Capital | Taipei
Population | 23,071,779 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 35,563 SQ KM
Official Language | Mandarin Chinese
Holidays | Republic Day (Anniversary of the Chinese Revolution), 10 October (1911)
Currency | Dollar (TWD)
Time Zone | UTC +8
Best Time to Visit | autumn weather from September to November is the most pleasant
Connecting with the Culture | Discovering the finest collection of Chinese artifacts in the world at Taipei’s National Palace Museum. Indulging in the pleasures of Tainan, famous for fine weather, wonderful food and a multitude of riotously colourful temples. Being overawed by Toroko Gorge, one of the world’s great natural spectacles: sheer limestone and marble cliffs towering over a fast-flowing jade-green river. Taking the spectacular scenic road that winds up the east coast of Taiwan between the mountains and the sea.
Read | Harmony in Conflicts by Richard Hartzell, an often-recommended primer from Westerners thinking about living in Taiwan.
Listen | to Canto-pop, the soothing, soft-pop schmaltz also enjoyed by Taiwan’s Chinese compatriots.
Watch | Betelnut Beauty by Lin Cheng-sheng—a raw film dealing with the mean streets of Taipei and the city’s second-most notorious occupation (the betelnut vendor)
Eat | anything you can find on the mainland, as well as Taiwan’s own Fujian-Taiwanese cuisine. The adventurous must try ‘stinky tofu’: ubiquitous in Taiwanese food stalls.
Drink | the national brew, Taiwan Beer- it won second prize at the Brewing Industry International Awards 2002, and it’s pretty cheap, too.
In a Word | Wei? (Used when answering your mobile phone)
Characteristics | Sabre-ratteling with the PRC; English teaching; Chiang Kai-shek; ‘made in…’
Surprises | Taiwan’s aborigines are only 2 per cent of the population. They are most numerous in the mountainous regions in the east of the island, where they still preserve vestiges of their original Australoid culture (with many making a living from tourism).