The sun has set but you know you won’t be able to sleep for a good few hours. You’ve no interest in hitting a bar, and you went to a top-notch restaurant for dinner so there’s no point in going to a night market. Department stores don’t do a lot for you, so what are you to do? Fortunately, Taiwan offers a surprising number of safe, wholesome after-dark distractions. Here are three:
See People at Prayer
The majority of Taiwan’s marvelous folk temples are open from dawn until 9pm or later, and all of them welcome foreign visitors. Sensitive taking of photos is never a problem; at old or famous shrines, you’ll see plenty of Taiwanese doing exactly the same.
Taipei’s Baoan Temple is especially attractive as the sun sinks. If you’re in Hsinchu, do head over to the city’s best-known and busiest place of worship, Du Cheng Huang Temple. Founded in 1748, this shrine is dedicated to the deity who protects the city, as well as his wife. It’s busy throughout the day, with many of the faithful visiting after a hard day in the office to burn incense and pray. What are they praying for? Many hope their businesses will prosper, their kids will do well in school exams, and their parents will enjoy good health.
Very few temples charge admission, and visitors are only expected to drop something in the donation box if they pray or throw divining blocks. Don’t hesitate to go into any temple if it looks interesting, even if you’re dressed very casually and there are people praying inside. Removing your hat is a good idea but it isn’t necessary to remove symbols of your own religion. In most temples you needn’t take off your shoes.
Good for Your Soles (And Soul)
After a long day of guiding or reconnoitering, we at Life of Taiwan love a good foot massage. Foot-massage establishments can be found in every city – just look for the colourful “foot maps” which explain (usually in Chinese only) which part of each foot is associated with which of your internal organs.
Go for a Nature Ramble
Greater Taipei is blessed with dozens of clearly-marked hiking trails. While wandering around the hills after dark isn’t always a good idea – first-timers may get lost – do consider a late-afternoon jaunt up Elephant Mountain for superb views of Taipei 101 and a good part of the capital. The trail is around 1.45km long, but it isn’t necessary to go the whole way to enjoy memorable panoramas. Other places with fabulous dusk views are Jiufen and Jinguashi on the north coast, where the lower photo was taken.
If you find wildlife more engaging than cityscapes, Life of Taiwan can organise a nocturnal forest walk during which (depending on the time of year) you’ve a good chance of seeing snakes, frogs, flying squirrels and other fascinating creatures.