If we had to rank our favourite Asian countries, Taiwan and Thailand would be among our top picks. Having lived in both countries, we will be sharing our take on similarities/differences between Taiwan vs Thailand.
Table of Contents
Where is Taiwan vs Thailand?
First off, where is Taiwan? Taiwan is very near to Hong Kong (flight between the two places is around 1.5-2h). It is in the north of the Philippines and the south of Japan (the nearest place in Japan to Taiwan is Okinawa island). Taiwan’s biggest/main island is around 394 km at its maximum length. It stretches a long distance between the north and the south part of the island. But not so much between the west and east parts). Taiwan is part of the East Asia region, along with other countries like Japan, Korea, and China.
Thailand, on the other hand, is in the Southeast Asia region. Thailand also stretches a great distance north to south, similar to Taiwan.
Taiwan vs Thailand: how similar are they?
Asian culture with Buddhism influence
Both countries share the same Asian culture, heavily influenced by the Buddhism belief. You can see a lot of temples when you visit these two countries. Temples are even part of many tourists’ itineraries, especially those who are keen to learn about the country’s culture. You can check this website for more info about temples you can visit while in Taiwan and this one for temples in Thailand. Many tourists visit temples in these countries not only for cultural immersion purposes, but also to enjoy and learn about the beautiful architecture in the temples. Oftentimes, these temples have great architecture, and some might want to take photos in those temples!
Street food and night market experience
Both Taiwan and Thailand have a strong street food and night market culture. Night markets are places where you can find a lot of street food vendors selling snacks, game stations, food stalls with open tables around the walking aisles, and vendors selling miscellaneous items. There is no formula of what defines a ‘night market’ other than the fact that these markets open only in the evening.
There are plenty of famous night markets in Taiwan that tourists always go to, both for fun and also to fix their meals. In Thailand, we also saw a lot of night markets. However, the size and the fame of night markets in Thailand is not at par with the ones in Taiwan. One of the most famous night markets in Taiwan is Shilin, and there is even a Taiwanese fried chicken vendor named after it. Find out more about Taiwan night markets here. Also find a list of famous Thailand night markets.
Cicada market in Hua Hin offers a lively atmosphere where visitors can find delicious street food and other locally made wares.
Bountiful agricultural produce
Both Thailand and Taiwan are blessed with bountiful natural resources. Fruits and vegetables in both countries are of high quality. For example, you must have heard of the famous Thai jasmine rice right? And you must have heard of the famous Taiwanese guava.
Whenever we eat in any of these countries, we are always amazed with the high quality of the vegetables, fruits and fresh seafood that are available for us. In many other countries, to enjoy such quality agricultural products people will need to pay a premium. You will understand this when you go for a hotpot in these countries. Having great quality ingredients is very important for hotpot and it can make or break your hotpot experience.
Vegetables in Taiwan are so fresh that some restaurant would allow you to pick vegetables for your own dish!
Travel destination that offers both city and nature experience
Both Taiwan and Thailand offer you metropolitan city experience as well as more nature-focused trails around the mountains or seaside areas. We have covered about places you should visit in Thailand including the big cities and scenic areas in our previous post. Taiwan has varying natural landscapes that you can enjoy besides the big cities like Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung.
Some famous natural scenic spots in Taiwan include Taroko Gorge in the north, Green Island in the east and Kenting beach in the south. Green Island is also famous as an amazing diving site.
Jiufen is famous for its old street and scenic view known to have been used as a reference for the famous animation, Spirited Away. While Jiufen is only an hour ride away from Taipei, the spot is surrounded by nature.
Taiwan vs Thailand: what are the differences?
Is Thai food from Thailand or Taiwan?
Thai food, as the name suggests, comes from Thailand and not Taiwan. Food in both countries are different in terms of the way the food is prepared. The spices and herbs used are also different. We have covered the topic on herbs that are commonly used in Thailand in our previous post.
Thai cuisine often uses galangal, lime, basil, lemongrass, chili and the likes to give the aromatic herbal fragrance and flavor. There are a lot of spicy foods in Thailand that you need to be aware of when you order local food. Some food like “som tam” ส้มตำ is spicy by default. And this means, you will need to request less chili if you cannot handle too much spiciness. The usage of fermented shrimp (aka “Nam Prik Kapi “ in Thai) and fermented fish is also common in Thai cuisine.
Taiwanese food, on the other hand, use herbs and spices as well but not to the same extent as Thai food does. Other than cilantro, garlic, chili, basil and Chinese parsley (aka cilantro), Taiwanese food gets its taste from seasonings. The typical Taiwanese seasonings include soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, fermented black beans, pickled radish, chili oil, to mention a few.
Language and culture
Taiwan predominantly uses traditional Chinese as its main language in the country. You can see English commonly used in bigger cities like Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung. On the other hand, Thailand uses Thai as its main language in the country. Check out our dedicated post on Thai language here. People in bigger cities are mostly comfortable conversing in English as they have a lot of interactions with overseas tourists.
Culturally, from the perspective of someone who lived there before, Taiwan is heavily influenced by both Chinese and Japanese culture. Japan being one of our favorite countries, we really enjoyed the influence of Japanese culture in Taiwan. Taiwanese are very polite, highly value cleanliness, order in the society and also environment preservation! Taiwanese do take their trash recycling seriously, similar to the Japanese.
Thailand has a strong culture on its own – which to a certain extent is influenced by Buddhism that is the main religion in the country. No country has ever colonized Thailand and this helped to preserve the purity of its culture. Being part of the Southeast Asian region, it also shares some similarities to the neighboring countries’ culture.
Geographic location and weather
Geographically, Taiwan is in higher latitude compared to Thailand. Taiwan is a standalone island and does not share any land border with other countries. Whereas Thailand shares land borders with other countries like Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.
The geographic location of Taiwan gives this country 4 seasons. However, the distinction between the seasons is not as high when compared to Japan or Korea. The spring and autumn seasons in Taiwan are relatively shorter compared to those in Japan or Korea. You can distinguish Thailand weather mainly as rainy / wet or dry seasons. Around November to February, Thailand experiences “winter” (no snow though!) where the weather is less hot and less humid. Check out our post on Thailand weather here.
Taiwan is a small country with well-developed infrastructure. Going around different places in Taiwan, from north to south, can be super convenient. Taiwan has high speed rail (HSR) that can bring you from north (Taipei) to south (Kaohsiung) in less than 3 hours. There are local trains as well that can bring you to the smaller towns throughout the island. We have tried taking local trains from Taipei to Fulong beach and also from Taipei to Taroko Gorge. The trains are very reliable, clean and comfortable.
Within big cities like Taipei or Kaohsiung, you can travel easily using public transport. This includes MRT, buses or rental bikes (in Taipei it’s called Youbike).
Thailand is bigger in terms of size and therefore infrastructure development varies across the country. Infrastructure is well-developed in cities like Bangkok, however in smaller towns it is still relatively underdeveloped.
Bangkok has underground trains and sky trains (BTS) as well as a well-developed bus transport system. The trains are convenient to use and quite safe. Despite the bus system being well-developed and having great coverage, we would not recommend non-locals to take it. You will understand why we say this when you read more about safety precautions while in Thailand.
You can easily travel within cities or between cities using Taiwan’s rail system. Taiwan’s high speed rail is efficient, clean and convenient – which would remind you of Japan.
If you still confuse the two, you must visit them!
Thailand is a home country for us and Taiwan is one of our favorite places to visit and to live in. Both places are lovely and you should visit both if you have not. The experience will be quite different, in a good way. For holidays, the two countries are both relaxing.
You can do island hopping in Thailand, enjoy the bountiful fresh and affordable seafood while watching the picturesque sunset with Singha beer in your hand. Then you can go to Bangkok, do some shopping and pamper yourself with an aromatic Thai massage afterwards.
In Taiwan, you can visit Taipei and travel to other parts of the country using HSR, explore the various night markets and eat plenty of hotpot. If you are bored with city life, go to Taroko Gorge to enjoy the seaside and hike in the national park. Or you can take a ferry to Green Island, ride a scooter and explore the whole island in 1-2 days.
Having said all that, Thailand is now fully open to tourists. You do not need to quarantine yourself upon arrival. There is not even a check process anymore for vaccination status. However, in Thailand, you still see many people wearing masks. On the other hand, Taiwan accepts travelers now (no quarantine is needed), however there is a 7 day self-initiated epidemic prevention upon arrival. Masks are still mandatory for indoor settings in Taiwan.
Both sound amazing, don’t they? Explore our other posts on Thailand: