I formerly lived in Taiwan and spend 4-6 weeks there after the Winter harvest each year. When are you going? Are you going to be in Taibei area primarily? Do you speak Mandarin?
My wife is Taiwanese and her family lives in the Taizhong area, which is where I attended college. I can definitely offer you some possibilities around Taizhong (night markets, etc.). What are your goals for the trip? I ask because heading out to Sun Moon Lake and the surrounding tea area is a nice trip...as well as to stop in at the major monasteries (Zhong Tai).
In Taizhong there is a very special teahouse where I study tea when there. My teacher is a very wonderful being and is the head tea teacher for Qiu Shan Tang and Chun Shui Tang. However, he doesn't speak English. Do you have a Mandarin speaker accompanying you? He is a reliable source for tea, teaching, and information. Also, he is well respected by some of the major tea artisans in Ying Ge and has close connections there to truly artisan teaware. In San Yi, outside of Taizhong there is a very famous and very unique tea artisan that I can refer you to, as well as to some good tea shops in Taizhong. One in particular specializes in unique and rare high quality aged wulong teas.
I can recommend a few tea spaces in Taibei but not so much as Taizhong. I can ask for you as well.
Also, SilentChaos is a great resource for Taiwan. If he doesn't respond to your thread I would pm him. If you haven't been to the Nantou area and Shan Lin Xi it is a beautiful tea region with many great teas. This is where Taiwan Tea Crafts is located and Phil Brook of TTC has invited us to visit him and their tea operation there. I'm sure if you contacted TTC and asked if you could stop in there would likely be an opening. He speaks fluent French and English and married into a third generation Taiwan tea family; this way you could perhaps see the whole operation and be received warmly.
For Taiwan, hotsprings are a must....there are so many amazing hotsprings in the mountain and I would attend at least one. The one's in Beitou near Taibei are not bad but some of the hotsprings in the deeper mountains near Guguan are really great.
There is too much to share, so let me know your emphasis and perhaps we could dialogue over the possibilities.
thanks for the detailed response! To answer some of your questions: we'll be in Taiwan from mid October to early November (approx. 3 weeks). We'll spend at least six days in Taipei, and maybe more if we feel like it. We don't speak any Mandarin.
Our basic plan was to see Taipei, Sun Moon Lake, Ali shan, Taichung (Taizhong?), Tainan, Kenting, and Hualien/Taroko. This may be a bit too much to squeeze in, so we might have to miss out on some of these options. Any ideas on what to skip?
Taichung was actually one of the places we were considering skipping, but now you have definitely re-piqued my interest. Any suggestions on the area would be great! Feel free to PM me.
I have contacted SilentChaos, but he seems to be pre-occupied with the new harvest right now, so we'll see...
We will definitely visit some hot springs, but we have no idea which ones yet. Our emphasis is on seeing nature, food, tea, history, and relaxing. We don't want to be zipping around so quickly that we constantly are in a rush... We have booked our hotel in Taipei, but the rest is open ended. We'd love to find some tea farmer homestays, but I don't know how easy/worthwhile that would be.
Thanks for your help!