Taiwan’s recent history dates back to 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek and his defeated Kuomintang soldiers and followers, about 1.3 million people in all, fled mainland China. While China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and regards it as a province of China, Taiwan considers itself more Chinese than mainland China. Regardless of its complicated relationships, travellers taking Taiwan flights will discover a fascinating land with a rich cultural heritage, glorious, otherworldly lantern festivals and six national parks with dramatic volcano-and-hot-spring landscapes.
Taipei, the capital, boasts not only one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers (Taipei 101) but the National Palace Museum, which has the world’s best collection of traditional Chinese artefacts and the contents of the Forbidden Palace (in Beijing), the National Centre for Traditional Arts and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The city also has lively night markets. The most famous is the Shilin Night Market where you can walk from stall to stall sampling Taiwanese cuisine.
An exciting country, just half-a-day away, there are reasonably cheap flights to Taiwan from airports around the UK.
Warm weather year round with consistent conditions between summer and autumn and changeable weather in spring and winter. The average annual temperature is 22 degrees. At its coldest Taiwan has temperatures in the 12 to 17 degree range. The rainy season runs from March to May and June to August is typhoon season.
Taiwan has a wonderful tradition of festivals and holidays. Festivals are ruled by the lunar calendar and include the Chinese New Year Festival, Lantern Festival (around 15th day of the first moon) when brightly coloured lanterns adorn temples or are carried by children to lantern competitions (Taipei has the most famous competition); the Dragon Boat Festival (in the fifth lunar month) when teams compete with each in the dragon-boat races (the festival repels evil spirits and disease); and the Ghost Festival, Taiwan’s Hallowe’en, when the dead are honoured with gifts of food.
Official holidays are on the Western calendar. Such holidays include Founding Day of the Republic of China; Tomb-Sweeping Day; 228 Memorial Day; Armed Forces Day; Taiwan’s Retrocession Day; and Double Tenth National Day.
There’s not really a bad time to visit Taiwan, however, June, July and August are the warmest and most humid months of the year. Typhoon season is June-October and Taiwan is hit by about four typhoons each year.
Airlines that fly domestically include Mandarin Airlines, Transasia Airways, Far Eastern Air Transport and Uni Air.
In Taipei, there is a good, and expanding, metro system. There are eight lines and 69 stations including two main transfer stations, Taipei Main Station and Zhongxiao Fuxing Station. Train services – all air-conditioned – from the capital around Taiwan are excellent. Bus services are also comprehensive, punctual and comfortable.
Taxis are plentiful and cheap, but many drivers do not speak English so make sure your destination is written in Chinese characters.
All the major rental-car companies are represented at Taiwan’s airports.
(prices quoted are from London)