Friday, September 25, 2009

Penghu Love

(Post by Alisha)
Visiting Penghu Island was without a doubt the favorite part of our vacation. We island-hopped, snorkeled in tropical zones, swam in blue waters, scootered through beautiful landscapes, and visited one of the oldest temples in Taiwan. Staying at the awesome Penghu Whale Homestay was part of the reason we got to experience as much as we did. Each morning they made us a freshly prepared Taiwanese breakfast- my favorite was a seafood rice porridge (complete with squid tentacles) and a giant pork and veggie puff. And for $15 per person a night for a place a few minutes away from the beach, you can't really beat it. The first night we arrived, one of the Homestay staff members took us out to see a couple of century old houses, sample wild cacti blossoms, and check out the gorgeous views from some basalt cliffs. The cactus she carefully cut off for us to try was bright pink in color and tasted sweet with a sour grapefruit-like after taste.

On day two we took a ferry on a multi-island tour, which probably ended up being my favorite day. I was overwhelmed by the peaceful atmosphere and break-taking views; the simple beauty of everything we saw had a very euphoric affect on me and I felt as if I could have spent all day just observing and wandering around this tiny, stunning island of Taiwan. It was one of those times that yanked me out of the reality of my daily life and shook me with the realization- "You're in Taiwan!" We spent an hour and a half touring the first island and taking in sights like Twin Hearts Stone Weir, pictured above, and then took a half-hour ferry trip to the next island, where we had a secluded beach all to ourselves. On the third day we went snorkeling, another highlight of our Penghu experience, but I'll save that for another post.
(Click image to enlarge)
The nightlife and going out to eat was also a great part of Penghu. One night we had dinner at a delicious, laid-back restaurant called RipCurl that's owned by an Australian surfer and went out afterwards for some of the island's specialty purple cactus drinks at a fun bar and restaurant called Sunny Colony. The last night of our trip, one of the homestay workers invited us out for "barbecue" with her and her friends. In America, usually when you hear barbecue you think of a casual burgers and hotdogs event, so we weren't really sure what to expect since those aren't typical Taiwan menu items. We ended up scootering to a cool outdoor patio filled with wooden picnic tables that were all set up with simple grills in the middle. You go up and pick your seafood, meat, and veggies, grab a few beers, and you're set. We tried some fantastic salty oysters and had a really fun time hanging out with some of the Penghu locals. We considered it a great end to an even better vacation. We'll definitely be going back at some point before we leave Taiwan.
Thursday, September 24, 2009

A beautiful oasis

(Post by Alisha)
This excursion still lingers on my mind as a day of pure enjoyment. There is nothing quite like taking a 15 minute cab out of the smoggy city only to discover yourself wonderfully enclosed in a paradise of green leafy vegetation and teal-green rivers. Jenny, Bacon and I hiked for a few humid hours, drinking in the sights of waterfalls and tropical canopies along the way, until we decided we were ready for the second half of our trip. Our plan was to get roasting hot with a nice-paced hike and then catch a cab or bus to a place further down that had some pretty good swimming spots. However, when we emerged from our hiking trails back out onto the main road, we were dismayed to discover that taxis would take us to our hiking spot, but would not be waiting around for a return journey. Luckily, I am used to plans going awry and just going with the flow, so while level-headed Bacon and Jenny were starting to get flustered, I suggested we just keep walking along the road to see what we might happen upon. After about 15-20 minutes of trudging along in the unrelenting sun (and still about 45 minutes from the swimming place we had planned on going to), we all heard the faint sounds of splashing and rushing water. Without a second thought, we turned off the road and followed a little dirt path around the corner, stumbling right into our very own desert's oasis. In the midst of a circlet of fern-like trees blowing in the wind there was a fairly large, crystal-clear pool of water with a small cliff towering on one side and a mini-waterfall pouring into it from the back end. A few Taiwanese people sat on the rocky banks and motioned us down. We had to cross about 10 feet of thigh-high rapids to make it to the spot ideal for swimming. For the rest of the afternoon, we swam around and did some very fun, probably semi-dangerous cliff-jumping under the tutelage of a Taiwanese man who went before us to "prove" it was safe. When the sun dipped behind the clouds we finally decided to drag ourselves away and managed, by a stroke of luck, to find a cab ride home. It was definitely one of the highlights of our time spent in Taipei.

(Click image to enlarge)
Sunday, September 20, 2009

228 Peace Memorial Park

(Post by Alisha)
So for the first few days that Jenny was in Taiwan we decide to "do" Taipei. A couple of days were devoted to the standard musts, such as gazing up at Taipei 101 and ordering plates of dumplings at Din Tai Fung, but we did enjoy finding several new places to traipse around as well. The 228 Peace Park was one of our favorites for a quiet stroll through pretty landscaping, a sobering reflection on a period in history, and a look at some impressive architecture. The 2-28 Incident was an utter massacre by the KMT of peaceful demonstrators and a violent suppression of the anti-government uprising in Taiwan in 1947. The park is a great and beautiful memorial; I just wish that some of the plaques and statues would have been written in English.

Another cool place Jenny and I found on one of our girls shopping day was a restaurant called Slack Season Tan Tsi Noodles. The chefs cook large pots of long, sinuous noodles over charcoal-fired pots right near the entrance. For 50NT ($1.50 U.S.) we each got a steaming bowl of beef Tan Tsi noodles with a pink shrimp on top. After our lunch, we stopped at a funky little frozen yogurt shop right next door and split a tasty bowl of raspberry delight topped with fresh strawberries. Although on a small scale, the combination of the two eating experiences is a classic example of the harmonious nature between traditional Taiwanese culture and the contemporary economic trends. Another example of this would be the fact that there is excellent modern health care here as well as authentic Chinese herbal medicine practices. Rather than creating a culture clash, as one may expect, the mix of new and old works side by side in a remarkably balanced fashion.
(click to enlarge)

We're back!

In true Alisha fashion, I've been dealing with the incredible amount of information we have about our vacation by simply trying to avoid it for a bit :) However, Bacon has started to compensate for this by posting a few awesome videos that definitely capture the beauty and spirit of some of the places we visited. Now I will try to overcome my fear of organization by trying to sort through some of our experiences to give you a few hodge-podge peeks at what our trip was like. 高兴回来! Happy to return...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taroko Gorge Video

Monday, September 7, 2009

Penghu Island Video

We had an awesome time at Penghu and the surrounding islands. Here is a video montage (Artist: Matt & Kim, Song: Daylight).

It wouldn't have been half as much fun if we didn't stay at the Penghu Whale Homestay. They literally helped us with everything: snorkeling, scooters, ferry rides, food, airport pick-up and drop-off. If you're a Taiwan visitor and reading our website then check out their website HERE.

The Next Video Should Be?

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