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Part 27: The Best Of Taiwan

Joy Fang

DURING a three-week so-journ in Taiwan last year – which became the basis for the popular Free And Easy In Taiwan 26-part series that ran in my paper – I experienced the island at its best.

The food, as any foodie will tell you, is truly to die for. Sometimes, late at night, I find myself pining for the fried-chicken cutlet I ate at a bustling night market, and those succulent oysters that I tried on a pier.

The people are lovely, too. They are homely and down-toearth, and go the extra mile to make you, a foreigner, feel welcome.

But most of all, I find myself missing the island’s natural beauty. The quiet dignity of its stately mountain ranges, the astounding fields of flowers, and the clear-blue lakes – these are things you can’t find in all-too-modern Singapore.

I can’t help, therefore, but recount my time there, and tell you about my favourite places to visit in Taiwan.


This tranquil pasture, nestled on the top of a mountain in central Taiwan, was easily my favourite spot.

Not only is the air crisp and cool, but you’ll also find colourful European-styled bed-andbreakfasts, making you feel like you’ve been transported to a quaint European countryside.

How to get there: Take a train from Taipei Main Station to Taichung Railway Station. Then take the Kuo Kuang Bus to Puli and transfer to the Nantou Bus, which goes in the direction of Songgang-Cuifeng. Get off at Cingjing Veterans Farm.


This quaint city – the oldest on the island and located in the south of Taiwan – had my full attention.

I loved the antiquated buildings, the preserved remnants of its past (like its forts and old temples) and, of course, the fascinating fairy tale-like Anping Tree House. Its intricate lattice of intertwined tree roots and eeriely silent atmosphere were beautiful and chilling.

How to get there: Take a train from Taipei Main Station to Tainan Railway Station.


Running along Taiwan’s mountainous east coast, this county gives you a slew of alluring natural attractions.

Enjoy amazing sea views atop plunging cliffs; travel on winding mountain roads, and check out the scenic lakes and a sea of seasonal golden daylilies dotting the mountains. Cisingtan’s black sands are also a must-see.

How to get there: Take a train from Taipei Main Station to Hualien Train Station.


This pristine and seemingly boundless blue lake is breathtaking at dawn, when the first rays of sunlight hit the water’s surface.

The air of serenity and harmony inspires weary city-dwellers to stand still, breathe, and clear their minds. It’s also a great place for honeymooners.

How to get there: Take a train from Taipei Main Station to Taichung Kan Cheng Train Station. Cross the street and take the Nantou Bus going towards Sun Moon Lake.


This archipelago is great for a quick getaway. Charming, unassuming and carefree, here you can enjoy a blissful island life as you engage in fun water sports, or just tuck into cheap and fresh seafood.

Though there are many tiny islands to visit, each with its own unique features to offer, my favourite is Xiyu. There, head to the west coast and look for Daguoye, where you’ll see the area’s majestic basalt columns.

Don’t forget to look for the gorgeously preserved antique stone houses on Wangan Island and to eat sea-urchin sashimi.

How to get there: Take a domestic flight – such as those of Trans- Asia Airways or Mandarin Airlines – from Songshan Airport to Magong Airport on Penghu’s main island.

Find my paper’s Free And Easy In Taiwan series online at Look out for a new travel series on Taiwan in my paper, starting next month.

Popular: 受欢迎的 shòu huān yíng de
Remnants: 剩余的 shèng yú de
Alluring: 吸引人的 xī yĭn rén de
Sea-urchin sashimi: 海胆刺身 hăi dăn cì shēn

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Latest travel story
Coping with flight delays at the airport

YOU are about to leave Singapore for your well-deserved holiday, when about 15 minutes before your plane is scheduled to take off, you hear the announcement that your flight has been delayed.

That is fine if it is for half an hour, but what if there is no announcement on how long the delay will be?

Having to keep your cool during a flight delay might be alright for those of us who are not on business trips, but anything longer than an hour starts to become a nightmare.

Here are three ways to help you deal with potential flight delays.


Some people may skip taking out a travel insurance to save money, or do not consider it necessary for a weekend trip.

But let’s look at it this way: do you know that some travel credit cards actually provide a free insurance if you use them to pay for your trip?

Getting it for free just for using your card really makes getting travel insurance a lot easier – not to mention cheaper.

Taking an insurance policy mitigates the risk of changes to your travel schedule and potential losses. At the very least, you can take comfort in getting some monetary compensation.

However, do note that there is usually a minimum delay limit in order for compensation to kick in. Some policies might also not cover delays and flight cancellations due to natural disasters and operational issues by airlines.


Many people go on a flight prepared with entertainment to keep themselves occupied during flight time.

If you have a book, magazine or your laptop on hand, why not get some reading done or use the time to learn some new phrases in the language of your holiday destination?

Since you cannot do anything about the plane, might as well do what you can within your power to make the situation more productive for you.


If you are travelling with friends or family members, you can use the delay to interact and catch up on lost time with them.

That is exactly why you are on a holiday together, right? Go for a coffee break somewhere nearby, play some card games together or simply talk about or plan your itinerary together if you have not already done so.

The delay could also make a good conversation starter with fellow passengers. Who knows who you might meet next?

This article first appeared on, a personal finance and lifestyle website.

Become one with nature at Shakotan

KAMUIMISAKI cape is located on the north-western edge of the Shakotan Peninsula in Hokkaido. I walked along a narrow path that looked like a mountain ridge going as high as 80m above sea level. I proceeded for about 20 minutes amid the ocean wind and then came to the tip of the cape, which overlooks the crystal-blue Sea of Japan. This beautiful colour is known as Shakotan blue.

As the horizon appears slightly curved at both ends when observed from the tip of the cape, you can see that the Earth is round. Though it takes about an hour from the centre of Shakotan by car, the spectacle is worth the trip.

The sea offers not only this impressive view but also a variety of seafood. The town is famous for its nama uni don (raw sea-urchin roe topping a bowl of rice). I was there, however, just after the fishing season, which is only from June till August.

Even so, a Japanese restaurant I visited for lunch offered steamed sea-urchin roe and I enjoyed the kaisendon sashimi bowl decorated lavishly with northern shrimp and seasonal salmon roe. The sea urchin roe melted in my mouth and I could taste its subtle sweetness. I felt a sense of the abundance of the sea.


Forests account for 80 per cent of the town. The rains that fall on the highlands are soaked up in the mountain areas and the nutrient-laden rivers flow into the sea. This process is believed to help the growth of seafood and seaweed.

In 2010, Japan Tobacco (JT) began a 10-year project called JT Forest Shakotan to help the conservation of these mountains. JT subsidises the costs of forest thinning, weeding and afforestation over 350ha within the reach of three rivers running through the town, including the Bikunigawa river.

“Ill-maintained forests are recovering,” said Shakotan Mayor Hideki Matsui, 68. “I want to scientifically prove that mountains foster the ocean.”

Experts on forests, rivers and seas have already started investigations in their various fields.

“I hope they will collect enough data soon so that we can properly explain to children, who will be responsible for the next generation,” Mr Matsui said.

Forests not only nurture the abundant sea, but are also helping the reconstruction of areas hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. About 2,000 trees, including Japanese larches, were cut down, sent to disaster-hit areas such as Miyagi Prefecture and used as foundations for temporary housing units in May 2011. The workings of nature help human beings, highlighting the importance of protecting nature.


The next day, I visited a traditional-style fishermen’s lodge in the centre of the town that was originally built for those involved in the herring-fishing industry. Its herring fishing was the boast of the town and there were many houses that accommodated fishing boat owners, their families and crew members. But these houses are almost all abandoned nowadays.

In 2008, residents in the town began activities to preserve these houses as sightseeing spots. Local volunteers including Noriichi Bessho, 67, renovated the lodge and named it Yamashime Banya.

The two-storey wooden house has a total floor area of about 420 sq m. A public interest corporation subsidised the costs of renovation, such as those for replacing the flooring.

The facility was opened to the public until late September, hosting events such as shamisen lute performances. It is currently closed in preparation for further restoration work but its reopening is planned for around May next year.

“I feel regret if tourists just eat sea-urchin roe and leave town. I want them to know the history of Shakotan, even if it’s just a little,” Mr Bessho said.

Though the town has a population of only 2,300, many local people I met love their home town.


It takes about 1 hour 40 minutes by plane from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to New Chitose Airport. Then, 1 hour 15 minutes by train from the airport to Otaru Station and 1 hour 25 minutes by bus from the station to Bikuni, the centre of Shakotan.

For more details, contact the Shakotan tourism association at (0135) 44-3715 (English inquiries accepted only on weekdays) or visit


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