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Taiwan Travel Guide

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Capital City: Taipei
Area: 36,000 Sq km (13,899.6 Sq miles)
Population: 18,834,593 (in 2009)
Nationalities: Han, Gaoshan
Neighboring Areas: Fujian and Hainan Provinces and Philippines
Location: situated on the sea and in the southeast edge of the China's continental shelf, Taiwan occupies the central part of Western Pacific Waterway, serving as an important maritime transportation hub between China and the countries and regions of the Pacific Ocean. It borders the Pacific Ocean on the east coast, neighbors Ryukyu Islands to the northeast, borders Bashi Strait of Philippines in the south, and faces Fujian Province across Taiwan Strait in the west.

 Physical Features: Taiwan is generally mountainous. Mountains and hills take up over two thirds of the entire land. The mountains lie in the central-eastern part of Taiwan Island, roughly parallel to the geologic strike of the whole island. Thus, the island is divided into three parts – eastern mountains, central hills and western plains. Owing to its location on the circum pacific seismic zone and volcanic belt, Taiwan's earth crust is not stable, with frequent earthquakes.

 History: Historical records of Taiwan date back to the year 230 when Sun Quan, King of the Wu State of the Warring State Period (476 - 221BC), sent around 10,000 officers and soldiers to 'Yizhou' (Taiwan). In the mid-12th century, Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) put 'Penghu' (Taiwan) under Jinjiang County of Fujian Province and sent an army to garrison it. The Yuan and Ming dynasties installed an administrative agency of patrol and inspection in Penghu. In 1642, it was colonized by the Dutch. 20 years later in 1662, it was recaptured by Zheng Chenggong, a famous Qing Dynasty general. Thereafter, Taiwan became an emerging agricultural district of China, having close communications with Fujian and Guangdong provinces. However, it was later again occupied by the Japanese for as long as 50 years. Along with the end of the Anti-Japanese War, Taiwan finally returned to the embrace of the motherland in 1937.

 Attractions: Taiwan is also named Formosa - a name given by Portuguese sailors due to the beauty of its coasts. It is bestowed with striking and picturesque mountains, dense forests, numerous waterfalls and unique seashores. Taiwan Island is a world-famous tourist resort both at home and abroad. As early as in the Qing Dynasty, there were 'Eight Views and Twelve Wonders' in Taiwan, including the sea of cloud in Ali Mountain, moon in the Sun Moon Lake, cumulus cloud in the Yushan Mountain, Penghu Fishing Fire, Spring Beauty in Datun Volcanoes, Luguyou Strait, Sunset at Anping, Bagua Mountain and Yeliu Park. Besides waterfalls, the island is densely covered with hot springs and sulphur streams which are believed to have curative powers. Guanzailing Hot Spring is famous for its Water and Fire Cave where water and fire share the common source. Yilan, Su'ao Cold Spring is a rare sight. The western plain coast is wide with clear water and groups of willows, while the northern coast is fames as 'Dragon's Palace over the Sea' because of the diverse marine abrasion landforms.

In addition, nearly 2,000 years' history has left Taiwan with a great number of places of interest, including Longshan Temple, Taipei City Wall, Chikan Tower, Anping Castle, Bao'an Palace, Confucius Temple and Taipei National Palace Museum. All of them are a historical testimony of the close relationship between mainland China and Taiwan.

 Transportation: Transportation within Taiwan Island is well developed, with a multi-level three-dimensional transportation network made up of air, railway, roadway and sea.
 Air: There are two international airports - which are Taipei Taoyuan International Airport and Kaohsiung International Airport. There are many other local airports in within the island, including Taipei Songshan Airport, Taichung Ching-Chuang-Kang Airport, Tainan Airport, Jiayi Airport, Hualien Airport, Taitung Airport, Lishan and Alishan Helicopter Airports, and Magong, Lyudao, Orchid Island, Okinawa, Qimei Island and Wangan Small-sized Airports. Of them, Taoyuan Airport is the most important, having regular flights to all the cities in the ssland. Kaohsiung Airport operates flights within the island and to some cities in mainland China including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
 Ferry: Water transport is the lifeline for maintaining Taiwan's economy development. Keelung, Kaohsiung and Hualien are the main international ports of Taiwan. There is a ferry every hour between the Port of Chin Men (Quemoy) and Heping Port of Xiamen daily. There are also  two ferries per day between Port of Chin Men (Quemoy) and Shijing Port of Quanzhou.
 Train: The railway in Taiwan can be divided into eastern and western lines. The western line consists of the cross-island line and its branches. The cross-island line starts from Keelung, via Taipei, Taoyuan, Xinzhu, Miaosu, Taichung, Zhanghua, Yunlin, Jiayi and Tainan, and ends at Kaohsiung. Electrification has been implemented on this trunk line. The branch lines include Yilan Line (Keelung-Su'ao), Pingdong Line (Kaohsiung-Fangliao), Sea Line (Zhunan-Zhanghua), Mountain Line, Danshui Line, Xinzhu Line, Jiji Line and Alishan Forest Line (Jiayi-Zhaoping). The Eastern Line is mainly made up of Taitong Line (Hualien-Taidong) and Beihui Line starting from Nansheng Lake Station of Yilan Line, along the northeastern coast to the south, via Su'ao to Hualien, and connecting with Taitong Line at the end. Another round-island railway, Nanhui Railway, was put into use in 1991. 

In additional to regular train services, there are also special tourism trains. The tourist train sets out from Taipei at 09:00 on Saturday, moves along the Beihui to Huadong, and then changes to the Nanhui Line to the western areas for sightseeing. On the train, there is free red and white wine, mixed fruit dish as well as leisure goods especially offered for the visitors.

Bullet Train: At the end of 2006, a 345-km (214.4 miles) long high-speed railway was built in Taiwan, reducing the traveling time between Taipei and Kaohsiung to 2 hours. It starts from Taipei, passes through Banqiao, Taoyuan, Xinzhu, Taichong, Jiayi and Tainan, and ends at Zuoying District, Kaohsiung City.

Formosa Express: This is a round-island sightseeing train equipped with comfortable seats equivalent the first class plane seats, high-quality  5-star hotel dining service, large sightseeing windows and a KTV carriage. There is one clockwise and one counterclockwise train every day.

 Bus: Taiwan is covered with a network of roads, including expressways, round-island highways, cross-island highways and seashore highways. They crisscross one another and radiate in all directions, providing a great convenience for visitors.

 Taxi: Taxis are metered. Usually the charge is TWD 70 for the first 1.5 km (1,640.4 yards) and additional TWD 5 every 300 meters (328.1 yards) for the rest journey. From 23:00 to 06:00, the fare increases 20%. If booking a taxi in advance by phone or carrying luggage, another TWD10 will be charged. If a taxi driver requires unreasonable fees or behaves improperly, a complaint can be made to the complaint hotline (02) 2394-9007 or Foreign Affairs Police Department by phone (02) 2381-7475; 2381-8341; 23817494.

 Weather: Surrounded by sea, Taiwan is attacked by typhoons frequently. June to October is the Typhoon Season, during which July to September experiences the most typhoons. At the end of spring from April to May, there is a rainy season lasting approximately 2 weeks.

 Dining and Shopping
Taiwan has a great variety of food especially characteristic snacks that are generally divided between food that has a similar taste throughout Taiwan such as beef noodles, chicken joint and glutinous rice wrapped with bamboo leaves, and food that has special local flavors like Taipei Steamed Meat Balls, Tainan Meat Ball and Taizhong Meat Ball. Stinky tofu also has various flavors, with the roasted stinky tofu of Taipei being the most famous. There are special food streets almost in every city of Taiwan. Huaxi Street Night Market in Taipei is a well-known place for tasting seafood; Raohe Street Night Market near Songshan Railway Station is always crowded; Taipei Yuanhua Night Market is mainly for cheap snacks. Dining in Taizhong, Zhongxiao Road Night Market, Fengjia Night Market and Zhonghua Road Night Market are good choices. In Kaohsiung, from the west of Zhongshan Road to the Liuhe Road are lined with snack stores. 

Renowned as 'Beautiful Treasure Island', Taiwan produces oolong tea, high mountain tea, oiled paper umbrella, seaweed carpet and fruits as well as the 'Four Treasures of Penghu' (Wen Stone, Taiwan coral, Taiwan Haishu and Maogong Stone). Popular shopping areas are Xinyi District of Taipei which is full of large shopping malls, old city area of Taipei distributed with feature stores for religious goods. Houzhan consisting of Huayin Street, Chang'an West Road and Chongqing North Road are good spots for the young people. In Taizhong, Chaomazhan and Jingmingyi Street are popular.

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