This article was written a long time ago when I first started blogging. It was a piece of writing I submitted for an expat writing contest. However, I always wanted to post it on my blog with photos [as photos were not permitted and I feel photos do each of these places so much justice].
Hope you enjoy.
At first glance, Taiwan may appear to be a highly populated small island with a nation of hard-working, career-driven people. But once you escape the hustle and bustle of the cities and begin peeling away the layers, you will come to realize that there is more to Taiwan than high-tech factories and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
When you stand on the peak of one of Taiwan’s mountains for the first time and witness the clouds hovering below you, when you explore the beautiful white sandy beaches on the island of Penghu, when you gaze at the dramatic, visually stunning Qing Shui Cliff as it extends into the aqua blue water, or when you find yourself surrounded by the vast marble rock faces of Taroko Gorge, that is when you will truly realize and appreciate the true beauty of this tiny island.
I, too, am guilty of previously judging Taiwan. I secretly doubted Taiwanese when they claimed that Taiwan is a beautiful place and when they told me all I had to do is escape the cities. I internally rolled my eyes when they described the picturesque places and the unique natural landscapes.
Little did I know that I was the one who was wrong. All my previous misconceptions and preconceived notions made me feel highly embarrassed. All I had to do was hop on a train, a bus, a scooter, or in a car to explore the prized natural possessions that comprises this magnificent island that I currently call home.
Come explore Taiwan, through my eyes, as I uncover some truly amazing places. It is a place where you can sometimes get physically lost but internally found.
Here are my top five outdoor travel and adventure activities. They range from lazy days, gentle strolls, to more challenging adventures. There is sure to be something for everyone!! All you have to do is put on your comfortable shoes (or flip-flops) and get out there and explore!!
 Ji Bei, Penghu
I was in awe when the boat docked! Not a car to be seen! Small, narrow roads outlined the rim of the island with only a scooter or two exploring the area! Beautiful white sandy beaches, one with a sand bar as far as the eye can see! It was the perfect place to get lost in time, to watch the waves roll in, and to stroll on the early morning deserted beaches!
If you are looking for the perfect island paradise, then Ji Bei is your best option. My trip to Ji Bei was one of the most relaxing weekend get-aways I’ve ever had. It was the perfect place to escape reality for awhile. The cool evening breeze and the sound of the waves crashing could be heard all over the island. It was the ideal atmosphere to enjoy an evening barbeque after a day of water activities and fun in the sun.
Ji Bei is a short boat ride from Makong, Penghu’s Main Island. It takes a little effort to get there, but this island get-away is definitely worth it.
 Taroko Gorge
I was speechless the first time I visited! What an amazing feeling to be immersed between the marble rock faces, to hear the rushing sound of water between the cliffs, to walk through the tunnels, and to gaze at the pure, natural beauty of Taroko Gorge! Plus, it was the place where I felt my heart beating, my legs shaking, and my knees going weak when I crossed my very first suspension bridge.
A trip to Taiwan wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Taroko Gorge. I have been there several times and it is always a different experience. I have seen the gorge from the back of a scooter, from the inside of a car, and I have gotten up, close, and personal with the gorge. Yes, my most memorable journey was when I pounded every inch of the 18 kilometer pavement from the entrance gate to Tiensheng.
Taroko Gorge is located on the east coast of Taiwan, not far from Hualien. It is NOT one of Taiwan’s best kept secrets, so be prepared to face crowds, tour buses, and traffic jams on holidays! You have been warned!
 Hehuan Mountain (Hehuanshan)
I was excited to breathe in the fresh mountain air, to feel the wind in my hair, to challenge myself. Located at an elevation of 3275 meters, it feels like you are on top of the world. It is the ideal location to see the clouds sitting on the mountain peaks and the perfect spot, actually one of the few spots in Taiwan, to play with snow when temps fall below freezing. The hiking trails here are quite strenuous, especially with the air so thin, but the views are spectacular and the accomplishment of completing such a huge challenge is really rewarding.
I love Hehuan Mountain. It is the place where I felt the coldest in Taiwan. It is where I witnessed the most amazing sunrise but where I felt the most frustrated when I realized that there was another higher peak hidden behind what I thought was the summit. I challenged myself to complete several seriously strenuous hikes there and it is where I conquered what I thought was impossible, both physically and mentally.
HeHuan Mountain is located in Nantou and it is the highest peak accessible by car in Taiwan. Most Taiwanese make the journey there to get their first glimpse of snow.
 Qing Shui Cliff
I was immediately drawn to the beauty of Qing Shui Cliff. The way the cliff plunges into the aqua blue water! The view of the cliff from the rocky beach! The peaceful and serene atmosphere of the place in general. It is another place to kick off your shoes and slow down for awhile. Most people just stop for a photo opp and keep on trucking. But if you stay for awhile, the place will be yours most of the time.
I was drawn to this place because of the small town girl in me. I grew up close to the water and it reminds me of home, of Canada. It brought back memories of when I was younger: the salt water spray, the wind from the water, and the peaceful serenity of the place. When I am there, I truly appreciate nature and all it has to offer.
Qing Shui Cliff is also located in Eastern Taiwan and it is not far from Hualien as well. You may require your own means of transportation to get there.
 Sun Moon Lake
I was so happy that I didn’t write this place off. It has something for everyone. You can cycle around the lake on the beautiful bike route and enjoy the view of the lake from several vantage points. You can use your own muscle power and row a boat or opt to take a 1 hour cruise with others. You can sit and have a picnic on the green grass beside the lake. You can challenge your legs and hike to the pagoda or make use of the other hiking trails varying in difficulty. You can see the lake from high in the sky via the ropeway (cable car). And if that is not enough, you can sample some aboriginal food and enjoy a visit to one of the temples situated around the lake.
I have been there several times and I have to admit the time I camped there was by far my favorite. There is something relaxing about sitting by the lake and barbequing with friends. It was also the time I rowed a boat and envisioned the boat capsizing every single time a larger motor boat zoomed by. After using my arm power, I used my legs to power my bike around the lake, stopping way too often for pictures. What can I say? I love the place!!
Sun Moon Lake is in Nantou County. It can be easily reached by bus but if you have your own transportation, it is more convenient!
Taiwan is a beautiful place…the people, the views, the scenery, the food, the overall friendly atmosphere! It is not surprising that it was once called Formosa, meaning ‘beautiful place.’ Be sure to explore the magic of the place and appreciate all it has to offer. Living in Taiwan has been a very rewarding experience for me, both personally and professionally. I hope that this article has inspired you to come and explore the place that I currently called ‘home.’
Thanks for reading. Feel free to drop me a line to let me know which place interests you.
Linking Up with My Travel Monkey with #MondayEscapes