The third weekend in october I was on a trip, which was organised by the nice students of the NTU International Student Association. The destination was the Alishan, a mountain in central Taiwan, which is famous for its sunsets and sunrises.
Our trip started quite early at 7 a.m. on Saturday with around 20 other international students and the people of NTU ISIE. The first signs that this trip could get a little bit special appeared shortly after we boarded the bus. We were reminded, that we should think about taking some car sick pills because it will be curvy ride. After around 4 hours in our fancy bus (it had floral and lace curtains and was basically very colourful) during the most of the time I slept, we reached our first stop of the day — the traditional village of the Tsou tribe. Even though it was one of those typical tourist attraction the lunch we had there was quite good and the performance of a traditional dance quite entertaining.
After the performance we continued our drive further up the mountain, but of course first we needed to be reminded by Chinese tour guide that we should take our car sick pills. Actually that is not completely true. Our Chinese tour guide shouted something, full of excitement, in Chinese in the microphone and somebody of ISIE translated it afterwards.
Around two hours later we arrived at our destination Alishan and checked into our quite decent hotel. Like I mentioned Alishan is famous for its beautiful sunsets and sunrises. This is because you have a magnificent view over the landscape and you are usually looking down to a sea of clouds. Of course it was the plan to watch the sunset from good viewing point so we got the information from our Chinese tour guide that we gather at 5.30 to go to one, our inquires to leave earlier because the sunset was supposed to be at 5.25 weren’t taken serious. This ended that we watched the sunset from the hotel because we were obviously too late for the viewing point, which was still pretty nice though. After a nice dinner and a couple of beers we went to bed and set our alarm clocks to 4 am to watch the sunrise.
After definitely not enough sleep we gathered to get to a beautiful place to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, there was a huge problem in communication about that. But first things first. We got again on small buses and drove further into the mountains and stopped at some random places. We were a little bit confused and told the driver to finally drive to the actual spot. So he finally after some discussions did that. Arrived at the particular spot, we somehow realised that there is a misconception between watching the sunrise as European and as Chinese / Taiwanese. Because the spot lied not on the top of a mountain but rather on the half way to the top, which isn’t perfect if you want to see the actual sunrise.
Because you only can see the solar disk popping up over the mountain while its actually already quite hell. For Europeans it’s about the whole process from the dark to the actual sunrise, while for Chinese / Taiwanese watching the sun rise means only the actual moment when the sun appears over the horizon or mountain, so they really like this place. So most of us were a little bit disappointed, because the sunrise wasn’t as expected and in combination with being really tired this led to some bad atmosphere in the group. Of course I was also a little disappointed but I actually enjoyed to watch all the Chinese / Taiwanese freak out about the sunset. After a little breakfast and before we had to make our way back to Taipei we did a small walk through the beautiful surrounding forestry area.
The stops on our way back were kind of “special”. First we stopped at a mountain village (Fenqihu) for 1.5h, which is famous for its lunchboxes (eating is like the favourite thing for Taiwanese), to have one of these lunchboxes. Besides the quite nice lunchboxes the mountain village isn’t exciting because it is just a place with a lot of shops and indeed really touristy, so we didn’t understand why we were staying there for such a long time.
But this was nothing against our next stop, a Japanese village in changi. This place was literally one of the funniest places I have ever been. The Japanese village just consists of a couple of small houses in Japanese style architecture and those houses are basically all souvenir shops. So they literally just built some houses in this style, filled them with souvenir shops and called it sight. And boy was it packed with people, which were really excited about it. As it would haven’t been hilarious enough, there were maps which showed one day routes through this football field sized village! After this great place, we went straight back to Taipei.
On the way I recapped the past two days. At first I was a bit disappointed, because it was definitely different than what I had expected and I couldn’t enjoy the sun set and sun rise as I would have wanted. But instead of blaming somebody for not fulfilling my expectations, I rather stick the finger to myself. Because the students, who organised it, planned it in a way they thought it would be most enjoyable. Its not their or anybody’s fault that the plans differed from MY expectations. With that in my mind, the conclusion of the trip is definitely positive, not only because I still saw some really beautiful and /or weird places, but I also learnt a lot about cultural travel differences and that interpretation of activities may vary a lot between cultures. So in the end, I received more that I could have expected, I experienced how Taiwanese / Chinese people like to travel, what they usually visit and enjoy and what it means to be a Chinese tourist. After this trip I’m rather asking myself, how young Taiwanese people think about western travel style and they probably think that we are excited about weird stuff…
Next week: Hong Kong Madness!