During the months of November and December 2019, I took on a tour to quite a few cities in Asia. These cities are located in Japan, Thailand, and Taiwan. Japan and Thailand are new to me while it was my third visit to Taiwan. Unlike the previous visits with touring groups, we mixed in a dose of “self-directing” tour this time.
每日新闻综述 1月9日 周四 失事客机遭伊朗导弹击落 安省小学教师将轮流罢工
Our touring group stops were Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka in Japan. Throughout this tour, we noticed that lunch and dinner arrangements were made with Chinese food operators. One day, we entered a one-time wedding resort now with each room operating as a lunch restaurant for visiting tourists arriving in Coaches. Another time, each floor of a building was serving as an eating area for touring groups. All of their staff were Chinese from Mainland and they spoke Pu Tong Hua only. This made it difficult for some of us to interact with them.
Temple visits were made daily, as with visits to specialty shopping areas. The Ginza area located in the heart of Tokyo was not what we expected. There were plenty of pharmacies staffed with Mainland Chinese to deal with Chinese tourists stocking up on medicines and ointments. The whole experience reminds me of my visit to China a few years ago when the entire tour is “packaged” and controlled by a syndicate.
On many occasions, we saw Chinese signs requesting people “not to smoke” or “not to stand on the toilet seats”. There must be plenty of violations to cause these signs to go up and directed at this specific group of tourists. We did not find similar signs in other languages so these must be put up to discourage unwelcome behaviours.
Our next destinations were Bangkok, and Pattaya, Thailand. Bangkok is a very large, modern city with many skyscrapers. Like Japan, there are plenty of tourists from China. Again, some items stayed in my memories along with the wonderful temples and palaces visited there. The waterways were filthy – there were even open sewers in the downtown area! The Floating Markets offered plenty of merchandise and specialty foods. If you can put up with the possibility of getting your food cut with knives washed in the river then you would enjoy them. The crafts and souvenirs were done up locally and in very good quality. Surprisingly, many Thai people can converse in English to get transactions done.
Once again, we witnessed Chinese food hoarders at the buffet table in the restaurant located on the tallest building in Bangkok (76th floor). There were queue jumpers at the breakfast line in the Hotel in Pattaya. Finally, a group of mainland Chinese tourists rushed into an elevator with their luggage ignoring our queue and had to exit when they did not get it running (because they did not realize they need to use their room cards). They angrily exited and we went upstairs laughing.
After Pattaya we left the touring group and took a train north to Chiangmai and Chiangrai. There, we hired a driver and a van to visit more temples. Night markets were nice attractions with many things to see, buy, and eat. Thailand is all about shopping and food! If we visit again, we will bring extra luggage boxes to carry all of the cheap goods.
Finally, we arrived in Taiwan. This is an election year and their election date is January 11, 2020. There were no Mainland visitors in Taiwan this year as no visitations to Taiwan is allowed for political reasons. We saw plenty of tourists from other nations, particularly Korea and Japan. For this reason, attractions are less crowded and tours were conducted in an orderly fashion.
Unlike the previous visit, we did not join any touring group. We hired a driver and van to took us into the mountain ranges. There, we saw the most wonderful sunset above the clouds. We visited small towns and villages, sampled the local foods and talked to the residents.
The Night Markets have changed a lot since my last visit. Now, there are more gaming stalls (dart throwing, shooting of balloons) than before. Many of the food stalls are “franchised” stalls and there are multiple number of them along the route. Nevertheless, the quality of food was still good and visitation is mandatory.
The highlight of the trip was to visit the Taipei 101 building and dine at the Ding Tai Fung 鼎泰丰restaurant. The wait was an hour but it is well worth it. We ordered the “Soup dumplings” 小笼包 with the thinnest dumpling skin one can find. I have visited many “Ding Tai Fung” restaurants around the world and this one is the best.
“Self-directing” tour offers the best way to see attractions in details and meet more people but it takes more time to visit less number of attractions. It is best used for repeat visits!
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