Taiwan - Blending Modern Life with Living Traditions

Written by  Mark Laiosa

ASIA Taiwan
All the world on an island - from Michelin starred restaurants to lush gorges and warm hearted people - Taiwan offers your clients experiences, that embrace the old and new.
Agents have a great opportunity to sell Taiwan, a small island with big attractions and many chances to experience the warmth of the Taiwanese people while sharing ancient Chinese traditions and modern lifestyles. Your clients will most likely start in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital and the center of modern Taiwanese life, a good example is the balance of old and new influences.

Taipei 101 is one of the tallest buildings in Asia with views of the city and surrounding countryside. The lower part of the building has notable restaurants and boutiques that are part of a modern lifestyle that coexists with China’s long history as seen in the National Palace Museum exhibiting cultural artifacts from over 5,000 years. On the flip side of the cultural scene, tucked away in re-purposed warehouses are galleries showing the latest in painting and sculpture. The memorial for Chiang Kai-shek with its eight-sided roof and traditional Chinese building style is a sharp contrast to the modern National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute with a large gallery, artist ateliers, and a giftshop.
Foodies will rejoice. Taipei has twenty Michelin stared restaurants (one three-star, two two-star, and seventeen one-star restaurants.) that vie with delicious regional cuisines and mouthwatering street snacks. Taiwan has a diversity of cultures for clients to experience.
Your clients will find it relatively easy to get around Taiwan. 2019 has been declared the Year of small towns (Cittaslow) by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and the infrastructure is ready for your clients. FIT’s will find the modern highways many with English language signs gives them the greatest flexibility. Clients wanting to take in the sights, can sit back and ride the modern train network. A high-speed rail line runs along the west coast from Taipei to the Kaohsiung City area near the southern end of the island. Travel time is approximately 1.5-2 hours, a convenient way to explore the cultures of Taiwan. There are commissionable tours with various itineraries available.

CULTURE - OLD AND NEW
The Hakka came to Taiwan centuries ago from mainland China, bringing their culture and skills. Their foods are robust, using a combination of fresh ingredients, pickled vegetables and assorted meats. In a stir-fry or a simmering stew, the ingredients blend creating a savory and filling meal. Along with food, there is a revival of traditional Hakka floral cloth patterns in traditional shades of red and inspiring up and coming designers to add their own creative twist
Clients can start their adventure visiting small towns where Hakka culture is easily seen. On Shuei Mei Wood Sculpture Street in Miaoli County’s Sanyi township your clients can see and smell fragrant camphor, tung, and sandalwood as master carvers create traditional and contemporary items some are commissioned works, other pieces for sale. The Wood Sculpture Museum shows some of the oldest and newest shapes that can be carved from a single piece of wood. In nearby Nanzhuang township there are traditional streets and shops of two aboriginal tribes, the Saisiyat and Atayal selling embroidery, weavings, and beaded clothing. These are living traditions; some aboriginals have facial tattoos.
Farther south is Lukang Township in Changhua County. Clients will find red brick streets lined with traditional shops selling Minnan traditional cloth, baskets and stone craftwork. Close by is one of the oldest and best-preserved temples, Lukang Longshan temple with spectacular red dragons. Lukang is developing a lively arts scene. Concerts and dance performances throughout the year feature traditional music as well as new works by younger generations that blend east and west cultures.
The Tropic of Cancer crosses the lower third of Taiwan and your clients enter the tropics, green coconut palm trees along the coast, mangoes, papayas and fresh foods beckon. Kaohsiung City’s Meinong district has traditional Hakka houses and store fronts. With the growing trend of experiential travel, clients have a lesson in the art of indigo dyeing. The variety white geometric patterns and deep indigo is eye-catching. Another revived skill that can be experienced in a traditional four-sided Hakka courtyard, bamboo paper umbrella making.  Several artisans are using traditional methods with contemporary design patterns. Clients can take a class and come away with their uniquely designed umbrella.
Hualien, on the Pacific, East side of Taiwan has a large Amis aboriginal community, notable for their striking red ceremonial costumes. They live in three aboriginal townships in mountains surrounding Taroko National Park. A good example of the diversity and co-existence of culture is the postcard perfect Eternal Spring Shrine on a cliff side, overlooking the raging Liwu river in Taroko gorge.

WHEN TO GO
Your clients can view cultural performances at the Amis Folk Center or see the different tribal styles in the Hualien Indigenous Museum. If visiting July through September, see dancers and hear their unique singing style during the Amis Harvest Festival. Drumming, chanting and maybe the chance to join a circle dance, share and understand rituals. Meet over a cup of millet wine during a week of festivities that thank the ancient gods for the abundance and desire for a good harvest next year. Hualien is also a center of jade jewelry manufacturing, with a variety of colors and styles available.
If your clients are visiting Taiwan in April, recommend the Dajia District of Taichung City for the Mazu festival. She is the patron goddess of the sea, protecting fishermen and sailors. It’s a pilgrimage and party. A large statue of the goddess is taken from the Jenn Lann Temple and carried almost two hundred miles to other temples and venerated with incense and blessings along with general merrymaking before being returned to the Jenn Lann Temple. Springtime also means Tung flower festivals throughout the country. The white flowers can create the illusion of snow.
The experiences of meeting traditional living cultures and beauty of the countryside, coupled with the friendly and welcoming people, makes Taiwan a destination for your client’s bucket list.
For more information on visiting iconic tourist towns, go to https://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0017729

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