Welcome to Taipei

Well I never said I’d win any prizes for creative titles anytime soon…

Okay so I’m still not sure how this post will turn out in terms of a broad overview of Taipei or an unorganized day-to-day summary of the past week. WE SHALL SOON SEE.

I’ll start with the heat, because that was the one thing all people had warned me about time again. With good reason. I left Taoyuan airport at 7am and as soon as I stepped out to greet the new earth I was literally enveloped in a heavy thick sheet of warm air and humidity. For me this has been the toughest adjustment not only because I’m from a moderate climate but because I’ve always been extremely sensitive to heat. There’s barely any breeze and even at night it stays at around 28 degrees Celsius. Every twenty minutes outside I need to run into one of the billion 7-11’s to find solace in air conditioning.

But on the bright side it’s been liberating to not have to wear make-up. When at home in summer I would put just on a smidge for cover from acne scars. Taipei doesn’t even give me that option it’s just all “Nope you’re going to sweat today. And tomorrow. And forever.”
Which is a really nice change from the need I sometimes feel to look nice when going out from back in Vancouver.

Now if any of you find yourselves in Taipei someday you are going to stay at Eight Elephants hostel. K? K. I met people studying at MTC like me within the first few minutes of me sitting in the common room. And now we’re tight. Likethis (Yes the lack of space bar is on purpose). Plus the staff go above and beyond any form of service I’ve ever experienced and it truly is as if everyone staying here is part of one big family.

Taiwanese people put the Canadians to shame when it comes to politeness. I’ve had people walk me five minutes to a place I was looking for rather than just pointing and telling me. When the language barrier has been an issue the other person has done everything in their power to write and use gestures to try and communicate with me instead of just walking away. To be unselfish and put other’s needs before yourself is a huge part of the culture here and it is truly heartwarming to see this in the world. Compared to Vancouver this is a nice welcome change of social attitudes.

Even the language barrier the adjustment has not been that bad. With complicated questions I’ve been lucky enough to find that most people speak English. However I still use my limited Mandarin skills as much as possible, mainly in regards to buying food. In all honesty I do feel that it’s improving because I’m in a situation where I need to speak and listen and read every day. There are no breaks in stimuli like there would be back in Vancouver.

I’ve seen so much and still have so much to see. I’m still not used to the situation of being in a foreign country for more than a few weeks. It’s fun to remember I could cancel my own plans to sightsee and that it’s okay to do so.

I honestly thought that homesickness would be a huge issue for me. While there’s a sad pang here and there the people I’ve already met and the city itself are making me feel right at home.

Well it turned into a broad overview of Taipei after all! Which means the next post will pretty much be a picture and descriptive list of the sights I’ve seen.
再见!

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One Week In And…

Holy moly I feel as if I’ve lived through three lifetimes already. There’s no way it’s only been seven days. I need to reevaluate the life choice of only blogging once a week…

Having just returned from a two day trip to Tainan I’ll focus this post on that and then compile my first few Taipei days a bit later. Capiche?

Tainan City is located in Southern Taiwan and is the oldest city in Taiwan. Me and two other people took the 7am train and arrived just before noon. Our hostel had the most adorable backyard which, for me, was a good sign. A happy camper indeed (Can I use that saying in regards to a hostel?)

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Appropriately called “Bike Tainan Hostel” due to most guests choosing to rent the bikes and cycle the city, we rented some ourselves and headed off to see the town. Our first atop was Chihkan Tower, built on the remains of the 17th century Dutch Fort Provintia. After that we were on our way again and found cafes, temples, street art, and other historical buildings.

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I got a bit of heat exhaustion mixed with lack of food, but our hostel owner, Kate, was more than helpful and within half an hour of returning all the other guests in the hostel (Us included) were planning to bike together the next day.

And we did. We got breakfast. Had a bike mishap. Fixed the bike mishap. Then we biked.
And biked.
And biked.
And biked.

I was not in charge of a map so I don’t know the specifics. TL;DR we got lost. In the middle of the day under the ruthless sun. We took a long break at a temple and I took a quick nap in a shaded area.

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We were originally trying to head for a beach in Anping, and ended up taking the scenic route. Quite literally. So when we actually found the ocean we were nothing less than giddy.

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Hello water I have missed thee

After six hours of cycling (NOT STRAIGHT I’M NOT THAT CRAZY) we had finally found the beach to watch the sunset.

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First Taiwanese sunset

Long day. Very long two days. I’m so proud of myself for not dying from biking both the streets of Tainan and six hours in the sun. I almost feel as if the term “adventure” is inaccurate to describe this trip. Having never travelled alone I find myself thriving in minimal routine and from being surrounded by new friendly people. It was a time. Good and bad and tiring and fulfilling and all in all, a time.

Here’s to more times to be had.

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Anping, Tainan City, Taiwan

To the Fatherland

If you had asked me one year ago if I could envision future me traveling alone chances are past me would have laughed in your face.

“Are you crazy? Adults travel alone. Adults cross oceans to travel different countries. Those with no fear choose to live in said country. Those with major wanderlust live in different countries for months on end. Travel where English can’t be relied on as a safety? Haha yeah maybe with family or at least two friends.”

Fast forward one year:

I am an adult. I am about to cross the Pacific to travel to Taiwan. I’ll be living there. For two months. Everything I hear and read will be in Mandarin. I’m doing this alone.

I’m scared. Really scared. Already a tad homesick. Have no idea how I’ll survive this red eye 2am flight. Excited. Super excited. Majorly anxious. Beyond stoked.

To the fatherland I go. Here’s to new beginnings.

An Ode to Summer Festivals: Pt II

The Cabin in the Woods (WE TALKED TO FAMOUS PEOPLE)

We actually did. It was quite an amazing night.
And so with this post I bring the last summer weekend to an end. It was my first ever road trip (as mentioned is the previous post) and I can’t imagine a better way to have spent it.

DAY 2

Well, 5 hours of uncomfortable sleep (YAY TENTS AND AIR MATTRESSES) later we headed on down for another full day of sun and fun and music and all things in between. I built up the nerve to swim for a bit in the frigid ice water and all I will say about that is that thank god the sun was right overhead (Because warmth).

I even walked around the beach a bit to a quaint little cove area with huge rocks just waiting to be explored. Sitting down and looking out over the landscape and frolicking festival-goers I felt at peace with everything in my life at that moment.

Then back to the dancing! One of the bands who had played the previous night (Who we also are friendly and familiar with) played again, and with them came back our hippie freedom and dance party.
(Sort of unrelated side note, they’ve just released an album, which I intend to review for my next post).

Thank the stars for that familiarity and friendliness, because we got invited to the yearly after-party at Bob’s cabin (He’s, from what I could tell, known by pretty much everyone who attends this festival). This cabin was built by hand and it the most beautiful home I had ever been inside. Food, warmth, beer, friendly people, friends…I’m not really sure what else you need because I was more than content that night.

ONTO THE EVENING SHENANIGANS: One of the bands that performed at the Festival, The Matinee, also happened to be in attendance of the cabin party. A few of our friends were also friends with this band, and with the way things work out in life we all ended up talking music. The highlight of this night was definitely performing some stripped down Soup the Moose (Also featured on a previous blog post!) originals, and then discussing music and band politics with one of the members of The Matinee, who was extremely impressed and understanding with us and our situation (And so sweet and kind and an all-around amazing individual).

This conversation reaffirmed my will to continue jamming and playing with friends even it the music never gets out of our houses. I did need it, as this time period happened to coincide with a lull in my motivation to put time aside for instrumentation.

After another 5 hours of sleep, packing, tea and coffee, driving, ferry rides, meeting up with friends on ferries, driving, and another ferry, we arrived home. I was exhausted, but collected all of my remaining energy for the Murder By Death concert that was also that night (No regrets. None. I’m so happy I made myself go out).

I definitely can’t wait for next year’s festival. Spending the last free weekend before school on a beach at a festival with friends with no cares in the world is the ultimate definition of freedom. Here’s to a summer of music, dancing, sun, road trips, and good company.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking out to the Pacific

An Ode to Summer Festivals: Pt I

Hippie Regalia and Bonfires

Well I was originally planning to write an ode. An ode to summer festivals (Oh, hey look! That’s the title! Hahaha similarities!)

However, a sudden change of heart had me reconsidering the direction in which I wanted to take this post. I’ve decided instead to focus on the last weekend of what I truly consider to be summer: the Labour Day Long weekend in which me and a bunch of friendly folk (read: friends) loaded up a van and made our way to the Sunshine Music Festival on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of BC.

There’s something to be said about one’s first ever road trip with friends. Besides the 5am wake-up call and frigidly chilly morning and winds on the ferry, there were the long drives in which everyone threw out their own sarcastic witty remarks about god-awful radio DJs and the moments spent in silence where everyone stared out the window taking in the beautiful scenery of their home province.

There’s also something to be said about 7 people attempting to set up a tent together. And planning out sleeping arrangements. And then throwing sleeping bags and pillows at one another inside said tent.

The first afternoon was spent by the beach on the festival grounds, dipping our feet into (surprisingly) icy water and daring each other to take the first plunge in. Afterwards we spent our time air drying off in the sun with the glorious palette of the blue sky and water and green trees bordering the sides of our vision.

The main event came that night. As the families cleared out the young adult folk awakened. The sun, now a safe level behind trees, brought out a few brave souls who began the “hippie-dancing” as I like to call it. This is truly the only word I feel can describe the barefoot-flowy-skirt-lots-of-room-friendly-people-friends-all-around-you dancing that took us into the late evening. Not the standing around and bobbing one’s head that I am dismayed to admit is all too common; this is full out jumping and  actually feeling the music throughout your entire body and not just select appendages. I can proudly say I fulfilled my wish of dancing in a full hippie skirt and all I can say is: DAMN that was some heavy material….

I can gladly say that day 1 wasn’t even close to being completed. As the sun finished setting we found our way over to a bonfire where one of my friends recognized the people form her yearly festival-ing (Not a word. I know. Apologies). As the big group of us sang and laughed and drank and basked in the warmth of the fire I could not stop from looking up at the stars, completely in awe at the uninterrupted beauty that we aren’t able to fully appreciate in the city.

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Next up! Pt II – The Cabin in the Woods (WE TALKED TO FAMOUS PEOPLE)

Lying: A Recurring Theme

Sorry folks, this post isn’t going to be as exciting as the title may entail.

It’s more about how I go “I’M GOING TO WRITE EVERY WEEK.”

Then after one week: “I’M GOING TO WRITE EVERY TWO WEEKS.”

The latter is the latest promise of mine; the promise to write a nrew post every two weeks.

WELLLLLLL WHATTYA KNOW. I LIED (Again. And me lying (again) is the most common theme that has been written about here (along with music)).

So while I made this blog to keep up my writing, ask opinions, share opinions, rant, etc…the only thing I’ve learned is that I should not make promises I can’t keep. Namely about when I’ll write my next blog post.

That being said, I’m going to go on and completely ignore my own warnings and advice by proclaiming that NOW is when the every-two-weeks posting shall commence!

And it will.

I have ZERO excuses for not keeping that up. Even if it’s a mere recount of my week or a certain day of the week, the post will be written. This will help me, and I know after a few weeks of this it will get easier to keep up.

So, this post will NOT count as the first. Because that seems like the easy way out; “Oh but I already wrote my first blog post!”

NO. UNACCEPTABLE.

Later in the week I will write the first of many continuous semi-weekly (Or bi-weekly…whichever one you use to describe a ‘once-in-every-two-week scenario) blog posts.

ONWARD!

You Are a Tourist

Maybe?

Maybe not?

Either way, I’ve been wanting to write a post which details the top ten places/things to see and/or do in and around my (almost) home city of beautiful Vancouver for a while now.

Now for those of you who follow my blog or stumble upon this post you know that I am not a certified travel guru or anything of the sorts. However, I do feel that if you are looking to spend a week or two somewhere in Canada or British Columbia (WE ARE PRETTY COME VISIT) then there are quite a few things available for your entertainment in (and around) Vancity.

Keep in mind that when planning out this post the brainstorming process gave out things that I myself would find appealing in a city I wanted to visit. Below are my top ten to-do’s in Vancouver, with an emphasis on outdoor excursions and the arts scene.
*[Please note that these are in no particular order. I didn’t know how to impose a ranking system on this list].

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1.) Gastown
Say what you will about the fake steam clock, Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown core and has a lot to offer in terms of the history of the city. Take an afternoon or evening stroll around this part of historic Vancouver and admire the beauty of the architecture and enjoy one of the many wonderful places to eat. Walking tours are also available.
(Okay so I’m a tacky tourist get a picture of/with the steam clock and if you’re looking for souvenir shops there are some decent ones in this area).

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2.) Chinatown
Being a halfie, I’m biased.
No seriously, Canada’s largest Chinatown is listed as a National Historic Site of Canada and is full of whimsical shops (Full of lovely cheap goods. Grab some pretty fans or a qípáo, a mandarin gown, for a very reasonable price). Walking tours of Chinatown offer a history lesson of this area for those who like to describe what it is they’ve photographed on their vacation.
*Hot tip! — vancouversightseeing.com offers a “kill- two-birds-with-one-stone” combo (of sorts) with a walking tour that encompasses both Gastown AND Chinatown (Cue “HEYOOOO”‘s)

canada-granville-island3.) Granville Island
Okay, first things first: I love love love love LOVE it here. The shops themselves are a bit pricier than desired for someone on a vacation, but simply taking a day to stroll around the harbour, window shop, and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the public market can fill up your day. Take an aquabus around the water or head on over to the Granville Island Brewing Company (If of legal age, of course) if you go with the purpose of spending some cash in the place which was once an industrial manufacturing area.

bridge_header1-14.) Capilano Suspension Bridge
Whether you decide to come to Vancouver in the spring, summer, fall, or winter, Capilano Suspension Bridge is customized for each of the seasons. 140m long and not for those afraid of heights, at 20 years old I still get a thrill from walking across it and reaching the other side. The view is absolutely gorgeous from the bridge, and the Treetops Adventure (in which you walk along paths built up in the…well, the treetops) is a must. Nature trails and totem poles throughout the area offer something that is unique to BC.

seawall5.) Stanley Park/Biking (Or a different form of getting around) the Sea Wall
I JUST got around to rollerblading the seawall last summer, and that was for the sole purpose of timing myself. The next time I go around I will go at a more leisurely pace in order to take in the astounding seaside views that go along with it. You can rent a bike if you’d prefer, or go for a jog or a (very very long 22km) walk (although you do not need to complete the entire seawall if you choose to walk). Afterwords relax in one of the multiple green spaces or beaches. Or make a day out of walking around the park itself. It will not disappoint.

grind6.) Grouse Grind
Not for those who despise stairs with every nerve of their being. It’s nicknamed “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” for a reason. Approximately 1.5 hours of roughly outlined stairs.
Motivation?
Beaver tails at the top (Or if you’re a health nut you can appreciate MOAR SPECTACULAR VIEWS) and then take a gondola ride down the mountain.

OrpheumTheatre7.) SEE A FORM OF THE ARTS
Whatever is argued at one point or another if you want to have a day enjoying all forms of art then you have a load of options at your disposal. My recommendations are the Vancouver Art Gallery (Admission by donation on Tuesdays) a concert by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (Drool. Yes. Go. NOW.) in the beautiful Orpheum, or a concert by the Vancouver Opera. During the summer months come down to the waterfront in Vanier Park to enjoy one of Shakespeare’s plays at Bard on the Beach.


56540792.BurrardStreetinVancouver8.) Walkin’ around Downtown
The buildings, people-watching, a growing number of food carts, window shopping, the waterfront…the possibilities are endless and it’s pretty difficult to get lost in the downtown core. Pack a water bottle, wallet, and camera and get going!

Whistler-Village9.) Okay this isn’t technically in Vancouver…
An overnight or weekend trip to Whistler is something I highly recommend if you find yourself with a few days extra and feel exhausted from all the Vancouver-ness you’ve taken in over the last few days. The Sea to Sky highway in itself is worth the 1 hour 40 minute drive. Stop along the way to take in the amazing west coast scenery (Warning, take a gravol before heading up as this road is fond of twisting). Once you get to Whistler…I don’t even have the time to list all the things to do. If it’s winter, you will obviously ski or snowboard. If it’s summer, you will obviously zipline, go on a trail ride, go for a hike…oh my gosh three suggestions in and I’m exhausted.

10.)…..
Okay I’ve lied, I actually don’t have ten things to suggest and in all honesty I’ve been stuck on the tenth thing to see or do for a few weeks down. I’ve decided to list a bunch of things that hopefully can satisfy any type of tourist; whether you’re like me and like to walk and take pictures or you have a family or loved one you are bringing with you, here goes…
For a more quirky Vancouver, walk down Commercial Drive and grab a bite on one the many cafes and look into the stores; most of which sell unique, reasonably priced jewellery. If you’re here in the summer or early fall check out the Richmond Night Market for its many stalls of goods and food. Food. Did I mention food?
If you’re bringing around a family we’ve got a zoo, an aquarium and Science World (It’s called Telus World of Science now but I grew up calling it by its original name), an amusement park and a fair in the last two weeks of August.

Wow…a  lot to take it, I’m sure (It was a lot to write). This is in no means mandatory. Do some personal research, you may end up finding an outing that you cannot stop thinking about and that in itself is a sign to either fairly soon or one day come see what Vancouver and beautiful BC has to offer.

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