A Pokara Kind of Paradise

Because I only have a couple months in Taiwan, I have been making the most of my time in this beautiful country. This means traveling and trying new activities, almost every weekend (life is really tough for me right now, I know).

After a day of relaxing by the beach and exploring the province of Yilan I spent one peaceful night, sleeping under the stars, at Pokara Resort.

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Located in a rural area amongst rice fields, this place truly feels like an oasis. When I walked into the lobby I instantly felt relaxed, and it wasn’t just from the air conditioning, but rather a combination of the calming music playing and the friendly staff waiting to greet me.

I found the lobby beautifully decorated, with elaborate vases and comfortable couches to sit on while the staff processed my passport and checked me into my room.

As I checked in around 4:30 PM there was a selection of tea, coffee, fruit, and treats waiting for me, because I arrived perfectly on time for the afternoon tea hours.

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The interior design at Pokara Resort is extremely well done. Besides the lobby, I especially loved the look of my room. I had a very unique hotel stay experience because my room was actually an outdoor cabin, which I paid a little extra for, but found it to be totally worth it.

The surrounding scenery is gorgeous and the room is equally as stunning! With wooden walls, and flower accents, a nice area to sit by the window, this was definitely no regular hotel room. The room came with all the comforts of a usual indoor hotel room but it’s unique setting really set it apart for me, I had never experienced a room like this before! Another bonus was the extra privacy it provided.

To get to the outdoor cabins you walk through a lovely garden area with comfortable chairs and tables to sit at. One is actually made out of marble and would be great for playing a round of afternoon Euchre, if you’re into card games.

Because the resort was in a rural area I had no problems with sleeping at night. There was no noise coming from the streets, just the faint sound of crickets at night and birds in the morning. It was nice to feel the morning sun and take a quick walk through the garden before eating breakfast.

img_6339Leading me to my next topic of breakfast. To some, this might not be so important, but to a food lover such as I, a hotel with good food is a prerequisite. At Pokara Resort I was definitely pleased with their morning food offering!

Besides scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and toast with their homemade garlic butter (essentially garlic bread minus the cheese) they also have some true Taiwanese dishes that I thoroughly enjoyed. These range from Taiwanese braised pork rice, boiled sweet potato leaves, and rice porridge, if you’re into foreign cuisine you won’t wanna miss out. They also had fresh tea and most importantly to me, a coffee machine that used fresh beans to make the delicious (and necessary) beverage.

Pokara Resort offers free bicycle rentals to their guests and I really appreciated this feature as I biked to the nearby beach! These vessels gave me a more authentic experience as they allowed me to explore the nearby town and countryside on my own time.

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Besides this, the staff service really blew me away. They spoke limited English but tried their best to communicate, using Google translate so that I could understand what they were trying to tell me. They were extremely friendly, helped me with my luggage and even wrote out the names of local restaurants in English for me. They effort was extraordinary and they also escorted me by shuttle to the bus station on the morning of my check out!

If you find yourself in the North of Taiwan, you should make the province of Yilan a priority to get to, but more importantly, staying at Pokara Resort should be at the top of your list: http://www.pokara.com.tw/en/index.php

 

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Yunoyado Onsen Hotel Puts You First

Recently, I have had the pleasure of working at Yunoyado Onsen Hotel located in the town of Jiaoxi, Taiwan.

I wanted to express my gratitude towards the hotel staff and also express how fortunate I feel to have been able to work in such a positive and welcoming environment.

The moment I walked into Yunoyado Onsen for my first day of work, I felt at home. Most of the staff can speak English and even those who don’t consistently go out of their way to make me feel comfortable in this new work environment.

I have been a witness to the kindness they extend not only towards employees but also towards guests. They treat each and every visitor to the hotel with the ultimate level of respect, as they greet people at the door and help them carry in their luggage. They exceed service expectations of a typical hotel, providing guests with local secrets on how to see the best attractions, bottles of water, towels if its raining, and much more.

One of my favourite aspects of the job has been working in such a beautiful building! The hotel was built one year ago and features modern Japanese style decor and design. There is a pond outside the main entrance to the hotel that features large koi fish and fresh plants.

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The lobby is sleek and exudes a natural vibe, the exterior of the front desk resembles a log and the wood is actually from Myanmar. The seating area looks as though it was freshly carved from a tree!

The rooms in the hotel are quite nice. Personally, the most appealing aspect are the spacious showers and modern style bathtubs found in the different styles of rooms the hotel offers.

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For me , Yunoyado Onsen hotel has provided a sanctuary; it serves as my retreat from the hustle and bustle of the big city of Taipei.

One of the best parts of working at this particular hotel is being able to indulge in the complimentary tea and homemade treats, which all guests are of course invited to do as well. Between the various cookies, pastries and the different types of tea, (Nepalese black tea pictured here), it’s safe to say my taste bud’s have been quite the happy bunch since I started my internship.

One of the greatest features of the hotel, in my opinion, is the rooftop patio. This space provides a great view of the surrounding Jiaoxi mountains. Each day I make sure to take advantage as during my break I often enjoy relaxing up there. After looking at screens all day long, it’s nice to just look out into the town and see the nature behind it.

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Although I have not yet gotten to take advantage of this, there are also hot spring tubs that guests can enjoy and soak their feet in after a long day of travelling. In comparison to North American hotels, this amenity is very unique. Even more interesting is that the water found in the hot springs of Jiaoxi is actually very rare because it is extremely rich in minerals such as sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Naturally, the hot springs in Jiaoxi provide many health benefits for users.

SO, if you’re ever in Taiwan, I implore you to visit the province of Yilan and in particular Yunoyado Onsen Hotel in Jiaoxi Township; the hotel is quite convenient to access as it is close to the city’s bus and train stations. Just like mine have, your expectations will not only be met, but exceeded. You’ll enjoy a relaxing atmosphere enhanced by friendly staff members, modern design, and a high standard of quality and overall service.

I am so grateful for the kind and hospitable treatment I have received and I guarantee after staying here you will feel the same. For an English version of their website visit: https://www.agoda.com/yunoyado-onsen-hotel/hotel/yilan-tw.html?

 

Jiaoxi Hot Springs 

http://www.jiaoxi-tourism.tw/Portal/Content.aspx?lang=2&p=201020001

http://enwww.e-land.gov.tw/cp.aspx?n=471BF3A523D05BB2&s=4C874B0C0A621518

The Ghost Festival

As August comes to an end I wanted to highlight what this month really means to the majority of the people living in Taiwan.

The Hungry Ghost Festival in Taiwan, also known as Zhong Yuan Jie ( 盂蘭節), is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival. In the Chinese calendar, (which is lunisolar) the Ghost Festival is on the 15th night of the seventh month but according to the Gregorian calendar, which is used in Taiwan, it occurs on the 15th night of the eighth month.

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During this month it is believed by many that ghosts and spirits, even those of deceased ancestors, visit the living. It is said there are two kinds of spirit that visit: the good, called shén (神) and the bad, called guĭ (鬼).

Bad spirits are described as those who died an untimely death. To appease their suffering, feasts are prepared in their honour so that no harm may come towards family members still living. Large meals, often of the vegetarian variety, are placed on long tables that are made up as if someone is actually about to eat from them!  Water and towels can also be left for dead spirits, so that they may cleanse themselves.

Other rituals can include burning incense, joss paper, and releasing miniature paper boats and lanterns on water, which signifies giving directions to the ghosts, spirits, or ancestors who may be lost in the spirit world.

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On the last day of the month it is said that the ghost gate to the world of the living closes. To conclude Ghost Month or Zhong Yuan Jie, there is an event called grappling with the ghosts, held each year in the city of Toucheng, in the province of Yilan.

Picture a real life version of Disney’s Mulan, recall the scene where she climbs up the tree trunk, except now its a greased up tree trunk  with not just one person but a group of Taiwanese men trying to get to the top using only a cloth and each other to boost them up.

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After they reach the top they must swing themselves over an elevated platform, and then scramble up bamboo lattices to be the first to cut down a flag. The team who wins receives cash prizes and admiration! Often winners sell the flags to fishing boat captains who believe that the flags will protect their boats and employees through another year.

Crowds of people gather to watch the different teams, where it seems both food and music is enjoyed. Here’s footage from last years event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GunohPGgqk

In case you want to visit Taiwan during this month, here’s an interesting list of just some activities that you should and/ or shouldn’t do:

1.DON’T go swimming : arguably the most popularly followed rule, it is believed evil spirits who may have drowned will try to gain a chance at rebirth.

On the plus side, if you’re a nonbeliever you’ll have the beach to yourself.

2. DON’T just turn your head around if someone pats you on the shoulder

It is believed that the living have two protective flames, one on each shoulder. If a ghost pats you on the back and you only turn your head, you’ll snuff out a protective flame, thus making you vulnerable. To avoid this, turn the whole body at once instead of just the head.

3. DO consider being a vegetarian for the month

Those of the Buddhist faith abide by this to help absolve the sufferings of the deceased.

Luckily, Taiwan has an abundance of yummy vegetarian restaurants to choose from. 

4. DO burn hell notes

Burning joss (blank) paper on the sidewalk or in front of ones house is an offering to ones ancestors and on the 15th is considered a gesture of good will towards lonely spirits.

 

And probably my favourite,

 

5. DON’T pee on a tree!

Apparently, it is believed that urinating on a tree could anger tree spirits who will seek vengeance upon you!

Personal belief here but you should probably always follow this one? Just saying…

 

Want to learn more? Continue your quest for knowledge here:

Ghost Festival( Hungry Ghost Festival )

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Festival

Top 10 taboos to avoid during Ghost Month in Taiwan

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aedu/201508130025.aspx

Chinese Vocabulary for Ghost Month

http://www.fluentu.com/chinese/blog/2014/07/24/chinese-vocabulary-words-ghost-month/

Grappling With the Ghosts 

http://www.go2taiwan.net/ghost_month.php