Sunday, 21 June 2009
Traveling Hualien and Taitung 花東旅遊
The rest of the pictures are here.
The Tourism Bureau took a group of reporters to Hualien (花蓮) and Taitung (台東) last month, and we went too. With places like Taroko (太魯閣) already too well known, they decided to bring us to the more off-the-beaten-path places like Mukumugi (慕谷慕魚), Liyutan (鯉魚潭), the Yuli (玉里) bike trail and some compound where the restaurant was in the shape of a giant Mongolian tent (of course, serving Mongolian-ish food) and the attraction there was a petting zoo.
The cycling was great, which was an old train line, preserved after a new one was made. They saved one of the tracks and tore out the other and replaced it with a paved concrete bike path, so riders could ride parallel to the old track, just inches away. The view was fantastic, especially this time of year – rice stalks were green as could be, and the sky was a baby blue, with a gradation fading into white where it met the mountains in the distance. Throw in a red arched bridge, and it was picture perfect for miles and miles. That was my impression of the 15-minute “sample ride.” Riding around Liyutan seemed quite nice too (we didn’t get to ride this one).
The rest of the trip was not so memorable. At a big outdoors compound in Taitung, they had a giant Mongolian tent, with Mongolian performers at some point in the past. Inside the compound, they had a miniature zoo with zebras and hippopotamuses that you could feed carrots to. I admit, feeding them was fun, but I’m not sure if it’s right… I was hoping for attractions that were in some way related to its area, like rice, fruit, indigenous culture, etc. Instead, I was feeding a slimy hippo and dusty, smelly zebras. Obviously they put a lot of money and effort into building the place and running it, but the theme(s) were so detached from each other and Taitung itself. In a place like where we were at, I can imagine simple, but clear displays of how rice is grown, harvested, scientifically studied/improved and its applications. Perhaps there could also be an interactive area where visitors could try to plant rice stalks, shuck them, cook them into various foods, like pounding them into sticky rice cake or making “pop rice” or distill/ferment them for liquor. And for arts & crafts, people can learn to use rice to make things like glue, some kind of accessory, and then take them home in the end. I think things like these would be more meaningful and memorable for visitors when they visit Taitung. I felt as if I had been sent all the way to a beautiful city on the coast in Greece only to find out that I’m to film kung-pao chicken, mu-shu pork and fortune cookies in take-out boxes.
At night, they put us up in a place with hot springs in Taidong. The owners were very proud of their establishment, to the point of being arrogant, I thought. The food was edible. The hot spring, however, was…unsoakable. Each of the guest rooms had access to hot spring water. The water had dark, dirty and scary looking particles floating in it. But that was natural, according to the sign posted by the bathtub. It went something like “do not be alarmed, sediment you may see are natural and are part of our hot springs.” Well, I was alarmed and two minutes in, I was out. Scary scary. They may want to put up a more convincing sign or install a particle filter. I’d prefer the latter. It wasn’t an expensive establishment (the room I was in sleeps four, and it’s TWD2.800/night), and the bedding was clean and the room was decent, but the less than tasty food and the hot springs that I was not so hot about (and shower which was unsightly corroded and malfunctioning), it was just one of those places that I don’t think I’ll ever go to again, unless the conditions change for the better.
Hualien and Taidong are beautiful places, and it’s easy to attract visitors with their picture-perfect views. While there are good places to visit and interesting places to go in those two counties, after a trip like this, as a tourist, I may not want to go again and may not recommend my friends to visit. Some of these places need to really shape up if they want to attract more tourists, especially international ones.
The person who arranged this trip should be re-trained or re-educated or re-assigned. Or I need a slap in the face and told to not be such a stuck up sissy. Either way, this stuck up sissy is never going back to that hot spring hotel/B&B/motel and Mongolian tent/petting zoo.
Good thing it was not my first visit to Huadong, and I still have enough good impressions from previous trips to still remember it fondly and sincerely tell people how it can be a great place to take a holiday.
And the scripts:
丹麥辦事處處長 F. Aggergaard:
民視新聞 翁郁容 葉尚松 台東報導
[Slower pace of life attracts visitors to eastern Taiwan]
More and more people are tuning into the slower pace of life on offer in Taiwan’s eastern regions. And nothing represents a more relaxed lifestyle than traveling by bicycle. And the charms of Taiwan’s east coast have not gone unnoticed by members of the foreign diplomatic community in Taiwan, some of whom even cited Hualien and Taitung as an ideal spot to retire.
An expanse of verdant green rice paddies in front of the aquamarine ocean proclaims you have arrived on Taiwan’s east coast. Here, traveling by car is too fast, by foot too slow. But traveling by bicycle is just right.
Michella Jade Weng
Today we've come to a bike trail in Yuli. It's part of an old railroad.
Local bike tour operator
After the new railroad was constructed, we asked to keep the old one to make a bike path.
Didn’t bring your bike? Well there’s no need to worry. They are readily available for rent here and there are almost 90 rest and maintenance stations specially devoted to cyclists throughout the eastern part of the country. And if you over do it, you can always stop for a quick dip in the sea. And there are always ecological conservation areas, such as the indigenous Amis people’s Mataian Wetlands and the Truku people’s Mukumugi reserve.
Amid the spectacular scenery, life meanders at a slower pace out here. And that relaxed lifestyle has attracted foreign diplomats.
Director of Danish Trade Commission
丹麥辦事處處長 F. Aggergaard
往右邊看有太平洋 往左邊看有壯麗的山和稻田 很特別
Many of them were saying that if there is a good place to live around here, they're ready to retire here.
The east regions of Taiwan are known as the home of the most stunning landscapes on the island. If you get the chance to travel there, you too can wave goodbye to the hectic pace of city life.
Michella Jade Weng, Formosa TV, Taitung.
民視新聞 翁郁容 葉尚松 台東報導