‘The people are incredibly friendly, but not many of them speak English well’.
This is something we at Life of Taiwan hear again and again. It’s something we respectfully agree with, and it’s an issue that’s recognised by Taiwan’s government. Therefore, we’re delighted to know the authorities have begun rolling out additional programmes and policies designed to make Taiwan an easier place to travel around and do business in if you’re depending on English.
Tourists intrigued by local temple culture are already benefitting from one programme overseen by the city government in Tainan, Taiwan’s former capital and a bastion of traditional culture. In several of the city’s major places of worship, it’s now possible to download and listen to audio guides which introduce the icons and architectural features. All you need is a smartphone or a tablet; free WiFi is available in each location. The number of attractions offering similar services is expected to grow rapidly.
The Taichung World Flora Exposition, which runs until April 24, is a magnet for the green-fingered and those with an interest in landscaping and ecological engineering. Related events and exhibitions are being held at three locations in Greater Taichung: Waipu (from where it’s a short drive to Dajia Jenn Lann Temple); Houli (where one of the themes is orchid cultivation, an industry in which Taiwan is a world leader); and Fengyuan (where organizers have endeavoured to create a ‘floral metropolis’ beside a river).
Once the exposition is over, much of its infrastructure will become permanent additions to the cityscape. At Central Park, one of the key projects, around 80% of the trees that have been planted are indigenous species such as Taiwanese persimmon, Formosan michelia, Chinese pistachio, camphor, and Taiwanese yew.
Fans of art and architecture may want to take a look at the New Taipei City Museum of Art after its 2019 inauguration. Designed by Kris Yao – the architect behind stunning Lanyang Museum in Yilan County and the National Palace Museum Southern Branch – the art museum is nearing completion in Yingge, a town 22km southwest of central Taipei. Like Stoke-on-Trent in England, Yingge’s traditional industry is pottery; it’s an excellent place to pick up dainty Chinese tea sets and other souvenirs.
Budget-conscious travellers may be interested to learn this: Many new hotels have appeared in Taiwan in recent years, but the number of visitor arrivals has plateaued. Room rates are likely to dip, so book your trip now!