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Janet Hsieh
Actor , MC / Show Host
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Thoughts on Travel

Janet’s Thoughts on Travel

The host of Fun Taiwan and other TV shows, U.S.-born Janet Hsieh has reached the level of popularity in which she is widely known by first-name only.
A self-described “ABT” (American-born Taiwanese), Janet Hsieh has developed a wide following for her Discovery Travel & Living shows Fun Taiwan and Fun Asia. She has also written two books, Traveling with 100 Toothbrushes and the newly-released Backpack to The Future (愛上旅行的理由). The energetic travel show host from Houston, Texas, boasts a double-major in Spanish and biology from MIT and has five languages under her belt: English, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Spanish, and French. Besides Taiwan and the United States, she has also lived in Ecuador, Argentina, India, and France. Janet was interviewed for Taiwan Business TOPICS by Aimee Wong.

Where did your love of travel come from?

We’ve always been traveling, all of my life basically. Whenever we had any sort of extended holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, we were always traveling and sometimes it was just short trips – we would just drive to Mexico, Corpus Christi, or drive to New Orleans or even Austin and San Antonio, but to me that was traveling, to me that was taking a holiday trip. So we weren’t home very much whenever we had a long holiday. It also helped that my dad was a consultant for IBM, so he was always flying around and he had tons of frequent flyer miles, so we would get free tickets. That was when with frequent flyer miles you could take two flights and you would get one flight free, it was when flights were really cheap, back in the day. Ever since I was a kid we’d always traveled. We’d go camping, we’d go to the desert on the border of Mexico, go rafting.

Where was your favorite place to go?

As a kid? Oh, anywhere. As long as I was traveling, I was happy. I didn’t really care. When you’re young, you don’t really know where you’re going because you don’t look into it, you don’t do research. It was just kind of the thrill of being on the move – that was more exciting than anything. But I can say I did really enjoy the outdoors trips. The camping trips – I love camping trips – we’d go rafting, we’d go tubing, you know, where you sit in a tube and just roll down the river. Those were really good memories as a kid.

How did you learn so many languages?

The best way to pick up a language is just to live there. When I lived in France, I literally immersed myself in the French culture. I studied four hours a day, and outside those four hours I was out on the street, just talking to people. Avoid speaking in English or your native language. Try to make friends with locals. But most importantly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to say stupid things, but it doesn’t matter.

All in all, you’ve traveled to about 45 countries, including the many stops made for Fun Asia. Which country is your favorite?

I don’t have a favorite, I really don’t. It’s like asking, “what’s your favorite movie?” You have a favorite movie for every mood. You have a romantic movie, you have an action movie, you have a touching movie, you have a cartoon. I don’t really do favorites. Like with food, I don’t have a favorite food. I have foods for different moods. But if you were to ask what are some of my top choices for now, today, I would say Fiji for relaxing, anything water-related, just happiness; Australia for adventure sports; Argentina and Brazil for their happy-go-lucky lifestyle with culture; France for food; Italy for food; Japan for food; Nepal for the mountains; India for the culture – just the colors, the culture, the contrast; Palau for diving; South Africa for the diversity of people, of atmosphere, of things to do. Where for shopping? Maybe Thailand. I’m not that big on shopping, but I like markets and Thailand has a lot of traditional wet markets and they also have Chatuchak, the weekend market, which has anything and everything.

You’ve said that after trekking the globe and visiting so many different locales, Taiwan still claims a special place in your heart. Why is that?

Taiwan is a very small place, so you won’t have like vast grasslands like Mongolia and you won’t have towering peaks like the Himalayas and you won’t have long stretches of beaches like the whole Brazilian coast. [But you’ll find smaller versions of all three]. The fact that you can find all three of these things on one small island is what amazes me. You have snow and you have tropical island beaches, you have alpine trees, you also have birds and moss and tropical fruits like pineapples. It’s such a diverse, vibrant, rich tiny place. I get a lot of criticism online, because people see the show and say I’m overreacting. It’s just a stream, what’s so exciting about it? But when I go to these places, I’m not comparing it with other streams in the world. You can’t win if you compare. There’s always going to be a bigger or better or higher or whatever place, but my attitude when I go there is that I just came from the city a two-hour drive ago, and here I am in the middle of this beautiful cold stream where the water is as clear as it can be. Or when I’m in the middle of the mountains, like He-huanshan (合歡山) – you look out and it’s so beautiful. No, it’s not like the Scottish Highlands that go on forever and ever and ever. But when I’m standing there, I’m thinking, “my god, just four hours ago I was standing on the corner of ZhongXiao Donglu at the 7-Eleven, cars everywhere, and now here I am with nothing but green mountains.” That’s what I love, and that’s what I try to depict in the show. That’s what I’m feeling, so I guess that’s what I love about Taiwan, the fact that you can do all these things in such a convenient way.

What do you hope to accomplish through your television shows and books?

My goal at first was just to know Taiwan more for myself, and I never thought that it would get to the point that it would be broadcast all over Asia. The more I got to know Taiwan, the more I was like, when you have something good, when you taste something good, you want to tell all your friends about it. It was the same thing.

Where would you suggest going for a traveler with about one week to spend in Taiwan?

You could tailor-make an itinerary for people who want to do adventure sports and then you could tailor-make it for someone who likes history or food, or people who want the beach or people who want the mountains or cities and shopping, or whatever their interests. But my favorite places are on the east coast, like Taitung.

Is there any place you wouldn’t recommend?

I would probably skip Sun Moon Lake. I think it’s become too touristy, compared to what else Taiwan offers. I think it’s famous for being famous, whereas there are so many more beautiful places in Taiwan.

Any other suggestions?

For more adventurous travelers, I’d recommend going to a yexi wenquan (野溪溫泉) [an undeveloped, open-air hot spring where travelers bring shovels to dig their own pool; they are found all over Taiwan, but the most famous areas are in the mountains near Yilan, Hualien, and Taitung. “You literally have to move the stones out to make your own pool so it’s deep enough to sit in it. It’s so much fun, a really cool experience. The reason you have to dig out these holes all the time is because the water changes and the tides will come, or there’ll be a heavy rainfall and all the rocks will fill back in.”

almost 13 years ago 0 likes  1 comments  0 shares
45862083 0af2fd4d5d
cool, i'll read it tonight! ;-)
almost 13 years ago


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