Monday, July 12, 2010

A leisurely day in the countryside I

Second night's hotel was at a deluxe hotel in Keelung, can't remember the name though. We had a superb view of the Keelung Harbour.  The hotel had an rooftop, indoor pool with the same view, and after my swim, I enjoyed the excellent night view. Here's the view from our room in the day.

There's a temple in the hilltop in front of the hotel.
I noticed that the Taiwanese loved building temples on hilltops. I guess this give the places of worship a sense of 'higher being' (gao gao zai shang) in every sense of the word.

Today's itinerary was rather relaxed, too relaxed for a package tour actually. There were only 2 destinations - a tomato farm and Neiwan old village. I was quite surprised by how relaxed the itinerary was. We knew from the start what destinations we would go during the booking of this package, but the tour guide had the flexibility to rearrange the chronology of visiting each destinations according to weather conditions or other factors.

Most of us have had the experience of tour packages and were probably used to the jammed packed itineraries that most tour packages encompass such that visitors visit as many of the tourist destinations as possible in an almost mechanic, touch-and-go assembly line process. In fact, the whole tour package process has become so run-of-the-mill and rushed, it's taken the pleasure and thrill out of travelling. In my opinion, travelling isn't just about snapping pictures of yourself in a scenic place. It's also about understanding the country's culture and way of life; exploring its interesting nooks and crannies by walking and even getting lost. I also think using the country's public transport system and sampling the its cusine are some ways to immerse yourself in the experience of travelling. I could never understand how some tourists could visit a country with dramatically different cusine and could still order Macdonald's (so is the big Mac any different from your country's, Mr/Ms "pseudo-traveller"?) in that country without giving thought to sampling that country's food. 

This tour hasn't actually broken out of the mound of usual package tour regimes, but it did come across as refreshingly different due to the relaxed pace of the itinerary and also due to the fresh insights of Taiwan we gained from Francis. During the bus journeys, he would pepper his commentaries of each destination with other discussions on his country's history, politics, the Taiwanese lifestyle and societal characteristics and observations. He was never boring, and did manage to enliven his discussions with a joke or two thrown in. I'd say the trip was dramatically better because of his excellent oratorical skills. I never thought I'd say this, but I think I learnt far more about Taiwan than my previous F&F backpacking trip back in 2004. 

Anyway, I digress. So as I was saying, we stopped by at a tomato farm for tomato picking. Unfortunately, this farm doesn't grow local tomatoes, but international ones (Japanese, Dutch, European) and they weren't sweet at all. I seriously cannot figure out why they chose to grow these exotic sounding tomatoes (Dutch beefsteak, Dutch T-bone, Dutch kiwi, Japanese golden) which aren't any sweet, over their local produce, which tastes far superior to their international counterparts. At the farm, I deliberately asked the farmhand if they sold local produce. As a matter of fact, they have, though not grown by them, and I sampled some. They were indeed as sweet as I expected. Hmmm IMO, I think these people have been bought over by the Dutch.

Here're some of the variety of tomatoes grown at the farm. They look far better than they taste. ~Disappointment~

All in all, I'd give this farm a miss if I could. Wish I had some way of giving feedback to the farm about their tomatoes' lack of sweetness, which I believe, could be easily rectified by planting the right seeds. 

Since it was such a leisurely day, I'd take my time describing this day too. ;) Will post about Neiwan next.

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