Tag Archives: Lonely Planet

You Can’t Rain on my Parade!

21 Nov

Well I have to say, out of all of the weeks for my family to come visit, they picked the rainiest of them all… but I have to say that we made the most of it. For the time they spent here in Taiwan it rained almost 13/14 days, I could not believe it! For the last three months I have been talking about how beautiful the weather was here, that they were going to sweat more than they ever had in their entire lives, and that they didn’t even need to pack a pair of pants, I was so wrong. Thankfully they took the bad weather very well and kept reminding themselves that even though it is raining, it is -20 in Canada and it is +20 here, so no complaining!

Their trip started with a journey flying from Calgary – San Fran – Japan – Taipei and then taking the High Speed Rail (HSR) from Taipei to me in Kaohsiung. Because I still was attending class I just gave them a list of things to see and do around the city during the day and then I would meet up with them in the evening. Conveniently most of the things to do in Kaohsiung are outside, so not so great for when it is raining; on the plus side the hotel they were staying at was located near two large shopping centers, so once again no complaining!

I packed my belongings into a backpack that would get me by for the next week and Friday morning we were off on our weeklong adventure across Taiwan. Our initial plan included most of the main spots to see including:

– Hot springs (many if possible)

– Sun Moon Lake

– Taroko Gorge

– Taipei from top to bottom

– And for the sake of my mother, shopping (later I found out Marcia was quite the shopper too ☺)

Stop 1: Guanziling Hot Springs (HSR Train to Chaiyi, bus then taxi to Guanziling)

We had the hotel that my family was staying at in Kaohsiung book us accommodation recommended by my travel guide for the Guanziling Hot Springs, we did not realize that there was an old village and a new village to stay in but upon arrival our hotel looked a little ‘tired’. We went out for a walk to find some lunch and see the town; after following what is known as the ‘Hero Stairs’ (as they were used to train injured Japanese soldiers) up to the tourist information center we realized there was a much newer village. Lonely Planet Taiwan needs to update Guanziling! Embarrassingly do I admit that we found a much nicer place to stay will beautiful hot spring facilities, went to the original place to get our bags and left. The change was well worth it and I completely do not regret it as after switching Marcia kindly informed us that at the first place she put her hand in the mud spring pool and it came out with clumps of hair, this 100 % justifies out move. The mud hot springs were amazing and a fun experience, you were to cover yourself in mud and then sit and let it dry, while you were letting it dry you could rest your feet in a pool filled with little fish. These fish would then suck the dead skin off your feet, I do not recommend this for people like myself with ticklish feet, it is unbearable and you will most likely embarrass yourself like I did by laughing uncontrollably and disrupting the quite calmness of the hot springs. I must add that my mother does not have ticklish feet and could sit there quite content with all the fish… I’m sorry Mum but eww it still weird’s me out.

After an executive decision made by Marcia and my Mum, we decide to skip Alishan mountain as they felt that it was going to be even more ‘tired’ than the old village of Guanziling (I may still try and go here before I leave).

Guanziling

Stop 2: Sun Moon Lake (Taxi back to Chaiyi, HSR to Taichung, bus to Sun Moon Lake)

The bus ride alone was a beautiful trip into the Taiwan mountains (and Marcia figures just exactly what we would have saw at Alishan). Apparently I need to figure out the system for my Lonely Planet travel guide, this time the recommendation for accommodation was spot on. Our hotel had beautiful views of the moon lake side and was very accessible to all you needed to see while there. The first night we were checking out the sights and found out there was a celebration at the main temple for the 100th Birthday of Taiwan, followed by fireworks. It was really cool to be at a temple in the evening, but also kind of eerie at the same time. Sadly it was a very misty/cloudy night so the fireworks just looked like big poufs of colour. The next day we rode the shuttle around the lake to see all the hot spots, ride the gondola, and then take the boat back across the lake. We had a lunch of Taiwanese food that my family even seemed to enjoy, thank goodness for fried rice or I think they would have starved for 2 weeks. We woke in the morning to find the first sunny day since they had arrived and decided it would be nice to walk around some more before taking the bus back to Taichung. We found a nice walking trail to the matchmakers temple and then we headed for the bus.

Sun Moon Lake

Marcia had heard of a big Buddha that was a popular tourist spot to see around Taichung, so before taking the HSR to Taipei we wanted to stash our bags at the train station and go check it out. I found out the directions from the tourist information booth in the train station and was happily surprised when she said it was in the city and the shuttle was free, off we went. Upon arrival Marcia tells me that it’s not the Buddha she had seen pictures of… shit, I took us to the wrong one. It was the biggest SMILING Buddha in Taiwan; however, outside of Taichung there is THE biggest Buddha in Taiwan, oops. What’s a girl supposed to do in a country full of Buddha’s? Once again, so sorry Marcia!

Wrong Big Buddha

Stop 3: Taipei (HSR to Taipei from Taichung)

Here we were booked for the next five days and planned to do day trips from Taipei as well as hit most of the main sights to see in the city. My sister had found out from the tour guide that there was at one time a night market with ‘snake alley’ where they would scare foreign tourists by cutting off snakeheads and drinking the blood, she told me to avoid this at all costs. One of the days we planned a trip to Beitou hot springs as you can get to them via MRT in Taipei city and then Mum, Emily and Marcia booked a tour to Taroko Gorge without me as I have already been there. Our next few days were filled with great food, thanks to a connection Marcia had in Taipei that gave us a list of local restaurants; shopping in mega malls and night markets; touring memorials, museums, temples, and more… The night before the Taroko Gorge tour we got a disappointing phone call to say that the tour had been cancelled. I haven’t mentioned it, but this whole week leading up to the tour it had been raining, which then resulted in a rockslide causing the park to not be accessible. Major bummer! I have to say that I was very impressed with my family, just like all of the previous bad weather they were very understanding, obviously the happenings of the weather are totally out of our control, but if it had been my trip, I think I would have been a little more upset. Kudos to you ladies!

National Palace Museum

Our evening was then filled with the search for Japanese karaoke for Marcia and this took us to a local karaoke place near our hotel. I have gone to karaoke a few times since I have been here, but this place was something special. The door opened to a room full of locals, a few of which who were passed out or nearly passed out and the karaoke machine full blast. We were taken to our own room in the back and accompanied by a worker who could speak Japanese and a little bit of English. She was fairly drunk and wanted to sing songs with Marcia, and even though I don’t understand Japanese I know she was totally butchering them, that is the drunk lady not Marcia, she rocked! This lady was there to make sure we were drinking/buying beer which would be our fee for the room. We were also visited by her boss who came and had some beer and told me that I needed to come back to Taipei soon so he could cook for me and I think set me up with someone he knew… what a night. After our three bottles were done we left to pay the originally discussed fee of what I thought was 600NT but ended up being more like 1800NT. At this point we didn’t want to argue with the boss and headed out.

The week flew by and before I knew it, it was Saturday. We went out for breakfast at Grandma Nitti’s (highly recommend) and then said our goodbyes at the train station. I am extremely thankful for the time that I got to spend with my family. It was a nice break from the stressful school in Kaohsiung (HAHA kidding – I will be honest, more like the party scene in Kaohsiung).

Thank you Marcia for taking care of my Mum and sister and showing them the ropes of international travel, as well as laughing with me at them for lugging all of their luggage around. Your previous travel experiences are always interesting to hear about and helped us along the way!

Thank you Mum for taking the time out of your ridiculous desire to be a work-aholic. I know it was busy for you before coming and I am sure it will be busy for you this week as well. I really appreciate you wanting to see Taiwan and what I am experiencing on my exchange.

Thank you Emily for spending extra time at school to cram and get everything ready so that you could skip class in one of the most important years of high school. It was so nice to be able to introduce you to my friends here and laugh together at our Mum, I mean with our Mum. I cannot wait to travel more with you around the globe!

Advertisements

East Coast Adventures I

24 Oct

Before I begin to share my adventures about the East Coast of Taiwan I need to tell you some essential travelling rules I discovered this past weekend:

  1.  Always have a Plan B (This can be for transportation/ accommodation/ or simply where you are going to have dinner)
  2. As nice as they may seem, the ladies who run the hostels may not know everything about everything
  3. Hostels can end up being anything from sketchy ‘VIP Lounges’ to a home away from home
  4. When it comes to mountain roads, do some research (Never trust a GPS also is included in this rule)
  5. This last one is more of a life rule, be sure to have a full tank of gas when embarking on mountain roads (Gas tends to be guzzled up rather quickly)

Our initial itinerary was planned as follows:

Wednesday – Pick up rental car after Chinese class (yes Dad I did attend class before leaving on my trip, don’t worry I am actually still going to school here) Drive to Taitung where we will stay the night and catch the ferry to Green Island in the morning

Thursday – Take the 7 am ferry to Green Island and return on the last one leaving to be able to experience the snorkeling and hot springs, as well as meet the second car of people at our hostel that evening

Friday – Drive HWY-11 along the coast stopping at interesting check points along the way, the final destination being Hualien

Saturday – Spend all day at Taroko Gorge National Park, including a natural hot springs, and camping in the middle of the park that night

Sunday – River rafting Siouguluan River and then making our way back to Kaohsiung via HWY-9 to have the rental car back by 8:30 PM

Our actual itinerary was this:

Wednesday – Stayed on schedule and worked out great, we arrived to Taitung to our ‘VIP Lounge’ where the lady at the front desk called our room key a vegetable?? and told us not to lose it. She also told us the first ferry to Green Island was at 7 AM, oh and that we were all very beautiful. haha

Our rental :)

Our rental 🙂

Thursday – We arrived at the ferry to find out is does not leave until 9:30 AM and only returns at 2:30 PM. We then found out that the 2:30 PM boat is full, so you would have to stay the night. We quickly pull out the Lonely Planet and National Geographic guide books and series of maps so that we can find a Plan B. Chiphen Hot Springs & Shanyuan Beach it was. Worked out to be a lovely day and I am thankful that I didn’t have to see if I would survive the apparent ‘puke barge’ of a ferry to Green Island.

Friday – Our stop by stop plans worked out very good, we only made one bad stop along the way to Hualien; this was the ‘Water Running Up’ Attraction… not so exciting. Amazing stops included the an area just past Donghe we stopped at a bridge to explore where the river enters the Pacific and went for a swim. From here it was on to the Platform of the Three Immortals on a small coral island. We arrived at Sleeping Boot Backpackers Hostel to be surprised by a very excited and wonderfully hospitable proprietor in a clean and trendy house. Complementary tea, Wi-Fi, clean rooms, and hot showers ❤ She even was so kind to give us all the tips on Hualien for dinner, Toroko Gorge the next day, and helped us book our rafting trip for Sunday.

Platform of the Three Immortals

Platform of the Three Immortals

Saturday – Spent all day at Taroko Gorge and found the Wenshan Hot Springs to finish our day. They were so amazing and I cannot wait to take my family there when they come to visit! (Which is exactly 2 weeks away!!!) This night we decided we wanted to camp, and for me this was an after thought when I was packing for the weekend but I did manage to bring a pillow/blanket… long pants/sweater/other camping essentials would have been a good idea. It didn’t get too cold, but the mosquitoes were a bit of a bother. It was amazing to wake up in the morning with the grander of the Taroko Gorge surrounding us; I haven’t been camping in the mountains back home for a long time but this feeling would be one comparable to waking up in the middle of a valley in the Rocky Mountains with the sun just coming over the peak and the crisp fresh air waking you up.

Going down to the Hot Spring

Going down to the Hot Spring

Sunday – Off we went to our river rafting. Now the only time I have been rafting is in Kicking Horse River, British Columbia and that was amazing… so I had some big expectations of this day. Let me just say the currents were moving so slow in parts that the tour guide boats would push up onto the side of our raft and guide us for about a kilometre until we got into a faster moving section and the rapids were minimal, we were surrounded by the beautiful mountains and finished where the river enters the Pacific Ocean, so that was cool, but nothing to really get too excited about. Now begins our journey home on HWY-20… this is a trip that was to take about 4 or 5 hours from the rafting center and it ended up taking about 10 hours, I think this trip deserves a whole blog post to itself.

Looking back on the whole weekend I really enjoyed it! The landscape of the East Coast is amazing and I can even say that I have drove in Taiwan, woo hoo! I am usually one to go with the flow and found this very helpful with this trip. I enjoyed simply picking each stop along the way and taking our time to really see the countryside.

The drive home will be posted shortly…

Catching Up

12 Jul

I have been M.I.A. lately with the blog, and I apologize, but there really hasn’t been much new happening. Since my last entry there have been a few momentous occasions, and for some reason I never have my camera to document them.

Fairmont Float in Canada Day Parade

Fairmont Float in Canada Day Parade

 

Canada Day in St. Andrews was definitely entertaining. Main street is closed off, the regular market is ‘supersized’, there is a parade, cake cutting at the hotel, fireworks (that could rival major cities across Canada), and celebrations that continue into the night. It also kicks off the start of the busy summer season, and I can say the town and the hotel have thawed from the winter months and come to life as much as the flowers that line the streets in town. I had the day off, so I volunteered my time to help out with the face-painting booth, raising money for a charity going towards a local memorial scholarship. We were taking donations for the face painting and giving out ice-cold jumbo freezies. In total we raised over $400, not to bad for a day of fun in the sun.

Bikes Lining the Streets of St. A

Bikes Lining the Streets of St. A

More recently this past weekend St. Andrews was home to the annual Atlanticade Festival. Brining 100s of bikers from across North America to come and join in on the festivities. For five days there were beer gardens, live entertainment, show and shines, and anything else that comes along with a biker festival. Personally, I am not a big fan of motorcycles, not too sure why, but they are just not my cup of tea. I have never been on one, so I am basing my stigma around them on something I have never tried before. Someday, I will find someone who I trust my life with and I will go for a ride, but until then I will stay scared of the beautiful noisy machines.

Pool Day

Pool Day

The rest of my time lately has been preoccupied by sunny days at the pool and working lots. I am starting to realize that the summer is basically half over for myself. One month and a couple weeks and I will be finishing up here and making my way back to Victoria to pack for my exchange semester to Taiwan (which my VISA just arrived for yesterday!!). Reading my Lonely Planet Travel Guide for Taiwan just gets me more and more excited. So far my lists of things to do while I am there include:

–       Sun Moon Lake

–       Night Markets In Taipei

–       Snorkel Penghu Island

–       Drink lots of really good TEA

–       Surf in Kenting National Park

 

Now I am getting quite ahead of myself as I still have time here in New Brunswick, where there is also a list of things I really would like to do here as well:

–       Visit Hopewell Rocks

–       Swim in the Bay of Fundy

–       Eat a lobster

–       Hike and swim at Chamcook Mountain and Lake

–       Go to Boston (maybe)

–       Whale watching

–       Trip to PEI or Nova Scotia

 

The majority of these things I will be able to achieve with a few friends and when family comes to visit. Boston is a big one, and I would LOVE to go see a Red Socks game!

With my time here already flying by I am going to be a little more aggressive with planning all of these things! I know that there is so much more of the East Coast left to explore and will have to come back someday to tour it all. I am very excited to see what I can achieve in the next few weeks, and even more excited to know that visits from friends and family are soon to come!

ps. I am reading a really great book right now that is called ‘What Casanova Told Me’ by Susan Swan, much of the book is about travel and new adventures. In this book he lists his 10 Principles of Travel. Here are a couple quotes that I absolutely love:

 

“3. Travelling is like breathing, so exhale the old, inhale the new and allow your heartbreak to fall away behind you.”

“4. What you desire always awaits you if you are brave enough to recognize it.”

“9. Your journey is not over until you bestow  a gift on the lands you have visited, knowing full well that you will never be able repay  half the riches they bestow on you.”