Taiwan is a modern industrialised megalopolis clinging to the fringes of an ancient culture; a string of teeming cities at the feet of a glorious mountain range. It's traditional noodles from a 7-Eleven, aboriginal tribes in mini-skirts and a day of temple rituals followed by waterslide rides. The human tide of Taipei will sweep you off your feet, but if you step outside the city limits you'll discover why Taiwan is known as Ilha Formosa, 'the beautiful island'. Mountain peaks puncture a sea of clouds, slick black volcanic rock wraps the coastlines and waterfalls shroud themselves in mist: Taiwan is a computer-generated Chinese watercolour.
But it is precisely Taiwan's history with China that has caused the most friction and heartache for the Taiwanese. The continuing tug-of-war between the People's Republic of China on the mainland and the Democratic Progressive Party on Taiwan is often prone to take on the pasty complexion of a civil war albeit one that has not, as yet, developed into an all-out brawl. Mainland China insists on the truth of 'one China' while Taiwan has managed the impossible tightrope act of agreeing, in principle, to one China but acting, in practice, like an independant republic.