The first weekend in April was long weekend. Lakyn and I decided to pack our bags and head to Nantou. Nantou is in central Taiwan, in the mountains. Since it’s in the mountains, it’s hard to get to. You can’t just go straight there, you have to go all the way around, then in. But, we were too excited to care about the long journey! My LET Sonia helped me plan the whole trip, including an inexpensive guest house with an owner who offered to drive us everywhere we wanted and let us pay once we got there (only in Taiwan!). She told me all the best stuff to do and what buses to take. She even got some of the 4th grade teachers in on it, so I knew it was going to be a great trip! (Besides the fact that Passover was starting…ugh matzah!)
We got to Nantou late Thursday night. The guest house owner came to pick us up at the bus stop and brought us down the street to his guest house. His guest house was really more of like a motel as opposed to a house, but he was so nice, we didn’t mind!
We woke up early the next morning (firstly because we wanted to use as much of our time as possible and secondly because there were dogs barking too loudly to sleep any later than about 7am….) Our original destination was The Green Tunnel. Apparently it is a very famous street with trees surrounding it that looks like a…you guessed it….green tunnel. To get into Jiji (where the Green Tunnel is located) we first had to take a bus to Sun Moon Lake. We have been there before (the biggest lake in Taiwan). Last time I wrote about it, I said it was okay, but not nearly as impressive as I thought. But this time, it really was. The weather was perfect, making the lake absolutely stunning. See picture proof below!
After our first pit stop, we got on the bus to Jiji. We arrived and I instantly fell in love. We ended up walking around for hours instead of going to the green tunnel right off. It reminded me a lot of the town in Vietnam from winter break. It was poor but beautiful and just a really big feeling of community. I think I’ve realized this year….I’m not a city girl. Luodong is the smallest city in all of Taiwan, but the places I love, are all rural. Vietnam, Jiji, the outskirts of SuAo. I think especially in education in America, people focus a lot on the inner city and the problems that city school children endure…but I think rural school children experience just as many hardships. I want that to be my focus upon return to America.
Anyway, I fell in love with Jiji and just walked around for most of the day, just taking it all in. We went shopping at a little roadside market, and I bought a stuffed animal hippo. (Yes, I do need more stuffed animals at 23 years old….) Then we saw a memorial to the 1999 earthquake that destroyed Jiji. The Wuchang Temple still left in its ruins is blocked off for remembrance. In front of it, a stunning new temple has been built. You can’t tell just how collapsed it is in the pictures, but it was scary to see.
After the temple, we walked through bike trails, bought some homemade ice cream and took in all the Jiji had to offer. After hours, we decided to find the green tunnel. We took a train to the supposed stop of the Green Tunnel and in true Taiwan style…couldn’t find it. We asked people and they had no idea what we were talking about. Shocking. We wander around, see signs for it, but clearly were not in it, leading to more confusion. We walk the other direction and may (?) have finally ended up in the Green Tunnel? To be honest, we weren’t really sure…it was definitely not that impressive if we were actually in it. Maybe we never saw it? But, I think we did. So, the Green Tunnel was not that cool but I’m SO glad we planned to go there because without that we never would have spent our day in Jiji, which was by far my favorite part of the trip. That night, we found a great restaurant for dinner, where we ate fried tofu and fried rice (Passover friendly and vegetarian! WOO!!). Then, off to bed early for us! It was time for sheep tomorrow!!!!
The next day, we were off to CingJing farm! Cingjing farm is a famous sheep farm in Nantou!!! (: If you know me at all, you know I was SO excited to see sheep! We took a bus up a big, beautiful mountain, and got off when we saw something called “The Sheep Castle”. Because who doesn’t want to go to the sheep castle?! We walked around the fields and they were stunning. One of the most impressive views I have ever seen. And the adorable sheep only made it that much better! Some of them were funny looking because they just got shaved, but they were SO soft. I got to pet some (: We also walked through a Swiss Garden with lots of ducks! It was an animal filled day, and I couldn’t be happier! I even bought a scarf covered in sheep to commemorate my great day! Check out my pictures below! They don’t do it justice, but it gives you an idea!
Our last day in Nantou, we went to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. The village is a funny concept…it’s both an amusement park and a live action museum of aboriginal culture in Taiwan. Weird combo…but SO cool! I think they did it to attract more visitors, and it totally worked! We first came into the amusement park section and decided to go on a few rides. I like some rides…but I’m fairly specific on what I’ll go on. I don’t like upside down roller coasters, or the ones that drop. Well, that left out most of the adult rides at the park (oops) so kids rides it was! We went on some classic Disney World knock offs. First, Space Mountain. It was called Space Mountain and it was Space Mountain. Clearly copyright isn’t a thing in Taiwan. Then, we went on a replica of Splash Mountain that was really fun! We also went on the giant boat, which was great until an old man totally looked like he was about to throw up on us….at which point I started to panic, but thankfully he didn’t. Alls well that ends well.
After rides and ice cream, we made our way to the gondolas. They took us to the top of the park, which was where all the aboriginal stuff was located. There were replicas of all the aboriginal tribal villages. It reminded me a lot of Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It was like you were really there. You could walk into all the houses, and see marriage ceremonies, see them making food etc. It was really interesting to see. We even got to do archery!! I was terrible…but so much fun! (No Katniss for me…) We were walking by and some aboriginals around our age called us over to teach us how to play this old top game. I’ve shockingly played before…my principal taught me when he took me to the Traditional Arts Center in Luodong. But, my experience did not make me any better. I could do it right once every four tries or so. But, it was really awesome to hang out with people our own age! They were so fun! One boy even started doing the famous American dance, “The Dougie” and was singing and everything. It was hilarious and awesome and reminded me we are not all that different on opposite sides of the world.
The Culture Village was so awesome. The whole Nantou trip was. I’m so glad I got to spend some time there before I left Taiwan. It was stunning and I had an absolute blast. Long weekend: SUCCESS!