*** ----> Ilha Formosa: Exploring Taipei’s Contrasts and Charms | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Ilha Formosa: Exploring Taipei’s Contrasts and Charms


My first trip in Taipei, framed by Taiwan’s breathtaking natural beauty, was a journey of contrasts. The transition from the airport to the city centre was a spectacle, with verdant green roads giving way to a skyline dominated by towering skyscrapers.

Yet, amidst the city’s allure lies a familiar challenge: the relentless traffic flow, particularly during rush hours. However, Taipei confronts this issue ingeniously with clever engineering.

Its roads are marvels, meticulously designed to alleviate congestion. Taipei’s charm was unmistakable, with its impeccably dressed residents resembling runway models.

No wonder the Portuguese bestowed upon Taiwan the name “Ilha Formosa,” meaning beautiful island!

Navigating Uncertainty: Taiwan’s Resilience Amid Geopolitical Tensions

Setting foot in Taiwan, I couldn’t ignore the looming uncertainty surrounding the region’s security, particularly amidst escalating tensions with China.

As a journalist accustomed to parsing through headlines, the geopolitical landscape casts a shadow over my journey.

However, Taipei’s bustling streets and towering skyscrapers revealed a different reality—a sense of calm amidst the storm.

Despite diplomatic challenges, Taiwan’s unwavering confidence in its stability underscored its strategic significance on the global stage. Taiwan’s commitment to democratic principles and civil liberties provided a beacon of hope amidst geopolitical uncertainties.

Taiwan’s Semiconductor Dominance: A Global Technological Powerhouse

Taiwan has cemented its status as a global leader in the semiconductor industry, commanding an impressive 68% market share. This dominance has positioned Taiwan as the epicentre for producing the world’s most advanced semiconductor chips.

In 2022, Taiwan’s exports of integrated circuits reached a staggering $184 billion, contributing significantly to the nation’s GDP, accounting for nearly 25%. Notably, TSMC, representing approximately 30% of the Taiwan Stock Exchange’s main index, plays a pivotal role in this thriving industry. Taiwan’s semiconductor manufacturing success is driven by volume production, innovation, and precision.

With a local workforce 600,000, Taiwan’s semiconductor sector holds an 18% share of the global market, second only to the United States’ 39%.

Despite generating $184 billion in revenue in 2022, trailing behind the U.S.’s $378 billion, Taiwan’s semiconductor industry continues to excel, driven by its commitment to innovation and precision.

Mr. Miin Wu, the chairman of Macronix Taiwan, has been instrumental in shaping Taiwan’s semiconductor industry.

His visionary approach led to the pioneering concept of reverse brain drain, attracting skilled engineers from the United States to Taiwan.

Macronix International, based in Hsinchu Science Park, often referred to as Taiwan’s Silicon Valley, is among the top Taiwanese companies in the semiconductor sector.

It supplies essential components for various products, including Nintendo Switch game consoles and electric vehicles, enhancing Taiwan’s soft power globally. Ms. Catherine Hsu, director-general of international information services at Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, emphasised Taiwanese semiconductor companies’ crucial role in the global supply chain, highlighting their cutting-edge technology.

Amid geopolitical tensions, Ms. Chen Shu-chu, deputy director-general of the Hsinchu Science Park Bureau , urged Taiwanese semiconductor companies to seize opportunities amidst challenges, emphasising the importance of investing in new consumer markets and expanding globally.

She expressed confidence that Taiwanese companies would capitalise on these opportunities to invest abroad, ensuring continued growth and innovation in the semiconductor sector.

Taiwan - A beacon for human rights

We had the privilege of meeting Fred Him Sam Chin, a dedicated human rights ambassador who collaborates with the Human Rights Society in Taipei. Born in Malaysia, he pursued chemical engineering as an overseas Chinese student at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan.

In 1971, Fred was arrested as a suspect in the 1970 USIS Tainan Explosion case and subsequently sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. Upon his release, he was prohibited from returning to Malaysia and found himself without identification, leading to a period of homelessness lasting three years.

1986, Fred embarked on a new chapter, dedicating himself to human rights advocacy. He became a volunteer docent at JingMei and Green Island White Terror Memorial Parks, where he is affectionately known as “Brother San.”

Fred graciously took us to the place where he was imprisoned, where his room remains preserved, and various artefacts from the prison are displayed for tourists to observe.

Taiwan’s commitment to human rights is underscored by organisations like Freedom House, which rates Taiwan as one of Asia’s most “Free” nations, earning a top score in both Political Rights and Civil Liberties.

Orchid Festival: Celebrating Taiwan’s Floral Heritage Step - ping into the 23rd World Orchid Conference in Tainan, we were greeted by an enchanting sea of flowers, each intricately designed.

The hall resembled a heavenly oasis adorned with a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues.

Amidst this breathtaking beauty, countless visitors captured the moment from various angles, revelling in the allure of nature’s splendour. Taiwan, renowned worldwide for its ornamental treasures, notably orchids, boasts an impressive legacy.

A staggering 80% of floral exports from Taiwan are orchids, with Phalaenopsis alone contributing 68.38% (USD 1.21 billion in 2020) and Oncidium accounting for 9.39% (USD 0.150 billion in 2020).

Exploring Taiwan’s Culinary Delights: A Gastronomic Journey

Initially limiting my dining choices to vegetarian options, I anticipated some Indian dishes. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover many mushroom-based creations throughout my stay.

While our American and European peers effortlessly embraced local flavours, our Kuwaiti influencer, Karim Al Hashmi, boldly satisfied his cravings with a Big Mac from McDonald’s.

Witnessing this nostalgic indulgence, we couldn’t resist sampling a few fries from his plate, a taste of home amidst our culinary adventures! On our final dinner, we ascended Taipei’s tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101, at the business lounge.

Our meal was a visual delight, with dishes meticulously arranged. Before grilling them, the chef even presented live shrimp, a first-time experience that left my wife melancholy.

Ultimately, I abandoned my vegetarian diet, embracing a journey of culinary exploration while my fellow delegates savoured a seafood feast fit for royalty.


Lantern Festival: Illuminating Dreams and Desires

It was a dream fulfilled. I had longed to attend this inaugural festival for years, having watched countless videos of previous lantern festivals.

The lively music and spirited songs created an electric atmosphere as we strolled amidst the profusion of multicoloured lights adorning the surroundings.

And when the announcement rang out, the resounding cheers filled the air as the dragon breathed fire multiple times.

As our journey in Taiwan drew close, we found ourselves in a delightful twist, trading museum visits for the enchanting Lantern ceremony.

A vibrant sea of lanterns enveloped us in the picturesque mountain village of Shidi, nestled in the Pingxi District. Each lantern carried a wish as diverse as the colours illuminating them.

Amid this jubilant celebration, I was moved to write a heartfelt ode to my wife’s happiness, only to be humbled by her serene simplicity in return. As our lanterns ascended into the night sky, bearing our aspirations and dreams, I was struck by the universal sentiment embodied in my wife’s singular wish: “Loka samasta sukhino bhavandu.”

As the lanterns soared aloft, it became evident that the entire team echoed the same desire for happiness and liberation for all.


Human Rights Advocate: Fred Him Sam Chin


The writer and his wife Latha Unnikrishnan at the Presidential office


Diamond Tony’s Italian Restaurant at Taipei 101


The delegates with the officals from the General Association of Chinese Culture


Chinese dragon from the Festival City