Taiwan is located in the Pacific Ocean only 160 kilometers (120 miles) from Mainland China and 580 kilometers (360 miles) northeast of Hong Kong. The island straddles the Tropic of Cancer. Taiwan is 394 kilometers (236 miles) long and 144 kilometers (86 miles) at its greatest width. The total area is a little larger than the combined states of Massachusetts and Connecticut, or about the size of Holland or Vancouver Island.
Taiwan's 23 million people consist of Han Chinese, Taiwanese, and nine different aboriginal groups speaking primarily Mandarin as well as Taiwanese and aboriginal dialects. It is a thriving mosaic of tradition, culture, and high-tech development, merging Eastern and Western influences. In this fusion of modernity and tradition, street markets sell fresh produce and vials of Chinese herbal medicine next to modern shopping malls, and big city lights can be viewed from small, rural villages through the mountain mist. Taiwan is exciting, convenient, interesting, and affordable.
A central mountain range runs the length of the main island of Taiwan, dividing it east and west and dominating two-thirds of the land surface. While the mountains descend steeply into the Pacific Ocean on the east coast, the highland levels off gradually on the western side. The terraced tablelands and alluvial coastal plains of the west coast are home to about 80 percent of Taiwan's population. Overlying the tropical and subtropical zones, Taiwan sports a tropical climate in the southern and western flatland and a temperate climate in the northland and the mountainous regions. Taiwan's location is also subject to annual typhoons, which pass through between the months of July and October. These typhoons consist of strong winds and heavy rain.
The hottest temperatures are in July and August, averaging 36 degrees Celsius (92 degrees Fahrenheit). January is the coolest month with temperatures averaging around 10 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit). The island remains humid throughout the year and receives abundant rainfall, with the east (upland) receiving more than the west (lowlands). Except in the northern region where rainfall is more even, the mean annual rainfall in other parts of the island ranges from 2.6 to 5 meters (102 to 200 inches). Some snow does fall on the summits of the central mountain range, but lowland Taiwan remains frost-free.