FROM VINAY KRISHNA RASTOGI
Taiwan is said to be the heart of Asia while its capital Taipei shimmers throughout the year. A modern city dotted with skyscrapers, restaurants, bars , massage parlours night clubs and karaoke bars it attracts millions of tourists from all over the world. For the foodies Taiwan offers mouth watering cuisine ranging from traditional Taiwanese dishes to roadside stir-fries and hotpots.
The star attraction of our week-long visit was the Grand Lantern Festival which attracted millions of tourists . Way back in 1990 the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Tourism and Communications integrated civilian and local government resources to celebrate the Lantern Festival with fanfare. In the reckoning of American Discovery Channel’s programme ” Fantastic Festivals of the World” the Taiwan Lantern Festival is one of the best festivals in the world.
Taiwan held a slew of events during the March Lantern Festival Festival at Taichung and a grand release of sky lanterns in New Taipei city. The event was attended by President Ma Yingjeou and Premier Mao Chi-kuo and Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung. The main attraction of the festival was a record 77 feet high giant Goat Lantern.. Tens of thousands of firecrackers were set off during the event to chase away bad fortune In yet another destination hundreds of sky lanterns were released and visitors wrote down words of auspiciousness on them. One of our fellow female traveler however wrote as her wish — “Eat, drink, dance and rave” while yet another wrote –God bless the world. Led by the courteous and zealous India Country Head of Taiwan Tourism Bureau Mr Noel Saxena and his jovial lieutenant Sanya Zaidi a dozen Indian journalists were greeted with warmth by Mr Eric Lin , a high official of the the Taiwan Tourism Department who personally came to the enclosure to greet the Indian guests
While we were told that photography is prohibited from VIP enclosure we saw for the first time that disciplined Taiwanese violated the rule as they were bustling with joy and in no time millions of photos were taken. This was an exception but we Indians need to take lesson of cleanliness, courtesy, discipline and honesty from our fellow Taiwan Asians
The capital Taipei bustles with activities be it day or night. Theatre shows, operas, orchestras, pop concerts, folk dances are inalienable part of daily life for most locals and visitors. Taipei, Taichung or Tainan are dotted with night clubs for the bum-shaking night owls,mostly youngsters, guzzling assorted wine , whisky or beer with gay abandon and indulging freely in smooching necking and petting. Most of the night clubs remain open till the wee hours
Taiwanese cities are famous for their internationally renowned night markets and food joints. Apart from shopping at endless malls one can enjoy delicacies like, pig blood cake, oyster omelets. squid thick soup, pepper buns, honey toasts, waffles and the world-famous pearl-milk tea
Taipei 101 Tower is rated as the second tallest building in the world while the National Palace Museum is ranked as one of the world top four museums featuring a staggering 6,50,000 artifacts from 5000 years of Chinese civilization. For lovers of electronic goods a visit to Taipei’s Guanghua Mall or Taichung’s electronic street is a must.
Many foreigners also visit the Taipei Xia-Hai City God Temple built according to the Feng Shui art of the nineteenth century.The temple resembles the cave of a hen. People visit the sacred place to seek the blessing of the God. It is classified as a grade 3 historic site
Our mouth-watering dinner at the Amba, Taipei was memorable. It is a new landmark in Taipei’s trendy Ximmending shopping and entertainment district located above the pedestrianized Wuchang Street in Ximending district of Taipei. Its Reception Desk is an artistic masterpiece made from 2012 plastic bottles that glow opalescent at night. A 37-piece artwork behind the Reception Desk designed in carved plywood is an example of how basic, recycled products cam be transformed into high design. Ximending’s dazzling neon signs, colourful street art , curbside restaurants, street theatre performances, hawker carts and bubble tea stalls.fuse together to create a truly exciting district of a glittering metropolis. It is also famous for its many erotic and non-erotic massage parlours
A visit to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial is a must. It was erected in the memory of the former President of the republic of China. The arch is inspired by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The changing of Guards ceremony was indeed impressive.
Our unforgettable visit was to the ‘ Pearl of the Mountains” –the Sun and Moon Lake and the memory of its intoxicating dusk shall linger on for long long years to come . After the powerful earthquake in 1999 the area was restored by the Tourism Bureau of Transportation and Communications. It is an alpine lake with serene beauty.We spent the night at the splendid Hotel Del Lago with 88 spacious rooms. It provides 180 degrees wide scope from the lobby through huge transparent mirrors but also from balconies of all rooms facing the Sun and Moon lake on all floors . It is said that the beauty of the Sun and Moon Lake varies each day of the year be it rain or sunshine, dawn or dusk a misty or a clear sky.The motorboat ride was unforgettable. Visitors can enjoy the view of the lake by cycling along it. The long cable car ride was invigorating as we tore away film of mist to reach a tribal village. The Sun and Moon lake sits on the West side of the Central Mountain Range.Lalu island in the center of the lake is the holy ancestral spirit land of the Thao aboriginal tribe.
We also visited a Formosan aboriginal culture village of Dalin and deeply appreciated tribal dances, clothing, customs, cuisines , housing and their abundant vitality The cable car ride provided the perfect introduction to the Theme Park. The park has won the Premium Plus Award Theme Park while the rope way has won two stars’ Michelin recommendation..Hundreds of cherry blossom trees added a lot of colour to the place as petals of papery consistency lay strewn on roads and well-manicured lawns.
The Taiyi Ecological Leisure Farm was the next stop on our sojourn .It has abundant water resource and particular natural conditions and its numerous local products, like honey, water oats, strawberries , passion fruits roses and orchids sell like hot cakes The Puli township is a major source of agricultural exports. It has been nicknamed as the Maiden’s leg for its perfect shape and creamy colour. Bamboos, orchids, roses and lilies are not only exported but also made into handicraft items and supplies raw material to paper industry and winery. The farm has flower, butterfly, cactus, bee and passion fruit gardens. Different shades of plants and flowers sprouted everywhere–around tables, fountains, walls walkways and rooftops. The flowering plants on roof served as a heat shield. A mock painting competition was held and we were given banyans to paint.
A visit to the E-DA Theme Park was frightening as well as exhilarating. It is a Greek -style Amusement Park including 50 facilities with a Monorail running through the park At the Greek theater you are led to believe that you are flying over the Aegean Sea area, watching the Trojan castle and the giant Trojan Horse and witnessing a volcanic outbreak . The Dark Ride and “Fly Across Taiwan Experience” are awe-inspiring. The nearby E-DA Royal Hotel has a ballroom with 21-meter-high ceiling .