Taiwan and the Philippines!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Hello everyone! We just got back from visiting the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines. I'm not sure what possessed us to do so, but after spending the whole day flying to the Philippines from Taiwan we decided it would be a good idea to take a taxi from the airport immediately to the bus station. We took an nine hour overnight bus journey up and over the mountains to visit the rice terraces. Of course, after 24 hours of travel the last thing we wanted to do was climb terraces!! We arrived at six in the morning and went right to bed. Fortunately, you can see the rice terraces from everywhere in the town, so we did get to see them when we arrived. They looks like most other rice terraces (Peru, Indonesia, etc), except that they are everywhere. We also visited another rice terrace town called Sagada which was three hours from Banaue - we saw rice terraces during the entire journey!!

In case you were wondering, tourism in the Philippines touts this site as the eighth wonder of the world. Personally, I will remember the night there and back on that god-awful bus before I remember the rice fields. Rob and I ranked the bus journey in our "Top Three Worst Overnight Buses Ever". Anyway, it was beautiful and I'm glad we went. Now we are in Manila where the pollution is unbearable!!! In supermarkets here you can buy a "Pollution Protector" shampoo for your hair! Thankfully it rains for a little while every day and washes away some of it. We probably would have left immediately for the beaches down south if it weren't for that russian visa we have to get tomorrow!!

As for Taiwan, we stopped into Taipei for 4 days on our way from Japan to the Philippines. It wasn't really in our plans to do so, but the flight had a stopover there... so we stayed! We didn't really have time to leave the city, plus they are in the middle of having horrific floods and tornadoes right now and according to the news that I couldn't understand (it was in Chinese) it seemed like a lot of the roads had been washed away in the affected areas. Taipei was nice - we went to a few parks, memorials and view points. They also have a Chinese Artifacts museum. It's the largest collection of Chinese stuff in the world. It ended up there (temporarily) in large crates during World War Two and the Chinese planned on moving it later. Somehow that never happened... and since possession is nine tenths of the law, Taiwan decided to build a museum to keep it and show it off. China was not pleased.

One of the most interesting things about Taiwan is it's status as a country. Is it - or isn't it?! According to the United Nations, Taiwan is not a country. The UN claims there are 191 countries in the world - leaving out the Vatican and Taiwan. The Vatican chose to remain independent and has chosen not to become a member of the U.N. Taiwan however, due to political reasons, is not recognized by the United States and most other countries. Taiwan used to be a member of the UN until 1971, when mainland China "replaced" Taiwan. Taiwan continues to look for for recognition by other countries, but China claims that Taiwan is simply a province of China. When you are in Taiwan you often see the word "R.O.C.". This is what Taiwan calls themselves. It stands for Republic of China - not to be confused with mainland China. Mainland China is called the People's Republic of China. So there are two places called China. For example, when you fly with China Airlines, you are flying with a Taiwanese company. Taiwan does some things to placate China, but not everything. We found out that you can not process any visas in the country. They send them all to mainland China so as to not piss them off - but hey, at least they built the museum!

Okay, that's all for now. Next report will be from the beach!!!


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