One of Asia’s best kept secrets, I travelled to Taiwan three times in two years. I hosted journalists from The Times and The Telegraph and escorted the BBC on an epic eight day trip which resulted in just six minutes of prime time television. During my visits I got to know this tobacco leaf shaped island and the offshore archipelago well. I worked with the tourist board and interesting people I net along the way to engineer bespoke itineraries designed to veer away from the tourist trail.
Formerly known as Ilha Formosa (beautiful island), Taiwan has a fascinating history which is evidenced throughout the island. Some of the highlights of my visits included taking a dip in the natural springs of Yangmingshan National Park, marvelling at the marble grottos and waterfalls of Taroko Gorge, seeing sunrise over spring blossom at Alishan National Park and swimming lengths in an infinity pool which seemed to stretch across the horizon at The Lalu, Sun Moon Lake. I hung out with the surfers on Kenting Beach, sampled dim sum in Taipei, snorkeled the coral reefs of Green Island and gazed on a handful of the 696,000 treasures housed in the National Palace Museum. What I liked most about Taiwan was the commitment of the private and public sectors to celebrating and preserving cultural heritage. I met lantern makers who have been creating paper dreams for more than six decades, as well as calligraphers,storytellers and puppeteers who are recognised as masters of their art and ‘living cultural treasures’ by the ministry of tourism and culture. With centuries of history focused on this tiny island, it is reassuring to realise that not everything made in Taiwan has a shelf life of a few minutes.