Looking for a getaway that’s familiar but different? The historic island of Taiwan is just a short hop across the South China Sea. A Chinese feel, but with strong Japanese and European influences, its northeast is full of fascinating attractions and natural beauty. Here’s how to spend six days taking in the best of what the region has to offer.
Day one: Taipei, part I
Image: Jade Wu (Ningxia Night Market)
Around a three-hour flight from the capital, Taipei offers a dare we say, welcome, slower pace of life than Beijing. Famous for its busy night markets and their variety of delectable street food (don’t skip the fresh seafood stalls at Ningxia Lu’s famous night market in Datong district; pictured above), as the home to the world's former tallest building Taipei 101, and the fascinating Imperial art and artefacts of the National Palace Museum, Taipei is very much a modern Asian capital, blending elements of the past with those of the future.
Image: Jade Wu (Dihua Street, Datong district)
Day two: Shui Nan Dong and Jiufen
Image: Jade Wu (Shui Nan Dong)
Venture further northeast of New Taipei City to Taiwan’s famed gold-mining area (take the Keelung bus route 1062 or a 30-minute taxi ride from Taipei). The water of Shui Nan Dong Bay (above) shimmers gold and blue, having been discoloured by gold minerals – the effect is strange but fascinating.
Image: Jade Wu (A Mei Teahouse, Jiufen)
Photos snapped, head for the old mining town Jiufen, a popular spot with tourist groups renowned for its traditional teahouses and old alleyways. Due to the abundance of precious metals and the vast numbers of islanders coming to work in the mines during the 1920s, Jiufen was dubbed ‘Little Shanghai’. Fear not, there’s not an Ofo, Mobike or Wagas in sight, just picturesque ocean views – like those from the charming A Mei Teahouse (20 Shinxia Alley, Ruifang; pictured above), which is great for a spot of lunch.
Day three: Fulong Beach
Image: courtesy Taiwan Tourism Bureau (Fulong International Sand Sculpture Arts Festival)
Head down the east coast until you hit Fulong Beach (around an hour or so from central Taipei by car or a little more by train) and the lavish Fullon Hotel (41 Fulong Jie; around 1,100-1,800RMB per night). Home to the Fulong International Sand Sculpture Arts Festival (this year running until July 15; pictured above), here you can catch displays of incredible sand sculptures, constructed by artists from all over the world.
Day four: Jiaoxi
Image: Jade Wu (Jiaoxizhuang Yingtaogu)
Around an hour south by car or an hour and a half south by train is rural township Jiaoxi, a small area rightly famed for its hot springs, with a number of public springs and many hotels boasting their own baths on site. Forego shared springs and check yourself in for a night of luxury at Wellspring by Silks (67 Wenquan Lu; from around 1,200RMB per night), where premium rooms come with a private hot spring bath on their private balcony. Fancy. All that relaxing made you hungry? Jiaoxizhuang Yingtaogu (72 Jiaoxi Lu; pictured above) serves some seriously good duck.
Basically, Jiaoxi is a wonderful place to relax and put your feet up before you take on the hiking trails of Taroko Gorge...
Day five: Taroko Gorge
Image: Adam Hopkins (Taroko Gorge)
Easily accessible from nearby Hualien City (one hour and 45 minutes by train from Jiaoxi), the naturally occurring Taroko Gorge in Taroko National Park (pictured above) is a sight to behold, with its valleys and canyons offering great routes for hiking and exploring – like the Shakadang Trail, an easygoing 4.5km hike that winds its way along Shakandang River through the heart of the gorge.
Other sites and sights worth your time here are the naturally formed Swallow Grotto walking trail and the Eternal Spring Shrine – a picturesque landmark constructed in memory of the 212 veterans who died constructing the Central Cross-Island Highway that connects Taiwan's east and west.
If you're looking for a place to rest your weary head within the park five-star style, there's the decadent mountain-side Silks Place Taroko Hotel (18 Tianxiang Lu; from around 1,500RMB per night) – the only five-star resort within the park. Alternatively there's the Taroko Village Hotel (231 Fushi Village; from around 1,000RMB per night), designed in the style of a traditional village of the indigenous Truku people.
Day six: Taipei, part II
Head back to Taipei for a final day of sightseeing, cause let's face it, the Taiwanese capital is worth way more than a day trip. This time around, be sure to check out the famous Longshan Temple (211 Guangzhou Jie) and the bookworm’s dream 24-hour Eslite Dunnan bookstore
(245 Tunhua Nan Lu).
Flights from Beijing to Taipei start at around 1,600RMB return on Ctrip. For more information on this tour or to plan your trip, visit mytaiwantour.com