The body of water most commonly associated with Taiwan is the eponymous straita 180-km-wide, potently symbolic divide between the island and its mainland cousin. But on the other side of Taiwan lies a far greater stretch of sea: the Pacific
Ocean. On this pristine east coast, topography varies from rugged cliffs to serene beaches, and the views seem to extend to infinity. It's a pocket of the Pacific that foreign travelers have yet to hear about.
Astonishingly, many Taiwanese are unfamiliar with it as well, reckoning it's too remote. Yet it's only a 50-minute flight from the capital Taipei to Taitung, the southeast's main urban center. Like many coastal resorts, Taitung offers a variety of oceanic diversions (boating, fishing, surfing and snorkeling). But the most popular pastime, in a place that's ultimately too small and unhurried for the metropolitan status it endearingly aspires to, is to simply chill out. Stay at one of several homey B&Bs dotting the low hills behind Taitung, and you can gaze out at water that doesn't strike land till Hawaii. The vicinity is still agrarian, and breakfast eggs and fruit will have been delivered that morning by a local farmer. During a stroll, you'll be able to pluck cherry tomatoes and kumquats off abundant vines. Or stop at a beachside café: they'll serve your coffee and then leave you alone for the rest of afternoon, while you wirelessly e-mail family and friends about this halcyon discovery.
Take a couple of days to wind your way back to Taipei on the new coastal roadnot as grand as California's Pacific Coast Highway, but equally romantic. En route, be sure to stop at Taroko Gorgea beautiful landscape of marble cliffs, burbling streams and cobalt blue skies. In short, the east coast is everything you don't expect Taiwan to be: clean, green, and salted by the briny whiff of the sea. Go breathe it in. There's a whole ocean out there.