The Most Unexpected of Saviours

Humor me a second:

It’s hot. Not just hot. The type of hot where even just walking into a small patch of sunlight for a few seconds feels like a burning pain on your skin. You can’t escape the heat and it swarms around your body like an angry group of wasps.

Not just hot. Heavy and humid. The absolute best combination ever (Sorry sarcasm doesn’t translate too well when typing).

You’re out of water and dying for a drink. Something sweet. And cold. Sweet and cold. As the sweat beads down into your eyes you catch a glimpse of something green, orange, and red. Could it be…?

Wait what...?

Wait what…?

With your last remaining bit of strength you drag yourself across the street and-

*Ding*

The cool breeze of AC washes over you.

I CAN FEEL THE AC FROM HERE

I CAN FEEL THE AC FROM HERE

Sweet relief takes form in 7-11’s here in Taipei. They are on every corner. They are the Starbucks of Taipei. If I stand at the corner of a major intersection and take a 370 look around me and don’t see any 7-11’s I get concerned.

Now before all the “But Nathalie we have 7-11’s here in Vancouver” starts let me just say these are no homeless-riddled-is-this-where-drug-deals-go-down-and-people-die” 7-11’s like back home. These are a godsend.

Cheap. Great selection. AND AC (THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER). Just last weekend I bough two individual pieces of whole wheat bread, two bananas, two onigiri, and a black tea drink for $150 NT. That’s $6 Canadian (I’ll wait while all your minds explode). Here’s a little taste (Haha there’s food in 7-11’s and I used the word taste ha ha (Nathalie stop (NEVER))) of the beautiful 7-11’s here in Taipei.

$1 each. What is life?

$1 each. What is life?

Gotta be healthy, you know!

Gotta be healthy, you know!

Mmm carbs

Mmm carbs

THIS STUFF IS THE BOMB DIGGITY

THIS STUFF IS THE BOMB DIGGITY

Beer. Here. Yes.

Beer. Here. Yes.

Do you need anything? Snacks? A condom? (Hashtag Mean Girls reference)

Do you need anything? Snacks? A condom? (Hashtag Mean Girls reference)

wpid-img_20140801_110556.jpg

You want milk? HAVE ALL THE MILK.

Embracing the Fatherland

It has been just slightly over a month since I first landed in Taipei an exhausted confused and slightly homesick traveller with absoutely no idea what the next ten weeks had in store for me. The first brush of wind I felt was heavy and humid and at 5:30am my body was tired and hungry and overall not impressed.

But holy moly; part of me would love the opportunity to reassure my past self that the next ten weeks will be the best of my life. The other part says “No way” because a huge part of this experience has been all the wonderful people I’ve met and excursions that are still so vivid in my memory.

It’s funny; even though this exchange has been at the top of my “to-do” list for over a year I still never really accepted that I was leaving home until I left my mom at the gate of the airport.

And to put it simply, I’m thriving. Sarcastic, sardonic, cynical me is thriving off of the constant flow of people that I meet every single day. Back home I would vehemently insist that I couldn’t stand to be around loads of people all the time and that my being alone was necessary for my survival.

Now if I don’t have plans with people for one day I feel lost.

Granted, travelling personalities have been easier to get along and converse with than most (MOST NOT ALL) people back in Vancouver. The shared goal of experiencing a foerign part of the world leads to easy conversation. I’ve met up with friends I made in a different hostel, still go back to Eight Elephants, and have already had to say goodbye to a best friend I made in less than a week and knew for less than three (Seriously, when the heck does that ever happen?).

I feel as if it would be pointless to list off all that I’ve learnt not only because it’s so much but also because a different personality could be in my exact same position and have gotten a completely diffeerent experience than me. There’s so much I want to say about Taipei and myself but writing in  blog post really wouldnt do it justice. I’ll instead end off with the following:

Is it possible to feel as if your personality has matured?
Because mine has. The combination of studying my heritage language and meeting the most phenominal people has changed a perspective or two of mine – something that has surprised stubborn little me.

Taipei Masterlist Pt 1

I must apologize in advance because this post probably won’t contain as much dry humor as previous posts (*Gasp* But Nathalie whyyyyyyyy). The reason for this is that I just want to give a basic list and description (Yes there will be pictures don’t freak out) of all the sights I’ve seen around Taipei so far. Even though I’ve seen so much there’s always (And probably always will be) more for me to discover around Taipei. *Apologies because I don’t have photos of the first two things on this list. If you have the time I strongly encourage a Google search of the temples because they are simply stunning.

June 21: Taipei Confucius Temple                  
The Taipei Confucius Temple was built in 1879 during the Qing Dynasty. During Japanese occupation of Taiwan the temple was destroyed. However in 1930 Wang So-Shun rebuilt it. I was lucky enough to get to see the interior of this magnificent temple, which only opens it’s doors twice a year. During this day (June 21) students gathered to pray for god luck on their examinations.

June 21: Dalongdong Baoan Tample
A Taiwanese Folk Religion Temple located close to the Taipei Confucius Temple with absolutely beautiful exterior adornments. June 22: Wulai Wulai is a gorgeous rural district in the South of new Taipei City. I went on a trip organized by the hostel I was staying at and was in complete awe of the colour of the water and the mist rising from the surrounding mountains. I walked around the town and got caught in a rainstorm while hiking a path called “Lover’s Trail” alone (HAHA IRONYYY).wpid-img_20140622_140610.jpgwpid-img_20140622_172107.jpg

June 26: Shilin Night Market and Taipei 101 I was lucky enough to get to meet up with my friend Sophia who took me around Taipei for the day. We walked around a local shopping district before heading towards the Shilin Night Market. There we had  雞排 (Ji pai/Chicken steak) and 臭豆腐(Chou dofu/Stinky tofu). One thing I’ve noticed about Taipei is that not only is bubble tea a huge deal, so is juice. Fruit, mixed, milk, you want it? You got it (My jam (HA) is 芒果牛奶: mango milk). The highlight of this day was definitely Taipei 101. I absolutely adore looking down on cities as they’re lit up at night and getting a 360 view of Taipei was a blessing. A free audio guide was included in the ticket and so I got my fact fix and beautiful view quota of the night! wpid-img_20140626_223922.jpg wpid-img_20140626_200902.jpg

June 27: National Palace Museum I’m just going to say it now: I’m a museum nerd. I love museums. I could spend all day in museums. As soon as I found out the Palace Museum housed one of the largest collection of Chinese artifacts I knew this was at the top of my “to-do” list. I got there as soon as it opened and immediately found my way to the old books collection. There was also an entire floor dedicated too Chinese calligraphy and drawings which I got lost in for another hour. The third floor holds the most famous items: the jadeite cabbage and meat stone. While the cabbage was away on tour in Japan I braved the crowds of tourists (Wait, that’s me too, right?) to view the very small meat stone. Also amazing was the ivory carving collection, some with such fine minute detail a magnifying glass was required to see it in all its glory. wpid-img_20140627_014900.jpg

June 29: Maokong Gondola You have not lived until you have had oolong tea on a mountain overlooking gorgeous, tranquil scenery. That is all. wpid-img_20140629_150354.jpg

July 6: Teapot and Banping Mountain A gap in the adventures as classes start. There’s a story to go along with this day trip! This hike was beautiful, gorgeous, amazing…need I go on? The views were unbeatable and we were blessed with nice mountain breezes and cloud cover every now and then. But on the way down, disaster. Half our group (Me included) split off to take a short cut back to town. This short cut turned out to be a very untidy “path” through the bushes with markers every now and then. After 1.5 hours (When we supposedly should have been back in town) we had scraped a good proportion of our bodies climbing over rocks and under branches from following a river. Slowly accepting that we were lost, we made the decision to keep following said river. Another hour and we were getting close to complete mental and physical fatigue. We managed to find a different way down after hitting a section of river that we thought would be impossible to cross, and after another half hour we were back in civilization. That was one of the single moments of great relief that I’d ever experienced in my life.  

So that’s that! I have so much more to see and now I’m terrified I won’t be able to get it all done…but I’ll try my best. Here’s to minutely planned sightseeing schedules!

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!

image

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?)

image

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.

image

image

image

image

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.

image

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.