Friday, February 28, 2014

The End to My Asia Trip

Thus ends my two month travel to Asia.
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Landing in San Francisco

I arrived in San Francisco around 6pm on Wednesday.

The flight From Manila to SFO was not too bad, I spent most of the time watching documentaries and movies. One documentary was on Jeff Bezos, the man behind Amazon, and the other was on Chris Sharma, one of the world's best rock climbers.

Customs took awhile to get through because there were many people in line.

Upon exiting, I had a difficult time finding the exit as well as means of getting home. I had two options on how to get home: shuttle or caltrain.

In the end, I opted to take the caltrain because it was much cheaper than a shuttle. I got home around 9pm.
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Layover in Manila, Philippines



Its about 9pm here in Manila, Philippines. The flight from Taiwan took 2 hours and the layover is another 2.

It'll be a 10 hour flight back to San Francisco where i hope to catch the caltrain down. The Manila airport is not very good, it's quite small and dirty.

The internet is fast though and there is HD NBA games streaming in front of me.
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Last Night in Taipei, Taiwan


On my second to last day in Taipei, I left Sylvia's apartment in the morning and headed off into the city to check into a hostel. At that point, I had stayed with Sylvia for probably a week or so and felt it was about time to give her some space.



I took the 307 bus from 南京東路公寓 to Taipei station and just as I was about to walk down the street to check in, Sylvia called and told me to stay the remaining day at her place. It was a little uncomfortable to have to rely on her again for a place to stay but she eventually convinced me to go back.

However, I had to burn an hour or so before I could meet up with her and drop my stuff back in her apartment so I just sat around 台北車站 and used their free internet.


At one point, some guy came up to me and asked me for money because someone stole his stuff. He told me to be careful of thieves as he told me his sob story. Needless to say, I did not give him any money because I've run into people like him before.

When I finally met up with Sylvia at 1pm, she let me back into the apartment, we got lunch, and she returned to work. I was planning on working out around the apartment and doing some reading but instead I fell asleep til 6pm. I think it was because the night before I was playing basketball again with Ah Kuang and my body was still not used to all that running all of a sudden.

At night, we all met up again and went to dinner. It was me, Ah Kuang, Sylvia, Charlie, and Nicole. For dinner, Sylvia chose this really nice all-you-can-eat BBQ place. It might have been a Korean BBQ place, I'm not sure, but it was definitely styled similar in its execution.


As usual, I made sure I had my fill of meat before leaving.

Afterwards, we split up, went back home, had a few more drinks, and called it a night.


It was a great way to end my last night in Taipei.

As an aside, I would say much of what made my last few days in Taiwan so wonderful was because of Sylvia. Of course the presence of my other friends, both new and old, helped made it great as well, but having someone put it all together while I just piggybacked was really convenient and relaxing. I truly hope that someday, I will get the chance to return the favor to my 2218 sister.
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Taipei Zoo, Taipei, Taiwan


On Tuesday I met up with Charlie and we went to the zoo.

Initially, the plan was to go hiking but for whatever reason, we ended up going to the zoo instead. I think it was a combination of how close the zoo was to the stop we were heading towards and the gondola next to the zoo. Charlie wanted to ride the gondola and so did I.



The zoo is impressively designed and is a great way to spend a day if you enjoy zoos. For me however, I don't like the zoo. I think it's a depressing place and the last time I went must have been 5-10 years ago.



At first, I took a lot of picture and videos, but after seeing some of the animals, I stopped. That's why I don't have a lot of pictures of the animals.




I would recommend going to the Taipei Zoo though if you like zoos.

Afterwards, me and Charlie just bounced from one place to another. One of the places we stopped by at was Dongmen. There we had lunch as well as some street food.


 




That day I decided to get a haircut. I think I got a haircut not because I needed one, but because me and Charlie had nothing to do. Either way, it was cheap and the cut was alright.

Eventually, we found ourselves at Daan park.





By chance, there was a basketball court there so I decided to play some pickup games. I ended up playing for 2 hours before splitting with Charlie and meeting up with Ah Kuang. Together, we then left to play an additional 3 hours of basketball before calling it quits and he dropped me off at Sylvia's.

I was incredibly grateful that Ah Kuang drove me all the way to Sylvia's because I wasn't sure if the buses were still running and because Sylvia wanted me home early since she was feeling sick and wanted to sleep. I think he went out of his way an hour just to drop me off.
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Weekend Getaway, Yilan, Taiwan


On Saturday, I took the train up north from HuaLian to Yilan to meet up with Sylvia, Cow Pig Fish, and Nicole.

To get around, the girls rented two motorcycles.





A few days prior, Sylvia looked around on the internet and found a bed and breakfast for us to stay in (宜蘭 冬山 樂芙民宿) . It was quite nice upon arrival and the owners were incredibly friendly.



After checking in at the B&B, we took off to get lunch. For lunch, we had noodles.



After lunch, we went across the street to a park to hangout. The park was beautiful and there were heaps of people there.





The park encompasses a man made lake and at the front are a lot of old trains no longer in service.






Although there was not much to actually do at the park besides walk, I think what made time pass so quickly as well as what made the time spent there so enjoyable was the company.




After the park, we headed towards Jiaoxi for the hotsprings.

Unfortunately, as we were riding, it started to rain and eventually pour. We pulled over to the side and waited for the rain to stop.



We waited for half and hour but the rain did not stop. So we decided not to go to Jiaoxi and instead, eat lunch at 正常鮮肉小籠湯 a few minutes down the street.


We then went to Luodong market but only briefly because the rain was just too much. We mostly just ate at the stalls and left once we were full.



After the market, we just went straight home because everyone was tired of being wet. It felt good to take a hot shower.


The next day, we took the train back up north to the hot springs and after, we returned back home to Taipei.
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Friday, February 21, 2014

Hiking Taroko Gorge, Hualien, Taiwan


Around 9am I headed to the train station to grab a bus to Taroko. The train station was bustling with people trying to get you to join their tour and some of them were pretty persistent. For about 230 TWD I got a roundtrip bus ticket to the park from Hualian.

At Taroko, there are many sights to see, I don't think you can see all of them in one day but you can definitely see the important ones before the sun sets. Supposidly, Taroko is the larged marble gorge in the world, more than 1,000 meters deep and it is because of the marble that the gorge still exists today.

I started off at the Taroko Park Headquarters, moved to Bulowan to hike the Swallow Grotto trail, and then finally to TianXiang to hike Baiyan waterfall trail. If I came here again, I would like to try the Shakadang trail.

There really isn't much to say about the first two places. The headquarter was pretty but nothing in comparison to the park itself.


The swallow grotto trail was nice as well but because I didn't complete the trail, I didn't get to see all it had to offer.








The very last bus stop is Tian Xiang. Tian Xiang is probably the most popular spot because that is where everyone has to go to begin their 2km+ hike to the waterfall caves.




To get to the trailhead, you need to walk along the mountain highway for less than 1km. There is no space designated for pedestrians, you just have to share with the cars.


Eventually, you come to the trail entrance which is nothing but a tunnel in the wall.


Beyond the tunnel though, the beauty begins.





Part of what makes the Baiyan trail interesting is the amount of tunnels you need to pass through. All of them are dark but because some of the are short, the light from the ends of the tunnel is enough to illuminate the way. For some of the longer tunnels however, you need a flashlight for sure.



The Baiyan trail is not difficult at all. It's flat the entire way and follows the river on its left side and the mountain on the right.








There are many places along the trail for hikers to stop but most of them choose to stop at the parts with waterfalls, after all, this trail is famous for its waterfalls.

As an aside, you absolutely need to bring an umbrella, sandals, or a swimsuit, to really enjoy the final sight which is the water curtain cave. The water on the ground is too high for your shoes not to get soaked and the water raining down from the cracks in the tunnel wall is too much to simply shrug off. If you don't plan on seeing the final sight on the Baiyan trail however, then don't worry about bringing something resists water.





I didn't know about this requirement so I was unable to see the water curtain cave. I tried going in but the water really was too much.

Tomorrow I head to Yilan to meet Sylvia, Cow Pig Fish, and Nicole.
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