Taipei, March 26 (IANS) Those caught up in the hustle bustle of a city life -- and craving for someplace pristine, calm and relaxed -- will fall in love with Taiwan. But along with its tranquillity and peace, there is also the effervescence of a place celebrating its culture and language with aplomb.
This small island nation in the South China Sea is truly the heart of Asia - and it is fast catching the attention of Indian travellers, offering as it does a perfect combo of fabulous food, superb night life, bustling markets, hot springs, culture, history, architecture and stunning natural beauty - from gentle mountains to lovely coastal landscapes.
It was around the Taiwan Lantern Festival 2018 that we landed at Taichung International Airport here to be greeted by our tour guide, the friendly and ever-smiling Charles Tung. And he wanted all of us - a group of travelling journalists - smiling as well. "Say cheese," he said as he got us to pose for a group photo before we embarked on our journey of exploration.
And there is much to explore.
"Taiwan has a truly unique natural beauty. There are beautiful places like Sun Moon lake, Yangmingshan National Park, Black Dwarf Cave... to name just a few. These places provide an escape from the chaos of urban living," Noel Saxena, Country Head, Taiwan Tourism Bureau India Office, told IANS.
Saxena said Taiwan is also very rich when it comes to art.
"Be it dance, music or even folk art, the Taiwanese have earned critical acclaim with an exceptional display of talent. Taiwanese hand puppetry and Taiwanese opera are two foremost examples of art forms that are authentically Taiwanese, in that they use the Taiwanese language, not Mandarin," he informed.
The Taiwanese love for music and art was evident at Ten Drum Ciatou Creative Park, located in Kaohsiung. Once a sugar processing plant, it is now the hub of a percussion group -- the Ten Drum Percussion Group that has won accolades globally, including a Grammy in the Best World Album category.
While taking a walk around the former factory, we had to take a path made up of the branches of trees... Quite literally, we were walking on trees without fear of falling down -- a unique experience.
Other stops included the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, a comprehensive recreational area featuring Taiwanese indigenous people's cultural relics as well as amusement park facilities; and the Sun Moon Lake, situated near Yuchi township, was truly mesmerising. One of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Taiwan, it is shaped like a crescent moon; hence the name.
The Buddha Memorial Centre at Fo Guang Shan is a landmark in the country. Touching 108 metres in height, the Buddha is made up of 1,872 metric tonnes of copper and iron and is currently the world's tallest bronze seated Buddha.
"Taiwan is blessed with natural beauty, scenic areas, great food, astonishing history and culture -- and Taipei 101. This makes it a great destination. It is a destination for all age groups," said Saxena.
The country is home to only about 20 million people and is a technology powerhouse. This was quite evident even at the traditional Lantern Festival - held earlier this month -- where all the work displayed was high-tech.
(Nivedita was in Taiwan on the invitation of Taiwan Tourism Bureau. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)