Taiwan has always been known for its rich cultural heritage and history. The island is a treasure trove of traditions, many of them given a new lease of life by the creativity of the younger generation.
Here, we round up seven fun and unique experiences embodying the “old is new” theme. Each of them reflects Taiwanese’s ingenuity in adapting cultural traditions and practices in modern ways that will ensure their relevancy for years to come.
Bookmark this page for your Taiwan trip!
1. Taiwan Lantern Festival
First on the list is the Taiwan Lantern Festival, an annual month-long celebration that starts on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. The festival showcases traditional lantern art elevated by modern technology, and is a sight to behold.
This year’s edition was held in Taipei, where a spectacular display of colorful lanterns and intricate light installations bathed the city in a magical atmosphere. Read our review of the 2023 Taiwan Lantern Festival here.
The 2024 Taiwan Lantern Festival will be held in Tainan – mark your calendar!
2. New Spin on the Traditional Herbal Tea
For a relaxing experience, visit the Healing Herbar or Lao Ji An located in Taipei’s oldest district, Wanhua, also called Monga or Bangka. For more than 50 years, this little tea shop has been serving Taiwan’s traditional herbal tea (青草茶), used for generations as natural remedies for common ailments.
Taking over the shop from his father, third generation owner Brian Wang gives the traditional drink a creative spin by incorporating bartending elements and aspects from contemporary coffee culture.
Sign up for tea sessions where you can fill in a simple survey on things like whether your skin has been acting up and the quality of sleep you have been getting. Wang will then brew up a drink customized according to your needs. Different herbs are carefully layered on a filter cone, and water is carefully poured over them like artisanal hand drip coffee.
3. Surprise for the Taste Buds
For lunch, head over to the neighbouring historic Dadaocheng. Here, you can explore streets of restored shophouses. Traditional shops selling dried goods and herbal medicines intersperse with hippie shops and chic restaurants.
One of the restaurants worth checking out is The Carp. This restaurant specializes in cured mullet roe (乌鱼子), a prized ingredient used in traditional Taiwanese cuisine for centuries, presented in east-west fusion dishes with modern plating aesthetics.
4. Back to Nature
Looking for laid back nature vibes? You may enjoy this tie-dye workshop in Badouzi, a seaside village in Keelung. This eco-friendly workshop will guide you in creating your own unique tie-dye scarf using the shoulang yam, a local plant traditionally used by Taiwanese aborigines as natural dyes.
You will get a tour of the village as you walk over to the picturesque seaside to rinse your newly dyed scarf. The sea water will change the colour of the dye.
5. Morning Yilan Market tour + DIY lunch
Another great way to experience Taiwan’s rich culture is through its wet markets. In Yilan country, we met Fang Zi-wei, otherwise known as “Young Grandpa” for his signature look in the cotton teeshort, shorts and plastic slippers favoured by the typical grandpa in Yilan. He runs a tourism start-up introducing the local culture and way of life through guided tours of the Yilan morning market.
Our tour culminated in a DIY lunch of the freshest ingredients, prepared Yilan-style.
6. Aboriginal Lunch Experience in Hualien County
For an Instagram-worthy and educational lunch experience, book a slot with Akay Play, a tourism start- run by a group of youths in Wanrong Township, home of indigenous peoples.
Lunch is set in the middle of a clearing, with mountains in the backdrop. Enjoy traditional aboriginal cuisine like smoked wild boar and bamboo shoots cooked over an open flame. Each dish is presented like a work of art and narrated with background stories offering insights into tribal life.
7. Wooden Pen Workshop by the Lotus Pond
Like hands-on activities? Head to Song Luo workshop in Hualien. In the calming surrounds of a lotus pond, craftsman Ye Zuo will guide you in creating your own one-of-a-kind keepsake that is both beautiful and functional.
In Taipei, stay in the city center to be near all the action in the bustling city. Both Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel and The Resonance Taipei, Tapestry Collection by Hilton are conveniently located near the subway.
In Yilan, take it slow at the Violet Forest Villa in San Fu Farm. The rooms have huge glass windows showing the beautiful greenery outside. Be sure to join the complimentary eco-tours to explore the natural surroundings of the resort.
In Hualien, go for a unique heritage stay in Japanese-style wooden villas at the Hualien Tourism Sugar Factory. The spacious villas, beautifully refurbished with air-conditioning, bathtubs and tatami-flooring, used to be the living quarters of workers in the Japanese-run Sugar factory.
Taiwan is a country that celebrates its past while looking to the future, offering visitors a chance to experience traditional culture and modern innovations side by side. So pack your bags, and get ready for an adventure that’s both nostalgic and exciting!