Taiwan only really entered the (written) history books in the 17th century, when the Dutch and Portuguese were vying for supremacy in south east Asia, originally calling the island Formosa, the Portuguese for 'beautiful'.
The island had been occupied for perhaps thousands of years, but also the Chinese came late to the party, but the original austronesian inhabitants, related to the Malay, Indonesians as well as Malagasy, now only make up 2% of the population.
Taiwan ended up in its current political form when in 1949 Chiang Kai Shek, leading the nationalists, fled to the island from mainland China, effectively being defeated by the communists under Mao in the civil war of the 30s and 40s. Originally quite authoritarian, Taiwan saw its political climate thaw in the 80s and 90s, now being one of the most prosperous Asian countries.
Also interesting, the Taiwanese calendar counts from 1911, when in mainland China the Republic of China was established. And, of course, their spats with mainland China has installed some pride in the Taiwanese, officially calling their country the Republic of China, as compared to mainland China's People's Republic of China.
First impressions of Taipei are, not surprising, it feeling like a mix of China and Japan. Jean Luc Goddard drove around Tokyo for its futuristic aspects in his film Alphaville, but he could also have chosen the highways of Taiwan. In a paleofuturistic kind of way.
But the city also feels a bit dilapidated, run down. Perhaps because the majority of those living in Taipei believed from the start their visit would only be temporary and never really felt the need to take ownership of their surroundings. And perhaps the city is such a mix of peoples there's too little of a shared sense of community.
A touring Star Trek exhibition is currently visiting Taipei, so of course I had little choice, though the thing felt more like cobbled together by a few friends, with a bunch of clothes and (copies of) props thrown in for good measure. And there was no mention of the latest film.
But there's plenty to do, both in and close to town. I had considered going on a bit of a road trip on the island, but ended up not straying too far. The zoo, for one, is pleasant and surprisingly cheap, as are most of the museums. Then, the nearby fishing village Danshui is terribly popular for weekend breaks and the, also nearby, Xinbeitou hot springs are a must for their affordability and setting.
The best part of the city is the wide, superb and affordable variety of food.
I spent an excellent day with one of the hashes in Taipei. We ran on the coast and through the woods, being eaten alive by hornets. I got stung three times, the unlucky ones had to nurse over two dozen successful attacks.