Last updated: 10:00 PM ET, Sat April 25 2015

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  • A Cruising Couple | April 25, 2015 10:00 PM ET

    5 Cool Cultural Experiences You Can't Miss On A Trip To Taiwan

    5 Cool Cultural Experiences You Can't Miss On A Trip To Taiwan

    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

    Our first few months in Taiwan, we suffered from some serious culture shock. The small, bustling, vibrant island isn’t the easiest to navigate if you are unfamiliar with the Mandarin language or Asia in general. But soon we settled in, and before we knew it we were buzzing around on scooters, using chopsticks like pros, and even reading a few very basic Chinese phrases. But though it can be overwhelming at first, Taiwanese culture is absolutely fascinating. Whether you’re moving to the country or just visiting for a quick trip, don’t miss these cool cultural experiences below:

    Take A Dip In The Hot Springs

    Hot springs are popular around the world, but in Asia, they are more than just a leisurely pastime. Taiwanese believe hot springs can raise energy levels, and treat such ailments as chronic fatigue, eczema, and arthritis! There are over 150 hot springs around Taiwan, so no matter where you are, there is likely a place to dip your toes nearby! There are natural hot springs only accessible via hiking, but the most popular options tend to be a visit to a hot spring resort or a hotel. The hotels typically have multiple public hot springs ranging in water temperature with various shower heads and massage facilities; the nicest venues even boast private hot spring tubs in the bedrooms! Before you go, note that you are expected to wear a shower cap in the hot springs at all times. Sometimes the hot spring baths are also separated by gender. If that’s the case, know that most of your companions will be wearing their birthday suit — and their birthday suit alone!

    Spend A Night Singing Karaoke

    Photo by Derek Gavey via Flickr

    We have never seen karaoke, or KTV, enjoyed with such passion and zeal as in Taiwan. Here you’ll find locals singing karaoke in their homes, in public parks on the holidays, and in large karaoke halls. At the latter, you can rent a private room for you and your friends where you can belt out your favorite songs from the ‘90s without having to worry about anyone listening in. Most of the karaoke halls are quite friendly, with comfortable seating and food/beverage service. A night of KTV with locals can turn into quite the party — don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing late into the night.

    Experience Traditional Taiwanese Tea Culture

    Tea has long held a role in Chinese culture, and traditional tea customs still run strong in Taiwan. Quaint teahouses dot the island and are the perfect place to sit back for a few hours on a rainy Taiwanese afternoon. Taiwan’s local tea specialty is Oolong Tea. It’s an acquired taste for many, but certainly worth trying. If you visit a teahouse, you’ll quickly notice that drinking tea is a slow and thoughtful process, enjoyed over a long conversation. The cups are washed in warm water. The tea leaves are rinsed and soaked. The aroma is savored. And then, only after due etiquette, one can sip from their doll-sized teacups. This process is repeated again and again until you’re finally ready to get back to the rush of daily life.

    Visit a Night Market

    If you only do one thing in Taiwan, make it a visit to a night market. For the first-timer, navigating Taiwan’s famous night markets can be an intimidating, but don’t let the chaos stop you from enjoying this iconic element of Taiwanese culture. Night markets are lively and noisy, but easily the best way to sample traditional Taiwanese snacks and dishes. Don’t miss the stinky tofu, or fermented tofu served up on a stick. It smells like sewage but isn’t quite as horrible as your nostrils would lead you to believe. Other signature items to try include oyster omelets, pearl milk tea, grilled squid, and beef noodles. While you’re eating your heart out, you can also shop for gadgets and souvenirs, and even play a few fair games.

    Experience A Festival

    One of the highlights of calling Taiwan home for two years was having the special opportunity to experience the local holidays, festivals and celebrations of the island. Many of the festivals tell stories of Chinese culture and ancient myths; they are an excellent way to gain insight to Taiwanese cultural beliefs. The most popular festivals are Chinese Lantern Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, and Chinese New Year, but there are numerous unique and exciting festivals to experience around the island at almost any time of the year! You can learn more about our favorite festivals here.

    Have you visited Taiwan before? What unique cultural encounters did you experience?

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A Cruising Couple A Cruising Couple's Column

A Cruising Couple Dan and Casey are the two lovebirds, world travelers and adventurers extraordinaire behind the popular travel blog A Cruising Couple - adventure travel with a dash of class. Their stories and photographs feature that special place where experiential and stylish travel meet. Find out how you can spend less money, live more adventurously and travel more luxuriously on their blog,
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