Temp­ta­tion in Tai­wan

Look­ing for a new surf des­ti­na­tion with stun­ning scenery, great food, and friendly lo­cals? Tai­wan awaits your plea­sure.

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Chris­tened the For­mosa which means “beau­ti­ful is­land” by Por­tuguese sailors, Tai­wan lives up to the name to­day. Out­side the big cities it’s green and moun­tain­ous and un­touched by ur­ban sprawl. Coastal high­ways hug the ocean and wind past mist-shrouded moun­tains, lush trop­i­cal forests and sleepy fish­ing vil­lages. On a good day you’ll see waves peel­ing off and very few crowds. Tai­wan is blessed with qual­ity surf in sea­son and a vi­brant cul­ture. When you’re not shred­ding long point breaks and hol­low beach breaks, there’s an ex­otic land to be dis­cov­ered.

The Waves

The best spots are scat­tered along the east coast. You’ll find river-mouths, boul­der-lined beaches and long wind­ing points. Most breaks are good for all surfers and a va­ri­ety of craft. Pack a log, a fish or a fin­less vari­ant and you’ll use them all. The best surf sea­son is be­tween Oc­to­ber and March when the east coast jags storm swells off Ja­pan. Pop­u­lar breaks in­clude Jinzun Har­bour (near Taitung), which hosts the Tai­wan In­ter­na­tional Sur­ing Open an­nu­ally, and Palm Tree Point (near Cheng Gong), a long peel­ing left­hander, con­sid­ered the coun­tries best wave. The sum­mer months are fick­ler, but the beau­ti­ful south coast gets good and the east side will pump dur­ing a typhoon swell.

World Class Food

Eat­ing out is a se­ri­ous busi­ness in Tai­wan and the food scene is world class. In the cities re­gional Chi­nese food com­petes with en­tic­ing indige­nous, Ja­pa­nese, Korean, In­done­sian and a plethora of world food. Snack­ing is a pop­u­lar al­ter­na­tive to for­mal din­ing there are ten bustling streets de­voted to snack­ing in Taipei’s big­gest night mar­ket. So much good­ness: braised pork rice, Danzi noo­dles, gua bao, milk­fish, and pineap­ple cake. Steamed dumplings make for a great lunch be­tween waves. CNN Travel read­ers re­cently voted Tai­wan as the best food des­ti­na­tion in the world.

Good Vibes

The Tai­wanese are cour­te­ous and friendly and the whole coun­try is a very safe and easy place to ex­plore. Tai­wan’s hos­pi­tal­ity is a source of na­tional pride and you’re un­likely to strike any bad vibes any­where, in­clud­ing in the ocean. Surf­ing is rel­a­tively new in Tai­wan and most lo­cals seem happy to share their waves with con­sid­er­ate trav­ellers. Stay at a fam­ily-run guest houses or a lo­cally run surf re­sort and you’ll make new friends. Man­darin is the of­fi­cially lan­guage though many young peo­ple speak English.

High Times

Tai­wan has been called the Switzer­land of Asia. With over 280 peaks above 3000 me­tres it has the largest num­ber and den­sity of high moun­tains in the world. While there are no ski re­sorts moun­taineer­ing, hik­ing and moun­tain bik­ing are all pop­u­lar pas­times. Spec­tac­u­lar moun­tain hikes in­clude Yushan Peak, Tian­liao Moon World and Alis­han. The coun­try­side is still wild and un­touched in gen­er­ous amounts. Around 50% of the is­land is either pro­tected land or for­est.

The Real Lo­cals

Tai­wan’s first peo­ple, the For­mosan, have a fas­ci­nat­ing and lit­tle-known his­tory which has been re­vi­tal­ized in re­cent years. The indige­nous tribes set­tled the is­land around 5000 years ago and lived largely in iso­la­tion un­til the 17th Cen­tury. Their rich cul­tural her­itage has en­dured de­spite many chal­lenges and is ex­pressed in art, mu­sic and food. Some sci­en­tists be­lieve the Poly­ne­sian blood­line be­gan here with the For­mosan.

The Sea God­dess

The Tai­wanese wor­ship thou­sands of gods from the Bud­dhist, Taoist and Con­fu­cian tra­di­tions. Surfers may want to give a shout out to Mazu, the Sea God­dess, who’s in­flu­ence on the ocean is im­pres­sive. Mazu is thought to be able to read the fu­ture, ex­or­cize demons and dance up a lit­eral storm; she can shapeshift and as­tral travel. Of the 1500 tem­ples de­voted to Mazu around the world, roughly two thirds of them are in Tai­wan. De­spite be­ing a thor­oughly modern coun­try Tai­wan is still steeped in tra­di­tion and su­per­sti­tion, mak­ing it a fas­ci­nat­ing and easy coun­try to ex­plore.

Taitung tem­ple

Empty east coast peak

Palm Tree Point

Fresh seafood

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