Friday, March 16, 2012

Weekend birthday trip to Yilan 宜蘭—Day 2

Click on any photo to enlarge.

At the bus stop, an older couple watched me study the bus route sign above. I asked them in Mandarin “Is this the bus stop for Beiguan?” The old man answered back in Taiwanese Hokkien 臺語, the common second language here. Since I can barely speak Mandarin Chinese, let alone Taiwanese, I couldn’t understand him and therefore tried asking him again in Mandarin. It was obvious he could understand me, but continued to answer in Taiwanese, adding helpful (?) body language into the mix.

We went around like this for a few minutes, when I finally realized that he had been saying Beiguan the entire time. I hadn’t understood him because in Taiwanese “Beiguan” sounds like “Bek kui” and has completely different tones. I appreciated his help and I eventually made it onto the right bus. However, when it comes to communication here, I once again felt like I was back at square one.

I decided to take a train instead of bus to Fulong 福隆, my next destination. The nearest train station—Guishan 龜山站—is a 20 minute walk from the Beiguan Tidal Pools’ official entrance. The walk is enjoyable, though; besides enjoying the ocean views, you can visit the Gengfang Fishing Port 稉枋漁港, just a few minutes’ walk from the station.

This coffee shop offered teas, juices, various snacks such as shaved ice desserts, as well as lattes and cappuccinos.  As I scanned the menu board, I noticed that only some of the beverages were translated into English.  These English prices appeared on the extreme right—far removed from their Chinese equivalents on the far left—separated by a lot of other items only in Chinese.

美式咖啡     NT$50…………………..…………………..Americano             NT$60
拿鐵咖啡     NT$60…………………..…………………..Café Latte              NT$70
卡布吉諾     NT$60…………………..…………………..Cappuccino            NT$70
焦糖碼琪朵  NT$70…………………..…………………..Caramel Macchiato  NT$80

Hmm, that’s interesting.

I ordered a Café Latte. When the woman (the owner) brought it to me, she didn’t tell me the price. I handed her NT$100 and waited for my change with anticipation: Would she give me the change for the Chinese or English price?
She gave me NT$40 in change. I’m assuming she charged me the Chinese price because I ordered in Chinese. I didn’t confront her, partly because she didn’t charge me the higher price, and partly because I felt proud of myself that I could actually read the Chinese menu.

The vast majority of Taiwanese that I’ve mentioned this price discrepancy to have all expressed surprise and indignation, remarking that this practice smacks of third world shenanigans, and that Taiwan is certainly not third world. In any case, this is the first instance of “foreigner/tourist” pricing that I’ve seen (or at least have been able to recognize) in my four years here.

A fellow American teacher felt this way about it: “If you’re traveling, as a tourist you expect to pay a bit more for things. If you’re living here, this is a wake-up call to learn the local language.”

I had a couple of hours to kill before my train to Taipei arrived, so I walked around Fulong Beach.

So ended my thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing mini-vacation in Yilan. Happy 49th birthday to me!

Here’s some more information:

Congee (rice porridge) A popular breakfast item in Taiwan
Banded coral shrimp — Recipes (櫻花蝦 [英文的網站])
Radish Omelette — Recipes [Chinese site] (中文:菜脯蛋)
Lanyang Museum — In Toucheng, Yilan County. (中文:在頭城的蘭陽博物館)
Beiguan Tidal Pools (中文:北關海潮公園)
Fulong — Beaches, Biking, and Box Lunches! (中文:福隆) Check out the annual Sand Sculpture Festival (中文:福隆國際沙雕藝術季) during May & June.

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