of Taiwan has been off-limits for PRC travelers for more than fifty years,
it’s likely the initial influx across the island will be heavy once it
travelers become more selective in their destinations, Taitung will begin
to stand out as a target for return trips. After all, from a Chinese
perspective, Taitung County has the two critical elements that define natural
beauty: mountains and water.
rest of Southern Taiwan, Taitung’s political leanings are solidly pro-Kuomintang
(KMT). And that includes the majority of its tribal population, which seems
to feel generally that they have benefited more than suffered under the
post-1947 rule of Taiwan by the Chinese Kuomintang. With the KMT
currently the most sympathetic to the development of direct air and shipping
links with the PRC and the real possibility of a KMT shot at Taiwan’s presidency
in 2008, its likely PRC tourists also may feel more warmly welcome in Taitung
than in other parts of Taiwan.
Eventually the Taiwan government will open the island to PRC tourists.
The move in that direction has been slow but is beginning to pick up speed.
• In January
2007 the Taiwan government established a brand new Immigration Agency.
By April the government had included the resort island of Penghu, on Taiwan’s
West Coast, in a “mini-three link” arrangement. Using this, Chinese
tourists can now extend their travel from Taiwan’s outer islands of Jinmen
and Matsu into Taiwan’s closest island of Penghu. The Penghu immigration
authorities and other local government officials are expecting a rise in
the number of mainland Chinese tourists. Penghu businesspeople are
hoping it will boost the economy, which has fallen on very hard times due
to a collapsed fishing industry.
• In early
May 2007 the Taipei Times reported statistics compiled by Taiwan’s Directorate
General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics showing that ferries traveling
between the islands of Jinmen and Matsu made 1,300 trips in the first three
months of 2007, up 436 from a year ago. During the same three-month
period, more than 98,000 passengers (an annual increase of 25.8%) traveled
between the PRC and these Taiwan islands. The 14,000 PRC nationals
who traveled via these ferries represent a year-on-year increase of 48%.
Chinese are pouring out of China to see the world.
Herald Tribune (Wednesday, May 17, 2006) reported on its front page that
2005 saw more than 31 million Chinese traveling abroad, compared with only
4.5 million in 1995. The projection by 2010 is for 50 million and
by 2020 is for 100 million PRC citizens annually to travel outside their
nation’s borders for tourism.
• In May 2006,
the PRC government created laws to allow each and every Chinese citizen
to exchange annually the equivalent of $20,000 U.S. dollars and take this
capital out of China for any legitimate purpose (e.g., tourism, commodity
purchase, business investment, real estate investment). Individual
Chinese travelers are known already around the world as “spenders” and
likely to be a big relief for Taiwan’s strapped economy.
• Tourist bureaus
from all areas of Taiwan now travel regularly to various cities in the
PRC to promote Taiwan as a tourist destination in anticipation of the opening
of direct air links. One bureau director reported he had prepared
enough material for a three-day travel services convention in Shanghai.
Within three hours of opening his booth, all his material had already been
distributed to the hands of interested PRC travel agents.
• In April
2007, in a move to further woo Taiwan investors to the mainland in hopes
of eventual reconciliation with the island, the PRC allowed for Taiwan
investors to begin wholly-owned shipping and container transport firms
as well as to operate ports and highways in the PRC.
• A recent
Chinese Communist Party – KMT forum held in Beijing in late April 2007
reached agreements that would promote the quickening pace of opening Taiwan
to PRC tourists.
an ideal location for any tourist seeking an “off the beaten path” adventure.
The multitude of aboriginal tribes in the mountains surrounding Taitung
City ensures that all sorts of adventures are available – from the very
comfortable to the very demanding. This rugged area, both the poorest
and the most diverse in Taiwan, hosts a long coastline on the Pacific Ocean
as well as mountains so deep and remote that it can take nearly three weeks
for some locals to complete their annual tribal pilgrimage to the “old
village.” The local Taitung economy is investing in its own tourism
industry to take travelers deeper and deeper into the magnificent landscape.
travel agents familiar with Taitung or with the tribes themselves, a unique
itinerary can be developed that will allow for para-gliding, windsurfing,
grass sliding (the equivalent of snowboarding, but on steep old mountains),
mountain treks, and village exploration.
With no factories
and no heavy industry, Taitung has been known for years within Taiwan itself
as an ideal vacation spot. Today, Taitung’s local government has
a combined commitment to making Taitung a tourist destination without giving
up a future of clean air and water. In order to protect the ecological
biodiversity and rugged landscape, Taitung’s large aboriginal population
has involved itself deeply in local politics to ensure that Taitung will
not take the route of rampant development that will result in the wholesale
destruction of its environment. Taiwan’s own central government,
at the same time, is pushing environmentally friendly technologies, paying
as much as half the cost of building solar systems and offering tax-breaks
for wind power projects. Unlike other destinations in Taiwan, Taitung
actively wants to be known for its clean air, beautiful coast, scenic mountains,
and welcoming tribal cultures.
coastline boasts pristine beaches covered with sand and strewn with wonderful
gray, blue-green, white and black rocks (many embedded with crystals).
In fact, those rocks are an Asian collector’s dream, strongly prized for
the embedded crystal formations or striations resembling images in nature
(animals, fish, or nature scenes). A day or two of intense beach
combing inevitably produces a treasured rock or two for the collector willing
to indulge in active searching. In the water, and much harder to
obtain except through certain collectors in Taitung are large “watermelon”
rocks, also highly prized in Asia.
In the mountains,
Taitung boasts at least one world class para-gliding site. There
is also the beginning of a government supported aboriginal building effort
to set up clean, but modest, hostels in the mountain villages so tourists
can stay in small communities that may take their fancy or which are accessible
to certain specialized activities such as para-gliding. These hostels,
one of which strongly resembles a small Colorado ski resort, appear to
be the beginning of a solid bed and breakfast type atmosphere in Taitung,
both cozy and intriguing.
tourists can hop to two beautiful outer islands.
located just off the Pacific coast of Taitung, is now a part of the East
Coast National Scenic Area. The island is known for its saltwater hot spring
(one of only three in the world), coral reefs, and spectacular coastal
scenery. The island's reefs, waters, and beaches are great for fishing,
swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
of Green Island lays Orchid Island, which takes its name from the wild
orchids that grow in the hills. Orchid Island is inhabited by the Yami,
one of Taiwan's indigenous tribes, who do some farming but rely primarily
on fishing for a living. The intricately painted wooden boats used by the
tribe are built entirely by hand and are joined together by wooden pegs.
love of hot springs and the spa experience led them to discover Taitung
long ago. Besides likely connections or knowledge gained from the
Japanese colonial presence in Taiwan from 1985 to 1947, the Japanese have
a great interest in the political development of Taiwan. In addition
to active scholarly exchanges between Japan and Taiwan, Japanese tourists
come regularly to Taiwan and seem to focus their visits on Taiwan’s hot
County is home to many hot springs, just south of Taitung City is the popular
Jhihben Hot Springs resort, which offers several interesting sites of particular
interest to Japanese and other Asian tourists. First are the hot springs
themselves, with the Jhihben resort providing many public bathing facilities
and nearby hotels providing additional private ones.
A short distance
from the hotels is a path that leads to the beautiful White Jade Waterfall’s
Inner Hot Spring, two kilometers down the main road from the Jhihben Hot
Springs. This hot spring has newer hotels and a mineral water swimming
pool. On a lane off the main road from Jhihben to the Inner Hot Spring
is Cingjyue Temple, which has two large Buddha images: one of bronze from
Thailand and the other of jade from Burma.
bridge leads to the Jhihben Forest Recreation Area, which is located on
a mountainside covered with bamboo groves and dense forests. The recreation
area offers a riverside picnic spot, campground, bonfire area, flower garden,
and a footpath to a waterfall. Near the top is a huge banyan tree, whose
long, gnarled roots surround half of a restful pavilion.
Also, on the
way to Jhihben is a small village known to locals as the Butterfly Village,
which boasts a particular concentration of a variety of butterflies.
Taiwan has 380 endemic butterfly species and the highest concentration
of butterflies in the world. The multitude of species is explained
by Taiwan’s diversity of climate, from its sub-tropical coast to its high-altitude
mountains. While development in other parts of Taiwan has resulted
in a drop in the number of these creatures in urban areas, Taitung’s mountains
still host thriving communities of butterflies such as those found in Butterfly
and Property in Taitung - Processes and Costs
in Taiwan is very similar to buying property in Western countries.
Loans at extremely reasonable rates are available through local banks.
In December 2006 residential property loan rates at Taiwan banks were at
2.6%. Money is easily wired into Taiwanese banks and the exchange
rate for U.S. dollars is hovering around US $1 to New Taiwan Dollars (NTD)
$33 at the time this article was written. Purchases in cash are easiest
if one doesn’t want to carry a mortgage with a foreign bank. Of course,
real estate transactional prices and taxes will apply based on the amount
of the sale. When a property is sold, repatriating profits is no
problem. Wire transfers from highly regulated financial institutions
are common and New Taiwan Dollars are a fully convertible currency on the
without any previous registration in Taiwan (i.e., family connections or
Taiwan passports) must request approval for property acquisition from the
Department of the Interior to establish a “household registry.” Approximately
twenty (20) U.S. states, including Hawaii, have mutual agreements in place
with Taiwan that facilitate the purchase of property in Taiwan. A
list of those states is available from any real estate agent in Taiwan.
For U.S. citizens purchasing property, Century 21 is the most recognizable
realtor franchise in Taiwan.
is minimal property development going on in Taitung at the moment, modern
apartment units and townhouses are available for purchase. Given
that the development of these units is fairly recent, the designs are tasteful
and pleasing, making them quite different and distinct from the generally
unappealing and run-down look of twenty-fifty year-old sites regularly
found throughout the rest of Taiwan’s more developed areas.
new townhouses with all the amenities are readily available just minutes
by foot from the ocean at approximately NTD 4,000,000 (USD $121,200) for
approximately 1,400 square feet. The Taiwan real estate market sells
based on its own system of measurement called “ping,” which are rectangular
units the size of a traditional Japanese tatami mat (90 cm x 180 cm or
1.62 square meters). Older pre-owned apartment units of about 30
ping are also available in Taitung City for approximately NTD 1,000,000
(USD $30,000). Be sure to do thorough research and/or view the unit
first to get an idea of how “ping” translates into square feet or square
meters. Or, Click
Here for a conversion chart
units are also available. Land unit are differentiated into
“urban” and “rural.” Buildable urban lots are measured by the same
“ping” unit used to measure the interior of houses or apartments.
These land units sell for approximately NTD 1,000,000 (USD $30,303) for
35 ping, the size of land required for a townhouse. One can approximate
the cost of actually building in Taitung to be about NTD 50,000 (USD $1,500)
per ping. Building a house with an interior measurement of 50 ping
would cost about NTD 3,500,000 (USD $106,060). Rural lots are sold
in measurements of “hun,” which are the equivalent of 300 ping each.
Government building regulations require a minimum of 2.5 hun to be used
as a buildable rural lot. At an approximate cost of NTD 1,000,000
(USD $30,303) per hun, a buyer would invest NTD 2,500,000 (USD $75,757)
in land to build a dwelling at the same approximate construction cost of
NTD 50,000 (USD $1,500) per ping.
local experts and land owners in Taitung, the current prices are historically
very low. In fact, all real estate prices in Taitung now stand at
half the price they were just ten years ago. In the 1990’s, when
Taiwan’s economy was still in full swing, the same new townhouse described
above would have sold for about NTD 8,000,000. At that time Taiwan
buyers themselves were eager to acquire both land and vacation properties
in Taitung. Since then investment in Taitung has dried up and enormous
numbers of Taiwan businesses have relocated to the PRC to take advantage
of lower labor costs and more easily accessible buyers. With fewer
jobs available, the Taitung population has decreased from approximately
340,000 to less than 250,000 in just ten years.
too late or even too early!
For a Western
buyer, timing will be critical in making a property purchase decision in
Taiwan. That is not to say one must buy at this moment, but it is
important to watch further developments in the PRC-Taiwan relationship
closely as one considers whether or not to jump into Taitung’s property
The real element
to watch, of course, is the upcoming 2008 Taiwan presidential election.
A KMT win likely will signal an upcoming significant warming with the PRC
over the issue of direct air links. Of course, by that time Taiwan
investors, who are world class businesspeople, will come out of hibernation
and leap back into the local land investment mix. Also, by then Taitung
sellers will be raising their prices.
If one waits
and hasn’t already explored Taitung before the 2008 Taiwan presidential
election, it may be too late to close a deal on the land or property you
want before prices begin to climb. If one buys too soon, however,
the amount of time that may be needed to increase the value of the land
or residential property purchased could be longer than desired if the 2008
election doesn’t put the KMT in power or the direct air links don’t materialize
within a few years.
Prior to the
opening of direct air links with the PRC, it is anybody’s guess as to which
direction property values might go. In the current situation, it
would be hard to guarantee even the Western basis of an expected annual
three percent increase in the value of real estate in Taitung. However,
there is no question that current prices are amazingly low for such a stunning
destination on an island so easily accessible and friendly to foreign buyers.
is no guarantee that the payoff will be quick, a property purchase in Taitung
holds the promise for a significant return once Taiwan’s doors are open
to mainland Chinese tourists. That, in addition to the investments
by Taiwan’s central government in Taitung’s upstart tourist industry and
the local government’s commitment to environmentally sound development
as well as its attention to the development of a tribal crafts industry,
puts into place a solid basis for an investment there in land, residential
property or rental property.
should the hoped for return be slower than expected in coming, the investor
will always have a beautiful place for a wonderful and relaxing vacation
in an extremely clean and environmentally friendly area of Taiwan as the
waiting continues for an important door for Asian tourism to open.
its own domestic airport. Regular fifty minute flights go in and
out of Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei. Taiwan’s second largest city
of Kaohsiung services Taitung via daily three hour train trips arriving
at Taitung City’s central train station.
More About Taitung
* For general information about Taiwan, its history, culture and economy
in English, see the website of the Taiwan Government Information Office
* For information about Taiwan tourism in Chinese see: www.travel-web.com.tw/
* For specific tourism information about Taitung in English, see www.taitung.gov.tw/english/news/t_newsindex.php
* For updated news on Taiwan’s politics and socio-political issues in English,
see the daily editions of the Taipei Times: www.taipeitimes.com