One of the best parts of travel would have to be the people you meet along the way. It is probably not an understatement to say that they could make or break your holiday.
Rihang, our Taroko host is such a funny character. From day 1 when we stayed with him, he has been asking us not to worry and think too much about expenses. He didn’t like to talk about money. Once, we had to discuss how to contact one another after our trek, and I entered into a conversation with him about how overseas calls and SMSes were expensive. He insisted it was cheap while I was pretty sure roaming charges never came with that adjective. After that, he looked upon me with fresh eyes and concluded that I was a very thrifty girl since I would even worry about paying S$0.60 for each SMS.
He began to talk about how it was rare that young people would have good saving habits before he stopped himself. “Shucks! I am playing right into their game!” he must have been thinking. We have not negotiated for our car ride to Alishan so he must have thought it was dangerous to praise us for being thrifty. Next, he started talking about how while it was good to save money, when one is traveling, one should spend money. We were so amused by this “sparring” of thoughts as we each tried to plant thoughts into one another’s mind. It seemed like we had a small victory as he decided that in order to help save on roaming charges, he would not wait for our call/sms but simply bring up our bikes to the meeting point so that in any case we would have the flexibility to ride back. With this kind gesture, we thought – what a nice guy! Then we caught ourselves – with $0.60, he is going to win our hearts! As the Chinese saying goes, 一山还比一山高 (literally means there is always a higher mountain than this mountain).
Having said that, we really enjoyed talking to him and hearing his views about guests from various parts of the world and life stories. While driving, he would even naturally pass the phone to my friend who would become his receptionist and interpreter. We thought we probably deserve some discount for our rendered services:)
Eventually, when he dropped us off, he almost forgot to collect his payment from us. I had to hurry behind him and stop him before he closed his car door. It was the time of reckoning, and he pulled out a name-card which had scribbles at the back on the various costs. It was actually higher than we had imagined but after seeing how foggy the mountain roads were and imagining how he had to make his way back home on this dark and foggy night, we didn’t even try to negotiate.
After we reached our room, we checked our remaining cash, and discovered, we are quite broke! Once again, we have under-estimated our spending! The last time we ran out of cash in Kyoto (read here); that was quite an experience.
So when the local minsu’s host asked us if we were going to have dinner, we said to please give us a meal for 2 pax and we will share it among the 3 of us. We actually didn’t have much choice for dinner too as there were no neighbouring shops or restaurants and it would have been impossible to find food unless we wanted to trek down an hour’s worth of car ride.
I was impressed that our Alishan minsu host did not turn up his nose at us after hearing that we were running out of money. Instead, he was very helpful when giving suggestions on how we could save money while staying there. We have met another nice guy! Yay!
This is why I would always prefer to stay at a minsu or bed & breakfast place as opposed to a big chain hotel as the level of hospitality and experience is just going to be different.
Here is Taroko Lodge where we spent 3D2N:
Here is Walk Cloud B&B where we spent the next 2 nights:
The lodging and environment is so peaceful and quaint and we loved it! It was such a nice feeling to wake up early and hear the birds and walk around in the cold wind to explore the surroundings.
The fellow travellers you meet are also going to be different and we met 3 different couples on this trip which each added a different colour and flavour to our experience. One of them really inspire me but more of her later!