T The Taiwan Tour Bus is probably the most convenient way to reach destinations that could previously be reached only after a long wait for a bus-or by renting a car.
| The Taiwan Tour Bus reaches places that could previously be reached only by renting a car. / Courtesy of Tourism Bureau
The Taiwan Tour Bus provides pick-up service at Taiwan High Speed Rail stations, making it even more convenient to go on short tours to some of Taiwan's top tourism sites. From the high speed rail stations, tourists have a choice of fourteen tour lines from which they can choose as they book pick-up service.
North Coast, Yeliou & Jinshan Hot Spring (Juming Museum) Tour, Northeast Coast, Jinguashih & Jioufen Tour, Lanyang Holiday Tour, Lanyang Nature Tour, Yilan Cultural & Educational Tour, and Pinglin-Hsuehshan Tunnel Tour.
Guguan Hot Springs-Basianshan, Nantou Cingjing Farm & Lushan Hot Spring Tour, Puli & Sun Moon Lake Tour and Lugang & Tianwei Highway Garden Tour.
Tainan Sea, Mountain & Culture Tour, Kaohsiung and Pingtung Nature Tour, Kaohsiung Night Tour, and Kaohsiung City Tour.
"Our job is to make sure that foreign tourists have a good impression of Taiwan," said Liao Yuan-bin (¹ù¤¸±l), the project specialist of Toung Yuan (²Î¤¸) Travel Agency in Taichung, one of the agencies that operate a Taiwan Tour Bus service.
"We try to be very punctual," he said, "foreign tourists want to maximize their time but the demand for our services could sometimes cause delays."Sometimes, two or three groups of tourists have to be picked up from different points. A ten-minute late arrival at one point could mean a twenty-minute delay at the following point due to traffic snarls. "Many foreign tourists can't use their cell phones in Taiwan,." said Liao, "so the tour bus guide has no way of making contact."
"Another problem is that some THSR stations do not have signs that point to where the tour bus is parked waiting for the tourists-and there is a 5-minute limit on parking right outside any high speed rail station exit."
"But when the tourists get on the bus-now that's different," said Liao. "After experiencing our service, they just want to keep on coming back; at least this has been our experience with tourists from Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore."
Licensed to guide
Taiwan tour bus guides are licensed. They take written and oral tests for guides administered by the Tourism Bureau. "Our guides are conversant on the background of the tourism sites," said Liao. "But we also advise tourists to familiarize themselves with the destinations-the Internet is full of information for them to browse."
Doing prior research helps avoid any culture shocks. Liao remembers how some members of a foreign tour group felt unpleasant when they attended the Lugang & Tianwei Highway Garden Tour and visited some Taoist temples and villages profoundly influenced by Taoism culture.
"Their religious sensibilities were not prepared for what they saw and they felt disappointed with the tour," he said.
Food is another issue. Some tourists have special diets for various reasons, and they should make this known to the guide. But some tourists are just afraid to taste dishes they have never seen before.
"This is understandable," said Liao. "However, my experience tells me that tourists who dare to try almost any food get the most enjoyment from the tour."
This summer, Taiwan Tour Bus companies are promoting the 2007 International Children's Folklore & Folk Game Festival and tours along Taiwan's northeast coast. This is the 12th year the Yilan County Government is organizing the Festival, which features folk dancing and singing groups from several countries besides Taiwan's top folk performing groups.
Another tour being promoted is a boat trip from Taiwan's northeast coast to Turtle Island. ¡§This is a whale-watching adventure," said Liao.
To both destinations, a two-day trip costs NT$2,900 (from Monday to Thursday).
For more information about the summer package in Yilan and the Taiwan Tour Bus, please log onto the website: http://www.taiwantourbus.com.tw/english/index.php