Recently during a random visit to a curry stand at a night market I saw a couple of women who seemingly weren’t speaking fluent Mandarin. I was amazed how quickly an owner of the stand established that the couple was from Indonesia and they are in need of halal food, which the seller had readily available.
The two women weren’t wearing hijab, niqab or any other Muslim attire but such sight in Taiwan isn’t unusual. Hijab and Dupattas can be seen worn by Indonesian, Malaysian, and other Muslim women all across the island. There are plenty of seasonal workers as well as long-term residents that made Taiwan their home. Being a Muslim in Taiwan is easier than in many other East Asian countries. Just a glimpse at the size and magnitude of Taipei Mosque tells one how big the Muslim community in Taiwan is.
But is Taiwan really that Muslim friendly? Recently, Taiwan Leisure Farm Development Association, together with Let Fun Management Sdn Bhd, brought members of the media and local tour agents from East Malaysia on a five-day trip to Taiwan in order to showcase how friendly for a Muslim traveler Taiwan is.
This is what they noted while visiting our island country:
“TAIWAN is currently promoting Muslim tourism as part of its drive to lure visitors to the country.
Among others, our 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.
Members of the media and tour operators from East Malaysia during an indigo dye session.
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.
Taiwanese beef noodles and stir-fried vegetables served at City Suites Hotel Taoyuan.
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.
Another farm, The Long Yun Leisure Farm 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.
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.
Seafood is among the main halal courses at Toucheng Leisure Farm.
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.
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 travelers can start looking at Taiwan as their next holiday destination.”
Taiwan certainly has been pushing for new markets for tourists with the new south bound policy. According to government statistics, there are between 50,000 and 60,000 Taiwanese that call themselves Muslims and more than 200,000 Muslim immigrants. Mostly they are migrant workers from Indonesia and other South East Asian countries. Tsai Yingwen has recently thanked the local Islamic community from helping teach Taiwan about one of the world’s foremost religions. With this new knowledge and the new push by local tourist spots to accommodate the Islamic community, Taiwan is moving towards more integration. All this leading to a bigger slice of the Islamic tourism market for the Island.
The whole account from the trip can be found on the Borneo Post at the link below:
Muslim community statistics