Taiwan

Still off limits: Why I can’t wait to go back to Taiwan

Still off limits: Why I can’t wait to go back to Taiwan


A A few years ago, I found myself eating poop-shaped ice cream from the U-bend of a miniature toilet. The Modern Toilet restaurant tour, one of five culinary anthems in Taiwan that pays tribute to bathrooms, is the surreal highlight of a tour that covers all its East Asian bases.

I eat lightweight dumplings in atmospheric night markets; I explore gilded Buddhist temples rich in sandalwood; I enjoy oolong rituals in 16th-century teahouses where I can almost hear the clamor of Ming merchants; Dazzling interior of Taiwan. Here, marble canyons plunge into turquoise rivers, and cracks in the earth’s crust bubble with the water that supplies Taiwan’s 130 hot springs (ideal to soothe hiker’s muscles once you’ve mastered hot spring etiquette).



Taiwan is a rising star in Asian travel as the pandemic hits, with arrivals doubling to 46 million

On my first trip, I began to think that Taiwan was more accessible than China, with all the Han cultural treasures (literally, the Chinese court jewels that have been stored in Taipei since the then government retreated from Mao Zedong’s revolutionary forces. 1949 ), air and water pollution levels are lower than those of its dominant neighbours. Taiwan also has an impressive record on safety and crime, making it one of the safest destinations in the world for solo female travelers.

For these reasons, and thanks to a rapid increase in flight connections in the late 2000s, Taiwan was a rising star in Asian tourism when the pandemic hit, doubling its tourist arrivals in the decade to 2018 to 46 million. Cruise lines have the island, too. With the launch of a new mega-cruise port in Kaohsiung in the southeast of the island in 2019, they have their sights set on the South China Sea nation. Princess, Celebrity, Azamara and Royal Caribbean cruise lines have all added Taiwan stops to their popular Tokyo-Hong Kong routes.

However, Taiwan has been one of the more cautious countries in easing border rules during these pandemic years. At the time of writing, Taiwan remains closed to foreigners except for emergency or humanitarian reasons, and those arriving must undergo a 14-day quarantine, with no more than 4,000 people per week.

Beaches in Penghu Islands, Taiwan

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

While I understand the fear, selfishly, I’ve longed to return to an island nicknamed “Ilha Formosa” (The Beautiful Isle) by Western traders on the spice route from China and Indonesia.

For example, I’m eager to explore the Penghu Islands, a group of islands off Taiwan’s west coast that are popular with windsurfers but rarely visit its windswept coastline. Composed of charming Tanah Lot temples, coral-stone villages, and humble huts, they offer unique Penghu cuisine: a combination of umami-rich flavors and seafood, including popular dishes such as boiling fish head hot pot, fried sea mushrooms, and cuttlefish ink Sausage and Shrimp Rolls.

Since my last visit, I heard that young people in Taiwan are keen on cycling, and I really want to go with them on the Hualien East Coast Cycling Hotline in Taitung, passing by golden beaches, fishing ports and “art villages” along the way, where tourists can choose from local artisans Merchandise came to sing. Then, it is necessary to go to the pristine “Beitou” (hot spring) for a blissful trip. Quieter baths are found in Taiwan’s valleys, such as Yushan National Park’s Lelegu Hot Springs, a tranquil spot where you can leave your poo on the rocks and plunge into the baking, mineralized waters.

Another thing about Taiwan — and here it owes something in part to its neighbor to the east, Japan — is its pop culture eccentricities. From anime and cosplay cafés to medieval and space-themed “love hotels” in the capital Taipei, and cartoon “love signs” erected at attractions where tourists post cheerful framed photos on Instagram, you’ll find this Photogenic bits and pieces. Of course, toilet-themed dining is only one aspect of this East Asian tradition.

Cycling is a popular pastime in lush places like Sun Moon Lake

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Taiwan’s border restrictions are expected to ease in autumn (the ideal travel season with the disappearance of the summer monsoon, plenty of sunshine and daytime temperatures in the mid-20s) – and holiday companies are busy selling 2023 Taiwan packages.

These include Responsible Travels’ small ethical group tour of Taiwan, which includes visits to camellia farms and women-led social enterprises in Taipei, and a hike along the scenic Ci’en Pagoda trail to the mystical Sun Moon Lake. There’s also Bamboo Travel’s 15-Day Family Adventure in Taiwan, which takes you kayaking along the island’s rugged coastline and deep into Taipei’s foodie night market stalls. From 2024, Cunard’s much-hyped 19-night Far East cruise aboard the Queen Elizabeth will visit the coast of Japan and the Senkaku Islands before arriving in Keelung (Taipei) on day 16.

Meanwhile, I learned that Modern Toilet took advantage of the pandemic’s fallow period to come up with fresh, nasty desserts, including chicken curry served in a replica squat toilet. The recent reviews of the Shillin branch have been glowing (“Worst way!”; “I usually eat outside the loo, but it’s not as good as this one!”). Apologies to intrepid Taipei diners, it’s not your first choice.



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