Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taipei Travel Expo 2008

Brendan, Becca, Emily and one of Becca's friends went to the Travel Expo at Taipei World Trade Center today. The goal was to find cheap tickets to Singapore for my sis and her friend so they could travel over the Zhengda class break.

I wish I'd had my druthers together enough to go here to plan our trip next year. The deals really were fantastic. We got them roundtrip tickets for about $7000 NT each. The best deal on teh Internets was $10,000 and change. My tickets to India, Egypt and home were purchased back in August so we had nothing to buy; we went to help Becca and marvel at the crowds. They say that the only TWTC expo that exceeds this one in visitor volume is the infamous computer expo. We'll be going to the next one of those, as well.

And man, was it ever crowded. The tickets were expensive at $200 NT, but the real bargain hunters didn't mind; it was a small price to pay for, frankly, huge savings. I'm not normally a fan of these huge expos - it's mostly about advertising anyway, and selling package tours - but really, truly - there were a lot of great discounts to be found.

Other than the reign of package tours over stalls selling unfettered airline tickets (seems the Taiwanese really like their tour groups...this I knew), my only other issue was that many geographical areas were far too small, whereas others were far too big.

I realize that the big destinations (Korea, Japan, Australia and the SE Asian countries) represented are so over-staffed because that's where the demand is, but we had gone looking for just a little information on Egypt (our destination in February) and found nothing but a few fliers for package tours in Chinese. Plus a pimply faced teen dressed up in a gold vinyl Pharaoh costume, which was pretty awesome.

Some destinations had their own booth, to our surprise - Iran, Turkey, Nicaragua, Panama and other destinations you don't expect Taiwanese travelers to think of (though obviously some do) - some of these possibly because they are among the few countries who recognize Taiwan through official diplomatic channels.

Others were sadly lacking. All of Africa save Egypt and South Africa was one tiny booth with a few leaflets and Ethiopian coffee. The coffee was good, though.

One good thing, though, was the free stuff. We got free t-shirts for the Singapore tickets and free pens from a Japan stall.

I did also notice a huge section of the expo devoted to domestic travel. Even Taizhong was represented - the general theme for that booth was "Taizhong - our city is kinda boring but our county is gorgeous". Yep.

I thought this was great, though - Taiwan is a fantastic tourist destination if you know where to go. I'm half happy that word isn't out in the West about this (more solitude, authenticity, and enjoyment for me) but half upset, because it really ought to be. As I mentioned recently on LPTT, the advantage of Taiwan over China is not quantity, but quality. There is less to do here, but it's all of a higher caliber.

They had a massive aboriginal culture section, which I loved. It had the usual glass bead jewelry and millet wine, but they also had information in several languages and a few culture tours you could sign up for, as well as dancing, free food and wine tasting, and exhibits and information. Not bad.

We picked up some gorgeous plum wine - though not nearly as good as the stuff Sasha brought back from Japan recently - with a label that says "The Feeling of Slightly Drunk".

Oh, and they also had a dude in a giant koala costume.

Awesome. Truly awesome.

All in all, not worth NT $200 if you aren't looking to buy tickets, tours or reservations but totally worth it if you are.

Also, tissues. Lots and lots of free tissues. I can now wipe my butt on tissues from a five-star spa in Thailand.

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