TAIWAN or the Republic of China (ROC) is currently promoting Muslim tourism as part of its drive to lure visitors to the country.
The island nation, about 180km east of China, is among four rapidly growing countries in Asia, alongside South Korea and Hong Kong and Singapore, with its industrialisation.
While the country benefits from its export-driven economy, small and medium-size businesses also contribute substantially to its coffers.
The Taiwan Leisure Farm Development Association, together with Let Fun Management Sdn Bhd, recently brought members of the media and local tour agents from East Malaysia on a five-day familiarisation trip to Taiwan.
Among others, the trip was aimed at promoting Muslim-friendly leisure farms which offer halal food and facilities, recognised by the Chinese Muslim Association.
The association awards certification for ‘Muslim-Friendly Restaurant’ and ‘Muslim Friendly Tourism’ to deserving hotels or leisure farms.
We headed to Taiwan by Eva Airlines from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and as part of the Muslim and halal familiarisation trip, Eva Airlines had prepared halal meals for the Muslim participants.
The in-flight meals were really good and served by a friendly cabin crew.
Our flight to the Taoyuan International Airport was smooth. On arrival, we were brought to City Suite Hotel, about five minutes’ drive away. We were treated to sumptuous beef noodles, delectable desserts and iced mango.
City Suite Hotel provides Muslim guests a special room (with prayer mats) for mass prayers.
We headed early for the Miaoli mountain for a visit to Zhuoye Cottage Farm, about one and a half hour’s drive from our hotel.
We found the traditional setting of the farm really impressive. It houses nine bamboo cottages where guests can stay and get a feel of a traditional Taiwanese home.
However, the interior is quite different. The rooms are modern and comfortable albeit with traditional motifs incorporated into the decor.We participated in the indigo dye activity, designing our own handkerchiefs with indigo dye, a colouring substance extracted from plants in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.
After that, we toured the whole farm before breaking off for lunch at its restaurant, serving hot drinks and healthy food mostly from the farm itself.
We continued to Jing Qin Leisure Farm to pick guavas. During our brief stopover, we got to sample several varieties of this tropical fruit, and the farm’s homemade products such as guava jam, dried guava and guava tea.
The efforts by the Taiwanese farmers, especially in producing fruits from their farms, is something our local farmers could emulate.
Farmers in Taiwan not only want to sell their fruits but are also committed to producing downstream products with professional packaging.
Later, we headed to the Long Yun Leisure Farm in the Alishan Scenic Area, which is among Taiwan’s premier tourist spots.
The high altitude 400ha farm has about 3,000 species of herbs. It also provides activities like mountain-climbing, night tours and a study of the various medicinal plants.
The Long Yun Leisure Farm also has Muslim Friendly Restaurant and Muslim Friendly Tourism certification from the country’s Chinese Muslim Association.
As part of the farm’s agricultural and educational programme, we participated in the Mochi-making demonstration. It was an eye-opening hands-on experience in making the rice cake, using traditional wooden apparatus.
We drove around Long Yun Leisure Farm to view the breath-taking surroundings and visited its famous Alishan tea farm.
We then moved to our next destination – the Forest 18 Leisure Farm which emphasises on ecology, life, environment and nature. We also participated in a do-it-yourself (DIY) lotion-making session. Incorporating tea-tree extracts and several other ingredients, the lotion is said to be good for the skin.
For lunch, we had vegetarian steamboat at the farm’s café which has a rustic and hipster look but also a comfortable ambience with natural lighting from the big glass wall and a greenish view outside.
After that, we made our way back up north to Taipei where we had a brief stop at the Taipei Mosque for prayers before heading to the seaside town of Yilan for a night at the Toucheng Leisure Farm.
This farm is the perfect spot for leisure, recreation and local cuisine. Visitors also get to try their hands at traditional rice planting and pizza making, view animals like buffaloes, turkeys, ducks and gathering fresh chicken eggs.
Toucheng Leisure Farm was definitely one of the best ones we visited. Despite being called a leisure farm, its facilities are as good, if not better, than those of hotels.
After checking out of Toucheng Leisure Farm, we headed to A Zong Fruit Farm for a brief stop.
At this 1.2-acre pear farm, we were once again amazed by the meticulous efforts put into marketing its produce and other downstream products such as ice cream – all done with proper packaging.
Next, we headed to the Tea and Rice Resort for lunch. This is former barn has been renovated into a halal restaurant. Visitors could also arrange to pick mushrooms there.
After lunch, we drove up the Dayuan mountain for our final stop at Shangrila Leisure Farm.
Owned by Chang Ching Lai, dubbed the father of Taiwan’s recreational farms, Shangrila Leisure Farm is definitely the best stop for us during the trip.
Chang, who also founded the Taiwan Leisure Farm Development Association, has put a lot effort into the farm which, with its breath-taking mountain view, is a must-go spot in Taiwan.
Guests can enjoy the panoramic view atop Dayuan Mountain and the whole family can take part in activities like gyroscope, lantern-releasing and others.
It is clear the leisure farm is another segment that is gaining momentum for tourism in Taiwan. Industry players, especially leisure farm owners, are working hard to lure Muslim travellers to come and enjoy the scenic views of the Island State and its districts.
Realising the potential of the Muslim tourist market, leisure farm owners have taken steps to meet the needs of Muslim travellers and enable them to fulfil their religious obligations by providing lodgings with kiblat signs, prayer mats and toilets with bidets and water hoses.
These are things Muslim travellers are very particular about. Moreover, these leisure farms also provide utensils with halal certification.
Taiwan is more than just an island country. There is more to learn from its cultures and people. Its scenic mountain views also have a charm of their own.
In fact, Muslim travellers can start looking at Taiwan as their next holiday destination.