By Pimpimol Kongkreingkrai
A small island nation sitting 180 kilometres east of China and home to thriving cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain, Taiwan has long been known among Thais for its busy night markets, stinky tofu and bubble tea.
And it certainly has plenty to offer the casual tourist, especially now that it has extended its visafree policy for Thai nationals for another year, making a trip there easy and hassle free.
The renowned Jadeite Cabbage.
The Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Thailand’s Dr ChenYuan Tung recently invited a small group of Thai reporters to discover the island’s multiple tourist attractions. All are within easy travelling distance of New Taipei City, the newly founded city which is an integral part of the Taipei Metropolitan area and surrounds Taipei City on all sides, and accessible by Taipei's public transit systems, including the metro and various bus and train routes.
Sitting at the foot of Yangmingshan National Park in a residential area popular with Taipei’s expatriate community, the National Palace Museum is home to almost 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artefacts and artworks, many of them from the collections of China’s emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Two mustsees are the Jadeite Cabbage, an exquisite nineteenth-century jadeite carving in the shape of a Chinese cabbage head with a locust and katydid camouflaged in the leaves, and the Meatshaped Stone, a piece of jasper carved into the shape of a Dongpo pork.
Yilan Lanyang Museum viewed from the side.
Known to the Taiwanese as the “backyard of Taipei”, Yangmingshan National Park spreads out over 114 sqkm and is a popular destination among locals and tourists alike. It’s at its best as winter gives way to spring and from February to March, the entire area is blanketed with different kinds of blooms, among them are rhododendrons, cherry blossoms and camellia.
Inside the park is the Zhongxing Guesthouse, or Yangmingshuwu as it is known locally, a former summer residence once used for receiving foreign guests of the late president of then the Republic of China, Chiang Kaishek. Surrounded by breathtaking scenery, the landscape surrounding the building was planned by Madame Chiang herself. The handsome mansion has been beautifully conserved and boasts lots of photographs of Chiang KaiShek, his family and his contemporaries.
Another popular spot in the park is Xiaoyoukeng, a dormant volcano whose fumaroles, sulphur crystals, hot springs and the “landslide terrain” formed by postvolcanic activity offer a spectacular view. Besides being very safe to visit, accessibility to the site is easy, just a 10minute walk from the park’s main parking area.
The National Centre for Traditional Arts offers a modern showcase of heritage products.
Culture vultures will particularly enjoy a visit out of the city to the Lanyan Museum in Yilan County. Opened in 2010, this modern mix of anthropological and natural museum is a place where visitors can learn about the history, culture, landscape, and natural beauty of Yilan through a well thoughtout exhibition. The most captivating element is the museum building itself, which was designed by celebrated Taiwanese architect Kris Yao.
An open space stretching 240,000 sqm along the Dongshan River in Yilan makes up the National Centre for Traditional Arts and houses a group of traditionalstyle buildings that serve not only to preserve Taiwanese traditional arts and crafts but also to bring innovations and new momentum to dying traditions. Visitors can shop for highend products or attend a variety of classes and workshops.
The new versus the old at Juming Museum
What so intriguing about this biggest openair museum of Taiwan is not its size but the numerous great art pieces on display by a celebrated Taiwanese sculptor, Ju Ming, after whom the Juming Museum is named. Housing primarily his own pieces, the museum also displays works by other artists that have had an impact on Ju Ming as well as those that he has inspired.
Yilan is also famed for the Wu Feng Chi Waterfall, a scenic cascade that’s split into just three levels and accessible through an easy 20-minute uphill walk on a sturdy con?crete path to the second level. Getting to the top level takes about an hour and traditional food and drinks are offered on many stalls along the way.
And of course any visitor to Taiwan will want to sample the array of cuisine on offer, both in Taipei and outside the city. From the vibrant street food in night markets, through traditional delicious Hakkastyle dishes to fusion food, the joy of tasting is as endless an exploration as the journey itself.
The writer travelled to Taiwan as a guest of Taipei Economic & Cultural office in Thailand
If you go
>> Eva Air offers regular flights between Bangkok and Taipei in three classes: economy, premium economy and business.
>> Flight time is a little over three hours.
>> Find out more at www.EvaAir.com.
>> The visafree policy for Thais remains in force through August 2018.