不久前，Alexandra將在台灣的所見所聞寫了一篇文章，兩人在台灣12天，她的台灣報告居然長達29頁（鐵母雞把它copy到Word檔上，14級的字，總計29頁），比鐵母雞還能寫，可能是因為Alexandra 是位生物學教授，凡事都要鉅細靡遺，或是台灣真的touch her heart！
SERVAS TAIWAN TRIP REPORT March 16 to March 27, 2007
March 4, 2008
PREPARED BY ALEXANDRA GLASHAN
In mid-March 2007 Alexandra Glashan and John McEntyre of Montreal, Quebec, Canada travelled to Taiwan for twelve amazing days and then we flew to New Zealand to attend a Stamp Exhibition in Whangarei on the North Island for two more weeks. Taiwan was chosen because it seemed exotic and a nice break between Montreal and Whangerei. Because John is heavily involved with philately and we both think Canada produces great Chinese zodiac stamps, we carried a supply of stamps for each of the years of the zodiac. We wanted to give them out to people who did something nice for us. We thought that these stamps would be interesting as conversation pieces as well.
Below is an account of the time written by Alexandra about the wonderful two weeks the pair spent touring Taiwan with the unending generous help of the hosts from SERVAS Taiwan. Prior to our departure I had written to four SERVAS day hosts and four SERVAS night hosts hoping that one of each would be willing to show us a bit of Taipei. One host replied by inviting John and I to stay with her and her family (Amo and David Chiang) and one day host offered to show us around (Mei Wang). Mei wrote asking if we had an itinerary planned already and when I said no she asked if we would like her to plan one for us. This was an amazing offer that we leapt at. Mei emailed a detailed itinerary shortly before we left Montreal and then she sent us a last minute email asking us to call the SERVAS National Secretary Serena Tang at 7 am from the Taipei airport for some changes to the original itinerary. We were delighted to have an itinerary and also very excited to be in touch with the National Secretary.
Friday March 16, 2007:day hosts are Bryan Tsai and Cindy Lee; night hosts are Amo and David Chiang in Taipei
After flying from Montreal to Vancouver and Vancouver to Taipei we arrived safe and sound with all our luggage around 5 in the morning Taipei time on Friday March 16, 2007. EVA Airlines treated us very well and we ate our way across the Pacific Ocean. We passed through customs and immigration with ease. It was time to call Serena Tang for an update on our itinerary. Challenge number one was how to use a telephone in Taiwan. How hard can it be to use a phone? I changed money and had coins in hand. Well, no matter how I tried I couldn't get the coin phones in the airport to work and when I spied an EVA Airline attendant I asked her how to do it, and our introduction to friendly Taiwan started at that moment. A stranger offered to call Serena using her cell phone. Saved by kindness. We received our instructions from a very pleasant Serena. We were to stay with Amo and David Chiang for our first night and another host Cindy had arranged to bring us to an outdoor concert of Chinese Opera by the famous Ming Hua Yuan Taiwanese Opera Company at the Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. Serena told us to go the the Taipei Main Train Station and wait for Bryan Tsai who would bring us to Amo's house. We went to a little cafe and had pumpkin soup and a multigrain roll. Delicious! We then met Bryan who then negotiated the subway system called the MRT, helping us with ticket buying and showing us how the tickets were used. We were much impressed by the beautiful MRT trains and the ultramodern stations. Like Montreal, the trains are quiet and the stations are bright and beautiful. Passengers line up in neat cues before the doors of each train. Not like in Montreal where it is a bit if a free for all getting in and out of the trains. Bryan escorted us to the exit turnstile of Amo's stop where Amo was waiting for us with a big smile. We said thank you and goodbye to Bryan Tsai. Amo told us we were one of her first SERVAS guests. Then Amo, John and I walked about ten minutes along a busy main street past shops selling pastries and past two pet shops. Every time we passed by the pet shops we had to stop and watch the rabbits with funny ears and the tiny mice. We arrived at Amo's building with the red door set back from the street. We walked up to the third floor. The Chiang family lives in a high ceilinged quite spacious apartment. We walked into a very large room that served as living room and dining room. From this central room there were three bedrooms, a bathroom and a small kitchen. There were balconies front and back. We met her children Brian (age 12) and Joanna (age 11). Amo's husband David was out of the country on business. Brian gave up his bedroom for John and me. We received our first etiquette lesson when upon entering the apartment we took off our shoes and put on slippers that Amo gave us. It felt wonderful to take off our shoes as we had been travelling over 24 hours.
John and I really enjoyed the afternoon in the apartment with Amo, Joanna and Brian. Joanna had her English workbook with her and it was a terrific book. Her English was wonderful and I think her spelling was better than mine after our long trip to Taipei. She was charming and very cute. Bryan was very kind to give up his bedroom without a murmur. Great kids. And so polite too. Amo gave us Joanna's cell phone for the duration of our stay in Taiwan and instructed us to push "Mommy Amo" when we need help. (Of course it was all in Chinese so we did make fun mistakes with the phone later in our trip.) The three of them left John and I to have a much needed snooze.
After a few hours rest in the middle of the afternoon during which I fell into a deep sleep, I awoke to kids and Amo back home from school. The kids were going to attend extra English classes in the evening so Amo prepared a take-a-long supper for them to eat during classes. We walked with Amo and the children to their school after which, Amo brought us to the MRT. We went with her to see the Chinese Opera being held outdoors on the grounds of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. When the three of us were on the MRT going to the concert a western chap spoke to us in English. He was singing the praises of the Taiwanese. He was an American MBA teaching in the National University in Taipei.
The scene upon our arrival at the outdoor plaza that best comes to mind is the crowded area at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in 2005 when the Cirque de Soleil was giving a free outdoor performance for 250 000 people. Everyone we saw around us was in high good humour. This very well known Taiwanese Opera Company was giving this free outdoor perfpormance as part of the 20th Anniversary Festival commemorating the opening of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Concert Hall (which has since changed name). The concert was on the spacious paved grounds adjacent to the large hall. A huge stage had been built with four immense screens beside it. There were other huge screens at other locations in this vast area. Thousands and thousands of people were there and believe it or not everyone had a seat. How could every person get a seat? There were rows and rows of red plastic stools available for the using and at the end of the show people stacked up the stools as they left the area. I could not imagine how Amo and Cindy Lee were ever going to meet as the square was filled to capacity with concert goers. Through the mystery of cell phones, Cindy and Amo figured out precisely where Cindy was in the crowd and Amo took us unerringly to meet her in the midst of thousands of excited polite viewers. Amo left us with Cindy to return home for her children.
The show was astounding. It was called The Immortals of Ponglai which all Taiwanese know. The start of the opera was heralded by loud applause. The elaborate costumes were exotic and sensational and the sets were beautifully painted. Constant billowing clouds of mist added to the atmosphere. There was music, good singing, high drama and even belly laughs from time to time. We were enthralled. I have never seen anything quite like it. The huge screens made it even more real but our seats were close enough to see everything on stage. The colours of the costumes were fabulous and so was the embroidery. Of course there was a down side. The down side was our exhaustion. I never thought I could fall asleep sitting on a red plastic stool in the middle of a very loud Chinese opera. Well I caught myself a number of times before I tumbled right over. John managed to stay upright even though from time to time he rested his eyes.
Cindy had solved the problem of supper. She came with picnic suppers for us to enjoy. She brought us each a "sandwich" triangle of white rice about 1 inch thick with tasty goodies in a circle in the centre. The whole triangle was wrapped in black seaweed and it was scrumptuous. We also ate a 1000 year old egg which was an egg boiled in tea leaves to look old. We drank a hot orange tea from a tin can with a little paper sleeve to protect fingers. That hot orange drink was tops in my books and Cindy said they were available in any 7-11 convenience store. We later discovered that 7-11 convenience stores are on every corner. Hot coffee was available in tins as well as food and phone cards too. When the fantastic show was over Cindy brought us as far as Amo's subway stop and then turned us over safely to Amo who once more that day was waiting for us at the MRT stop. Tired but exhilarated by the show, John, Amo and I walked home.
No sleep for us yet. Our day was not over as Amo said we had to plan our next few days in Taiwan. After some discussion it was decided on a plan.The motto we adopted was "Plans Subject to Change" and it served us very well as our plans did change a lot. . Now was the time for us to really learn our etiquette. We learned that everyone removes shoes upon entering the house. The host supplies slippers for all guests who remove their shoes as a matter of courtesy. Bathroom etiquette Taiwanese style was quite different from Canadian practice. The bathtub had very high sides but no shower curtain so I couldn't take a bath or shower without getting water on the floor. Of course the floors in all the bathrooms floors slope to a central drain. Toilet etiquette was also different from Canada. All toilet paper was to be deposited not in the toilet but in a waste paper basket for the purpose of collecting it because the sewer systems were not made for paper. I found that towels were small and they dried quickly.
Saturday March 17, 2007: night host is Rose Huang in Hschinu
We woke up Saturday morning just before Amo took the children for swimming lessons. John and I each packed a small suitcase and left our big ones in Amo's house. It was wonderful not to have to cart all our belongings with us. After lunch Amo took us on the subway to the Main Taipei Train Station to catch the high speed train to Hsinchu to meet Rose and her daughter Vivian.Before we left, we had a charming encounter in the MRT station which indicates how gracious the Taiwanese people are to their foreign visitors. After we purchased our tickets, John waited for me with our luggage at the gate entrance while Amo escorted me to the ladies bathroom. When we returned John told me an delightful story. A security guard at the gate recognized the Canadian Flag lapel pin John was wearing. He told John in English that he knew a lot about Canada. He proceeded to name all 10 provinces and correctly identify their capital cities. He then sang the Canadian anthem in English from start to finish. John was totally floored! The last place one expected to hear the Canadian anthem was at the gate to the high speed train in Taipei, Taiwan sung by a security guard. John removed his Canadian Flag lapel pin and gave it to him to the man's delight. John and I said thank you and goodbye to Amo and with Johanna's cellphone firmly in hand we set off to board the train.
But the story is not over. About ten minutes after John and I had taken our seats the same security guard come towards us with bottles of water and snacks for us to eat. He also took a photo which he later sent us by email. We started off on our train journey to Chaiyi charmed by the delightful people.
When we arrived at the ultramodern train station in Hsinchu, there was the smiling duo of Rose Huang and her smiling daughter Vivian. Somehow they knew who we were (I guess we were the only Western tourists exiting the train) and the big smiles in our direction told us who our new SERVAS hosts were. Rose said she knew from my SERVAS Letter of Introduction that I liked flowers and so we drove through windy streets to a fantastic outdoor flower market where I saw many people selling beautiful plants including two vendors selling magnificent orchids. Another vendor sold seeds and so I bought several packages of lettuce seeds plus Chinese basil with Chinese only directions. They grew very well in my mother's country garden during the summer. I was not sure for one packet labeled Chinese Chrysanthemum if I was supposed to eat the leaves or wait until later in the season and use them as cut flowers. In fact I did both.
After the flower market Rose and Vivian brought us to a very nice restaurant for a delicious Taiwanese dinner. After dinner we walked in the area around the famous Hsinchu Du Cheng Huang Temple. I did some shopping and wore what I bought during the trip. After our eventful day we went to Rose's stylish home and met her parents who lived downstairs. Her house was a three story townhouse in very new development. John and I had a charming view of the hills from Rose's bedroom window and we slept very well.
Sunday March 18, 2007: day hosts are Michael Hung and Mr and Mrs Robert Lee; overnight at Sun Moon Lake in Michael Hung's friend's chalet
On Sunday morning we woke up to a pleasant day. My fascination with bathrooms continued. In Rose's bathroom there was a small round plastic pan like a child's swimming pool and I was perplexed about what to do with the shower water caught in the pan after I took my shower. I carefully poured some of the soapy water down the central floor drain only to discover that it was normally saved to flush the toilet. Rose is a talented artist and quilter. On the walls of her house were several beautiful quilts. She gave us two quilted pillow covers and a hand painted Welcome sign she had done herself. In addition she gave me a lovely pearl necklace. John and I were touched since we were her guests who should be giving her gifts not the other way around. We had only small tokens of appreciation to extend. After a very nice breakfast and picture taking we met Rose's brother and his son who were going to accompany us to the mountains to visit the Chi Chi Water Management Plant. We saw how water is gathered and processed and we had an outdoor lunch on the patio looking at a lake. We learned about the fish that live beside the plant and enjoyed the view which was very pretty.
We met our next SERVAS host Michael Hung who had taken time from his teaching in Taichung City to also show us around. Arrangements had been made for the seven of us to be given a special tour by a famous Taiwanese calligrapher and artist of his studio. Off we went to another fascinating spot, not one a regular tourist would likely see. We were warmly welcomed by this gentleman. He showed us some amazing metre high clay jars that were highly ornamented with calligraphy. Then in his studio we sat fascinated by the brush strokes he used in making three diffeerent Chinese scrolls. To our great delight the artist invited us all into his office where he personally prepared tea according to the ritual tea ceremony used in Taiwan. We were fascinated by the details of the tea ceremony. There was a video of him being interviewed that we could watch while he prepared tea for the seven of us. We were very honoured to be received so graciously by such a famous person. But more was to come. He presented Rose and her brother, Michael, and John and I with one of the scrolls he had just made. What a wonderful souvenir of a special visit for us to take home.
We all drove to the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute in Chi-Chi, Nan-tou County, not too far away. We were so lucky that an English speaking guide was available to show us around. I was especially interested in all the types of frogs that call Taiwan home. I was quite astonished to discover that Taiwan has twenty nine different species of frogs. There are only ten species in the whole province of Quebec. We saw many types of frogs and learned about their different life styles. It was wonderful fun especially for me, the biologist. We were given a brochure in English with photos and information on the Institute in case we forgot anything.
After saying goodbye and a big thank you to Vivian, Rose, her brother and his son, John, Michael and I were off on the next leg of our trip. Michael drove us way up into the mountains to one of the most famous tourist spots in all Taiwan, Sun Moon Lake. In spite of the inclement weather the scenery was lovely. Michael had a friend who owned a cottage not far from the lake and this friend told Michael we could stay in the cottage that night so we could visit Sun Moon Lake properly the next day. We arrived by a winding dirt country road to see a charming chalet overlooking the power dam that is at the head of Sun Moon Lake. There was a large central room that was kitchen and dining room. Off this room was a bathroom, a bedroom and stairs leading up to the bedroom upstairs. Shortly after we arrived at the chalet. Michael introduced us to Mr and Mrs Robert Lee and one of their three daughters who had come to meet us and who would come back the following afternoon and take over as our next SERVAS hosts. After a wonderful display of Chinese munchies appeared courtesy of both Michael and the Lees, the Lees left and Michael took John and me into the village so we could walk around. There were many hotels, restaurants and tourist shops. I bought a warm embroidered Chinese-style jacket with a detachable fur collar that I wore a lot in Taiwan and in Montreal following my return. Robert took us to a restaurant for a nice dinner and then we returned to his friend's chalet for the night. John and I chose the downstairs bedroom, adjacent to the bathroom. The bedroom was a large room that had a bureau and some carved wood chairs. The sleeping area was a raised platform that took up about one third of the room. Sections of the platform lifted up revealing the bedding inside.There were firm duvets to sleep on, fluffy pillows and soft duvets to sleep under. The bathroom had an interesting shower head low down on the wall just beside the entrance. Without a plastic floor cover, the water from the shower head would end up all over the floor. I immediately decided a sponge bath was in order. After choosing our bedding, we climbed up on the platform and fell into a deep sleep once more.
Monday March 19, 2007: day host is Michael Hung; night hosts are Mr and Mrs Robert Lee in Zhongyuanli
Monday morning after breakfast, Michael drove us by the village and around the lake to the famous Wenwu Temple. The temple is justly famous because although it was very badly damaged in an terrible earthquake on September 21,1999 that measured 7.3 on the Richter Scale, it has been rebuilt so it is once more very beautiful. The view of the lake with the mountains around it was lovely. I bought a packet of nine postcards including one of the temple after its destruction by the earthquake. In a small amusing twist, a Taiwanese lady stopped me as I left the ladies bathroom wondering if there was toilet paper in the bathroom. I indicated that there was none to be had, so I gave her some of mine. It was the first and only bathroom that lacked tissue. I had taken the Taiwan guide book's advice and travelled well stocked with tissue so in a twist of fate I, the tourist from Canada, was able to give tissue to the Taiwanese lady. Michael drove all around the lake and stopped at an aboriginal town with shops facing the docks from which tourists took boat tours of the lake. After our morning tour, Michael brought us back to the chalet to meet Robert who arrived shortly after we returned. After saying thank you and goodbye to Michael for a wonderful time, we started the next part of our adventure with Robert.
Robert drove us to his very large gracious home in the country side town of Zhongyuanli in Caotun Township. We were so impressed by the rice paddies nearby in the valley with the mountains in the distance. Upon our arrival Robert brought us to a large room that was their house shrine where we were introduced to his parents who also lived in this large multilevel multgenerational house.We also met his charming wife Mrs Lee. Mrs Lee did not have an English name. In addition to the shrine and the large kitchen area the house consisted of a separate but connected building with different floors for his parents, brother's family and his family to live in .
Since the day was young, Robert decided to show us around the nearby city of Taichung. After seeing some of the major buildings Robert suggested that we go to a large store that specializes in electronics as John, the electrical engineer, might find something of interest to look at. However Alexandra's shopping genes were turned on by the thought of buying a digital camera. The hunt for the best camera and the best deal took a couple of hours of checking out the prices at different camera shops. John, Robert and I negotiated the final price and extras to be included in the deal. The saleslady spoke enough English to make the negotiations animated and memorable. The deal concluded with smiles all around. The first photo was of Robert, John and myself with the saleslady. Every time I see the picture I am instantly transprted back to that day with Robert in Taichung. With new camera in hand the happy trio drove around Taichung looking for a store for me to shop for a dress to wear to a godson's wedding in July in Canada. Robert took us to a very exclusive department store on Wedding Dress Street. The elevator operator wore white gloves and bowed deeply as the doors closed.The two men were exceptionally patient as I browsed. Unfortunately or fortunately, all the emsembles were well above my budget. Michael showed us many of the sights famous in Taichung and then we headed back to his home. We met his two other daughters and we were fascinated by their choices of western names. The Lee girl's names are Betty, Candy and Vivian. We had only met six children and two of the five girls were named Vivian. To us their choices were interesting. Naturally they could pick what ever name they wished as these names were not given at birth but chosen for their English classes. Betty had no idea that her name was the diminuative for Elizabeth. After washing our hands, we ate a magnificent dinner prepared for us by Mrs. Lee. We were treated royally. I was astonished at the variety and number of regional specialties that Mrs Lee had prepared in our honour. We all sat around a large round table with a giant revolving lazy susan that let us choose from among the many dishes with ease. It was a meal we will always remember. After this wonderful dinner it was time to go upstairs to the living area and send our exciting emails to family and friends.
We took the stairs one floor up to a foyer from which there were a number of doors. Besides the door to the balcony, one led to the bathroom and another to the living area where the Lees lived. Off the large living room was an office with a computer and two bedrooms for the girls and one bedroom for their parents. The bathroom had an unusual oval dark wooden bathtub about 4 feet long and about 3 feet wide. It was more than two feet deep and I had to lift my feet up high to get inside the tub. The shower head was of the personal kind, not on the wall. This meant having to squat with knees touching the sides for balance while showering. This time the bathroom floor was covered with a plastic grill so our feet stayed dry. With four ladies living in that house the bathroom foyer was well equipped with supplies and a hairdryer and many pairs of slippers. I felt very relaxed and sleepy after my shower.
John and I were given one daughter's beautifully furnished bedroom for the night. The mattress was on a raised platform with a soft duvet cover. All three girls and I were in our nighties and robes and I thought it was time to go to bed. However other plans were in store for me. The youngest daughter Vivian (age 11) looked up at me with those big eyes and asked me if I would like to play a game of Chinese Checkers with her and her sisters. I was touched by the offer and I jumped at the chance. I said I would need help as I had forgotten how to play the game. We sat in the large living room around a coffee table with our heads bent over the board. Gently and with much laughter they discretely guided me. I had a ball even though I made many mistakes. I received much helpful guidance and was touched by their gentleness, their respect and their sense of fun. Mrs. Lee used Robert's camera to take delightful photos of her three daughters and me playing the game. Robert kindly charged up the battery of my new camera and then transferred to my camera all the pictures Mrs Lee took of us. These are the first digital photos of SERVAS hosts on my trip. My film camera was now obsolete. After hugs, it was time for bed and we all retired and slept very well.
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