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UK gets a taste of Taiwan

Rita Payne, eTN Staff Writer  Nov 19, 2008

LONDON (eTN) - Taiwan is certainly making its presence felt in the United Kingdom with an aggressive advertising campaign. Signs for Taiwan Tourism are splashed across London buses and most recently Asia House staged an extravagant event to inform and impress visitors about the attractions of the state. The highlights of the occasion - Taste of Taiwan - included a traditional Taiwanese puppet show, an array of Taiwanese food and a raffle offering free flights to Taiwan.

I asked the Taiwanese representative in London, its de facto ambassador, Siao-Yue Chang, if it was difficult for Taiwan to compete against the dominating influence of its giant neighbor, mainland China. The ambassador listed elements which made Taiwan distinctive:

“ Taiwan has a rich culture with the top five museums in the world, reflecting 5,000 years of Chinese history. We’re projecting 2008 and 2009 as the Year of Tourism and our aim is to attract more tourists from all over the world. The resumption of flights between mainland China and Taiwan has made it much easier. There are now 108 direct flights between Taiwan and China each week.”

There has been a steady growth in links between the UK and Taiwan with increasing economic co-operation and cultural exchanges. The reduction of tension between Taipei and Beijing has made a big difference making it possible for visitors to visit China and Taiwan at the same time. The Ambassador dismissed suggestions of rivalry between the two governments.

“ I hope the two sides will understand each other more and increase trade and investment. I hope China will understand that Taiwan needs international space. Both can work together and co-operate in Europe, the Asia Pacific and Latin America, for example.”

The glossy brochures and other promotional material handed out did indeed contain a wealth of information and ideas for those unfamiliar with Taiwan. The range of tours was extensive with something for everyone. One ten-day package holiday covers the whole of Taiwan including the National Palace Museum, a Buddhist monastery, Chihpen hot spring resort town, the marble gorge in Taroko and a stay at the luxurious Sun Moon Lake Hotel. For others more interested in quieter pursuits there’s a specifically tailored tour for bird-watchers with visits to forest reserves, national parks and idyllic lakes.

Not many people are aware that despite its size Taiwan, compared to mainland China, has a rich diversity of people with many aboriginal tribes who have preserved their separate identity and traditions; a distinctive history, a lively democracy, vibrant economy and varied cuisine. For tourists there’s a choice of pulsating cities, lush jungles, beaches, hot springs and opportunities for hiking, trekking and other activities. For those who want to sample something new 2009 could well be the year to visit Taiwan and explore one of the most diverse destinations in Asia.

UK gets a taste of Taiwan
Photograph by Rita Payne

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