A Travellerspoint blog

Taiwan Day 4

"Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs." ~ Susan Sontag

semi-overcast

Four months and eleven days. I made it four months and eleven days. My downfall? The Taipei freaking Zoo. FOUR MONTHS AND ELEVEN DAYS! I was so looking forward to the one year mark of my journey to proudly say I had made it one year. I had already started composing the exact words I would use to relate the glorious landmark of making it a full year and never having to succumb... alas all is lost. I only made it four months and eleven days. It's quite pathetic really... such a short span. I couldn't even make it half a year... a measly four months and eleven days.

Now you are probably wondering what in the world I am talking about and how the Taipei Zoo had anything to do with it so let me enlighten you. There are many things one has to become accustomed to when they are traveling: language, culture, food, laws, transportation, hygiene, beds, restroom facilities, and much more. I have little to no problems with most of these things- I'm adaptable, it's totally fine. But there are some things I did not ever want to become ok with like the lack of bathing on some people's parts or the weird way Korean woman basically become single mom/slaves for the husbands (if you don't know much about the Korean dating and after-marriage rituals now is not the time to explain so I'll have to get into that later), but mostly I really really REALLY did not ever want to have to use a squatting toilet. Sitting down to pee, however inconvenient it can be at times, is something that just is when you grow up in the US. That's how it is done. Not in Asia. They have the western style toilet in most places that are highly populated with foreigners and a lot of places are just starting to use them more but apparently the Taipei Zoo never got the memo.

I mean come on! You're a huge tourist attraction for people visiting your country! Update your restroom facilities for crying out loud! Grrr... I spent an entire day walking around the zoo so there was no way I was going to get around the stupid squatting toilets today. Which is why my time ended at four months and eleven days. I'm sure you're just riveted by my bathroom exploits but whatever! That is what I am going to rant about for the next few seconds. BLAST YOU TAIPEI ZOO!

Ok, I am ok now, rant over.

So yes, if you couldn't have guessed yet I spent my Monday at the Taipei Zoo. It was fantastic (apart from the restroom issues). I went with a fellow traveler from my hostel and we walked around the majority of the zoo. I have never been to a proper zoo before so it was quite exciting seeing all the different animals. There were far too many to name off here but the highlight animals were: the butterfly garden, the lion who kept roaring at the corner, the camel who kept bowing at us, the monkey who came to the glass and was talking/playing with us, the rhino who got mad at us for watching him eat, and the panda who walked over to us and started eating his lunch and posing for pictures (he/she was freaking adorable).

I am torn though between really enjoying the zoo and not really liking the idea of zoos. I mean I am not a huge animal rights activist or anything, I don't go around denouncing zoos and wanting to free all the animals, but thinking about how big of an open space most of these animals are used to and then thinking of how small their "environments" are at the zoo, it's a little sad.

I especially felt bad for the lion. Lions are a pack animal and he was all alone, pacing, and he was really skinny. Like skin-hanging-I-can-see-your-ribs skinny. Thinking on it the mountain lion kind of looked like that too. So whereas I will not start parading in front of zoos denouncing all who work there and all who visit I would like to see the animals a little fatter.

For the most part we could see all the animals but some of the bigger animals were in another part of the zoo, inaccessible, due to remodeling of their habitats. That kind of sucked but all in all it was a successful first official trip to the zoo. And by official I mean I have been to petting zoos or the little exhibit in Everland but never to an actual zoo so it was quite fun.

After a very long day of walking around and taking a million pictures (over 250) of all the different animals we headed back to the hostel. We decided to end our day by going out to get some dinner and decided to continue the ultimate touristy day and go to a themed restaurant. Do you want to know the theme? Well it fits well with the beginning of this entry because the restaurant was called (wait for it) MODERN TOILET. Yup, it was toilet themed. The tables were sinks covered in Plexiglas. You sit on toilet seats, lids closed for obvious reasons, the napkins are toilet paper attached to the walls, your drinks arrive in urinal shaped glasses, your food comes in either a western style toilet or a claw foot bathtub, and the decor has poop shapes all over. It was amazing. We laughed. A lot. And every persons' reaction who came into the restaurant after us was the same: "'squeal/laugh/OMG' ~ *take camera out* laugh-as-you-manically-snap-pictures-of-everything, sit down and order." The food wasn't that great but it was worth going just to experience the decor.

We then took another (very short) trip through the night market and I bought a pair of shoes. I am taking a leaf out of KB's travel book and I am going to have a pair of shoes that will always travel with me to every country I visit. I needed to buy them here so I could add Taiwan to the list and once I get back to Korea they will have been there too. I may or may not write the name of the country on the shoes to keep a written record... I am not sure though. I will do something though.

On a similar note I have been deciding what I will do once I am done with my travel plans of seeing the world before I go back home to the states and start my grown up life. I want something to remember my experiences and I was thinking of either a ankle or wrist bracelet tattoo with a single word written in all the languages of the countries I visit. Sounds pretty awesome to me but then I was thinking I always write a travel quote as the subtitle of my blog (except the one time that still bothers me but I can't go back and change it now because that would be cheating) so what if I still did the tattoo bracelet/anklet but instead of a single word write out a travel quote (I have many favorites) but each word being in the language of all the countries I will have visited. It's genius and totally what I plan to do. It will be tricky making sure I have a quote that has just the right amount of words in it to match the countries but I think it will be great. I know it is a ways off to be thinking of this now but when traveling alone your mind wanders to different subjects and when a good idea pops into your head you must write it down.

So if I ever forget what it is I want to do to commemorate my travels it will be here for me to remember. Perfect plan.

Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 06:01 Archived in Taiwan Tagged culture adventure taiwan Comments (2)

Taiwan Day 3

"Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience." ~ Francis Bacon

all seasons in one day

If I never smell stinky tofu again it will be too soon. And I still have four days left in Taiwan. Le sigh.

Today was a good day. I met a friend of a friend and her cousin and they showed me around a town called Wulai, it is famous for hot springs and an aboriginal tribe (I believe their name is Atayla but do not quote me on that...). It was beautiful! We walked through a busy street full of food vendors and ate, and ate, and ate some more. We then walked up this amazingly green road to look at a waterfall and see some of the aboriginal relics.

There was so much green everywhere! It was beyond beautiful. So much so there are not enough words in my vocabulary to accurately describe the joy I felt at being completely surrounded by picturesque scenery and things I though I would only ever see in magazines. The river was a striking green-blue and it contrasted so well with the deep green moss growing over all the rocks and trees. I saw my first ever "wild" banana and papaya trees. I could probably have stayed and stared for hours if I was by myself.

My two guides were amazing. Thank you KL for having a lot of international friends who are eager and willing to help out complete strangers. I would not have been able to find this place if I was going by myself. The bus ride was a bit crazy but worth it on many many levels. And it is always nicer to travel with people who speak the language of the place you are visiting. My Chinese is non-existent save what I gleaned from Ni Hao Kai-Lan, which is pretty much just, Ni hao... In other words not helpful at all. So having two Taiwanese people guiding you along was quite nice.

Which also means I tried food I would not normally have tried. The list of food I ate on my journey today: one hot spring egg (a soft boiled egg in some sort of sauce... it was interesting), Taiwanese style sausage, almond tea (which was so delicious I bought a huge container of it), bamboo rice (they cook the rice in a large bamboo shoot and it is seasoned with pepper, corn, garlic, shrimp, onions, and a lot of other things I did not know what they were, all delicious of course. Then to serve it they smash the bamboo so it is in two halves and you just dig right in. Pure genius.), and ten came the really interesting bits. Oyster Sting Noodles, stinky tofu, and duck blood.

My moto for foreign food is I will try anything once. Once was too much for stinky tofu and duck blood. The noodles were good but completely eclipsed by the other two. I want to rant and rave about how disgusting they were but it was not that they were disgusting (don't get me wrong they did not taste too swell) but it was more of the smell. They do not call it stinky tofu for nothing. I cannot even begin to describe the smell but it is awful. I was walking through the night market again and kept passing stalls that were serving stinky tofu and I was gagging the entire time. I do not understand how people can sit there and serve that! How do they keep their stomachs from rolling. I am nauseous just thinking about it. The duck blood was just slimy and the weirdest texture and tasted like the stinky tofu smelled... gag.

But it is all in the name of adventure! I am sure there will be plenty more experiences like the stinky tofu and duck blood on my travels.

After we left Wulai we walked around Xindian river and the Bitan bridge. It was the same surreal beauty as before but with a more modern cafe feel to it. It helped that the river was full of paddle boats. But I still felt like hobbits or elves were going to start hopping off the mountains. That would have been amazing and I am not sure I ever would leave Taiwan if I found either hobbits or elves.

It was a long day full of walking and looking but totally worth it. For now I am going to kick back and relax in my hostel with a book and tomorrow I am going to explore the Taipei Zoo and ride a gondola to see some tea plantations. I'm excited.

Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 02:33 Archived in Taiwan Tagged food culture adventure beauty taiwan Comments (0)

Taiwan Day 2

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

overcast

Taiwan Day 2!

Look at that! You get a whole two entries within the span of two days! It's a miracle. It only takes me going on vacation to update this like I had planned to from the start... yeah, well, try not to get to used to it because once I am back to the grind I cannot guarantee anything.

Let's see, what did I do today? I unloaded all my stress from this trip and decided I was going to make the best of travelling along and embrace Taiwan with open arms. I changed hostels (there wasn't anything bad with the one I had before but I only booked for two nights and it was a little on the expensive side) so I found a cheaper hostel and booked the remaining days of my trip. At first I didn't know if I would stay in Taipei or take a trip farther south but I decided against that much adventure and will spend the whole week in Taipei. Less stress and worry now that I have an actual bed booked for each night I am on vacation.

This new hostel is smaller but it is in a cleaner area of Taipei, right across the street from the MRT (Taiwan's subway system) and quite literally around the corner of the Shillin Night Market. I am no longer in a room by myself though (le sigh) I am in a dorm room now, but that's ok, it's better to meet people that way. The guy who works here knew right away that I was mixed race and asked me about it, when I told him I was half-Korean he got all excited and told me that the people staying tonight in the room were Korean. He asked me if I spoke the language and I quickly told him no. I can read it and I know a few sentences but nothing at all worth conversing about. I wish I had brought my Korean book with me though... I feel like I am missing valuable study time.

Today was not another exciting day but I at least did something. Once I got everything settled at the new hostel I walked around the Shillin Public/Night Market. It was interesting. It was huge and depending on where you stood either smelled delicious or revolting. There were a ton of shops selling everything you could imagine. I loved that with every place I passed I either heard English music playing, K-Pop (KL would be proud that I actually recognized a lot of the songs), classical music, or Gangnam Syle. I think I heard that song at least three times while I walked around. If I heard any Chinese music I didn't recognize it so it went right over my head.

Some memorable things I saw on my walk through Shillin? Starbucks want-to-be coffee. The logo was the same color just a different shape, but definitely made to look like the Starbucks siren. I saw a huge stuffed Mushu (I wanted him but he was clearly not for sale). A beautiful temple of some sort (I am not even going to try and guess what it was for) but I took pictures. And food stalls galore. Food stalls as far as the eye could see. I was not too adventures today, merely looking and taking everything in, but I did by a huge milk tea and a delicious pork steamed bun. For a mere 60NTD (which is like $2). Love cheap things! I am limiting myself to not purchasing any souvenirs until my last day here so I am not loaded down with stuff. I plan on going back later this evening to get the full glory of the night market, at you know, nighttime.

I sat and planned out my days for the remainder of my trip. I could not handle the disorganization of not knowing what and where I was going to go for the rest of my trip. I plan on going to the National Palace Museum, Martyrs Shrine, Taipei 101, Taipei Zoo, tea plantations (via a gondala ride), and some different temples and museums if I feel like it and have time. It should be an interesting remainder of my time here.

Well, that's pretty much it for now. Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 00:58 Archived in Taiwan Tagged adventure taiwan Comments (0)

Taiwan! Day 1

"The open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself." ~ William Least Heat Moon

overcast

So this is going to be interesting because I am typing this on my phone but I finally get an entry that takes place somewhere that is not South Korea or the US! Yay for vacations in other countries!

That being said I miss Korea. I have only been in Taiwan for a day and I already miss the language and the people and the normalcy I have grown accustomed to... which is slightly strange because I never had any homesickness when I left the US... interesting... very interesting. Alas I am trying to make the best out of my vacation! It is a very different circumstance than I have ever found myself in though... and I can say with the utmost certainty: I am not a good solo traveller. I had no problems going to Korea by myself, but that was very different. I went for a job and an extended stay. Here in Taiwan I am merely a tourist. I don't do tourist very well... and it is weird being surrounded by Chinese rather than Korean.

I am trying to be a better tourist though. Iit is a slight miracle I made it to my hostel. The taxi I took from the airport took me to the wrong place. Thankfully the security guard at the place he dropped me off at spoke very good English and when he realized the directions he wrote out meant nothing to me he called me another cab, walked me to said cab, and then proceeded to tell the cab driver exactly where I needed to go. Yay for amazing guardian angels. Once I got to the right hostel I settled in, watched a movie with the staff and some of the guests, and then went to bed.

Such a rivoting first night, I know. I spent my first day walking around and trying to accustom myself to the area. I saw some beautiful things and enjoyed the not-freezing temperatures. And being here has made me really appreciate the cleanliness of Korea. I ate dinner with a few of the people at the hostel and then came back to relax. I did a lot of walking. I had planned to go to one of the night markets but it started to rain and I just didn't feel like dealing with that, plus I'm here for a week, I have time. I am playing a lot of my trip by ear, we shall see how long I can keep that up before I get utterly bored because I have no idea what to do or because I realize I need planing and organization in my life. Probably the latter before the former.

Not an amazing start but a start nonetheless. Here's to seeing what comes next! Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 07:21 Archived in Taiwan Tagged vacation adventure taiwan Comments (0)

New Years and Winter Vacation!

"Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going." ~ Paul Theroux

sunny

So my winter vacation officially started on December 28. It feels really good to not have to go into work for two whole weeks. I was definitely getting to that point where I needed a vacation. It's not that my job is particularly difficult but everyone needs a vacation every once in a while.

I spent new years weekend thoroughly engrossing myself in K-Pop. I am not going to deny it, I have fallen into the pit that is K-Pop, and I love it. Judge me all you want I shall never go back! Haha, their songs are super catchy ok, don't knock it until you've tried it! Also, you have to love the eye candy. Thank you KL for making me watch every awards show where they performed that weekend. It also helps that I live right down the street from one of the major labels... So that is how I spent my new years eve, not out partying like a normal person, but sitting in my room with KL and watching the end of the year show for K-Pop stars. It was quite entertaining.

In Korea the new years isn't as big of a deal as it is back home. They celebrate the Lunar New Year with a big party. The one tradition that they have here is to go watch the first sunrise over the beach. I can see now why they would travel all the way to the beach to watch the sunrise. We attempted to follow the tradition and were going to go watch the sunrise over Lake Park but mother nature had her own plans. We woke up to a snow storm... not exactly ideal conditions for watching the sunrise. Oh well a few hours later I got some decent pictures of the sun behind some clouds from the roof of my building.

But I was determined to set a standard for my year starting with New Years Day. Random bits of adventure! KL and I went into Seoul and ate at a cute little cafe and then we went to the biggest palace in Seoul. Gyeongbokgung Palace. This place is huge and it is beautiful. Made even more so because of all the snow and frozen ponds. It is always so interesting to explore the historical sites around Korea because we don't have anything as old as that in the US. Our country is a baby compared to Korea.

That was my new years day and I had a great time. I am now about to leave for the airport on my first solo adventure outside of Korea. I will be spending the next week in Taiwan. I know my plans for the first two days but after that it is all in where the wind blows me! I shall try and post as much as I can.

Until the next time!

Posted by cstravelsabroad 17:55 Archived in South Korea Tagged adventure k-pop Comments (0)

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