Taiwan

A Salam to Taiwan, A Rising Muslim-Friendly Tourism Destination

I had the chance to experience the allure of Taiwan’s natural beauty, cultural diversity, and warm hospitality with Inspirasi Kembara by Tashin Travel, which promises a hassle-free, fulfilling, Muslim-friendly adventure in Taiwan.

Yehliu Geopark

I had the chance to experience the allure of Taiwan’s natural beauty, cultural diversity, and warm hospitality with Inspirasi Kembara by Tashin Travel, which promises a hassle-free, fulfilling, Muslim-friendly adventure in Taiwan.

Taiwan is a captivating island where a harmonious blend of natural beauty, cultural diversity, and warm hospitality awaits every traveller. As this was my first visit to Taiwan, I already found myself enchanted by this eastern island jewel. Taiwan is an enticing destination for Muslim visitors like myself, with many Muslim-friendly facilities available in almost every corner.

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I spoke to the Division Chief of the Taipei Tourism Industry Division Ms Cherry Chueh, who shared insights during an evening gathering in Taipei.

She revealed that Taiwan has made commendable efforts to cater to the needs and preferences of Muslim travellers, especially since the inception of the Salam Taiwan programme, launched by Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

Ed took the opportunity to capture a selfie with Keelung Port City in the background. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
Taking selfie with Keelung Port City in the background. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

This commitment is evidenced by the availability of prayer rooms and dedicated ablution facilities in public places and so many other conveniences to accommodate Muslim travellers, not to mention a wide array of Muslim-friendly travel itineraries that seamlessly incorporate Taiwan’s finest offerings, complete with Halal dining options.

Unsurprisingly, Taiwan deservingly retained its status as the second-best Muslim-friendly non-OIC destination in the MasterCard-CrescentRating’s Global Muslim Travel Index 2022.

Inspirasi Kembara by Tashin Travel – a travel agency specialising in crafting Muslim-friendly travel experiences – made my trip even more convenient because the agency demonstrated a deep understanding of Muslim travellers’ unique requirements and preferences, arranging a hassle-free journey covering everything, from flights and accommodations to guided tours and activities.

I wholeheartedly recommend Inspirasi Kembara to fellow travellers seeking a fulfilling and hassle-free Muslim-friendly adventure in Taiwan.

West Lake Resortopia features captivating attractions and even has a Muslim prayer room at the entrance for added convenience. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
West Lake Resortopia features captivating attractions and even has a Muslim prayer room at the entrance for added convenience. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

First day: Miaoli County to Taichung

My travel companions and I began exploring Taiwan at Miaoli County, nestled in Central Taiwan, a region adorned with verdant mountains and bountiful tea plantations, sugar cane, jute, and fruits. Miaoli, often overlooked by foreign tourists, is a hidden treasure perfect for those desiring an authentic Taiwanese countryside experience, and rich cultural tapestry immersion.

Our first destination was the West Lake Resortopia, a captivating resort with a theme park in the quaint Sanyi Township. Although we didn’t stay there, we enjoyed exploring its attractions and learning about the resort’s luxurious room amenities. What delighted me most is the presence of a prayer room right after the entrance gate, which I think is a thoughtful touch.

We spent the rest of the day at the idyllic Flying Cow Ranch, a recreational farm just 30 minutes’ drive away. Originally established in 1975 as a dairy farming venture, the ranch beckoned us with the charming scenery of cows grazing in lush meadows. The ranch houses various other animals as well, from sheep and goats to horses and rabbits.

For those who crave a deeper understanding of the dairy industry in Taiwan, the ranch offers guided tours.

And no visit to Flying Cow Ranch is complete without indulging in its delectable culinary offerings, featuring farm-fresh ingredients, including milk, cheese, and vegetables. I strongly recommend the ranch’s milk soup, a creamy and rich delight sourced directly from the ranch’s cows.

The idyllic Flying Cow Ranch beckoned us with the charming scenery of cows grazing in lush meadows. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
The idyllic Flying Cow Ranch beckoned us with the charming scenery of cows grazing in lush meadows. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

The journey then led us to Taichung City for an overnight stay. As a special municipality in central Taiwan, it is a well-developed, laid-back urban oasis home to over 2.83 million residents, making it Taiwan’s second most populous city. Taichung offers a striking juxtaposition of rich historical and cultural heritage, a vibrant arts scene, and a tempting array of culinary delights.

The city’s narrow alleyways, graced by ancient temples and traditional shops, coexist harmoniously with modern cafes and bars. Notable cultural institutions, including the National Museum of Natural Science, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, National Taichung Theatre, and Chungshan Hall, contribute to the city’s cultural vibrancy.

We took a delightful pit stop at The Taichung Fourth Credit Union, a former bank building transformed into a cafe and ice cream shop by the same company that runs Miyahara Ice Cream, a famous pastry brand in Taichung. The cafe offers a variety of desserts, drinks, Western-style meals, and a large selection of homemade ice cream flavours.

The cafe has a retro and artistic atmosphere, with golden light fixtures and an unfinished ceiling contrasting the old and the new. It is a great place to enjoy delicious treats while admiring the history and architecture of the building.

We ended the first day with a dinner at Anatolia Turkish Restaurant, a halal-certified establishment famed for its delectable Turkish cuisine encompassing a variety of offerings like kebabs, beef, lamb, chicken, and vegetarian options.

Second day: Nantou County to Taipei City

On the second day of our trip, we ventured to Nantou, Taiwan’s only inland county, set amidst a panorama of mountainous grandeur. Here, we encountered two of Taiwan’s most breathtaking natural attractions: Sun Moon Lake, and the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.

Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan's largest body of freshwater captivates with its emerald green waters and breathtaking vistas. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan’s largest body of freshwater captivates with its emerald green waters and breathtaking vistas. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

Sun Moon Lake, a pristine alpine lake, is Taiwan’s largest body of freshwater. It enchants visitors with its emerald green waters and breathtaking vistas, a visual delight that unfolds as a crescent moon in the south and a radiant sun in the north.

Our leisurely boat ride allowed us to embrace the serene charm of the lake, particularly captivating when bathed in moonlight and veiled by a delicate shroud of mist, evoking an almost mythical ambience.

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is an amusement park that stands as an intriguing fusion of tradition and entertainment. Home to Taiwan’s first suspended roller coaster and the tallest free-fall ride, it now boasts a new water attraction section called “Spanish Coast”.

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is an amusement park and home to Taiwan's first suspended roller coaster and the tallest free-fall ride. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is an amusement park and home to Taiwan’s first suspended roller coaster and the tallest free-fall ride. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

This remarkable venue features Taiwan’s largest outdoor museum, life-sized replicas of traditional homes, and architecture of Taiwanese indigenous tribes. With nine villages spread across the hillside, travellers can journey back in time to experience the living legacy of these native communities. We seized the opportunity to witness the captivating cultural performances of Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes.

Our next destination brought us to Northern Taiwan, where we stayed at the Jiantan Boutech Hotel in Taipei City. Before retiring for the night, we took a brief stroll to Shilin Night Market, located just a stone’s throw away.

Shilin Night Market, Taipei’s largest and most renowned night market, is a bustling labyrinth of countless stalls, restaurants, and shops. The market’s enchanting aroma of delectable street food permeated the air, luring visitors to indulge in an array of tantalising options.

However, I was not able to identify halal-certified options at the market; I might need to spend more time here if I were to visit it in the future.

Third day: Northern Taiwan

Our third day kicked off with an early departure from Taipei towards Northern Taiwan.

Our initial stop led us to Yehliu Geopark, a picturesque cape celebrated for its hoodoo stones, created by geological formations that have weathered the elements into various captivating shapes and sizes. The park has various formations with imaginative names to match their appearances.

“The Queen’s Head”, perhaps the most famous of them all, bears a striking resemblance of a woman wearing a crown when seen from one side. We dedicated an hour to meander through the park, marvelling at the geological wonders while learning about the park’s rich ecological diversity and geological history through the informative signs and exhibits.

Our next stop was Keelung Zhengbin Fishing Port, a historic fishing port dating back to 1934 during the Japanese colonial era. The port, adorned with vibrant and colourful buildings that line the waterfront, presents a striking contrast against the deep blue sea and the sky.

These vivid structures stand as an attempt to entice tourists and breathe life back into a once-thriving fishing port. We took full advantage of this photogenic spot, capturing the delightfulness of the place, while creating memories for our social media feeds at the same time.

We proceeded for lunch at Moiz Ali Restaurant, a modest yet beloved Keelung City eatery celebrated for its authentic and mouthwatering curry dishes. The most remarkable aspect is its Halal certification, making it an attractive choice for Muslim patrons. Moiz Ali has garnered recognition from various media outlets, with internet celebrities, TV stations, newspapers, and magazines lauding its originality and quality. We even had the pleasure of being interviewed by a local TV reporter.

Keelung Zhengbin Fishing Port
These vivid structures at Keelung Zhengbin Fishing Port stand as an attempt to entice tourists and breathe life back into a once-thriving fishing port. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

We finally culminated the day at the famed Jiufen Old Street, a narrow, winding alleyway perched on a mountain overlooking the sea; a popular tourist haven, celebrated for its preservation of traditional Taiwanese life and culture.

The street is famously believed to have inspired the backdrop of Studio Ghibli’s animated masterpiece, Spirited Away. Over two hours, we embarked on a journey exploring the alleyways, indulging in the sights of snacks and delicacies that Jiufen has to offer. While there were plenty of options to choose from, halal-certified options along this street are scarce.

Nonetheless, our visit to some of the teahouses perched on wooden platforms along the mountainside yielded panoramic views of the town and the sea. These charming teahouses retained a quaint fusion of retro Chinese and Japanese design elements. The most renowned among them is Amei Teahouse, identified by its distinctive red lantern.

I would have ordered a tea set and soaked in the serene atmosphere while gazing at the breathtaking scenery were it not for our impending return to Taipei.

Back in Taipei, our journey led us to Taipei 101, a must-visit skyscraper in the capital city. Despite no longer holding the title of the world’s tallest building, it remains the planet’s tallest green structure, boasting numerous energy-saving features to reduce its environmental impact.

Its distinctive design, reminiscent of a bamboo stalk, symbolises strength and resilience in Chinese culture. Taipei 101 serves as an office building, a shopping mall, an observatory, and a cultural landmark.

For our last dinner in Taiwan, we were taken to Chang’s Beef Noodles Shop, a halal-certified eatery in Taipei, renowned for serving delectable and authentic Chinese beef noodles and other mouthwatering dishes. The restaurant’s signature dish, beef noodles, is a culinary delight composed of fresh noodles, tender beef, and spicy broth infused with Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, and cinnamon, among other spices. The hand-pulled noodles are delightfully chewy, while the halal-certified beef is sourced from local farms. The restaurant serves other halal options, ranging from dumplings and baozi (steamed buns), to scallion pancakes and cold dishes.

Fourth day: Taking it easy at Taipei City

On our last day in Taiwan, we were granted a fascinating glimpse into the creation of Taiwan’s iconic pineapple shortbread at the Vigor Kobo Pineapple Cake Factory. This traditional Taiwanese sweet delicacy, comprising butter, flour, eggs, sugar, and pineapple jam or slices, is beloved by locals and travellers alike. With its extensive production and export of pineapples, Taiwan has elevated the pineapple cake to an international culinary status. We also had the unique opportunity to try our hand at crafting these sweet delights.

As our journey was drawing to a close, we dedicated our last day exploring Taipei City, the vibrant capital and Taiwan’s largest city. This bustling metropolis marries modern skyscrapers with historic temples, lush parks, and a thriving culinary scene.

Our visit included an hour at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, an iconic Taipei landmark. The hall, built in honour of Chiang Kai-shek, the former president of Taiwan, boasts a majestic white edifice crowned with a blue octagonal roof, denoting abundance and good fortune in Chinese culture. The square in front of the hall hosts a statue of Chiang Kai-shek and ceremonial guards who execute a precision-changing ceremony every hour.

Following our visit to the memorial hall, we made our way to the nearby Taipei Grand Mosque, Taiwan’s largest and oldest mosque. Constructed in 1960 with contributions from Muslim nations and the Kuomintang government, the mosque exhibits distinctive Turkish-style architecture with a dome, two minarets, and vibrant tiles. The mosque accommodates up to 1,000 worshippers and serves as the headquarters of the Chinese Muslim Association (CMA), Taiwan’s largest Islamic organisation.

We rounded off our exploration with a visit to the Taipei Main Station, a pivotal transportation hub that offers access to various modes of transit, including the MRT, high-speed rail, and buses. The station consists of shops, services, and entertainment options for shoppers.

One notable feature is the Zhongshan Underground Mall, a shopping arcade stretching from Taipei Main Station to Shuanglian Station, housing over 200 stores selling clothing, accessories, electronics, books, toys, and more.

We ended our day at Ximending, one of Taipei’s most renowned shopping districts. Often likened to Harajuku in Tokyo or Myeongdong in Seoul, Ximending exudes a youthful and trendy atmosphere. As a pedestrian zone, it brims with hundreds of shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres, and street performers.

Ximending offers diverse options, from local street food to international brands, making it a shopper’s paradise. Noteworthy is the Red House, an edifice dating back to 1908 that functioned as a public market but has now been converted into to a cultural centre hosting art exhibitions, performances, and handicrafts.

Conclusion: TAIWAN IS A MUST VISIT MUSLIM-FRIENDLY DESTINATION

My visit to Taiwan was a mesmerising odyssey marked by cultural discoveries, breathtaking natural landscapes, and culinary delights. Taiwan’s commitment to becoming a Muslim-friendly destination was evident throughout the journey.

Although there were instances where halal-certified options were limited, the warmth of the people and the beauty of the country more than compensated those small shortcomings.

Taiwan’s rich tapestry of culture, history, and natural beauty leaves an indelible mark, making it a destination that I wholeheartedly recommend to fellow travellers seeking an enriching and memorable experience.

For more information about this remarkable adventure and all Salam Taiwan tour packages, reach out to Inspirasi Kembara through WhatsApp at +6 010 291 9320, or visit https://www.facebook.com/inspirasi.kembara/.

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