Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taiwan: Not Just People and Pollution

Last night my sister arrived from the US. She is the fifth person to make the trek over here. I must say we have had a fair amount of visitors for being so far away, and we have one more (Jonathan's sister) yet to arrive on Friday.

Hosting family and friends in your home in a foreign land is interesting. I am always anxious to see how they will adjust, what things they will find strange, and what things they will love. Will they like the food? Will they enjoy the scenery? Will they wish they went to Europe instead?

Being in an Asian country, even if it's just for vacation, can be both enlightening and frustrating for many people. Granted, Taiwan is relatively westernized, but it's still has some very uniquely Asian and uniquely Taiwan aspects. So Jonathan and I always try our best to make sure our guests find the 24-hour trip around the world (and back again) worth it.

Our first visitors were Jonathan's parents. They came in August during our first summer in Taiwan. At that time, we were still learning the landscape (and the language) and perhaps we over compensated for our unfamiliarity with a slightly overzealous itinerary. We really gave them the Tour de Taiwan, pretty much circling the island and hitting all the major stops on our way. They were scuba certified before they came over (we require it of all visitors!) so we did a lot of diving too. Although we were all quite tired at the end of those two weeks, I think it was a successful trip for all of us, and I think they left Taiwan with a very memorable vacation.

Seven months later my Dad came over for the 2010 Chinese New Year holiday. Again, we pushed him to get the scuba certification, and spent many of our days exploring the sea. We didn't do the full-on island tour this time, because logistically it's just wasn't possible. Chinese New Year vacation is a time of migration for the inhabitants of this small island. People from the north go south, people from the south go north. East goes west, and vice versa, etc... For ten days, the 5th most densely populated country in the world becomes one giant traffic nightmare. So, when we did travel, we traveled at night. And where we did travel, well, we tried to pick the least "famous" of the tourist destinations. Although I don't think the trip was as full-on as my Dad would have liked, he still had a great time and got to be a part of a very important cultural experience in Asia.

For the 2011 Chinese New Year holiday Jonathan's friend Anthony came to visit. This time it was less about sight seeing, and more about adventure. Anthony got his scuba certification during his first days here, and we did a lot of scuba diving in Kending, Green Island, and Xiao Liu Qiu Island. If we weren't under the water we were either biking or hiking. We were busy being active and it was a lot of fun. By not traveling around too much we avoided most of the holiday crowds, but we still managed to give Anthony a good idea of Taiwan as we know it.

While each trip was a little different, I think we did a good job of highlighting Taiwan's beauty for all of our visitors. Most people, when they hear "Taiwan" think of people and pollution. Yes, we do have those things, but there is so much more to Taiwan than that. Taiwan is a beautiful island surrounded by clear blue oceans full of marine life. Taiwan is an extremely mountainous country as well, with it's beautifully green central mountain range, and Jade Mountain (one of the tallest in south east Asia). Taiwan has beautiful beaches, scenic drives, great biking tours, hot springs, and even some city attractions worth seeing.

While I don't know how well my sister will take the July heat, the Chinese food, or the crowds, I do know that she will have an wonderful vacation enjoying the beauty of this island!

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