Thursday, 23 August 2007

Taiwan and my grandparents...

Not long after I wrote my last post I got an email from my father saying that my grandparents were quite frail and ill and literally fading away. He told me that my grandfather (his father) was a mere 42kg and his mother was only 32kg. When I read this I felt very sad I started bawling my eyes out. I wrote an email to hubby saying that we HAD to visit them. SOON. We were originally going to visit them before we arrived in Shanghai but it would be too time-consuming and costly since we would then also have to stop in Hong Kong or some other place. When Mike came home that night he mentioned that their combined weight was about his weight!

All this time I had been planning a trip for us during either late October or late November. Since it would be my birthday present it was my pick of where we could go. The only stipulation was that it couldn't be too far away as flying for long periods is the biggest drag and time waster (not to mention the airfares would cost more) and it had to be somewhere that neither of us had been to before.

I went through a whole list of domestic destinations: Hainan (Sanya), Qingdao, Xiamen, Jiuzhaigou, Yunnan, Zhangjiang and God knows how many more!? Then the more I read and the more I found out the more I was itching to go overseas. I had a brainwave! Okinawa!

Mike had been telling how much he had wanted to go there ever since he found out that "Mr Miyagi" the main (fictional) character from the 80's movee "The Karate Kid" 'lived there'. (In actual fact the Okinawa scenes were filmed in Hawaii and interestingly, we visited some of them while we went there, and saw the 'hut' they built for the film too.)

Yes, it would be perfect! Beachey and sunny (the only decent beaches in China are in Hainan but after seeing Hawaii I thought we were be majorly disappointed), pristine and perfect.

I started researching like mad... I poured over EVERY Miyako (Okinawa) related photo on Flickr.

Then, Mike had a brainwave. He had a lot of frequent flyer points built up and JAL is a partner with Qantas. It turns out he JUST had enough points to get us BOTH from Shanghai to Osaka and back!!

Unfortunately Okinawa required more points. Hmm.. what to do.. Okinawa or Osaka... Osaka or Okinawa? Oh well, can't decide - why not go to both? :D

So anyway, now with this news we somehow have to fit in Taiwan as well.

For those that don't know, due to political tensions between China and Taiwan you cannot fly or take a ship between the two countries. So by combining our Japan and Taiwan trip into one we would save money and time since we'd have to fly to another country in between anyway.

Once again I started researching like mad. I thought it would be 'fun' to take a ferry between Okinawa and Taiwan. Then, I read something I found interesting here.

Taiwan, which suffers increasing isolation in the world due to its conflicts with China over Taipei's sovereignty, is also economically marginalized due to its five-decade ban on direct trade, sea and air links with China. The bans have also hurt Taiwan's tourism industry.
In 2006, only 12 foreign cruise liners made port calls at the Keelung Harbour, prompting the harbour to offer incentives to lure foreign cruise companies to put Keelung on the route of their round- the-world cruise tours.
Analysts said that Taiwan, which sits at an ideal location, is shunned by foreign cruise lines because their ships cannot sail directly across the Taiwan Strait - from Taiwan to China or from China to Taiwan.
Andy Lew, Star Cruises' Taiwan manager, said Taiwan had great potential, but Taipei's ban on sea links with China was a handicap.
'From a long-term point of view, we see great potential here in exploring the Taiwan-China, Hong Kong market. If it's possible, we would like to launch services from Taiwan to Shanghai and Xiamen (China),' he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
Because of the ban on sea links, foreign cruise ships visiting Taiwan must sail to a third territory, usually Hong Kong, before they can visit China, or vice verse.
In recent years, Taiwan, which has beaches, mountains, temples and wonderful food, has taken a series of measures to boosts its tourism, including the waiving of visa requirements to certain countries and giving fruits to foreign tourists, but the results have been limited.
While many countries' foreign tourists outnumber their population, only 3.5 million foreigners visited Taiwan in 2006, accounting for 6.5 per cent of Taiwan's 23 million population, according to the Tourism Bureau.
The number of foreign visitors in 2006 rose merely 4 per cent from 2005.
But out of that total, only one third, or 1.1 million, were tourists. The other two thirds were foreign businessmen, workers and maids.

I felt a bit sad reading this because I have been to Taiwan maybe 10 times now (most of my extended family live there) and it's a great country to visit. I have always felt rather puzzled why nobody in Australia wants to go to Taiwan for a holiday but will quite happily go to many other Asian countries: Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, China..

I asked my father about this and he said he wasn't quite sure either except that maybe they hadn't marketed and advertised enough in foreign countries. I have never in my 27 years of living in Australia came across someone who had been to Taiwan unless they had family there or unless it was for business/work purposes. It is rather a small country but not so small that you could quite easily spend two weeks or more exploring the whole country.

So getting back to before, planning this trip had taken a rather unexpected turn and there are so many limitations because we have guests visiting us in early October, early-mid November, and certain flights only fly on certain days, the ferry goes once a week, etc etc.. not to mention the hubby also says we have to do it for as cheaply as possible... ARGH it's all getting a bit too stressful!!

1 comment:

selva said...

All I want to do is go for three weeks to visit my brother in Australia . I know you really hate illegal immigrants and all - although I can't think why since you incarcerate them all in detention camps and keep them safely out of sight. This much paperwork could take me a lifetime to put together. Maybe I should take my tourist dollars somewhere else where it’s far more exciting and probably easier to get in - like Australia or Iraq.