Touring Taiwan for the Mandarin impaired…

So we were majorly concerned about the fact that neither of us can read or speak mandarin… It’s kind of a bit problem in Taiwan since English isn’t that widely spoken and you can’t even begin to figure out how to read characters! Plus there’s the whole losing face thing that we’d read about- that the Taiwanese basically wouldn’t do anything that may cause themselves embarrassment as they’d ‘lose face’. Now I’m totally down with that. I’m just like that too! Unfortunately that also includes speaking foreign languages like English…

Our initial plans were to spend a few days in taipei then take a bullet train down to Kenting in the South but we chickened out basically and I’m kinda glad we did. We found a five day English language tour of Taiwan on Viator (£350 each, inc. accommodation) a week before we arrived and booked onto that. 

This was a bus tour of about 40 people and whilst it was advertised as an English language tour, the tour guide made an effort to speak in Japanese and Mandarin to that contingent of guests. As you can imagine, that made everything take three times as long as it should as he explained everything three times… Nevertheless, these bus tours are the easiest way to get around the country if you’re on limited time/ afraid of being stuck somewhere where no one speaks English. You’ll find the country littered with these big tour buses, shipping hundreds if not thousands of mainland Chinese tourists around the country. It is utter madness. 

So to break it down, we spent four nights with this group staying in Sun Moon Lake, Kaoshuing, Taitung and Taroko Gorge. At Sun Moon Lake, we skipped an optional boat tour (it was really foggy) and wandered around the town we stopped at. We also visited a local Itau village, one of the aboriginal tribes there.

If I stare at it long enough, maybe it’ll make sense?

The next day was a drive down to Kaoshuing where the Love River is. We also visited the night market here which was pretty cool, if a bit touristy. It was even has signs saying ‘tourist night market’…

At the night market

Guess where we are?

On the way to Taitung, we made a pitstop in Kenting, to Cat Rock, the lighthouse and the national park. We had originally planned on spending a few days here to spend some time on the beach. You’re meant to be able to surf in this area, not that I saw anywhere you could- the beaches were really rocky and the waves nonexistent… The national park was nice. We did a short walk up to a lookout point and through some bat filled caves before heading off to our next hotel.

We visited the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Centre (it has the largest sitting Buddha) as well as a bunch of other temples. All were beautiful and worth visiting, though perhaps the memorial centre was a bit too modern- it had a Starbucks and a 4D screening of Buddha’s life…

Go pro selfies are appropriate everywhere…

From Taitung we went to Taroko Gorge, stopping at a jade factory on the way. Some of the best jade in the world comes from Taiwan and if you know what your doing, perhaps it’s worth buying some here. We don’t really know anything about jade so we decided to just window shop!

Our last day was spent walking in Taroko Gorge and driving back to Taipei. Taroko Gorge is pretty spectacular and worth a visit if you have the time. The road is cut into the rock which makes for interesting driving around there. Apparently it’s quite common for landslides to occur here. The tourist offices here provide helmets to borrow for those walking around the gorge.

Helmet hair?

Oh the hotels! The hotels were the best thing about this tour. They’re all super fancy! The Fleur de Chine, Royal Chihpen Spa hotel and Silk, Taroko were all hot spring hotels with indoor and outdoor pools as well as having a hot spring supply to your own Japanese style tub in the room. Pretty cool! Or rather, very hot…

Whether I would recommend this kinda tour depends on the holiday you want. Personally, I think if you can manage without, definitely do without. You’re better off having the flexibility of doing what you want to do. On the other hand, if you know you’re not going to able to get around because of the language barrier, this might just be for you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s