Saturday, June 13, 2009

Beijing- Chinese New Year 2009 Trip

We started our whirlwind trip around China in Beijing. The first night we met our tour guide who promptly dropped us off at our hotel. Dad, Debi, Amii and I decided to walk around the city and find something to eat. We were able to walk past Tiananmen Square (which had mysteriously been fenced off- most likely a precaution to the upcoming 20th year anniversary of the student protests) and the entrance to the Forbidden City.

Having a travel agency arrange the trip for us, we didn't have to worry about hotels, transportation, or even where to eat. But unfortunately, we did have to worry about being forced to visit government owned "museums." The first one we bore witness to was a Jade museum. This consisted of a 5 minute presentation on how jade is mined and carved, and then being stuck in the gift shop for 2 hours while salesladies harassed us into buying a jade bracelet.

At least, according to them, since it was a government owned shop, the quality would be the highest, and the price would be the lowest in all of China.

I don't see why they would lie.

Also along with a guide, and other stops at government owned gift shops, we were able to see the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace.

The Ming tomb was a short stop, as our guide wouldn't let us stop long to take pictures. We had a gift shop we were in a hurry to get, too.

The Summer Palace and Forbidden City were quite spectacular. It brought a little more understanding to why a young Chinese man would go through the process of becoming a Eunuch so as to gain access to these places.

Only a little understanding though.

And on our final day in Beijing, we went to the famed Great Wall of China.

It was incredibly cold and windy at the top of the wall, but still an amazing site to visit. There are only a few places I've been to that lived up to the hype that surrounds such touristy destinations. Machu Picchu in Peru and Angkor Wat in Cambodia were two of them. Those places genuinely left me in awe. The Colosseum in Rome was a huge dissapointment, however.

The Great Wall had a lot of hype to live up too, but I was still very much impressed with it. The section we visited was very well preserved, and the view from the highest point was breath-taking (Dad and Debi will have to take my word for it... they didn't make it).

I could have spent days walking the length of the Great Wall, but our guide only alloted about two hours for our visit.

After all, we did have a gift shop to visit.

Tiananmen Square

Outside the Ming Tomb

Dad can now add Asia to the list of Continents he has been embarrassing on

Enamel factory (followed by gift shop)

Jade factory (followed by gift shop)

At the highest point on the Great Wall

2008 Olympic Stadium- The Bird's Nest

Eating Peking duck in Beijing

Inside the Forbidden City. Apparently they will let anybody in nowadays.

Amii and I outside the Temple of Heaven

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kindergarten Dance Off

Sunny and Shaun break it down to Fatboy Slim's Rockafellar Skank

Their first time hearing this song.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rainy Hualien trip with Amii

A few weeks ago, Amii and I decided to take a trip on our scooters to Hualien and Taroko Gorge. However, about two hours into the drive, it started raining and we decided instead to stay at Sun Moon Lake (see the previous blog entry). A few weeks later, we made the trip again, and this time we were successful.

It was a wonderful drive through the mountains and offered great views. Because it took about 6 hours, our backs were sore from the ride. And being late November when we took the trip, it got really cold high up in the mountains. But I genuinely enjoyed the road trip, and even though she won't admit it, I think Amii did, too.

Right outside of Taichung, just beginning our trip.

A picture of someone taking a picture. Kind of poetic, don't you think?

We're getting pretty good at the "arm extended, self portrait, couple" pose.

Refer to my April 2008 blog entry about the ridiculousness of this monument.

真的很漂亮 (my chinese is awesome)

Entering the tunnel that takes us to the aforementioned monument

Made it there

The guesthouse we stayed at in Hualien. The owner liked me so much, she took my picture to put on their website. I think foreigners attract business.
In Taroko Gorge

The clouds touching the mountains seems really peaceful and beautiful. However, we soon grew to despise them when we had to drive four hours in the middle of these clouds. In the rain. In 35 degree F weather. On a one lane road that accommodates two directions of traffic.

All in all though it was a great trip. I can't wait til it gets warm enough to go there again.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Halloween 2008

A combination of bad internet, bad blog server, and being very busy has prevented me from posting these halloween pics in a timely manner. Nevertheless, here they are...

First, my kindy pics:

Oh my gosh Peter. You're so cute. Oh yes, you are! Yes, you are!

Serene. One of my favorite students.

Jasmine and Monica. Their princess costumes were very fitting.

Me and all the boys. My favorite costume had to be Tim, as a teletubby.

All the girls. This was an incredibly difficult picture to take because the girls were all incredibly frightened of my mask, and getting them to stand still and close to me took almost 5 minutes of reassurance that I was not going to chop them with my fake ax.

And now here are some pics from the adult Halloween. The only difference between the two being more booze and less clothes.

Scary beautiful

I was Bleeker, from the movie Juno. I guess you'd just have to have seen it. But a surprising number of Taiwanese people actually recognized who I was supposed to be.

In America, this would be a relatively easy costume to put together. In Taiwan, however, this is an entirely different story. First of all, small yellow shorts and yellow sweat bands do not exist. They had to be dyed. Which brings us to the next problem, clothes dye does not exist. Luckily, I have a smart girlfriend who took me to a crafts store and we were able to find some powdered paint that worked ok. Nevertheless, I had to drive to about 15 different places to assemble my costume.

Also, those knee length socks cost 17 us dollars. No, I'm not kidding. Good socks are ridiculously expensive in Taiwan, which is why I get my parents to frequently mail me packages of them.

It's difficult to get Taiwanese people into the spirit of Halloween

My friend, Brittany

My friend Chris. You probably can't tell from his costume, but he's gay.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rainy Sun Moon Lake trip with Amii

It's been a long desire of mine to drive all the way to Hualien and Taroko Gorge on my scooter. The directions are easy to follow, and I was told the drive through the mountain brings gorgeous scenery. It's about a 5-6 hour drive though, and finding somebody that is willing to go with me is always a problem. After trying for about three or four weeks, I finally was able to convince Amii to get over her fear of driving a scooter and go with me.


We set off super-early Saturday morning, the 8th of September. But once we got to Puli (about 2 hours into the drive), it started drizzling rain. We had to make a decision... continue on our trek and hope that the weather improves, or abandon our plans and hang out at the nearby Sun Moon lake for the weekend.

We chose the latter.

It was probably a good choice since we spent most of the time watching movies in our hotel and dashing from place to place in the heavy rain.

Regardless, it was a nice getaway for a sweet couple. And my lungs thank me for any time away from the polluted city that I can manage.

As you can imagine, a rainy trip makes for few pictures.. but here are a couple anyway.

Lots of pretty flowers and pretty girls at Sun Moon lake


Some sort of sticky ricey bambooey concoction

Just in case anyone doubted we actually went to Sun Moon lake.. here's the proof. Signs don't lie.

Driving our scooter. At night. In the rain. In Taiwan.

Completely safe.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Trip to Taichung Harbor

To celebrate my 25th birthday (my second birthday in Taiwan), I had an oyster roast on the roof of my new apartment building. Good food, good friends, and good conversation was a great way to take my mind off the fact that a quarter of my life is now over.

But that's not the topic of this blog post.

The topic is.... Taichung Harbor.

About an hour outside the city, the harbor brings in fresh seafood from the local fisherman every morning. There, the catch of the day sits in giant tanks of water and atop mounds of crushed ice, until someone comes to barter and buy whatever fancies them.

So this is where I went to purchase some shrimp and oysters for a roast on my rooftop.

The Harbor is an attack on all the senses. The sight of whole fish, fresh fish, dried fish, fish heads, fish tails, entire sharks, clams and snails the size of footballs, and sea creatures that I have yet to identify. It's all pretty overwhelming.

And then the smell hits you.

They always say that fresh fish really shouldn't have a fishy smell at all. Well, this place SMELLS like fish. I guess after 10 or 11 hours in 90 degree heat, the fresh fish isn't so fresh anymore.

Walk a little further, and you enter an area with several small "restaurants" where you can not only purchase the seafood, but they will also prepare and cook it for you. There are about 20 of these small food shops, and they all want your business... very much so. The shop owners instantly swarm you and yell at you to come to their table. I usually tell them I don't understand Chinese, so their next logical step is to start yelling at me in Taiwanese.

Duck and cover your head.. and keep walking.

Avoid getting squirted by the mussels or splashed by the tiger shrimp that are clinging to their last few moments of life.

What always amazes me about the harbor is the variety of things you can buy. Various size clams and oysters, prawns, sharks, crabs, snails, eels... anything imaginable.

Some of it you can get in any grocery store, some of it you didn't even know existed. Some of it you can't imagine people wanting to eat, and some of it you know is illegal to catch.

All in all though, it's a pretty cool place. And it makes for a great photo op.