Friday, August 28, 2009

Despite typhoon, tourism sector showing resilence (Taiwan Today)

Within hours of the Jinshuai Hotel toppling into the raging waters of the Zhiben River in southeast Taiwan on August 9, footage of the six-story building’s spectacular demise had been seen by millions of people in Asia, North America and Europe.

The clip is unlikely to bring tourists flocking to Taiwan, and in the wake of Typhoon Morakot - the calamity that led to more than 200 confirmed deaths as well as the hotel’s collapse - the island's travel industry faces serious problems.

Reuters reported August 14 that the tourism sector would see total losses of NT$4.5 billion because several of Taiwan’s finest tourism assets have been put out of action or rendered inaccessible.

The historic narrow-gauge railroad that links the lowland city of Chiayi with the mountain resort of Alishan will not be fully operational for two years, Taiwan's Chinese-language media has reported. However, the main road to the resort should reopen by September 20...

To read the rest of this article, click on this link.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Changhua's stately Confucius Temple (China Post)

Despite its size - in terms of population it's one of Taiwan's ten largest cities - and economic importance, Changhua isn't a leading tourist destinations. It does, however, have enough attractions to make a day trip from Taichung or further afield thoroughly worthwhile.

The Great Buddha statue that stands atop Mount Bagua is deservedly popular. The views from the top of this hillock are often superb. On a clear day it's possible to see the wind turbines that dot the coast of Changhua County. If you're walking to Mount Bagua from the railway station (a stroll that takes little more than half an hour), you may as well take in some of the downtown's temples. One of the oldest and best known, the Taoist Yuanqing Hall, is currently being renovated after a devastating fire in the spring of 2006. It isn't scheduled to reopen to the public until March 2010, but you can see the main Jade Emperor icon in a temporary building next door.

Fortunately, Changhua's most famous shrine is still open to visitors. The city's Confucius Temple is one of Taiwan's three most important Confucian shrines – the others are those in Tainan and Taipei.

The temple is open from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. every day except national holidays. Visitors should enter through a side gate on Minsheng Road, between Kongmen Road and Chenling Road, as the main gate on Kongmen Road is opened only on September 28, the birthday of the Great Sage.

This article appeared on Monday, but because I've been focused on Typhoon Morakot and its aftermath, I've only just got around to posting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Domestic festivals, global attention (Taiwan Review)

Like all journalists, travel writers are skeptics. When picking up a leaflet from the Tourism Bureau of the Republic of China that gushes "Festival Island - Taiwan's calendar is filled with an endless stream of festivals... [that] can give you a deep and fascinating insight into the many faces of Taiwan," the reporter's instinct is to disregard or discount it.

Yet festivals are undoubtedly a big part of local life and a major driver of Taiwan's tourist industry. There is a historical reason for this: Before Taiwan became an affluent society, events like gods' birthdays and pilgrimages offered important diversions. For ordinary people, these festivals - along with family events like weddings - provided occasions when they could take time out from the daily struggle to relax and enjoy themselves.

Like most of those who attend the Lantern Festival, a colorful multi-day, multi-city event that occurs two weeks after the Lunar New Year, Taiwanese day-trippers account for the bulk of the visitors at the Songjiang Battle Array in Kaohsiung County, Hsinchu City's Glass Art Street Carnival or the Mid-Summer Ghost Festival in the northwest port city of Keelung. However, while international visitors remain a minority, their numbers are growing.

"Taiwan's festivals are without doubt a major draw for overseas Chinese," says Elisa Lim, a freelance reporter who has written about Taiwan for Chinese-language magazines and newspapers in Hong Kong and Malaysia as well as in her native Singapore. "Many are curious about the customs of an island that's often and rightly described as 'the most Chinese place on Earth...'"

The entire article is here.