Saturday, December 21, 2013

Taiwan: The Heart of Asia

After experiencing the Okinawan island life for some time, I felt an itch to leave and start my international travels. Taking advantage of a three-day weekend, and requesting a day off of work, two fellow OkiJETs and I set out sights to Taiwan, Okinawa's closest country.

The night before my departure, I picked up Tka in Okinawa City and we spent the night at Alley's in Nishihara. The next morning, we headed out ridiculously early to beat the traffic to Naha Airport. The traffic was horrendous and, what's worse, Google Maps decided to guide us to a frickin' golf course (Thanks Obama)! We had to call out to a pedestrian and ask for directions but fortunately we were not far off.

We made it to the airport just in time to check in and pass the security checkpoint. No one had breakfast that morning and we were expecting to get food at the terminal but since Peach Airlines does not taxi at a terminal, the terminal only sold boxed souvenir food. We met up with some other OkiJETs, who were also headed to Taiwan, and they gave us an apple to split between the three of us. Best apple of my life! We also met with Wendy a Singaporean OkiJET who was off to visit family in Taiwan. She marked our subway map for the best hot spots in Taipei and offered to guide us to Taipei's main subway station since we were all headed there anyway.

The flight was ridiculously short, but I spent the entire hour yawning and attempting to pop my ears since scuba diving temporarily damaged my inner ear. Once we reached Taipei, our main priority was to eat. We walked about a block or two until we found a small cafe that had an menu in English and food that would satisfy everyone, especially me with my food particularities. Afterwards, we headed to our hotel.

Lovely Travel Ladies

A hour passed and we still had not found our hotel. The map that Tka brought was not detailed enough but we  knew the street and were headed in the right direction. I used every bit of Mandarin Chinese that I knew to ask about location of our hotel. Every question was met with people pointing for us to go further down. We even stopped at a convenience store to ask for directions. At one point, we were so frustrated because one person would tell us to go further down and another person would tell us to come back the way we came. Finally, we walked into what we thought was our hotel. It wasn't, but the women working the front desk personally walked us to our hotel. We were so grateful!

As I was moving my suitcase to my corner of the room, I hear Alley laughing and telling us to check out the bed. When I sat on the bed, it felt as though I sat on concrete. This was the hardest bed on God's green Earth! I picked up the pillow assuming that would be just as terrible but, to my relief, it was fairly soft. I looked to Alley who was still laughing now on her hand and knees saying "It's like basement sex!" That's when I lost it, because I could imagine that on a terribly hard and uneven floor. The joy surged through me as I realized I would be spending a few days on the concrete bed (sarcasm). After we settled, we headed out into Taipei.

Taipei at night reminded me a little of New York with its crazy traffic and slightly dirty atmosphere. The only difference was the abundance of scooters. Aside from my ear problems, I also had a terrible cough and the exhaust fumes from the hundreds of thousands of scooters forced me to purchase cough drops at a convenience store. 

The night markets in Taipei were like Jesus, in that they were perfect. Japanese clothes are cute, but sometimes they can get pretty funky with their prints, "Engrish," frills, and fabrics. The clothes at the night markets were surprisingly of good quality, ridiculously cheap, and stuff that I'd actually wear. More importantly, at every corner there were people selling yummy fruits and pastries, along with the nauseating Stinky Tofu. I got the most use of my Chinese while shopping because I could ask for the prince and bargain by saying it was too pricy. 

Taiwan: The Land of Scooters
The next couple of days involved some sightseeing at Longshan Temple, Taipei 101, and trips to more night markets.

Longshan Temple
is a reconstructed Buddhist/Taoist temple in the Wuhua district of Taipei. Although situated on a busy street, Longshan Temple created a peaceful atmosphere with a gorgeous waterfall and a large dragon statue at the enterence. Once inside the temple, there were hundreds of people praying and giving food and flower offerings. 

Taipei 101 is the second largest building in the world with the world's elevator (my ears did not appreciate this). The first two floors consisted of a high-end mall with recognizable brands that I could never afford. At the top, we had an spectacular view of the city as well as a view of the damper ball, which balances the building during storms or earthquakes.

Leaving Taipei, we had a some trouble finding the bus terminals, and we also ran into some trouble or shall I say caught some attitude with the airline personal regarding the weight of our carry-on bags during our check-in. 

I definitely want to go back to Taiwan for a longer weekend and continue shopping sightseeing.

Dying of laughter at Longshan Temple

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