In a effort to see more of Taiwan, we left the city one afternoon and went off with a small group tour in a van. The other two people were a young German woman with a French name and a Chinese woman living in Australia. It really is a global world. The young woman was on her way home after doing 3 months of an anthropological study in Auckland, NZ. She was of the ilk that only answers your polite, friendly queries and never asks one herself. The Chinese woman had just a wee bit of English and while friendly enough, mostly chatted with the “guide.” I use the term loosely.
The name of the tour company is Viator Tours. FYI. Undoubtedly the worst tour we have ever been on. We were to visit the NE. Coast of the island and a gold-mining town called Juifen. First a 50 minute ride to the coast, where we head north for about 10 minutes and stop at an area where there are interesting rock formations. “That is the Pacific Ocean,” the guide tells us sagely. “Get out, take pictures here. Go!”
5 minutes later, we are hustled back in to the van, retrace our path and stop again to “Take pictures of the two colours of water in the bay, caused by pollution from the closed copper mine.” Terrific! Pictures of a polluted bay. In any case, the old copper mine is far more interesting. Geoff and I throw the guide into spasms when we cross the highway to take pictures. He desperately wants us to get back in the van in under 5 minutes but we thwart his plan.
Finally, we return and the tour proceeds. (Ed. note: The tour is actually billed ” Chiufen Village (Jiufen) and Northeast Coast Half-Day Tour ” We were done in 3 hours and 50 minutes – which make a day 7 hours 40 minutes long, I guess)
We head back in-land, up into mountains. It really is a beautiful country! Everything is green and lush as we pass through old villages and climb to Juifen. The gold mines are long gone but Juifen has embraced tourism in a big way. The village is stuffed into the side of a mountain, with narrow paths snaking up and down from the main roadway, itself not much more than a sidewalk. Like the rest of Taiwan, it is super clean and presents a gauntlet of vendors for the tourists to pass through.
We have an hour to check the place out before the guide catches up to us again and herds us down one of the paths. “This is the place of the making of a famous movie, “ he says, pointing to a nice looking hotel/restaurant/bar. “The movie is called ‘The City of Sadness. Take a picture of this door. Stand here for the best shot. Go!”
That was the tour, in a nutshell. From the school of “You get what you pay for,” it was certainly a way to kill an afternoon but informative? Not really. The above dialogue was really pretty close to what he actually told us. The drive back did get a little interesting though, as a monsoon-like rain came on, flooding a lane of the highway and slowing down traffic. It was about that time that the guide (we never did get his name) told us that it never rains in Taipei. While I didn’t actually say BS, I did mention that it had rained every day we had been there and twice we had been caught in rainstorms. “Oh, ha ha, that is true.” Who is this guy and how has he managed to be employed as a guide?
Back in the city, the driver is trying to make his way to the three stops by back ways, for whatever reason. He must know, as we have figured out in a day, that the streets are mostly one ways. You can’t just deke around. After many false starts, he finally brings out the full Chinese driver in himself and heads brazenly in the wrong way down numerous lanes to cut off corners. Remember the company: Viator Tours. Viator.com I think these might be the same people who got us on the bus-to-boat tour from Vietnam to Cambodia. At least that one was a great adventure.
That night it was back to VG for dinner.
The Shoe Blog
The next time you think YOU are having a bad day, just think of this poor woman.