Thursday, August 25, 2011

Seeing the sights in New Taipei City (Taiwan Business Topics)

A few weeks after Taiwan Business Topics assigned me to write about New Taipei City from a tourism perspective, I read a review of Dralion, a new show from Cirque du Soleil, in the online edition of an Ohio newspaper. “Captivating yet lacks a unifying theme,” wrote Margaret Quamme in The Columbus Dispatch. “[It] overloads the senses...wildly colorful, randomly multicultural...loud... nonstop movement.”

My immediate thought: These words fit New Taipei City to a tee. Many complain about the dense population and round-the-clock congestion in what used to be Taipei County. Thanks to its 41,000 residents per square kilometer, Yonghe has plenty of loud, nonstop movement. Yet Wulai has just 15 people per square kilometer, and is known for hot springs and birdwatching trails.

There is no “unifying theme,” for sure. In addition to the commuter towns and industrial parks that surround Taiwan's capital, the special municipality has some of the island's most attractive coastal scenery and a good number of mountains. New Taipei City is certainly multicultural. There are Hakka communities, including one in Sanzhi whose most famous son is former President Lee Teng-hui. About one in three of Wulai's inhabitants are Atayal aborigines. The Southeast Asians who live in Zhonghe and Yonghe celebrate the end of the Thai and Burmese lunar year with a raucous Water Festival. Hundreds of Western expatriates can be found in Danshui and Banqiao.

Because Taipei County has had a reputation for extreme urban ugliness, in this article I focus on New Taipei City's manmade attractions – to restore some balance, as it were. And as getting from one part of the donut-shaped special municipality to another can easily take an hour, I chose to home in on three regions: Sanxia, the mouth of the Danshui River, and the area to the east of Keelung's busy harbor. (Keelung itself is not part of New Taipei City). Worthwhile attractions elsewhere in New Taipei City include the Museum of World Religions in Yonghe, the Lin Family Gardens in Banqiao, and the Juming Museum in the hills above Jinshan...

The complete article appeared in the July issue of the magazine. I took the photo in Danshui District five or six years ago; it shows the less well-known of the two Old Li Houses.

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