I arrived to Orchid Island today! It is a small island in the southeast of Taiwan.
Yesterday I took a train from Kaohsiung to Taitung. I then planned to take a plane to Orchid Island (Lanyu). Unfortunately it was not that easy. I asked the tourist information at the Taitung station how to get to the airport and get a plane to Orchid Island. They called the airport and told me “today there is no flight!”… Actually there were flights, the only thing is that it was too late to make a reservation. However I could have gone there, put my name in a list, and wait. Then I would very likely have gotten a seat. But I didn’t know that, so I asked the tourist information to reserve a flight for today instead.
If you are planning to visit Lanyu during summer season when it is more popular, try to reserve a flight ticket in advance. In low season it should be ok to get a flight on short notice.
Thinking that there was no flight for me, I stayed one night in a Hostel in Taitung. I will maybe report about my afternoon in Taitung another time, today I will just write about Orchid Island. 🙂
I hadn’t booked a hostel for Orchid Island in advance. I had read in the internet, that small hostels there are much nicer – and cheaper – than the big hotels which can be booked online. Some days into my trip through Taiwan I saw a facebook post from Nelson, a Taiwan Youth Trekker from Portugal. He had been in Orchid Island just recently and stayed in a local homestay. I contacted Nelson and he recommended me to stay in the Lamuran Guesthouse. Shamam Lamuran, the owner, knows a lot about the island and is very helpful.
So I gave the owner a call and he agreed that I could have a room for one night. He also offered to pick me up at the airport, which I thought was very nice of him.
My flight to Orchid Island was very exciting. The airport in Taitung is small, but very nice. At my arrival there I exchanged my reservation to a ticket. I was early and expected a long wait. However I then was offered to take an earlier plane instead: They still had a few empty seats.
The plane was very small, I think maybe 20 seats? Anyways I had never been in such a small plane! So for me already the take-off and flight was exciting, a small aircraft flies much less stable than a big one. But then I saw Orchid Island before me… and a really scary descend began. While the plane went down, it also flew a curve to the right. And of course it was really shake, being thrown around by the wind. I had to concentrate a bit not to scream as if I was on a rollercoaster 😉 But the locals on the plane with me were very relaxed. I concluded that the descend is always like this and tried to stay calm.
At the airport in Lanyu I met my host. We brought my backpack to the hostel and discussed the plan for the day. I asked him about Orchids on “Orchid Island”, but he told me that there are not many around. In his childhood, he could see them sometimes, but now not anymore. Maybe deep in the forest, but it would be difficult to find them. “Taiwanese business men” asked locals to collect Orchids and sell them. .. So with time they disappeared. Because I have not much time in Orchid Island, I won’t be able to really search for wild Orchids. For today I was suggested to circle the island to get an impression of what the island has to offer. As I didn’t want to rent a scooter (I never used a scooter before…), he offered to drive me around the island with his car.
At the Lamuran homestay, there are many cute cats!
I heard some interesting stories today. Firstly I was explained how the aborigines on Lanyu (the Tao) name themselves traditionally. As soon as a person has children, he or she will not be called by his first name anymore. Instead they will use the name of the first-born child and add a “father of”, “mother of”, “grandfather of”… in their language before the name. So in my case my father would be called “Shamam Verena”. To me this seems a bit unfair to the younger siblings. I can imagine that my younger sister would surely prefer “Shamam Miriam” 😉 I can understand however that you can’t add the names of all children, that would make a long name if a family has many children 😉
Interesting is also the cultural background of the Tao tribe here on Lanyu island. I don’t have time to go into detail now, but I read an interesting article which says that a tribe in the Philippines is related to this tribe on Orchid Island. They speak nearly the same language even though they had been separated for over 100 years. Now a cultural exchange has been started and my host had actually been on the Philippines to visit the other tribe.
Here are pictures from my trip around the island:
Traditional houses on Lanyu (now most locals live in new houses, as the Taiwanese government urged them to move, in these houses there probably still live elders). The houses are very save from Taifuns, as they are underground houses with only part over ground.
Most people living in Lanyu either work as farmers or fishermen. Some also work in government offices. Many young Tao leave the island to find work in Taiwan. Now that tourism is growing and providing jobs, some come back to work in tourism on Lanyu.
Animals on Orchid Island:
Views on the coastline:
The waves were really high in some areas, as it was very windy:
This picture shows the husband and wife stones. I think the story behind them is cute and one can really see this image in the stones: The stones are said to represent a husband and his wife who argue a lot. In between them is the child that tries to stop them from arguing. Because they did not stop fighting, god turned them into stone.
Maybe tomorrow morning before my flight I can search for Orchids. Wish me luck!
I am currently on a trip sponsored by the Youth Trekker Wanted Campaign. As part of this campaign, young people from around the world get to travel Taiwan with a budget from the organizers. In return, we write daily blog posts during our trips. While I therefore not have to pay for this trip, what I write in this blog is my own, true opinion. For more information on the activity, check http://youthtravel.tw/youthtrekker/. I am also posting my blog entries on an official activity blog here.