Since my last blog, our group has been very busy. Throughout February, we had language classes for just the members of our GVSU group. Now, we have been split into more intense language classes of different levels run by the university that include other international students from places like Japan, Thailand and Europe, just to name a few. We have gone on several more educational field trips, the most memorable of which was our five day whirlwind tour of the Eastern half of Taiwan on a small tour bus.
The first day of our trip, we went from Taipei up into the mountains to the area around a town called Puli. We traveled to see Sun Moon Lake- the highest elevation fresh water lake on Taiwan.
The next day, we traveled further into the mountains to A Li Shan park to see trees that are referred to as “divine trees” by name because they are over 2,000 years old. We were up so high that whenever we stopped by the road side to take pictures we were looking down on the tops of the clouds below. We also got the chance to meet some aboriginals, and experienced traditional Hakka cuisine.
On our way back down the mountains on the second day, we got to experience high mountain oolong tea at a tea plantation. The owners were kind enough to give us a tour of part of the plantation grounds. We got to see and learn about the tea plants up close and we were able to buy some to bring home to our families before we left for Jiayi for the night.
The third day took us to Tainan to see the national salt reserves as well as the old Dutch fortress. Late that afternoon we stopped at a beach and some us went swimming in the Taiwan Straits. Later after dark we went to see what are known as the Ghost Lights, which is a place where there are cracks in the ground where natural gas is able to escape and when it hits the air it combusts. We stayed in Kending that night.
The next day we explored the Kending area. We went to see the southernmost lighthouse on Taiwan, and the natural coral rock formations in Shilin park along the shoreline. There are areas where there is exposed coral that has been pushed up out of the sea due to tectonic activity. We went back to the same beach for a little break that afternoon. For the fifth and last day we explored the Gaoxiong area and learned about its local history before we went to see the Moon World mud pits. After that we headed back to catch the high speed train to Taipei. It was an unforgettable tour and we all learned so much about the culture of Taiwan thanks to the efforts Prof. Smith, Qiu Laoshi, our tour guide, and our bus driver.