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PAKISTAN: THE NEXT HOT DESTINATION
The TRAVELIFE TEAM flew across the sea to nearby Taiwan to explore its environmental wonders and enriching culture. As one of Asiaâ€™s tiger economies, Taiwan continues to nurture its natural resources and maintains one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world. Despite its modernity and rapidly changing urban landscape, there is a laid-back and serene vibe that emanates from within its suburbs, parks, and temples.
Photographed by Joanne-Marie Dela Rama Modeled by Chal Chang Lontoc-del Rosario Art Directed by Angelica Bayona Dress by Pia Perey Shoes from Otto Special thanks to the Eva Air, Jeron Travel and Tours, and Taiwan Visitors Association
SU-AO COLD SPRING RESORT There are only two cold spring resources in the worldâ€”Taiwan and Italy. In Yilan county in Taiwan, the Su-ao Cold Spring Resort is a popular spot for locals and tourists because the locals believe that cold water treatments can cure all sorts of bodily aches and diseases like gout, kidney stones, and diabetes, among others.
HUALIEN PORT TEMPLE This temple was built in honor of the goddess Sheng Mu Mei Zhou Ta Ma who protected and saved the Taiwanese people after a devastating earthquake hit Taiwan. The temple is a fitting reminder of the Taiwanese peopleâ€™s gratitude to their beloved goddess. Kimono cover up by Heir Clothing Dress by Tantease Shoes from Otto
BRIGHT LIGHTS IN A BIG CITY JOANNE-MARIE DELA RAMA rejoices over what’s beautiful and delicious in Taiwan
he iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper, pineapple cakes and milk teas are just some of the things I associated with Taiwan before I actually set foot there. The Travelife team recently visited Taiwan to discover the magic of this destination, just over two hours away from Manila but still so very much under the radar for discerning travelers. On this trip, I quickly learned that there’s so much more to this small but beautiful and mountainous island with a unique, old-fashioned culture; and I left marveling for more.
ADMIRABLE LANDSCAPES IN HUALIEN Our first stop was Hualien, the largest county in the east coast of Taiwan, accessible via a scenic five-hour bus ride or three hours on the express train, and full of interesting attractions.
Photo from Taiwan Tourism Bureau
Hualien is known for its marble factories and aboriginal villages, and the aboriginal culture is evident everywhere. The indigenous tribes are into farming, hunting, embroidery, knitting, and even wine brewing.
It’s also home to the famous Taroko Gorge National Park. You enter the park via a 19-kilometer long marble canyon punctuated by mountains, rivers and cliffs, and beyond these are lovely trails for river tracing and hiking. To get to the most scenic venues, you’ll have to navigate past an endless line of buses and hordes of Chinese tourists wearing protective hard hats; but the efforts are worth it.
ABOUT TAIWAN The Portuguese sailors who discovered Taiwan called it “Ilha Formosa” or Beautiful Island. Taiwanese Aborigines once inhabited this island before the Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese colonized it, and was officially called “The Republic of China” (which sets it apart from the People’s Republic of China). As one of the “Four Asian Tigers,” together with Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea, Taiwan roars not just with its rapid economic growth but also with natural beauties with its eight well-preserved and protected national parks.
TAIPEI CHECKLIST SEE the National Palace Museum Step into the world of Ancient Chinese Art at The National Museum of the Republic of China (Taiwan), also known as the National Palace Museum. With 693,507 pieces of Chinese artifacts and works, there is always something new to see. It will take you 12 years to see everything since only 60,000 cultural pieces are exhibited annually, with displays rotating once every three months. www.npm.gov.tw
The park is known for having the biggest marble formation in the world, and you will certainly not be disappointed. On a good day, the topography and rock formations are truly a sight to behold, and the park’s varying climates allow a myriad of vegetation to thrive. A short drive from the Taroko Gorge National Park is the Changchun Shrine, known also as the Eternal Spring Shine. This shrine commemorates the 226 military veterans who built Central Cross-Island Highway with their bare hands and without the help of any machinery in the late 1950s. Thinking about those soldiers who built this highway across Taiwan filled me with a deep respect for their efforts. We also visited the Hualien Port Temple, which was built in honor of Sheng Mu Mei Zhou Ta Ma, a goddess who saved the world and protected the Taiwanese people. The huge temple, a symbol of the gratitude of the Taiwanese people, has several meticulously sculpted and impressive wooden artworks.
EAT at Din Tai Fung, a family-run restaurant founded by Bingyi Yang and his wife, Lai Penmei in 1958. It is now an award-winning restaurant with franchises in over 10 different countries. A trip to Taiwan is not complete without trying its famous xiao long bao. www.dintaifung.com.tw
Cold spring resorts are also popular in Taiwan. Locals and tourists visit the Su-ao Cold Spring Resort in Yilan county to enjoy its natural therapeutic properties. Cold water treatments reportedly can cure all sorts of illnesses, promote good skin condition, and overall good health. It’s the only calcium hydroxy carbonic spring in Asia, and one of only two in the world. The other cold spring source is in Sicily, Italy.
HOT & COLD IN XINTAI Another popular destination for Taiwanese families and tourists is the Tang Sparty hot spring spa in Xintai City, which is just a short and leisurely walk from the Formosa Fun Coast, the largest water park in Taiwan. A favored summer destination for both locals and tourists, the water park offers thermal baths with medicinal and beautifying benefits, saunas, and hot rock beds.
Furthermore, the high levels of carbon dioxide in the water are known to ease body aches and pain and to help with diseases such as diabetes, gout, and kidney stones. The same carbonated spring is also the source of water for a carbonated drink called Taiwan Sham Chin Soda Pop, which is lighter compared to regular carbonated drinks and probably healthier, too. www.travelife.biz
STROLL through The Xinyi Commercial District, the source of everything, from fashion and trends to culture and arts. It’s always busy with performances and activities. The highlights include the famous Sky Bridge and the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi New Life Square complex which has four department stores interconnected by sky bridges and long, covered galleries. This neighborhood is also home to Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper on earth. No wonder it’s nicknamed “Taipei’s Manhattan.” taipei.gov.tw
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO JOYCE Joyce Hsu, one of Taipei’s prettiest and liveliest personalities, is also an official W Taipei Insider. Basically she’s a clued-in concierge for W Hotel guests who updates them about hottest events and everything cool, fun, and interesting in Taipei. Joyce’s picks for what to do and where to eat in Taipei: Best Mojitos: Woobar (www.woobartaipei.com)
TEMPTING DELICACIES EVERYWHERE
Best Coffee: Woolloomooloo (No. 379 Xinyi Road Section 4, Taipei | No. 95, Fujin Street, Taipei)
A visit to Taiwan isn’t complete without trying its unique local offerings and diverse streetfood. The cuisine is Chinese, but with a local twist that makes use of herbs and ingredients found only on the island.
Best Cantonese Restaurant: YEN (www.yentaipei.com) Best Dumplings: Din Tai Fung (www.dintaifung.com.tw) and Bright Moon Steamed Soup Dumpling (No. 40, Ln. 171, Tonghua St., Da’an Dist., Taipei) Best breakfast at 4 AM: Fu-Xing South Road Late Supper & Breakfast Lane Best Foodie Spot: “Addiction Aquatic Development” in Taipei Fish Market. But you need to go before 6 PM. (No. 18, Alley 3, Lane 410, Ming Zhu East Road, Taipei) Best massage place: Away Spa (www.wtaipei.com/en/ awayspa) and M-One Spa (www.orangeshabu.com.tw)
FOODIE DISCOVERY IN HUALIEN
The Guo Xiang Yuan restaurant in Su’ao is on the road to Hualien from Taipei. Their delicacies—mainly fresh seafood that are cooked in various ways including in soybean sauce or with yam or oyster oil—are plated and served artfully on fancy ceramic platters. This restaurant is also famous for its bottled pickles with fish roe, which make great take-home gifts. The staff barely speaks English so you’ll have to point out what you want from what’s being served to other customers if you’re not accompanied by a local guide. But the miscommunication is worth it. If you are a lover of seafood, this is the best local place to get your fix. Ming Guo Road, Hualien, Taiwan. Tel. (886) (3) 833-1877
One of the best places to hop around street food stalls is the Shilin Night Market, one of the largest night markets in Taipei, with a smorgasbord of fashionable finds and foodie delights. We were seduced by the many flavors, aroma, and offerings on the streets— everything from oyster omelettes and fruits in plum powder, to salt and pepper chicken with basil, and the famous iron eggs and stinky tofu, just to name a few. But, actually, you’ll find delicious street food almost everywhere in Taiwan. Entrepreneurial vendors peddling delicacies based on their grandmother’s recipe or on an original way of grilling or cooking can be found in major commercial areas and in front of public places such as temples and amusement parks. Of course, you can’t leave Taipei without trying the delicately steamed xiao long bao dumpling at Din Tai Fung, a popular familyrun restaurant in Taiwan that has now become famous internationally and sprouted branches in other countries as well. Although it’s not original to Taiwan, it’s a must-try for any foodie visitor; the famous dumplings are simply bursting with flavor. We tried to get the Din Tai Fung staff to reveal the secret behind the delicious dumplings, but without success. These xiao long bao were among the best I have ever tasted—a fitting start to our Taiwan trip, and to journey through other delicious and mouthwatering Taiwanese dishes we were about to discover.
UNIQUE FINDS TRAVELIFE recommends three shopping places to check out in Taipei
DANSHUI OLD STREETS
The Taiwanese love going to night markets to bond with family and friends, especially on weekends. At the Danshui Old Streets market, we found pineapple cakes and iron eggs, as well as Taiwanese aboriginal products. Danshuei is also known for the historical Fort Santo Domingo and the romantic Fisherman’s Wharf.
XIMENDING COMMERCIAL AREA
One of the best places to get good finds and have fun in Taipei is the Ximending district where Taiwan’s local fashion meets Japanese culture. Historical and yet trendy, the Ximending Commercial Area was the first to be built in Taipei and it’s the largest pedestrian area in the country.
AMICABLE ATMOSPHERE Taiwan is so near and so fun. It’s all about food, culture, landscapes, and shopping. But what made this particular visit memorable for me were my encounters with the Taiwanese. The locals I’d met on this trip were warm, hospitable, and courteous, imbued with a great sense of hospitality. The tangible and intangible attractions of this island will most definitely capture the hearts of travelers seeking all kinds of adventures. As I left Taiwan, I said goodbye with a new respect and awe for its culture and people. Taiwan and its people broke my preconceived notions and happily exceeded my expectations of bright lights, skyscrapers and, of course, the famous milk tea. n
Ximending is full of street vendors hawking everything from makeup and cosmetics, to beef noodles and one-of-a-kind fashion finds such as studded platform shoes and rabbit-eared rubber shoes. Young entrepreneurs also sell homemade products like dog accessories and strange handmade soaps. Make sure to visit the Red House Theater, an octagonal Westernstyle building right on Ximending Square. This is where Taiwan’s rich visual and performance art scene thrives, and it’s truly a multisensory experience with Asian pop music playing in every corner, and cinemas and karaoke centers all around.
WU FEN PU FASHION DISTRICT
This is the largest clothing market in Taipei and a must-visit for bargain hunters. Mainly a wholesale garments market, many visitors also come here for its wide selection of clothing and accessories. The market is open to the public daily except Mondays.
MADE IN TAIWAN TRAVELIFE picks the best items to bring home from Taiwan.
JADE One of Taiwan’s best-selling products, it comes in various forms—from loose stones, rings, bracelets, and carvings to lucky charms. The Jianguo Jade Market is the perfect place to purchase your souvenir.
GLASS ART Superbly handcrafted glass art known as liuli are ideal buys. They come in lively hues of different designs, shapes, and figures. Although on the pricey side, its delicate elegance is the perfect present for someone special. The world-famous glass art store LiuLiGongFang originated in Taiwan. www.liuli.com the Beggar’s Chicken, a unique and interesting dish which needs to be hammered open! www.dianshuilou.com.tw
FOODIE FINDS • Wake up to an authentic local breakfast at Fu Hang Dou Jiang which include crispy you tiao (fried doughnuts); thin and flaky shao bing, a sesame flatbread; and hot or cold, sweet or savory dou jiang or soy milk. Make sure to get there early. 2/F Hua Shan Market, No. 108 Zhongxiao East Rd., Sec. 1, Taipei. • Bring home some of the pineapple cakes at Chia Te Bakery. These award-winning cakes made with buttery pastry and filled with tangysweet pineapple filling are a favorite of locals and tourists alike. No. 88, Sec. 5, Nanjing East Rd., Songshan District, Taipei. • Get a taste of delectable Shanghai-style Taiwanese cuisine with a lauriat at Dian Shui Lou. Must-tries include the drunken chicken, sautéed minced shrimp in lettuce wrap, and
• Experience Taiwan’s booming food scene and dine on French food at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. A gourmet feast initiated by this Michelin-star rated chef and an impressive selection of wine awaits diners. www.robuchon.com.tw • Warm up a cold night with a bowl of beef noodles at Lin Dong Fang. This is Taiwanese comfort food at its best, with freshly made noodles and tender beef pieces swimming in steaming broth, perfectly finished off with their signature beef butter. Order the half-tendon, halfbeef bowl and add a dash of homemade chili oil. 274 Bade Road, Sec. 2, Jhongshan District, Taipei • Explore the food stalls of Tonghua Night Market which are known for stinky tofu and barbecued meats. The night market starts from 5 PM until 4 AM. Linjiang Street, between Tonghua and Keelung Roads, Taipei.
POTTERY Taiwan’s capital of pottery is the town of Yingge, where The Old Pottery Street—known also as the best ceramic museum in Taiwan— offers excellent pottery and ceramic pieces.
INK STONES These can be made from brick, pottery, or jade, and they generally come as flat stones of different sizes and shapes, inscribed with your name or your loved one’s name on the surface. Ink stones are very popular as gifts and widely available in Taiwan.
HOW TO GET THERE
TRAVEL PARTNER Jeron Travel and Tours (JTC), awarded as one of the most outstanding Travel Services by the Philippine Marketing Excellence Awards, continuous to consistently provide exceptional service to its clients. With a full range of products, from VIP tours, conference packages for corporate firms, media tour, wedding packages and independent travelers, JTC has established markets in countries like Taiwan, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Thailand among others. www.jerontravel.com
Eva Air flies daily to Taiwan. The two-and-a-half hour ride is just enough time to enjoy Eva Air’s award-winning service and onboard comforts. From Taipei, Eva Air also flies onwards to over 40 other international destinations around the globe. Eva Air also offers a one-of-a-kind Hello Kitty experience. They have five Hello Kitty-themed jets which offer personalized service from the moment you check-in at the Hello Kitty counter to Hello Kitty products from the boarding pass to the onboard meals.
The Travelife Magazine team wishes to thank the Taiwan Visitors Association for their kind cooperation.
WHEN TO GO
Taiwan is a humid region and typically presents an average temperature of 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 degrees Fahrenheit) all year round. July to September may be the best time to go as it offers the most activities to experience. The coldest months are January to March, the hottest months are June to August.
WHERE TO STAY
NEED TO KNOW Formerly known as Formosa or “Beautiful Island” (Ilha Formosa) by the Portuguese in 1544, Taiwan is now officially known as the “Republic of China.” With Taipei as its capital city, and known to be the country’s economic and cultural center, this state in East Asia is surrounded by the People’s Republic of China on its west, Japan on its east and northeast, and the Philippines to its south. It is home to more than 23 million people, and is known to be one of the most densely populated places in the world.
TRAVELER’S CHECKLIST Taiwan requires a visa for Philippine tourists. Visit the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines at 41/F Tower 1, RCBC Plaza, 6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, Phone: (63) (2) 887-6688. CURRENT EXCHANGE RATE 1 US$ = 29.97 Taiwan New Dollar TIME DIFFERENCE There is no time difference between Taiwan and the Philippines. PHILIPPINE REPRESENTATIVE OFFICE IN TAIWAN MECO (Manila Economic and Cultural Office) Labor Center Taipei 11/F, No. 176 Chang Chun Road, Taipei City, Taiwan R.O.C., 104; Tel (886) (2) 25079032; (886) (2) 2507-8912, Fax (886) (2) 2507-9805. www.meco-labor.org.tw
TAIPEI LUXURY W TAIPEI An ideal location at the heart of the city, coupled with modern, five-star amenities, this hotel is perfect for the on-the-go traveler looking to explore this dynamic city. Shopping, dining, and entertainment options are but a few steps away from this trendy hotel in Xinyi District with cuttingedge design and spectacular views of the city. www.wtaipei.com LES SUITES TAIPEI DA-AN Spacious rooms in contemporary design define this boutique hotel centrally located within Taipei’s shopping and entertainment district. Although located in a busy area, the Art Deco interiors of muted earth tones provide a charmingly relaxed ambience—an alternative to cold and impersonal business hotels around the city. www.hotelsuitesda-an.com SAN WANT RESIDENCES Oriental décor and sculptures by local Taiwanese artists greet visitors to this grand hotel at the Nanjing East Road. Although it is not within close proximity to tourist sites, the hotel’s excellent service and amenities make it a top choice for lodging in downtown Taipei. www.swresidences.com PALAIS DE CHINE HOTEL A mix of modern Chinese and Parisian sophistication is a luxurious five-star retreat with stunning views of west Taipei will surely make you feel in royal high. www.palaisdechinehotel.com www.travelife.biz
VALUE ROYAL BIZ TAIPEI Located within the Zhongzheng District and walking distance to the National Chiang KaiShek Memorial Hall, this business hotel offers spacious and comfortable guest rooms and basic hotel amenities. Foodies will appreciate its proximity to Yongkang Food Street. www.royalbiz.com.tw AMBIENCE HOTEL This offbeat and avant-garde boutique hotel is a refreshing alternative to the usual hotel accommodation. The unique décor in each guestroom and common areas complements Taipei’s dynamic, urban vibe. www. ambiencehotel.com.tw
OUTSIDE TAIPEI EVERGREEN RESORT HOTEL JIAOSI This modern five-star hotel is located right at the heart of the Jiaoxi hot springs area of Taiwan. It has a variety of luxurious rooms offering all kinds of hot springs experiences, including a Japanese hot springs room that turns regular hot springs water into an oxygen milk bath using patented technology. www.evergreen-hotels.com YILAN SHANGRI-LA BOUTIQUE HOTEL This Mediterranean-style boutique hotel, which is about one hour away from Taipei, is the perfect base for sampling the Su-ao Cold Springs and for visiting the Dongshan River Water Park. It has comfortable accommodations for couples and for families. www.shangrilashotel.com OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 2012
Photo from Taiwan Tourism Bureau
HUALIEN FARGLORY HOTEL Located on a hilltop in Yan-liao Village, the Hualien Farglory Hotel is a Victorian-style structure with a pretty garden and balcony views offering refreshing vistas of the mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It’s also adjacent to the Farglory Ocean Park, which makes your stay in Hualien convenient and fun. www.farglory-hotel.com.tw TANG SPARTY This hot spring spa resort offers comfort and wellness. Directly connected to Formosa Fun Coast, it’s a good place for couples, friends and families. www.fww.com.tw/tangspa
WHERE TO EAT DIN TAI FUNG The New York Times ranked it as one of the world’s top 10 restaurants while its first Hong Kong branch was awarded one Michelin star in 2010. With restaurant chains around the world, Din Tai Fung’s home in Taiwan is where it’s best to experience its wellknown xiao long bao. Dine at its Taipei 101 branch, but be sure to reserve a table in advance. www.dintaifung.com.tw FIFI One of the most popular foodie destinations for discerning locals, this stylish Chinese restaurant offers nouvelle Chinese created by local fashion designer Isabelle Wen. www.isabelle-wen.com/wenfifi SHI-YANG CULTURE RESTAURANT Traditional but creative Taiwanese cuisine is served in a rustic and yet modern atmosphere reminiscent of the good old days in Taipei. A meal here is supposed to be savored slowly, so make sure you set aside about three hours for this unique dining experience. www.shi-yang.com CHINTAI This very casual restaurant is famous for seafood, and the most popular dish on the menu is the seafood on rice, which is literally a Japanese-style pile of the most luscious-looking seafood on a hot bed rice, is not at cheap but locals swear by this meal and the long queues just for a seat speaks for the experience and probably justifies the bill at the end. Tel (886) (2) 8792-8167
THINGS TO DO CULINARY ESCAPE • Enjoy stinky tofu, deep fried squid, fishball, and fresh cranberry juice at Shilin Night Market and at the Danshui Old Streets market. • Find the best beef noodles along Ximending District’s hidden corners.
WHAT TO BUY • Pineapple cake is a local delicacy. You can buy these at many food emporiums or souvenir shops. • Oolong tea with accompanying boxed tea sets also make great gifts. • Name chops can be ordered on the spot with the equivalent of your name in Chinese characters. • Reproductions from the National Palace Museum make great home accents and gifts.
TAIWAN FOR KIDS
• Hualien Farglory Ocean Park is Taiwan’s first theme park for marine ecology. The highlights include regular shows involving dolphin and seals, and ocean adventure rides such as water rides and roller coasters that families can enjoy together. www.farglory-oceanpark.com.tw • Babyboss City in Taipei is an indoor playground where children can experience life in a regular city, undertaking all kinds of jobs. They can work for an airline or a bank, or be a firefighter or a magazine editor. After each job is finished, the children receive a “salary” which can be saved in a bank and withdrawn later via an ATM card to buy gifts or snacks. www.babyboss.tw