St. Thomas’ Academy are just one of the US-based groups we’ve had the pleasure of taking to Asia in 2023. In conjunction with The Learning Adventure, they planned an ambitious tour of Japan and Taiwan, taking in some of the top sights in each country. Using their Learning Adventure travel diary, we’ll run through the great experiences you could expect on your next tour with us!
Day 1: While battling a touch of jet-lag, the group’s first stop in Tokyo was the Metropolitan Government Building, where the group were able to get their first unforgettable glimpse of the Tokyo Skyline. Then, to loosen up those limbs, it was off to the batting cages to take part in one of Japan’s most popular sports – baseball!
Day 2: Today saw the group ticking off some of the most famous areas of Tokyo, including the Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, and Shibuya Crossing. The absolute highlight was the hands-on sushi making class – with a few mixed results! Interactive workshops like this are a crucial part of our tours, as we aim to avoid passive travel wherever possible, instead replacing it with unique learning opportunities.
Day 3: The Ikebukuro Life Safety Learning Centre is a wonderful, interactive museum which explores the methods that Japan uses for disaster prevention. This includes a very real earthquake simulation which students can experience, making it a great visit for any students interested in geography or science.
In complete contrast, the afternoon was spent discovering Senso-ji Temple – the most popular Buddhist temple in Tokyo – and the surrounding area. It’s one of the most famous spots in Tokyo and is surrounded by charming streets lined with stores.
Day 4: After a visit to the Japanese Sword Museum to see some examples of katanas, the group took part in another must-do experience in Japan – a tea ceremony! This involved making traditional sweets and sampling various different types of tea. On the last night in Japan, the group spent time exploring the cutting edge of technology and the latest in otaku culture in Tokyo’s Electric Town – Akihabara.
Day 5: After an early morning flight from Tokyo (taking in Mt Fuji from the air!) the group arrived in Taipei, ready to explore Taiwan! Their first day on the island involved a drive down to Nantou, ready for a full day exploring the area on Day 6.
Day 6: Well rested, it was time to explore the stunning Sun Moon Lake, which is one of Taiwan’s most picturesque spots. The day began with a boat ride on the lake, then a hike around the area to take in some nature and see the Wen Wu Temple. Heading down from the lake into Taichung, the students were able to enjoy the wonders of a night market for the first time, with opportunities to buy snacks – and more importantly, bubble tea!
Day 7: This morning started with a hands-on activity at Old Pot Farm, where the group were able to produce some traditional food while learning all about life in this part of the world from locals. Then it was time to travel back to Taipei, where the group were lucky enough to witness the yearly Dragon Boat Race!
Day 8: The day after the big race started with an educational excursion to the Taiwan Cement Daka Plant, where students were able to learn about product manufacturing in Taiwan. Afterwards, students continued exploring Taiwan’s stunning natural geography at Qingshui Cliff in the Taroko National Park on the east coast of the island.
Day 9: Staying in the Hualien area, today offered two really unique opportunities – a dolphin-spotting boat cruise and the chance to interact with an Indigenous tribe. Thankfully, it was a gloriously sunny day out at sea and dolphins were spotted! Afternoon activities with the tribe included learning to shoot a bow and arrow, creating traditional jewellery, and making a fire.
Day 10: It was yet another sunny day, so the morning bubble tea-making class was a very welcome refreshment – as well as being a great window into modern Taiwanese food culture. In the afternoon, the group moved onto Shifen, the largest town on the Pingxi railway, where they were able to create and release their own sky lanterns.
Day 11: More culinary explorations today with a make your own pineapple shortcake class! This was followed by a visit to the observation deck of the iconic Taipei 101 tower, and an exploration of the nearby Xinyi District. Afterwards, students enjoyed a well-earned change of pace at a nearby teahouse, and visited Ximending for souvenir shopping.
Day 12: Sadly, this was the last full day on tour before heading back to the USA! It began by watching the changing of the guards at the National Martyr’s Shrine, which was really impressive. The afternoon was the designated service time, and the group gave something back by volunteering at the Taiwan Toy Association, where they helped with the cleaning and packaging of second hand toys going to children in need. Then, after one last delicious meal, it was time to get ready for departure after an amazing couple of weeks travel in Asia!