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    Food, adventure and a rich heritage are just some of the things you can experience back home, says Charles Li.

    HARLES LI takes great delight in informing me that Tsai Ing-wen, who will become Taiwan’s first female president today, is highly educated (she earned a PhD in Law at the London School of Economics), single and drives a Mini Cooper. Plus, highlighting a growing trend in the island nation, where many women have reached powerful positions on their own, she does not have a political family. We are at the Hyatt Regency on a Sunday afternoon, where Li and his enterprising wife, Esther Wu, both in matching straw fedoras and linen, bring me up to speed on Taiwanese politics. After all, they are at the hotel to curate a food festival with the celebrated Chef Sung Chiung-Hung from Taipei that will coincide with the inauguration of the 14th President of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The opening ceremony at the lounge will therefore include a celebratory dance performance by two ‘Third Princes’ (traditional Taiwanese folk characters with a weakness for lollipops, I’m told). Dinner will include treats that are reminiscent of Taiwan’s night markets (see preview on P9).
    Getting us acquainted with the food, culture and entrepreneurial spirit of Taiwan is part of the job as Director General of Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in Chennai. It is a post Li has held for nine months now, since moving here from Jakarta. Though their numbers are modest (Chennai has about 100 Taiwanese), most head companies that manufacture sports shoes, automobile parts and such. In love with our blinding heat and vibrant colours, the couple tell me that they are enjoying everything, from roof top gardening in Mandavelli to haggling for fish at the Marina beach. Li ’s ‘get to know Taiwan’ mission will include promotions for tourism, food, fashion and cinema. But for now, we must raise a toast to his new president and to girl power!

    Fashion and buns
    In Taiwan, functional and eco-friendly fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles are fashioned into jerseys, as seen on the field at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. They are an example, Li says, of their progress in smart clothing. While Taiwan, one of Asia’s big traders, is  known for its computer technology, Li and his counterparts are keen to help their farmers explore global advances in sustainable agriculture. As for other initiatives here, he is organising a film festival at the Russian Cultural Centre later this month. And he hopes to encourage more South Indians to visit Taiwan, to sample the night markets and food there. ‘‘Don’t miss the Ban Tiao noodles and Wu Pao Chun’s bakery. His first creation, the longan and walnut bun,is my favourite,’’ he says.

    — Rosella Stephen

     

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