2013 has been a whirlwind of activity. My latest endeavor is to redo my website (released today). Along with this I’m trying to incorporate a blog and photo blog into the website. I also want to have with some connections to Facebook and other social media that I use.
In this post, I’m reflecting on my travels. In Dec/Jan, I had the opportunity to visit Taiwan and Thailand. It was my second time in Taiwan and my second trip to Asia and my first to Thailand. While I’ve traveled quite a bit, until recently, I’ve never been to Asia. Most of my travels have been to Europe which often incorporates a trip to see family in England. Strangely, my father lived and worked in different Asian countries which makes my lack of travel to Asia even odder.
Nevertheless, it was also a first in traveling with my camera after taking up photography seriously. Because of this, the agenda included places of visual interest. My partner in this trip, I thank Maurice for setting it up the trip, for being ever so patient with me, and for serving as an unofficial photo assistant.
Taiwan is a thoroughly modern place with Taipei, a thoroughly urban big city. Many of the newer large buildings are adorned with led lights. This made for a contrast to even San Francisco where we only recently put led lights on the Bay Bridge. At the start of my trip, the ticket agent at EVA Air at SFO told me that I was lucky to be traveling to Taiwan for Christmas. For me, it was a surprise to see so many Christmas decorations in a country where there aren’t a significant number of Christians (<5%). But the Taiwanese do seem to enjoy bright lights, which made this trip especially fun for a guy who likes night photography.
The mountain village of Jiufen with its small curved streets lined with restaurants, food stores, gift shops and temples was nice to wander around catching panoramic views. When in Taiwan, good, delicious food is never too far away. We stopped and had noodle soup in an unusual little restaurant. The walls were covered with images of the well dressed owner posed at different locations. We left Jiufen just in time to avoid a downpour.
After leaving Taipei we went to Taroko National Park on the eastern side of Taiwan, which is more remote and less populated. Fortunately we had booked train tickets since the one road leading to the East coast had been damaged by a storm earlier in the month. The park is made up of gorges carved by the water and rivers that flow though the area. The exposed marble found in the mountains is especially beautiful. Luckily, we spent the night in a beautiful hotel that sits in the middle of the park. After a dinner of indigenous cuisine from a nearby restaurant, we came back to the hotel for some traditional music on the rooftop garden. Early in the morning I woke up to explore the nearby area that was enshrouded with clouds and a nearby temple set across a bridge and nestled in the hillside.
The other notable thing about Taiwan is the incredible hospitality of the friends and family that we met. Everyone wanted to take us to eat the most delicious foods and take us to the most interesting places. Maurice’s high-school friend took us around her city, Hualien, and the nearby lake. I got to see a city that many visitors to Taiwan would have missed.
On the train, we left the East coast heading south and ending up on the lower west side of Taiwan, in Kaohsiung where Maurice lived for over 20 years. I really enjoyed my second visit to Taiwan’s second largest city (2.7 million inhabitants). It was right before New Year’s and during the winter holiday, and all the hotels were booked. We stayed in the unique and unusual Single Inn. The following day, we met Maurice’s good friend, Julian and had the most delicious dinner (I still can remember it). We got bicycles from the city bike service and road down to the Love River which goes through town. We ended up in the Arts District with music and street art everywhere. Brightly painted shipping containers, covered with art, allowed working spaces for artists. After a lot of picture taking we rode along the Love River to a place where beautifully lit building sit along the river. It was a memoriable New Year’s Eve.
A few days later, we took the high speed rail to Taichung. After a wonderful seafood meal, we enjoyed going to the night market (where there is even more that you could eat). In the night markets, you can find many favorite Taiwanese foods, many people enjoying them, and lots of of brightly colored signs. We spent the following day traveling through the countryside and stopping at Sun Moon Lake, a beautiful area where many Taiwanese come for vacation. On leaving the lakeside town we stopped at an colorful, brightly lit model of a palace that had been built for a festival that was going to occur.
After just over a week in Taiwan, we were heading to Bangkok …..