WITH its advanced technology industry, high-speed transport network and towering skyscrapers, it can be all too easy to overlook the incredible scenic wonders of Taiwan.
The economic powerhouse is one of the most densely populated nations on earth, but Taiwan's government has actively set out to preserve the island's natural wonders, reserving about 20 per cent of its land area for environmental conservation.
Sitting in the path of warm ocean currents off the east coast of Asia, the main island is blessed with a wide range of climatic zones from tropical to temperate.
Though Taiwan covers an area of just over 36,000 square kilometres - about half the size of Tasmania - the island contains a breathtaking range of natural splendour.
It is home to pristine beaches, edged by pure white sand, azure blue seas and coral reefs.
It is home to soaring mountain peaks that receive a yearly dusting of snow, including Jade Mountain which, at almost 4000 metres, is east Asia's highest point.
It is home to stunning national parks that contain lush green forests, winding valleys, a rich diversity of wildlife and wondrous hot springs that result from the island's volcanic formation.
Taiwan is also home to some of the most caring and friendly people you could ever hope to encounter on an international journey.
Time and time again, visitors to the island remark on the wonderful experience they have had when interacting with the Taiwanese people, who will go to great lengths to make guests feel welcome.
This remarkable cultural trait was noted by President of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou during his 2012 inauguration speech.
''Not long ago, a Hualien taxi driver, Zeng Shicheng, discovered that a Japanese passenger had left a wallet behind in his cab,'' President Ma recounted. ''He drove quickly to the wharf but the passenger liner had already left shore.
''A tugboat pursued the departing liner and finally, the wallet was returned to its owner via a basket lowered from the passenger ship.''
This kindness and honesty, President Ma went on to say, is a core value of Chinese culture that is part of daily life for people in Taiwan.
Taiwan also fosters a rich creative culture, filled with distinctive art, dance and theatre traditions.
It also fosters musical spirit that stretches from magnificent operas to contemporary pop music - some 80 per cent of the world's Chinese language pop, in fact, is produced in Taiwan.
It is a nation that excels in cinema as well, producing acclaimed film-makers like Ang Lee, the esteemed director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain.
The cultural feast continues to Taiwan's culinary landscape, too, which blends traditional Chinese sensibilities with other regional flavours from Korea, Japan and south east Asia.
A pleasure in its own right is seeking out the colourful roadside food stalls and night markets that offer up an astonishing array of dishes, from fresh oyster omelettes to beef noodle soup.
Food in Taiwan also reaches the heights of dining excellence; Din Tai Fung's famous dumplings can now be found throughout the globe, while internationally-renowned Shi Yang Shan Fang is a stunning gourmet restaurant nestled into the mountains overlooking Taipei.
The capital city itself also boasts some impressive views courtesy of the 508 metre tall Taipei 101 tower, the second tallest building in the world.
On the bustling streets below, the busy metropolis of Taipei offers non-stop exhilaration, including its famous night markets, a 24-hour bookstore, high end fashion boutiques and a nightclub scene that draws all the big-name international DJs.
In contrast to this excitement, the serene and beautifully ornate Buddhist and Taoist temples that can found in Taipei - and indeed, all throughout Taiwan - provide stunning examples of sacred, centuries-old architecture.
Taiwan's rich and diverse history is also showcased in its numerous galleries and museums; the renowned National Palace Museum in Taipei, for example, is home to ancient Chinese artefacts dating back thousands of years.
Getting around Taiwan is a breeze with the country's excellent rail network; both Taipei and Kaohsiung are serviced by world-class subways, and are connected by a high speed train that runs down the length of the west coast.
An extensive highway system, meanwhile, offers terrific coverage of the main island, and provides a great-jumping off point for an automotive tour of the winding, mountainous roads of the interior.
Perhaps the best way to see Taiwan, however, is by bicycle; an elaborate network of cycle paths and roadside lanes provide fantastic coverage of cities and countryside alike.
There's no shortage of bicycle hire outlets in Taiwan, which offer top-quality touring and mountain bikes to get out into the country's boundless natural beauty.
Just imagine it: spending a day pedalling your way through a diverse range of breathtaking scenery, then arriving in a small village to recuperate overnight with a delicious meal and a relaxing soak in a hot spring.
It's experiences like this that truly make Taiwan the heart of Asia.