This summer, I taught about being a tour guide in some of my class sessions, and had my students come up with solutions to some worst-case scenarios. In my recent escapades as a Taiwan travel guide (to a group of one), fortunately there weren't any worst-case scenarios to worry about. The most difficult thing in Taipei was trying to find a place to exchange Korean dollars into Taiwan dollars since the money exchange places in the airport were closed by the time Amanda arrived on her late flight.
We found our hotel with a little difficulty, and walked in the front door to some surprised faces just after midnight. I'd reserved our room by phone and talked to the guy at the desk a few times that evening as we were trying to find the hotel. I'd used my Chinese name with them, because it was just easier, but they weren't expecting a red head to come to the front desk answering to the name of "Ou Cai Lin" they told me they'd thought I was from Singapore, because Singaporeans speak a mix of English and Chinese like I had on the phone! I took it as a BIG compliment!
On Thursday we toured some of Taipei's fun places, including the Dan Shui harbor, Taipei 101 - the world's tallest building, and it's huge english bookstore, riding the Ferris Wheel and exploring the night market before returning to our hotel room to crash. The next day we headed to Jiu Fen, an old gold mining town up in the mountains, and didn't have enough time to see everything, but did some souvenir shopping and had tea in a little shop with an AMAZING view. Next time I go there, I'll definitely leave more time for it! We arrived in Yilan in time for dinner and went to my final summer class, where my students got to meet Amanda and practice their English a little with a foreigner who's not me.
Our time in Yilan was short; we left the next morning for Hualian where A-hsiang drove us to Taroko Gorge, one of Taiwan's most beautiful natural spots. We took LOTS of pictures then headed to a beach to enjoy the sunset. Later we said goodbye and took the train to Yuli to spend the night. I wasn't planning to see anyone that night since I would go there after Amanda left, we just needed a place to stay on our way to Green Island. But I was shocked to hear someone calling my name as I got off the train, and even more shocked to see who it was. It was my beloved friends the Yo's who have been in America for the past year! Perhaps you remember the trip around Taiwan I took my first Chinese New Year here, well this is the family that took me with them! They had just arrived back in Yuli, on the SAME train as us! Of all the people we'd both see first when we arrive in Yuli... thankfully I've had time to catch up with them this week (I've spent the past 3 days in Yuli).
We got up early on Sunday morning and took the train to Taitung to wait for our boat to Green Island! We stayed in the same hotel Hope and I stayed in last May, and walking in the door, I was greeted with our picture, right at the top of their bulletin board full of pictures! It made me laugh. We had just over 24 hours to experience Green Island, but we managed to fit in snorkeling, scootering, hot springs, shopping, eating bbq, getting sunburnt, and lots of pictures! That place is seriously like paradise! The greenery is so lush, the ocean so blue. Another coincidence in my weekend of coincidences was that I met the guy I had met last time snorkeling! As we were heading out to the water, he looked at me and asked "Do you live in Hualian?" (which I did last year). We were both shocked, since neither of us had been back to Green Island since last May, but now, of all the weekends, we would meet again!
The trip back to Yilan was long and uneventful, and we were pretty tired the next morning as we boarded yet another train, the one that would take Amanda back to Taipei and then on to the airport by bus. 6 days is a really quick tour, but I think we all enjoyed it. Also, I think it served as a bit of a ‘practice run’ for the trip my family is planning in the winter!