So what exactly makes a place a successful tourist destination? Is it the number of snapshots you come back with, eager to show all those people who don’t really care? Or the suitcase of curios dutifully bought for friends and family who shove them on bookshelves, never to be seen again?
A truly successful trip should be determined by one thing only. Do you want to go back?
After looking back at a recent visit to Taiwan, here are five reasons why I want to go back.
Taiwanese food, in all its shapes, sizes and smells (avoid the stinky tofu) left an impression. Photos of octopus on a stick or delectable buns munched during trips to a local market are strong markers for good memories. It’s unavoidable, the food was just that good, but is even that really worth taking a trip over an ocean for? On its own, perhaps not.
The Taiwanese are, to sum it up, friendly. At first you might feel a degree of scepticism, certain this friendliness is a façade put on by hotel staff and tourist guides eager for a tip. Only you don’t tip in Taiwan.
Also, if you take a lonely stroll through the streets of Taipei, every eye caught results in a wide smile. And for the linguistically challenged, the number of locals who make the effort to speak even a small bit of English only adds to the impression that you’re welcome there.
Temples, temples, temples
So: good food and friendly people – check. But Taiwan has more going for it than that. If you love history and culture, you’re set for an interesting stay. Lukang in Changhau alone serves all your needs in this area. The little town is a historical hot-spot, complete with magnificent temples, winding, quirky narrow roads and local folk tales. My one regret? Not spending enough time there soaking it all up.
During this trip, I developed a theory that Taiwan’s dogs were secretly keeping an eye on all the country’s foreign visitors. Fellow travellers laughed this off until they too noticed the unusually attentive dogs that popped up wherever we went. Why does this make the list? For the same reason the massive deer statue that greets you when visiting the glass temple in Lukang does. Because these memories make me chuckle and ultimately that’s what makes a good trip.
Taiwan’s cities might not be pretty, but get into the countryside or walk through the small towns nestled in the mountains and you’ll see Taiwan is beautiful. You’ll occasionally find yourself in need of a sturdy umbrella, but when the sun comes out it’s worth it to stare over Sun Moon Lake, stroll through the streets of Pinxi or bask in the serenity of Dharma Drum Mountain Bhuddist Park – all under the watchful eye of the spy dogs of course!