Taiwan's total land area is about 36,000 square kilometers (14,400 square miles). It is shaped like a leaf that is narrow at both ends. It lies off the southeastern coast of mainland Asia, across the Taiwan Strait from China - an island on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean. To the north is Japan; to the south is the Philippines.
Several waves of settlement and shifts of sovereignty over recent centuries have bequeathed Taiwan a diverse cultural heritage. Such a pluralist culture not only makes Taiwan a hotbed for various art forms which coexist, blend with or influence each other, but also renders it very receptive to different thoughts—religious teachings included—and games—such as competitive sports. Today, the country is known as a home to top-notch cinema and popular music talent, has one of the world’s highest densities of religious structures, especially Taoist and Buddhist temples and shrines, and contains a steadily growing population that embraces sports as a pastime and daily regimen.
Eating is a big and very important part of Taiwanese culture, so there is no shortage of different places to eat here. Many Westerners feel somewhat overwhelmed by the diversity, language barrier, and unfamiliar foods. Sure, some of it seems pretty strange at first, but if you work hard, you can find a lot of different eateries that will satisfy your appetite. The basic Taiwanese meal is typically rice or noodles with vegetables and meat either mixed in or on the side. Dumplings are popular as are many forms of soup, which is often served with noodles.
There is a wide variety of travel options in Taiwan; scooters and motorcycles are the most popular. There are more than 1 million scooters in Taipei alone! Many foreigners own and drive one during their time here. If you prefer to take your travels a little slower, public bicycle rental is also widely available.
Inner-city buses usually cost NT$15 for a one-way trip, and long-distance buses range from the usual public bus service to much more comfortable private bus lines between major cities. Most Taiwanese cities have an abundance of taxis. There are also excellent island-wide train, high-speed rail, and mass rapid transit systems (MRT). Taiwan's domestic airline industry is quite active. Flying is as common as taking long-distance buses, and flights are always fully booked during holidays.
Taiwan is considered subtropical, as the Tropic of Cancer cuts through the island near the city of JiaYi. Summer lasts from May through September and tends to be very hot and humid. The average daytime highs range from 30-35 degrees Celsius (86-95 degrees Fahrenheit). Winters are generally mild, although the high humidity tends to make it feel very chilly at times. Winters run from December through February with average highs of around 16-20 degrees Celsius (61-68 degrees Fahrenheit). The coldest time is usually over Chinese New Year at the end of January and the beginning of February.
Taiwan is an island economy heavily dependent on foreign trade due to limited natural resources and a small domestic market. The economy stands third in Asia and 14th overall in the IMD 2016 world competitiveness rankings.
In 2015, Taiwan ranked as the world’s 17th largest exporter and 18th largest importer. As a leading supplier of wafers, LCD panels, and RAM, Taiwan mainly exports electronic parts (30%), ICT products (11%), and base metals (9%) to major destinations such as Mainland China, ASEAN, the United States, and the European Union. The main imports are petroleum products (18%), electronic parts (16%), and chemicals (11%), and top import origins are Mainland China, Japan, the United States, ASEAN, and the European Union.
Currently, the government is actively promoting the “New Southward Policy” to advance trade cooperation with Southeast Asian countries. In addition to APEC and WTO membership, Taiwan has in force FTAs with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, ECFA with Mainland China, ASTEP with Singapore and ANZTEC with New Zealand.