Thursday, March 17, 2016

Avoiding crowds when touring Taiwan

Over at, my friend Ralph Jennings gives some sound advice for places (and categories of places) visitors to Taiwan should avoid if they dislike crowds, going beyond the obvious duo of night markets and temple festivals. He’s right in saying that around Yongkang Street (a foodie neighbourhood that’s become so popular the authorities have begun deleting any mention of it from official guides) and Taipei Main Station, there are always huge numbers of people, and finding a spot to sit down and have a relaxing coffee isn't easy. However, if you head into the capital’s backstreets, it isn’t difficult to find cafes where you can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. Digital nomads are good at sniffing out such places.

I’ve never been to Yangmingshan National Park during flower season or when the cherry blossoms are out, and I’ve no intention of going. At weekends and on public holidays, the traffic in and out - not to mention the queues for buses and the lack of seats once you’re one - is bad enough. Yet in the middle of the week, the park is wonderful; get a copy of Richard Saunders’ book if you plan to do any serious exploring. 

I’m not the only person who believes the allure of Kenting National Park is often overstated. The beaches aren’t that great, and the accommodation is overpriced. Go to Taitung, or the indigenous communities in the mountains of Pingtung, instead.
Number four on his list is the Danshui boardwalk on weekend afternoons. In my opinion, Danshui’s history always makes it worth visiting, and it’s near enough to Taipei you can leave the moment you feel bored. It’s not even necessary to return to the capital the way you came. If time allows, you can set off on a loop around the north coast, as I explain in this article.

Jennings finishes up with a warning anyone thinking of going to Taitung or Hualien should heed. Between Friday afternoon and late Sunday night, eastbound trains are often booked solid. To get tickets, try at least a week in advance. Go midweek if you can, because both the Kaohsiung-Taitung and Taipei-Hualien railroads provide varied and always interesting views.

Among places I’d add to the list: The Pingxi Branch Railway during the summer; the old heart of Anping on sunny weekends; and pretty much everywhere during the Lunar New Year holidays.

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