Monthly Archives: January 2013

Tainan, Taiwan (Day 9)

So today I embarked to a new city, Tainan! I made it to the train station fine and ended up taking the slow train, which was only an hour long. The hostel I am staying at is City Hut 1828. If anyone ever comes to Tainan, I definitely recommend it. The showers and bathroom rock, the dorm room is clean, they have a big kitchen, and there is plenty of lounge space indoors and outdoors. The staff was very helpful and they had bike rental which made it possible to see everything I saw in the city in one day.

The first place I visited was a Confucius Temple. This temple was a center of Confucius teachings and built in 1665 and was the first built in Taiwan. It also contains one of the largest and most beautiful banyan trees in all of Taiwan. There was a fee to go into the main temple grounds, but I chose to pass up going in and just hang out in the main grounds which were free.

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The second place I visited was the Great South Gate. It is the only one in Tainan that remains and it gives a feeling of how the defenses were set up in this city. There was also a big slate that commemorated many of the battles that were fought and anything else that is worth commemorating.

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The Wufei Temple was very small compared to most temples I’ve visited. This temple commemorates the concubines of King Ning Jin, who was the last contender of the Ming throne, that hung themselves because they felt their honor was as important as the king’s and would not surrender to the Manchus. This occurred in 1683.

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When the Ming Dynasty was overthrown by the Manchus in 1661, Koxinga went with his army to resupply Taiwan and retake the mainland. What he found was the Dutch had already occupied Taiwan. He waged a nine month battle to retake Taiwan and send the Dutch packing. He did much to improve the conditions in Taiwan. The shrine and temple was built to honor Koxinga.

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Across the street from the Koxinga shine wasLady Linshui’s Temple. Women go to worship this goddess to ask her to protect their children. I was truly amazed by the detail inside this temple.

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I was going to go to the Dongyue Temple which is supposed to have some crazy paintings of hell and the City God Temple which houses Chenghuang, the god who protects towns, but could not find them and got sick of riding around looking for them. So I moved on to the Alter of Heaven to pray to the Jade Emperor for good luck. But, again I failed to find this temple. I ended up taking a picture of this building, which I don’t know what it is for. Thought it looked cool.

UPDATE: I found out what this building is!! It was built in 1897 by the Japanese. Interestingly, it was built two years after Taiwan ceded to Japan. The purpose of the building was to monitor the weather. It is the only one remaining from this era out of five that were built and there are no buildings like this left standing in Japan either.

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I then rode to the Official God of War Temple which is the oldest temple in Taiwan and is dedicated to a general from the Han dynasty who is defied as a patron of warriors. This temple was established back in 1690.

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Across the road behind the temple is the Chihkan Towers. It was an old fort and the foundation was built by the Dutch, but has been under Ming, Quin, Japanese, and Kuomintang since its 1653 establishment. It was a small fe to go in, but it was interesting.

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This was pretty much the end of my temple tour around Tainan. Now, I am so happy I decided to do it by bike and not walk everywhere. Since I saw all these sights in only a couple hours, I rode my bike five miles to Anping. Anping is the historical district of the area and one of the original Dutch settlement areas. The coolest place I visited, and one of the main reasons I headed that way was for the Anping Tree House. Basically, banyan trees have engulfed this old house. Roots and branches have grown up the walls and replaced the roof. IT is pretty surreal!!

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The last notable place I visited in this area was the Anping Old Fort. It was built in the 17th century as a colonial outpost for European traders. In 1624, the Dutch occupied the area. After 1662, Koxinga and his son lived here and it was named “King Castle”. The Japanese gave it its current name. A few of the original walls built by the Dutch still exist around the fort and they are covers by banyan tree roots.

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Wow, what a day!! I totally killed it on the touring today. I went back to my hostel and just chilled out the rest of the night and had a few beers. I could have gone to a Night Market, but they all start to look the same like the temples and I am starting to get burned out on them. I don’t think I have any other temple things to see in Taiwan. Heading back to Taipei Wednesday and taking the bullet train. It reaches speeds of 300 km/h!! I wish the US would get off their ars and spend a little money on our own infrastructure instead of fighting these wars and killing innocent people with our drones. Enough politics, I’m on vacation!!
While in Taipei, I plan to do a few things I was unable to do when I was there earlier on my trip. Hoping to do the Taipei Zoo, Gondola, Elephant Mountain, and maybe a hot spring. I also will probably be hanging out with Stu and meet up with another old Korea friend, JoJo!! Until tomorrow!

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Kaohsiung, Taiwan- Mount Shoushan (Day 8)

Today I got a bit of an early start compared to yesterday. I decided to spend another day and night in this great, laid-back town. Kaohsiung is totally a place I could live. And, I was excited to see some monkeys in the wild on this mountain!! The mountains name is Mount Shoushan. It is the largest natural wilderness in the metropolitan area that spans about 1,100 acres.

I took the subway and then a bus to Longquan Temple. This temple was very large and elegant. The temple is at the base of the mountain and the beginning of my journey on the trails around the mountain.

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I came across monkeys at about three points on the trail. The monkeys are very tame and are not phased by people. I read one of the signs along the way that said they have the intelligence of a three year old. I guess there was also problems with people feeding them. A local on the trail said that many of the restaurants at the start of the trail will be forced to close by the government because the monkeys are coming down from the mountain begging for food. There was even a point were I was popping a squat, taking some pictures, and a monkey crawled on my backpack looking for food inside. I had a monkey on my back!! Sweet^^

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Another really cool animal I saw was a Taiwan deer. I was walking along and something went under the walk way. I thought it was a squirrel or rabbit, but then I saw a small little deer. Seriously, my dog is bigger than this deer!! I was unable to get a very great photo because it was on the move. Sorry, but this is the best picture I was able to take. Now that I think about it, I should have taken a video… lesson learned!!

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At the top of the mountain I was able to get a pretty good view of the city. I didn’t realize it was as big as it is. It was a bit hazy out, but it was still nice.

Every once in awhile I would stop to take a quick break. One time, I was talking to an older gentleman that said foreigners rarely hike this mountain. I told him because it’s not mentioned in the guide books or city maps. The only reason I was hiking these trails is because the hostel owner told me about it. It kind of makes it a little more special hearing that.

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The mountain was a great break from the city. I love hiking and it brings back some of my Boy Scout past times to mind. There is just an energy I feel when I’m in the woods and surrounded by, bugs, trees, animals, etc. I really need to take advantage of the mountains in Korea and get out of the city. Now that I am almost finished working on this grad school certificate, that may be a possibility. Here is a picture of the mountain I took.

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I didn’t take any photos of this, but at different parts of the mountain, there was exercise equipment that people have hauled up to use. There were even dumb bells! I guess it’s a little hang out for old people to exercise. I also met a university kid half way on the trail who decided to follow me and be a hiking partner. Honestly, I was a bit annoyed because I just wanted to be one-with-nature and my thoughts. But, I am just to nice to tell someone to piss-off. At the end of the hike, we stopped and ate lunch. I had some noodles with duck. It was very good, but I did not eat any of the duck meat. It looked mostly like duck fat and tendons.

I left my hiking buddy when I got on the bus. Bad timing because the high school had just got out for the day. But, I made it on and decided to go see a couple sights I did not get to the day before. Come to find out after going to the area my map told me to go, all three things were in completely different areas of town. I did get to walk through the university campus. Reminded me of a university back in the US. At that moment the thought that I could live in this city came to mind.

So I headed back to my hostel and decided to go out to the movies. I went to see Gangster Squad. A great hike and a movie was just the kind of day I needed. I’ll be heading off to Tainan tomorrow. That is where Kevin moved on to ahead of me and he said it is worth seeing and it can be easily done in a day by bike. Until then, one more monkey shot!!

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Kaohsiung, Taiwan- Lotus Lake (Day 7)

Today I got a late and lazy start to the day. Sometimes that happens when you travel. Everyday there is something new to see and experience, so it can be more draining than work. I know that may be hard for some to believe who never get a vacation.

So when I finally finished my fourth cup of coffee and was done chatting with friends on Skype, Kakao Talk, and FaceTime, I headed to Lotus Lake to walk around and check out the sights there. This lake is man made and created in 1952. Most of the temples were all build after the lake was made. The first place I was trying to go to was a Confucius Temple, but it was unfortunately under construction and closed. You all know how I love my temples!! I moved around to the next place around the lake after I picked up some smokes and a can of Coke. I then popped in the headphones and turned on The Dead’s Bonnaroo show I was at. Nothing like singing to The Dead jamming away while sightseeing!!

The first stop was the statue of the Taoist god Bei-Ji Shien-Tien. This statue was very cool and inside was a shrine for him on two different levels. One of the things that strike me is the color and detail that goes into these shrines. They are so colorful!!

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Across from the Wuli Pavilion, which I will be showing you next, was the Chi Ming Palace. I didn’t go inside, but just gazed with amazement outside of it. This was the coolest temple I passd as I walked around the lake.

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As I crossed the street I came up to the Wuli Pavilion. Like the other pavilions, this one stretches out across the lake.

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But, directly in front of the pavilion is The Spring and Autumn Pavilions built in 1953 as a landmark commemorating ‘The Martial Saint, Lord Kua’ and the champion of Taiwan towers. There are tons of turtles in a little half-moon pond the dragon statue hovers above. The Guanyin statue riding the dragon in front of the pavilions is the Goddess of Mercy, and according to legend instructed followers to build this icon between the two pavilions.

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The next stop on this side of the lake was the Dragon & Tiger Pagodas. The Dragon is the entrance and the Tiger is the exit. This is a symbol of auspicious. This building represents Kaohsiung traditional culture.

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Across the street is the Cih Ji Palace. It worships Baosheng Dadi. During every Chungyuan Festival, households hang radish on the door for the memorial service.

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At this point I finally made it to one end of the lake and it started getting really windy. I thought a storm was going to roll in as the clouds got really dark and the beautiful sun disappeared. I did get to see some police on horseback!! Children were waving and the police were all smiles and waving back. I joined in with the kids and gave them a wave and nod.

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My last place to visit for the day was the Chingshui Temple. This was one of the first temples I was able to see as I started around the lake. It seemed so much smaller when I was standing right in front of it!!

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After a nice walk around Lotus Lake I headed back to my hostel, hung out, and did some laundry at a 24-hour laundry mat. I also seem to be the only white guy that comes to this place ;-). Most of the guests are Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean. This is an environment of people I enjoy being around. I tell my students that learning English will give them the opportunity to talk to people from many different countries and cultures. This is a clear example. I do feel like a dumb-ass though, because out of everyone I am the only person who is not bi/ tri-lingual. I guess it does inspire me to learn Korean more, or at least some other language.

So tomorrow, I am planning on maybe staying another night here and go off for a hike at some mountain with monkeys. I need to go mingle with my own kind.

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Kaohsiung, Taiwan (Day 6)

Today I woke up at 5 AM to catch a 6 AM train to Kaohsiung with my travel buddy, Kevin. The train ride was between 5-6 hours, so I slept most of the way. I also got to experience using a train squatter. Not easy to do on a moving train, or just in general. I once asked my students how anyone can use these things without stuff falling out of their pockets, or especially in skinny jeans. One student responded by saying he completely de-pants to use.

When we arrived, we went to our hostel, Backpackers 41. This place is really nice and cheap. The owners must have put a lot of work into the place and it is much better than the damp mattress, sheets, and comforter of the last place. After we checked in I changed into some shorts, because the weather is much warmer here, and we headed off to see some sights. We rented some bikes and headed to Cijin Island.

We took a ferry across to the island. The boat was loaded up with peddle bikers and moped drivers. Pretty cool actually!! We then headed to the Cihou Fort. It was involved in a short attack by the Japanese in 1895 and there are a number of pill boxes and old gun placements around this fort area.

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Not far from the fort was the Chihou lighthouse. It was constructed in 1918. One messed up thing that happened when visiting here was a squatter embarrassment. I had to use a Chinese style toilet, which involves hovering my ars over a hole in the ground again today. I call these squatter toilets. They also have them in Korea. The problem was that lock on the door didn’t work. As I am trying to take a dump, some guy opened the door on me. I swore at him and continued, but I probably scared the crap out of him!! I guess he know what a white rear-end looks like now… haha^^

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We then took our bikes around the island and I took pictures of temples we passed and spent a little time looking at the ocean. I really do love the smell of salty air and the ocean breeze. Something I miss about Alki Beach in Seattle. One thing we did stop for was BBQ grilled squid. It was so good and hit the spot after biking around. I unfortunately lost a chunk to the ground. Funny thing was a guy was walking by and slipped on it like a banana peel! Oops. I guess the street dogs were not fast enough on eating the scraps people drop.

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After our squid snack, we headed back to the mainland on the ferry and biked to the Fisherman’s Wharf, checked out the Pier-2 Art District, went along the Love River, and enjoyed some excellent sea food at the Liuhe Night Market.

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This seafood dish cost only about $5.35 US!!! So delicious^^

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Well, that is about all I did for the day. Looking forward to sleeping in a little and walking around town again tomorrow. I will be back to traveling solo as Kevin is heading off to see one more city before flying back to Shanghai.

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Hualien, Taiwan (Day 4 & 5)

DAY 4:

So I took the train today from Taipei to Hualien. Hualien has the Taroko Gorge I’m looking forward to see. This is one of the nature ventures I planned for my trip.

Now, I had to catch a 10:50 train ride with my travel buddy, Kevin. He is the guy from France I mentioned in an earlier post. Funny thing is we got to the station about an hour early and sat waiting for the train. We almost missed it by about a minute because we did not see it arrive further down the track from where we were sitting. That would have sucked!!

The train ride was about 2- 2 1/2 hours and I slept for most of it. Once we got to Hualien, we made it to our hostel, Formosa Backpackers Hostel, and booked a night there. We also booked a tour to the Taroko Gorge for an 8 AM pickup the next day. Since we had time to kill, we walked around town and found that there is NOTHING to do here. We then walked to the train station to book a train for after the tour, but it was full. This forced us to book another night at our hostel in Hualien.

On a side note, I was originally going to head to Green Island, but learned that only one ferry goes there this tie of year and it’s not that great in the winter. I guess that can be a trip for another time. With this change of plans, I have decided to continue my journey with Kevin to Kaohsiung. I guess the weather is great there and I will experience some nicer weather on this trip… I hope!!

Day 5:

Today I woke up early to go on a tour of the Taroko Gorge. There were a total of 7 people on this trip. A married couple with their seven month old baby and three college age girls from Singapore, Kevin, and myself. The bus driver/ tour guide did not speak much English of any, so I got to learn about all the amazing things about this place in Chinese. After four years in Korea, it is amazing how I could understand what he was talking about without understanding a damn word he was saying!!

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Now, there were a lot of really cool things to see, but I will focus on some of my favorite sights. I can only talk so much about a river running through a canyon.

The Eternal Spring Shine and Buddhist temple were really cool. The shrine was built to honor the 450 workers who lost their lives building the highway through the mountains. This shrine overlooks the Liwu River.

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We continued to see some cool sights along the river before we had lunch. Because of the dangers of falling rocks, we had to wear helmets in some areas.

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After lunch we went to the XiangDe Temple with the Giant Statue of the Bodhisattva Guangyi and TainFeng Pagoda.

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Here is a cool little rock formation… Can you see the frog?

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The last cool place we went on the tour was the beach! I believe it is only the third time I have viewed the Pacific Ocean other than in Washington State. The other guy in the photo is Keven, the French dude I’m traveling with.

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To end the day, Kevin and I went to the Night Market here in Hualien and I had spaghetti and pizza. Nothing to exciting. Now I need to head to bed so I can get up at 5 AM to catch a 6 AM train to Kaohsiung. I guess the train ride is about 5 or 6 hours long.

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Taipei, Taiwan (Day 3)

So today I got up a little earlier to see all the things I wanted to see today. Once I got rollin, at about 10 AM, I headed to the Martyrs Shrine. I arrived just in time to see the changing of the guard ceremony. The cool thing was I got a video of the entire thing. The purpose of the shine is to honor the dead of different wars fought on behalf of the Republic of China (ROC).

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After the Martyrs Shrine, I went to the National Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. I didn’t go inside, but this building is commonly used for art exhibitions. I did meet a cool guy from Belgium and he was nice enough to take a photo for me.

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Now, I originally was not going to go to the Taipei 101 observatory because of the crappy weather, but a friend I was chatting with said I should because I may never be in Taiwan again. So, off I made the short walk over to the the tower. But, not before I got that Belgian guy to snap a decent photo of me with the Taipei 101 tower!!

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Now, this building is supposed to be the second tallest building in the world with the fastest elevator in the world. I believe these stats may be off a bit now because taller buildings and faster elevators are always in competition to beat any previous records. Going up the elevator was pretty cool and learning why the building doesn’t have problems with typhoons and earthquakes was interesting. There is a huge ball at the top of the building that stabilizes the tower.

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After Taipei 101, I headed over to the Xingtain Temple. This temple is dedicated to the patron god of businessmen, Guan Yu, and is one of the most popular temples in Northern Taiwan. My visit there was ver brief because there really was not much to see. The Longshan Temple I saw the day before was much more elaborate and massive. Anyway, here is a pic of what the temple looks like from the outside.

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At this point I was getting freaking tired. My legs, feel, and back were killing me from walking around the last couple days. I did not let this stop me from going to the last place I wanted to see. Off to the Chian Kai-Shek Memorial Hall I go!! This place was built to commemorate the late President Chian Kai-Shek and is a leisure place many Taiwanese go to hang out. When I got there it looked like they were setting up for a concert. Hopefully this rain lets up so it can be enjoyable for people. I did end up meeting a Korean guy and had a chat with him and was able to use a little bit of my very poor Hangul. He mentioned a changing of the guard ceremony inside one of the buildings, so we walked over to see it. It was very similar to the ceremony I saw earlier in the day, just this time the guards do their thing, enter an elevator, and go bye-bye. The Korean guy and I separated ways and I headed back to my hostel for some R&R. I am so sore right now as a write this.

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So, as for the rest of my evening, I may be heading out to the Shida Market for a bit and perhaps plan for a trip down to Hualien, Taiwan to see the Taroko Gorge. I found out I have to get a pass for the day because it is a National Park, so I’m hoping I can book on with a tour group for that. There was a French guy I was talking to last night that was heading down that way, and I planned to join him. I guess I can just hope to run into him tonight, otherwise I’ll just head down myself and hope for the best!!

UPDATE: So I did end up meeting up with Stu and one of his flat mates for a couple beers outside 7-11 before meeting another friend of Stu’s that used to live in Korea. I was starving, so we walked to KGB Burger so I could indulge in western food again (haha) and then went looking for a bar that had decent prices. It was a bit of a journey, but me ended up at a place called Bob Wun Daye for an open mic night. Before I knew it, it was 2 AM and I needed to get back to the hostel to hopefully meet up with the French guy and head to the Taroko Gorge area!

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Taipei, Taiwan (Day 2)

Today I embarked on my first day of touring Taipei. I of course got a late start! Not only because I slept later than I planned, but also because it was raining really hard in the morning. When I left the hostel around 11:30, I went to McDonald’s for lunch. I was Skyping my friend, Nicole, from there and she pointed out that it seems to be a tradition of mine to eat at McDonald’s in every country I go to, that has one. From there I got on the subway and headed to the National Palace Museum.

When I got to the subway stop near the National Palace Museum, I then had to figure out how to take the bus there. I worked it out and wondered around a little garden area outside of the main building first and then went inside the museum. Now to be honest, the first two floors bored the crap out of me. It was full of old pottery, paintings, and calligraphy. It wasn’t until I got to the third floor where ancient weapons along with jade, ivory, and marble sculptures were on display that my interest was sparked. It amazed me how anyone could create some of these detailed pieces of work. When I left the museum, I then headed off to the Shilin Official Residence.

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After I got to the residence, I realized I probably could have skipped this place. I think during the summer the garden would have been really neat to see. But, because of the winter season, there wasn’t much to see outside for floral arrangements. There were a few cool indoor botanical gardens that were pretty amazing though. Next, I headed back to the subway station to head off to the Lin Family Mansion and Garden.

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The Lin Mansion was built during the Qing Dynasty and was one of the largest building of the time and is one of the few places that has been preserved from that time. I really enjoyed taking pictures at this place. The trees, sculptures, ponds, and buildings were very beautiful. That is about all there is to see here, so I moved on to the Longshan Temple.

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The Longshan Temple was built in 1738. It’s a Buddhist temple and when I arrived there people were praying and singing. It was very busy. I do love the smell of incense in the air and I took some cool picture when I could. I do feel strange taking photos in these places sometimes. But, when I see a tour group walking through and everyone is taking pictures, I don’t feel so bad anymore! When I was done making my way through the temple, I headed back to my hostel because it was to dark to see anything else. I of course had to grab a beer so I could relax for a bit. My legs are killing me!

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When I got back to the hostel, I ended up chatting with a few other travelers and they asked me loads of questions about Korea, Korean people, and what it is like living there. Now, I like living in Korea and my life there, but why is it when I describe how people are and how things are done there, it sounds so bad, negative, and depressing. I guess it has a lot to do with the study/ work culture along with I describe.

Well, that pretty much sums up todays adventures!! Until tomorrow 🙂

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Taipei, Taiwan (January, 2013) Day 1- The Arrival

So today I embarked on my journey to Taiwan. It started with my taxi driver taking me to the wrong bus stop. For some reason, even when I tell the driver where I want to go, they repeat it, and then still go to the wrong place… this drives me crazy. I then got stuck in rush hour morning traffic and almost missed my bus. Also, he was kind enough to make me pay the extra fare he racked up!!

I made my flight fine and arrived in Taipei after a 2 1/2 flight. At the airport I easily exchanged money and got a SIM card for my iPhone. I was worried I’d have to use my crappy Samsung Galaxy S. Thankfully my new iPhone 5 is unlocked and the Taiwan cell company was able to cut down my SIM card to size. I have unlimited data and talk time for my entire trip for $30!!

After I made my way to the Eight Elephant Hostel near Guting Station, I got ahold of an old friend from Korea, Stu!! We went to KGB Burger, which had an amazing hamburger. Then we walked around looking for some Roxy Bars and found Old 98 Bar. We also ventured through the Shida Night Market and drank some cheap convenience store beers. I had a few Taiwan Beers, which I found very smooth and much better than Korean beer. I also found myself a little dehydrated from walking around and had to pound down some water. I was wearing a few more layers of clothing that was making me sweaty from the humidity.

Well, that is all for my first day!! Now for a hot shower because my back is KILLING me from carrying my pack around.

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Shanghai, China (Summer, 2010)

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Xi’an, China (Summer, 2010)

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