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Taiwan: Taipei, Kaohsiung, and a myriad of mishaps

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May 10, 2011 | 10:50pm
Mood: tired
Music: Boy & Bear - Rabbit Song

We had a four day weekend, so Vanessa and I went to Taiwan.

Thursday: Vanessa's alarm didn't go off so we rushed at 4:20am and almost missed our 4:40 bus. Then I discovered my passport is missing part of the visa for Korea (long story) so I had to go solve that problem. Then we had trouble getting our boarding passes. Then we made it through security and Vanessa couldn't find an ATM. Finally we made it on to the plane.

I came to the realization - while sitting amongst a group of American businessmen on the plane - that the reason I hate foreigners (in Korea) is because I understand what they say. I shouldn't learn Korean. Or return to an English speaking country.

We arrived in Taiwan and sat at a 7-11 in the airport and figured out where to go. We took a shuttle bus to downtown Taipei - maybe 45 minutes - and walked a while to go to a random hotel that just happened to be listed in the Lonely Planet. We finally find the hotel and book a room. Our room was very nice, on the eighth floor, with a decent view of rooftops.

By this time it's about 5pm so we go for a walk, explore a bit, then we go to a Mongolian BBQ restaurant. They have them in America so we couldn't help ourselves. Amazing. So so so good.

Then we tried to find the MRT (metro) and failed. Then we backtracked and found it, and we went to Shilin Night Market, the largest night market in Taiwan. Amazing. We ate fresh fruit (my biggest passion right now) and sugar-covered strawberries and dumplings and shopped. Fantastic. A great experience. Finally we took the MRT back to the hotel and after some Korean TV (Big Bang!) and talking to Minkyu, I went to bed at about midnight.

We got up at 7:30am this morning. Went down for the free western buffet breakfast, then took the MRT to Taipei 101. It was very cloudy but it was incredible. 37 seconds to reach the top. Wow. And the building itself-- so beautiful. Worth the entire trip. Then we went back to the hotel, checked out, and went to a coffeeshop. Then we took the MRT to Xingtian temple and watched while people prayed. Buddha's birthday was today (Tuesday 5/10) so it was hopping. Then we went back to the hotel, picked up our baggage, and took the MRT to go to the High Speed Rail station. It took a while to get our tickets.

Two hours later we arrived in Kaohsiung. We ate a little snack at a 7-11 - convenience stores are an institution in Asia, and especially in Taiwan, I swear - and took the MRT to the end of the line - the beach. Then we took a taxi to the resort, which was listed in the book. We booked an absolutely AMAZING room. Ocean-facing room.

We ate dinner at the hotel salad bar, and talked for a while. Then went for a walk on the beach. Then we went back to our room, talked to Minkyu for a while, and went to bed.

Saturday Vanessa and I woke up early, had breakfast (western-style omelet!) at the hotel, and went walking around campus. The resort we're staying at is located on Kaohsiung University's campus, which is quite beautiful and historic. Then we walked into Kaohsiung prime. We found a little shrine then went up a mountain to see the old British Consulate building - from the early 1800s. Very nice. Then we ran into a few temples and had drinks at a little restaurant near the harbor.

After that we went up a walking bridge and walked around. We had mango shaved ice as a snack, bought mangos from a street vendor, and got take out from a shop. I had ding chicken rice. Then we walked back to the hotel and ate our lunches there. Then we went to the beach.

It was a nice, relatively empty beach- one of the benefits of staying at a resort, I think!

We stayed at the beach for a few hours. The sun was ridiculously intense, probably because the sand is on the black side. I got a bit of sun, but I got more of a tan (read: burn) from walking around earlier that tday than anything else. I have a farmer's tan and my nose is still a bit burnt even today. Call me Rudolph.

Later we went for a walk around the harbor and back into town, and had dinner at a Chinese/Thai restaurant. Then we sat on the beach and drank for a couple hours. Then bed. Well, discovering the Minkyu came out to his best friend (! - this is Korea, coming out is nearly non-existent here, and the fact that Minkyu told his friend, "I am gay and I am dating a guy. His name is Adam!" is incredible. So proud of him. And impressed.) and then bed.

Sunday morning we got up early, ate breakfast at the hotel again, and went for a short walk. We visited one last temple and then I took the metro to the High Speed Rail station. I made it there on time and then hopped on the train. Ten minutes before my arrival in Taoyuan, where the airport is, I discovered that I'd read my flight time wrong. I wasn't leaving at 4:30, I was leaving at 14:30. It was almost 1pm. I proceeded to freak out.

I took an incredibly slow shuttle bus from the station to the airport, then managed to get off at the wrong terminal. I am a moron. I ran for the Skytrain, which connects the two terminals, and made it to terminal 2 at about 1:20. There was no line at the ticket counter. Then there was no line at security or immigration. I made it to my gate at 1:40 - after stopping at a couple stores along the way. Seriously. Ten minutes to get through security and immigration, after running ridiculously late? It's practically unheard of. I went from being scared I'd miss my plane to being early. Wow.

The flight was fine. I was forced to go through a body scanner at Incheon (one last airport indignity to complete my trip) and managed to catch a bus that was about to leave 10 minutes later. I got home at 10pm, ate Burger King, and Minkyu came over for a couple hours. Good times.

All in all it was a very good trip. I enjoyed Taiwan a lot: it was a mixture of the old and the new, much like everywhere else in Asia. I'd pictured it to be like Singapore: clean and glass and bright. It's dirty and organized and everyone rides motor bikes. It's an interesting atmosphere. Compared to Korea, it has much more character - not every building is the same. It's not like how I've pictured China to be: filthy and busy and primitive, I guess. It's its own country.

Before I came to Korea I wanted to work in Taiwan. Taiwan still intrigues me. If I ever finish with Korea I could see myself there. I don't think I am done with Taiwan. There's much more I want to see: mountains, the national museum, more cities, more temples. But for the time being I love Korea and I don't want to leave any time soon.

Last night after work I went to a hof with some friends and Minkyu showed up. Then we all went to noraebang until 2am. Minkyu spent the night and today we went downtown and had pizza. I came home, napped, watched Game of Thrones and read Patricia Briggs. Good day. Can't wait to spend the rest of the week at work. Not.

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Comments {2}


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from: amandas2006
date: May 18, 2011 12:42pm (UTC)

Sounds like you had an awesome time! Did you eat stinky tofu at the night market? All the Taiwanese girls talked about how good it is even though it smells.

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from: aodh
date: May 19, 2011 02:46am (UTC)

Yes I did have a good time! Hmm, I recall smelling the tofu but I didn't eat any! A lot of Chinese (Taiwanese) food stinks though. Haha. Or at least, it smells significantly different from Korean food...

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