White helmet tours

One of the main tourist destinations of Taiwan, I wasn’t sure what to expect of my tour – was it going to be in English? Chinese? A big or small group? After an unexpected but fun ‘yellow hat’ tour with my cousin of the Yellow Mountains in China years before, I was kinda hoping for colorful hats.

Alas, it wasn’t to be, today’s tour was instead all about the white helmets! The tour was a small minivan that picked me up from the hostel, and for $988 included a full day of seeing the sights of Tarako, lunch and a drop off at the train station at 4.30pm. The tour was in Chinese, but as the majority of the others on the ground were from Asian countries that speak both Chinese and English (eg Singapore and Malaysia), I was in good hands.

In our minivan we went around and saw many special spots, including the tunnel of nine turns, the eternal spring shrine and the Swallow Grotto trail. It was on the way to the Swallo Grotto trail that we passed a roadside stop proclaiming “free helmet hire” – our guide stopped and picked up a helmet for each of us, including a tiny one for the 3 year old French boy also on our tour. At the Swallow Grotto trail we put on our helmets to wander along the trail – an area well known for landslides and rockfalls, over the years many have been killed and helmets are now mandatory.

Lunch was a brilliant mix of local foods shared over the table with others from the group. I made friends with a few (very well spoken) young boys when I came across a stamping area (like Japan, many attractions in Taiwan have a rubber stamp that symbolizes it – kids collect the rubber stamps in books). I immediately ran up to start stamping my notebook, when one of the young boys offered me a special kids stamping book instead, so now I’m set!

I’m sitting on the train as we slowly roll into Taipei and back to the hustle and bustle of city life. The guy next to me is playing on his psp, the guys across the aisle has both his iPhone and MacBook air out and the woman in front is playing with an iPod. Sitting here typing on my iPad and uploading via Bluetooth on my iPhone, I can see I fit in with a technology aware country such as Taiwan!

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