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10 things Taiwan does better than anywhere else

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They might look and taste like fish balls, but these fried goodies are actually animal-free. Given how important flesh is to the traditional Chinese diet, it's little surprise that Taiwan is a leader in mock meat dishes that could fool even the most hardcore carnivore.

With 23 million people crammed onto an island that covers just more than 36,000 square kilometers, Taiwan ranks among the 20 most densely populated places in the world.

Although the industrious island has built a global reputation for cheap electronics, this is one Asian tiger that offers far more than stickers on the backs of calculators.

Economically there’s little it has left to prove, but Taiwanese people remain a proud and determined bunch.

Here are 10 things they do better than anyone else.

1. Night markets

Taiwan's 300-plus night markets await your midnight cravings.
Taiwan’s 300-plus night markets await your midnight cravings.

For an island smaller in area than Switzerland, Taiwan sure has a lot of night markets — an estimated 300 island-wide.

These open-air bazaars are particularly loved for street food, referred to locally as xiao-chi, literally “small eats.”

Perennial favorites are oyster omelets, stinky tofu and an assortment of snacks on a stick straight off the grill.

Specialty drinks range from bubble tea to shots of snake blood.

According to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, some 70% of tourists to Taiwan will visit a night market.

The top three Facebook check-ins for 2013 in Taiwan were all night markets; Tainan Flower Night Market (12th globally) nabbed the top spot, followed by Luodong and Feng Chia night markets in Yilan and Taichung, respectively.

 

2. Themed restaurants

If literal toilet humor (eating out of miniature urinals and toilet bowls) is your idea of an amuse bouche, Taiwan provides a belly full of laughs.

Modern Toilet restaurants address taboos pertaining to dining etiquette, posing witty rhetoric on websites such as: “To eat or to pee? Now that is the question.”

At the other extreme, you can get a cutesy overdose at a Hello Kitty namesake cafe, where everything from burger buns to soup bowls is shaped like the mouthless cartoon cat. (For more on the kitty obsession, read point 9 below.)

What’s that? Can’t get enough pink and glitter?

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