Many travelers flock to the region of the Far East. While most opt for popular destinations such as Japan, South Korea, China, and even head Southeast to Thailand and Vietnam, a contender that's completely underrated is Taiwan. Taiwan's main international airport of Taipei boasts signs that say, "Taiwan: The Heart of Asia."
For being the heart of Asia, it's surprising that this destination remains so overlooked, especially considering it has so much to offer. Taiwan deserves to be at the top of every traveler's bucket list. Here are ten reasons why.
10 The Food
Taiwan's cuisine sees no ends on salty-sweet, fresh, sometimes positively pungent dishes, and street food is surprisingly budget-friendly.
No trip to Taiwan is complete without a taste of beef noodle soup (牛肉麵), the national dish of the country. The dish consists of slow braised beef, perfectly chewable noodles (though slurping them is more appropriate), pickled mustard greens, bok choy, a bold beef broth, with a fistful of fresh cilantro and scallions.
If beef isn't so much your thing, go for some Taiwanese fried chicken (鹹酥雞), typically with a batter dusted in five-spice powder. Fried chicken is available in both whole pieces and popcorn chicken-sized bites at different street stalls around the country.
If you're looking for something uniquely Taiwanese, go for some street food. The city of Taipei has, arguably, the best street food in the entire world.
Your options include stinky tofu, duck tongue, four spirits soup, goat testicles, brain omelet, scallion pancakes, cheesy scallops, and even lobster.
9 The People
Do we really travel to meet people? Not necessarily, however, it's always a nice surprise when the locals are extra friendly, funny, quirky, and open. This is the case in Taiwan.
Good people can be found anywhere in the world, from the corners of Syria to the streets of Italy, but in Taiwan, it's hard to find a soul with a mean bone in their body.
People are generally helpful, there are a ton of expats, and the overall vibe is positive and friendly.
It would be hard to categorize Taiwan as even remotely unsafe, because people are so friendly that it's more likely that they'll help you than hurt you.
8 The Nature
When one thinks of Taiwan, their mind might immediately go to the bustling city of Taipei, full of skyscrapers, bright lights, and chaotically busy streets.
However, Taiwan is indeed an island nation, meaning it is quite literally surrounded by beaches. Make time for a visit to Kenting National Park, known for its white sand beaches and pristine coral reef.
That's right; because of the coral reefs, Taiwan even makes for a great scuba-diving destination. Most surprisingly, Taiwan is full of hot springs. The coolest offering of Taiwanese nature, however, lies in its golden waterfall, about 45 minutes out of Taipei.
7 The Nightlife
Nightlife in Taiwan isn't only limited to clubs, though if that's your thing, you'll find no shortage of them, especially in Taipei. However, there are plenty other options to stay occupied after dark in this island nation. The night markets are top-notch (more on that later). Karaoke lounges are plentiful, where you can rent a private room and pay an hourly rate while you sing your heart out, and indulge in a few Taiwan beers.
There are also food and pub tours available to book to fill your Taiwanese nighttime itineraries. You can even hike Elephant Mountain to get a view of Taipei city lights at night.
6 The Inclusivity
Not only in retrospect to the region, but to the world, Taiwan is a fairly progressive nation. The country legalized gay marriage in 2019, and all same-sex activity is decriminalized.
In a 2019 study conducted by World Bank, Taiwan was ranked #1 for women equality in Asia, and #8 worldwide.
This comes as no surprise, considering Taiwan is currently one of the few nations in the world with a woman leader, President Tsai Ing-Wen.
Taiwan has several laws in place regarding domestic violence, sexual assault prevention, and even employment equality opportunities.
5 The Shopping
Despite being relatively small, Taiwan has a total of 111 shopping malls. While luxury shops exist, Taiwan makes shopping easy due to its affordability. In the bustling Taipei neighborhood of Ximending, street stalls filled with camera accessories, trendy clothes, cute shoes, makeup, and even stuffed animals line the streets.
If material items aren't your thing, head to the Jianguo Holiday Jade and Flower Weekend Market, a must-visit for all of those with a green thumb.
4 The Night Markets
If there's one thing you must do while visiting Taiwan, it's hands-down visiting a night market. Night markets can be found around the world, but there is a special uniqueness to the ones that exist in Taiwan.
They get packed with crowds every night of the week. They're affordable, filled with delectable street eats, from fresh durian to beef skewers to pancakes stuffed with meats, cheese, scallions, and more.
Visiting a night market will give you insight to local life, along with a thrill that becomes exhilarating and addictive.
It's such a fun experience to walk around and watch locals quickly grill and serve up snacks on-the-go, all for you to eat your heart out and enjoy.
3 The Healthcare
Getting ill abroad is a fear for many travelers, but it is bound to happen from time to time. Whether something as inconvenient as an upset stomach, or something as massive as breaking a leg, needing to go to a foreign doctor can cause havoc on travelers' nervous systems.
Have no fear if you get sick in Taiwan. The healthcare is top-notch, alarmingly affordable, and pharmacies allow you to walk right in to purchase what you need for dirt-cheap.
Some medicines are more than a hundred times cheaper in Taiwan than, for example, the United States. And, long waits in a doctor's office aren't even necessary for most prescriptions.
2 The Cost
Not only is healthcare affordable, but nearly everything in Taiwan comes at a low price.
Meals are often $6 or less, alcoholic beverages average $4, riding the metro in Taipei is $0.60 a ride, hostels run as low as $13/night, and hotels run as low as $45/night.
Taiwan offers youthful aspects, comparable to Japan's kawaii culture, but without the hefty price tags of Japan. Taiwan notoriously offers a high quality of life with a low cost of living.
1 The Quirkiness
Despite its conservative values, Taiwan can easily be described as a quirky place. In the city of Taipei, you'll find themed restaurants, ranging from Gudatema to legos to even a Modern Toilet Restaurant, where everything is served in a throne.
There's a street in the city of Taipei, Shenkeng Old Street, dedicated solely to tofu, where you can purchase all types of tofu dishes.
One of the cooler activities to partake in is lighting a lantern on a famous railroad track, just a short distance outside the city of Taipei.