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Guest: Taiwan

wooden figures at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, Taiwan

Ride Into Taiwan
Story and Photographs by Sarah Wyatt

ipping on a flavorful beverage that I was told was merely “plum juice.” I relaxed at Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, watching a cultural performance given by a group of indigenous people of Taiwan.

Yes, Taiwan. As an American Indian, I’m embarrassed that I forget that I’m one of many aboriginals in the world.

boats at the Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

The village was established in 1986 in honor of the aboriginal people of Taiwan. It was built to create an educational and cultural center for visitors to learn more about their culture. Through the years, the village has made great effort building and updating their amusement facilities including five theme parks: the European Gardens, the Aladdin Plaza, the Aboriginal Villages, Amusement Isle, and Ti Ka Er Rainforest. These parks have joy rides, cultural squares, artistic fountains, museums, 3-D theaters, and aboriginal dance shows. While the marriage of indigenous cultural displays and amusement rides seems like an odd pairing, the village has become the perfect fun vacation place for families.

workers assembling a bicycle at a plant in Taiwan

After returning to my cycle and later encircling Sun Moon Lake, I realized that if Buddha had made an outdoor experience superior to the one I was enjoying, She must have kept it to Himself. The cycling ropeway is elevated over the beautiful surface of Sun Moon Lake. It connects the Sun Moon Lake Activity Center (home to over 50 species of rare butterflies) to the Aboriginal Culture Village. The lake is a popular tourist attraction where visitors can tour a number of fascinating temples and picturesque pavilions. In addition, there are a variety of outdoor activities including boating, canoeing, hiking and cycling.

Taiwan is already known around the world for its major league baseball teams, tennis players and golf champions. I came to Taiwan to experience a sport that is putting the country in the international spotlight: cycling. A favorite way for visitors to see Taiwan is on two wheels. Good choice, according to International Cyclist magazine, which recently ranked Taiwan as one of its top picks for international cycling. Even in the heart of downtown Taipei, you’re more likely to spot bike helmets than car exhaust. Miles of trails are available in the Taiwan area alone. It is simply the best way to experience the diversity and beauty of Taiwan. An extremely bike-friendly country, Taiwan has some extraordinary trails for adventurous riders to experience diverse landscapes, including lush island vegetation and dramatic canyons.

Taroko Gorge, Taiwan

Taroko Gorge, well worth the trip, is widely considered to be one of the most scenic areas in Taiwan. While many visitors feel safer exploring the gorge by bus, dedicated cyclists who power through extreme changes in elevation, scaling immense mountains and sheer cliffs, will be rewarded with a matchless experience and a gentle, cool breeze to accompany the post-ride exhilaration.

While Taiwan’s rural cycling routes are sublime, my fellow cyclists and I found the ultimate Taiwanese urban cycling respite: Chun-Shui Tang Cultural Tea House in charming Tai-Chung, The local tea house has maintained its strong popularity through the years by inventing creative drinks to satisfy the thirst of the Taiwanese people, including the foam black tea and pearl cream tea introduced in 1983 and 1987 respectively. Both drinks have helped the store spread its popularity to major cities while still operating in Tai-Chung. The tea house is located near the Jing Ming 1st Street filled with unique artifact shops, boutique stores and gourmet restaurants. The place is crammed with locals during the weekends. The second-floor is filled with beautiful teak-wood furniture providing an atmosphere of a traditional Taiwanese tea house with a modern twist. Definitely worth the stop.

This best-kept cycling secret won’t be secret for long. Get peddling!

Interested in your Taiwanese cycling adventure? The Taiwan Tourism Bureau offers the following suggestions:

Cycling Tours and Riding Information
For those who wish to stay on established routes, the RSFA Portal has a myriad of resources including suggested itineraries, public transportation, bike rentals, rest stops, refreshment outlets, and other information such as maintenance services like pumps and security systems that protect riders on their journey.

Biking Buddies
To find fellow cyclists in the local community, log on to Taiwan in Cycles, an online forum dedicated to biking in Taiwan. Membership is free and offers the opportunity to post articles and photos, join in rides and plan meet-ups. The site was started by long-time ex-pat Andrew Kerslake in Taichung for people who love cycling in Taiwan.

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FEEDBACK FOR PATTI

I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK

FEEDBACK FOR JULIO

The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.

Julio

* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!

Julio

FEEDBACK FOR WENDY

For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!

Cheers

--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in responding...you had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy

FEEDBACK FOR NINO

I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA

FEEDBACK FOR RUSH & CHUCK

Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA



Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Journey to the Bottom of the Globe: Exploring the White Continent of Antarctica

nguins on  shore as writer's cruise ship passes by, Antarctica
As a travel journalist I am constantly asked what are some of my favorite travel experiences. The list is endless. But there is one destination that seems to raise the most eyebrows. That destination is a cruise to Antarctica. Sadly, that cruise line I was on is no more, but today there is a plethora of cruise lines that offer similar packages. Here's a look back at my Antarctica cruise.

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sunset at Galway Bay

The Palladian Traveler follows in the footsteps of some Hollywood icons as he goes "on location" in Cong to pay his respects to his all-time fave movie.

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As she came around the corner we could not believe how big she was. Massive, and yet incredibly beautiful – almost elegant in fact. Her lines were so symmetrical she seemed to blend into a classic example of astonishing good looks. The other fact that amazed all of us was how quiet she was. We felt sure that with the obvious overwhelming power she evidenced, she'd be extra loud. It's a cliché, but she was as quiet as a church mouse – or "as quiet as dreaming trees."

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In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

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