Sunday, April 11, 2010

Taiwan Freshens Up

International business executives know Taiwan - or know of it - chiefly as a home of high-tech manufacturing: computers, monitors, semi-conductors and the like. International leisure travelers - especially Japanese and, increasingly, mainland Chinese - know there is more to Taiwan than tech, though: Beautifully rugged mountains, for one thing; steamy hot springs and limpid lakes, for another; the 24/7 big-city energy of Taipei, for still another.

These days, the island is freshening up, building up additional attractions and putting out the word to travelers about this China-in-miniature. I'm glad to help. I liked the place when I visited and hope to go back. In the meantime, I consulted the Taiwan Visitors Association (, chatting with Sylvia Yu, director of its San Francisco office, and Lin-Chuan Hsiao, deputy director, to find out what's on the agenda in the near term.

Cycling and flowers, they told me.

Specifically: an expanded network of bike paths and roadways for health-minded, sturdy bicycle riders. How sturdy? Well, sturdy enough to handle the island's hilly - and occasionally vertical - interior, or go the distance on a 600-kilometer (about 370 miles) ride around the island, hugging the coast. Given the stunning cliff faces, ocean beaches, tea farms, national parks and other attractions, there is plenty to see while pedaling around Taiwan. This is a bit more ambitious than what I'm looking for, but I am happy to know that cars, buses and motor scooters haven't wholly replaced two-wheel pedal power, even in the busy streets of Taipei.

Cyclists have banded together to promote their favorite past-time, providing updates on the Web site If you're on or near the island, note that Bike Day will be marked on Sunday, 4 May. Taipei's ccheerier version of Critical Mass, called Bike Smiling, is held at 3 pm. on the fourth Sunday of every month. Feeling competitive? The high-intensity race Tour de Taiwan may be for you. It's been held every year since 1978 for the logo-splashed spandex set.

The big flower show mentioned earlier - one of the world's biggest, actually - is scheduled for late this year in the capital city ( There will be a profusion of bloom from a wide range of flowers at various spots around Taipei, notably the Yuanshan district. Organizers of the event, called Flora Exposition, say they are expecting 6 million people to show up, and are adopting as the expo's 'green' motto "reduce, reuse and recycle.'' All told, there will be 14 exhibition halls. A soft opening is planned for 10 October, with the official start set for 6 November. The city of 2.6 million people will be in bloom through 25 April of 2011.

All the more reason to return, I figure.

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