By Reena Augustine
The Republic of China (ROC) National Celebration is the national day of Taiwan, also known as ten-ten as it is held on 10thOctober every year.Our international press group was invited by President Tsai Ing-wen to attend the ROC National Celebration of 2016, and between the dates of October 9-14, we had been taken to see all of Taipei’s technological and cultural wonders. A small island spanning 36,000 square kilometers, Taipei is one of the leading developers of transportation, architecture and manufacturing.
We reached Taiwan before dawn, traversing the highways on the outskirts of Taipei, and with the first rays of light we reached the city. We were greeted with the magnificent sight of the Taipei Tower, an introduction to the many architectural marvels of the city. Taipei’s conceptual structures draw inspiration from western, Japanese, and traditional southern styles, creating a unique blend that represents Taiwan’s identity. Visually, Taipei is a mostly grey city, with modern architectural designs attributable to Aboriginal, Asian and Western influences, painting the city with occasional splashes of color.
Another distinctive feature of Taiwan’s culture is their attitude towards food, noticeable in its variety of eateries ranging from cheap market stalls to high end restaurants. Even buffet spreads in hotels consist of culinary displays prepared by master chefs with artistic flair. Portions are small but many; a single meal will contain around 12 courses, with the occasional soups and palate-cleansers.Our group has visited the Raohe Night Market, the lunchrooms at the Sheraton Grande Taipei Hotel, and Silk Palace at the National Palace Museum, and we have feasted on over a hundred dishes, from the plain to the aesthetically pleasing. There is food for the more adventurous- an assortment of noodles served with jellyfish and lacy mushrooms. There are also less overwhelming dishes like western fast foods, and typical Asian meals. The dining experience Taiwan offers is an amalgamation of several cultural palates and is well worth a trip to the country.
Taiwan’s official status as a democracy began in 1996, and has since thenpromoted freedom of press and religion, separating its beliefs from other Chinese-speaking countries. To be given a full rundown of Taiwan’s latest news, our group was brought to two of Taiwan’s newly created digital agencies: Storm Media (2014) and The News Lens (2013). These agencies boast their unbiased and independent news coverage, compared to traditional Taiwanese newspapers, which are often affiliated with political parties.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) along with Tsai Ing-wen, the current President of Taiwan, are working to match domestic regulations with the standards of international organizations like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP). It is believed that this move will benefit Taiwan economically if they can gain membership with the TTP. The United States can be of assistance, as it is Taiwan’s ally and their 9th largest trading partner.However, the strained relationship between Taipei and Beijing may pose an issue, as the US’ main priority is stability within the Taiwan Strait.
Tourism is of great importance as it contributes a third of Taiwan’s GDP (about $16 billion USD), with visitors coming in from neighboring countries, particularly China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Korea. The previous year has seen a fall in tourists of about 30% in mainland Taiwan. Considering this fact, Taiwan is making attempts to increase the volume of tourism by 15-20%, raising the number of tourists to 15 million in a span of 5 years, as divulged by Eric Lin, Taiwan’s Director of International Affairs, Ministry of Transportation and Communication. New routes have been added from Chicago and Houston, as well as package deals tying trips to Hong Kong with Taiwan, to try to include the country on the minds of visitors to Southeast Asia. Tourists who are citizens of the US, Canada and most European countries do not need visas to enter Taiwan, so restrictions were recently relaxed for citizens of ASEAN (Associations of Southeast Asian Nations).
Being a leader in technology, manufacturing, and performing arts, Taiwan fosters creation and innovation, providing a large platform for all to display their talents: the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, with an impressive size that covers the length of six football fields. It was opened in 1939as the country’s first modernized tobacco factory,and to provide a cheerful atmosphere for workers living onsite, the facility was designed with large windows, bathhouses, parks and gardens decorated with fountains. These features are now in use to host banquets, fashion shows, film shootings, conference seminars and art exhibitions.
The Taiwan Excellence Pavilion is also a hub for creativity, housing 120 of 523 award-winning products that serve various purposes- technology, sports, creation, leisure and telecommunications. The Gogoro Global Experience Center also promotes Taiwan’s technological prowess, with its aim to facilitate urban density with smart technology. Evidence of their efforts are seen in the Center’s smart scooters, which are fitted with 80 sensors, monitored by a central control system, and deriving power from a battery swap system.
Despite the many meetings we engaged in throughout the course of this visit, our group had made time to appreciate Taiwan’s beauty. A trip to the Palace Museum taught us of the country’s rich history and millennia old cultural artifacts. A climb through a sub-tropical forest led us to the outdoor U-theatre, where the sounds of the performances and nature merged in harmony.
We ventured to the Sun Moon Lake in the mountains of Nantou close to Taiwan’s geographical center, also known as the heart of Taiwan. It is a popular tourist attraction for vacationers and honeymooners,with boat tours circling the lake, gondola rides that carry visitors to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village in the mountains.
We were brought to the Liberty Square, where we took in the sights of the memorial holding the statue of Chiang Kai-shek in front of us, flagged by the National Theater and Concert Hall on either side.
Our last stop was the Taipei Financial Centre, also called Taipei 101. Taipei 101is one of the city’s manylandmarks,standing as one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world next to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and other superstructures. With an assembly of luxury shops on the ground floor, and a fast-speed elevator ride to the top to grace visitors with a 360-degree view, the Taipei 101 is a must-see for all. The structure merges Asian traditions with modern technology, and is notable for its eco-friendly construction.Before leaving, we had dinner at Din Tai Fung Dumpling House, consideredthe best Chinese dumpling restaurant, which is located at the base of Taipei 101. The restaurant grants guests a view of the dumpling making process through a glass partition.
Throughout our visit to Taiwan, we became enriched with the knowledge of the country, its culture and its constant move towards further development. Not only does the country visually stimulate visitors with its beauty, it also inspires many with itsconstant pursuit for growth and improvement.
(Reena Augustine is the founder of Red Carpet Functions Multicultural Fashion Show: http://redcarpetfunctions.com.au/ )