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Taipei is the thriving capital of the Republic of China—known by most people simply as Taiwan. Home to 2.6 million people (and 7 million in the metro region), it was founded in the 18th century but took off only following the Chinese Civil War, when Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) forces lost the mainland to the Communists in 1949 and fled here to set up a republican government in exile. Taipei today is modern, bright, buzzing, and highly cosmopolitan—you may be dazzled by all the neon lights. It’s also clean with good transport links and a fascinating mix of sights, including the National Palace Museum, which boasts an unrivaled collection of Chinese artifacts.

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