Chimei Museum
Ten Drum Cultural Village
Ten Drum Cultural Village
The oldest city in Taiwan (it was the country’s capital for 200 years) sustained considerable damage during the earthquake in February this year. Dubbed the “Phoenix City” thanks to its rise and fall under various Chinese dynasties and Dutch colonists (1624-83), it’s now home to the new Chimei Museum (www.chimeimuseum.org), a grandiose neoclassical private museum founded by Shi Wen-long, one of the world’s richest men according to Forbes. The museum is separated into five categories of collections: Western arts, natural history, arms and armor, antiquities and artefacts, and musical instruments (here, you’ll find one of the largest violin collections in the world).
Next stop is Ten Drum Cultural Village (www.ten-hsieh.com.tw), which has transformed the old Rende Sugar Refinery into a cultural park where the Ten Drum percussionists perform in an amazing factory space where audience members sit above the old machinery. Inside is full of other attractions like a skywalk connecting the giant old molasses tanks and a stunning hidden cafe. It’s also home to a secondhand book shop, drum museum and classes, and even a movie set from the 2013 Taiwanese film Good Luck! Boy!, telling the story of a young musician chasing his dream. Another warehouse has been turned into a restaurant, Ten Drum Diner, where you can get a good meal beside five train carriages set beneath camphor trees.
Next, head to the wooden fort Chikan Lou or Fort Provintia, a 360-year-old Dutch outpost praised for its architectural and artistic significance. Save your remaining energy to visit Hayashi Department Store (www.hayashi.com.tw), Taiwan’s second oldest mall. It underwent a renovation in 2014, but the five-story space retains plenty of vintage charm and is filled with both local designers selling souvenirs as well as a Japanese restaurant and cafe on the rooftop. 
Hayashi Department Store 
Hayashi Department Store 
Eat here: You’ll find authentic local flavors at A Sha (goo.gl/FZ73mS), a Southern Taiwanese restaurant famous for its dried mullet roe (a pricy Southern delicacy) as well as mud crab with sticky rice. 
Stay: Tayih Landis Tainan Hotel (tainan.landishotelsresorts.com) offers spacious rooms with sweeping views of Tainan city and is set right next to Mitsukoshi shopping center. Room rates start at NT$8,000. 
Train time from Taipei: 2 hr, NT$1,350 per trip


Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Centre
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Centre
Taiwan’s second largest city has emerged as a top tourist destination, offering natural and cultural attractions, a vibrant arts scene and delicious food. Start your exploration with a peaceful trek at the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Centre (www.fgsbmc.org.tw), which is home to an enormous, 108-meter tall seated Amitabha Buddha surrounded by stupas representing the Four Noble Truths.
Inside the 625-rai compound, you’ll also find the stunning golden Twin Pavilions Tea House, which offers visitors tea ceremonies and calligraphy workshops (book three days in advance). Though designed for clergy, the Welcoming Hall is now filled with shops and restaurants including a rare vegetarian Starbucks branch and Hi-Lai Vegetarian Restaurant, which offers super-delicious zero-meat dishes.
Get a taste of contemporary Taiwanese creative culture at Pier-2 Art Center (goo.gl/M8Em1F), a modern art wharf which sits in a transformed warehouse complex at the old port. It includes an art plaza, exhibition warehouses, bookshop, theater, design shops and cafes along with a bike path.
After dark, check out Liuhe Night Market, a food mecca packed with Chinese dishes, especially fresh seafood. Don’t leave without trying the local milk and papaya smoothies, either. Also save enough time to visit Formosa Boulevard MRT Station for its “Dome of Light,” a massive colored glass installation that displays a small light show every evening at 7:30pm.
Pier-2 Art Center
Liuhe Night Market
Eat here: Traditional Chinese restaurant Fwu Keh Lai (goo.gl/Kkvq6x) is one of the top spots for a grand meal. There are three branches: Ziyou 1st Rd., Linsen 3rd Rd., Qianzhen and Lane 229, Jiangong Rd. 
Stay here: Located right in the city center, the 186-meter tall Grand Hi-Lai Hotel (www.grand-hilai.com) offers luxe rooms with stunning views of the Kaohsiung sea port. Room rates start from NT$4,452. 
Train time from Taipei: 2:20 hr, NT$1,490 per trip


Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum
Hinoki Village
Known as the “Doorway to South Taiwan,” Chiayi has long been the starting point for travelers heading to the picturesque Alishan National Scenic Area. Now though, the city is also home to the newly opened, NT$7.934-billion Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum (south.npm.gov.tw).
Founded late last year, this sister museum of the National Palace Museum in Taipei displays precious artefacts from the Chinese revolution including the reputed Jadeite Cabbage. Expect to find permanent and rotating exhibitions of other Asian artefacts, too. You can easily reach the museum from Chiayi high-speed railway station, from which it’s just a five-minute taxi ride.
Spare some time to stroll around Hinoki Village (www.hinokivillage.com), the cultural village on Linsen Road which used to be the official Japanese residential area during the logging era of the 1900s. It consists of 28 newly-renovated traditional Japanese wooden houses built from cypress tree (called hinoki in Japanese). It’s now home to tea houses, craft shops and eateries.
Cross the road to take pictures at Peimen Train Station, which was built in 1899 as the starting point of the gorgeous Alishan Forest Railway that runs through cherry blossom tree tunnels every spring. Now though, the station is no longer in use.
Peimen Train Station
Spraying Water Chicken Rice Restaurant
Eat here: Chicken rice is the craze here. Head to Spraying Water Chicken Rice Restaurant on Zhongshan Road, where they have been serving this famous treat since 1949. The menu contains a huge list of other Chinese delicacies, too. 
Stay: Tsun Huang Hotel (www.hotel-thh.com) is a chic hotel just 10 minutes’ walk from the night market on Wenhua Road. Room rates start at NT$2,520. 
Train time from Taipei: 1:30 hr, NT$1,080 per trip  


Taiwan budget airline V Air (www.flyvair.com) offers tickets between Bangkok and Taipei at B3,984. Full-service China Airlines (www.china-airlines.com) offers three flights a day at B12,110 for return and Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com) offers daily flights start from B12,710.
Book high-speed train tickets and consult about unlimited passes at www.thsrc.ocm. Three-day passes start from NT$2,400, a flexible three-day pass is NT$3,200, while a five-day joint pass is NT$2,800 and a five-day express joint pass is NT$3,600. You have to buy your pass in Thailand, though. Try easybook.com or hanafour.co.th.
B1 = NT$1.1
Unless you already hold a US, UK, Australian, New Zealand or Canadian visa, Thai nationals require a visa to enter Taipei, which starts at B1,700 for single-entry. See more at www.taiwanembassy.org/TH.