Taiwan can be divided into five regions:
- Central Taiwan — This region includes the Central Mountains, central western coastal area, scenic Sun Moon Lake and Taichung city. Counties: Changhua County, Miaoli County, Nantou County, Taichung County.
- Eastern Taiwan — This area, cut off from the rest of the island by mountains, contains Taiwan’s most striking natural scenery, including the famous Taroko Gorge (Tailuge Gorge) and the cities of Hualien and Taitung. Counties: Hualien County, Taitung County, Yilan County.
- Northern Taiwan — the capital, Taipei, and the high-tech hub, Hsinchu, are located in this region, as well as the Yangmingshan National Park. Counties: Hsinchu County, Taipei County, Taoyuan County.
- Southern Taiwan — This area is more tropical than the rest of the island, with many beaches and coconut palms. Taiwan’s second largest city, Kaohsiung, and oldest city, Tainan, are located in the south of the island. Counties: Chiayi County, Kaohsiung County, Pingtung County, Tainan County, Yunlin County.
- The Outlying Islands — Green Island, Kinmen (Quemoy), Matsu, Orchid Island and Penghu.
Taiwan has many large cities and towns. Below is a list of nine of the most notable. Other cities are listed under their specific regional section.
- Taipei (臺北 or 台北) is the seat of government of the Republic of China and its center of commerce and culture. Taipei is home to the world’s currently tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101.
- Hsinchu (新竹) is a center of hi-tech industry, and one of the world’s leading manufacturers of hi-tech components. Hsinchu Science Park is the home to many hi-tech companies.
- Hualien (花蓮) is located near Taroko Gorge, and is considered one of the most pleasant of Taiwan’s cities.
- Jiufen (九份) – this former gold mining town located on the northeast coast is now a popular tourist destination.
- Kaohsiung (高雄) is the second-largest city on the island. It has one of the busiest sea ports (the Port of Kaohsiung) in the world and it has the island’s second-largest airport, Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH).
- Keelung (基隆) is the a center of transshipment in the north, and is located about a thirty minute drive from downtown Taipei.
- Puli (埔里) is located at the geographical center of the island, and it serves as a good base for exploring the central mountains and Sun Moon Lake.
- Taichung (臺中) is the third largest city in Taiwan, and has an abundance of interesting cultural amenities and activities.
- Tainan (臺南) is the oldest city in Taiwan and was the capital during imperial times. It is famous for its historic buildings and snack food.
- Alishan (阿里山) – misty forests of giant cypresses and amazing sunrises at the center of the island, reached by a scenic narrow-gauge train
- Kenting National Park – located at the extreme southern tip of the island, this park is famous for its beaches and lush vegetation.
- Shei-pa National Park – a park spanning mountains and rivers located in Hsinchu County – great hiking trails
- Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) – nestled at 2,500 feet in lofty mountains in Nantou County, this lake is famous for its clear sparkling blue water and picturesque mountain backdrop.
- Taipingshan – a historic logging area and one of Taiwan’s most scenic spots. Located in Yilan County.
- Taroko Gorge (太魯閣 Tàilǔgé)- an impressive gorge located off the east coast
- Yangmingshan National Park – spanning a mountain range overlooking Taipei
- Yushan – at 3,996m the highest mountain in not just Taiwan, but all East Asia
As Taiwan is dominated by ethnic Chinese, traditional Chinese festivals are celebrated by the Taiwanese. Among the most notable are:
- Chinese New Year (春節)
This is the most important festival for the Taiwanese and many shops and restaurants close on the first three days so it is not an ideal time to visit. However, the days leading up to the festival as well as the fourth to fifteenth days are ideal for soaking up the atmosphere and listening to Chinese New Year songs.
- Ching Ming Festival (清明節)
This is when many Taiwanese would pay respects at their ancestors’ graves.
- Dragon Boat Festival (端午節)
This festival honours Qu Yuan, a patriotic official from the state of Chu during the Warring States period of Chinese history who committed suicide by jumping into a river when Chu was conquered by Qin. To prevent the fishes from eating his body, villagers threw rice dumplings into the river to feed the fishes and rowed dragon boats with drums being beaten on them to scare away the fishes. Since then, dragon boat racing has been carried out on this day and rice dumplings are also eaten.
- Hungry Ghost Festival (中元節)
This festival runs throughout the seventh month of the Chinese calendars. It is believed that the gates of hell open during this period and hungry ghosts are allowed to roam freely into our world. In order to appease the ghosts and prevent misfortune, many Taiwanese will offer food and burn joss paper for them. In addition, traditional Chinese performances such as Chinese opera, puppet shows and getai (歌臺) shows are held to appease these wandering spirits.
- Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節)
Legend has it that on this day, a woman known as Chang E swallowed some divine pills to prevent her power hungry husband from becoming immortal. Afraid of being killed by her husband, she fled to the moon and it is believed that the moon shines brightest on this day. This is when many lanterns will be put up for decoration in various parks and shops, which is quite a beautiful sight. Mooncakes are also eaten on this day so it would be an ideal time to try some.
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