Taipei, Taiwan : Floating sky lanterns and soaring skyscrapers in a sprawling, thrumming capital.

Taipei is a glorious assault on the senses, a capital with stunning natural beauty, low crime, and clear air, despite its immense urban sprawl.

From its neon-lit night markets to its Qing Dynasty temples, visitors can feel the quiet drum of independent pride, however fragile its future. Beijing, which considers self-ruled Taiwan an unruly child, continues to assert its desire to reunify with Taiwan and put the island firmly back under its control.

But for now, a visit to Taipei, Taiwan's capital, offers a riot of culinary and cultural pleasures.

In 2023, the island's third-tallest skyscraper will open, and the Taiwan Lantern Festival, a beloved tradition in which thousands of glowing lanterns float skyward, will return to Taipei after more than two decades.

Taipei's future is uncertain. But in 2023 it remains an ideal place to gape at the sheer power of human innovation. [ Debra Kamin ].


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