2015.9 (Issue No. 279)
I. Rural villages undergo transformation to show their charm
Ever since the implementation of Rural Regeneration Act in August of 2010, the power of a spiritual revolution has been gently but vivaciously reaching every corner in every rural village. In order to build the home of their dreams and bring out the passion for the land where they lived, the people in these villages have put personal differences aside for reaching the common goal of their communities’ future development. This upward changing force has started to transform the appearance of rural villages in Taiwan. There are more than half of all the rural communities nationwide which have engaged in the promotion of rural regeneration, and 506 of those communities have already completed the Rural Regeneration Program. The phenomenon brings not only improvement to the environment but also rural villages’ development on every facet.
The Taiwanese rural villages’ desire for change is uncontainable, which energy grew with incredible speed. These communities tasted the fruits of success and presented their proud achievements through the forms of consensus, spiritual growth, culture conservation, traditional art continuation, environmental protection, derelict spaces improvement, local industry development, among others. These villages encourage visitors to leave the bustling city behind and step into the countryside to walk with their feet, see with their eyes, feel with their hearts, and listen with their ears. Everyone is invited to get up close and personal with the beauty of nature, and to know its simplest purity. Experience the happy lifestyle of the countryside and feel the story about their journey towards rural regeneration. Now let’s visit these wonderful rural communities and bear witness to their growth and metamorphosis.
II. New forms of rural village experience packages are taking Taiwan by storm
1. A photo that went viral on the internet attracted more than 400,000 tourists to Ding-si Community
In 2013, some photos using 3D murals of a cat as backgrounds taken at an unknown rural village went viral through blogs and Facebook. As it turned out, those much-talked-about murals’ main character is the village cat of Ding-si Community in Yunlin County’s Huwei Township, named Xiaomi, which passed away sometime in the past. As a remembrance to this beloved village cat, people of Din-si painted colorful murals taken from Xiaomi’s picture storybook all over the community with the help they received from the Rural Regeneration Program implemented by the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau (SWCB) of COA. The murals depict Xiaomi either relaxing lazily, or chasing butterflies, or waiting patiently by a hole. There are even little cat angels, and the “Cat On The Roof” Park which was created solely by community members reclaiming a patch of vacant land in the community. Walking around Ding-si is like walking into a giant picture storybook, where fun and amusement is around every corner. With the sharing and recommendations of the internet community, the Ding-si Community has become a new tourist attraction in rural travel site of Taiwan.
The President of Ding-si Community Development Association Su Kun-fu stated that the average number of tourists during weekdays is around 700 per day, and on holidays the number is 1,500, while during Chinese New Year holidays the number climbs to 20,000 per day. One may wonder why a couple of internet pictures can generate such a powerful attraction. There are street cats wandering around our neighborhood every day; how is it that no one ever pays a little bit of attention to them? The Ding-si Community brilliantly employed Xiaomi’s character. Visitors find themselves exploring the community from a cat’s point of view by seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling like a cat. Thanks of Xiaomi we too can examine communities from a whole new perspective. By following Xiaomi, we came to Ding-si Community and saw the memories and dreams of the villagers while witnessing the growth and development of the village. Visitors to this community will undoubtedly perceive the simplest, truest yet tenderest of emotions.
2. Creating unforgettable rural gastronomic experiences by blending rural elements into countryside feasts
The “Dinner Table in the Paddy Field” Project by the Love2fruit Team, departed from gourmet gastronomy to redefine food, as well as the relationship between rural villages and people. In the process, the team continues to venture deeper into unknown countryside and records Taiwan’s rural villages and agro-products on the way. The goal is to help farmers develop commercially marketable agricultural production by using alternative approach. （ https://play.niceday.tw/supplier/5 ）
The team believes that the best service industry branch which is capable of elevating added-value to the highest point for agriculture is “gastronomy”. Since gastronomy is the best medium to easily attract consumers to visit rural villages, it is easily accepted by consumers. The Love2fruit Team enters rural communities from a different angle by blending in elements like art and nature, which raise the overall value of rural villages. This enables villages to sell products at a higher price, which in turn would make consumers appreciate more the resources and environment of rural villages in Taiwan.
The “Dinner Table in the Paddy Field” Project is the best testament to experiential rural community industry. The Love2fruit Team has created meaningful high-value experiences and dishes by turning mundane agricultural environments, tools and food ingredients through integrated packaging. Furthermore, it purposefully arranged for the whole world to see more possibilities to experience rural life with the help of internet power. The project optimized the creative development of the rural village experience and the concept of mobile dinner table, which will result in consumers positively recognizing local ingredients while creating alternative business opportunities for small farmers.
III. Travel rural villages through smart integration
1. Creative travel planning from rural villages’ point of view
The SWCB published a series of 3 rural travel books in cooperation with NewHomeland Foundation in March, 2014. Different from conventional travel arrangements, the books Travel with the Butterflies, Travel along the River, and Travel with the Sea Wind offer unique travel experiences in the Changhwa, Nantou, Yunlin, and Chiayi areas. The rural villages in Taiwan offer breathtaking natural sceneries from mountain forests to grasslands and from grasslands to seashores. The diverse activities in rural experience tours may include hot springs bathing, cycling, hiking, fruit picking, flower watching, butterfly watching, water activities, among others. There are even seasonal packages such as enjoying flowers and fruits in spring, refreshing water activities in summer, tea tasting and maple leaf watching in autumn, and hot spring bathing in winter.
In the SWC Bureau’s The Beauty of Rural Villages website, the option “Traveling in rural villages”（http://rural.swcb.gov.tw/Travel） has singled out 5 main themes for Rural Experience Tours packages based on characteristic community resources of the villages that are participating in the Rural Regeneration Program, namely Butterfly Watching, Flower Watching, Hot Spring Bathing, Fruit Picking, and Water Activities. There are 143 rural tour routes in all of Taiwan that invite all visitors to savor the most authentic, the most natural, and the safest rural village delicacies. Visitors are also encouraged to feel the friendliest and the simplest affection these rural villages have to offer. So why not pay a visit to rid all the everyday stress and pressure for your body and soul?
2. The best real-time rural activity platform in Taiwan built by local journalists
In order to offer the most accurate real-time information on rural experience events from all villages nationwide, the SWCB of COA started to train local village journalists from 2015. So far 6 training courses have been organized where 289 journalists have completed the courses. The goal is to build the most immediate rural event information platform in Taiwan through real-time articles published by said journalists and constant information update on “The Beauty of Rural Villages” website （http://rural.swcb.gov.tw） as well as on “Bravo! Rural Village” Facebook fan page. From June to August 2015, there has already been 88 media exposures on summer rural events, reaching to approximately 190,000 readers.
3. Improved version of the “Bravo! Rural Villages” APP will be available for download soon
After 5 years of improvements under the Rural Regeneration Program, many villages in Taiwan are slowly but steadily changing for the best. Some locations in many of these villages have even become what the internet users like to call “one’s own private spot”. Most of these locations are not as glamorous as major tourist attractions in the country, but they offer deeper simplistic beauty and cultural emotion. In order to accommodate mobile device users and to keep up with the “smart device” trend, the “Bravo! Rural Village” APP software will be available soon for download at the end of 2015. The goal of this APP is to create smart interactive travel by combining virtual reality with social media through technology. Furthermore, a new innovative form of interactive experience in smart rural village tour would also be available to the public: AR (Augmented Reality) postcards, which creates an infinite extension of virtual reality.
4. Promotion of the rural village experience through information sharing and strategic alliances
In order to attract more visitors, the SWCB joined forces with Garmin, a leading GPS brand in Taiwan, since 2014 to work on a joint project. First a group of interest spots from communities participating in the regeneration program were carefully selected, then the information of these spots were incorporated into the “Bravo! Rural Village” electronic travel book published jointly by the SWCB and Garmin on its GPS system in December 2014. The system helps users to easily find spots of interest in rural villages anywhere in the country.
Garmin’s “Bravo! Rural Village” electronic travel book (http://Garmin.com.tw/richpoi) includes different categories of interest spot information such as “Short Agro-tours”, “Beautiful Agro-stories”, “Feature Agro-experience”, “Rural Village Info”, among others. It also incorporates secret spots that only a local would know, and it even contains a little history about the development of rural communities as well as information on local feature products and local personalities. Of course, staple information for traveling such as accommodation, dinning, parking, and tourist information offices are also in the system. Visitors who love to explore beautiful corners in Taiwan and feel the different wonders of rural villages would never be lost in their way again with the help of Garmin’s “Bravo! Rural Village” electronic travel book.
IV. Regeneration of rural village elements by using creativity to elevate the value of the rural village experience
Brand new experiences can be created from traditional rural village elements with creative and out-of-the-box thinking. In a near future, rural tours may be the most promising and full-of-potential segment in domestic travel. You are cordially invited to experience the rural villages’ diverse aspects and enjoyments. You can savor the most authentic, the most natural, and the safest rural village delicacies. We encourage you to feel the friendliest and the simplest affection these rural villages have to offer. So why not pay a visit to rid all the everyday stress and pressure for your body and soul?
The Mr. Brown Avenue in Chihshang Township, Taitung County is a perfect illustration of how one simple countryside road can be transformed into a tourist hot spot that inspires the most natural of emotions. The future of rural village experience lies in the hands of every single one of us. Only with creativity and dedication can we assure the continuity of such beautiful places. The entrance application deadline for the 2015 edition of Rural Village Writing Competition and Rural Village Transformation Film Competition organized by the SWCB’s The Beauty of Rural Villages website is at the end of October. (For details of participation, please visit the following websites: http://rural.swcb.gov.tw/Event/ and http://rural.swcb.gov.tw/Video/). Your participation in the discovery of rural travel resources and the marketing of the rural experience is highly appreciated.
Through the Rural Regeneration Program implemented by the SWCB, the Ding-si Community extended the beloved cat Xiaomi’s picture storybook to every corner in the community.
The SWCB counseled Yunlin Citong Farmers’ Association to promote local agro-products through the organization of “Dinner Table in the Paddy Fields” events.
The “Dinner Table in the Vineyards” event at the Yung-feng Community in Taichung./p>
Traveling with the Butterflies – Nantou County’s Nan-feng Community in Renai Township retains a rich Seediq culture and butterfly ecology.
Example of AR (Augmented Reality) postcards
Promotion of the rural village experience through information sharing and strategic alliances – the SWCB and Garmin jointly publish the “Bravo! Rural Village” electronic travel book.
2015 Rural Village Transformation Film Competition
Traveling with the Butterflies –Nantou County’s Nan-feng Community in Renai Township retains a rich Seediq culture and butterfly ecology.