Taiwan is affectionately referred to as “the beautiful island,” having been named Formosa by early Portuguese settlers. One great advantage of teaching abroad here is to take advantage of the myriad attractions that inspire and excite. The new crew of teachers who arrived in August 2014 did just that and wrote about their trip to Green Island. This report is from Teacher Simon:
We are a group of young, passionate, highly motivated educators that are new to our 2-year teaching placements here in Taiwan. For our first three-day weekend of the year (in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival) we had a long list of places to see and things to do. Should we see the Taroko Gorge in Hualien? Brave the tropical surf in Kenting? See a misty sunrise at Sun Moon Lake? Each of those excellent options would have to wait, because we chose a wild card: a 6 hour train ride to Taitung followed by a boat ride to the illustrious and beautiful Green Island off the southeastern coast of Taiwan.
We arrived in Taitung with restless eyes and weary bodies but a renewed sense of excitement and anticipation. While the city isn’t much to write home about, it’s surrounded by endless scenic beauty with mountains to the east and the ocean to the west. We went straight to the beach and walked along the coastline, wandering through a nature park full of bike enthusiasts and man-made lakes.
For lodging, we arranged a home stay located in the Donghe district just north of Taitung. The unbelievable service of the owners and staff truly made us feel at home and fortunate to have been there. We had a room with an ocean-view balcony, a daily evening BBQ, and a quick 2-minute ride down to the ocean that felt more tropical and comfortable than we could have ever imagined.
We left bright and early for our boat ride to Green Island. Upon arriving at the main island port after a smooth one-hour boat ride, the first order of business was to rent some scooters. It’s difficult to describe how excited we were about this. For a daily rate of $600 NT (about $20 US) we could cruise in the wind on local roads between the ocean and the mountains. How much better can it get?
Other popular things on Green Island include of snorkeling, hiking, cave sight exploration, some man-made swimming holes, a few white sand beaches, and going to one of only three natural salt water hot springs in the world. While most natural landmarks come with customary service fees and tourist traps, it seemed that even the most “popular” tourist spots were relatively untouched by other tourists. Despite it being a holiday weekend, we couldn’t have felt more remote as we walked out to the coastline and swam in the open, tropical ocean.
As it’s reputation upholds, Green Island certainly deserves it’s place among the elite attractions of Taiwan. It took us roughly 5 hours to venture our way around the entire island and back to the stretch of local restaurants and stores. Among the many places we stopped and visited included two caves, the Little Great Wall, the lighthouse, and many more isolated trails and panoramic views of the blue ocean waters and rock formations along the coastline. The ease of access to everything within the island mixed with the sense of peace that flowed throughout the quiet the scooter rides with the ocean always in view made for an incredibly memorable day.
We made it safely and smoothly back to our home stay with the evening’s BBQ awaiting our arrival. We had plates of food, the ocean in front of us, and the dimly lit sky overhead. Not only that, but for the latter part of the evening we found ourselves immersed in an incredibly wild and fun session of karaoke (KTV), with our host playing his saxophone in the background and our voices echoing throughout the dense forest.
It seems that another trip to Taitung is most certainly in our future.
As an aside, listed below are some essential components and steps for planning a journey throughout Taiwan, no matter the destination.
- Do your homework at least a week in advance. While we successfully bought tickets the day of, it would be wise to research and plan accordingly.
- Book your train ticket a week in advance if you would like a seat.
- Understand the different names of trains and the pace at which each is expected to travel.
- Book your hotel a week in advance. Great site for information for hotel booking and overall destination reviews includes www.Taiwanese-secrets.com
- Visit the Information Directory upon arrival.
- Grab maps.
- Make plans.
- Ask questions.
- Allow yourself time for flexibility and exploration.
- Do not try and cram things into one busy schedule over the course of two or three days.
- If you’re traveling as a group, pick a few common interests to do and see within the group and allow enough time to thoroughly adventure and enjoy the moments.
- Most Importantly: STOP AND ENJOY THE MOMENTS
- Find significance and meaning to the places you visit and the things you do.
- Connect them to your life and your experiences.
- Appreciate the moments for when they are there, and realize how lucky you are to be at that moment in your life!