Friendship that Sails across the Ocean of Generation

One afternoon, we received a box that was addressed to Logan, one of our tour guides. Upon opening it, we saw a huge stack of children’s books and picture books. Looking at the sender’s name, I did a good search in my mind and located the name of Pin Yoon, one of our clients who had just finished her trip and went back to Singapore.


The physical conditions cannot stop our guests from desiring to visit Taiwan again

Pin Yoon and her brother brought their over 90 years old parents to Taiwan. Although they both had trouble standing or walking for too long and had to rely on wheelchairs for moving, they still had a great time exploring the island. The grandpa was so excited the day before the trip that he couldn’t even sleep!

As Pin Yoon’s travel consultant, Nana took all the elderly’s special requirements into account. She mentioned that one of the key things about planning was for the elderly to return to the hotel room early every day for some rest. In addition, Pin Yoon also emphasized that showers are more preferable than the bathtubs in case their parents accidentally slipped while getting out the tub. Pin Yoon’s sweetness made a great impression on Nana.

Although it is a last-minute arrangement, we are willing to assist to make the clients more comfortable

Nana also remembered that; at first, Pin Yoon only requested for one wheelchair, and the parents could take turn using it. However, after getting in touch with the clients and assessing their physical strength, she figured that two wheelchairs would make the trip much easier. Therefore, she arranged another wheelchair right away and had it send to the clients’ next destination. “This last-minute arrangement came with extra cost, but in order to make the clients more comfortable and at home, we are willing to assist,” Nana said.

 

Accessible tour has its limitation but we believe the point is to create valuable memories together

Logan, who was the guide for the family, was also touched during the trip. “I admire and respect both the siblings who were willing to take their aged parents on a trip and the parents who, despite their physical condition, still willing to follow their children out for some fun. Plus, the fact that they chose Taiwan as their destination made everything more meaningful to me! I considered myself as a very critical role in this trip and felt super responsible to take good care of the family.” Even though accessible tour has its limitation, we believe that the point is for the clients to be with their family and create valuable memories together.


Clients visited Sun Moon Lake where the old couples once did on their honey moon many many years ago.

Logan walked with the clients beside the Sun Moon Lake where the old couples once did on their honey moon many many years ago. He watched the children took their parents’ hands down the road slowly and one step at a time. He said emotionally, “My wife and I met each other while I was leading a tour. Although a tour guide’s job means I can’t get back home everyday, the absence does make the heart grow fonder. I cherished my time with my wife and the children more. Watching the clients being there for each other reminded me that my own family has a wonderful future ahead and deserves to be treated with nothing but love.”

 


Logan’s family.

At every site, Logan helped with moving the wheelchairs and getting the parents in and out of the vehicle. His sincerity did not go unnoticed. Pin Yoon learned that Logan has two pre-schooled daughters. As a thank-you gift, She sent many children’s books they kept at home after going back to Singapore. This nice gesture from afar carries love and care from both sides and truly warms our hearts.

30代導遊與90代旅客   跨越世代的情誼

某日午後,公司收到了一箱寄給導遊Logan包裹。拆開來後,裡面是一疊厚厚的童書與繪本。看著寄件人的姓名,在腦海中搜尋了一番,想起了是參加完行程,剛回國的新加坡旅客Pin Yoon。

Pin Yoon和哥哥帶著超過90歲的雙親來台灣旅遊,兩位老人家無法久站與久走,多數時候必須仰賴輪椅移動。即便如此,仍不影響老人家們遊玩的興致,爺爺在出發前一天還開心得睡不著覺呢!

身為Pin Yoon的行程規劃師,Nana謹慎打點好長輩們的特殊需求。Nana說:「規劃的重點是要讓老人家每天下午能提早回飯店午休;此外,Pin Yoon特別強調,基於安全起見,飯店房間的衛浴,必須以淋浴設備為主,避免長輩使用浴缸時滑倒。」Pin Yoon對於父母親的貼心,讓Nana印象深刻。

Nana也回憶,原先Pin Yoon僅要求準備一輛輪椅,讓父母親輪流使用。但在實際接觸客人並評估他們的體力之後,發現使用兩輛輪椅會更有機動性,因此緊急將另一輛輪椅調度到旅客的下一個目的地。「這些臨時的安排雖然會產生額外的成本,但為了讓客人有更舒適的旅程,我們都願意來協助。」Nana表示。

同樣也深有感觸的是Logan,他是Pin Yoon一家人在台灣期間的導遊。Logan說:「不管是願意帶高齡父母出來旅遊的兄妹,或是即使身體有些不方便,仍願意跟兒女們出來玩的長輩,都讓我感到非常欽佩!加上他們又選擇台灣作為旅遊目的地,我就覺得更有意義了!認為自己扮演了一個關鍵的角色,有強烈的使命感要把客人的安全給照顧好。」 縱使無障礙旅遊的行程難免有所受限,但我們相信對客人來說,更重要的是能夠創造家人相處的時光。

Logan陪著客人走在多年前老父母蜜月時曾來過的日月潭,看著子女牽著爸媽的手慢慢地、慢慢地的走。他感性地說:「我跟我的太太是在我帶團時認識的,雖然導遊的工作必須經常外宿,但對我們來說就像是『小別勝新婚』,會讓我更珍惜回家後和太太以及孩子們相處在一起的時光。看著客人夫妻與子女間相互扶持,也像是在提醒著我,自己的家庭還有很長的路要走,要好好用心經營。」

每到一個景點,Logan會幫老父母搬運輪椅,並且扶他們上下車。他的真誠,Pin Yoon都看在眼裡。得知Logan有兩個還沒上幼稚園的女兒,Pin Yoon回國後,特地將家裡留下來的童書寄來台灣送給Logan,表達她對Logan的感謝。這一份遠方捎來的心意,蘊含著雙方誠摯的感情,讓人心頭暖暖地。

Recommended Itinerary for Trekking Lovers (8D7N Taiwan Itinerary)

Travelers are usually surprised by a fact: Taiwan has a total of 268 mountains thar are over 3,000 meters! In fact, over 50% of Taiwan is mountainous, so the island is a heaven for mountaineers! From low-altitude and flat trails to the highest mountain in northeast Asia, Jade Mountain (Yushan), no matter on which level you are, you will find a trail that delights you.

Last December, we organized a trekking trip for a lovely couple, Tracy and Chua. This was not the first time for Tracy and Chua to visit Taiwan, but most of their previous trips were for business or just based in Taipei. They hoped to explore the rest of Taiwan this time. Tracy is a BIG fan of National Geographic. She requested to have full-day trekking on the trails with nice scenery and also wanted to visit the beautiful tea plantation. Since they didn’t like place that were too touristy and crowded, they looked for trails that were a little bit off the beaten path. 

We adjusted the plan several times not only to make sure this 8D7N Taiwan itinerary was what Tracy wanted but also to minimize the time we spend on traffic. After the discussion, we finalized a plan fulfilling every aspect of their wish. The trekking routes we recommended cover high mountain grasslands, forests and gorges. The highlights include:

Tashan Trail at Alishan 【Duration: 5-6 hours (out-and-back)】

“Without climbing Tashan, one does not know the magnificence of Alishan (Ali Mountain).” The trail passes by a Taiwan cypress forest. And from the overpass visitors can see the Zhushan Line train winding by. The end of the trail is the summit of Tashan from where one can see the entire Ali Mountain Forest Recreation Area, the peaks of Jade Mountain and the ridge of the Central Mountain Range in the distance, and possibly a sea of constantly changing clouds.

Shuishan Trail at Alishan【Duration:1 hour (out-and-back)】

This is a new secret spot that travelers usually neglect. Walking on the trail is like entering a time tunnel in the forest, for you get to walk along the old Alishan Forest Railway and meet the thousand-year-old divine trees at the end of the trail.

Tea picking experience at tea plantation and tea ceremony in the bamboo forest【Duration: 2 hours】

Alishan is renowned for its high mountain tea; therefore, simply tasting the tea in a tea farm or factory is not enough. We would like to bring you to enjoy the tea ceremony in the peaceful bamboo forest! It is the best way to embrace the nature and relax your mind. After that, you will be taken to the tea terraces to learn how to pick the tea leaves.

Hiking above Cloud: Hehuan Main Peak and East Peak【Duration: Main Peak 2 hours (out-and-back) / East Peak: 2 hours (out-and-back)】

Despite its altitude of more than 3,000 meters, Mt. Hehuan has a road that goes right across it, forming a convenient access. The scenery changes with the seasons: blossoming wild flowers in spring, lush green in summer, bleak in autumn, and spread of snow in winter. Jade mountain rhododendrons prosper along the Hehuan East Peak Trail. In May and June, a sea of fuchsia blossoms makes the mountain colorful.

Zhuilu Old Road【Duration: 3-5 hours (out-and-back)】

Zhuilu Old Trail is one of the best trails at Taroko Gorge that you can’t miss. Not only are you able to see the magnificent cliff, but also to explore the historic path that tells the story of the early days when Taiwan was under the control of Japan.

Stay One Night at Choo Art Villa

Choo Are Villa is an ecological villa with only four rooms. In order not to damage the centuries-old tree, the designer integrated the trees into the building, giving the villa a unique interior view.

The Rough Schedule:

Day 1: Arrival / Transfer to Miaoli / Stay in Miaoli
Day 2: Head for Alishan / Half-day trekking at Alishan / Stay at Alishan
Day 3: Half-day trekking at Alishan / Tea picking experience and tea ceremony in the bamboo forest / Stay at Sun Moon Lake
Day 4: Trekking at Mt. Hehuan / Stay at Taroko Gorge
Day 5: Full-day trekking at Taroko Gorge / Stay at Taroko Gorge
Day 6: Half-day trekking at Taroko Gorge / Stay at Yilan
Day 7: Enjoy Hot Spring / Half free day on Taipei / Stay in Taipei
Day 8: Departure

Tracy and Chua’s Feedback:

Reliable, well-planned, thoughtful. All you can ask for in a customised visit, in terms of catering for what we wanted. They listened and delivered. Clint was our guide and made everything a Breeze and very enjoyable. Bonus were the many pictures he took for us!

Tracy and Chua were satisfied with the trip and hoped to conquer, Jade Mountain, Taiwan’s highest mountain as soon as possible. Tracy also mentioned that maybe next time she will ask her parents to come together. They can do some general sightseeing and walking tour while Tracy and her husband go trekking!

John Muir, an American author and environmental philosopher, once said: “the mountains are calling and I must go.” As Taiwan announces 2020 as the Year of the Mountain, we invite travelers who love mountain and trekking to explore the beauty of mountain with us!

 

Travel Back in Time—American Teacher Visiting the Land of Memory after 47 Years

Places that we have been to provide our lives with nutrients and connect with us in a way that is impossible to break. Tom Johnston, an American who taught in Hsinchu in the 1970s when he was 25 years old, visited Taiwan again with his daughter. Unexpectedly, this journey shed light on a story that has been forgotten for 47 years.

At first, Johnston simply told our travel consultant Vivi that he used to teach at National Hsinchu Senior High School and would really love to walk the Dongshan Street nearby again. Other than that, nothing much else was revealed. However, when Clint, a tour guide from Hsinchu, learned about this serendipity, he decided to do everything he could to put Johnston in contact with the past. Therefore, Clint contacted the school and hoped that they could provide some information and photos about Johnston so that he could relive the past.

The people at Hsinchu High School searched the yearbooks in the 70s, but couldn’t find anything related to Johnston; not even in the teachers’ photo. This made the school people wonder if Johnston’s memory was wrong or there was data missing from the School History Room. As a result, Vivi obtained more information from Johnston. Here are some of the key words, including the 1970s, foreigner teacher for two years, taught advanced English grammar, and the fact that in order to hire Johnston, the school specifically ask for Chiang Kai-shek’s permission.

All the mystery was solved after Johnston’s visit in person.

Under the political background at that time, foreigners couldn’t teach at school, so the principal of Hsinchu High School got a way to get the former president Chiang Kai-shek’s permission to let Johnston teach at this school under the Chinese name of “Chang Shih Tun.”(章時敦) Because this was a secret recruitment, the Personnel Office didn’t have his record. For his signature beard, most students called him “the bearded teacher.” Someone even remembered that his father, who was also a fellow teacher, once invited the bearded teacher to their house. The fellow teacher asked why Johnston left home at such a young age. Johnston said that his father believed that living home, eating and using everything he provided meant that Johnston should also be under his control. That’s why he chose to leave. It’s amazing to learn that there were already westerners chose Taiwan as their destination for the Grand Tour over 40 years ago.

When talking about the students that he had taught in Hsinchu High School, Johnston mentioned the name “Chang Yung Ching”(張永青) without any hesitance. Besides having good grades, Chang spent three weeks to bike around Taiwan with Johnston and the other classmate. At that time when there were only fixed gear bikes and the concept of circling the island was not so popular, it was extremely difficult for three poor guys to finish the task with only a tent for shelter. You could say they were the pioneers of traveling round the island!

“I wish to see him again,” Johnston said. But no one can say for sure. Since the time was limited, the alumni association of Hsinchu High School did their best to search for Chang through the Internet and the contact info. After 5 days, despite of the difficulties, Chang and Johnston were miraculously once again in touch.

The bicycles they rode 47 years ago continued to spin through time and space and finally stopped at where we are today. Although everything has changed, Johnston’s visit and reunion with old friend opened up a portal connecting the past and present. Amazingly, tour guide Clint and consultant Vivi completed Johnston’s journey and allowed this amazing story to be heard and passed on.

跨越47年的騎遇記──美籍老師重返回憶之地:新竹中學

年輕時待過的地方,會在我們的生命中注入養分,從此與我們產生牽絆。1970年代曾經在新竹任教的美國人Tom Johnston,帶著女兒重訪台灣。沒想到再次踏上台灣的旅程,意外挖掘出一段47年前遺落的故事。

起初,Johnston與行程規畫師Vivi聯繫時,只簡單表示自己曾在新竹中學教書,想再回去學校附近的東山街逛逛,並未對過去的歷史著墨太多。但導遊Clint得知Johnston與新竹中學的這段緣份後,身為新竹子弟的他,認為若不把握這次機會讓Johnston重返故地,實在有些可惜,因此主動聯繫了新竹中學,希望校方能提供一些當年的相關資料或照片,讓Johnston可以溫習回憶。

新竹中學校方以1970年代的畢業紀念冊著手搜尋資料,卻遍尋不著Johnston的資訊,教師照片中也沒有Johnston的身影。讓校方疑惑究竟是Johnston的記憶有誤,還是校史室遺漏了不少資料呢?因此,Vivi向Johnston追問了更多線索,得到了以下關鍵字,包括:1970年代、任教兩年的外籍老師、教授進階英語文法,以及,當時新竹中學為了聘請Johnston,曾特地向蔣中正申請許可等等。

重重的謎團,終於在Johnston來到新竹中學後,得到了解答。

當時的政治氣氛下,外籍人士無法在學校任教,因此新竹中學的校長辛志平透過管道取得前總統蔣中正同意,讓Johnston得以使用中文名字「章時敦」在竹中任教。Johnston當年25歲,屬於非正式(秘密)的聘任,因此人事室也沒有他的相關資料。因為蓄鬍的關係,學生多稱他「大鬍子老師」。更有新竹中學同期老師的孩子有印象,當年父親曾邀請大鬍子老師來家裡作客。父親曾問Johnston為什麼那麼年輕就離開家到這麼遠的地方,Johnston說,因為自己的爸爸說住在家裡吃他的、用他的,就必須也聽他的,於是Johnston選擇離開。原來,在40年前,就有西方人選擇台灣作為壯遊的目的地。

談起在竹中教過的學生, Johnston毫不猶豫地提起了這個名字「張永青!」。除了在學時優秀的表現外,最讓Johnston印象深刻的,是在張永青畢業之際,兩人曾和另一名同學,一同花了三個星期的時間,騎單車環台一周。在那個還沒有變速腳踏車且單車環島尚未盛行的年代,三個窮小子以很克難的方式,一路以帳篷為家,簡直就是台灣單車環島旅遊的先驅!

「希望有機會可以見到他」Johnston這麼說,但誰也沒有把握。由於Johnston停留在台時間有限,新竹校友會努力扮演起偵探的角色,透過網路和校方的通訊資料協尋,因為多位熱心的校友幫忙,縱然過程輾轉曲折,竟然神奇地在五天後讓張永青和Johnston再次連繫上。

四十七年前的單車輪轉啊轉,終於抵達了我們所在的時空。時間雖讓滄海變桑田,但Johnston回到故地仍能重遇舊人,連結了過去與現在。Clint和Vivi的積極安排,圓滿了Johnston的旅程,也讓這些傳奇般的故事重新被人所知,並且繼續被說下去。

[Taiwan Tour Guide] Let’s have a yummy Taiwan trip with “Yummy”

This tall, super tanned, and full of laughter person is our Taiwanese tour guide Yummy. His name always make people wonder what the story behind it is. The reason is simple enough—he has a big appetite. In order not to fail this interesting and impressive name, Yummy likes to take the clients on a food tour. “I am from Chiayi, and there are a lot of famous local cuisines, such as fish head casserole, cold noodles, and turkey rice. As a result, when it comes to recommending food the clients, I prefer the local dishes to the renowned restaurants praised by the media or bloggers.”

Delicious street food in Chaiyi: cold noodles, fish head casserole and turkey rice.

Yummy emphasized that; nowadays, clients would like their trip to be more free and flexible, and want to eat like a local. “Side dish platter, goose slices, chicken rice, or stir fries are usual cuisines that you don’t have to spend a fortune, but the clients can still taste a variety of our daily delicacies. Sometimes a good two to three hundred NTD (about 6.5-10 USD) worth of food is enough to cover the whole table! Every time I take the clients on such experience, they all feel amazed. Satisfying both to the stomach and the wallet. Most importantly, the clients feel like the locals, which is always the one thing they desire the most during the trip.”

Besides being a gourmet, Yummy has his own unique philosophy when it comes to leading a tour. “A tour guide is like a boy pursuing a girl—every tour requires enthusiasm.” This metaphor perfectly demonstrates Yummy’s constant passion for travel since the day he became a guide. “We might have been to the scenic spots for tens or hundreds of times, but every time is a first for the clients. Therefore, we have to give them our all, tell the best story, and share the most knowledge.” For Yummy, the true value of a tour guide is not just “to guide a tour,” but to accompany and experience with the travelers every step of the journey.

Yummy and his guests.

Talking about the most unforgettable experience, Yummy laughed and said that there is too much to share! “The first time being the driver, the car broke down; the first time being the guide and taking the clients to Jiu-fen, a storm came and broke off the plan. Of course I was nervous, but when I found out that that was not going to help me with my situation, I stop being nervous.” Speaking of his growth, behind the laughter is the attitude of facing the crisis heads on, calmly assessing the situation, and taking the best solution rather than being panic and ruining the whole trip.”

“Before becoming a guide, I was a driver. At that time, when chances of visiting different scenic spots presented themselves, I always insisted on taking every opportunity. I absorbed knowledge from many guides and developed my own style of tour-guiding.” Yummy recalled that one weekend, when he drove the guide to pick up a group of travelers at the Port of Keelung, the client’s debit card was stuck in the ATM. “The guide stood so firmly on his ground that the bank was persuaded and was willing to help with the problem even on holiday. This was a huge lesson to me.”

One time, Yummy himself received a family from Singapore. Their one-year-old son was sick during the trip. However, the nebulizer machines they brought was not working due to the incompatible voltage, and the client, Gladys, was very worried. Yummy, with his quick thinking, managed to borrow the only one and available transformer from the hotel they stayed in the morning, and convinced the hotel to let them bring it along for the rest of the trip. This was the saving grace, otherwise they would have to admit their son to the hospital and cancel the rest of the trip. At that moment, Yummy showed his ability of crisis resolution, which was the accumulation of his past experience. Yummy also mentioned that for the trust he gained from this event, Gladys assigned Yummy to be in charge of their family trip next year.

Before the interview ended, we asked Yummy to recommend us some ways to explore Taiwan. He said that in comparison with walking, he thought that the speed of bicycle was more suitable for taking in the different paces in Taiwanese city and country. Next time, look forward to exploring Yummy’s hometown, Chiayi, with him on a bicycle, and experience the unforgettable taste of journey together!

Yummy recommends that cycling is one of the best way to explore Taiwan!

Click to check all of our tour guides

[Taiwan Tour Guide] Clint: Travel Is the Interaction with Life

“Please do take care of Clint well. He is a treasure of your company!” A customer once gave this feedback. It makes you wonder what the Taiwan tour guide who receives this praise is like.

Clint is always calm and at ease. Thanks to this trait, Clint is always easy to get along with. 5 years ago, he left the electronics industry and stepped into tourism for his passion to travel around. The innate characteristics allowed him to adjust to the new career rather quickly and made him one of the most popular tour guides in Topology.

Clint is easy to get along with. Just link your friend!
Clint is easy to get along with. Just like your friend!

For Clint, one of the most important takeaways as a tour guide is to know the land that he grew up on better. “Although we live in Taiwan, we don’t really know it as well as we thought. Some contexts of our land were not taught to us at school. However, in order to introduce the beautiful country to the customers, I went back to learn it all. After piecing the history together, I found it fascinating! Especially, when I share the Taiwanese aboriginal culture with the customers, they are all very interested and amazed!” Exploring Taiwan again as a tour guide, Clint did his work. His mobile phone is filled with pictures of Taiwan’s scenery, culture, cuisine, relics, fauna, and flora. Whenever and wherever the customers have questions, he can always answer them with these materials.

Furthermore, Clint starts learning photography so that he can capture every precious moment during the trip.

Clint is always your personal photographer who would like to  capture every precious moment for you!
Clint is always your personal photographer who would like to capture every precious moment for you!

The interaction with the customers also left something special in Clint’s heart. Among all, the most unforgettable memory was from David and Sandara, a family from Singapore.

David and Sandara used to work together in Kaohsiung. In 2015, they decided to bring their 5-year-old son back to travel, and Clint was their guide. That trip created lots of memory for the family; hence, in 2017, they chose to visit again. However, Sandara’s mother was diagnosed with cancer right before the start of the trip, and Sandara had to stay and took care of the grandma. Only David and the son could come. “Although Sandara could not make the trip, they brought a doll that symbolized the mother along the way. Their love touched me to the bottom of my heart.” What’s more heart-warming was that their grandma felt better the next year and joined the travel to Taiwan. Sandra, an animator, transformed their trip into a touching painting. Sadly, the grandma passed away this year, but the memory they created together will last forever. For the family, Clint is not just a tour guide, but a close and precious friend who has participated in the journey of their life.

Sandara painted a touching painting which includes the elements of the family trip: Baiyang Waterfall at Taroko Gorge, the beautiful mountain and coast in Eastern Taiwan. Sandara’s family the animals in the cart, the guy on the bike is Clint.

Clint also mentioned that many of his customers were Chinese immigrants. They visited the relatives in Taiwan every few years. Many of them choose Clint as their regular guide. “I feel like I am growing with the family. Some members were just babies in my arms the first time we met; suddenly, they might be jumping around or discussing serious issues with me on the next trip. These are all special experiences.” Clint said that these families all have friends and relatives here in Taiwan, and know the country well enough to travel by themselves or to easily pick the tourism products that best suited them. Nevertheless, they still choose to travel with Topology because they treasure our unique value. “Customers fancy the depth of our cultural tour. We also help them arrange tomb sweeping, reunion dinner, and even finding long lost relatives! Most importantly, they feel like they are traveling with a friend.” Clint believes that the connection between people grows stronger through travel.

This is the second time that Erica’s family traveled with Clint.

“The connection of massive travel groups usually breaks with the end of the trip, but the one of a customized trip is not. Sometimes, traveling with the customers for 10 or more days feels like living together. I am able to communicate with each and every group member and adjust the itinerary according to their likes and dislikes. I hope to think ahead of them and to provide enough information and suggestions so that the customers are well prepared before every scenic spots and activities. This way, the elderly and the young are taken care of, and other members will have nothing to worry about and have a great time.” Clint certainly raises the bar of this job with his attentiveness.

More stories about Taiwan tour guide Clint
Click to check all of our tour guides

A Promise Is A Promise: A trip that has been waiting for over 40 years.

Last October, my client Asher who is from Israel had been diagnosed with lymphoma. He must do the relevant examination and treatment as soon as possible; therefore, he had to cancel his scheduled trip to Taiwan. At that time, my mother also did chemotherapy in the hospital, so I understood his situation. I told him that I believe a cheerful heart is good medicine and sent my sincere blessing to him, hoping the examination and treatment will be pretty smooth. On the other hand, I returned the tour fees as much as possible to him and invited him to visit Taiwan once he gets better. Read more

One person, one weekend and an Ubike: An unforgettable journey in Taipei

bike tour in Taipei Taiwan

Brad is a senior executive at a multinational company. He frequented Asia a lot on business trips but this was his first time in Taiwan. Since he only planned a weekend in Taiwan, he hoped to use this limited time to travel to Taiwan’s landmarks as well as experience the life as a Taiwanese. Therefore Amy the tour consultant, helped him organize a basic one day trip in Taipei and a one day trip in Yangmingshan (Yang Ming Mountain). What Brad enjoyed the most was when we took him to experience Taipei’s very own UBike!

Read more

The Difference between Taiwan and Germany – Insights from Our Intern from Germany

Introduction

My name is Lukas. I am 19 and from Germany. I worked at Topology for four and a half months. My tasks were about organizing and hosting tours as well as promoting and improving them together with my colleagues.

Photo: I am the one in the middle of the first row.

I chose Taiwan because I wanted to experience Asian culture. In my opinion Taiwan has the best mix of it. Furthermore Taiwan offers a lot of nice landscape and huge choice of activities.

Taiwan and Germany are very different starting with religion and cultural influences and ending with food and everyday working. Following I will give you a small insight into the Taiwanese everyday life and point out the main differences between Germany (or European countries) and Taiwan.

Food

Photo: Taiwan has variety of fruits and most of them are pretty nice!

Taiwanese have a special relationship to food. They love to eat many different kind of good and clean food. Eating together and inviting a lot of people to share food and stories are common.

I was invited by the boss of the hostel I stayed several times to have dinner together with his grandma and once we did a barbecue during a typhoon. There is not really much that can stop Taiwanese from a good barbecue.

The food itself is very delicious but very uncommon for Europeans. Furthermore the overall preparation of food is different. Germans don’t eat rice and noodles that much and particularly pork tastes different. I think the difference is caused by the feeding and preparation of the animals. All in all it tasted so well that I ate tons of it.

But the main difference between here and Germany is the dinner itself. Taiwanese will meet their friends, buy a lot of food and have kind of a buffet. Additional they have the Chinese tables which have a rotating plate in the middle.I like that very much. You simply don’t have to eat what you don’t like.

Another advantage of having dinner here as a guest, you will get offered tons of food. They don’t accept a simple “No thanks. I’m full”. You have to say it 4-6 times before they understand that you cannot eat anything more without exploding.

And don’t be afraid of dirty food, it nearly doesn’t exists here. Nevertheless would have a small first aid set in my backpack in case I don’t stomach some food.

Landscape

The environment in Taiwan is really stunning. Everything you want can be found. Hiking in the famous Taroko Gorge or even just in Taipei (e.g. Elephant Mountain), natural hot springs in the north and along the east coast (Beitou, Jiaoxi in Yilan or Chipen in Taitung…etc), surfing and swimming all over Taiwan, aboriginal culture, temples, huge cities and a lot of small fancy villages like Jiufen or Dulan. All this makes Taiwan one of the most worthy countries to travel. If I compare it with Germany, hiking in the Alps and visiting the north sea are amazing but Taiwan has more options, especially when it comes to activities and distance. The thing you should notice it that there may be typhoons during summer time.

People

The people in Taiwan are all very kind and helpful. It is amazing how they care about you even if you are a foreigner. Getting lost is very hard because everyone will try to help you. And don’t be afraid if you travel Taiwan as a European or American. It might be strange that a lot of people will eye you, because you are different. But no worries, the most smile back.

When it comes to language it is hard to communicate in English if you are not in Taipei. But there is always a solution. They will ask someone, who knows English, to come over and help or communicate with hand and feet. Taiwanese are great at that.

Culture

They also have a remarkable mix of culture and history. The Japanese ruled Taiwan for 50 years, so there is a lot of influence from there. Furthermore Chinese culture, of course. You also can visit aboriginal tribes in eastern Taiwan. Additionally Confucian values are very important. You can find huge plates with the characters for “honor your parents” and “loyalty” in elementary schools. You will find a lot of these values in the everyday life.

As a traveller, altruism is the most present. I experienced to be invited to family dinners, being driven to the next train station, showed around the city and doing activities together. I didn’t experienced something like this in Germany yet. Particularly asking people if they need help finding the way and taking them to their destination is what Taiwanese makes so special.

Additional you can talk and discuss almost everything. The people are very open minded. Also the way of dealing with conflicts is different from other Asian countries. Talking directly about the things you don’t like or criticize is more common here, still not that hash as in Germany, but it was very easy for me to adapt to it.

Travel Guide Book vs. Real Life Experience

Getting lost while travelling is not something very spectacular. During my trip around Taiwan I got lost many times but this was mostly caused by non-existent skills in Chinese.

I travelled with Lonely Planet, Bradt and several online Blogs as well as with the advice from Topology Travel. But the main difference between the travel book and the experience is that you will meet several inconveniences which don’t show up in the book. Sights are described very beautifully but they do not mention how to get there by public transport. For example at the east coast of Taiwan, public transport is very limited. Sometimes there is only one bus a day but the travel guide doesn’t mention it. Or the famous Walami trail in Hualien, which is described as one of the best hiking trail. The travel books never mentioned that getting there is very complicated if you don’t have a car or a scooter.

I wouldn’t recommend driving there if you are not used to Taiwanese roads and driving style. The roads are very narrow and can be very dangerous. In my opinion only experienced drivers should drive there.

Concluding travel guides are good to get an impression of your destination and the surroundings, but for actual travelling, I recommend to use more than two different travel guides, several blogs and get help from locals!

A local travel agency offers you the best advice and some of them, like Topology travel, offer customized tours. This may cost money, but you can be sure to get the most reliable information. Hiring a travel agency is also the easiest way to get good information.

If you are travelling low budget, the staff from your hostel and other travellers you meet are also really nice opportunities to get advice.

Furthermore I really recommend to get a SIM card and mobile internet. Google maps was one of my best friends while travelling!

With all these experiences I made, I would really recommend to get some help. If you can speak Chinese you might don’t have a lot of these problems, but a few spots are a bit tricky and you will need help. The choice is up to you!

A trip to find one’s roots – Paying one’s respect in Zhushan (竹山)

Photo: Former County Magistrate of Nantou, Mr. Yang’s memorial grave site

What left Nancy, one of our tour consultants, with a strong impression was a trip that involved a traveler trying to find her roots which has a history of over a century. Our client, Lily mentioned that she is Taiwanese American and she hoped to visit Zhushan, a town in the Nantou whereh most travelers would not know about. This made us feel curious. Lili told us that her mother is from Zhushan and she wanted to visit her grandfather’s grave site to pay her respects.

How would it be possible to locate her grandfather’s grave site though? Lily provided us with the English pronunciation of her grandfather’s name but it wasn’t enough because it could be translated into anything! A name in Chinese was needed. Afterwards, she managed to find an old photo with a portrait of her grandfather and his Chinese name. After Nancy went online and did a search, she found out that he was a prestigious person. Lily’s grandfather was the County Magistrate of Nantou from 1964 to 1966. Under his reign, a song of Nantou County was even composed! During the Japanese colonial period, he founded the Zhushan clinic (now called the Zhushan General Hospital) He was once also a Presbyterian Minister of a Presbyterian church!

Lily’s mother was born in Zhushan after the Japanese colonial period. In 1962, she moved to Tokyo, Japan and then gave birth to Lily and her sister Frances. After 1975, the family moved to New York in the US and they were not only fluent in English but also Japanese because of their background.

Both sisters married Americans and now have children of their own too. The purpose of this trip was to not only let their children trace back their roots but also for them to settle matters of inheritance because their mother passed away a year earlier.

Nancy took Lily and Frances to sort out matters of inheritance once they arrived and also looked for a housing agency to auction off real estate. When they were around the centre of Taiwan at Sun Moon Lake, their tour guide Edgar also took them to Zhushan to pay their respects to their ancestors.

After dealing with all the inheritance matters, Lily, Frances and their children’s “Real Taiwan” course began! The whole family were extremely active and not only finished their whole course around Taiwan but went to snorkeling in Kenting, cycling and also surfing! They were full of energy throughout the whole trip!

We heard that the sisters came back to Taiwan again to sort out inheritance matters and to complete the auction of their late mother’s house. We were wondering who inherited the house with its history spanning over a long time and also over three countries. (Taiwan, Japan and US)

The song of Nantou County is still passed down and sung in various elementary schools in Nantou today. Lily and Frances were born in Japan and since their grandfather passed away shortly after they were born, they might not have had the chance to remember their grandfather. However coming to the beautiful Nantou, at least they were able to have a taste of how life was like during their grandfather’s time.

The song of Nantou County: