The capital is congested place, with three million people in the city itself and another three million in the surrounding countryside. That said, it has plenty of attractions to detain you for a couple of days, including atmospheric temples, museums, historic monuments and teeming night markets. If you do nothing else here, visit the National Palace Museum, featuring the world's finest array of Chinese artifacts, moved here in 1948 by the Kuomintang; it's such a huge collection that only a tiny fraction is displayed at any one time. Chian Kuo is one of the largest jade markets in the world, with more than nine hundred sellers. Also a must-see is Snake Alley, where fortune-tellers, tattoo parlours, fruit sellers and restaurants nestle alongside stalls where you can try a drink of snake blood and bile (and optional venom), removed from a specimens freshly killed and skinned in front of you. The mind-boggling concoction is said to strengthen the eyes, spine and sexual vitality
On the east coast, the island's main tourist attraction features a thundering river, towering cliffs and plenty of excellent opportunities for camping and trekking. The most picturesque route to the gorge is via the 200-kilometre-long Cross-Island Highway from Tungshih, with fabulous scenery - tropical valleys, mountain panoramas and lakes - all along the way
Kenting National Park
In the sunny, fertile lowlands of the far south of the island, this park, near the town of Kenting, has white beaches, forests, an attractive coastlines, waterfalls, hot springs and plenty more to explore. On the beaches, there are plenty of water-sports to try by day and pubs and discos and karaoke bars to choose from at night
At 2190m, the best of the island's mountain resorts merely offer an escape from the lowland heat; it's gorgeous spot, surrounded by cedar and pine forests, with the blossoming of the cherry trees a special feature in the spring. Among the numerous treks here, the obligatory excursion is the one to the peak of 2489-metre Chu Shan (Celebration Mountain), where several thousand people jostle every morning for views of the sunrise. Some Westerners are disappointed by the frequently misty weather, but local people are just as happy whatever the conditions, believing that mountain mists contain a high density of qi, the "life force". The narrow-gauge stream train from Chiayi to Alishan is an especially picturesque route there, taking three and a half hours to climb up through the rolling hills, negotiating 50 tunnels and 77 bridges en route
Temples are the main reason to visit this city, said to contain around two hundred of them. The most famous is the Temple of the Jade Emperor, the oldest Daoist temple in the city, where a constant stream of visitors comes to pray in a highly atmospheric setting; every wall, ceiling and door is adorned with detailed carvings and frescoes, and spirit mediums here are often involved in rituals in which they attempt to contact the dead on behalf of the living
Taking the east coast highway from Suao to Taitung
In places, the road is carved out of cliffs which drop a sheer 1000m into the crashing surf below. The most dramatic past is between Suao and Hualien, which includes a section called Chingshui Cliff where the drops beside the road are especially vertiginous. About halfway between Hualien and Tiatung, the Hsiukuluan River is Taiwan's most popular white-water rafting area.
A major harbour from the twentieth centuries, this small west coast town retains its tiny alleyways and historic atmosphere. In the centre of town, the Lungshan temple, dating from the eighteenth century, has fantastically carved ceilings; it was dedicated to Kuanyin, the goddess of mercy, by Chinese settlers in thanks for their safe crossing from the mainland. The craftsman here still produce furniture, fans, lanterns and incense using traditional techniques, and the Lukang Folk Art Museum is a good place to view fine, historic examples of their art
This modern temple/monastery complex in the rolling hills northeast of the city of Kaohsiung is the centre of Taiwanese Buddhist scholarship. There are four main temples, all magnificent and spacious, with the largest dedicated to Buddha; its walls are lined with 14,800 niches, each containing a tiny golden Buddha statue. At the other end of the scale, a 32-metre Buddha - the largest on the island - lies in the grounds, surrounded by life-sized statues of 480 Buddhist disciples.
At 3997m this is the highest peak on the island, higher even than Mount Fuji. To reach the summit you'll need to spend two nights on the mountain, watching sunrise from the top.
Sun Moon Lake
Set 750m up in the hills, this popular spot was created by damming the valley here for a hydroelectric scheme. The surrounding forests and bamboo groves contain many excellent treks.
Lanyu or Orchid Island
Just 45 square kilometers in size, this is home to over hundred Yami people, the island's indigenous inhabitants, who still lead a seafaring lifestyle. Reached by ferry from Taitung, Lanyu has excellent coastal scenery and volcanic countryside, and is a great place to explore.
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