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June 2009 Archives

June 28, 2009

Taiwan Part 1: Taipei with friends

National Palace Museum
I've had a request for me to update my blog more regularly. Not making any promises, but I'll at least attempt to catch up on some travel entries.

Bad weather in Seattle
Sandy and Jenni were itching to travel, but I didn't have a whole lot of vacation time, so we decided that the two of them would do a tour around Taiwan, and then I'd meet them for the last few days of their trip so we could eat and shop our way around Taipei.

The plan was great and all, but then Seattle got hit by a huge wintry hug from the heavens, with a big snowstorm followed by a week or so of the temperatures not going above freezing. Here in Hippieville, we value our salmon more than our safety, and local laws allowed only for sanding of the roads instead of salting, which was pretty much ineffective. I drove in the storm at 5mph on the highway with cars and trucks spinning out of control all around me, and I ended up having to ditch my car on the hill next to my condo because I slowed down to avoid the idiot kids who were sledding on the road and lost too much speed to make it up. I did have to walk to Safeway to finish my shopping for the trip, but I managed to get to the airport the afternoon before the next round of snow hit (and paralyzed the city/airport for awhile) and make it to warm, sunny Taiwan.

All of us had spent time in Taiwan before, but it was a really unique experience to be tourists in a place where we were used to being dragged around by our parents and other relatives. We knew what to eat, Jenni got shopping tips from a Taiwanese friend, and we knew enough of the language to communicate (my reading was surprisingly good enough to be useful!).

We spent all of our time in Taipei and surrounding areas, chowing down on oyster omelettes, zhongzi, etc. at night markets, visiting the National Palace Museum, eating way too many egg sandwiches for breakfast, hiking at Yangmingshan, sitting on old ladies' laps in the crowded bus down from Yangmingshan, and wishing the panda exhibit was open at the zoo (but also enjoying the other critters). We also wandered out to Danshui, a touristy fishing town by the water, where we ate seafood and did some shopping.

Rickrolling karaokeOk, and maybe we were a little crazy. Definitely our three hour karaoke marathon (heavily utilizing special effects on the voices) had some crazy (and some Rick Astley!). And the light saber fighting with yo tiao at a breakfast place near our hotel. And climbing on a playset shaped like a pile of poo at the zoo. And cracking up at cheap Engrish shirts at the night markets.

The whole thing was a lot of fun, and I definitely look forward to traveling more with friends. What's in store for GirlTrip v2! China? New Zealand? Greece? Hmm...
National Palace Museum Danshui Poo at the zoo Ximending

Taiwan Part 2: Reconnecting with my roots

For the second part of my Taiwan trip, I took the high speed train from Taipei down to Taichung to meet my dad, who was coming up from Taiwan. My dad's younger sister picked us up from the train station and took us to to visit my grandparents on my mom's side. They don't speak English, and my Chinese has definitely deteriorated with disuse, but the happiness at seeing relatives after such a long time is common language enough. They used to own a restaurant so they cook well, and it didn't matter that lunch was the only meal we had time to eat there -- they went all out. Six or so different dishes, including homemade dumplings and turnip cake. Yum! Apparently, I don't eat enough by Chinese grandparents' standards, but if I did, I'd be way too fat by my Chinese mother's standards...

We also made a trip to pay respects to my grandparents on my dad's side. Their ashes are stored in a big building on the outskirts of town, and I think there's something about moving them to face a certain direction every so often, so it was nontrivial to figure out where they were located. After that, my aunt took us back to the train station, and we went back to Tainan.

The next stop was Pingtung, a small city that is definitely not on any tourist route in Taiwan, but it's where my dad grew up. It was really cool to walk around the city with him and listen to stories from his childhood. Well, actually it was really hot. It must have been 80 degrees or so and sunny, so I was feeling pretty warm in my T-shirt and jeans, but to the locals, it was winter, and many of them were even wearing jackets! We went to the school where my grandfather was principal and walked around (there were some students there, even on a weekend), the all-girls school where my dad's sister went to school, the park where my dad's grandfather used to drink tea each day, the popsicle shop that my dad would buy a popsicle from every day (we bought one, of course), and much more. Some of my dad's friends from grade school were still in town and still recognized him, despite not meeting in many decades. And finally, we walked around the markets and found a replacement for my towel blanket, a gigantic towel I've had since I was a baby.

I've never been one of those people who draws family trees or "longs to visit the Motherland," but it was definitely a special experience to reconnect with my roots.

June 29, 2009

Taiwan Part 3: Hanging out with Dad

Being in Taiwan over the holidays gave me a chance to hang out with my Dad, since he was in the country to help with some university research in Tainan. In the past, we've always traveled as a family. I've spent some time with just my mom, when we went to visit universities and when she's come out to Seattle by herself. Not so much alone time with my dad. I think the 10 hour drives between Seattle and Glacier National Park last year was the longest time we'd spent together, ever. So this handful of days was really cool. I definitely have more in common with my dad than I thought as a child (ever wondered why I'm so messy? hah...). And apparently we do have more to talk about than my lack of desire to get an MBA.

We had some time in Tainan, so my dad excitedly took me around to show me the sites, including the Confucius Temple and the Chihkan Towers. The grounds at the temple were peaceful and a lot of people were sitting around, enjoying the outdoors. We noticed a group of people with cameras clustered around something, so I had to go see what it was: A SQUIRREL. Ah, Taiwan. For one of our dinners, we had the Taiwanese version of teppanyaki, a half dozen small grilled dishes fixed right before our eyes. Tasty, and not expensive at all.

When we went back to Taipei, my dad had a little downtime in between his business dinners, so I insisted on dragging him to Keelung, a spot that Sandy, Jenni, and I hadn't had time to hit before. He grumbled a bit, asking what there was to do in Keelung, and he grumbled a lot more when we arrived at a train station and it was pouring rain outside, with no indication of where anything interesting to see might be.

But I was prepared! I knew there was an information center right next to the train station, so we located it, and my dad's mood began to improve. It went down slightly when I suggested that we catch a bus to the Heping Bridge to walk down to the Heping Island park, but we managed to get there alright, thanks to my sharp eyes and ability to read the words "park" in Chinese. Despite the rain, which is supposedly a constant presence in Keelung, the park was really cool -- a beautiful pagoda, and waves crashing against weird, otherworldly rock formations.

After that, we did things my dad's way and took a cab to the Temple Mouth Night Market, a famous market of hawker stands named for its location right outside of a temple. I guess it's busier at night, but lots of food stands were still open. They're set up well for tourists, with numbered signs stating the main items the stand offered in both Chinese and English. We went for a crab soup with a bowl of sticky rice... mmmmm...

And that's it for the Taiwan updates! It was a really fun trip, and hopefully I get to return soon (and eat more food). Still haven't seen Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, or Kenting...

About June 2009

This page contains all entries posted to adventures of a tired coder in June 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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