With Depth and Taste, Travel Taiwan the ‘LOHAS’ Way

November 7, 2008 Updated: November 7, 2008

It so happens that under the surge of globalization in the 21st century, the more a country has cultural recognition, the more its image will shine around the world. Taiwan, an island of Asia, is now making its attempt to appear under the spotlight.

While the 2008 International Travel Exhibition in Taiwan makes its debut, The Epoch Times will transmit the impression of a changing Taiwan to all overseas Chinese and westerners through its global media platform. People from around the world will together be able to experience the true charm of Taiwan.

With a population of close to 23 million, Taiwan is located just at the center of the world. The unassuming size of the island, however, may make it easy to overlook. But it is center to a rich inheritance of five thousand years of Chinese culture, and this cultural depth can be tasted again and again. The kindness of the people, its atmosphere of friendship, and the wealth of its cultural legacy are among the strongest selling points for its tourism industry.

Taiwan has been famous for its electronics over the last few decades, but at the turn of the last century tourism also become a focus for economic development. This was especially so after the election of President Ma Ying–jeou in March 2008.

With persistent efforts from the Bureau of Tourism, the industry has grown well over the last year, despite relatively tough economic conditions. On the other hand, for example, tourism growth is negative in Japan, where the industry is already mature.

Taiwan has developed so swiftly that anyone leaving for even one or two years will be surprised on return.  How, then, has Taiwan made the most of its resources to become one of Asia’s top destinations? It’s been the target of Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau to continually strive toward the future.   

An important new concept to emerge in this is that of LOHAS, meaning “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.” This has been applied to the tourism industry in Taiwan with excellent results.

The Fascination of ‘Leisure Farms’

How do overseas markets see sightseeing in Taiwan? Mr. Liu, head of the international task force of Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau, gave the market in South-East Asia as an example: Tourists often take seven-day tours, staying at major attractions for thirty minutes; they get a chance to look around and maybe buy something, but not much else.

In doing this, however, nobody will get a chance gain a deeper impression of Taiwan. Encouraged by Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau, tourists were given opportunities to make more in-depth tours are specific locations, and became especially interested in agricultural tours for leisure.

This is where the ‘LOHAS’ concept comes in. Leisure farms combine culture, health, and sustainable living, all key themes of Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. They have also become an important step in Taiwan’s tourism development.

Leisure farms can be based around any number of products, from the regular rice and vegetables to more exotic items. One farm, for example, harbours a kind of coal museum, while others combine the local cuisine, local culture, and a range of activities to cater for family groups.

Traditional Culture’s Relevance for Today

Weather and geography aside, Taiwan’s lavish offerings of Chinese culture are its real competitive edge, and in this field even mainland China can’t compete. It has inherited the customs, cuisine, and characteristics of Chinese culture, bringing health to the body, mind, and spirit. All this has also become Taiwan’s competitive edge in tourism, as it draws from the past and reaches toward the future.

After the Cultural Revolution, authentic Chinese culture on the mainland became harder and harder to find. Taiwan has inherited many a rich cultural legacy, however, present in its museums and on its streets. Included, even, are a multitude of ways to stay healthy with natural means. 

Leisure agriculture not only integrates the countryside, fine cuisine, and unique experiences, but also promotes health and inner peace. Chinese culture maintains that man and nature should exist in a harmonious relationship, and that therein the rhythm of human life is most beneficial. For this, agriculture is an excellent point of entry, as it touches on the earth, water, and food. Returning to the rhythm of nature is truly a wholesome experience.

To understand a concrete example of how this is lived out, it was necessary to seek out Mr. Jen Derong, a branch head of the Taiwan Council of Agriculture. He explained how in Ilan county, northeastern Taipei, leisure agriculture is based around tea. Here, tours combine tea and its relation to health maintenance, the history of tea, explanations about how to make and taste tea, of tea in nature, and even lessons on the dialogue between tea and music. Ilan also boasts good news for visitors: cuisine in agricultural villages is low on salt and sugar, while high in fibre—the locals are confident they are selling safety, happiness, and health.

Mr. Jen Derong gave an elegant summary: “The five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth of traditional Chinese culture find reflection in the five internal organs, five colours, and five tastes. If we follow these guidelines for appropriate drinking and eating, choice of music, and use of color, we will be able to experience a return to a natural, healthy lifestyle.”

“Our true competitive edge has been uncovered,” Mr. Jen said with surety toward the end of the interview. “If we bring out the culture of our ancestors, and merge it with the tourism industry, we’ll allow it to shine once again.”