Stretched across an open plain between lush mountains and the Pacific, TAITUNG (台東; táidōng) is an essential base for exploring Taiwan’s rugged east coast and the dreamy Pacific islands of Ludao and Lanyu. With a population of 110,000 – including significant numbers of the Ami, Bunun, Rukai, Paiwan, Puyuma and Tao tribes – it has the laid-back feel of a place half its size, though there’s nothing much to see in the city itself other than the excellent National Museum of Prehistory. Just to the south are the immensely popular Zhiben Hot Springs, with a range of resorts to suit most budgets, and the adjacent Zhiben Forest Recreation Area, which offers some leisurely hiking options.