TRAVEL: Taiwan – A country beyond serenity

Community News & Features Nov 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm

(The Taiwan Tourism Board in cooperation with Eva Airways invited The Philippine Reporter as part of its media tour program. Marlou Tiro was sent as its representative. Ed.)

If you need a place to unwind and go shopping before your trip to the Philippines, I suggest dropping by Taiwan. An exploration of Taiwan would definitely be like a journey to ancient times.

The media group

The media group

There were ten Canadian media representatives invited by the Taiwan Tourism Board as part of its familiarity tour. I was curious and excited; ultimately, forgetting more than 14 hours of sitting on the plane.

The Taiwanese hospitality was endless. EVA Airways, the sponsoring airline placed us in their first class seat giving us more leg room. Our individual room hotel accommodations at the Grand Formosa Regent in Taipei and the Splendor in Kaohsiung were dazzling.

Adding spice to the VIP accommodation were the complete amenities that were rightfully ours to enjoy from saunas and spas to a sumptuous daily breakfast buffet. Dining in their various restaurants that served ethnic food was more than an irresistible pleasure. Indeed, each of us was immersed into a royal treatment hoping one day not to wake up and face the reality of the ordinary life in North America.

Taiwan and Mother Nature

Taiwan is endowed with rich natural resources accented with several dramatic sceneries that would leave everyone in awe.

The trip to Yehliu National Park was like stepping into an unknown world. It is unique and immortalized by mystical tales. Imagine the different kinds of jagged rock formations that only nature can explain. Perhaps it may be unknown to man but Taiwan has named them all! There is the most famous “Queen’s Head,” “The Fairy Shoe,” “The Bee Hive,” “The Ginger Rocks” and “The Sea Candles.”

Rock formations seem to be evident all over the coastal towns of Taiwan. We travelled to Chenggong, one of the largest fishing centers in the East Coast of Taiwan and stopped over at Sansiantai, an area of 22 hectares with an of altitude measuring 77 meters. It features the eight arches bridges resembling a dragon connecting the islands. Legend tells that the three great stones are that of Lu Tungpin, Ho Hsienku and Li Tiehkuai who rested on this place prior to crossing the seas; thus, the place is known as the Three Immortals Terrace. The island is surrounded by coral reef but due to harsh weather conditions, the place has suffered erosion.

For nature trippers, the Kending National Forest Recreation area is something of an adventure. It is characterized by coral rocks estimated to be around one hundred thousand years old and layered by limestone. Situated 13 kilometers south of Hengchun, the forest has thousands of various plants with 200 varieties of cactus making it interesting for garden enthusiasts.

As my companions and I climbed through several stoned paths and passing by several wild plants, I felt we were like soldiers attacking a wildlife sanctuary with only our survival instincts as our weapon. The park is referred as the “Museum of Nature” with rich botanic life. A must-see in this forest is the looking glass tree that is believed to be 400 years old. As the trail led us deeper into the forest, we had to withstand the hanging vines that brushed our faces at times. The atmosphere was eerie. The signboard that reads “Be careful of snakes” added more to the creepy adventure. With only the chirping of birds and the sounds of monkeys that can be heard, we finally reached the “Fairy Cave”, which is about 137 meters long. Kids would love squeezing on its narrow space and play hide and seek.

The forest also houses the 27 meters Observation Tower that would give everyone a chance to see the entire lush forest area and a great view of the entire peninsula. My tour guide even joked that I can swim to the Philippines from this place.

As we proceeded to another coastal town, we had the chance to go bike riding around the lake. It reminded me of the province of Leyte where I spent most of my summer holidays biking with friends. Riding a bicycle is part of Chinese culture. Not to experience it is like not having been to China at all. After the bike ride, we had a taste of their famous papaya milk shake which definitely quenched our thirst.

Hotel Royal Chihpenn-famous for its hot spring.

Hotel Royal Chihpenn-famous for its hot spring.

The most exciting and nerve wracking road trip was our journey to Shakadang Trail, popularly known as the ‘Mysterious Valley Trail. The roads run in zigzags; electrifying my nerves every time the driver made his turn. It reminded me of ‘Banaue Rice Terraces’ or the ‘Manipis’ leading to the province of Balamban, Cebu. However, in spite of the butterflies in my stomach, the view was definitely enchanting. The ride along the cliffs speaks of thrill while sights of some temples hidden in some portions of the hills were quite a reassurance of protection. Once in a while I could spot waterfalls that descend from the mountain top and cascading down the river bed. Once again, nature played its breathtaking tricks.

The Taroko Park was another beauty beyond imagination. As I stood on top of the cliff and looked the panorama of nature, I felt like stepping into an artist’s abstract painting. Carved into the marble by the erosive power of the Liwu River, the gorge was apparently an oasis of a romantic scenery.

Taiwan’s serene atmosphere

I have travelled worldwide but I can consider Taiwan as the best place to seek peace and serenity in life. To pursue this soul searching journey means taking a trip to the Dharma Drum Mountain World Centre for Buddhist Education. This monastery was constructed based on the elements of harmony. The clear water that faces the temple demonstrated their adoration for tranquility.

While the temples signify Taiwan’s serene life, a visit to their museum speaks volume of their rich history. There is the Ceramics Pottery Museum and the Martyr Shrine. The National Palace Museum has the most cherished possession of priceless Chinese art that embraces a 5,000 year history.

The Beitou Hot Spring Museum, reflects the works of Japanese art and their penchant for hot springs. The lobby is equipped with tattami mats spread on the floor with sliding paper doors. Standing in the balcony gives you the opportunity to view the fascinating scenery of the Beitou creek.

The pieces of furniture also reflect the Japanese culture which is predominantly made of wood. The people also utilize their abundance of gems. Even the wash basin is adorned with precious gems! A trickling fountain is also highly predominant in most homes signifying the element of water which creates a soothing ambience.

The bamboo plant also finds its way to enhance the deeper meaning of tranquility. The museum attendant said it helps to ward off the evil spirits; thus, it is not surprising that most businesses in Taiwan and the homes are adorned with bamboos. These meaningful pieces of furniture are already evident in The Silks Place where our group rested for one night. Their unique pieces of wood furniture provided elegance to their sophisticated interior design.

Adding to the serene atmosphere is a dip at their famous hot springs. After a full day of adventure there is nothing best to do but to take a dip at the hot spring of Hotel Royal Chihpen followed by a massage with a team of ladies serving a cup of warm green tea. What a best way to unwind!

Food Galore

We had veggie and seafood diet

We had veggie and seafood diet

Taking lunch at the Leader Village Taroko was awesome. Their sumptuous wide array of vegetarian dishes and seafood were simply too much to ignore. Distinctive among them was the rice stuffed into bamboo culms. On the other hand, dining at one of the Amis’s tribe restaurant was also an experience to remember. The Amis belongs to the indigenous people of Taiwan. Commonly known as Pangcah, meaning ‘human’ or ‘people of our kind’, their method of cooking is somewhat peculiar. Imagine the fresh fish and shrimps cooked in a leaf container! I did not believe it at first when our tour guide told us to watch the two Amis tribal waitresses cooked a fish soup only by using stones and thick leaves. They used a stone pot which is a boat-like container made of sheaths derived from betel palm trees. They put water inside the pot along with some pre-heated stones. Once the water starts to boil, they placed all the seafood and vegetables on it, stirring it constantly until the ingredients were well cooked. I believe this is the equivalent of our ‘Sinigang na Isda’ (fish soup). Taiwan’s food has been influenced by its great ethnic diversity based on its geographic, economic, and other cultural influences.

Taiwan is a sanctuary of happiness owing to its utmost adoration of their abundant nature and blessed with peace-loving people.

My trip to Taiwan was an experience worth to treasure. If you have not been to Taiwan, there is more to this place than just a shopping paradise. It is a place where you can nurture friendships and best of all nurture your soul.

Who knows this may be the place where you can achieve an abundant blessing that only Mother Nature can bestow?