Recently in Taipei Category

Chinese New Year and a Second New Start

I am now flying back into the Taipei airport for the fourth time in a month. The last time was the day before New Year's Eve (New Year's Eve Eve?) and this time it was Chinese New Year. "Gung Hay Fat Choy," the pilot said as we began our decent. "May the Year of the Ox bring you happiness and good health and prosperity!"

So it's the start of a new year on the (lunar) calendar, and it's a new start for me. My crazy 40 days of travel (35,000+ flight miles through 7 cities in 3 countries) is almost over and the new (Chinese) year begins.

The way I see it now, my first New Year that started on January 1 was a trail run -- a two week trial that went very well. Those two weeks that I was in Bangkok, I was at least able to meet most of my New Year Resolutions. I understandably lapsed on this last trip, but starting today, there will be more of the same resolutions, with some additions.

One additional resolution that I would like to conquer concerns this site. As frequent visitors will know, I haven't had much to say here, but I will try to rectify that. Perhaps the format will be a bit different, but I will try to get back to a regular recording of my life, my thoughts, and my life on these pages somehow.

Many times when I return home from a trip I feel anxious and depressed. I love being on the road or in the air on the go, and getting back to "real life" back home is often a downer. But going home this time is different. This time feels like a new start. This time I have a plan. I have goals. I have a path to follow.

This time, I'm back.

New Year 2009 in Taiwan

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I am home now from my annual Christmas trip to the US. On the way back to Bangkok, I stopped in Taiwan for New Years. Luckily, Piyawat was able to join me for this part of the trip. We hung out with our Taiwanese friends Ike and Jonah on New Years Eve, and went to see the fireworks at the Taipei 101 building. We were a couple of kilometers away, but it was still impressive to see fireworks shooting out of the tallest building in the world.

Here's a 3-minute low-res video that Piyawat took of the festivities that gives you some idea of what it was like:

The next afternoon, Piyawat and I boarded a train and headed south to the town of Hualien, and the next morning we hired a taxi to take us on a tour of Takoro Gorge, a very narrow but deep cut through the mountains. But the coolest part of this gorge is that the walls are made of polished marble.

After another night in Hualien, we caught the express (2 hours, versus 4 hours on the way down) train back to Taipei. We had a couple more nights here, one of which we went to the hot spring spas at Beitou with Ike and Jonah and another night we went out with Jonah and a couple of friends from Singapore who were also celebrating the new year in Taipei.

On our last day, Piyawat and I both decided that we liked Taipei a lot. In fact, we agreed that it was probably somewhere that we would enjoy living. I think that is the only place in Asia outside of Thailand that we have ever reached that conclusion together.

I posted some pictures of our friends and our trip to Takoro Gorge on Facebook.

One Thing I Didn't See In Taipei

It's a shame that I haven't found the time lately to add much to this site. I still need to write up my thoughts on Taipei, before I forget what we did! It's been a busy week in the office with some long hours, but we are making some great progress. Soon, I will have some screenshots of what the Learning Thai Language website will look like, and I will be sure to post them to give everyone an idea about what is in store.

In the meantime, I will just have to leave a link to a place I didn't visit in Taipei, but wish I had. If only I had read this article from Reuter's a few weeks ago: Taipei bar lets diners tipple from IV tubes.

Back from Taiwan

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We have made it back safely from a great 6-day trip to the island of Taiwan. I'll try to go back and fill in the details and post some pictures of our trip soon, but suffice to say we did a lot in those six-days: visiting temples, eating great street food, taking train rides through the mountains, witnessing a sunrise over fog-filled valleys, exploring an excellent museum with Chinese art, soaking in hot spring spas...

We were surprised that we didn't see many tourists. I must have seen 10 white faces the entire week. I guess Taiwan hasn't spent millions of dollars on marketing like Thailand has. So for now, it's a hidden gem for sure.

Not that we want it to be filled with tourists. We liked it just the way it was, thank you very much!

Off to Taipei for Songkran

Unfortunately I have been spending most of my waking hours lately in the office, so I haven't had many interesting things to write here. But that will change over the next few days, as Piyawat and I take advantage of the Thai New Year holiday weekend.

Tomorrow we will head to Taiwan where we will spend the next six days exploring the island. I went to Taipei almost exactly three years ago. It rained the whole time I was there, but I still really enjoyed it. I expect that this little get-away will be fun too.

Some people have commented that I haven't been updating this site much lately. But the part of this site that I really have been ignoring is the Photo Section. It just hasn't been the same after my site got hacked.

So, this morning I took some time to reinstall the old page templates from Blogstyles.com. They look pretty good now (well, at least compared to how they looked an hour ago) but I defintely want to tweak them a bit. Let the fun begin!

I'm also updating the comments on the Taipei pictures, which I posted a long time ago but never publicized. Pictures of Taipei Photo Album

Last Night in Taipei

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I'm safely back in Bangkok today after a wonderful weekend in Taipei. Yesterday I was on my own to visit Danshui, a small neighborhood that is near the mouth of the river. They have a fisherman's wharf area which I had a great time just walking around and looking at all of the exotic (to me) food for sale. My new favorite snack is red cherry tomatoes stuffed with prunes. It sounds a bit wierd, but it certainly was tasty!

I met Ike and Jonah again for dinner at the Shih Lin Night Market. Then we headed back to the mountain for another visit to a different hot spring spa. This one was completely outdoors (luckily, it was not raining for a change) and had a steam room, jacuzzi, and 4 tubs ranging from the cold tub at 18 degrees Celcius to the hottest tub at 45 degrees Celcius (64 - 113 Fahrenheit).

So my observations of Taipei? Well, in general, I really liked it. It is a big city of several million people, but it is very laid back and relaxed. It is definitely a very different atmosphere from other Westernized Chinese cities like Singapore and Hong Kong.

But now I am back at work, back in crazy Bangkok, back in my office where I can start planning my next trip...

Not only did I meet Ike for diner last night, be he brought two friends along: Jonah and Chris. (I find it interesting that all of the Chinese people I have met in Singapore, Hong Kong, and now Taiwan go by English names.)

I'm embarrased to admit it, but my first meal in Taiwan was at McDonald's. (I was tired, it was raining, yadda yadda...) But my first Chinese meal was Hong Kong style dim sum with Ike, Jonah, and Chris. It was good, but now that I'm used to spicy Thai food, it was a bit bland for me. We then went to Taipei's biggest bookstore, a 24-hour operation that was still packed when we arrived at 11 PM.

But the highlight of the night was driving up one of the nearby mountains to visit a Hot Spring Spa. The fact that it was still cold and rainy outside and my legs still ached from walking around all day, made the hot water jacuzzis even better.

The spas are open 24 hours as well, and when we left around 2:30 AM there were still people coming in. I started to realize that Taipei is an up-all-night town.

Lang Shan Temple and Taipei 101

After a great night of sleep (it's amazing what a good hot soak will do for your body) I woke up for another day of sightseeing. Ike was busy today, so Jonah offered to show me around. Our first stop was the Lang Shan temple. I have visited a few Chinese temples around Asia, but this was the first time that I was with someone who could explain what it all meant.

Once entering the temple, worshipers are given seven incense sticks. After lighting the sticks, they walk around to the shrines of the seven gods of the temple to pray to each. When the prayer at each stop was completed, they put one of the smoking sticks into a large container full of incense ash.

Jonah told me the name and background of each god. For example, one god is prayed to before taking exams. Another is prayed to for good luck in love. As you might expect, the former was surrounded by hopeful students, while the latter was very popular with young Chinese girls of the marrying age.

After walking around and admiring the intricate carvings and decorations, we left the temple, being careful not to leave through the same door we entered. After all, our bad spirits were stopped at the temple gate on the way in, and we certainly didn't want to pick them back up on the way out!

Our next stop was the Taipei 101 tower, which is currently the world's tallest building. The inside is not quite finished, but the six story mall at the base was open for business. The tower is a bit odd, I think. It actually doesn't seem all that tall, but I think that is because there aren't any tall buildings around it to compare it to. Imagine a 101-story building completely surrounded by 20-story buildings.

We are meeting Ike for dinner tonight and then sampling a bit of Taipei nightlife. (The nightlife outside of the 24 hour bookstores and hot spring spas, that is.)

It was raining when then airport bus dropped me off near the Taipei train station. According to the person I talked to on the phone, my YMCA Hotel was "right across the street". But I saw that the train station was huge; walking around it could take an hour. Not fun with three bags in the rain.

So I flagged down a taxi and took it to the hotel instead. It ended up being an easy two blocks away. Oh well, next time I will know better.

After checking in and taking a much needed shower, I left the hotel for a little walk. One block later, I had the same amazing earth-shattering revelation as I did in Hong Kong: "This looks just like China Town!"

Duh.

I spent the rest of the day exploring the area around my hotel on foot. The first stop was the 228 Memorial Park. As I walked through the park admiring the modern sculptures and the traditional Chinese pagodas, I heard someone over a loudspeaker and what sounded like a large crowd chanting in unison. Curiosity got the best of me, so I walked towareds a partk exit in the general direction of the noise. A policeman stoppped me from leaving the park, however, and that is when I noticed the barbed wire and police in riot gear.

Eventually I made it to the chanting crowd. Everyone was wearing yellow parkas (it was still raining) and waiving Taiwanese flags. Studying my map again, and reading the few English signs such as, "Democracy is Dead" and "We want Truth. We want Justice" I realized that I was witnessing the historical election protests in front of the Presidential Building.

I made my way through the crowd, taking pictures here and there. For the rest of the afternoon, I walked around town, visiting the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial (reminiscent of DC's Lincoln Memorial), the Museum of History (actually more like the Musueum of Art History), and the Botanical Garden.

Tonight, I am meeting my friend Ike for dinner and maybe a little more sightseeing. But for now, it's time to rest my weary legs after my all-day city hike.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Taipei category.

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