When I spent three years in the late 90s and early 00s studying Mandarin Chinese and Chinese art history in Taiwan, the majority of my time was spent in Taipei (台北市), the northern city and capital. I never had much money and when I did it went towards Chinese books and calligraphy supplies. Seldom during my time on the island did I venture around and explore all it had to offer.
Years later I realize the folly of such youthful decisions. The island is nothing short of gorgeous on the eastern side. What the Western portion of the island lacks in terms of natural beauty it makes up for in terms of history and culture.
We spent roughly ten days riding through the island via train to maximize our enjoyment of the unique contours of the island. Eastern Taiwan and most of the rest of the island reflects the geological habits of a very active seismological area. There’s about a dozen active fault lines that run the length of the island. The active nature of many of the fault lines have lent a strong hand in shaping the coastline and interior mountain ranges.
Once we rounded the southern tip of the island near the city of Kenting we found ourselves with fewer landscapes that left us in awe, but with more culture and historical places to explore. Some of the southern cities like Tainan (台南) and Lukang (鹿港) have histories that extend several hundred years into the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. Let alone as touchpoint centers with the Dutch and Portuguese. It was the Portugese that coined the term Formosa or beautiful island for Taiwan.