Take 12 Trips: A Roundup

A little over a year ago, I decided to join in with a challenge inviting bloggers to take one trip every month for 12 months. If you’ve been paying close attention to my blog for the past year, you may have noticed that my trip to Weinheim in September was, in fact, my 12th trip! (Don’t worry, I don’t expect anyone to actually have noticed 😉 ). This fact seemed to call for some kind of roundup/recap of my 12 months of trip taking, just to bring things to a nice neat conclusion… or something like that.

October 2013

Triberg waterfallI started the challenge with a day trip to Triberg im Schwarzwald in October 2013. I had actually taken this trip shortly before learning about Take 12 Trips and decided to make it my first one rather than waiting until the following month to get started. In Clare’s original post inviting people to join the challenge, she told us to “Do anything – trip big, or trip tiny”. The point was to go somewhere new, perhaps even somewhere local that you’d been meaning to try out but never had. So a visit to somewhere in the Black Forest, which is basically on my doorstep, seemed like a fitting first trip.

November 2013

November 2013 saw me returning to Feldkirch in Austria for the first time since I lived there in 2005/2006. It was nice to see the place again, and also lovely to pay a visit to some friends from when I lived there and meet their baby son! After Feldkirch, we spent a night in Garmisch-Patenkirchen (famous for skiing!), then on the way back we stopped at Schloss Neuschwanstein (the famous fairy-tale castle in Bavaria) and in Augsburg. Not bad for a single long weekend!

December 2013

Fire show 1I live in Germany, so obviously my December trip had to be to a Christmas market! I chose a local one, the Mediaeval Christmas market in Durlach, which is a district of Karlsruhe. The market includes a fire show (pictured above) and, aside from the usual Glühwein (mulled wine), hot mead is also on offer. At the end of the month, I went home to England for Christmas, but I don’t count that as a real trip 😉

January 2014

Part of my January 2014 trip was actually in December – Jan and I went to Madeira for New Year! I absolutely loved this trip and would go back in a heartbeat – Madeira is beautiful! And it was nice to actually spend New Year somewhere warm for a change.

February 2014

A figure on the gate post
A figure on the gate post

As the end of February approached with no trip planned (and me not wanting my February “trip” to be the week I spent in England by my dying grandpa’s bedside), I spontaneously decided to take a train to Bruchsal. I had been to the castle before, but never into the town and it was about time that was remedied! Sadly, it turned out that Bruchsal as a town isn’t all that interesting. I found a few pretty buildings, but after only 45 minutes I found myself at the castle with nowhere else to go. I also discovered that day that I find day trips by myself pretty boring (although who knows, maybe I would have fared better in a more interesting town?). Oh well, onwards and upwards as they say!

March 2014

Gutenbergplatz

In March 2014, I finally did something I’ve been meaning to for about 4 years – visited the Saturday market on Gutenbergplatz in Karlsruhe. Thanks Take 12 Trips for the inspiration! I also went to Colmar, France in March, although I didn’t write a post about it til April.

April 2014

Amneville zooApril saw Jan, K and I on a day trip to Amnéville Zoo in France. It was the second visit for Jan and I, and it was just as amazing as the first time. The falconry display especially is well worth the three hour drive!

Also in April (although not counted towards the challenge), I went to my first ever bloggers’ meetup when I joined some fellow Germany-based bloggers in Heidelberg.

May 2014

Playmobil paintingIn May, I managed to persuade Jan to come with me to the Historisches Museum der Pfalz in Speyer to see an exhibition celebrating 40 years of Playmobil. What can I say… at heart, I’m a 5 year old 😉 The exhibition was overrun with kids, of course, but I enjoyed it anyway. And the rest of the museum was interesting too!

Roughly a week later I was in England for a funeral (not the best trip!) then at the end of the month Jan and I had a mini-break in Konstanz, since it was a long weekend.

June 2014

For our ten-year anniversary(!) I had bought Jan tickets to see Pear Jam in Vienna, so that’s where our June trip took us. Apart from the concert, we visited the National Library, my favourite part being the Globe Museum, I ate Marillenknödel, crossing off another item on my 35 before 35 list, and we visited the UN headquarters then went to the Donauinselfest, a huge free music festival! We also took a day trip to Bratislava in Slovakia. My favourite thing there was the blue church, pictured above.

July 2014

Basel RhineIn July, my brother came to stay with us for a week. The trip I officially counted for the challenge was to Basel, but we also visited Strasbourg, the Black Forest and Frankfurt. Phew! I was exhausted by the time he went home!

August 2014

TaiwanI’m sure by now all of you know where I went for my August trip – I’ve bored you with enough posts on it 😉 Yes, it was Taiwan! My first visit to Asia was amazing! We saw so many fantastic sights, ate some great food (and also some truly awful stuff *cough* oyster omelette *cough*). Taiwan is a fascinating and beautiful country and I would recommend anyone to go.

September 2014

WeinheimIt would have been nice to finish the challenge with Taiwan, but alas I still had one more trip to go! Finishing the challenge with another day trip within the local area provided some nice symmetry though. This time we headed in the other direction to Weinheim, which is in the Odenwald rather than the Black Forest. It was a beautiful autumn day and the perfect way to finish my 12 trips!

Earlier in September, I also spent the day in Bad Dürkheim at the Wurstmarkt, the world’s biggest wine festival, making it another multi-trip month.

Altogether, that makes 12 (plus) trips, seven countries (count them!) and a million memories! Thank you Clare for coming up with this challenge!

So, what now?

Just because my 12 trips are over doesn’t mean I’m going to stop travelling any time soon! In October 2014, I was in Bad Bergzabern (post to follow) and then spent Halloween Paris for a Night Vale live show, and I’m hoping that this month and next month will involve one or two Christmas markets. Then there’s the annual New Year’s trip that Jan and I always take (no destination confirmed yet). As for next year, so far only a trip to England in October for the Rugby World Cup is planned, but I’m sure there will be other opportunities to travel before then. There probably won’t be any big trips until the end of the year, but a few day trips will definitely be on the cards! Stay tuned…

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35 Before 35: Progress report 3

It’s been a while since I last updated you on my 35 before 35 progress. Seven months, to be exact. Since then, I’ve actually done quite a bit, so I thought it was time for another summary.

Number 7: Complete a cross stitch picture for myself.

I finished this one in September. It’s actually four small pictures, but I’m allowing it to count. For various reasons, they’re not up on the wall yet, but I completed the stitching and that’s what counts!

One of the four pictures
One of the four pictures

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I was on three last time and now I’m up to six! I read The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel by Nicholas Ostler, Captain James Cook by Richard Hough and The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. The last one was quite short, but fascinating!

Number 14. Go back to Austria and finally try Marillenknödel.

I must be the only person ever who managed to live in Austria without trying this amazing traditional dish, which is why it ended up on my list. During our trip to Vienna in June, I finally managed to consume some, and they lived up to every one of my expectations!

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

The last time I updated, I’d read 10 books. Now I’m up to 17 thanks to my boss bringing in a load of German translations of Swedish crime novels that she wanted rid of. The alternative would have been for the books to go in the bin and there was no way I could let that happen! You can see what I’ve been reading in German here.

Number 18: Bake 10 different kinds of biscuits

I’ve only baked one more type of biscuit since my last update, but they were delicious! I baked Pistachio and Cranberry Cookies just a few weeks ago.

Number 20. Attend a world cup rugby match

Obviously there hasn’t been a rugby world cup since I last updated, so I haven’t completed this yet. But my dad phoned the other day to say his application for tickets had been successful so I’m going to all three of the matches at St James’ Park! We had originally asked for tickets to two matches, but my dad bought us some for the third anyway as our Christmas/birthday presents so we’re only paying him for two.

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I was up to 8 (or 7 and two thirds) before, now I’m up to 9 (or 8 and two thirds). I still haven’t managed to finish the 3rd book in the His Dark Materials series because it’s too large to take on my commute and I’ve barely found time to read at home. I did read The Beach by Alex Garland though. I’m also still reading Middlemarch – I’m half way through now and it’s still boring as hell!

Number 29. Visit a continent I’ve never been to before.

Can you perchance guess what continent it was? Did my never-ending series of Taiwan posts maybe give you a clue? That’s right! I visited Asia for the first time in August.

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before.

This was originally 15 films, but after I watched film number 15 I decided that was too easy and changed it. Last time I updated you, I’d watched 5 films. Thanks to movie nights with friends, I’m now up to 16. You can see all the films I’ve watched here.

Aaaand that’s yer lot, for now. Not bad progress I have to say 🙂

Driving along Taiwan’s (North) East coast

Almost a month after returning from our trip, I’m finally getting round to posting the last installment in my recap!

Our final day in Taiwan was spent travelling back to the airport. To do this, we drove along the East coast from Hualien up to Taipei. Hualien is roughly in the middle of the country, so really it was more like the North-East coast.

Before we got properly underway, we stopped at Quingshui Cliff, which isn’t far from Hualien City. Quingshui is the highest coastal cliff in Taiwan. It stretches for a length of 21 km, but there’s a viweing area not far from Hualien, which is where we stopped. I think you’ll agree the view is stunning. Look how blue the water is! (It’s the Pacific Ocean, in case you were wondering)

Once we got back in the car, Jan asked me to take some photos while we were driving. Apparantly he has photos that were taken while driving along the Pacific coast in the US, so he wanted some from the other side of said ocean. I don’t think I did too bad a job with the following photos considering they were taken with a crappy camera from a moving car!

We stopped again at a viewing point that looks down on (I believe) Keeling harbour, then we had a final stop at a beach where people were surfing. For the first time on our trip we saw mostly non-Asian tourists! Of course not every other tourist elsewhere had been Asian, but there were a lot more of them about than “Westerners”.

See that last photo with the people on it? The island in the background is called Turtle Island. You can’t tell why from that photo though, so here’s another crappy “taken-while-driving” picture of it from the other side:

Taiwan

Finally, we drove back to Taipei. Jan had been talking about taro balls (taro is a kind of root vegetable, kind of like sweet potato) all week but we hadn’t been able to find them anywhere, so before heading to the airport he wanted to go back to the night market where he had eaten them. First, we needed to find somewhere to park, which was easier said then done! The sat nav kept telling us we’d already driven past the carpark we’d asked for directions to without us ever spotting said carpark! Finally, we managed to park by the main train station. From there, we took a Metro then walked for a bit until we reached the night market, the last one we would visit in Taiwan. Taro is sweet, so before buying that we went fr some dumplings. This time they weren’t bread dumplings but a kind of pasta-like dough. The filling was delicious pork! We enjoyed them so much that, after our first basket, we ordered another. In fact, I would like to eat more of those dumplings right now! That’s how good they were.

So tasty!
So tasty!

Once we were done with the dumplings, we went and stood in the looong queue for taro balls (apparantly they’re popular!). Jan bought some plain ones and some that were filled with pickled egg yolk. I preferred the plain ones – the egg tasted rubbery to me. The plain ones were a bit like doughnut on the outside but then the inside tasted almost like bean curd. It was a bit odd! I certainly wouldn’t have raved about them the way Jan did, but oh well. I was pleased he got to have some again before we left.

Time was getting on by then, so we went and picked up the car then drove it back to the car rental place. From there, one of their staff members drove us back to the airport. The check-in desk wasn’t open yet, so we went and looked at the gift shop and I bought some sweet potato cakes to bring back to work (they tasted odd, for anyone who’s wondering). Then we finally checked in, bought ourselves a drink on the other side and, before long, it was time to board our plane. And thus ends our Taiwanese adventure! It’s a shame we didn’t get to visit the south of the island – I’ve heard Alishan is amazing! But a week just isn’t long enough. Hopefully one day I’ll make it back.

~I am counting Taiwan as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare from Need Another Holiday. It also counts towards my 35 Before 35 challenge, item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before.~

For those who missed them, here are my other Taiwan recap posts:

  1. Initial Thoughts on Taiwan
  2. Taipei, Taiwan
  3. 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan and Sun Moon Lake by Night
  4. Sun Moon lake and driving through the mountains
  5. Hiking in Taroko National Park

Hiking in Taroko National Park

Our second to last day in Taiwan was spent hiking in Taroko National Park/Taroko Gorge. First, we stopped at the visitor centre to see which trails were open that day and (more importantly) which were most suitable for our very unfit selves. We decided to start with the Shakadang Trail, as it was right next to the visitor’s centre. Unfortunately, only 1.4 km of the trail was open on that day due to a rockfall further down. What we were able to see of the trail was beautiful though, and the shortish walk was a good introduction to the day.

Having finished the part of the Shakadang Trail that we were allowed on, we headed back to the car and drove on to Bulouwan Recreation Area, where we stopped for lunch. There were three different set menus, each being served with soup, rice, tofu and some other vegetables. Jan went for a beef stew with ginger while I chose the pork ribs (I had originally wanted another pork dish, but there was none left). I didn’t take any photos unfortunately, but the food was delicious. And I even managed to eat my ribs with chop sticks – not easy I can tell you! Once we’d eaten, we headed up to the upper terrace (the restaurant is on the lower terrace) where there’s a short walk called the Bamboo Trail. The walk itself is fairly boring to be honest, but there were tonnes of butterflies so that was nice.

Butterflies at Buluowan
Butterflies at Buluowan

Next, we decided to do the Swallow Grotto trail, as it’s supposed to be one of the most impressive in the National Park (the Nine Tunnels trail is even better according to the visitor information but was closed on that day). You’re supposed to wear a helmet on this trail in case of rockfalls, but we only figured out after we had walked the trail where you’re supposed to get them from! Lots of people were walking through bare-headed though – only the people from tour buses actually had helmets! I spent half the walk nervously staring at the cliffs towering above me praying nothing would fall down, but the views made it all worth it.

By the way, there are actually swallows in the grotto – it’s not just a name! They’re way too fast to photograph though, so I took one of this guy instead 😉

Taiwan

We ended our day of hiking with a visit to the Changchun Shrine/Eternal Spring Shrine, which was on the way back to Hualien. This is the shrine:

Eternal Spring Shrine
Eternal Spring Shrine

And again from closer up:

Eternal Spring Shrine
Eternal Spring Shrine

There wasn’t all that much water when we were there, but it still looked beautiful. I can only imagine how impressive it must be after a lot of rain! Behind the shrine, there’s the start of a trail that leads from the shrine to the Changuang Temple. The entire loop takes 50 minutes to walk, but we only went as far as the bell tower (the highest point) then decided to come back down before it got dark. There are a lot of stairs to climb on this trail – it was certainly the most strenuous of all our walks that day! – but once again the views from the top are well worth it. The bell tower was built to comemorate all the people who died while building the highway through the gorge (it’s pretty dangerous down there – there are signs everywhere telling you to watch out for rock falls!)

Once we were done with our hike, we drove back to Hualien, stopping briefly another walk around the market where we each bought a cold drink made with fruit and milk. There were hundreds of varieties to choose from, but not being able to read Chinese we went with some of the fruits that were on display because we could simply point at those 😉 I chose Mango and Guava. Jan’s drink also contained mango and I don’t remember what his second fruit was. While we were there, I finally managed to get photographic evidence of the duck heads that were on sale everywhere 😉

We were both tired after our long day of hiking in the sunshine, so after a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up we decided to be proper tourists and head to the Steakhouse immediately next door for dinner. I know… eating Western food in Asia. Terrible! We had tried a lot of Asian food by this point though. Jan had quite a lot of Taiwanese money to get rid of, so he said I could order anything I wanted. We each chose the set menu, which consisted of a salad (I had potato salad), a Taiwanese style soup, a bowl of what I am convinced was Heinz Cream of Chicken Soup, the steak itself and a desert. I think that’s everything – there were a lot of courses! Iced tea was also served throughout the meal with numerous refills and at the end we could choose another drink – I went for lavender tea because it sounded so interesting! Here’s my steak dish before I gave my fried egg to Jan:

Taiwan

We were absolutely stuffed after all that food! Luckily, as I mentioned, the hotel was right next door, so we didn’t have far to go before we could collapse on our bed, with full stomachs and aching legs!

We’re almost at the end of my adventure now. All that’s left is to tell you about our drive up the East coast from Hualien back to Taipei (more stunningly gorgeous views!) and our final meal in Taiwan before returning to the airport for our 11 p.m. flight.

~ I am counting my week in Taiwan as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare from Need Another Holiday. This trip also counts towards my 35 Before 35, item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before ~

Sun Moon Lake and driving through the mountains

I’m about halfway through the trip to Taiwan now. After this, there’ll be two more posts.
Thursday was another early start. The hotel we were staying at next to Sun-Moon Lake was the least westernised of the three hotels we stayed in. The staff spoke very little English and all the other guests were Asian. Understandably, the breakfast was also very Asian. I ate some kind of vegetable omelette, noodles with (I think) pickled vegetables and some slices of what we think was sweet potato. There was also toast and jam for the less adventurous tourist. The breakfast room was two floors above our room and gave a better view of the lake.

After breakfast, we checked out, picked up the car and were off for a drive around the lake. Our first stop was at the Wen Wu Temple, which was built after two other temples had to be torn down due to rising water caused by the building of a dam. I said the temple we visited in Taipei was beautiful, but it was nothing compared to this one. Everywhere you looked something screamed out to have its photo taken, and when you tired of looking at the temple, you could turn around and see a stunning view of the lake. Here are just a few of the photos I took. Sadly, my crappy little camera couldn’t do it anywhere near the justice it deserves.

It was another boiling hot day, so before leaving the temple we treated ourselves to an iced tea, then we drove on around the lake. We stopped again at a pier that I don’t remember the name of (if anyone recognises the view please let me know!). It was incredibly crowded there and, as I’ve mentioned, another boiling hot day. Also, we had a long drive ahead of us, so after taking a few photos we moved on.

Once we’d driven all the way round the lake and almost back to where we’d started, we switched the sat nav back on and set off towards Hualien. Now, as the crow flies, Hualien and Sun Moon Lake aren’t actually that far apart, but the only way to get from one to the other is via the cross-country highway, which leads through the mountains. Basically, to drive from Sun Moon Lake to Taroko National Park (or vice versa), you need to plan in an entire day. Which is why, not long after we started going up into the mountains, we decided to stop and buy some food. At the rest stop, we came across the tiniest little kitty.

Taiwan

We purchased chocolate cake, milk and chocolate mini cookies and some bizarre jam sandwich type things – two slices of white bread without crusts that had been filled with strawberry jam and somehow sealed around the edges. Then we were on our way again, occasionally stopping to admire the view. Here are a few photos I took during our drive – sometimes we were in the clouds, other times we had an amazing view of the mountains below us.

At some point on our drive, we noticed that there was some red tape across the road and a bunch of cars had stopped. We stopped too and Jan got out to find out what was going on. It turned out some workers were securing part of the mountain that had become unsafe due to a rock fall. The section of road was closed, apart from for 10 minutes on every hour when cars would be allowed to pass. We had arrived in between two hours, so we only had to wait about 20 minutes. Then, at 4 p.m., the workers stopped what they were doing (which mostly seemed to involve throwing huge boulders down on to the road!) and the queue of cars was allowed to make its way slowly through the dangerous section of road. Nature at its terrible best! That was the only incident we encountered along the way, and a couple of hours later we were driving through the Taroko Gorge then finally in to Hualien. Having checked in, got rid of the car and dumped our bags, it was time to go in search of food. A piece of paper in our room told us how to get to Hualien night market, so that’s where we headed. We bought one of each of the three types of dumplings pictured below.

Taiwan

The left one is pork and spring onion (my favourite!), the middle is some kind of green vegetable – not sure what, and the right one contained mainly cabbage and (I think) mushroom. I didn’t really like that one. We then found a kind of bar/grill place, so we decided to sit there for a while. They had all kinds of beer from all over the world, but of course we chose ones from Taiwan.

One of the bar workers offered us some shrimps (?) on sticks, so we decided to give them a try. They were coated in some kind of curry powder and tasted quite nice. I wasn’t brave enough to eat the head and tail, but after being told it was ok Jan did eat one whole. Later, Jan ordered some of a larger variety. I only ate one of those – I found it tasted bitter and not very nice, but Jan liked them. And we also decided to try a local craft beer that the bar had on offer. That was very nice! (And washed away the horrid taste of whatever that seafood on a stick was!)

Tasty beer and interesting food was the perfect way to round off our day of driving through the mountains.

~ Taiwan was my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare at Need Another Holiday and also counts towards my 35 before 35; item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before ~

921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan and Sun Moon Lake by night

On Wednesday, 27 August 2014, we left Taipei and set off down the West coast of Taiwan. It’s not a very interesting drive by the way – the motorway goes nowhere near the water and all the towns are industrial with very little to see – which is why every single guide book tells you to drive along the East coast (don’t worry, we did that on the way back… and it was spectacular!). Our destination was Sun-Moon Lake, but on the way we decided to stop at the 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan (formerly called the Earthquake Memorial Museum). The museum is a memorial to an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale that hit central Taiwan on 21 September 1999 and is located at the site of the former Guangfu Junior High School (some sources say elementary school), which was destroyed in the earthquake. The buildings have all basically been left as they were (with some propping up for safety!) so visitors can see the entire extent of the destruction. After paying for your entrance ticket, the first area of the museum you enter is the Chelungpu Fault Gallery, which crosses the actual fault line along which the earthquake struck. In there, you can see various photos of the aftermath of the earthquake – fallen bridges, destroyed railway tracks, collapsed buildings and people in emergency accommodation. After the gallery, the route takes you outside where you can see the school buildings. Luckily the earthquake struck at about 1 a.m. so nobody was in school at the time! Here are some of the photos I took:

(Click on the photos to see larger versions and read my captions)

There was also an Earthquake Engineering Hall in one of the former school buildings. In the hall, there was lots of information about how to build earthquake-proof buildings and secure items within your home against earthquakes. There were also various “hands-on” exhibits, where you could, for example, build various types of houses then simulate an earthquake and see which one collapsed first. The information board in the photos above is from the Earthquake Engineering Hall. Next, we headed into a newer building where there was a 3D film showing a story about the earthquake. The film was obviously aimed at children, but there were a few interesting bits. Then we moved on to another room. There, we were told to choose a cushion to sit on and not to move once the show had started. On one side of the room were objects that were just randomly placed on shelves, while on the other there were items that had been properly secured. First we were shown images of an ordinary school day (supposedly the day before the earthquake), then came a simulation of the 1999 earthquake. The lights went out – because it happened at 1 a.m. when it was dark – and the room shook. There was a brief pause, then came the aftershock. Once the quake was over, the screen continued to show images from the actual rescue effort that followed the earthquake. Then the lights came back on and we could see which how well the objects on each side of the room had survived the earthquake. All in all, the museum was a real eye-opener, especially coming from a country where an earthquake means a tiny tremor that may or may not even be noticeable. Seeing the devastation that the quake caused was sobering and certainly made you think about the power of nature! There is also a geological museum at the site which looked to have a lot of information, but unfortunately we were in a bit of a hurry by that point. Entrance to the earthquake museum is inexpensive and I would certainly recommend it! It’s a bit out of the way and I’m not sure how you’d get to it without a car, but I imagine there’d be bus trips from somewhere in the area.

Once we left the museum, we headed straight for our hotel beside Sun-Moon Lake. By the time we got there, it was clouding over and a few drops of rain had started to fall. Here’s the view from our hotel room window just before the heavens properly opened:

We had a “lake view” room, but mostly we saw the ticket office for the boats 😉 After dropping off our suitcases, we decided to head out despite the fact that it was now raining quite heavily. Food was needed as all we’d had all day was breakfast and a bag of M&Ms from a service station we stopped at on the road! First we headed down to the lake, of course.

Unfortunately it doesn’t quite unfold it’s true beaty in torrential rain 😉 Also, I’ve no idea what happened with the last photo… I’ve only just seen how blurry it is! After looking at the lake we went into a little souvenir shop where I bought postcards and we sampled then bought some rice wine. After wandering around for a bit and getting very wet, we finally decided where to go for food. It was a little road-side stand, but behind it was what looked like a converted garage with a few tables and chairs in! We chose one of each of the things in offer, all deep fried parcels. In the left-hand photo below you can see at the back a long, thin parcel which contained pork, cheese and onions, on the right a round one filled with cabbage and mushrooms and on the left a sort of flatish one that was filled with seaweed. We both loved the pork and cheese one so much that we ordered a second (that would be the terrible photo on the right 😉 ).

I wasn’t overly keen on the cabbage/mushroom one (I’m not a massive fan of cabbage and hate mushrooms!), but thought the seaweed one was tasty enough. I’ve already told you what we thought of the other one 😉 To go with our food, we were given a large cup of sweet iced tea. All Taiwanese cold drinks are sweet! Even the bottles of fruit juice had added sugar.

By the time we’d eaten, it was dark and late, so back to the hotel we went for a good night’s sleep before a full day of driving over mountains the following day! Before bed, I attempted to take a photo of the lake in the dark…

Taiwan

Yeah, the less said about it the better 😉 In my next post, you can look forward to some better photos of Sun-Moon Lake. I can promise you it is stunningly beautiful! Until next time, folks.

~ Taiwan was my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare from Need Another Holiday. It also counts towards my 35 Before 35, item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before ~

Taipei, Taiwan

Our first stop in Taiwan was Taipei, partly because it’s the capital city so it seemed like a good idea but also partly for the fairly obvious reason that it’s where we had to fly to! Jan had already been in Taiwan a week at that stage, but in a place just outside Taipei where the conference he was attending was being held. He moved to our hotel the day before I arrived and came to pick me up from the airport when I landed. We then picked up the rental car that Jan had booked for the week and drove to Taipei. I landed at around 4:30 p.m. so by the time I’d picked up my suitcase and we’d driven back to Taipei it was fairly late. I had a quick shower then there was only one thing to do… head out for food! We decided to head to the Shilin Night Market, which is among the most famous night markets. We ate spicy meat on sticks (like kebabs) and then steamed bread dumplings – one filled with meat and spices and one filled with either spring onion or chives. Both were delicious. Here are a few impressions from the market:

The next morning, we headed out bright and early after breakfast. It was already over 30°C and very humid, but since this was our only day in Taipei, out we had to go! Our first stop was Lungshan Temple (or Longshan… there are different spellings) because it had been recommended to Jan. It was certainly beautiful, but extremely crowded. A little boy burnt me with an incense stick! My favourite part was all the brightly coloured dragons adorning various parts of the roof. I took quite a few photos of them because I loved the way they looked against the bright blue sky.

Next, we headed towards the Dadaocheng district. Jan said there weren’t any useful Metro stops along the way, so we decided to walk. It was boiling hot and while we were walking we didn’t see a single place to buy a cold drink! Where we were staying, there were iced tea places on every corner, but not on the way to Dadaocheng! By the time we got there, I was so hot and thirsty I thought I might faint! We bought some what we thought was water at a tiny, dusty shop. Actually, it turned out to be something called “No Sweat”, a horridly sweet, vaguely medicinal tasting drink that I assume is supposed to be consumed after sports. I drank half of it anyway just because it was cold. The Dadaocheng District is one of the oldest parts of Taiwan. We walked down a street that seemed to consist solely of shops selling dried fruits and medicinal herbs. Seriously, every shop had the same selection of dried fruits! I wonder how any of them stay in business! At the top of the street was a little park with a statue of the Taiwanese songwriter Lee Lin-Chiu. An information board said that he used to live in the district and wrote many of his songs there.

On our way back down the street, we bought ice creams made using bean curd. They were interesting! Not as sweet as the icecream I’m used to. Them, since the main train station wasn’t too far away, we decided to go there because Jan wanted to show it to me and we could take the Metro from there. The main hall is huge, but feels surprisingly uncrowded! We spotted a bubble tea stand and decided to grab a drink. I wasn’t too impressed! You can see my reaction here. Then we hopped on a Metro, quickly stopped off at the hotel to pick up some more money and have a wash then headed to the 101 tower – probably Taipei’s most famous landmark. We got there just as the sun was setting, which made for a nice view. It then got dark very quickly!

Once we’d finished at the top of the tower, we headed back down to the bottom where there was a food court. We each took a set menu consisting of a soup, noodle dish and something else. Mine was supposed to come with pig’s blood soup but I was given the fish/meat soup from all the other menus. Not being able to speak Chinese, I’m not sure whether there was no pig’s blood soup or she assumed that as a Westerner I wouldn’t really want it. My shrimp sticks were delicious. In the picture below, on the plate behind the soup bowl furthest from me is oyster omelette… the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth! Even caviar (which I hate) is nothing compared to oyster slime! The meaty bits of oyster themselves were surprisingly okay, but the slime… ugh! Nothing could have prepared me for that!

Food, glorious(?) food!
Food, glorious(?) food!

Once we were back outside, we spent quite some time trying to take photos of the lit up tower (not easy without a tripod!), then it was time to head back to the hotel and repack our suitcases ready to leave for our next destination the following morning.

~ Taiwan was my August trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Claire at Need Another Holiday. It also counts towards my 35 before 35 as the destination for “Visit a continent I’ve never been to before~