The "Spend a Night in the Presidential Office" project has concluded with a visit by Polish food and travel bloggers -- Lukasz Smolinski and Natalia Sitarska.
The project was organized jointly by the General Association of Chinese Culture (GACC), the Tourism Bureau and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Applications were opened in August, with 10 sets of winners from 167 pairs of applicants from 33 countries selected to have a free overnight stay each week from October in a guest room inside the Presidential Office compound.
"Promoting Taiwan's visibility in the world should be continued," GACC media and communication department supervisor Evangeline Tang said. Tang said all the participants were impressed with Taiwan's diverse culture, beautiful environment, tasty food, and friendly people, as seen in videos and materials they produced on social platforms when they returned home.
The 10 pairs included Nuseir Yassin and Alyne Tamir of Nas Daily, a Facebook fan page that has over 14 million followers, and deaf empowerment advocates Calvin Young and Sabrina Walker, as well as other Internet celebrities from Thailand, Japan, Korea, Hungary, India, and France.
On Dec. 16, Lukasz Smolinski and Natalia Sitarska, the last pair of participants, spent their night in the Presidential Office building. "The room was really nice, very bright, so it was nice to have so many windows and we spent a nice time there," said Sitarska.
The couple, who manage one of Poland's top 20 food and travel blogs "Tasteaway," first noticed Taiwan when they tried a cup of pearl milk tea during a Southeast Asian trip in 2011. Upon finding out that the drink originated in Taiwan, they contacted suppliers from Taiwan and opened the first pearl milk tea shop in Poland, Smolinski recalled.
But it was not until 2018 that they finally had a chance to visit Taiwan, and now it's their second visit."Most of the people in our generation have bad memories from a young age because our parents pushed us to drink tea with milk, and we didn't like it," said Smolinski, who is in his late 30s.
"So it was a strange feeling when we started drinking tea with milk and tapioca balls in it and having fun," he said when recalling how he fell in love with pearl milk tea. On reactions of other participants, Thai vloggers Kanisorn Pringthongfoo and Varaporn Rasmeekajorndej said they were impressed by the wall-less Presidential Building compound, saying it reflects the openness of Taiwan's government.
Canadian vloggers Lukas Martin and Sabrina Davidson said Taiwan is an "ultimate travel destination" because of its mountains and beaches, affordable and high-end foods, friendly people and vibrant culture.
Yassin, who had a chance to meet President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), described her as a "human first, president second," and was impressed with Taiwan's efforts to promote gender equality, evidenced in the legalization of same-sex marriage.