Taiwan! Who’d have thought it was one of Asia’s best kept secrets?!!? If I’m honest, the only reason I visited the island of Taiwan was because it was a stop off point between the Philippines, mainland China, Japan and South Korea. To my delight during my 3 week stay over I discovered that Taiwan was one of the safest countries in the world to visit, super easy to travel around, had a rich history in aboriginal cultures, the friendliest and most helpful natives I have ever met, and above all was unbelievably cute and creative. Here is my top tips and photos from talented Taiwan.
Taitung – Creative Capital
Taitung is located on the sprawling South East Coast of Taiwan between the mountains and the sea. Just 4 hours train ride from the capital Taipei, this pretty little city is busting with creativity and day trip possibilities. The sunny South East coast is popular with tourists for it’s connections to aboriginal cultures, natural landscapes, nearby islands and excellent artistic endeavors.
- Taitung Railway Art Village is a refurbished railway station transformed by local artists and schools into interactive sculpture park.
- Paposogan Seashore Park, rainbow lights illuminate this huge woven wicker wood suspension bridge installation next to the beach. Designed to embody Taitung’s unique history with nature the magnificent sculptural platform captures both the sunrise and moonlight reflections off the Pacific Ocean.
- Taitung Sugar Factory is a thriving series of renovated buildings that host Taitung’s most talented artisans. Surrounded by industrial art installations reclaimed from the old industry, the factory grounds now house a simulating selection of creative cafes, aboriginal crafts, vintage fashion, conceptual galleries, secret restaurants and spontaneous performances.
- Tiehua Music Village hosts a variety of local and international musicians play traditional, aboriginal and acoustic music every weekend surrounded by a local arts and crafts market.
- Mountain to Sea Cycle Path is a simple and scenic 21km loop taking you through the cities beautiful artistic and natural landscapes.
- National Museum of Prehistory is a world class archaeological museum exhibiting Taiwan’s historical amalgamation of migratory influences and modern aboriginal cultures. They have an impressive and detailed permanent collection (in English and Chinese) of Taiwan’s Austronesian speaking aboriginal groups with sections on art, traditional dress, ritual practices, social structures and spiritual beliefs discussed and displayed.
- Leather Making Workshop next to the Old Dormitory Hostel (see review below). Learn how to make wallets, bags, key fobs and jewelry.
Dulan – Relax
Dulan is recognised as the free spirited capital of Taiwan. Home to Ami aborigines, local and international creatives, Dulan draws in musicians, painters, jewelry makers, surfers and chefs looking to take life with a pinch of sea salt and a locally brewed beer. This small town is 40 minutes ride from Taitung will only take 15 minutes to walk through. Take a stroll to the secret beach, hike up the mountain, get creative with a local craft workshop or simply enjoy the chilled out live music played at various venues around the town on the weekend.
- Dulan 102 is the coolest and comfiest guest house on the strip. Owned by a charming and caring hippy from Amsterdam and his Taiwanese wife, you can enjoy their eclectic collection of interior design, funky vinyl records from the 70s and noming down the best vegetarian Mexican food in the district. I stayed at Dulan 102 for over a week and felt like part of the furniture.
- Dulan Sugar Factory is a similar concept to Taitung sugar factory with more of a aboriginal influence. It has a small stage for performances, a micro brewery, hostel, cafe and weekend market with bbq.
- Wagaligong is a fun and funky little hostel offering surf and yoga lessons and also serves European food.
- Roadhouse is a awesome 1950s style rockabily-esque burger joint. I highly recommend.
- Dulan Art Festival is a week long open house/studio tour of resident Dulan artists and creatives, showcasing painting, sculpture, woodwork and textiles. Held on the Jun 9 – Jun 20, more details can be found on their Facebook page.
- Cape Cafe and the Secret Beach. To get to this stunning secret location take the second right after the bridge and walk 10 minuets downhill towards the sea. Up hill on the right you will see a small pitch and put golf course and cafe housed in a converted shipping container. Cape cafe serves AMAZING CAKES, smoothies, coffee and Spanish tapas overlooking a sensational sea view.
Taipei – City Lights
Taipei is a megatropolis city with shopping centers, art galleries and museums galore to explore. However I visited Taipei primarily to experience the magical wonderment of the annual lantern festival, where local and international schools, universities, businesses and artists craft arrangements of multicoloured wood, paper and electricity to create an illuminated sculpture park.
Taichung – Rainbow Village
Possibly my most favorite location in the whole of East Asia, I have aspired to visit the Rainbow Village of Taichung for as long as I can remember. Decorated from floor to ceiling with abstract, humorous, futuristic and psychedelic illustrations, the Rainbow Village was just a regular military defendants social housing establishment before 91 year old veteran Mr. Huang transformed it into a vibrant outdoor public art gallery in 2008. I will publish a full article on the Rainbow village and its residents in the coming weeks but here’s a little snap shot if you are heading there soon.
Where to stay
Taitung – The Old Dormitory Hostel
This super cool converted train station dormitory hostel is perfectly located in central Taitung City next to the Railway Art Village. Constructed of recycled and up cycled furnishings the whole decor has a casual yet clean old school eco vibe. Numerous accommodation options are available across their parallel locations from traditional bunk bed dorm rooms to renting a mini apartment block annex with private bedroom, bathroom and communal outdoor kitchen. The old dormitory offers free bicycles as well as stand up paddle classes and hiking trips to the local hot springs.
Dulan – Dulan 102 / Pink Rosa
Dulan 102 (aka Pink Rosa) is a casual, creative and comfortable hostel centrally located on the main road (opposite the 711). The walls are adorned with local art, musical instruments are free for the gifted and the downstairs there is a Mexican restaurant serving up mouth watering dishes popular with residents and backpackers alike. The accommodation is split over 2 venues. Dulan 102 and Dulan 98 can offer private rooms as well as comfortable bunk bed dorms in spacious surroundings. There is free Wifi across two floors with plenty and plenty of room for luggage.
I highly recommend Taiwan for solo female travelers as traveling around Taiwan is super easy, efficient and relatively modern. They have an excellent high speed railway service and good public and tourist bus routes. Taiwan is also really small, you can actually travel the country from one end to the other in around 8 hours. For all my trips in this post I visited the tourist information desks at the various stations who always had staff that spoke English. Failing that the eager locals would regularly ask me if I needed any help. Go to Taiwan, it’s a great break from the madness of the rest of South East Asia. I really loved it.
Have you been to Taiwan? Do you enjoy it as much as me? Do you have anymore creative recommendations for Haute Culture readers? Please share your experiences, ideas and suggestions in the comments box below, we would love to hear from you.
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