There is a confusion of names here. Taiwan used to be called Formosa, when it was part of mainland China, before the communists took over. Officially Taiwan is called the Republic of China, but there is no confusion about its capital Taipei, although perhaps there is, because metropolitan Taipei is now so large it is now comprised of Old Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung, a port city on the Pacific Coast.
The city represents an exotic mixture of both the contemporary and traditional. Many ancient Chinese traditions are still adhered to, but in terms of commerce and consumerism Taipei is also ultra-modern.
A good example of modernism and breathtakingly audacious architecture is Taipei 101. In 2004 this building became the world’s tallest, but only held that title until 2010 when Dubai’s Burj Khalifa opened. Taipei 101 is still very impressive though, built to resemble a stalk of cane its 101 storeys soar to a height of 449 metres (1,473ft) and it is built to withstand both the earthquakes which occur in the region and the typhoons which can blow with great veracity. One of the highlights of your trip to Taipei is to take the super-fast elevator to the observation floor for some stunning views over the city.
Taipei also boasts the world’s biggest collection of Chinese art, which is on display at the National Palace Museum.
This collection is indeed impressive however the government of Taiwan’s nemesis, the Peoples’ Republic of China, maintain that the collection is stolen, as the majority of it was spirited away from the mainland by Chiang Kai-shek and his cronies when they finally fled mainland China in 1945.
Taipei is also a shopper’s paradise. Here you will find the newest versions of any electronic goods. Whilst the city has some wonderful department stores and malls in many parts of the city, Taipei also boasts many night markets, the best known of which is the Shilin Night Market. Here you will find stalls and shops selling just about anything, but one of the main reasons for visiting Shilin is to be tempted by the cuisine that it available from over 530 food stalls.
When there is that much competition, you can guarantee that the quality of the food is excellent, where one of the most popular dishes is a small bun that is wrapped in a large bun, and an atrocious-sounding dish called Stinky Tofu. It is also worth trying the cold desserts from the stalls in the area known as Lover’s Lane. Apart from the food and shops, bars and clubs also operate late into the night. Shilin is easy to reach via the Taipei rail system known as the MRT.