Top tips for visiting Taiwan ... the beautiful island
Rathi Sivasothy, Far East expert, recently visited Taiwan to explore not only Taipei, its vibrant capital, but also to discover some of the hidden gems away from the city. For a food and photography enthusiast, it was as much the breath-taking scenery, as the tapioca bubble tea that won her over.
Here she shares her four favourites from the trip.
Favourite Hotel – The Lalu, Sun Moon Lake
The Lalu is a beautiful boutique hotel located on the shores of Sun Moon Lake. It was once the official residence of the Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito and a holiday retreat for the former President Chiang Kai-Shek.
It offers complete luxury among the peace and tranquillity of the green landscapes and emerald waters of Taiwan’s largest lake. The hotel has stunning rooms with modern features and a private balcony with views over the lake or the courtyard. A great choice if you long to relax and unwind.
Top tip: after spending a day cruising the lake and visiting the local monasteries, take a swim in the 60-metre outdoor pool. Afterwards, relax at the Tea House and try their selection of savoury snacks with a cup of delicious Chinese tea.
Kenting National Park
Located on Hengchun Peninsula on the island’s south coast, Kenting was Taiwan’s first national park. With a variety of terrains, including limestone caves, low-lying hills and forests, along with year-round tropical weather, the park is perfect for hiking enthusiasts.
After a morning of hiking, visit one of the many beautiful beaches with their aqua blue sea and fine white sand and enjoy a well-deserved dip in the ocean.
Fo Guan Shan monastery is located near Kaohsiung. The Buddha museum (previously known as the Buddha Memorial Centre) built to house a Buddha's tooth relic, was completed in 2011 and includes various museums and exhibits. The original monastery, which has been in place since 1967, is located close by.
Fo Guang Shan is a large complex so set aside a whole day to explore it fully. Start your visit at the museum where you will find a large shopping centre, which houses the world’s first vegetarian Starbucks – or so I was told. However, once you get past the variety of shops, you find yourself on Buddha Avenue lined by eight Chinese-style seven-storey pagodas, which lead to a 36 metre-tall bronze statue of Amitabha Buddha. Immediately, a sudden calmness surrounds you.
As you explore the museum and various exhibits, you can discover more about the teachings of Fo Guang Shan. It is possible to request a private tour with a monastic, who will answer your questions and show you around. Cox & Kings can prebook this for you if you are planning to visit.
Favourite Food – Dumplings from Din Tai Fung
If you visit Taipei, make sure you go to Din Tai Fung – the Taipei 101 branch – for some delicious steamed dumplings and beef noodle soup. Be prepared to queue for at least 30 minutes to get a table, but I assure you the dumplings will be worth the wait. Make sure you try the prawn and pork dumplings in a spicy sauce, but be warned, they are very addictive!