I had started as the Head of Taiwan Tourism Bureau in the middle east without having been to Taiwan. This is something that you should never do as you have not seen the destination and don’t really know what the USP of the destination is. However having been in Tourism Sales for 27 years at that point, I knew if I saw enough Videos and read enough about the Destination I could sell it.
2 Months after having started and having done over 30 Destination presentations to various Tourism Companies, I had gained enough traction in the market to plan the first travel agents FAM trip. For the first trip we were flying Cathay Pacific from Dubai and had built in numerous experiences which I felt would be enough to give the travel agents a taste of what the destination had to offer. This was to be a stop over flight via Hongkong and a long one flying time of 8 hours for first leg and nearly 2 hours for the second one. The saving grace was that Cathay decided to upgrade us to Business on the overnight flight to Hong kong, A rainy morning greeted us as we landed in Hong kong and after a brief stop over we were en-route to Taipei. Initial impressions on landing at Taipei were not so good as the Airport felt small after Dubai, was not so well organised as we had become used to and there was a long queue to clear the Immigration. PRO TIP, Book VIP Meet and greet which helps you bypass the Immigration lines and gets you out instantly.
About 90 minutes after having arrived we were in our Bus heading to Taipei which is about an hours journey. For the first night we were staying at The Grand Taipei which is simply put a Grand Building, a bit old, showing its Age specially the lobby area but the rooms have been refurbished and are HUGE with equally huge balconies. So after a Quick change we were off to the Landmark of Taipei, The Taipei 101 which not only offers Spectacular views but is also a masterpiece when it comes to how it has been built.
So far I was not impressed with the City. I could have been in any big city but all that was about to change. The next day we took a High Speed train to travel along the Pacific coast.
Our Stop was a Place called Yuli where we were got off the train and post Lunch we were to depart deeper into the Southern Hualien County for witnessing what is Flower blossom (These flowers only blossom for a day) Our Lunch did pose a challenge, the entire menu was in Mandarin and none of us spoke it. However with the Guide assisting us and using universal SIgn Language we had probably what was one of the best meals of the Trip. It came with an amazing interaction with the people there and more started to come to say hello to us. We were later told that not most of the Tourists who arrive seldom stop in Yuli for a meal. In my book a must do experience. Post lunch we departed for the next leg which took us to these orchards where the day bloom happens.
Acres upon acres of Green belt with these flowers of varying colours. By the time we go there so did the clouds but nothing could stop us from enjoying this beautiful view, something which most of us had not seen. This was a rather pleasent experience for all of us. This was followed by a visit to an organic farm also in Hualien county and we were surprised to learn how much organic food is grown in Taiwan. Usually one associates high tech gadgets with taiwan but nut not organic food.
This was the view that Greeted us once we arrived at a Small Boutique Hotel in Ruisui. Once we saw the view no one was tired and everyone was ready to take the bicycles and head off to explore this little peace of heaven that we had just experienced.
The dinner that followed was another amazing experience and could be voted as the best one we had on the Journey. No one had expected to be treated to such amazing hospitality in the middle of no where.
The next day took us North to Farglory where we enjoyed the sights offered by Farglory Ocean Park which also overlooks the Pacific and stayed at the Farglory Hotel. Unfortunately most of the shows were in Mandrin which we didn’t understand but did enjoy the Shows.
Another day brought its own Share of Highlights and this day started with visiting the Taroko National Park, which is one of the nine national parks in Taiwan and was named after the Taroko Gorge, the landmark gorge of the park carved by the Liwu River. The park spans Taichung Municipality, Nantou County, and Hualien County.
We ended the day in Jiaoxi Township which is known for its thermal Springs. Taiwan offers Thermal springs in a lot of places and one should definitely built this into their program.
Our Hotel had thermal water being pumped into the rooms or we could simply walk out and enjoy the Public pool as the Taiwanese do.
Taiwan iexperiences earthquakes on a daily basis, Geologists have identified 42 active faults on the island, but most of the earthquakes detected in Taiwan are due to the convergence of the Philippine Sea plate and the Eurasian Plate to the east of the island. It was here that we experienced one which frightened most of our group. When we asked the Hotel staff they said nothing to worry this was only a 4 or 4.5 so nothing serious. If you are not used to it, it can be very frightening but opparently the Taiwanese are used to it.
A Visit to Taiwan cannot be complete if you have not visited the old town of Jiufen. Founded during the Qing Dynasty, this small town was a relatively isolated village until the discovery of gold during the Japanese occupation in 1893, quickly developing the town due to a gold rush. Many buildings in the town remain unchanged to this day, reflecting the Japanese influence on both architecture and culture on the island. One should take atleast a couple of hours to enjoy the Old Town and if the time permits have a meal in the Village itself. This would be an experience that you are not likely to forget.
Walking street Jiufen Old Town
One of the Many Shrines
As we made our way back to Taipei for the last 2 nights which were to be our B2B Business meetings we visited Yehliu Geopark and before getting to our Hotel the National Memorial hall to witness the Change of Guard ceremony.
Though this was my first trip to Taiwan, it was an excellent introduction to the country, its people, their culture and most importantly how peaceful everything was once you were out of Taipei and how nice everyone was even though they didn’t speak English. What impressed me also was that throughout the country we had excellent data connectivity with speeds in excess of 40Mbps on Mobile data and the weekly pack I had bought was pretty generous with the offering. I had paid 15US$ for unlimited data for 7 days, it doesnt get better than that.
My Take on Taiwan, if it is on your list go now, but if it is not on your list then definitely consider it.