- Day 1: Layover in Taiwan
RTW Trip 2014: Peru→ Chile → Argentina → Antarctica → Argentina → Uruguay → Argentina→ Chile→ England → Morocco → Spain → France → Belgium → Netherlands → Germany → Czech Republic → Austria → Hungary → Croatia → Italy → Thailand → United States → Thailand → Laos → Vietnam → Cambodia → Australia → Taiwan
Dates: December 4, 2014
Flying from Sydney back to the States was a long ordeal- about 40 hours long. Thankfully, we had a fun and relaxing layover in Taiwan that was long enough to allow us time to explore the city a bit.
We landed in Taiwan around 6am their time, and after cashing in about $3USD for Taiwanese currency to buy breakfast in the cash-only food court, we signed up for an amazing free tour we had learned about only 12 hours before while waiting at the Sydney airport for our flight.
Taiwan’s Office of Tourism sponsors free tours in the morning and the afternoon for travelers stopping over for a layover of 8 hours or more. All we had to do was sign up that morning outside of the international terminal, and at 8am a local guide picked us up with a handful of other tourists in a coach van.
From there, our guide told us about the local culture, the food, and some of the history. He did not address Taiwan’s relationship with China, so I did some research on my own later that afternoon and from what I can gather, Taiwan considers themselves the true China, and mainland China as currently ruled by an illegal government. Thus, Taiwan does not recognize mainland China. Likewise, mainland China considers Taiwan a part of their country, but a part that happens to have an illegal government in power. The crux of the conflict appears to be capitalism vs. communism, and democracy vs. dictatorship. Culturally, however, in terms of food, religion, and day to day life, the two are considered very similar. Because of this, I have deemed Taiwan as “China Lite”- you get a bit of a taste of Chinese culture, but without communism and government-controlled media.
The first stop on our tour was to a gorgeous temple in Sanxia, a town about a half hour southwest of Taipei. The Zushi Temple is a Daoist temple, built in honor of a famous general from around the year 1000 AD, is considered a living art school, because the intricate carvings of stone and bronze statues serve as examples that teach students still today.
We also got to visit an impressive museum- the Yingge Ceramics Museum. We were admitted for free and even given an audio guide. Normally, I would have expected to be bored at a ceramics museum, but the exhibits here were very modern, informative, and fun to look at. More than just a museum about pottery, this museum taught us about what pottery and ceramics tell us about the ancient cultures of the region, about technology, and about how Taiwan is using ceramics in technology and contemporary art today. We were really impressed.
After the museum it was time to head back to the airport, where our guide dropped us off back at our terminal- a temple tour, a museum tour, and transportation to and from the airport, all for free! Kudos to Taiwan’s tourism office for coming up with such a great program- Tim and I are definitely more interested in Taiwan now and plan to visit again for a longer period of time in the future!
The rest of our day was spent in the business class lounge, eating various dumplings and noodle soups, napping, and generally relaxing. It still had not sunk in that the big world tour of 2014 was drawing to a close, and even now, a few weeks later, I am still not sure it has.