By Shereen Shabnam
With rich cultural diversity and traditions as varied as it’s beautiful natural landscape alongside tall towers and a thriving business environment, Taiwan is full of surprises for visitors.
My visit began with a tour of the Taipei 101, architecturallycreated guided with Feng Shui principles as a symbol of the evolution of technology and Asian tradition with traditional design elements, works of art and modern treatments. It comes with Indoor Observation decks plus a premium multi-level shopping mall adjoining the tower with hundreds of stores, restaurants and clubs.
The journey continued with visits to Chiayi, Alishan, Sun Moon Lake and beyond wandering through cultural attractions, lakes, hillside stations, tropical forests and sampling a wide variety of cuisine including ample choice of halal delicacies.
Taiwan offers the gamut of different cuisines and I enjoyed the Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, Japanese dishes alongside the traditional local specialties like Tainan milkfish and desert dumplings in restaurants and night markets in between sight seeing and shopping.
A visit to Taiwanese temples is a must for people watching as they gather to worship, enjoy local festivities nearby and to peruse the local art house often found in each city.
Highlight of the visit was the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated each year on the 15th day of the first lunar month to mark the grand finale of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
This first full moon day of the New Year symbolizes the coming of the spring. People usually celebrate this festival by enjoying family dinner together, eating Yuanxiao (glutinous rice dumpling), carrying paper lanterns, and solving the riddles on the lanterns.
At the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Chiayi, I found the grand celebration with music, dance, light shows, 4D visual effects and the grand lanterns all around me magical. My Taiwanese friends said they sometimes write their wishes on the sky lanterns because it is believed as the lantern fly into the sky; it is a way to pass on your wishes to gods above.
A visit to the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum was a delightin Chiayi County. The museum is set on 70 hectares of land next to a large scenic lake with gardens. It has an unmatched collection of e artifacts and priceless treasures from distant places.
Another attractionlocated in Qigu District, Tainan is the Qigu Salt Mountain set close to Qigu Lagoon, the largest inland lake in Taiwan, which is rich in ecological resources and the habitat for winter migratory birds-black-faced spoonbills. There are a number of recreational activities like go-karting, antique machines exhibition and the Doo-doo trains making it an interesting Tainan tourist spot for visitors of all ages.
Other enjoyable excursions included exploring the Sicao Mangrove Preserve and the Taijiang National Parkwith ecological and cultural landscape alongside culture and history. The Alishan National Scenic Area was also memorable.
Another breath taking experience was of course Taiwan’s largest Lake, the Sun Moon Lakelocated in the mountains of Nantou. I took a late afternoon boat tour and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. The area around the lake is home to tribes and scenic views. Leaving Taiwan was not easy especially from the Sun Moon Lake.
From the UAE, getting to Taiwan was fairly easy on Emirates Airlines, which flies to direct to Taipei daily. The city is a great starting point to get to the other popular tourist spots.