When I was in Europe, I never felt strong preference towards Taiwan. I knew Taiwan is a small country, somewhere in Asia with Chinese population and is often misconfused with China. That's all I knew and I wasn't eager to learn more. If you would invite me to Taiwan at that time, my answer would definitely be NO!
Fast forward to today, Taiwan is my second favourite country I visited (right after South Korea) during my journey and I can only tell you the reasons why you definitely should go there!
1. Hospitality beyond borders
How many people do you know who would meet you on the street and immediately treat you as a family member? Who would offer you help, give you a lift and share with you food, regardless of your nationality and skin colour? Well, people on Taiwan are like this.
I haven't met more hospitable and friendly people as the ones on Taiwan. They are curious about travellers, want to show them around, practice their English, take you to best retsaurants and give you a lift to nearby places. They may even invite you to their house to offer you a place to sleep. Hospitality is in their blood and they are taught from early age to take care of others.
If you really want to experience Taiwanese hospitality try to get in contact with locals as much as possible. I even encourage you to try Couchsurfing - application for staying with locals and learning about their culture.
Another great thing to try in Taiwan is hitchhiking. If you have never tried it before, in Taiwan you will have a great opportunity to overcome your fear of hitchhiking and experience Taiwanese hospitality. I have never hitchhiked before and always had preconceived notions of hithhiking being dangerous and only for poor travelers. But as soon as I started hitchhiking I couldn't stop! You will save hundreds of dollars and meet amazing people on the road.
3. Taiwan Temple stay
If you have never stayed in a temple before, Taiwan is the place to go!
I have only stayed in Temple in Taiwan and from my experience, I can only recommend it to you. I have to admit I was quite lucky as I ran into one remote temple, tucked away in the forest. The monks there wanted to help me and invited me to stay overnight. Staying in a Temple has been my greatest spiritual experience so far and I am still grateful to be able to be part of it it. I slept in a small wooden house on the floor, ate delicious vegetarian meals and in the evening prayed with other monks. After the prayer we had a very spiritual conversation about the life and the world we live in. The monks treated me with unconditional respect and shared with me all they have.
4. Eating in 1* Michelin Restaurant
Could you imagine eating in a 1* Michelin Restaurant for as little as 2$? Yes, as little as 2$. If you don't believe me, you should check it for yourself. Not just Taiwan, but even other countries in Asia are famous for very cheap 1* Michelin restaurants. Although you may not experience the highest level of service with privacy and exquisitive wines, you will still get a glimpse of Michelin cuisine.
5. Food, food, food!
Taiwan is just about food. If you are a foodie and love to try new dishes, then Taiwan is the best choice to make. In Taiwan, there are restaurants, food stalls and supermarkets on every corner, where you can satisfy your hunger. The best choice to try different foods are food markets, which are opened late in the night and offer many interesting dishes for all types of travellers for a reasonable price. There isn't a town without a food market and if you will starve during your stay there, it will solely be your fault. But beware: Taiwanese food is known to be highly addictive.
6. Hot springs
There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying the hot springs after a long and tiring hike.
Taiwanese know exactly what is beneficial for our bodies and the number of hot springs proves just the same. There are scattered all over Taiwan, but usually located in the mountains due to the spring of hot water. Hot springs are one of the most popular leisure activity for Taiwanese people and travellers alike and during the weekend they are completely booked. One interesting fact: there are two types of hot springs: private and public. Public ones are gender segregated and much cheaper in comparison with private ones. No matter what type of hot springs you go to, take into account, that there are no clothes allowed!
Taiwan is not only paradise for foodies, but also paradise for hikers.
There are many national parks, where you can marvel at beautiful scenery and do something beneficial for your body. Every national park offers different hiking trails, distinguishing in their length and difficulty levels. They have become extremly popular among Taiwanese people and have more social than recreational function. Taiwanese people value quality time with their friends and family over everything else and National Parks are the best option for it. They rarely go hiking alone and they usually bring enough food and drinks to share them with their friends. I was quite lucky with my hiking adventures in Taiwan, as I always came across someone who would guide me and treated me with Taiwanese specialities. Once I ran into a group of dedicated hikers, who would always took me on their hiking expeditions later on.