Tuesday, December 29, 2009

*Christmas Cheer*

(Post by Alisha)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our friends and family! We missed all of you at this time of year, but we loved and will cherish the unique experience of the beautiful Christmas weekend we spent together here in Taiwan.

I was a little nervous that Christmas was going to be a holiday letdown akin to the turkeyless Thanksgiving we suffered through, but I was very happy with the way our festivities turned out.

The school allowed the foreign teachers to take off Friday (without pay, however), but we were happy at least to be granted a three-day weekend. Bacon and I spent a delicious morning enjoying a late brunch filled with some goodies from the Christmas package his parents sent, sipping eggnog, and watching a few classic holiday films. Christmas night we went to a hip restaurant in downtown called People Restaurant. The Chinese fusion cuisine was amazing and the atmosphere had a very sleek post-industrial feel with romantic touches like a wall dotted with fresh roses- it was well worth the slightly pricey menu. After dinner, we took a leisurely walk through the city among all the twinkling Christmas lights and decorations.

The next day we headed off mid-afternoon for our weekend in Beitou, an area 20 minutes north of Taipei filled with natural sulfurous hot springs. Because of the Japanese occupation, many of the older buildings, temples, and resorts in Beitou are built in beautiful Japanese tradition. We were able to view the Geothermal Scenic Area more commonly known as Hell Valley, so named because of its boiling springs shrouded in pillars of steam. Shortly after dipping our feet in the steamy public hot springs river, we headed up the mountain to check into our springs resort, Whispering Pine Inn.

The resort pipes in the hot springs straight from the natural sources in Beitou, and in addition to a large stone tub for guests of the resort, we also had our own private stone pool in our room. We checked in and soon trekked further up the winding path until we found a restaurant our guide book recommended, Shann Garden. It was tucked away high up in the mountain with a beautiful view of the city below, and it was one of the best eating experiences we've had so far in Taiwan. It was an upscale buffet that featured Mongolian-style BBQ, where you get to pick your own thinly sliced meats and veggies and have them cooked on a huge stone slate in front of you. Bacon and I had beef, pineapple, green tomato, onion, peppers, and fiery red chilis all cooked in sesame oil and soy. We also enjoyed dumplings, stir-fried veggies, salad, noodles, shrimp, fresh fruit, mango frozen yogurt, and, of course, all you can drink teas and soda. After dinner, we spent the rest of the night soaking away the winter chill (yes, it was a very frosty 55 degrees) in the hot springs and drinking champagne. It was a wonderful weekend getaway.

Now we're looking forward to another short week with Friday off for New Years. This will be the last post in 2009- ready to see what will unfold in 2010!
Monday, December 28, 2009

Beitou Hot Springs Video

Monday, December 14, 2009

Staring Contest: You and Me

(Post by Alisha)
Last Thursday night, a few of the Chinese teachers we work with took us out to a Taiwanese restaurant for dinner. It's such a treat going out with people that speak the language, especially in Sansia as translated menus or even ones that include pictures are scarce. We often reluctantly pass by restaurants that look fun or smell tempting because we wouldn't know how or what to order.

The restaurant they took us to was very darkly lit and completely decorated in black and red. The menu was split into two categories: big hot pot or teppanyaki with small hot pot. We all chose the second option- I got a spicy pepper chicken teppanyaki and Bacon got a sesame Asian barbecue chicken teppanyaki.

In case you forgot, Hot Pot is an extremely popular Taiwanese dish where several items- oysters, shrimp, meat, rice noodles, mushrooms, fish paste, and tofu- are boiled together in a pot with broth. We have yet to discover the reason for its popularity, but a small pot is okay to pick at the few tasty items- love the oysters. (Game: How many items can you identify from the hot pot in the picture?) Like a lot of Taiwanese restaurants, it was b.y.o.b so we also got to bring in our own drinks, cheap and fun. Speaking of cheap, our whole meal only cost 120 NT, or under $4 U.S.

The food was surprisingly very delicious, and we had a blast hanging out with some of the Chinese teachers sharing cultural observations back and forth. One example of this that came up during the course of eating is the fact that in Taiwan, they usually keep the head, feet, eyes, etc. on their food, and obviously in America, that is not the norm. It's a little unappetizing to see a whole shrimp looking up at you from your pot of food - beady eyes and all, but of course Bacon couldn't resist a staring contest with it.

Sweet somethings

(Post by Alisha)

Here's just a quick picture of a beautiful flower Bacon bought me this weekend at a Farmer's Market on Old Street. Every night it's petals close tightly and the next morning they open widely to reveal this vibrant purple blossom.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Directions to the MRT from Sanxia

(Post by Bacon)
Many people find directions confusing back home. For many it's a big hassle trying to get around without a GPS. Well those people would go crazy here in Taiwan. The roads constantly change names for no apparent reason, they never run in a straight line, street signs are a luxury to find and even then they'll only have English on them 50% of the time. Add that to the fact that there are no real driving laws and you'll have a very frustrating/scary time trying to get around.
I'm posting my directions to the Far Eastern Hospital MRT stop via scooter to show everyone back home how crazy the roads are here, and this post should really help the foreigners who already live in Sanxia/Shansia/Sansia/SOONSIAA (or whatever way you insist on spelling it). It's only a 20 minute scooter ride, but it's crazy. Click the read more link below to get the directions.

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