If China and Japan were to have a baby, we wouldn’t be surprised if it came out looking a lot like Taiwan. Sophisticated and futuristic, yet heavily influenced by its deep Chinese roots, Taiwan continues to humbly—yet steadfastly—redefine emerging Asian nations every day. If you’re a TEFL teacher who wants to be part rapid growth and transformation, both in the classroom and beyond, than Taiwan will fit like an old glove.
Read on to learn the eight must-do experiences while teaching in Taiwan!
Quick tips for budget travel in Taiwan
- Public transit FTW. Public transport in Taiwan is clean, efficient, and best of all, cheap. You can even hire drivers or motorbikes to get you to more far-flung areas of the island!
- Fuel up at night markets. Forego sit-down dinners or even cooking at home in lieu of delicious and affordable meals that can be found at the myriad of markets on offer.
- Do the free things. Temples and museums tend to be free to visit, and you can even pay next to nothing to walk around destinations like the Sun Moon Lake and the Taroko Gorge. Specific free options include Kenting National Park, the Yingge Ceramics Museum, and the Lotus Pond temples in Taipei.
- Pack your student ID, even if it’s expired. Cha-ching!
8 must-have experiences for TEFL teachers in Taiwan
1. Take in the view from one of the world’s tallest buildings
Taipei 101, soaring 1,667 feet (508 meters), was the world’s tallest building from 2004-2010 (when Dubai’s Burj Khalifa overtook the title). Offices, restaurants, a multilevel shopping complex, and indoor and outdoor observatories can all be found here—and most offer stunning panoramic views of the capital city.
Don’t be surprised if it takes your breath away (you are up really, really high, after all!). This is the perfect activity early-on in your internship to get a different perspective on your new home.
2. Explore a national park.
There are nine national parks in Taiwan—trade in the noise of honking buses for the songs of a Taiwan Blue Magpie and the stark city lights for starry skies.
The most popular national park, hands down, is the famous Taroko Gorge (a magnificent marble gorge cut by the Li-Wu River). Here, you can witness the Bell Tower above the Eternal Spring Shrine, get wet in the water curtain cave, and overlook the bluest, blue waters lining the Chingshui Cliff.
You can also visit Kenting National Park, the oldest national park in the country, which is famous for tropical coral reef and migratory birds.
Want to monkey around? Stop by Ape Hill (aka Shoushan) in Kaohsiung. And if you dare to climb to the island’s tallest point, you’ll find the country’s largest mountain in Yushan National Park.
3. Drink all the boba.
You’ve heard of bubble tea, right? Also known as pearl milk tea/bubble milk tea/boba, this tea-based drink has been taking the world by storm* in recent years (*I can only assume as it’s now readily available in my rural Indiana hometown, and my dad loves it).
Excitingly, it was invented in Tainan (Taichung) in the 1980s, and getting to know the history of this delicious, sweet treat should definitely be on your TEFL in Taiwan to-do list!
Visit the birthplace of bubble tea, the Chun Shui Tang Tea House, and while you’re there, why not sign up for a tour and learn to make your own bubble tea with the help of professional instructors?
4. Shop til you drop in Taipei.
“In Taipei, shopping is pretty much a national sport,” according to Skye Hsiao. Wufenpu Shopping District is a must-stop for TEFL teachers on the hunt for souvenirs. This maze of a shopping center is super cheap, built primarily on wholesale items, and has hundreds of vendors.
If you’re looking for something more modern and luxurious, you’ll find familiar brands like Zara, Forever 21, H&M, and Mango in Taipei’s East District. You can even scratch your Starbucks itch while there! Be sure to make like the locals and shop at stores boasting Japanese makeup brands, Korean skin care, local beauty products. It can be a fun and unique way to explore the Taiwanese culture.
5. Ride a bike around Sun Moon Lake.
Majestic, blue, and misty—Sun Moon Lake is the perfect spot for an afternoon bike ride. There is a designated bike path around the lake oasis, making it the perfect spot for a breezy adventure.
Be sure to check out Shuishe Dam, Sun Moon Lake water outlet, Yongjie and Tongxin Bridges, Wen Wu Temple, and the Xiangshang platform on your journey! You can choose to do the leisurely 12 kilometer (7.5 mile) there-and-back route or cycle around the entire 29 kilometers (18 miles).
6. Drink local tea, feel powerful and compassionate
This is a popular place for TEFL teachers wanting to explore tea culture or get a sweeping night view of Taiwan’s city skyline. A fun day trip from the city, nearby MaoKong used to be the biggest tea growing area of Taipei. You’ll love getting lost on the many intertwining footpaths in the area which have been used to transport tea!
Be sure to ride the MaoKong Gondola, which stretches its way from the Taipei Zoo, past the ZhiNan temple, and up into the step hills of the region. MaoKong still grows tieguanyin tea, a premium variety of Chinese oolong tea named after the Chinese Goddess of Mercy Guanyin. It translates directly as “Iron Goddess of Mercy”—one sip and you’ll share in the feeling.
7. Celebrate local holidays.
If you’re lucky enough to be teaching in Taiwan during a national holiday celebration, do everything in your power to get out and participate! Here’s a quick summary of the Taiwanese public holiday calendar to inspire your internship planning:
- January 2: Founding of the Republic of China (also New Year’s Day)
- Last day (29th/30th day) of the 12th lunar month: Lunar New Year’s Eve
- First 3 working days of the 1st lunar month: Lunar New Year
- February 28: Peace Memorial Day
- April 3 & 4: The Combined Holidays of Women’s Day and Children’s Day
- April 4: Qingming Festival
- 5th day of the 5th lunar month: Dragon Boat Festival
- 15th day of the 8th lunar month: Mid-Autumn Festival
- October 10: National Day/Double Tenth Day
8. Find the way.
Taiwan is home to thousands of temples, ranging from large multi-story buildings bearing multiple shrines and hundreds of deities to small single-shrine structures barely big enough to fit a single god. Taoist, Buddhist or Confucian beliefs adorn Taiwanese temples, and oftentimes, multiple faiths and gods coexist peacefully under one roof.
Speaking of the roofs, be sure to pay special attention to them as you wander the multitudes of religious sites—you can find various figurines representing the values of the space. Observe the different dragons (their eyes, horns, noses, scales, and claws all indicate different things!). And remember: ALWAYS enter dragon, exit tiger.
Work hard, play hard while TEFL teaching in Taiwan!
Taiwan will excite your senses—often multiples senses at once. Follow a meaningful day of hard work in the classroom with a joyous evening out with your new TEFL friends. These eight must-have experiences in Taiwan will leave you feeling full of adventure!