A Valuable Experience of Receiving Muslim Travelers during Ramadan

Sitting around a small coffee table, we were listening to Felix from Indonesia sharing the culture of Islamic Ramadan with us. The Ramadan is a once-a-year event significant to the Muslims. They are not allowed to eat and drink until the sun has set. The Muslims sympathize with the struggle of the hungry through the Ramadan and at the same time learn to keep their own desire under control. According to Felix, during the time of the Ramadan in Indonesia, a volunteer who is in charge of the “morning call” will shout on the street for everyone to wake up in the early morning so that they can get something to eat before the sun rises. This way, people won’t starve and have the energy to work during the day.

The sharing makes us think of that we had arranged a tour for a Muslim family from Indonesia during the Ramadan in Taiwan before. The experience was very impressive and valuable, which let us learn a lot about how to receive Muslim visitors well.

Janice’s family are Chinese Indonesians. They were the first group of guests that Allan received when he was first starting up as a travel consultant. It was also the case that impressed Allan the most; you can call it his masterpiece.

That year, Janice’s family scheduled a trip to Taiwan in the end of July and wanted to visit Kinmen County. The family had some special requests: they wanted to live in a five-star apartment hotel, they were very specific about the choice of car, and Janice also emphasized that the activities that included sunshine and sweat should be as little as possible. “I guessed the guests would like to have a luxury vacation at that time. I was challenged because apartment hotels were not that common when they traveled out of Taipei” Allan’s memory was still vivid.

From the guests’ dietary of not eating pork and drinking alcohol, Allan deduced that Janice’s family should be Muslims. With further research, he found out that during the time of their visit in Taiwan, it was the Ramadan. A thought struck Allan: all of Janice’s requests made sense! Staying in an apartment hotel was for the convenience of preparing and consuming some food before the sun came up. Reducing the outdoor activities and avoiding sunshine was for the purpose of not dehydrating too quickly. After all, during the Ramadan, even drinking water is forbidden.

“Since there are so many restrictions during the Ramadan, then why do you choose to travel in this month?” Allan asked Janice curiously. It was because that the family members lived on different continents. Janice’s siblings were studying in England, America, and Singapore separately, while her parents lived in Indonesia. The family seized the chance of summer vacation, eliminated all the obstacles, and chose to have a reunion in Taiwan. This showed their strong and inseparable bond. Among all the family members, the oldest sister, Jessica, was the latest to arrive in Taiwan. Their father, David, specifically asked the guide to take the whole family to the airport to welcome Jessica. It was not hard to see how much they were eager to see each other.

Actually, the relationship between Janice’s family and Taiwan goes way back. Janice’s father, David, used to study in Chung Yuan Christian University in Taoyuan city and couldn’t forget the taste of Taiwanese cuisines since then. That time visiting Taiwan, he hoped that he could show his children his Alma Mater. Even though the schedule and the roads that they took were rough, their driver guide, Taddy Zheng, did everything he could to make their wish came true. He drove for nearly two hours to Chung Yuan Christian University so that Janice’s father could revisit his glorious time in Taiwan as a young man.

For the Ramadan, the guide, Taddy, made many sweet gestures. In addition to providing parasol for the guests to hide from the sun, he also avoided eating in front of them. All the details indicated that Taddy respected their culture. Besides, Taddy also prepared boxes of sliced fruit in the container so that the family could eat some juicy fruit as soon as the sun had set. When the sun was about to rest, Taddy could hear some noise in the back seat while driving because after a long day of traveling around, everyone was starving. They all grabbed a box of fruit from the container and were ready to dig in. The father counted down with his watch. As the number zero was announced, everyone started to eat without further delay. Seeing the guests eating with their hearts’ content, Taddy felt satisfied as well.

Fortunately, when the family arrived in Kinmen, the Ramadan had ended; thus, they could relax and enjoy all the mouth-watering food there.

Taddy had never been to Kinmen, so before the family arrived, he took his parents and wife there to familiarize himself with the place and to gather all the information about the restaurants. This way, when the guests came to Kinmen, they could taste the food that was not only delicious, but also was allowed by the Islamic law. Taddy’s professional attitude was worthy learning. Therefore, every cuisine that Taddy recommended, no matter it was the beef noodle or the oyster vermicelli, the family relished with absolutely no worries.

Kinmen is the famous home town of the overseas Chinese. In the earlier period, many people from Kinmen emigrated to make a living. Most of them relocated in the Southeast Asian countries. Many emigrants worked really hard to earn enough money to send home for the local construction, but they never set a foot on to the already unfamiliar hometown. As an overseas Chinese family, there must be a sentimental reason for them to choose to visit Kinmen. The family visited the most classic building in the Shuitou Communities: the De-Yue Building. The magnificent building happened to be exhibiting the dress and food from Southeast Asia. I wondered if the family felt that they belonged to this land. “Many visitors who come to Taiwan have a deep connection with this land,” said Allan. Being able to bring alive the connection was one of the most valuable things that Allan could do.

Allan also went to meet the guests while they were still in Taiwan. The family gave Allan a “Batik” which they brought to Taiwan all the way from Indonesia. This kind of colorful shirt was the dress that represented Indonesia. It possessed the characteristics of their people and was also a precious gift for the Indonesians.

It was well-expressed that the family was very satisfied with their trip in Taiwan. Through the experience of receiving Janice’s family, Allan realizes that every request has its own reason. The travel consultant needs to get to know the guests actively and raises questions whenever needed so that s/he won’t misjudge the guests due to his/her one-sided opinion. For Allan, this trip is an intercultural communication that creates a meaning for his career that can never be reproduced.

Count on me! How We Deal with A Last Minute Booking

Pierre and Francoise was a lovely couple from France who liked to visit the nature and get in touch with people. And like most of the travelers from France, they were willing to taste all types of cuisines. Visiting some friends in Taipei, Pierre planned their first trip in Taiwan which lasted three weeks. They spend their first few days in Taiwan catching up with their friends. The hue of their friendship did not fade due to the distance, but became more colorful through the past of time. Afterwards, they wanted to seize the chance to explore Taiwan and would also like to take some days to relax and to travel freely. As a result, Pierre contacted Topology Travel.

Receiving the request letter from Pierre and understanding their needs, we designed a 9-day exclusive trip around the island for them. For the accommodation, we did our best to find them B&Bs because they wanted to interact more with the locals. Furthermore, in the hope that the trip can be more satisfying, we assigned them Spencer, a foodie tour guide, who knew a lot about local cuisines according to their taste.

Cheers with Taiwan Beer!

In these 9 days, Pierre and Francoise visited almost every city in Taiwan. They saw the production of dried persimmon for the first time in Shinchi, made a souvenir using the natural indigo blue dye in Miaoli, rubbed tea leaves with their own hands in Puli, enjoyed a boat ride in Sun Moon Lake, experienced the mountain train in Alishan, taste all sorts of local snacks in Tainan, and roamed along the Baishawan Beach which appeared in the movie, Life of Pi, in Kenting.

In addition, the view on the east coast where the sea meets the sky and the magnificent scenery in Taroko were also hard for them to forget. They also stayed in different types of B&Bs in Taiwan, including the farm type, the aboriginal type, the hybrid of tradition and modernity, the one with incredible view of the ocean, and the one with hot spring that allowed them to relax completely. All of which occupied a special place inside Pierre and Francoise’s memory.

In the end of the trip, Pierre suddenly told the guide Spencer that they had a few more free and easy days in Taiwan and wanted to find a place with beach where they can stay and have fun. They were wondering if Topology Travel could help them with arranging transportation and accommodation. Originally, Pierre and Francoise were thinking about Penghu or Lanyu, but these islands were not perfect for traveling at the time of their visiting which was in November. Hence, we provided an alternative option—Lamay Island, or commonly known as Xiaoliuqiu. After researching the information about Lamay Island, the couple quickly agreed with our choice because it was a perfect place for their interest.

Since the couple decided to go there alone, we were worried that there might be some communication issue. After contacting many B&Bs, we finally picked a great bed and breakfast that provided English service with a walking distance to the beach. What comes next was transportation. They would need to take the high-speed rail from Taipei to Kaohsiung, transfer to a shuttle bus that would take them to the port, and head to the island by boat. For the ride from the train station to the port, the considerate Spencer said that his brother was in Kaohsiung and offered to help with the transfer. This allowed the last-minute booking to go smoothly. At the same time, we called the B&B to see if they could send someone to pick the couple up at the port in case that they couldn’t find the way to the B&B.

The main transportation in Lamay Island is motorcycle, and considering this, we rent an e-bike for the elder couple so that they could enjoy their trip on the island with ease. During those 4 days in Lamay Island, Pierre and Francoise enjoyed their beach time heartily. Their trip in Taiwan ended with a skin diving with the Green Sea Turtle in the gorgeous sea.

Going back to France, Pierre wrote a letter to thank us for everything. He enjoyed everything on the schedule, including the scenic spots, activities, and accommodation. Above all, Taiwanese people’s warmth and passion made the greatest impression on them. The only thing that he was a little upset about was that the guide knew so much good food that he gained a few pounds during this trip!

The customer’s feedback about their great time in Taiwan is always the best and most satisfying compliment for Topology Travel!

Acts of Altruism – How an American couple brought their Asian daughters to Taiwan to experience the Taiwanese culture

Two weeks before arriving in Taiwan, Jennifer and her husband, who were from the United States, contacted Travel Consultant Amy to ask her to plan an itinerary for them and their six- and seven-year-old daughters. What struck out the most to Amy was Jennifer’s insistance on participating in the “Live as Local Sweet Potato Mama Volunteer Project,” and so of course she gladly helped to arrange that for them. On the day of the project, the eagerness with which the entire family had in selling the sweet potatoes made Amy realize that this was the main reason for their trip to Taiwan this time.

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Feedback after Joining "My Homeless Tour Guide".

HOMELESS

Dirty, alcoholic, smoker, begger, social issue, lazy, it is their choice … ect.

I’m Jeweanne, from Malaysia, one of the participants of this walking tour. The words above were my previous stereotypes towards the homeless. I use to hold onto the belief of “Where there is a way, there is a will.” It wasn’t until this tour that I realized this might not be always true. These guides I met worked extremely hard and yet weren’t able to escape from the homeless life for a long time. After joining this tour, I became much more appreciative of what I have and who I am right now. I started to love myself and the world more and more day by day.

Throughout this walking tour, I got to know more about their daily living. Their lifestyle really opened my eyes, although sometimes it made me very sorry and sad. I also did a lot of self-reflecting. I tried putting myself in their shoes and imagined, with my limited knowledge, opportunities and network, what I can do? A big obstacle is society’s ingrained discrimination towards the homeless. My emotion went up and down during this walking tour. Frankly speaking, if you do not imagine yourself as them during this walking tour, this perhaps will be just an interesting homeless story for you, but if you do, you will not only learn from the tour guide but also a lot about yourself.

It was quite an interesting and impactful walking tour for me throughout my travel journey in Taiwan. Before joining My Homeless Tour Guide, try to think about these few questions:

1. What do you think about yourself?

2. What do you think about your life right now?

3. What do you think about them, the homeless? Is it their choice to become a homeless, wandering on the streets, begging for something … or…

So give them a chance to be your tour guide to eliminate the stereotypes between you and them, and to see homelessness in a different angle. Let them tell you their stories, it will surely make an impact on your life. You’re indirectly helping them to build up their confidence and career, letting them escape from being homeless.

Sometimes, learning not to discriminate is more powerful than simply giving money.

Book the Tour Right Now: My Homeless Tour Guide

[Jeweanne’s Facebook sharing]

今天,參與了一項很有意義的活動,

這活動是由台灣的一個NGO 和街友們合作的一個項目,讓街友們當導遊,從他們的角度,認識不一樣的台灣,從而讓這些街遊有額外的收入。

參與這次的項目,也讓我改變了我對街友以往錯誤的看法。

“有手有腳,我就不相信還需要在路邊乞討,路邊睡覺,做工去啊!”

“有志者,事竟成啊!”

這些話,說得簡單,好像很對!

有志者… … 事竟成… …

呵~ 也沒想過了,誰讓我們有志了?誰又讓我們成了?

自以為了不起的說了這番話!

我生長在一個美好的環境里,雖然不是大富大貴,可是我有一群愛我的家人、親戚、朋友。不愁吃,不愁穿,只愁著下學期考什麼,下個暑假怎麼玩,我相信這也就是大部分,或身旁的人所擁有的一個福報 …

知識讓我們有志;家人朋友讓我成,如果沒有知識;沒有家人和朋友,告訴我你要怎樣有志要怎麼成呢?

當你說當個學生考試很愁,上班OT很愁… …你愁個屁啊?!

至少你有機會唸書,至少你還有份工作!

卜派,是今天街遊的導遊。

從小就是個孤兒,沒有一個所謂真正的家,朋友也是一群街友。

還沒和這個NGO 合作時,因為有限的知識/能力/人際關係,局限了他能工作的範圍,在加上社會歧視的眼光,也讓他找不了好收入的工作。

就這樣,找工也找了20幾年,就專門接一些零零碎碎的工,搬磚頭,舉牌子… 賺下來的工錢也可能填不飽肚子,就別談什麼租房子了~

為了活下去,也必須打聽附近,什麼廟什麼教會,幾時幾點,會有什麼免費餐吃, 把肚子填飽了,才可以繼續找工,賺錢… …

目的其實很簡單:活著。

昨天是他的母難日,可自己的母親是誰也不知道,約了朋友,可是被放鴿子。

40多年沒有慶祝過什麼生日,新年沒有家人陪伴,可以拿到的唯一紅包就是新年時,在廟前排隊,廟裡的人派的平安祈福紅包。

今天,經過一家麵包店,想說回來的時候,買一個小蛋糕幫他慶祝的,我還想好了要怎麼編排,怎麼出現勒!argh…可是,回去是沒經過那家店,又怕迷路,所以必須跟著大隊走去附近捷運,所以~….

不過,還好,最後,我們都唱了一首生日歌給他,才開口,他就馬上哭了~

從來沒聽過這麼好聽的歌,因為沒慶祝過,所以沒聽過。

就怎麼微不足道,小小的一個開口之勞,竟然可以讓一個人那麼的激動?!

我還每天碎碎唸很委屈的樣子提醒我媽,去年沒有吃到生日麵線(-.-” 其實是因為人在大學啦!哈~)。

#我很幸福 #我知道 #我真的真的真的很幸福 #我才剛知道

#謝謝身旁的人事物 #感恩感激 #感恩我活著 #感恩你們還活著

#有頭髮誰要當秃子

#stopjudging #StopDiscriminationAgainsttheHomeless

#jeweanne #jeweanneintaiwan

Beijing Opera Makeup Session – A Novel Taiwanese Cultural Experience

“Dressing up in a kimono and hanbok are often highlights for tourists visiting Japan and Korea. In Taiwan, Topology Travel also offers the Beijing Opera Makeup Session to provide foreign visitors with an authentic Chinese experience.”

On a beautiful sunny morning, boxes after boxes of large black cases were loaded into the office of Topology Travel, signifying that a sumptuous costume party was about to begin.

Beijing Opera makeup teacher, Mr. Yu Shan Qian, opened up the professional makeup case, and attentively arranged the various tools as if preparing for a solumn ceremony. Just like the cartoon of Doraemon pushing open the Anywhere Door, the lighting of the makeup mirror instantly transformed the office into the backstage of a Beijing Opera performance. With Teacher Qian’s magical hands, three American girls were going to convert into the leading female characters of the Beijing Opera.

Just two days ago, the three lovely sisters had enjoyed a sonorous show of Beijing Opera at the TaipeiEYE, where they danced alongside the performance’s exciting plotline. They were extremely thrilled in anticipation of becoming the classical characters of Beijing Opera.

With all the materials ready, layers of white and red powder were laid on the girls’ faces. Their innocent faces gradually matured into expressive, womanly complexions, such that one would have trouble believing they were in fact only teenagers.

With application of the makeup, interestingly, the girls also became more quiet and bashful. Even their breathing grew more careful, as if they were actresses trying to calm their nerves before going on stage. As Teacher Qian applied black eyeliner around the contours of their eyes, the girls’ eyes seemed to sparkle, adding to the charming essence that was found in all Beijing Opera female characters.

Afterwards came the elaborate process of hairstyling. Professional hairstyling required that a cloth first be used to secure the hair near the forehead, in order to accentuate the vividness of the eyes and create an animated expression. Teacher Qian took out what looked like kelp from his treasure chest. This was made from sap that was hand extracted from elm trees, which was used as hairspray in the past. Not only did it create a particular hairline, this was natural and didn’t hurt the scalp, no wonder people praised the ancient people’s wisdom to use it.

Teacher Qian paid much attention to forming the hair’s various angles, so that the girls’ hairstyles appeared elegant but natural. He even designated different roles based on their personalities. The oldest sister, donning a glimmering coronet, became the grand Yang Guifei. The middle sister, displaying a hairstyle from the Qing Dynasty and wearing a shoe last mould that made her look like she had bound feet, was a graceful princess. With a distinct fabric hanging down her waist, the youngest sister appeared to embody a mischievous handmaiden. Under Teacher Qian’s conscientious care, everyone showed off their particular personalities.

Lastly, the red lipstick final touches could not be forgotten.

The time-consuming and labour-intensive Beijing Opera makeup and costume session is precisely a cultural journey. With every step one could sense the profound and unique charm of Beijing Opera.

Stacey, the mother of the girls, happily proclaimed that although the girls had previously shown interest in Beijing Opera, this makeup session was an eye-opening experience that would definitely be the highlight of their trip. Watching the girls merrily pose for photos that would surely become memorable for a lifetime, one couldn’t help but think that this fascinating experience could perhaps cultivate a budding interest for the performing arts.

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