.


nicknamed the “venice of china,” suzhou is reknown for its canals, stone bridges, pagodas, and meticulously designed gardens which have contributed to its status as a great tourist attraction. since the turn of the first century, suzhou has been an important center for china's silk industry and continues to hold that prominent position today. suzhou also holds a special meaning to jordana, as that’s where they were when mike first told her that he loved her, making her the happiest girl in the world.


hong kong 香港

living abroad often means making periodic visa runs, and for mike and jordana, hong kong was their destination of choice. though technically a part of china, hong kong has completely separate economic, legal, and political systems, effectively operating as a sovereign entity. a shining example of a free-market economy, hong kong is a leading financial center and international hub with low taxes, zero import/export tariffs, and minimal government intervention. due to the territory’s chinese roots and british colonial influences, hong kong represents a fusion of eastern and western culture and values.







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