|Wednesday March 4 2009||File under: travel, Taiwan|
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|I've never been much of a big city guy. That goes for travel as well as living (although they are certain perks to cities for both). Anyway, arriving in Chaiyi at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, I decided I couldn't spend another night in a city. Unfortunately, the last train to Alishan (my next hopeful destination) had already left. And if I correctly interpreted the group gesturing and chatter at the bus station, the bus was also not an option. What now? Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.
I rented a scooter*. With only a highway number and a destination city name*, I braved the rush hour traffic and struck out. For a while it was iffy, but as the traffic petered out and the switchbacks took me into the clouds, I knew I made the right decision.
I subsequently spent 2 nights in the tiny mountain town of Fencihu. I passed the days scooting along gorgeous, albeit hardly DOT approved, mountain roads and hiking* among mind-blowingly beautiful tiered tea plantations, cliffs, bamboo forests, waterfalls, sunrises, and six-
Yes, getting out of the city was the right call. If I wasn't flying to Japan tomorrow, I would still be up in that cool mountain air without a horn honk or siren heard the whole night long.
|Sunday March 1 2009||File under: travel, Taiwan|
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|Everybody likes posts about food, right? I'm afraid I don't have too much to share. When traveling where I don't speak the language, I have a severely restricted food routine. Wherever I eat must either a) have an english menu (very rare) b) have a picture menu or c) have the food right there to point at. You'd be surprised at how many places that filters out. Besides chicken butt at the wedding, freshly caught and grilled shrimp, and a group meal where a local did all the ordering, I've mostly been eating street food and dumplings*. Don't get me wrong; the food I do find is good, but just not super expansive.
This lack of food experience made it all the better when tonight I found myself sharing some local cuisine with Chen Li, a kind local soul who has taken me under his wing to make sure I find my way in this city* where there are very few foreigners and very little English spoken. In his quest to get me to really experience Taiwan, he chose ginger duck hot pot as a representative dish. It was good, esp. with him explaining what everything was and how it was supposed to be eaten. Afterwards, I insisted I share a little bit of Wren culture with him and we sought out some ice cream. He opted for juice instead.
Yes, food is a big part of traveling. Finding a local to help guide you through what can often be a maze of options and decision almost guarantees it to be great. With all aspects of my life, I realize the good fortune I encounter and am grateful for it.
|Friday February 27 2009||File under: travel, Taiwan|
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|I don't know quite how to say it without sounding overly hyperbolic, but Taroko Gorge is pretty much the coolest thing I've ever seen. There's no way that my pictures will do any sort of justice, so you'll just have to take my word for it*.
I rented a scooter* in Hualien (where I've been staying the last couple days) and scooted the 20 or so miles out to the entrance of Taroko National Park. (Being back on a scooter in the land of scooters was quite a feeling, but I'll have to address that another time.) Right from the park entrance, I knew it was going to be a good day. The road twisted and turned through tunnels and over bridges. Every other km there was a pull out for some new spectacular view.
In addition to a great drive on an amazing road, I got in a nice little* hike. Again with the tunnels and bridges, but this time only for hikers. It is amazing how much effort obviously went into creating and maintaining these trails.
If I could do it again, I would plan on staying (maybe camping) up the gorge to have more time to explore and simply marvel at it all. But so it goes... I really shouldn't complain.
|Wednesday February 25 2009||File under: travel, Taiwan|
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|With the recent craze being all about uber-short updates in the third person (a la facebook status and twitter), I thought I would give said format a try. You know me: always pushing the blogging limits. (Oh, and click on the little pictures to get big pictures.)|
|Monday February 23 2009||File under: travel, Taiwan|
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|While it has been said before, I want to add my heartiest congratulations to Bob and Nicole, and wish them many many years of happiness together. They were married (Taiwanese style) last night here in Taipei and I had the honor of attending.
Never been to a traditional Taiwanese wedding? It is different. Disco lights, constume changes (3 for the bride), an M.C., not a word of english (except the occasional "Bob" dropped here and there), and food that I was glad I couldn't identify. (A local woman at our table tried to convince us we were eating pig ankle and chicken butt. I believed her.)* There were replacements for the traditions I'm familiar with (throwing the boquet became this ribbon tying affair that involved all the single ladies) and then traditions that were far above my western head.
And while I might not have understood it all, I was grateful to be there to witness and support Bob and Nicole in their union.
|Saturday February 21 2009||File under: travel, Taiwan|
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|For me, the hardest part of travel isn't the language barrier, the uncertainity of where I will sleep that night, or overcoming fear of the unknown (although none of these things is particularly easy). The hardest part is the first step; walking out the door with everything I need, hoping that I've taken care of everything that needs my attention, hoping that I'm not getting myself in over my head, questioning if this is what I should be doing, trusting that it will all be okay. Once that first step is taken, my doubts and fears almost fade away, because I know whether I forgot to pack something, forgot to do something, gotten in over my head or whatever, there is nothing I can do about it now.
So I've completed the hardest part (not without hestitation, etc.). I'm here in Taipei. And the first half-day of romaing did away with what lingering doubts and fears there may have been. There is just so much neat stuff to see: Scoot Scoot's relatives, delicious new treats, and culture, culture, culture.
|Thursday February 19 2009||File under: travel, Taiwan|
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