It’s the people who make Taiwan my second-favorite country in the world to visit.

The Taiwanese people have a very appealing confidence in themselves that has been forged through decades of struggle with China, as well as 50 years of Japanese cultural influence when Taiwan was under colonial rule from 1895-1945. This self-confidence allows the Taiwanese to turn outward towards other countries, as cosmopolitan, refined citizens of the new global order.

Taiwan blooms with an infectious passion for living. And one of the best ways to experience that vibrant life is on a bicycle. Owner Alex Chang of Taiwan Cycling took me on an unforgettable day trip outside the city of Taipei, and we pedaled through lush, verdant countryside from the mountains down to the sea shore. The villages were charming, and the people were smiling and friendly.

Whereas driving a car through a neighborhood is too fast to take in the ambiance, and walking can be tiring after a few hours, biking is just right. You can roll slow enough to take in a lot of the daily life in a village, while still enjoying the exhilaration of balancing on two skinny wheels with the gentle breeze on your skin.

The Grand Hyatt Taipei was the first of two hotels I sampled in Taipei, and their Yunjin Restaurant stood out for a delicacy to which I am addicted, known as the Sichuan Peppercorn (ask for 香椒子 xiāng jiāo zi, “aromatic peppercorn” or 青花椒 qīng huā jiāo. See the green branch below).