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9 June 2010

Hi guides!

We had our Taiwan Exchange Programme with Dali High school’s venture scouts from 30th may to 3rd june. In total, 5 year 3s, 11 year 4s and 6 year 5s went together with 3 of our guiders. The trip was definitely fulfilling and we sure did have loads of fun there!

Day 1:
We reached Taipei’s airport and around 6 in the evening, then left for Yilan’s toucheng farm stay straight on a coach. We had a cosy dinner on our 2 hours bus ride there, with amazing local ‘bian dang’ chicken drumstick rice and their famous bubble milk tea. We met our tour guide there for the first time too, who explained to us the customs and lifestyles of Taiwanese. We were also told to do a task within our groups, some being food while others being landscape, and to present our discussion after the trip. At around 8.30pm, we reached tou cheng farm stay.

Our first activity was to make a lantern and write our wishes on it, then set it ablaze and watch it fly away carrying our wishes along. It was a beautiful sight as hand-drawn lanterns float in the air with fireworks set off in the background. After that, we went back to our rooms (4 in a room) to rest. The rooms were fantastically huge and clean! It felt wasted that we were only staying there for one night.

Day 2:
After having a good rest, we woke up at around 7am and headed down for breakfast, which was a delicious spread of local cuisine. After which we set off for our farm tour around the place! It was really enriching as we get to do farm chores such as bathing the pigs and feeing the goats, plant rice in padi fields, as well as learn more about traditional farming life. This lasted for about half a day, then we had lunch and left for Hualian.

On the way, we stopped by at a foot hot spring attraction. We had walked long distances for the past few days so this is really one of the few moments we get to sit down peacefully around the spring and simply letting warm water run past your feet- relaxing!

In the evening we reached Tai Lu Ge, a natural scenic place in Hualian that is very famous and a must-visit by tourists. The scene there is breathtaking but unfortunately the sky was quite dark when we took photos, hence the quality is not as amazing as the actual view. After the short visit, we went to a local restaurant to have our dinner. Again, we were free to order whatever we want as long as we can finish the food. With our stomachs happily filled, we were given over an hour of free time to walk around Hualian and shop, as well as observe their local residential housings and schools. Taiwan being a developing country, furthermore Hualian is considered the more countryside areas, their buildings were mostly old and run-down. The housings are block apartments like ours , with a common security gate at the entrance. Only residents of the apartment can enter the gate, if not the visitor has to call the resident to come down and unlock the door personally.

At around 10 plus, we assemble back in the hotel and went back to our rooms, that day having 2-in-1 room. The room was even more amazing than Toucheng’s resort! With awesome huge toilets and beds, it was a really good rest we had.

Day 3:

After a hearty breakfast, we left immediately for Taipei on a coach, the capital of Taiwan.

On the way we stopped by a tea plantation at a rather remote place. It is more of a local plantation and not a tourist attraction, hence everything was more peaceful and we learnt first-hand how to pluck tea leaves and choose the young ones to pluck. It was a rather interesting experience. We also got to taste the different tea freshly brewed from their own tea leaves.

The bus ride was long but filled with small talks and random laughter so hours flew past. After that we continued our journey to the Girl Guides HQ in Taipei. It was the 100th year anniversary on this day, so they were selling some really rare souvenirs such as stamps and postcards which were very pretty. We also learnt more about the history of guiding there, where guides between 15-17 years old were called Rangers instead of Girl Guides. We took a look around their HQ building as well and visited their store to grab some special souvenirs!

After the visit came the shopping part at Wu Fen Pu and Si Men Ding. Both night markets were equally appealing, but selling mostly clothes and accessories respectively. The dazzling lights and buzzing crowd added on to our already high mood and the night was spent with money and in total craziness. Of course at the same time we observed their youth culture to complete our task that was given at the beginning of our trip! Everything sold in Taiwan is so much cheaper than Singapore, so we had to make good use of the money we brought along, hahaha. At around 10 plus, we check in Chung Hua Telecomm Hostel. It was a little cosy room shared by 2.

Day 4:
Today was the first day we had local breakfast- their delicious healthy sandwich and a cup of fresh green milk tea. After that we left for Dali High School to meet the Scouts group there. When we just reaching their school gate they were already lined up at the entrance waiting to welcome us! The mere sight of their welcome was friendly enough and we were all looking forward to meeting our buddies. When we entered their school we were greeted by a magnificent structure they built. The difference was that they used long metal poles and bamboos instead of wooden spars like us. But it was an amazing structure nevertheless.

Then, we were introduced to the history of Scouting in their school and met up with our buddies. There are both guys and girls in the group so it was more of a gender balance. We had station games later which included artsy bead-making, abseiling and climbing of their structures. There were still performance by them as well, and they did a great job out of everything.
We had tons of fun there and definitely made new friends that will last more than the day we stayed.

In the evening we climbed Yang Ming Shan, and even though it was raining it did not dampen our spirits! We scaled the steep, narrow, slippery stairs and change to rope slope climbing around halfway through for something more challenging. The overall experience was great as it trained up our mental resilience as even though we felt really tired at times, we did not give up knowing others are feeling as tired as us. The scenery was breathtaking as well :)

After reaching down again, we took the coach to somewhere near Shilin night market for dinner, then went to shop at Shilin on our last night there. It was mainly a food street and just perfect for us to try out the different street snacks sold, such as XXL chicken chop and the smelly beancurd. Clothes and accessories were sold as ridiculously cheap prices and the quality is quite good as well! To our surprise, our Taiwan buddies decided to impromptu and meet us there to accompany us to shop!

Day 5:
5 days just flew past like that and today is already the last day of our trip. First we visited a ceramics shop where we experienced firsthand how the ceramics clay felt like and tried molding it into some designs. However, we were running short of time and the person in-charge nicely agreed to give us some boxes so we can bring home our clay and finish up our product back here in Singapore. After that we rushed to the airport to catch our flight back home sweet home!

The 5 days were awesome, and not only did we have much fun, we learnt so much that could not have been experienced in Singapore. Every moment of the trip was worthwhile and I really hope DHS Guides will have this chance next year again so that those who did not go this year still have a chance next year.

Love Guides!