Sunday, March 20, 2016

The National Palace Museum

I enjoyed the simplicity of Taipei's transit system. We were always a short walk away from a bus or a train station. You couldn't ask for a cleanlier city. My brother lives in Boston so my experience with big cities has been well Boston. It didn't occur to me till now, how unkempt Boston  really was. In fact all through Asia, Hong Kong , Taiwan, Tokyo, Not a speck of garbage to be seen. No gum hidden under the folds of the seats, Not even graffiti plastered on the side of trains.

Taiwan's Trains were so adorable
A nice change from the Graffiti stained trains I am used to 
I remember one such time my friend and I were waiting for the train and there was a lone cup just sitting on the ground. I guess we have this mentality when it comes to garbage "That's not mine I'm not picking it up" A stranger looked down picked it up and threw it out. This is why the cities are so clean, so many people packed into a small place pitching in.

Some Train stations even have cute artwork like this
Everywhere there seems to be cute characters

We headed back to Taipei,To the National Palace Museum. Although we took many different short bus rides to get there the journey all together was short.It seemed my friend knew Taipei like the back of her hand. It was calming to not worry about which exit to take on the highway, when to stop, all the stress of normal commuting was gone. It made me question would I be happier without a car living in such a convenient area.

We had arrived at perhaps Taiwan's most famous museum. The Royal Palace Museum.

The palace was absolutely gorgeous. The stunning architecture molding into the mountainous that enveloped all of Taiwan. The building was a treasure trove of artifacts, regrettably, cameras were not allowed on the premises. Never before had i seen such ancient objects of historical beauty. Artifacts, dating back to even the Xia Dynasty (2070 – c. 1600 BC). 
It made me reflect on my own country of America how young my country truly was. The artifacts in here many of which were taken from China.China has been around for thousands of years. I do not know much of Chinese history, I want to know more. In school, I was taught nothing of china.
The museum was crowded more crowded than any museum I have ever seen. Shoulder to shoulder I stood with my friend gazing at the artifacts.The rooms dimly lit to keep the artifacts in prime condition. If there is any museum in Taiwan this is the one.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Hot Springs

It was almost too perfect, by this time I had adapted to the subtropical climate of Taiwan, not nearly as humid as Hong Kong  but a nice medium. In the past I have always thought of paradise like Florida, Daytona Beach or perhaps Hawaii. I would have never thought my paradise lay as far east as this tiny Island.

It reads Bei Tou Gong Yuan (Beitou Park)

I remember when I was first planning my journey my parents suggested I get some kind of tour group, since I have never been here before. I never imagined my journey would end up like this. We just sort of wandered there was no stress for me, no itinerary to keep. I wasn't required to be at a certain place otherwise my group would leave without me. 

I couldn't help but admire some of the exotic Lotus Flowers

My friend had never been here either. We wandered around a small park in Beitou,  The  lush plant life surrounded the packed buildings as if they were one in the same, giving  a sense of tranquility. In America I have always felt there is a deep separation between nature and the  bustling metropolis. This was one in the same

I don't know what sprouted first the buildings
Or the trees/
The was a period not so long ago (before World War 2) where Japan occupied Taiwan, during the time the Japanese constructed Onsens (Hot springs) with the use of the natural hot springs in this area. This is what makes Beitou famous.

One of the still Operating Hot Sprints in the Area
I couldn't help but admire the carved stone 

 I did enter a few of the OnSens but these were only museums. It truly felt like I walked into Japan a place I would soon visit.
You aren't allowed to wear your shoes inside so you must
wear these sandals
I admired the authentic straw mats along with the finely etched marble water basins. Looking back now I kind of wished I had some time to relax in a hot spring.

We walked in and out of various museums  taking on and off our shoes each time. I find it funny that the first place I go in Taiwan is a place more attributed to Japanese culture. At one point during the day my friend took me inside a local library just for a minute, I was perplexed ,, why are we in a library. she wanted to get out of the heat just for a second haha.

Eventually we did make it the actual hot-spring. The smell of sulfur hurt my sinuses and the steam from the spring was unbearable.The water  was most peculiar of all it was... green!

The Hot Spring did wonders to my camera lens
fogging it up almost instantly.
We didn't stay long to admire the spring, The added heat of the spring was almost unbearable on a hot Taiwan day such as this. Our day was far from over we headed back to Taipei to one of the most fantastic Museum Exhibits I have ever seen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Taiwan Day 1 Breakfast

Each day I was on this journey I found happiness as I woke. I did not have thoughts of dread as I woke up each day for once in my life each day I woke up not because I had to but because I wanted to. That is not to say I wasn't tired,every inch of my body still hurt with each day I woke. I found a sense of ecstasy which I have yet to emulate again.

I was to meet one of my friends, putting all my trust in her to guide me throughout Taiwan. Communicating was difficult everywhere I traveled, not because of the language, but because my phone had no signal, I had to rely on what little free WiFi i could find. As much stress as this was at time, I found this to be another relaxing part of my travels. I was no longer inclined to check my phone every 5 minutes I could concentrate on the here and now.

I had only been in Taiwan a short while but the atmosphere was so welcoming it did not have the towering skyscrapers of Hong Kong, it was quaint,but it still had the convenience of any large city.

The view from outside my hostel

All the conveniences of home
I made my way to the MTR, there I would meet my friend. We were to spend my entire trip together never before had I had a travel companion. I had always been nervous to travel alone so I never traveled.There was the occasional road trip for a job interview and the one time I traveled to DC by myself on a whim, but never to another country.

We smiled as we met, saying not a word besides good morning and how are you. She spoke plainly, nervous to speak English. Anxious to try my Chinese I asked her where are we going (我们去哪儿)She smiled giggled at my Chinese and said We will go to Beitou.

Trains all throughout Asia are so modern and well kept
Compared to the denseness of the other cities I had been to Taipei was less crowded comparatively.
There was plenty of room to stand  and watch the mountainous landscape as we passed through to Beitou. Everything was so efficient, I still remember the cute sounds the turn-style made as you passed through.

I saw these cute little Characters at Beitou station

I couldn't get over how welcoming the atmosphere was in Taipei was. Everyone was so happy so healthy. We exited the train at Beitou station she looked at me smiled and asked me"Are hungry?" I nodded yes with a big smile.
We walked for a little and found ourselves in-front of what looked almost like a McDonald's, but not. It was called Mos burger. Ordering for the first time in Chinese was not as bad I as expected either! Considering she gave me an English menu Ironic. I ordered something similar to an egg muffin. And I have to say the service compared to any American Fast food restaurant was astounding they brought it right to my table!We walked for a little and found ourselves in-front of what looked almost like a McDonald's, but not. It was called Mos burger. Ordering for the first time in Chinese was not as bad I as expected either! Considering she gave me an English menu Ironic. I ordered something similar to an egg muffin. And I have to say the service compared to any American Fast food restaurant was astounding they brought it right to my table!

Over course of my stay in Taiwan I found myself enjoying breakfast more and more. Breakfast was simple not the Pancakes globed in syrup with bacon and eggs on the side. Enough to feed a man 3 times my size.

They best way I can describe it was they were tiny egg tarts with ham almost like a breakfast dumpling. The portion size was perfect for me and surprisingly filling. My favorite part about breakfast wasn't the food but the beverage. Milk Tea, A combination of Chocolate Milk and tea. I cannot begin to describe the taste. I have yet to emulate its taste in America.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Taiwan's Night Market

My mouth watered with anticipation. My stomach empty and desperately required food. The train ride to Shilin night market was quiet and comparable to a night in Boston, then in the distance swarms of people floating like moths towards the glowing neon lights.
Slowly we walked towards the lights

I was awestruck as a thousand smells rushed to my noise a thousand different sounds flowed my ears and every color of the rainbow filled my eyes. Nothing I could have read could of prepared me for this amount of excitement.

Left and right I bought all sorts of snacks trying everything I could get my hands on, corn fruit,fried meats, you name it and i shoveled it down my throat. Everywhere I look my friends would ask me "would you like to try it? How could I say no! It was all so exhilarating. I am amazed at how few photos I took at the Night Market. 

By far my favorite delicacy of Taiwan
Bubble Milk tea (奶茶naicha)

Everyone in Taiwan and everywhere these motorcycles are

Not just delicious delicacies were sold at the night market, clothes, shoes,electronics  you name it they had it.They even had arcades filled with claw grabber machines for children to play. but by far the most amusing aspect of the night market were the carnival games.

 Excited and anxious to try I handed one of the attendants money for a chance to play. Her face gleamed when I handed her such large bills.One by one I popped each balloon the excitement growing. In the end she handed me a small prize, a small key-chain  that flashed police lights when turned on.

Soon I returned to my bunk exhausted my heart flying fluttering with happiness. Ready to see more of this tiny island filled with mystery.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Landing in Taiwan

It was like my Journey had begun a new. I was in another vastly different country. With a different landscape, different customs, even a different climate. Right from the moment I landed I could tell I was in a smaller city compared to Hong Kong. Although it was still crowded I was processed with ease through Taiwanese immigration. No questions were asked and it seemed only a drug/bomb sniffing dog was lead around the airport.

I was nervous, I was to meet two lovely girls whom I had never met in person. Little did I realize that these two girls one from Taiwan the other studying abroad from China, would capture my heart and become two of the best friends I could ever ask for. I wasn't nervous because I thought they might do me harm, I was nervous because  I was afraid the language barrier would be too great. Online we had only texted in Chinese and English so i wasn't sure if their spoken English would be the same level.

My heart raced as I searched through the crowds of people for them. For them I was easy to spot any western male sticks out like a soar thumb in Asia. Their faces were gleaming with excitement as was mine. Without thinking I gave them both a big hug.

We said little that first half hour in the airport uncertain of how to gauge their English. Later I found out that I wasn't the only one who was nervousness. I nervous to use my what little Chinese I had and they their English. Even though we spoke little I felt we could still understand each other.

The airport which I arrived in Tao-Yuan was not actually in Taipei but a city about an hours drive away.After boarding a bus we made our journey to Taipei station.Right away I could see a vast difference in the land space and the roads. It was somehow quiet and quaint compared to the bustling city of Hong Kong. In retrospective it took guts, I was here alone trusting two girls I had never met. I had no contacts here besides them and a few other pen pals.

I sat there quietly taking everything in, it was too dark to see anything and I was thoroughly exhausted, I hadn't eaten since earlier that day, I was starving.My friend just like any american I knew had their head deep in their phone. Her phone had the Cheshire cat for a case. I said one word to her "Alice" she looked at me smiled and said "Yeah" in a kind comforting voice. We looked at each other a moment, and then I realized from that point on I was in good company.

Taiwan was full of cute and sometimes
bizarre art work and cartoons
Taipei station, for some reason people
only sat on the black tiled floors

After dropping my things at my hostel we headed to Taiwan's famous night markets.....

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Journey to Taiwan

The journey to Taiwan was an adventure in itself. The airport was crowed and lush with people from all over the globe.People from not just Asia all passing through or stopping in Hong Kong to conduct business. Africans, Americans, Europeans hearing at least a dozen different languages being spoken. This airport was ginormous making even Logan Airport in Boston look tiny. I must have walked over a mile just to get to my gate, even with the help of the moving walkways.

What amused me the most was the glass smoking areas, jam packed with people in a haze of gray smoke filling every inch of the room.  Starved as I was there was no time for me to wait in the obscenely long lines to get food. I settled for a small snack at one of the news stands.

After sitting down in my seat I immediately drifted off into a deep sleep.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Last Day in Hong Kong

This was my final day in Hong Kong the rain had cleared from the previous day. I was both sad and a little excited to leave. To most Hong Kongers this city is small with not much to see as a tourist, but I found 4 days was not enough. I had just become accustomed to life in Hong Kong. I finally felt I was getting used to the flow of the city. I was able to navigate alone unchallenged by the thick weave of streets.

My flight was later in the day, so i had time to explore just a bit more. I headed for the Avenue of Stars, which is located right along Victoria's Harbor facing with Hong Kong Island just across the bay. It was only a short train ride from Kowloon maybe one or two stops.

It was still early in the day when I arrived at the stop closest to the harbor. Because this was a weekday the streets were less crowded than I was used to,so it was kind of peaceful just walking about while everyone was at work for the day.

I found this guy taking a mid morning nap  on part of the art display.

 The harbor was quiet with a steady ambient noise from the construction of a towering skyscraper nearby. I seemed to have gotten used to the obscene heat and humidity of Hong Kong by this point but the breeze coming off the harbor was refreshing.For the first time in my life I felt content calmly watching the boats navigate through the haze of the harbor.
Even in this condensed city new building are still erected 

I went down one way occasionally seeing another group of tourists taking selfies of the harbor.
I remembered how when I begun to plan my trip I had wanted a strict schedule so I could see everything. I would take a few pictures just to say I had been somewhere;This was better. If I have one piece of advice for travels it is this. Don't make plans the best things in life are spontaneous . Sticking to schedules will make you stress and that will only make your travels less enjoyable.

I headed down the other direction of the harbor towards the Avenue of Stars. Hong Kong for those of you don't know has had a history of cinema. Much like Hollywood Hong Kong too showcases their most famous stars on a walk of fame.

Of course Hong Kong's most famous star was ironically American born. Bruce Lee is a name that still lives on today as a pioneer in both the film and martial arts industry. As both a film buff and a student of martial arts, this was a must see for me.

Although this wasn't the most incredible sight i saw on my journey, it still brought a great big smile to my face. I must also point out how difficult it was to get a picture of Bruce Lee with no one taking selfies. Even on a weekday morning people seem to flock to sights such as this just to take a selfie and to say "I was here"

There he is that pig again

Another Favorite of mine Jackie Chan is another
famous actor in Hong Kong Cinema

As a side note I found some interesting signs along this boardwalk,
I sincerely hope this isn't a real problem in Hong Kong

It is a good thing I left my Hawk at home. I would also
like to know how one keeps a hawk in a city of this size

After traveling the length of the boardwalk I made my way into yet another shopping district. I was getting hungry at this point,so i stopped to eat.

I found many restaurants near tourist areas seemed to be good about having English menus. Which was good for me since I cannot read Cantonese. I sat down to have at one of my Hong Kong friends suggestion Kongee an almost rice porridge. Although not as filling as I had hoped it helped settle my already upset stomach.

After eating i wandered around some more in and out of some malls. I found a One Piece 3D Art Museum. One Piece is an anime that is huge all over Hong Kong. Everywhere I saw merchandise related to this or other anime. It was kind of neat, you would go in and take pictures of yourself next to the art and it would look as if you were in the Anime.

 I headed back to Causeway Bay for the last couple hours to get some nick nacks and maybe a book on Cantonese. Otherwise uneventful I made my way back to the Hostel where I packed up.
While packing up I made a friend of  both my host and another fellow from Columbia. I truly wish I had more time to talk to them. They were both fascinating people an artist / hostel owner, and a free lance translator in visa limbo from mainland china.

Like a pack-mule I headed towards the airport ready for my next leg of my journey. I was truly sad that I only had a short time in such a vibrant lively city.