Monday, September 24, 2012

Motorcycle Trip!

While I was in Taiwan, a typhoon was supposed to bash the east coast! Luckily at the last minute the typhoon veered towards the ocean, and I was able to fulfill one of my Asia trip goals: go on a multi-day solo motorbike trip.

The motorbike cost about $10/day, which is pretty expensive for Asia. But totally worth it. Some require an international drivers licence, but if you ask around at different places, you'll find someone who'll rent to you.

Almost the entire route was wide roads right next to the ocean with a separate motorcycle lane. It never rained, and wasn't unbearably hot. I was pretty lucky.

Lots of pretty places to stop, too!

These pagodas are everywhere, perfect for yoga and napping.

Pretty sculpture park, everything was made out of driftwood.

Lots of other travelers admiring the scenery. Most of them were from other parts of Taiwan, but also a lot of Chinese and Japanese tourists. 

I rode from Hualien to Taidung, which took about 4 or 5 hours, with plenty of time to stop and admire the scenery. Once I reached Taidung, I went to the tourist office, but no one there could speak English. Luckily I had written down the phone number of a youth hostel, so we called there and the owner of the hostel came and picket me up!

This is my cool roommate in Taidung, who is from a different part of Taiwan, and travelling around the country by train. He has three fancy cameras with him and photographs everyone he meets.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Taroko Gorge

After a few days in Taipei with Tessa, we split up for a week. She headed for the urbanized west side to visit family friends, and I meandered to the less populated east side for hiking and adventure.

I took the train to Yilan and spent the night there at a hostel that reminded me of a prison or hospital, so I only stayed there for one night. I woke up early the next day and took the train towards Hualien, but decided to get off at Taroko National Park, a 'place of interest' in my little brochure that I had picked up from the tourist office in Taipei. With my backpack (only 9kg!) I took the tourist bus into the park, and walked for about three hours, admiring the grandeur, and caught the bus to Hualien.

Epic bridge, reminiscent of the ones on New Zealand.

Its hard to capture the scale of it.

See the people walking? They were on the bus with me, I had a nice chat with them.

That little pagoda in the center of the picture is about 2 meters high.

Taipei, Taiwan

I had the opportunity to visit Taiwan, thanks to Tessa! Her parents were born there and her grandparents live in Taipei, so growing up she would visit them every summer.  Her family has an apartment in the city that Tessa and I stayed at. I never would have thought to visit Taiwan, but it was honestly one of my favorite places in Asia.

I took these pictures from a pedestrian footbridge over this busy intersection. There's always lots of traffic, but Taipei has a very user-friendly underground MRT system; even me, who can't speak a smidgen of Chinese, could take the MRT alone no problem.

Buses are not so easy to navigate, but I took them plenty of times with Tessa, who speaks Chinese!

Bus lanes are in the middle of the street, see? Everything in Taipei is well organized.

The 101 Tower, which used to be the tallest building in the world. Tessa's family's apartment was just 3 blocks away from it. We could walk to its huge air-conditioned underground mall from her place.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Visiting Yumi in Kuala Lumpur

On my way from Ho Chih Minh City, Vietnam to Taipei, Taiwan, I had a layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I decided to stay for 5 days so I could visit my friend Yumi, who I met in Thailand, and see the city!

This is the view from her apartment window. You can see the Patronus Twin Towers on the left and the KL Tower on the right.

Yumi is a yoga teacher at an ashram in India. She comes to Kuala Lumpur to visit her parents, who own the apartment. She's setting up the camera on top of the TV to take a  picture of us.

Yumi and her parents were great hosts. Thanks so much for having us! 

A traditional Japanese breakfast: rice with miso soup and a communal salad/omelette plate. Yummy!

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam, where every other shop is a tailor shop.

This one is named after my sister.

Nico enjoying some yummy street food.

A tasty Vietnamese dessert: flan on shaved ice topped with sweet coffee - very French. YUM.

At this little juice cafe you can get fresh fruit juice for 25 cents.

Early Morning in Hoi An

On my last day in Hoi An, I woke up at 5 to see what the early morning market was like without all the tourists.

I took this from the roof of my guesthouse.

The elementary school

Unopened tailor shops

At the market. They really do wear those hats everywhere.

These kittens always hang out by the coconut lady.

Not sure what this says. Can anyone translate it for me?

And finally, a 5000 dong (25 cent) breakfast: brown sticky rice and black beans, topped with ground peanuts and sugar. I love street food.