Share the hidden splendors of Taiwan's endearing capital city.
Rarely does the average traveler spend more than a day taking in Taipei. But the savvy sightseer knows that Taiwan's bustling capital offers far more than a connecting flight - Taipei is an island of cultural treasures and original excursions in itself. The next time you're passing through, bring your loved one along for a romantic Asian vacation you won't soon forget.
Though it may seem impossible to miss, be sure to allow ample time to admire Taiwan's aesthetic modern marvel, Taipei 101 (7 Xinyi Road, Sec. 5, tel 886 2 8758 2888, www.taipei-101.com.tw). With a breathtaking height of some 1,600 feet and - you guessed it - 101 floors, Taipei 101 stands as the world's tallest completed tower capable of being fully occupied. Designed by world-class architect C.Y. Lee and completed in 2004, this is more than a boastful building erected to make the nation's mark - it imparts an intriguing impression of both firmness and fluidity. The elegant structure, designed to withstand typhoon winds and earthquake shakes, is comprised of eight massive inlaid tiers resembling a bedazzling bamboo tower. There's no mistake about the number eight: It is the luckiest numeral in Chinese culture as well as a universal representation of infinity. Romantics on a Taipei tour can top off a tower visit with a stroll and snapshot alongside the bold sculpture, Love, created by American pop artist Robert Indiana. Comprised of four brazen red letters arranged in a square, the sculpture is perched just before the entrance to Taipei 101.
After pondering the heavenly heights, stock up on serenity with a stop at Longshan Temple (211 Guangzhou St., tel 886 2 2302 5162), in Wanhua, the heart of old Taipei. Longshan is Taipei's oldest and most important temple, sacred to Taoists and Buddhists alike. The atmosphere is both pious and cheerful, filled with the whimsical tinkling of chimes and the happy chatter of families. Visitors offer bundles of fragrant incense as they chant, pray, and pay their respects to the temple's primary deity, Guanyin (pronounced Kwan Yin), the female bodhisattva of compassion.
For a Taiwanese treat in the great outdoors, take a half-day artist date to the exquisite landscaped sculpture park of the nation's celebrated sculptor, Ju Ming. The Ju Ming Museum (2 She-shi-hu, Chin-shan, tel 886 2 2498 9940, www.juming.org.tw) - a 30-acre wooded park - lies just over the ridge from Dharma Drum Mountain, on the northern tip of the island. Ju Ming came to fame in the 1970s and is perhaps best known for his multimedia collection, Living World, a brilliant portrayal of modern life in a colorful array of bronze, steel and wood. The park is easily reached from central Taipei by shuttle buses leaving twice daily from the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (181 Zhong Shan N. Road, Sec. 3, tel 886 2 2595 7656,www.tfam.museum).
Couples with an adventurous bent can sample the surf at Honeymoon Bay. The splendor of riding the waves in Taiwan is still a secret to most of the world, but the trend is about to crest. Honeymoon Bay (Mi-Yeu-Wan to the locals) in Yilan County is one of Taiwan's hottest surf spots, and is only about 45 minutes by train from Taipei Main Railway Station, making it an ideal two-day side trip. Be sure to visit Jeff Sun's Surf Shop (100 Binhai Road, Sec. 5, Toucheng Town, tel 886 3 978 1781) where you can rent boards and equipment, as well as arrange for lessons, meals and local lodging. Because of the beach breaks, Honeymoon Bay is perfect for beginners as well as advanced surfers. With romantic views of Turtle Mountain Island just off the coast, there's plenty of swimming, sunning, and sunsetviewing - a romantic way to top off a holiday in Taipei.