The ROC capital and Taiwan's largest city, Taipei (which literally means "north Taiwan") is the island's center of political, commercial and cultural activity. Famous for its bustling business centers, energetic nightlife, and colorful marketplaces, it is also the home of the National Palace Museum, the world's most extensive museum of Asian art and antiquities.
Less well known are the wide swaths of forest within the Taipei City limits, making it one of the greenest cities in Asia. But be forewarned: before you visit some of the more natural corners of Taipei City, make sure you're in decent shape. Taipei's forest preserves are universally of a vertical inclination.
Taipei is in fact a basin, with two rivers running through it - the Tamsui and the Keelung - and surrounded by mountains. That makes for plenty of green space right in the center of the city. Of course, it also means that Taipei has to fit a lot of urban sprawl into just a little space. With 2.9 million people squeezed into the Taipei basin, the city has its fair share of air pollution and traffic jams - one of its more reluctant claims to fame. But for those of us who can't help being seduced by the bright lights and chic bustle of a booming Oriental metropolis, Taipei can't be missed. Before you decide to escape the maelstrom of the city and make a break for the rustic countryside (fortunately, it's easy to do), take time to revel in the clanging clamor of Taipei, one of the unsung secrets of East Asia.
Taipei is constantly reinventing itself. The capital city of the ROC has been undergoing major urban renovations over the last ten years, building the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system and new bypass highways, expanding major thoroughfares, and moving railways underground. The city government has been dedicated in making new space for parks in the center of the city. And the hard work is paying off, as Taipei emerges as one of the Orient's most convenient and attractive cities.
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