Yilan Ming Chuan University has a club called People to People International (PTPI). It’s one of the English speaking clubs on campus. Their organization’s mission is to bring locals and foreigners together to learn Taiwanese culture. They hold meetings, activities and goes on tour trips around Taiwan. On one of the trips I went to Yilan, a state located in East Taiwan. It was two days long, so we stayed overnight in a hotel. The first day, we went to the National Center for Traditional Arts, a museum that is dedicated to Taiwanese traditional theater, music, dance and art. Tracy, one of the group leaders told me, “It isn’t like the average indoor museum; it is like a street market with 21 buildings in all.” There were live theater performances, traditional music, and several shops and vendors. Afterwards, we ate traditional Taiwanese food. Each group sat at a table and several plates of food were placed on a spinning round table in the middle. There was pork, rice, noodles, fish soup, tofu, seafood salad, and more. After lunch, we went to Su-Ao Cold Spring, one of the only cold springs in the world other than in Italy. The water was not very deep, but it was really cold! One of the workers told us, “A dip in the cold spring could cure illnesses like pneumonia, skin disease, and stomach aches.” As evening came, we headed to Taipingshan where we went to Lotong Forest Area. It was a really calm place, it looked like an old train station. We played a game where the different groups had to race and take pictures at certain areas in the park. While we were hunting for our photo spots, I noticed amongst the old trains and wooden monuments that there were several Japanese style buildings. Janice, one of the team leaders told me “When Japan used to own Taiwan, this was one of the train stations. After Taiwan became independent, they made this area into a park.” After we checked into our motel, we all went into the Lotong Night Market to eat dinner and shop around. My friend Phuong Oanh, from Vietnam and I ate long feng tui one of Yilan’s famous foods, cong bing li zi, some green onions and vegetables cooked inside of fried bread, and zheng zhu, a Taiwanese root mixed with sugar, rice, milk, and tea. On the second day, we rode bicycles around Plum Lake. The lake is shaped like a plum (hence it’s name), has two temples nearby, and a bridge leading to a small island. Our PTPI group members took several pictures there. For snack, most of us ate bing qi lin hua sheng juan. Its two scoops of ice cream, peanuts, and spices wrapped inside of a thin, sweet burrito-like shell. We then went to tour the inside of King Car Whisky Distillery, famous for their Ka An whiskey. Afterwards we went to Tanweigou Hot Spring Park. It was my first time in a hot spring! Steam was rising from the water, but it wasn’t hot; it was warm and was really relaxing. We made one last stop at a famous bakery in Yilan, then headed back to Taipei and Taoyuan. It was a fun trip and nicely planned. I made a lot of new friends and got to see more of Taiwan’s beauty and culture.
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