The days are long and Taiwan is our home for this day. It is our second day exploring this country. We started our morning off with a breakfast buffet that included traditional Chinese cuisine; especially noted the elusive Chinese dumpling made an appearance and it was worth the wait. Our Taiwanese tour guide started the day by explaining the some of the cultural gaps that exist between the Taiwanese and Americans. As luck would have it, Feb 28th is a Taiwanese holiday celebrating Peace Memorial Day. Because of this, many of our stops included unique experiences.
Our first stop was the Nantou Tea Farm. This farm introduced us to perhaps our most charismatic actor of our adventure. Our language gap created a hilarious session with Charades-like communication and many “hello, hello’s”. Not only did we learn about Oolong tea production, we also gained knowledge via a very detailed and in-depth discussion about digestive and other tea benefits. The old-style serving of tea was demonstrated as we were provided with samples of high-quality Oolong tea. We were taught the proper way to sniff the aroma of the tea using a special serving cup that was rolled in one’s hands before smelling. The tasting process was also taught to us as follows: sip slowly, hold the tea in your mouth for 5 seconds, and then swallow. This expensive and delicious tea is grown high up in the mountains of Taiwan. The greatest quality leaves are harvested by hand, carefully dried, and then processed for export to Japan. After documenting our stop with plenty of pictures and purchases, we transitioned to the Tour Rich Year Farm.
An insight gleaned in transit is that many Taiwanese tour guides do not like to guide Americans because of our incessant questions. Jean (our tour guide), having spent time in Tennessee for college, had no problem educating us the entire time. The Tour Rich Farm is a mushroom farm. This farm specializes in greenhouse production of pick your own, fresh, and dried mushrooms. The entire greenhouse production area is open for consumers to peruse. We saw some interesting varieties of mushrooms; the monkey head and deer horn mushrooms were highlights, but we also saw different types of white, yellow, black, blue, and pink mushrooms. Our tour finished with an exclusive look into the production side of the business, where we got to see how the farm prepares potting material for mushroom growth.
Lunch was our next stop. The farm and the restaurant are owned by the aboriginal Thaower people of Taiwan. These native Taiwanese still make up about 2% of the Taiwanese population, and some still practice the traditional ways of hunting and gathering. Our meal was an spectacular representation of traditional native Taiwanese food. Nearly all our dining experiences in this country utilized the circular table with a spinning Jenny that never seemed to run out of food. The staff would continually provide new dishes as we perfected our chopstick usage. Conveniently, our lunch stop was adjacent to the Thaower Biotech Farm, our next agenda item. A quick tour of the Biotech farm showed us a glimpse of aquaculture and green production in a sun-free environment.
After driving up more mountains, we arrived at our next stop- Sun Moon Lake. This gem of Taiwan is a very popular vacation destination for local Taiwanese. We hopped on a 1973 Chris Craft touring boat and had two stops around this beautiful freshwater lake. The first stop was a Buddhist temple and included a 1500’ climb. I am happy to report that after a strenuous foot race up the 1239 steps, I secured victory. The next stop was a local village that allowed us to to see the stereotypical American idea of streets filled with people. The energy was electric, the food was incredible, and we enjoyed our quick glimpse of how people gather together in Taiwan.
Supper tonight was our first experience with a “hot pot”. In this traditional Taiwan fast food experience, each person gets a seat that has its own boiling pot of water. In an all-you-can eat buffet style, we selected our uncooked ingredients and then prepared them ourselves to our own liking. I am confident in speaking for the group in that our appetites have never gone un-appeased.
Cordell Huebsch & Danielle Evers