The people of Taiwan welcome visitors with open arms and a smile. Though it truly is a friendly and stunning place with all the necessary ingredients to make tourism its top industry, it sadly isn't getting the attention it deserves. Taiwan’s population is concentrated on the western side of the tropical island, as city dwellers need the five mountainous ranges, endless beaches and abundant wildlife to escape from the congestion and pollution. There is nature surrounding Taipei, Taiwan’s rapidly growing capital, and its modern downtown is designed with areas for leisure and relaxation. However, the 'children of the sweet potato' - a nickname that is throwback to the shape of the island itself - tend to take trains to hide in the colossal underground mall on weekends. They also climb high into the sky on the once tallest skyscraper in the world, Taipei 101 with its unique design inspired by bamboo. Taiwan is not just amazing for its cities, its nature or for breaking world records, however. It is a place influenced by many different types of people. The Taiwanese aborigines, for example, are divided into thirteen distinct ethnic groups, and the country has been occupied by the Japanese, Chinese, Dutch and Spaniards, with each leaving its mark over time. The food here is interesting, diverse and delicious, from sushi with corn to sweet European bread, and it languages, too, have been influenced by the outside world, with Japanese words playing a role in Taiwanese, one of the island's three official languages. The People's Republic of China claims this unique place belongs to them, but in this Republic of China, people hold steadfast to independence. The Portuguese named the island Formosa for its beauty, something this 'heart of Asia' will surely always possess. ~ Jason Trinidad Pucheu
You’ll hear it time and time again from local expats: “I came for a year, and I’m going on three”. Or five, or ten. Like so many, I touched base on Ilha Formosa with the idea of staying for a short six months to teach English, save some hard-earned cash and quickly jump on the backpacker scene. That was some time ago; I’ve been here over three years with no clear plan of departure. With so much to see and do in this great country, it's most definitely a great place in which to live and travel.
Once friends and family back home realize that I'm in Taiwan and not Thailand - which is what they think they hear when I first tell them - they almost immediately offer up a dazed and confused look and want to know why. Sometimes it's hard to say, particularly because I hadn't planned on Taiwan. Back in the spring of 2007, I was just itching to leave home after graduating university. I couldn’t have been more excited to start the Asian chapter of my adventures abroad, so I did like any other broke, newly graduated 20-something: I hopped on the Korean Seoul Train, and disembarked in the southern city of Busan. After a year of Cass beers, way too many soju games and overdosing on kimchi, I realized I was far from finished my Asian adventure. I did what most ESLers did with their piggy banks full of Korean won: I blew it all backpacking through Southeast Asia. So why did I end up in Taiwan? Honestly, I heard that’s where the money was.