Inexpensive trinkets at the night market. Stalls upon stalls of great food. Sadly, that was the extent of my knowledge about Taiwan. Sure I knew it was an island that I was born on. Sure my parents lived in Taipei. But I was unable or unwilling to really get to know Taiwan. After being on the 2002 Tsunah Cultural Tour, I am glad to say that I know much more about Taiwan then just shopping and food. Taiwan is now a place of much beauty and wonderful people.
I had no idea that Taiwan contained so much natural beauty. My experience with Taiwan outside of Taipei consisted of the drive from Chiang Kai Shek Airport to Taipei. All that you can see during that drive is the road in between two sloped hills of green vegetation. My early impression of Taiwan had not changed a couple of hours into the tour. All we had done was drive for 2 hours on a really windy road that was starting to make me nauseous. An hour later, I began to change my mind. We were visiting the Wu-Fang-Chi Waterfall and despite the soft rain falling on my head, I began to realize that Taiwan was more then just a place where I could eat Shao Lung Bao by the dozen. I began to see that this small Island contained a lot more then I realized. There was something besides food. There was history and beauty. In the next 11 days, I was treated to such places as the Lo-Tung Athletic Park, the Bunun Aborigine Tribal Museum, and the Taroko Gorge.
All of these places, however, would not have been as much fun if I had gone alone. I got to meet new people and travel with them. Eleven days with a group a people can be a trying experience, particularly if you can not get along well with them. But I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with each and every one of them. Each had their own individual history and life stories. I only wish that I had more time to get to know them even better. The people on the tour are what made this a most enjoyable experience for me.
Experiencing Taiwan in this way has certainly changed my view of it. Instead of remembering Taiwan as just the place of my birth, I will remember Taiwan with fond memories. Singing along with member of the Bunun Tribe, braving the fierce wind of Ken-Ting National Park, and just staying up talking to everyone will now be a part of my memories of Taiwan. This is the Taiwan that I know now.