Sunday, May 13, 2012


Well, friends, my noble intentions of posting weekly have not exactly played out (let's be real, they haven't happened at all). I won't be making any more promises, but I will update my *few* readers, if there are any, on life since Kyoto!

Turf deployed and has settled into life away from home. He is doing a great job, but misses home a lot. He's able to call on our DSN line often, which I'm thankful for because I went into this deployment expecting a call maybe 3 times a week. Instead, I'm getting nightly :) Win!

I've been quite busy with work and my Master's courses. My two best girlfriends on Okinawa, Kendall and Amber, also have husbands who are deployed, so it's nice to have friends to share the experience with. They have definitely made it much easier for me!

Kendall and I spent Spring Break in Taiwan. Our first stop was Hualien to visit the Taroko Gorge. I didn't have high expectations for this because most of the nature I've seen in Japan is dwarfed by the gloriousness of Oregon, but I held out a bit of hope. I'm glad I did because I was pleasantly surprised! The gorge was beautiful with endless marble cliffs. I felt so small standing between the towering cliffs.
We booked a day trip from our hotel and were literally the only two people on the tour, with a driver who spoke only Chinese. Communication consisted of a series of grunts and pointing as our nice little old driver attempted to take our photo throughout the day. Needless to say, we didn't learn a whole lot of historical information about the gorge, but he did the best he could at pointing out the cool spots.

 The view of Hualien from our hotel room. SO pretty, but not a lot to do. This is definitely a great place for a day trip!
 Kendall's artsy fartsy photo of the rock beach

From Hualien, we headed on to Taipei. Taiwan is absolutely the place I've had the hardest trouble communicating of the places I've visited. I am not at all familiar with Chinese, and we were surrounded not only by Taiwanese people, but mainland China tourists. I found the Chinese tourists to be pushy, loud, and quite obnoxious. This really gave me a deeper appreciation for Japan. 

After checking into our hotel (and maneuvering a possible "Taken" situation...just kidding, Dad!), we visited the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (CKS). Think of the Lincoln Memorial, Taiwanese style. This memorial was built for the president Chiang Kai-Shek, who had great influence in promoting Taiwan's independence from China. Inside the hall is a giant statue of him, and each hour there is a changing of the guards ceremony. 
 This is by far one of my favorite places I've been in Asia. I loved the open courtyard, the hall itself, which was a refreshing change from the typical temples and shrines, and the vibe of the place in general. It was absolutely breathtaking.

We then made our way to a modern district in Taipei to do some shopping. One of the attractions we were interested in was a restaurant that is completely toilet themed. Yes, toilet themed. Take a minute to wrap your brain around that one.
So after about an hour of walking in circles, we finally found the Modern Toilet restaurant. As I said, it was packed with toilets galore. We sat on toilets, not chairs, to eat. The table looked like a giant bathtub with a glass top. There were pipes and faucets (not useable, of course) coming out of the walls. Everything was served in a toilet. After getting past the visual shock of curry served in a toilet, it actually was pretty tasty :) My favorite was the soft serve vanilla, chocolate swirl ice cream served for dessert in a urinal. Bet you can guess what that looked like ;)

One of our favorite things to see in Taiwan were the night markets. These things were hustling and bustling into the late hours of the night, even during the week. There were street vendors selling shoes, clothes, "trendy" accessories- Kendall gave in to the craze and bought kitty cell phone cases for herself and Amber, a Mickey Mouse sparkly bobble hair tie, and a Scottie dog hair clip. The smell of delicious rolls and meats was rising from every corner of the street. I definitely recommend visiting a night market if you are ever in Taiwan!

 We finally found the main food hub of the market. We sat down and had some yummy meat, grilled right there in front of us. I felt very cultured, because I am usually a bit leery to try meat from places like this. We tried to pick a place that had many other people also eating there.

 Another delicious treat we loved that I didn't get a picture of was the fruit juices! The stands would have all the fruits imaginable available to choose from. Once you picked your flavors, they'd blend them all up into a delicious juice. Yum-O!

On our last day in Taiwan, we visited the Taipei 101 building, which is the 2nd tallest building in the world (93 floors, I believe?). It also houses the fastest elevator, which was a God send for me, because I am so claustrophobic!
 Kendall and I were celebrities in this place. It was quite awkward, as we noticed all the tourists in line (and there were TONS, it was completely crowded) "discreetly" pointing their cameras right at our faces and snapping away. At one point, I asked if they would like to take a picture of us, and they all started jumping in to get their photos taken with us. We ended up losing our spot in line because we were captured in snaps by a large tour group of people. The other people in line kept barreling past us and bulldozing us over. The Chinese tourists did not make a great impression on me.

 Some high schoolers who chased us down trying to take pictures of us at the museum we vistited. They would run down the stairs to get in front of us, turn around and set up for a shot, then realize we were still walking down and had gotten too close. So they'd try to run down even further and do it again. Eventually we asked if they'd like a picture, and chaos ensued.

I feel really blessed to have found such great friends on this island. Kendall, thank you for adventuring with me and being the best travel partner! Our next trip is planned in July (Amber will be able to come along too, YAY!) to Thailand. We'll visit with my dad in Phuket, then head on to Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Be on the look out for that post-but hopefully I'll post again before then :)

Also, a special thanks to my honey for my new camera! I tried to practice my non-existant photography skills in Taiwan. I can totally tell the amazing difference between my new fancy camera and my old point and shoot. Love you, babe!

Well friends, it's late Sunday night, I'm nursing my knee injury from the Zombie run we did this last Friday, and getting ready for school manana. As a parting thought, I wanted to share this photo of the cute little cafe Kendall and I visited today, Cafe Do Ka Do Ka. It had a gorgeous view of the ocean from the outside balcony, and they served some delicious pizza and coffee. Today was a nice relaxing day, the temperature just right. It's nice to have quiet days with good friends and to just get a chance to enjoy the island. 

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