Originally under Japanese occupation, Taiwan is an island that separated from China after a civil war in 1949, when the Nationalists troops fled to the island after losing the Chinese civil war to the Communist forces on the mainland. For that reason, Taiwan enjoyed the support of the anti-communist West during the Cold War. Taiwan was the last retreat for the Nationalist Kuomintang and its leader Chiang Kai-shek. There he became president of the newly declared Taiwan "Republic of China". He ruled at the helm of a largely dictatorial military one-party regime, which suppressed the indigenous people and culture. This repression was only relaxed years after Chiang's death, especially since the late 1980s.
While Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation, it has never formally declared independence. Beijing says Taiwan is part of Chinese territory and will be brought back into the fold at some point, by force if necessary. Taiwan makes great efforts to market itself as a mainstream tourist destination.
Kaohsiung is a massive port city in the south. It has made great strides in transforming itself from a primarily industrial city into a modern metropolis, and several areas have been "beautified". It's home to many skyscrapers, a diversity of parks, a "Love River", high-end malls and a multitude of night markets. It was Kaohsiung that convinced me to start wearing a facemask, because whenever I asked a local about the last time (s)he had the flu, they could not recall.
Taipei is a busy and modern metropolis with a very strong Japanese influence. The downtown area is culturally divided into East and West. The West side, with its narrow streets and road side vendors, is considered the hallmark of old Taipei (Wanhua is the oldest district and home to many historic buildings). East Taipei on the other hand, with its swanky malls, chic boutiques, and upmarket restaurants/cafes, showcases the modern and international side of the city. Taipei is also known for its lively street-food scene and many night markets. I went to Taipei in january, it was raining constantly every day. So if you go in january, there's no need to wash your hair because the rain will do it for you.
In Taipei, there's a toilet themed restaurant in Ximen. We were seated on toilet bowls, many meals are poop shaped, we ate on bath tubs and toilet bowls. The experience was hyped as "a novelty", but McDonalds has been serving "shit" food for years, so it's nothing new if you ask me.