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Guandu Bridge links Taipei with New Taipei City. (SC)  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Taiwan > Sights & Attractions

Modern Metropolises: Taipei, Taichung And Kaohsiung

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Taipei 台北

Taipei was a backwater until well into the 19th century, when power and commerce began to shift northward from Tainan and Lugang. The city grew out of various settlements, most notably Wanhua (萬華, also known as Mengjia, Manka, Monga or Bangkah) and Dadaocheng (大稻埕). The former traded with aborigines in the interior; the latter thrived when demand from North America for Taiwanese tea surged in the late 19th century. Nominated as Taiwan's administrative capital in the final years of Qing rule, Taipei boomed during the Japanese colonial era; known then as Taihoku, it boasted Taiwan's only university and dozens of impressive public buildings, many of which survive today. Damaged by American air raids in the final months of World War II, the city saw an influx of mainland Chinese refugees from late 1948. For decades, many of these exiles denigrated the city as merely "the provisional capital of the ROC." But now Taipei now has a lot going for it; the National Palace Museum is just one of several excellent museums. Thanks to good public transportation, getting around isn't a chore

Population: 2.62 million
Land Area: 272km2
Getting there and away: Taipei is the northern terminus of the HSR system, and very well served by TRA from Keelung and the south. Very frequent bus services link the capital with all major destinations in the west, plus Yilan County in the northeast. Taipei Songshan Airport has domestic flights to the east and outlying islands, and some scheduled international services.

Taichung 台中

Even Taichung natives often forgot that central Taiwan's largest city was the island's capital for a few years in the 1880s. During his tenure as governor, Liu Ming-chuan chose the settlement that had grown up around the garrison at Datun (大屯, literally “big mound”) as the new provincial government's administrative center. Although the seat of power was soon moved northward to Taipei, the town grew steadily throughout the 20th century thanks to its position near the natural resources of the interior, and a booming manufacturing sector that turned out clothes, shoes and – for a decade or two – most of the world's saxophones. The city boasts one of Taiwan's most important Mazu temples, plus an earthquake-themed museum.

Population: 2.63 million
Land Area: 2,215km2
Getting there and away: Taichung is very well-served by TRA and HSR trains. Regular buses arrive from all major west coast towns, as well as Lugang.

Kaohsiung 高雄

Known as Takao (打狗, meaning "hit the dog") until 1920, this former fishing village experienced rapid non-stop growth from the 1870s until the 1990s. Now branding itself Taiwan's "Ocean Capital" and emerging triumphantly from a decades-long nightmare of heavy industry and associated pollution, Kaohsiung compares favorably with second cities around the world. Like Los Angeles, it get far more sunshine than the actual capital. And like Birmingham in the UK, it can claim to be the city where money is made, rather than a place where politicians decide how to spend what others have generated. The Former British Consular Residence is the city's most intriguing relic.

Population: 2.77 million
Land Area: 2,496km2
Getting there and away: Kaohsiung is the southern terminus of the HSR system, and has very frequent TRA services from the north and Pingtung. Buses links with Kenting are especially good. Kaohsiung's airport handles both international and domestic flights.

Type: Tip
Location: Taiwan

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