Walk in Taiwan

Showcasing a Culturally Self-Confident Nation
:::

2020 / May

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Phil Newell


How do you pronounce the word for “tea” in your culture? Is it more like “cha,” or more like “tea”? James Shih, a guide for “Walk in Taiwan,” likes to use this question as an entry point when explain­ing to foreign visitors how tea culture spread from China to other lands around the world. If the pronunciation is “cha” in a given country—as it is in Mandarin Chinese—this means that tea was transmitted there by an overland route (the Silk Road); whereas if it is “tea,” this indicates passage by sea, because Dutch and British merchants who transported tea to Europe from Fujian and Taiwan were influenced by the Minnan pronunciation, “tê.”

Using “tea” to broach a topic that links Taiwan and foreigners shows that however different we may be, perhaps we can find some common ground in the fragments left behind by history.


“Walk in Taiwan” is a cultural guided tour brand that originated in the Dadaocheng neighborhood of Taipei. Founder Chiu Yi, whose family has lived in Dadaocheng for five generations, has adopted the walking tour format to guide people in exploring the stories of the city, with each tour being a journey of self-discovery.

Uncovering local stories

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world, many countries have seen no choice but to close their borders. Walk in Taiwan, meanwhile, tells us, “If we can’t go abroad, then we can travel here at home!” If you can’t broaden your horizons by traveling overseas, then why not engage in some “self-discovery” in Taiwan?

In fact, Walk in Taiwan has been doing “travel here at home” for many years now. They launched their first guided tour of Dadaocheng back in 2012, and since then they have been leading people deep into streets and small lanes, telling of the glory days of Taiwan tea, showing visitors city blocks where renovated old buildings are full of creative shops, or taking them to feast at the many small eateries around Cisheng Temple. In Dadaocheng, with its rich cultural foundations, new innovations are spliced onto old traditions, and you could visit countless times without getting tired of it.

Going at an unhurried but steady pace, Walk in Taiwan has developed more than 400 cultural tours and mini-trips. They have held tours at 3:30 a.m. to visit the early morning wholesale market, where tourists could witness the subtle gestures by which bids are made and acknowledged. They have followed the procession of the deities from Bangka Qingshan Temple. Each Octo­ber, they hold LGBTQ-themed tours in coordination with the Taiwan Pride parade. And they co­operate with the “Brilliant Time” Southeast-Asia-themed bookstore to visit locations where migrant workers gather in their leisure time. Behind these activities there lies the concern for social issues felt by the people at Walk in Taiwan, issues that include preservation of cultural heritage, revital­ization of old buildings, gay rights, and cultural equality. Working on the principle that understanding is the first step in mutual exchange, they hope that through more knowledge and understanding they can stimulate discussion in society.

In recent years, Walk in Taiwan has expanded to other places including Keelung, Yilan, Hsinchu, and Chiayi, where they work with resident local historians, cultural workers and businesses, using guided tours to help local people discover their own cultural assets, and applying the concept of sustainable tourism to ensure a beneficial relation­ship between the travel industry and localities.

“The majority of Walk in Taiwan’s customers are younger adults, and what motivates them is a desire to find out who they are,” explains Suni Yen, the company’s chief marketing executive. This led to the realization that they should devote more effort to educating children, guiding kids to get to know the city where they live, and, through the influence of children on their parents, helping more people recognize that Taiwan is an island with its own stories to tell.

In fact, there has never been any shortage of stories in our cities, but in the course of our studies and our working lives we lack opportunities to really get to know our own neighborhoods. James Shih, who went on numerous Walk in Taiwan tours before training as a guide himself, recalls: “When the first tour I ever joined in Dadaocheng was over, my first thought was that I wanted to come back, because I wanted to learn more, and I wanted to bring my friends back with me to Da­dao­cheng and tell them the stories I had heard.”

Custom tours to find common ground

Walk in Taiwan not only guides local citizens on tours of self-discovery, they also introduce Taiwan to foreigners.

James Shih, who often hosts foreign guests for government agencies such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, is skilled at using small details to grab the attention of visitors, aiming to find cultural common ground between Taiwan and the visitor’s home country. For example, he made a special point of finding out about Poland’s public bicycle network so that he could share information about Taiwan’s system with Polish visitors as they walked past a YouBike station. When talking about the preservation of old buildings on Dihua Street, Shih will mention New York City as the first city in the world to use “transferable development rights” for the preservation of historic sites, and then explain how the government of Taiwan has borrowed this concept and has adopted the “Urban Regeneration Station” policy. This creates an opportunity to link together the urban conservation experience of the two cities.

Tailoring tours to the background of the target audience is something that Walk in Taiwan devotes a lot of effort to. James Shih recalls a lesson in his guide training course on how to customize one’s offering to clients. His assignment was to introduce Taiwan’s breakfast ­sandwich bars to Lin Yutang (1895‡1976), the famous writer and philo­sopher. This is a concept devised by Suni Yen, based on design thinking, to train seed teachers in how to empathize with visitors. Through such under­standing, guides can figure out how to use common threads to build a bridge for dialogue across the distance that separates strangers at their first meeting.

Whenever James Shih is assigned to guide a foreign visitor, he will first go online to find out the visitor’s background, nationality, and place of birth, as well as the schools they attended and their major field of study. Once he hosted a scientist from South Africa, a specialist on youth smoking issues, whose entire education had been in Catholic schools. Shih took her to the Taipei Xia-Hai City God Temple and showed her statues of two martial guardians of the City God (Cheng Huang Ye), who represent the virtues of faithfulness and righteousness. After hearing what Shih had to say, this scholar responded that Western churches also have sculptures and paintings to convey positive values to illiterate believers. With the visitor drawing the connection herself, Shih learned something new.

Suni Yen says that each time they get a commission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they know that these guests will have only accepted an invitation to come to Taiwan after a great deal of effort by MOFA staff, and that the job of Walk in Taiwan is to do everything they can to find a connection between the cultures of the two sides through a one or two hour tour, so that the visitors will leave with strong memories of Taiwan. “This is because foreign visitors will only be willing to return to Taiwan, or to speak out for Taiwan in their respective fields, if there is some cultural connection there. If they can feel that link between Taiwan and their own culture, and a sense of emotional attachment, then Walk in Taiwan has done its job.”

A culturally self-confident Taiwan

Walk in Taiwan is continually coming up with ideas to revolutionize guided tour formats. Take for example the “Dadaocheng Museum” program, which is not located in a specific building, but applies the “open house” idea to open up venues that do not usually welcome tourists, and enables their owners to speak for themselves. They have arranged for proprietors of traditional Chinese pharmacies and other old shops to tell their own stories, giving local people their own voice and enabling visitors to experience the most vibrant aspects of the owners’ lives. During the planning for the first year’s program, Walk in Taiwan staff had to go door to door to appeal to shop owners for their cooperation, and they only succeeded after founder Chiu Yi personally joined in the effort. However, as the time for the second year’s program approached, it was the shop owners who took the initi­ative to tell Walk in Taiwan how happy they had been with the activities the previous year and to ask whether the event would be held again.

“You have to first be noticed and appreciated, to find the motivation to put yourself out there on public display.” Suni Yen says that people in the community have taken the opportunity to observe and learn from each other. When children growing up in century-old shops see how confidently people of the older genera­tions greet tour groups and recount their family his­tories, perhaps this scene will engender a sense of family pride in the younger generation. “Giving people who join our tours a look at a culturally self-confident Taiwan has been the most fundamental aim of Walk in Taiwan since its founding,” says Yen.

The more you know, the more you will discover that Taiwanese culture is not uniform. For example, in Da­dao­cheng you can see side by side buildings from the Qing Dynasty, the era of Japanese rule, and the post-WWII era, and each building has its own story. “My pride comes from the fact that this place is interesting, not that it is necessarily the best. My pride comes from the fact that I have a story to share with everyone,” says James Shih, his voice tinged with emotion.

Shih goes on to relate the story of a tour he gave to a class from a middle school in Xizhi. After he had finished discussing the history of Dadaocheng, he showed the students an old photograph of a street of beautiful Western-­style houses and shops. The students recognized that the photo was of Xizhi, and Shih nodded his head and explained that Xizhi and Dadaocheng had similar origins. Back in the day, medium-sized boats followed the Keelung River upstream to Xizhi, which was both a tea growing area and a distribution point for tea from the surrounding region, and the town flourished as a result of the tea trade. Shih hoped that after hearing the storytelling approach adopted by Walk in Taiwan, they would go back and look for stories of Xizhi, so they would have tales of their own hometown to tell.

Not only do they introduce foreigners to a culturally self-confident Taiwan, they also allow us Taiwanese to reconnect with a culturally self-confident Taiwan: At Walk in Taiwan, learning about Taiwan and self-­discovery are continually ongoing processes.

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

繁體

島內散步

遇見文化自信的台灣

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧林旻萱

在您的文化裡,「茶」這個字怎麼發音呢?是偏向「cha」還是「tea」?「島內散步」的導覽老師施子真為國際友人解說時,總喜歡用此當引子,解釋茶文化從華人世界傳播到世界各地的路徑。「cha」發音的國家,代表當年茶是走陸路(絲綢之路)傳播到當地,因途中經過波斯受其語言影響;若是「tea」的發音,則代表是經由海路,被荷蘭、英國貿易商帶到歐洲,因為從福建、台灣出口,受閩南語發音「te」影響。

利用「茶」開啟台灣與外國友人共同的話題,我們著實不一樣,卻也可能因為歷史留下的吉光片羽而有片段的相交。「島內散步」的導覽,總不放棄絲微線索,惦念著聆聽者的背景與需求,投其所好地客製導覽內容,就像電影《E.T.外星人》中E.T.伸出的手指剎那,文化的共鳴與交流就從那個觸點開始了。


「島內散步」是從台北大稻埕起家的文化導覽品牌,家族五代皆生活在大稻埕的創辦人邱翊,以徒步導覽的形式,帶領民眾走訪那些走過、路過卻未曾深入了解的街道巷弄與建築,不但說出城市角落的故事,也是一趟趟「認識自己」的旅程。

走路認識鄰里,發掘在地故事

2020年,新冠肺炎(COVID-19)全球肆虐,為了防疫,各國不得已紛紛祭出鎖國政策,禁止非必要的出入境,而「島內散步」則喊出「不出國,我們在家旅行吧!」無法出國增廣見聞,那就在台灣好好認識自己。

其實,「島內散步」已經「在家旅行」很多年了,從2012年開始第一場大稻埕街區導覽,「島內散步」帶著大家鑽進街頭巷弄,訴說台茶曾經的光輝歲月,看老屋新生與創意店家共存的街廓,跟著霞海城隍爺暗訪遶境,或是探訪迪化街上臥虎藏龍的老店舖,還是到慈聖宮附近大啖小吃,大稻埕的人文薈萃、文化底蘊豐厚,新的創意續接老的傳承,走訪千遍也不厭倦。

用徒步的速度,「島內散步」引領大家認識城市,形式包羅徒步導覽、手作體驗、實境解謎等,知性而有趣。以不疾不徐的速度,「島內散步」的導覽擴展到超過400條文化導覽及小旅行路線。他們曾在清晨三點半,探訪清晨批發市場的交易,見識拍賣台上台下幽微的默會手勢,那是一般人鮮少遇見的台北;或是跟著艋舺青山宮遶境,了解整個遶境儀式是不斷年復月累的文化慣習與記憶;每年10月,配合同志大遊行活動舉辦的同志議題導覽,走訪台北同志歷史空間,參加的人有半數以上都是異性戀;或與「燦爛時光」書店合作,請印尼移工現身導覽不一樣的台北車站,或是到中和興南路一帶體驗「南勢角緬甸華僑聚落」的異國風情。這些景點、時事的背後,都藏著「島內散步」對於社會議題的關注,如文化資產保存、老屋活化、同志議題、文化平權等,「理解是交流的第一步,」客戶行銷總監顏志豪說,希望藉由更多的認識與理解,促成社會的討論。

近年來,「島內散步」更跨出大台北地區,延伸到基隆、宜蘭、新竹、嘉義等地,與地方原有的文史工作者、產業合作,透過旅遊讓在地人發現自己的文化優勢,讓地方文化資產被重視,融入「永續旅行」的概念,與地方共好。

「『島內散步』的客群集中在25~45歲間,多半都是成年人,大家的初衷都是想要認識自己是誰。」顏志豪解釋,這也讓「島內散步」意識到要從兒童教育著手,他們舉辦兒童營隊、城市小偵探、小小導覽員,引導孩子們認識自己居住的城市,再透過小朋友影響家長,讓更多人知道台灣是有故事的島嶼。

其實,我們的城市從來不缺故事,但在我們求學、生活的歷程中卻少有機會好好認識自己的鄰里,這或許是個遺憾,但更可以化成動力,更努力認識自己。施子真也是從參加「島內散步」導覽入門,到接受培訓成為導覽老師,他回憶道:「首次參加大稻埕導覽結束後,我第一個念頭就是我要再回來,因為我對它還不熟,導覽老師給我一點資訊,但是我覺得不夠,我想要再回來,想要帶朋友回來大稻埕,跟他們說我聽到的故事。」

客製導覽,引發文化共鳴

「島內散步」不只帶國人認識自己,也介紹台灣給外國朋友。

經常接待外交部、教育部等公部門國外訪賓的施子真,擅長用小小的線索抓住訪賓的注意力,引發雙方的文化共鳴。舉例來說,他會特別去研究波蘭的共享單車,想要在徒步路過YouBike站點時,跟波蘭友人分享台灣的制度,建立對話溝通的起點。講到迪化街上的老屋保存,施子真先提起全球最早使用「容積移轉」作為古蹟保存的紐約市,說明台灣政府借用此概念,而有了URS都市再生前進基地(Urban Regeneration Station),意指私人老屋在轉售時,政府有優先承購權,並提供容積移轉等優惠,同時由政府整修老屋後,再招商經營者,約定經營項目需與老街產業脈絡相關及開放空間等條件。這複雜的內容,國外友人未必有興趣,但借用紐約市的「容積移轉」做前導,或許能勾起他們的興趣,促成兩地老屋保存經驗的分享。

依對方的背景需求設計導覽內容是「島內散步」特別著力的客製服務。施子真分享培訓課程中,一堂針對不同的顧客提供客製導覽的訓練,他恰好被分配到「為林語堂介紹台灣的美而美三明治」,這是顏志豪運用設計思考的概念,培訓種子教師如何易位思考。透過理解,導覽老師在初次見面的陌生距離,利用共有的線索,搭起一座對話橋梁。「面對外國訪賓要拿捏導覽的深度,我會問自己,我希望說的故事是他們六個月之後還會記得的,而不見得是要告訴他們台灣、大稻埕的歷史。」施子真說。

每回,施子真接到外賓導覽任務,會先研究訪賓的背景、國籍、出生地、就讀學校、學術專業,到YouTube、維基百科搜尋。曾經他事前拿到邀訪單位提供的兩頁來賓簡歷,讓他好開心的反覆研究,知道這位南非來的科學家,一路就讀天主教學校,專精於青少年吸菸議題。施子真帶她進到城隍廟,介紹城隍爺的七爺八爺護將,代表「信與義」的精神。學者聽完,回饋了在西方的教堂裡也會用雕像、繪畫傳達正面的觀念給不識字的信徒。訪賓自己做了連結,也讓施子真學了一課,「如果她跟我聊廟裡的香對肺部的傷害,我就會跟她分享台灣寺廟正在推動禁香的努力。」這樣的分享正是認識的起點,是交流的開始。

顏志豪說,每次接到外交部的委託,看到訪賓名單他都會想,這是同仁們花費多少心力,才邀請到國外傑出的人士訪台,那「島內散步」的任務就是盡力透過一兩個小時導覽,想辦法連結雙方的文化,讓他們對台灣留下深刻的記憶。「因為唯有文化的連結才能讓國外的訪賓願意再來台灣,或是在自己的場域為台灣發聲。科技力、民主自由的排行,這些只是量化的數據,唯有讓台灣跟他們自己的文化有連結,一旦情感上有所依歸,那『島內散步』的目的也達成。」

遇見文化自信的台灣

「島內散步」不斷的翻轉導覽形式,想讓每一次到大稻埕探訪的民眾,都有意外的收穫,例如「大稻埕博物館」,是一個無牆博物館,類似國外open house的概念,打開原本「非請勿入」的場域,讓空間的主人現身說法。譬如說他們邀請中藥材行、老店舖等來說自己的故事,把話語權交還給地方,來賓們能體會到主人家最生猛的內容。大稻埕博物館第一年企劃時,是「島內散步」同仁到處跟老店家拜託,還得讓創辦人邱翊出來賣面子才成功。第二年活動日期近了,反而是這些老店家主動來提醒,上回辦的不錯,今年要不要再繼續呀!

「必須先被觀看,先被欣賞學習,才會有動力去好好呈現自己。」顏志豪說,鄰里間也藉機會互相觀摩學習,在百年店家長大的孩子,見到父執輩在接待導覽時,訴說自家歷史發展時的自信滿滿,這一幕,也許就會觸動下一代對自家事業的榮耀感。「讓參與者看到文化自信的台灣,可說是『島內散步』最為底層的初衷。」顏志豪說。

當你認識越多越深時,會發現台灣的文化不是單一的,就像在大稻埕可以看到清朝、日治、戰後的建築並陳,每一棟房子都有自己的故事,「我的驕傲是來自於它是有趣的,而不見得是我們是最好的。我的驕傲來自於『我有故事』可以跟大家分享。」施子真有點激動地說。

他再舉了為汐止某中學班級導覽的故事為例,當他解說大稻埕的歷史後,接著秀出一張有美麗的洋樓、老街的老照片,學生認出是汐止,施子真點頭稱是,汐止與大稻埕也有相似的背景,當年中型船隻沿著基隆河可上行到汐止,汐止種茶,也是鄰近地區茶葉貨物的集散地,也曾因茶葉交易而風光繁華,蓋有漂亮的洋樓、老街。施子真希望連結大稻埕和汐止的故事,讓學生們聽到「島內散步」說故事的方法還有動機,回頭能去找到汐止的故事,說出屬於自己家鄉的故事。

不僅讓外國友人遇見文化自信的台灣,也讓我們再次認識文化自信的台灣,在「島內散步」,認識台灣,認識自己,「旅行,和土地的約定」,是永不嫌遲的進行式。

X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!
更快速更方便!