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These days, travelers prefer learning about a destination’s culture through hands-on activities. Do-it-yourself (DIY) experiences can be just as educational — and often more fun — than spending a few hours wandering around a local museum. In Taiwan, visitors have plenty of opportunities for such experiences.
“Taiwan is widely recognized as a modern, industrial country, but this lovely island is covered with forests, and we have 16 indigenous tribes with their own cultures,” said Cathy Hung, deputy director of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau in Los Angeles. “It’s good when visitors learn about the local cultures with their own hands. And when they get back home, travelers often treasure the souvenirs they made more than other items because of the positive memories associated with creating them.”
Here are three great hands-on activities for clients headed to Taiwan. While not commissionable to advisors, they are the kind of unique cultural suggestions that show travelers you’re a true destination expert.
Shuangfeng Wood Duck FactoryFor many Americans, carved wooden duck decoys are more associated with L.L. Bean catalogs than Asia. However, one of the world’s top wooden duck-carving workshops is Taiwan’s Shuangfeng Wood Duck Factory.
The factory is in the town of Sanyi, which is known for its wood-carving tradition. But instead of carving statues of Buddha, Shuangfeng puts an ecological spin on its offerings with a wide assortment of waterfowl and other animals. The hand-carved, hand-painted creations are beautiful souvenirs in their own right, and visitors can also paint their own wooden animal creations. During a recent visit, I spent the morning painting two wooden cats to resemble my pets at home (or at least that’s what I attempted).
Shuangfeng offers a range of individual and group programs. Visitors purchase the wooden statues (usually $10 to $20 each), and the shop provides the paints, brushes and other supplies.
Zhuo Ye CottageLocated in Taiwan’s Miaoli Mountains, Zhuo Ye Cottage is a peaceful hideaway with a range of offerings for visitors. Zhuo Ye features a small inn, a restaurant, a cafe, a fashionable boutique and a unique DIY activity called the Indigo Dying House.
Zhuo Ye has mastered the art of creating products that use indigo dye, which is made from malan leaves found in the protected forest around the inn. When processed, these green leaves turn into a deep-blue indigo dye, into which guests can dip a variety of products — such as scarves, aprons, hats and shirts — to create their own intricate designs and patterns.
The inn has a strong focus on sustainability, and an afternoon or an overnight stay spent on the cottage grounds is a peaceful way to enjoy some of Taiwan’s natural beauty.
Dragonfly Beads Art StudioIn recent years, Taiwan’s government has sought to highlight the cultures of the island’s many indigenous tribes. One group, the Paiwan tribe, shares its unique tradition of intricate beadwork with visitors at Dragonfly Beads Art Studio, which is in the township of Sandimen in the mountains of southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County.
Clients can watch tribal artisans create beaded jewelry and learn about the symbolism of the intricate patterns. Plus, guests can sit down and learn how to decorate their own beads, which are then incorporated into bracelets or other jewelry for them to bring home. The beadwork takes a steady hand and utilizes an open flame, so this is not a great activity for children. But the creations are truly beautiful, and learning about the tribe’s culture is fascinating.
Above the gift shop and studio, there’s a small, free museum with artifacts that details the history and traditions of the Paiwan people.
The DetailsTaiwan Tourism Bureau eng.taiwan.net.tw