Tai­wan Turns On The Ha­lal Charm

How one is­land is woo­ing Mus­lim trav­ellers.

Muhibah - - IN THIS ISSUE - Words ANIS RAMLI Im­ages TAI­WAN TOURISM BUREAU KL OF­FICE

How one is­land is woo­ing Mus­lim trav­ellers.

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With 70 per­cent of the is­land cov­ered in rugged, forested moun­tain with eas­ily a lake, river and basin within reach, it comes as lit­tle sur­prise to any­one why Tai­wan – with its di­verse land­scape – is among one of South­east Asia’s top des­ti­na­tions.

Home to Sun Moon Lake, the largest body of water in Tai­wan; Taroko Gorge, the mar­ble canyon in Taroko National Park and the "Sea of Clouds" that hang over the Cen­tral Moun­tain Range, Tai­wan is ridicu­lously stun­ning.

Now, the is­land is set to make it­self even more en­dear­ing, par­tic­u­larly to Mus­lim trav­ellers.

The gov­ern­ment has em­barked on an ag­gres­sive jour­ney to en­cour­age many ma­jor at­trac­tions in­clud­ing ho­tels to be Mus­lim-friendly while urg­ing eater­ies to ex­plore ha­lal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. With the coun­try now ranked fifth on the list of Mus­lim-friendly non-oic tourist des­ti­na­tions in the 2018 Global Mus­lim Travel In­dex (GMTI) re­port, Tai­wan is lead­ing the way to show that it is pos­si­ble to have fun and re­main ob­ser­vant to your faith.

Taipei is al­ready known for be­ing a Mus­lim-friendly des­ti­na­tion, but the fo­cus now has gone be­yond the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. At pop­u­lar theme parks such as Le­o­foo Vil­lage in Hs­inchu County and For­mosan Abo­rig­i­nal Cul­ture Vil­lage

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near Sun Moon Lake – where roller­coast­ers, rapid rides and cul­tural en­ter­tain­ment make an ideal fam­ily out­ing – guests can now take a break in the park’s re­spec­tive ha­lal-cer­ti­fied eater­ies and also find prayer room fa­cil­i­ties (mu­solla).

At the Ful­lon Ho­tel and Re­sorts Lih­pao Land in Taichung, the prop­erty is try­ing to coax Mus­lim trav­ellers to em­brace the in­te­grated re­sort trend. In its sprawl­ing 200 hectares site – which makes it Tai­wan’s big­gest re­sort park – lies a land and water amuse­ment park, a multi-level out­let mall, a world class rac­ing and go-kart cir­cuit and other mod­ern leisure ac­tiv­i­ties. Guests can hop from one ac­tiv­ity to an­other and re­tire with ease at Ful­lon Ho­tel where rooms are equipped with prayer mats, prayer timeta­bles and the Qi­blah di­rec­tion. “We were keen to cap­ture the grow­ing Mus­lim tourist mar­ket and the de­ci­sion was made early on in 2018 to in­vest in a mil­lion dol­lar ha­lal kitchen apart from mak­ing our rooms friendly to Mus­lims,” says So­nia Wu, As­sis­tant Man­ager, Sales Depart­ment of Ful­lon Ho­tel and Re­sorts Lih­pao Land. An ex­ten­sion of these ef­forts is the ho­tel’s Ja­panese restau­rant, J San Iza­kaya, that pro­vides a ha­lal menu for Mus­lims, a ded­i­cated Mus­lim eat­ing area with sep­a­rate table­ware and a prayer room fa­cil­ity.

Much of the ha­lal ef­forts by Tai­wan’s gov­ern­ment are a prod­uct of its “south­bound pol­icy” that seeks to boost re­la­tions with 16 South and South­east Asian coun­tries while si­mul­ta­ne­ously woo­ing visi­tors from Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries such as Brunei Darus­salam, Malaysia and In­done­sia. This is aided by Tai­wan Tourism Bureau that works with Tai­wan’s Chi­nese Mus­lim As­so­ci­a­tion (CMA) to over­see the ha­lal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of restau­rants, ho­tels and

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cen­tral kitchens. The bureau also pro­vides sub­si­dies for the ac­qui­si­tion of ha­lal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by restau­rants and ho­tels to en­cour­age them to im­prove or ren­o­vate their fa­cil­i­ties to ful­fill Mus­lim guests’ needs. To date, Tai­wan has at least 324 cer­ti­fied ha­lal restau­rants lo­cated all over the coun­try.

In ad­di­tion to over­see­ing ha­lal com­pli­ance, the Chi­nese Mus­lim As­so­ci­a­tion ac­tively en­gages stake­hold­ers on Is­lam. When Palais de Chine Ho­tel Taipei sought to make their ho­tel Mus­lim-friendly, Tilly Chiu, Se­nior Sales Man­ager, ex­pected the usual train­ing on ha­lal kitchen op­er­a­tions and food ad­vice. She says, “They did that, of course. But we also learnt other as­pects of the faith such as how pic­tures of liv­ing things are pro­hib­ited which re­ally helped us in pre­par­ing our Mus­lim-friendly rooms.”

Trav­ellers can also down­load the Ha­lal TW app, de­signed to help Mus­lim tourists as well as res­i­dents ex­plore Tai­wan with peace of mind. De­vel­oped by a team of Mus­lim stu­dents from National Tai­wan Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, the app helps users lo­cate not just ha­lal restau­rants and nearby mosques and mu­solla, but shares for in­stance, ha­lal food sec­tions that can be found in lo­cal gro­cers. “We are con­tin­u­ously try­ing to op­ti­mise our info shar­ing, such as list­ing lo­cal at­trac­tions – pop­u­lar places to see and ac­tiv­i­ties to do – that are also shariah-com­pli­ant for an all-in­clu­sive ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Ha­lal TW co-de­vel­oper, In­tan Dzikria. “It is im­por­tant for us to en­sure that when we talk about ha­lal the pub­lic un­der­stands that it is more than just food and drinks – it also means en­sur­ing all as­pects of a the itin­er­ary and ac­tiv­i­ties are suit­able for Mus­lims.” This, she says, in­volves

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seek­ing ad­vice from Mus­lim schol­ars as well as the CMA to pro­vide proper guide­lines on all shariah-re­lated mat­ters. At the mo­ment, Ha­lal TW sup­ports Man­darin, Ba­hasa and English. Plans are un­der­way to up­grade the app to in­clude Ara­bic and Urdu lan­guages.

Ice Mon­ster, con­sid­ered by some as a Tai­wanese in­sti­tu­tion, has gained much from be­ing listed on Ha­lal TW. At its flag­ship store on Zhongx­iao E. Road, res­i­dents and tourists come for both the pho­tos and shaved ice desserts. Its best­seller is a mango ice con­coc­tion made form pure mango juice and fin­ished off with chunks of fresh man­goes. Josh Wang, Sales and Mar­ket­ing Man­ager, said, “Our pro­duc­tion process meets the ha­lal cri­te­ria any­way, and so it just made sense for us to ap­ply for the ha­lal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Cer­tainly with this move, it will al­low us to pro­vide bet­ter qual­ity stan­dards be­cause ha­lal es­sen­tially means a higher stan­dard of food safety. And that, we be­lieve, is good for ev­ery­one.”

With ef­forts from both the gov­ern­ment and var­i­ous stake­hold­ers put in place to make Tai­wan more Mus­lim friendly, the coun­try cer­tainly has charmed it­self into the hearts of the trav­eller that seeks to bal­ance fun and faith.

Muhibah thanks Tai­wan Tourism Bureau for host­ing the trip. Royal Brunei Air­lines flies

Taipei 3x weekly for easy con­nec­tions to other cities in Tai­wan. Dis­cover things to do in Tai­wan in www.muhibah.com.bn

02 01 Taipei 101, Taipei City, was the world's tallest build­ing be­tween 2004 and 2010. 02 Rain­bow Vil­lage, Taichung, is dis­tinc­tive with its brightly coloured mu­rals painted by a re­tired sol­dier.

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05 03 Shizhuo, Alis­han, cap­ti­vates with its rolling tea plan­ta­tions.04 Xid­ing, Chi­ayi, of­fers the best sun­sets and sea of clouds from atop Eryan­ping Shan.05 Alis­han, Chi­ayi, is home to the stun­ning 106-year-old moun­tain rail­way.

07 06 Sun Moon Lake, Nan­tou, is the largest body of water in Tai­wan.07 The Pingxi Lantern Fes­ti­val, New Taipei City, takes place on the last day of the Lunar New Year.

08 08 Le­o­foo Vil­lage Theme Park, Hs­inchu, houses a sa­fari park on site and is pop­u­lar with the lo­cals.

11 10 Yehliu Geop­ark, New Taipei City, is home to whim­si­cal rock for­ma­tions and land­forms such as this iconic "Queen's Head" for­ma­tion. 11 Taroko National Park, Nan­tou, was formed by the con­tin­ual ris­ing of the moun­tains com­bined with the ero­sive power of the Liwu River.

12 13 12 Ice Mon­ster, Taipei, serves de­li­cious, made-from-fruit ice desserts and is con­sid­ered a Tai­wanese in­sti­tu­tion.13 Palais de Chine Ho­tel, Taipei, is one of the emerg­ing Mus­lim-friendly ho­tels in the city that tar­gets Mus­lim trav­ellers world­wide.

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