4/14/16

We took an early train back to Taipei on our last day. We headed to the Shida area for breakfast at Grandma Nitti's Kitchen. We got there before it opened so we killed some time walking around and taking photos. So clean & lots of plants! :)
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After breakfast, we headed to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. It's an impressive structure built to remember former president Chiang Kai-Shek. Much to my delight, there were also tons of blossoming cherry blossom trees nearby!
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Our last stop before the airport was Ximending. It's a busy area, packed with shops and restaurants. It reminded us a lot of Tokyo and Seoul!
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It was then time for us to head back to South Korea. We weren't able to go everywhere I had researched, but we were able to see quite a bit! We had tried to check out a few night markets, but they were all closed due to Lunar New Year. We also didn't get to to climb Elephant Mountain Trail, which offers a nice view of the city. I would love to visit Taiwan again one day, so maybe next time!

4/9/16

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After spending a few days in Taipei, we took the train to Taroko National Park for two nights. Since it was Lunar New Year, we had booked train tickets in advance. The website was not very user friendly and was very glitchy! I think you'd probably be fine just buying them at the station. The train ride from Taipei to Hualien (close to the park) was about two hours and cost only about $15. Amazing! 

We stayed in Formosa Backpackers Hostel. We rented a scooter which made it a lot easier to get around the park. We spent a full day at the park and did the Swallow Grotto Trail and Baiyang Trail (both very easy). I read that the Shakadang Trail and Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail are both supposed to be great too!

At the end of Baiyang Trail, there is a man-made tunnel that has water gushing from the ceiling. According to the Taipei Times, while a power company was making the tunnel, they hit an underground water vein, hence the gushing water. Since the area is at risk for rock slides, there are signs everywhere telling you to enter at your own risk. I get super anxious about these type of things, but once I saw elderly women going in, I figured I could too. It was really neat (see a photo here) but I was so happy once we were back out! :)

We also checked out Xiangde Temple and drove to Qingshui to see the cliffs. It started raining at that point, so our view was not the best (also made for an interesting scooter ride!).

At night, we were pleasantly surprised with how much there was to do in Hualien! We went to Rainbow Night Market and Cultural and Creative Industries Park. We also had a very non-traditional Taiwanese dinner at Salt Lick (American barbecue!) - so good.

Next up - Ximending and Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei!

4/3/16

On our third day, we headed north of Taipei to Xienbeitou. The area is well known for its natural hot springs. It was easy to get there via the MRT (check out detailed instructions here). We first checked out Geothermal Valley (地熱谷). It was beautiful but spoiler alert: smells like rotten eggs! :) You can't go in the water here because it's way too hot, but there are other spots in town where you can.
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We then popped by Millennium Hot Springs. If you can believe it, entrance was only about $1.50! It was a neat experience. There were multiple pools of varying temperatures (some were crazy hot!). If I were to do it again, I would definitely wear a one-piece. I stuck out a bit in my bikini! Also, you'll notice in the photo below that a lot of people are sitting on the side of the pools, but whenever we tried to do that, old men would tell us we needed to totally sit in the pools. Haha, just gotta roll with it.
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Once we got our hot spring fix, we walked around town & had some amazing noodles.
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We then hopped back on the MRT and carried on to Danshui (淡水- also spelled Tamsui). Shirley, a blogging pal from Singapore, had recommended we check it out. We rented bikes and biked along the Golden Shore Bike Path.  It was a great way to see the area!
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After we brought our bikes back, we walked along the pier and stopped by La Vie Revee Des Anges Cafe 天使热爱的生活咖啡馆 (a bit of a mouthful!). Shirley mentioned that it was a prime spot to catch the sunset.  Unfortunately, it wasn't a great sunset that night, but it's a really cute spot. If you're in Danshui, try to check it out!
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After sunset, we made our way back to the MRT station. There was the cutest girl dancing just outside the station. I had totally forgotten about her until I was going through our trip photos. I love when a photo brings back a memory! It was a really sweet moment.

Next up: Taroko National Park!

4/1/16

Six months later, I'm ready to finish off my Taiwan posts! We have so many photos but I've decided to make a few longer posts, rather than drag it out forever. So here we go!

While in Taipei, we stayed at Mango53 Inn. It's quite close to Longshan Temple and a super quick walk to the MRT station. It was a nice spot! On our second day, we decided to head to the temple. It was a total madhouse - I think because of Lunar New Year. We didn't get to see much of the temple but we had some grilled sausages and milk tea while we people watched!
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We then headed to the Taipei Zoo MRT station so we could check out the Maokong Gondola. The gondola ride was about 20 minutes! At the top, there were all sorts of food vendors, cafes, and tea houses. We had a delicious lunch at a spot that overlooked the mountains! It was a bit smoggy, but we could still see Taipei 101 peeking out in the distance. It was really nice to be somewhere less crowded after our chaotic morning.
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Once we were back in the city, we went to Taipei 101. The building has the fastest elevator in the world! It zips you up to the 89th floor in only 40 seconds! (Mike's fave part, obvi.) We timed it so that we were there for sunset - so nice!
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Next up - Beitou Hot Springs and Danshui!

10/12/15

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Taiwan had been on our travel list for a long time but tickets were always more expensive than other places in Asia. We eventually decided to just bite the bullet and bought some tickets for over Lunar New Year. We were able to redeem points for one of the round trip flights so it wasn't quite as big of a blow financially. Taiwan was amazing so the moral of this story is: just buy the tickets, money be damned!

Whenever we gush about Taiwan (because we do anytime anyone asks us about our favourite trips in Asia!), people are always a bit surprised. It is definitely a bit off the radar, but absolutely worth checking out. There's so much going on in Taipei (especially in regards to food & markets!) and tons of amazing day trips out of Taipei. It is also really affordable compared to its hip cousin Hong Kong (I think our train ride down to Taroko National Park was $12!). We found Taipei to be really clean and had a cool, artsy vibe.

Additionally, it was just one of those trips where everything just went so well. We rode trains, buses, and taxis with ease and the weather was great (cloudy sometimes but never rainy). People were so friendly and we saw some really beautiful stuff. After our trip to Sri Lanka at Christmas, we were just so appreciative of how smoothly everything went.

So here are some photos of the first place we checked out. If you want to lose twenty minutes of your life, check out Yehliu Geo Park on instagram. That's how I first came across the park and immediately decided we needed to visit. Yehliu Geo Park, located on the coast, is home to many strangely shaped rock formations, formed as a result of years of geological movement. It really feels like a different planet! We took a 90 minute bus ride to the park and admission was under $4. More info here!

9/14/15

srilanka
Hello again! Finally back to blogging, at long last. We've been settling into things here in Vancouver and trying to figure out what this new life of ours is going to look like. Starting new things is always hard but I have to trust things will work out!

So, Sri Lanka! It was honestly a bit painful to go through these photos because thinking of this trip always makes me a little sad. We weren't there nearly long enough and things just didn't work out. We were supposed to be there for 10 days during peak (sunny!) season, but it ended up raining A LOT. 

We started at the beach in Unawatuna and decided just make the best of it. However, the rain began to throw a wrench in all our plans. We checked out nearby Galle, dropped our Yala National Park plans and went to Lion's Rock (Sigiriya) instead. It was beautiful, despite the rain.

Then we were all set to head to Ella in the hill country, but some trains had run off course so all trains headed into the mountains were cancelled. Roads elsewhere were closed as well so we couldn't even get to Kandy if we had wanted to. We weren't really sure what to do for the rest of our trip and didn't know if it would turn into a potentially dangerous situation. So with heavy hearts, we packed our bags and headed to Thailand for the rest of the time. 

Weather is always unpredictable and there was no way I could have really planned around it.  Additionally, people lost their homes and some even died due to the freak weather, so I really shouldn't complain that our vacation was cut short. And as we were there, we realized 10 days wouldn't have been nearly long enough anyways. We could have spent more time there but I had been so obsessed with finding the cheapest tickets that I went with ten days. In the future, I think it's worth paying more money for tickets in order to really maximize our time in a place. Lesson learned!

Anyways, all this to say, I am eager to return to Sri Lanka (and check out India as well) in the future. We met such lovely people during our stay there and there is SO much to see. 

6/9/15

azaleaspost
Two years ago, I checked out the Wonmisan Mountain Azalea Festival with some friends and it stands out as one of my favourite experiences of our first year in South Korea. I went again last year but we totally mis-timed it and all the flowers had shrivelled up. Heart-breaking! This year I was obsessed with timing it perfectly since it would be my last chance to see them. All my compulsive research paid off and we were awarded with rolling hills covered with the prettiest purple flowers. It was a purple cotton candy dreamland! I don't think the azalea festival is a major tourist attraction (we might have been the only foreigners there!) but I highly recommend checking it out, even if you're in Seoul!