Tom Marchant, co-founder of the Black Tomato Travel Group, is as well-traveled as they come. Naturally, as soon as we discovered that Taiwan happens to be one of his favorite spots in Asia, we were eager to find out why. An island that’s fast becoming a must-see destination in 2014 and 2015, we caught up with Tom to see what it is about Taiwan that has him hooked.
What parts of the island would you recommend to first time visitors?
Of course Taipei is a must-see for any first time visitor. One of Asia’s most beautiful and liveable cities, Taipei is also incredibly exciting. With a myriad of markets, bars, restaurants and of course the views from Taipei 101, this is a city I explored comfortably and one that actually lacks the chaos you might associate with an Asian city destination. Another place I’d urge any first time visitor to make time for is Sun Moon Lake. Surrounded by dense cloud and rugged peaks, this whole area has some of the most stunning landscapes in Taiwan. I love the fact it has great weather all year round; incredible boat rides, easy hiking trips and intrepid biking tours are an eternal possibility.
How would you describe the cuisine?
Taiwanese cuisine is fragrant, delicious and eclectic. It takes influences from both China and Japan and as a result the flavors can be complex whilst the presentation is relatively simple. The best way to sample Taiwanese cuisine is at one of the island’s food markets and sampling a variety of small dishes. I had one of my best dining experiences at Keelung’s Miaokou Night Market. Fried baby crabs followed by minced pork rice left us all completely satisfied.Read more
Are there any must-see cultural sites?
I have read a lot about the history of Taiwan and it’s truly fascinating. There’s no better way to get a true sense of the island’s past and traditions than at one of the many ancient temples. Bao’an Temple in Taipei was recently recognised with the Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for the successful restoration of its architecture and the revival of ancient rites and festivities. I’d also recommend you make a trip to the National Palace Museum. Brimming with ancient artefacts and one of the world’s largest collections of Chinese art, the museum tells the island’s story in a vibrant and enchanting way.
What makes Taiwan so special?
I think for me, it’s the unique mix of Japanese and Chinese cultures that makes Taiwan stand apart. The food. The friendly locals. The incredible landscapes. The dynamic cities. It’s a fascinating place and being relatively small, it’s easy to see a lot of the island in a matter of weeks. Taiwan is the embodiment of the immersive Asian travel experience and I know I don’t need to be away for months at a time to see it. It’s rare that you can really get under the skin of a destination in a matter of days, but Taiwan is one of those accessible places that allows just that.
For customers and friends alike, many of us have enjoyed Taiwan’s unexpected allure, arriving home with a sense of earned experience having discovered a land delivering the best of the orient in a stunning surrounding. Our world is changing and development is coming. I encourage you all to pack a bag and take a journey, it’s well worth it.