Wednesday, April 04, 2012

, , , ,

Chinese vs. Taiwanese on Alishan

4/04/2012 Taiwan Explorer
Marching to their own beat.

Alishan Mountain is known for its breathtaking views, clean air and untouched nature. It's one of Taiwan's top travel destinations, attracting masses of local as well as foreign visitors every year. Among those are visitors from People's Republic of China, who have created their own particular tourist landscape in the past 4 years, since they are allowed to visit Taiwan. It was for me interesting to observe, how different the two peoples are exploring and experiencing Alishan and today I would like to share with you some photos, that highlight this phenomenon.

Former Chinese leaders in the form of cute figurines. What might they be thinking?

Although natives of communist China are allowed to travel around Taiwan individually, most prefer group travel, which is organized by various travel agencies back at home and in cooperation with local Taiwanese agents and bus companies. These cross-strait joint ventures most likely get the biggest piece of the pie in this multi-billion business and I'm sure, that they are the harbingers of some kind of unity, even if as fake as the one among the figurines on the picture above.

So what do Chinese brethren do, when they arrive on Alishan village?

They cause a big commotion on 2200m above the sea.

Alishan for them is just a brief stopover - they usually only stay 3 hours here.

Imagine: Taking few hours long bus ride up here for a brief stopover: Is it worth it?

These visitors are mostly seniors.

One of the first things visitors from China do is eating very average yet overpriced food in some of the specific restaurants reserved for them. It looks like it meets their standard.

After the meal it's time for orientation: What to do now?

"Let's gather around the leader with the funny little flag."

Off to a small lake nearby, taking few pictures and then quickly rushing back to the overpriced souvenir shops loaded with Made in China stuff. And then off to the bus.

These dolls are typical for Yunnan province, the clerk admitted, after my wife asked.

And around 5pm most Chinese are gone and Alishan village turns into a ghost town (almost). The ones, who stay are mostly locals, some Chinese and a few Japanese.

I admit, that I was a little shocked to see so many people in this small mountain resort - and it's not about where they come from. The problem lays within the agencies, who push for the mass tourism and the government, that allows it. If Taiwan wants to preserve the beautiful nature up there for the future generations, this is just not the way to do it. Zhongzheng, a.k.a. Alishan Village is a big parking lot next to a bigger parking lot. It's surrounded with a mix of run-down neoclassical Chinese architecture and those tiled generic boxes, seen throughout Taiwan's cities, which are practical, but ugly. Fortunately, you can see some very beautiful buildings as well such as the main railway station, made of wood. But the real reason, why you should visit Alishan, is outside Zhongzheng: It's the beautiful forests, lakes and breathtaking views, that will mystify you. That's what lures most of Taiwanese up there.

A photo shoot duel.

Unlike patriotic Taiwanese visitors, who see Alishan as one of their biggest national gems, most Chinese group travelers just take it as one of the must-see destinations in the "breakaway province": They take few photos, buy a souvenir and leave (that's the impression I got). And I couldn't blame them: After all, they have the Forbidden City, the Yangtze river, the Yellow river, Xian, Guilin, the Great Wall... even Mount Everest is half in China. So how can the relatively small Alishan meet their grand expectations?

A lot of Taiwanese visitors park their cars in the middle of Alishan village.

Taiwan in general is very small for visitors from China, they've seen the most of it in a few days, something which is impossible when traveling around their home country. Those of us, who happen to live here, see things much differently, because it's our home. We are connected to the history, even if it's only a few hundred years old. We appreciate the small things such as an old tree trunk or cherry blossoms. I'm not saying Chinese are not like that back at home or while visiting Taiwan, but when it comes to Alishan, the difference pretty obvious.

So what do Taiwanese do, when they arrive on Alishan village?

They take a walk to the beautiful spots in the area in small groups or in couples.

The cherry blossom season is attracting a lot of Taiwanese to Alishan.

Taiwanese are obsessed with cherry blossoms - taking photos of them is a serious matter.

A young couple taking photos. Did you notice the matching colors of the clothes?

My wife and I went deeper in the forest and crossed this bridge.

A look below exposed thrown trash and corncobs: We all know, who loves to eat corn!

Taiwanese have to see the famous Alishan sunrise. They wake up at 4am for that.

They don't mind waiting for over 1h and get shouted at by some guy with a megaphone.

They feel happiness to see the sun rise above a tall guy's head.

From what it seems to me, Chinese and Taiwanese are still living in parallel worlds and taking the political and historic reality into consideration, this is not surprising. It's also no shocker, that there are two different ways of enjoying holidays and traveling. I hope, that this post won't shy you away from visiting Alishan, it's still worth it, because the area is huge and you don't need to go where the masses go. Avoid weekends or holidays and you should be fine.

▷ Some interesting blog posts from Chinese visitors to Alishan:

• 山间小溪的博客: Seeing Taiwan - Alishan
• 彭友驿站: Taiwan travel: Discovering Alishan
• 沐流尘 -- 腾讯博客: Taiwan @ Alishan scenery

My 2012 SOUTH-CENTRAL TAIWAN Tour - NEXT: Cherry Blossoms on Alishan>>

• Explore all my Alishan posts at once.