Taiwan Travel Videos, And the Lack Thereof

17 08 2007

While guidebooks on Taiwan seem plentiful, there seems to be a great dearth in travel videos on Taiwan. As a frequent viewer of travel television shows, I was quite disappointed that out of the multitude of travel programs out there these days, only one had ever done an episode on Taiwan (that I could find). I know that Taiwan is not really on the tourist map, but maybe this is part of the reason why.  Well, there are several other reasons Taiwan is not a destination, such as the fact that Taiwan is not easy to navigate if you do not know Chinese.  I believe Taiwan has made great strides in the right direction, however, and hopefully with better signage, resources, and exposure, Taiwan will become a better place for tourists. It sounds like Taipei is already there or close to it, but the rest of the country needs to catch up.

The travel video I am talking about is Globe Trekker: Hong Kong & Taiwan. As you can see, the episode in question is not even exclusively about Taiwan, but actually 2/3 about Hong Kong and 1/3 about Taiwan. Now, I have to acknowledge that I was happy that Globe Trekker even made it to Taiwan and that Megan McCormick, the host, is very adventurous and seems like a nice person. However, the content of the Taiwan episode was terrible.  I felt that the activities and sights the host visited were designed to either emphasize how weird and different Taiwan was or take advantage of the show’s access to the architect of Taipei 101, who also designed the monastery they visited. 

Modern Buddhist Monastery in Puli, designed by the same architect who designed Taipei 101.

Puli Monastery

In the DVD, Megan visits The Grand Hotel, the Martyr’s Shrine, Snake Alley, and has a private tour of Taipei 101, which at the time was still under construction.  These Taipei tourist sites I have no big complaints about.  Outside of Taipei, she visits Taroko Gorge, Jade Mountain, a modern Buddhist monastery in Puli, and the Yami on Orchid Island.  Written out this itinerary doesn’t sound too bad, but the program spends an inordinate amount of time in the not yet completed Taipei 101, in the modern Buddhist monastery, in snake alley, and on Orchid island.  On the other hand, only a few short minutes are spent in Taroko Gorge and Taipei (besides 101).  I did find the Jade mountain segment pretty neat though. 

This is an actual picture of a Yami, one of the many aboriginal tribes in Taiwan.  He is in traditional dress.  

Yami in traditional dress

The show seriously made it look like Taiwanese locals are either buddhists who live in Vegas-like monasteries, colorful natives who don’t wear clothes, or street carnies who eat/drink snake all the time.  I am not being flip when I describe it this way.  In fact, I thought the idea of being able to visit a Buddhist monastery was very cool.  I guess I was just shocked that those were the places the show decided to go, when in my eye there were so many other more interesting places to visit in Taiwan.  It just wasn’t a good reflection of Taiwan, either from a daily life point of view or from a typical tourist’s point of view.  I mean, if the three photos in this post were the only pictures you ever saw of Taiwan, what would you think?

And really, did Megan really have to drink the snake bile?  Who does that besides old Taiwanese men?  From what I know, snake alley is only there for the tourists nowaday.  I have to say in her defense, though, the snake vendor was totally invading her personal space when he put the big boa constrictor or whatever that snake was on her.

A Snake Alley Vendor, Photo Thanks to budapest8 from Virtual Tourist

Snake Alley

Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of Taiwan with the Hong Kong segment immediately before that bothered me.  The show portrayed Hong Kong as a bustling metropolis with beautiful views and a harbor.  The host did all the typical tourist things like visiting the famous tailor who makes suits for famous people, going to a temple and getting her fortune told, and taking a ferry.  In addition, she was able to meet Bruce Law, the famed action stunt coordinator for Hong Kong movies.

Maybe I just took the show a little too personally, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.  I still watched it twice, though, because despite all of this, it was still entertaining.




6 responses

17 08 2007
David on Formosa

Lonely Planet Six Degrees has an episode about Taipei. It focuses more on people rather than famous landmarks.

I also suggest watching Fun Taiwan which screens on the Travel and Living channel.

18 08 2007

Thanks David, that’s excellent. I will definitely try to watch the shows you mentioned. I will have to hunt the Fun Taiwan down, though, because my cable provider doesn’t offer the Travel and Living channels.

18 08 2007

I tend to agree with you about the skewed portrayal of Taiwan on the show, although I guess it’s a common feeling from people who are from or know a lot about the places featured on travel shows.

Taiwan is such a spectacular place – it’s a shame they didn’t see fit to do a whole episode on it!

19 08 2007
David on Formosa » Links 20 August 2007

[…] Travels with Sandy on Taiwan Travel Videos. […]

17 11 2010

Dear Sandy,
A nice post about travel to Taiwan and the lack of travel videos. I see that your blog is about travel. I want to share some info with you. Citymedia foundation(http://citymediafoundation.org) has launched http://www.city.vi , a network of 68,000 city specific video sites, where you can share videos about cities and regions across the world. like for Taipei videos you can visit http://taipei.vi . And not just travel videos but all kinds of videos. You can also find out about other cities that you are interested . Hope to see you there

18 03 2011

Sandy,My wife and I love to travel. I spent some time in Taiwan while in the US Navy during the 70’s and Taiwan was my favorite country of all Asia. My wife recently saw the Globe Trekker episode you were commenting on and now she wants to travel to Asia and Taiwan in particular. The Grand Hotel and National Museum are a must see when in Taipei.

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