Open-Air Banquet to Boost Tourism and Aid Disaster Reconstruction

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The recent typhoon did a lot of damage to many of the tourist spots in southern Taiwan but, as the Tourism Bureau points out, it has in no way diminished the deliciousness of the island's food or the warm hospitality of its people.

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As part of its international 2009 Tour Taiwan Year promotion, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau is inviting more than 600 foreign travelers and media representatives to attend a traditional Taiwanese open-air banquet on Aug. 18. The event is being held in conjunction of the 20th anniversary of the Taiwan Food Festival. In addition to a delicious meal, the participants will also be able to experience some of the scenic beauty, historic romance, and warm hospitality of the ancient capital city of Tainan.

The list of participants was compiled over a period of more than two months with the help of travel agencies, who are including the banquet in their tour itineraries. Most of the attending groups have not changed their schedules despite the recent ravaging of southern Taiwan by Typhoon Morakot, and their presence at the event will help to dispel misconceptions about overall conditions on the island. They will see that as far as international tourists are concerned, the island is mostly back to normal.

The open-air banquet was originally to have taken place at the Old Fort of Anping, a first-grade historic site, but because of environmental and weather considerations it has been moved under-roof at the Anping Tourist Fish Market. During the meal, diners will be treated to performances of hand-puppet opera, spinning-drum music, and the "Twelve Nannies" prancing to solicit the blessings of the gods, providing a rich glimpse into the folk culture of southern Taiwan.

Among the diners will be a group of 40 visitors from Japan, led by two famous Japanese culinary masters, who will not only enjoy Taiwanese food but will also engage in Taiwanese-Japanese culinary exchange. There will also be a famous culinary expert from Hong Kong, and French culinary expert and critic Alain Cirelli will be on hand to experience the unique open-air banquet and the warmth of the southern Taiwanese people. These experts will spread the word about Taiwanese food and the attending international media people will report it to the world, giving a strong boost to Taiwan as an attractive culinary destination.

The kitchen team for the banquet will be headed up by top chef Master Ah Yong, who has prepared a menu consisting of traditional open-air-banquet dishes in consultation with a group of food consultants. Master Ah Yong is donating half of his income from the banquet to the victims of Typhoon Morakot.

The banquet is co-organized by the city governments of Tainan and Taipei with the aim of using the allure of fine food, along with the historic sites of the area, to upgrade the image of tourism in southern Taiwan. The banquet will also be used to publicize next year's Taipei International Flora Expo in the international arena, and the foreign invitees will be urged to return next year for more culinary pleasures along with the flower show.

The recent typhoon did a lot of damage to many of the tourist spots in southern Taiwan; but, as the Tourism Bureau points, it has in no way diminished the deliciousness of the island's foods or the warm hospitality of its people. These remain strong factors in attracting foreign tourists to Taiwan, and the Tourism Bureau will use the open-air banquet in Tainan to emphasize the island's determination to rebuild following the disaster and its indomitable will to survive.


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