Remarkably open towards foreigners and Muslim-friendly with excellent infrastructure and high quality of life, Taiwan leaves travellers impressed. Fast shedding its underrated status, tourism-wise, Taiwan deserves more attention than just being a high technology manufacturing and logistics hub in Asia.
Read on to find out what you can experience when you are in Northern Taiwan.
What to see:
Taipei Grand Mosque, located in Da’an district, is the biggest mosque in Taiwan built in 1960 using funds from local and foreign donations, including the King of Jordan and Shah of Iran at that time. Today, travellers are welcome to appreciate the classic charm of its architecture or join in one of the public classes held every Sunday. Male Muslim travellers are encouraged to join the congregation for Friday prayers and then check out local halal food and Muslim-related goods on sale in the room next to the mosque’s General Office.
When in Taipei, check out the pulsating Ximending area, considered as the city’s retail hub and dubbed as ‘Shinjuku of Taipei’. The area’s main landmark is the Red House that used to be a market built by the Japanese almost 100 years ago. Close by is the Lungshan Temple , the oldest temple in Taiwan. The faith, which is a combination of Buddhism, Taoism and folk religion, was brought to the island by immigrants from Fujian province in China who worship the Goddess of Mercy Kwan Yin.
Agrioz in Yilan county – around 50 kilometres (approximately 1.5 hours without traffic) from Taipei – is popular for the production of kumquat candies. 90% of kumquats produced in Taiwan come from Yilan county alone, and none of these kumquats are exported. Travellers need to come here if they want to taste good quality kumquats, and travellers should buy the kumquat candies from Agrioz’s retail shop as souvenirs. Agrioz also has a quaint café that is Instagram-worthy.
Jimmy Square in Yilan County
Jimmy Square or Jimmy Park, located on the south side of the Yilan Train Station, is full of adorable-looking and whimsical sculptures and murals inspired by the works of the famous illustrator Jimmy Liao, who hailed from Yilan and diagnosed with leukaemia in early 1990s. After surviving from the illness, he began producing illustrations. His picture books such as ‘Secrets in the Forest’, ‘A Fish with A Smile’, and ‘Turn Left, Turn Right (A Chance of Sunshine’) are internationally acclaimed. Lovers of art and illustrations will surely enjoy hanging out at this area and photographing the public sculptures and artworks that have childhood dream-like quality, all based on Jimmy Liao’s picture books.
The rocky formation of Yehliu Geopark in the form of a fascinating 1,700-metre long cape that stretches out from the town of Wanli is one of the famous wonders in the world. The strong waves, rock weathering, earth movement and crustal movement contribute to the formation of such rare and stunning geological landscape. A number of rocks have been given creative names based on their shapes. The most popular are the ‘The Queen’s Head’, which became an iconic image of Taiwan. Other formations include ‘The Fairy Shoe’, ‘The Bee Hive’, ‘The Ginger Rocks’ and ‘The Sea Candles’. Some also look like mushrooms, a tail of a whale, and a marine bird. Be prepared to be amazed by nature and spend at least two hours just photographing the area and taking selfies!
The admission fee to this park is TWD80 per person.
Beitou is one of the major resort areas in Taiwan replete with hot spring pools and numerous lodgings, developed since Japanese rule almost 100 years ago, located only 30 minutes’ drive north of Taipei city centre. Travellers can also easily get to Beitou by using the Taipei Metro.
One attraction that travellers should visit is Beitou Thermal Valley, a large pool filled with hot spring water that continuously emit steam, shrouding its surroundings and turn it magical and bewitching – take note that travellers need to contend with the lingering sulphuric smell. Then, travellers should swing by the historic Beitou Museum that used to be a luxurious hotel called ‘Jia Shan’ or ‘Kazan’ built by a Japanese lady back in 1921 and now being one of the only two historical wooden buildings that still exists in Taiwan.
The largest theme park in the north of Taiwan, Leofoo Village Theme Park in Hsinchu county boasts various rides ranging from the adrenaline-pumping corkscrew roller-coaster ride called ‘Screaming Condor’ to the gentle carousel. The park also displays animals from different corners of the globe such as the endangered American bison and white tiger. Muslims will find this park friendly because it also has a halal-certified restaurant called Aladdin serving Western and Asian cuisine, which has a Muslim prayer room in its premises. Leofoo Village Theme Park opens on weekdays from 9am to 5.30pm and on public holidays it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Admission fee is TWD999 per adult to access Leofoo Village Theme Park, while entrance into the adjacent Water Park only is TWD599. To access both parks, the cost is TWD1,299 per adult.
What to eat:
- Halalbeef noodle on Yanping South Road in Zhongzheng district, which is legendary for its tender meat and flavourful broth.
- Divine lunch consisting of fresh seafood and local produce at Shangrila Boutique Hotel in Yilan county, which really knows how to treat their guests like royalty when it comes to dining. And the food served here is certified halal.
- Halal dinner at Guanxiang Century Hotel in Yilan county that consists of dishes made from fresh ingredients, are all local.
- Taiwan’s unique halal-certified pineapple-based food products from Vigor Kobo, the place where travellers are introduced to Taiwan pineapple cultivation and processing. Travellers can try their hands at preparing their own pineapple cakes and learn about pineapple-cake production when visiting Vigor Kobo in Taipei city.
- Fine-dining traditional Chinese cuisine at the Muslim-friendly Michelin three-star restaurant called Le Palais on Le Palais de Chine Hotel’s 17th floor, which is bound to elevate diners’ senses. Be sure to savour the restaurant’s succulent meats.
Where to sleep:
This hotel is attached to Q Square shopping centre and situated opposite Taipei Main Train Station. Its rooms come with Muslim praying mat, a copy of the Al Quran, qibla direction, and halal menu.
Guan Xiang Century Hotel in Yilan county is popular for travellers wanting to enjoy the recuperative hot spring water because the hotel pipes in the water directly into the tub next to the shower inside the guests’ rooms. The hotel is also Muslim-friendly and offers wonderful dinner. A few steps away from the hotel is Jiaoxi hot spring, where locals come to soak in their feet as a way to relax.
The rooms at this hotel are refined and sophisticated. It even has qibla direction and Muslim prayer times. Hot spring water is piped into the rooms’ stone-cladded sunken tub. Guests also have the option of utilising the hotel’s public bath facility equipped with personal lockers, dressing room, relaxing area, indoor hot springs and cold pool, sauna, steam room and outdoor open hot springs.
Taiwan At A Glance
- Taiwan is only a four-hour and a half flight away from Kuala Lumpur. With many airlines flying to Taiwan, it became the perfect travel destination for travellers from various parts of the world. Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei is the world’s 5th busiest airport in terms of international freight traffic.
- Taiwan is in the same time zone as Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Bali.
- The New Taiwan Dollar, denoted by TWD, is the official currency of the Republic of China (ROC), commonly referred to as Taiwan. It has been the currency of the island since 1949, when it replaced the Old Taiwan Dollar (NT$ 100 = approximately RM13.50).
- Free Wi-Fi is easily available at most places of interest, including restaurants and hotels.
- It does not snow in Taiwan, perhaps only at the highest peaks. Taiwan, however, is blessed with rain. It could get very windy (and cold!), so bring a raincoat or a windbreaker and umbrella!
Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to Taiwan Tourism Bureau for making our writer’s trip to Taiwan a reality.