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Anne Shih's Taiwan

An international magazine once referred to Anne Shih as a ”superwoman.”  It’s easy to make a case for the nickname in Orange County, where she is a driving force for many philanthropic and cultural organizations, including the Bowers Museum. As chair of the museum’s board of governors, Shih is a dynamo, raising millions of dollars and organizing popular exhibitions, including the Qin dynasty terra-cotta warriors in 2008, ”Secrets of the Silk Road“ in 2010 and the recent Chinese scroll-painting exhibition, ”China’s Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui.” Shih has shared with us the magnificent art of Asia. Now she wants to share her homeland, Taiwan. She spoke to Rosemary McClure.

Why Taiwan?
Taiwan isn’t on the radar for many American tourists, and it should be. Known for its modern cities and mountainous terrain, it is unique in its rich blend of cultures, world-class cultural centers and amazing natural beauty. Situated just off the southeastern coast of mainland Asia, Taiwan is an island on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean.  

Time is right
Taiwan has both tropical and subtropical zones, so summers can be hot and humid. Typhoons sometimes hit from June to October. My favorite times to visit are April to June and September to November.  There’s a bonus to visiting then, too: They’re considered shoulder periods, so rates are usually lower.  

Buy in
Taiwan is called Treasure Island because of its cultural and natural resources, but it’s also a paradise for shoppers. Taipei’s many commercial districts offer specialties with a local flavor, plus bargains on imports. The Yongchun Weekend Flea Market is a good place to start, but also shop the Jade Market, Wufenpu garment wholesale market and the Taipei 101 building shopping center, which is full of great shops.

Don’t forget
Keep a smile on your face when you travel in Taiwan. You’ll find that people are very friendly.

Best bite
Travelers can enjoy Chinese food in every large city in the world, but only in Taiwan can they enjoy authentic foods from every region of China. In addition, Taipei is home to the best street food markets in the world. The night markets began springing up in the 1950s in older urban areas of the city and have evolved into wonderful places to taste Taiwan’s best street foods. At each market, visitors can sample a wide selection of foods, many from the sea, since Taiwan is an island – things like oyster omelets, squid stew and stir-fried cuttlefish. But be sure to try beef noodle soup, my favorite night market dish. Shilin is the most famous street food night market, but there are others.

Must do
Taipei, the country’s capital in the north, is known for its busy night markets and street food vendors. But you also must see the Chinese Imperial art at the National Palace Museum, Taiwan’s National Theater and Concert Hall, Taipei Expo Park and Taipei 101, a 1,670-foot-tall, bamboo-shaped skyscraper with an observation deck. The building is one of the world’s tallest. Outside Taipei, visit the Buddha Memorial Center in Kaohsiung and Taroko National Park (pictured) and Tzu Chi Cultural Park – both in Hualien County on the east coast.

After dark
Huaxi Street Night Market, at one time Taipei’s most famous tourist landmark, is still an interesting place to visit. Located near Longshan Temple, Huaxi is also known as Snake Alley Market for the dishes prepared there that utilize snake as a main ingredient. The market has a traditional gate at its entrance and is hung with Chinese lanterns.

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