Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quick MRT Video

(Post by Bacon)
Because we will only be in Taiwan for a year it would be very impractical for us to by a car. I would love to by a moped, but because people drive crazy go nuts it would probably result in me getting into a horrible accident. So like many people here in Taiwan, we use public transportation - so far we have been surprised by how convenient and easy it is. The bus routes are pretty simple once you get used to the schedule and the MRT (subway) is great. I decided to make a 30 second video giving a quick explanation of the MRT for all you back home wondering how we get around in the large city of Taipei.
Monday, May 18, 2009

Fulong Beach 福龍

(Post by Alisha)
On my birthday weekend, Robert and I decided to go to Fulong Beach in Northern Taiwan. It took us around 2 hours of total travel time to get there: 45 minutes to Taipei Main Station on the MRT and an hour and 15 minutes by the TRA (Taiwan Railway Administration). The weather was sunny and sticky, but there was a nice breeze that brought some relief from the baking sun and humidity. We had heard there was a free section of the beach, but now knowing where this elusive entrance was located, we made our way in through the private section where we paid the small fee of 80 NT (around $2.50 U.S.). The beach was beautiful, with golden sand, small blue and white-capped waves, and best of all, no crowds. At first we thought this was due to the fact that it was Mother's Day weekend, but when we left around 5 p.m., hordes of people were starting to cram their way down the bridge walkway towards the beach. (In contrast to American culture, where people will pay money to sit in tanning booths or at the very least enjoy the effects of the sun and a little color that comes along with it, most Taiwanese avoid the sun as much as possible. You will see the same number of umbrellas up on sunny days as you will rainy ones, and most of their lotions and makeup feature skin-whitening. I've had women run up to me in the street while I've been wearing a tank top in 90 degree weather and point at my arms in genuine concern!)

In addition, we discovered that a large portion of Taiwanese don't know how to swim- we find this slightly odd considering they live on an island. However, this is starting to change with the younger generation and the effort towards a greater emphasis on leisure activities. (The Taiwanese work ethic makes it hard to have a life and identity separate from their jobs, let alone room to idly participate in recreational activities).

As we walked down onto the beach, we saw about 100 feet of buoyed area where people could "swim" in. For Bacon and I (granted we're American-sized ogres,) it only reached about mid-calf- so about waist-deep for Taiwanese....ahh, just kidding. But if anyone even went out a foot further, the lifeguards started furiously blowing their whistles and waving their arms. After about 5 minutes of this annoyance, we looked to our left at the expansive stretch of beautiful beach and ocean, sans the lifeguards and safety devices, and quickly made our way over to the free section.

We spent the rest of the afternoon laying in the sun, playing in the waves, and taking walks down the length of Fulong. I couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate my 23rd :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Yangmingshan National Park Video

(Post by Bacon)
Below is a video that I made from our trip to Yangmingshan National Park. The park is absolutely huge and there was no way that we would be able to see everything in one day, but I think the video does a good job of capturing the park's natural beauty. We are planning on heading back to the park a few times before our year trip is over and maybe I'll add to this video later on.

Street Food: Shilin Night Market 士林夜市

(Post by Alisha)
I thought everyone would be interested in seeing some of the traditional street food , or "little eats." A couple of weekends back we went to the Shilin Night Market- it's one of the biggest and most famous in Taipei. You can almost taste the food in the air here with every other vendor selling some kind of Taiwanese treat. Teas, juices, sweet potato fries, dumplings, bbq squid, stinky tofu, Shilin sausages- it's all here...along with plenty more we couldn't identify. Enjoy-!
Squid on a stick
Saturday, May 2, 2009

Jianguo Jade/Flower Market

(Post by Alisha)
Hey everyone! The weeks are flying by here, so every weekend we try to pack a lot in and experience what Taipei has to offer. This Saturday was one of my favorites so far- we went out and explored the Jianguo Jade/Flower Market and, for Robert, Guanghuo Market (computer nerd-heaven).

We hit the Guanghuo Market first, which is an enormous building that houses a maze of computers, video games, and every other electronic device and accessory you could imagine. It had enough technological trinkets inside to keep him busy for a while...suffice it to say that he enjoyed it immensely.

Next up, we eventually found our way to the Jade Market, and it was amazing. It takes place under the Jianguo Elevated Freeway, and there are seemingly endless rows of stalls and vendors showcasing and selling their jade products. There was a wide range of jade jewelry, carvings, stones, teapots, and antiques, and about the same variance in quality. We read a few tips before we went in determining the quality and authenticity of jade, and it was pretty easy to tell what was real and what was fake or low-quality.

Beautiful pieces of jade

In addition, we have found that Taiwan, in contrast with several other Asian countries, is very helpful to foreigners, oftentimes giving them discounts rather than trying to rip them off. We have encountered enough of this Taiwanese friendliness ourselves to know this to be true. It ranges from simple things like helping us to the right bus stop/pointing us in the right direction (when we obviously have the look of clueless Westerns on our faces,) to a man in the flower market trying to give us a giant bag of planting mulch free of charge.

As we perused the jade jewelry section- my area of interest- I noticed one beautiful cream jade flower necklace in particular that I happened to like...hmm, with my birthday in a week, I'm hoping someone may have gotten the hint :)

The Flower Market is conveniently located right across the street from the Jade Market, and it is filled with gorgeous flowers and interesting plants, my favorites being the orchids. For about 6 dollars I got some beautiful magenta orchids in a ceramic pot.

After walking around the markets for about 6 hours, we finally headed over to a NY-style pizzeria a friend at work told us about. Larry's Pizza did not disappoint- it was our first good slice of pizza since being here! Delicious, thin-crust, topping-filled pizza on the outside deck was a great (and tasty) ending to yet another outing in Taipei.

The Next Video Should Be?

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