Come Visit Taiwan!

Experience Its Beauty First Hand

2020 / March

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

When foreigners travel in Taiwan, they experience the island with fresh and different perspectives. In so doing they remind locals of what is beautiful about this land and its people. Here we invite two foreign nationals who are Taiwan travel experts to share their experiences of “Taiwan-style hospitality.”

Specialty tourism in Aboriginal communities 

“We’re traveling to the Kus Kus indigenous community in Pingtung’s Mudan Township, where we’ll observe shamans performing traditional ceremon­ies,” says Cheryl Robbins, a licensed tour guide, describing an itinerary she is preparing for ten German travelers in 2020. “Then we’ll visit picturesque Lake Kuqi and the Dongyuan Wetlands, where we’ll cross the ‘Wet Grassland’ and enjoy rare Taiwan quillwort and towering mahogany groves, before heading down to the Xuhai Fishing Harbor for the sunset.”

Curly haired and given to wearing Aboriginal earrings, Robbins has visited 300‡400 Aboriginal villages over the course of two decades. “Taiwan is highly suited to developing specialty tourism, but so far it’s a niche market that hasn’t been developed to its full potential,” she says forthrightly.

“Specialty tourism requires real depth, and it must be customizable in a way that fosters unforgettable experiences.” Planned according to the inter­ests and physical abilities of specific travelers, her tours bring travelers to eat, stay and play in tribal communities. These trips leave foreign visitors with profound memories of experiences that are unique to Taiwan.

Surpassing expectations

Robbins brought a Canadian couple to Taitung’s Lalauran community, where they happened to meet Ahronglong Sakinu, who established Taiwan’s first hunting school there. Sakinu and his daughter delighted the visitors with improvised Aboriginal songs about the land. A local guide even took them to his mother-in-law’s house, where she demonstrated how to use bamboo clappers to drive birds out of millet fields. These experiences broadened the couple’s horizons. Remarking on how worthwhile their trip was, they said that they would urge family and friends to visit Taiwan when they returned to Canada. 

On another occasion, when Robbins was visiting the Tapangu and Tfuya tribal communities on Mt. Ali, the locals were overjoyed to see her. Greeting her like a returning family member, they treated her and her clients to a barbeque. Basking in the warmth of the subtropics, the Canadians she was guiding were moved by the locals’ friendliness and generosity and purchased a lot of locally grown coffee as a way to show their appreciation. 

As a tour guide and international marketer of these experiences, Robbins’s expectations have constantly been exceeded. “Every time I go to a tribal community, the experience is different,” she explains, “whereas when I go to Taipei 101, the only thing that changes is the weather.”

Drawn to the mountains

Robbins never intended to work as a tour provider. She first began to encounter Aboriginal culture while translating documents for a museum in 1992. Six years later she made her first visit to Vedai, a Rukai village in Pingtung, where she saw an elderly woman with the tradi­tional facial tattoos of her tribe. A local served as her Rukai‡Mandarin interpreter and guide and showed her a hidden waterfall rarely visited by outsiders. Captivated by the beautiful scenery and culture, she has been visiting indigenous communities across Taiwan ever since.

For the last three years, Robbins has been involved in training people in indigenous communities in how to use English to introduce their cultures to foreigners. “The most meaningful kind of travel to Aboriginal ­areas involves learning from tribal elders about ­disappearing traditions and culture,” she reminds them.

This year she plans to go a step farther, offering programs such as a trip to Aboriginal areas for professional photographers; a food-oriented itinerary that focuses on trips to Aboriginal kitchens, traditional Hokkien san­he­yuan homes, and Hakka kitchens; and a tour of breweries, wineries and distilleries. The land of Taiwan features a rich diversity of destinations to explore. 

Taiwan’s warm hospitality

Now in her 18th year in Taiwan, Aoki has traveled to more than 40 countries. “The warmth, hospitality and friendliness characteristic of Taiwan,” she says, “is something I’ve rarely experienced when traveling elsewhere.”

As an example, Aoki recalls how a Japanese friend of hers twisted her ankle when traveling by herself to Yingge. Not able to get around, she found herself cooped up in a hotel. But a young staffer there bought her breakfast, lunch and dinner ­every day. Aoki’s friend was moved by those acts of kindness, and Taiwan became her favorite country.

“There are so many examples like that,” says Aoki. “Back when my Chinese was limited, whenever I looked a little lost out on the street, Taiwanese would rush to help even if they couldn’t speak Japanese. When I was eating at a restaurant, if the next table was celebrating someone’s birthday, they would give me a slice of cake after singing “Happy Birthday” even though they had never met me before. Something like that would never happen in Japan”.

“When I was pregnant, whenever I boarded a bus it seemed as if everyone would stand up to offer me their seat,” she recalls. “Now when I’m with my child and carry­ing a bunch of bags on the metro, other riders grab my hand and urge me to take their seats.”

Making visitors want to return

A graduate of the textile design program at Tama Art University, Aoki first visited Taiwan in 2001. The warmth and friendliness of the people convinced her to move to Taipei the following year. Although she still has a bit of a Japanese accent, she speaks fluent Chinese now, and her personal accounts of exploring Taiwan’s landscapes, night markets and gourmet food scene have engendered much longing among her Japanese readers.

Because of her recommendations, many Japanese travel­ers no longer eat standard hotel breakfasts but instead venture into Taiwan’s lanes and alleyways to eat traditional Taiwanese breakfast fare, such as sesame-­coated cakes and deep-fried bread sticks, mushroom and meat congee, and rice balls made with black rice. “Now quite a few Japanese homes have adopted the Taiwanese norm of being equipped with two cookers: a modern electronic rice cooker for cooking rice, and an older-style Tatung rice cooker for steaming and stewing,” she says. “It all started with my introduction.”

When assisting some fellow Japanese who were putting on an exhibition in Taiwan, she got to know Takeshi Irei, an Okinawan who works in cultural exchange. The two fell in love and married. At their wedding in Taiwan, the anticipated 100-plus people grew to more than 300. They included many readers of hers whom she had never met before. “Even more remarkably, the restaurant owner, having never seen Japanese marry in Taiwan before, set up a table just outside the banquet room for guests of his own: curious relatives and friends.” It’s a perfect example of how Taiwan is so fun, quirky and loveable, says Aoki.

Though Taiwanese can go overboard sometimes with their friendliness and enthusiasm, “Whenever I’m in Japan or abroad and hear someone say ‘Taiwan,’ I in­explic­ably feel a sense of excitement akin to what I feel when I hear someone call out my name.” Taiwan’s beauty has given her unending material for her writings. If you want to experience warm hospitality as you travel off the beaten path, then follow the advice that Aoki offers readers in each of her books: “Be sure to visit Taiwan!”

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繁體 日本語



文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧林格立




戴著原住民特色耳環、滿頭俏麗捲髮的羅雪柔,以20年的光陰,拜訪過台灣三、四百個原民部落,「台灣是一個非常適合發展特色旅遊(specialty tourism)的國家,但現今仍是一個未成熟卻具潛力的利基市場(niche market)。」羅雪柔開門見山地說。外國人可以來台騎單車、衝浪、賞鳥,或是針對攝影興趣的遊客來規劃「特色旅遊」。











羅雪柔為了協助推廣原住民部落織布、木雕與琉璃等手工藝,2006年成立了「Tribe Asia」英文的網站,藉機可以增加部落手工藝品的銷售管道,也讓喜歡的人有管道可以購買。











青木由香畢業於日本多摩美術大學染纖設計科,喜歡旅行的她,2001 年初次造訪台灣後,台灣親切的人情味與友善,讓她隔年就決定定居台北。雖然還帶著些許日文腔,中文已十分流利的她,親自探索的台灣美食、風景與夜市,成為日本讀者嚮往之所在。青木由香也成為日本媒體來台灣做旅遊節目、美食家來台找食材重要的「媒介」經紀人。

因為她的推薦,許多日本遊客不再吃飯店千篇一律的早餐,而是到台灣的巷弄,吃燒餅油條、香菇肉粥與黑飯糰。「現在很多日本人家中,也學台灣人有兩台電鍋,煮飯用電子鍋,蒸、煮或燉用大同電鍋,就是從我的介紹開始。」為了讓日本旅客「掃貨」一次購足,促使青木由香2015 年在大稻埕開了個性品牌選物店「你好我好」,果真店裡有八成以上的消費者都是日本遊客。






文・曾蘭淑 写真・林格立 翻訳・山口 雪菜






















彼女の推薦で、多くの日本人観光客は朝食をホテルではなく、街中の食堂で食べるようになった。昔からの焼餅油条やお粥や黒米おにぎりなどだ。「最近の日本人の家には台湾と同じように2台の電気釜があります。ご飯を炊く炊飯器と、蒸したり煮たり煮込んだりできる大同電鍋です。これも私が日本に紹介しました」と言う。日本人観光客が、お目当てのものを一度に買えるよう、彼女は2015年に台北の大稲埕にセレクトショップ「你好我好」をオープンした。ここでも同じように近所の人から「家賃はいくらなの? やっていけるの?」と聞かれる。これも台湾のおもしろいところだと青木さんは感じている。




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