Long known as an industrial mecca, Taiwan has recently attempted
to attract more than business ventures but tourists as well. In
2003, the Taiwan government rolled out a plan designed to double
the number of tourists to 5 million by 2008, and the country is
well on track to meeting its goal.
Last year, Taiwan hosted 3.4 million visitors, including about
400,000 Americans a 4 percent increase over 2004 although it’s
difficult to say how many travelers were on business or visiting
families versus strictly vacationers.
Deeply rooted in Chinese culture, Taiwan advertises itself to
tourists as a taste of China in a friendlier, island-style
atmosphere different from other major Asian cites. But instead of
promoting itself as its own destination, Taiwan is targeting
Asia-bound travelers over 55 years old who are looking for a four-
to seven-day add-on trip.
A 90-minute flight from Hong Kong and about two hours from Japan,
Korea and the Philippines, Taiwan offers a convenient gateway to
other Asian destinations. Smaller than Maryland and Delaware
combined, clients can see much of the country in a few days. In
fact, a five-hour drive will take clients across the country, from
north to south. A stay in Taiwan can also be a less-expensive
option four-star hotels cost between $80-$100 a night, and
multi-course meals are typically less than $10.
Taiwan is also tapping into the eco-tourism market. The country’s
landscape includes 200 mountains rising to nearly 10,000 feet.
Taiwan is home to the Taroko Gorge, one of Asia’s natural wonders,
along with Kenting in the south, which attracts beach-goers. In
addition, the country holds six national parks and 16 forest
A Day in Taipei
Most Taiwan travelers first stop in the country’s
capital. While Taipei is home to 2.5 million of the country’s more
than 23 million people, I found Taipei less touristy or crowded
than other major Asian cities. Taipei offers unique architecture as
buildings have to fit the island’s limited space as well as a blend
of Taiwan’s past and present cultures. But before your clients
explore the streets of Taipei, tell them to pay close attention to
street signs. Lost travelers will have a difficult time finding
someone who speaks English.
A good introduction to the city is from the observation deck at
Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building. Measuring more than 1,600
feet, clients can pay about $10 to ride the world’s fastest
elevator to the top. For an additional fee, a short self-guided
audio tour is available, which gives a brief history of the city
and points out some of Taipei’s highlights.
For clients who’d rather not go to great heights, the first
several floors of the pagoda-style skyscraper, which opened last
year, offer a variety of restaurants, shops and designer boutiques
including Louis Vuitton and Dior.
For an understanding of Taiwan’s past, the National
Palace Museum in Taipei, which recently underwent a $21 million
renovation to mark its 80th anniversary, is a must-see.
Here, guests will find the most extensive collection of Chinese
art in the world, including celadon bowls, bronzes from the 4th
century B.C., jade carvings, landscape paintings and scrolls of
intricate Chinese calligraphy.
While clients will enjoy perusing the museum’s 650,000 works, I
recommend an English-speaking tour available daily at 10 a.m. and 3
p.m., or by appointment. The knowledgeable guides really make the
treasure’s come to life.
As for nightlife, Taipei is home to several markets where clients
can wander for hours. The Shi-lin Night Market proved to be a
strange array of pets for sale, clothes and trinkets next to food
vendors selling everything from snake soup to “stinky tofu.”
For another authentic Taiwanese experience, visit one of the many
Taoist or Buddhist landmarks. The country is home to some 10,000
temples, and many can be found near Taipei. Lucky clients might
happen upon a religious ceremony making for a memorable photo
Taiwan Tourism Bureau
|WHERE TO STAY|
There’s no shortage of hotels in Taipei. If travelers prefer the
royal treatment outside the city, book them a room at The Grand
Hotel. This local landmark was designed with traditional
palace-style architecture. While the outside of the property is
indeed grand, the interior of the hotel hasn’t undergone a major
renovation since 1998. Some of the appointments (like the
carpeting, bedding and bathrooms) could use an update.
The hotel also offers a fitness center, restaurant and a business
center with Internet access for a fee.
Room rates range from $168-$800 a night. The hotel also offers the
Presidential Suite, with a design dedicated to former guest and
president Dwight Eisenhower for $5,000 a night.
The Grand Hotel
If your clients prefer to stay downtown, the Grand Hyatt Taipei
sits across the street from Taipei 101 and is a popular choice
among business travelers.
The luxury hotel offers a business center, high-speed Internet in
guestrooms and common areas, as well as several ballrooms, spa
services and a fitness center.
Grand Hyatt Taipei
EVA Air recently increased its service to Taiwan from the West
Coast. The airline now offers 17 flights a week from Los Angeles to
Taipei and recently introduced a Seattle-Taipei route.
As of June, EVA added another flight from San Francisco to Taipei,
offering 12 flights a week.
EVA offers four classes of service, including Evergreen Deluxe
Class a hybrid between economy and business class.