Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sorry No Post This Week - I'm Sick

Hi Everybody:

Just a really quick note to let you know that I am sick and won't be posting this week. Hopefully, I will be back to my old self by next weekend and I will finish my last post on my vacation in Taiwan. Then I will be back to writing about South Korea again - as usually.

I think I have the flu. I missed all my Korean classes this week and even had to get a doctor's note and take one of my three yearly sick days from school. I am feeling a lot better already but I am still extra tired and weak. I'm just not up to sitting in front of the computer blogging right now.

I'm off to watch some tv until I fall asleep.

See you next week.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Taiwan Vacation - Part 2 - Green Island

Thursday, October 5th, 2006 "Ray" and I caught the ferry at the port in Taitung to Green Island. Green Island is an island of approximately 3,000 people but has become extremely popular during the summer because of the natural beauty and the wonderful coral reef that makes scuba diving and snorkling so enjoyable here. The ferry and planes to the island get booked up quickly even in the early fall so we had to get up and make sure to catch the first ferry at 8:30 am as that was the only option including plane or ferry that had any tickets available for that day.

This innocent looking boat caused me the most distress of any vechicle in my entire life. It was only a 50 minute ferry ride from Taitung to Green Island but it felt like it lasted FOREVER! I have never been sea sick in my life and I grew up around the water and boats - so being sea sick was a entirely new experience for me.

My Lonely Planet book that warned that in the winter in bad weather the ride good be rough. It says and I quote "During winter, boats run infrequently, if at all, due to choppy water. If you dare to take a boat during winter, prepare your stomach in advance and brace yourself for a very rough ride". It was early fall so I never dreamed it would be a problem. But when we boarded the boat and sat down the boat was rocking even while docked at the pier and I knew then I wasn't going to enjoy the ride. I took some travel sick pills but at that point [3 to 4 minutes before departing] it was too late for them to work.

The whole ride over I prayed and cursed my own travel planning and itinery and hoped that Green Island would be worth the hell it was getting there. Well, I am happy to report it was. However, if I am ever given the opportunity to go back [and I hope I am] I intend to plan far ahead and book a flight there and avoid the ferry altogether.

The touist office at the Taitung airport had helped us the day before confirm which ferry had tickets and even called and made us a reservation at the Par Far Hotel on Green Island. When I managed to crawl off the ferry in a very shaken and dizzy way I was relieved to see a man holding a sign with my name on it. It was a man from my hotel who had come to drive "Ray" and I to the hotel.

This is a picture of the main street of Green Island just outside our hotel. And, my first real glimpse of Green Island.

I took this picture from the window of our hotel room. After 45 minutes of lying on the bed I was able to bounce back from my sea sickness. I got up and grabbed my bag and set off to explore the island with "Ray".

We were able to rent mopeds from the woman who owned our hotel. She didn't speak much English but she still managed to communicate quite well with us. Of course, "Ray" and I have pantomime down pretty well after over 3 years of living in Korea.

We had to put gas into our mopeds and we had no idea how much money to put in. Luckily, one of the girls at the gas station spoke English and told us that $ 100.00 [Taiwan New Dollars - about $ 3.33 Canadian] would fill the mopeds - so that's what we put in. As, it turned out they don't take much gas and when we left late the next afternoon my bike still had 3/4 of tank of gas left. Oh, well live and learn.

My Lonely Planet book said that it would take about 30 minutes to drive around the island but it took us about 1 and 1/2 hours cause we stopped to take tons of pictures talk and admire the scenery. I took this picture of "Ray" with his Roots Canada backpack on driving his moped. Truthfully, neither one of us had ever driven any motorized cycles before but it didn't stop us from trying and I've got to say I am hooked. If I wouldn't get killed I'd get a moped of my own for Korea but the drivers here are just to scarey for that.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Green Island is that is was formed from a volcano and it has lots of igneous rocks. It looks a lot like I picture Hawaii but not so commerical [at least not yet].

The vegetation was so rich and lush. The green was so green that it almost didn't look real but like some Hollywood movie set or something.

There was a beautiful white sand beach [called Tapaisha or Dapaisha both spelling seemed to be used in English] and even better because it is the off-season and the number of people who can get to the island via the transportation available is limited it was deserted when we came across it. I think Green Island is one of the few unspoiled natural beauties left in Asia.

I took this picture of the coastline. When I looked at the water and the surf I understood why the ferry ride over had been so rough.

Another picture showing the vivid greens and blues of the scenery.

About half-way around the island we came upon this restaurant and store by the side of the road. We stopped to buy a cold drink and rest a few minutes. I took this picture because I was attracted to the blowing strings of the awning that to me look quite Polynesian. In fact, most of the people on the Island looked quite native. They had very dark skin and the men sported mulitiple tatoos. After living in South Korean which can be very conservative and conformist it was like a breath of fresh air to see people expressing diversity and looking like individuals again.

They were selling some kind of liquor with pieces of cut up antler honks in it. - I imagine it was for men to help increase their "stamina" or that's what it would be for in Korea - anyway.

I saw this fruit for sale everywhere in Taiwan and I wanted to try it but no one could tell me the English name for it or what it was exactly - so I didn't. I took a picture of it so I could look it up on the internet when I got back home. I found it out is called "Sweetsap". It is a custard apple. I wish now I had tried it. Ummm.... maybe I'll have to go back to Taiwan just to try it....

I saw some kind of fish drying on a line and I snapped a picture of it.

This is a picture of the Green Island airport. This will be the first sight a see next time I go to Green Island. Did I mention that I plan to fly there if I ever go back rather than take the ferry????

This is a picture of the Green Island Prison. It is now closed. It used to be a symbol of Taiwan's White Terror and used to house political prisoners who were thought to be too dangerous to house on the mainland of Taiwan.

This is the Green Island Lighthouse.

One of the reasons I wanted to come to Green Island was to go snorkling. I am not allowed to go scuba diving because of problems I have with my middle ears but I love to swim and I have always wanted to try snorkling. All these mopeds were parked outside the dive shop in town. They were for rent.

This shows all the people snorkling and scuba diving just outside Nanliao Harbour. This seemed to be the best place as there was a large coral reef and millions of beautiful fish.

I found a cheap underwater camera at the 7-11 store in town and I decided to try my hand at taking some underwater shots. I had to get my Recruiter at Kim and Joe Recruting in Busan to scan these pictures in for me so that I could up-load them to share. [Thank you Jessie and Amy.]

There were so many types of coral some I had never seen before. There was a vivid purple kind in small branches but it seemed to grow deeper and I wasn't able to get a good picture of it.

I saw this beautiful blue fish that reminded me of a book my Swiss penpal had sent me years ago. It was written in German and it was called "The Rainbow Fish".

Here is a picture of the surface on the water and some brain coral.

There were some dark colored fish, as well as, some fish that looked like gold fish except they had some black markings on them.

I took this picture of the surface of the water and I love the light and color. I love the light and texture so much and I had such a great time snorkling that I made it the screensaver on my computer. It calms me down and makes me smile when I look at it and remember my fablous vacation.

This shows staghorn coral. The color is not as brillant as it was taken quite deep in the water. The sunlight doesn't penetrate well that far down.

Here are some stipped fish. I love them.

The real attraction of Green Island is that it has one of only three natural hot salt water springs in the world. The other two are located in Hakkaido in Japan and on Mt. Vesuvius in Italy. This is the Chaojik Hot Springs on Green Island.

The beauty of the outdoor spa is that you can lazy around in the water and look at the volcanic rocks and the surf pounding below on the beach. Also, it was not crowded when we went since it was not the tourist season. It was so luxurious to have it almost completely to ourselves.

There was an indoor pool, too. It is lined with volcanic rocks so that even inside you can see and feel connected with nature.

Driving our mopeds back to the hotel we spotted a goat. He seemed as interested in peering at us as we were in tooking at him.

Another picture of the volcanic rocks that ring the island.

A smaller island just off the main island. Again, I am struck by the vivid colors.

Another picture of the coastline.

Some bamboo fences poles surround a beach on the island.

Friday, October 6th, 2006 "Ray" and I head back to the ferry to head back to Taitung. We went a little early so that I could sit and try and relax and calm down. This time I was prepared and took some Gravol [travel sick medicine from Canada - thanks mom - love the care packages :)] about a hour and a half before the ferry is scheduled to depart. And, I am happy to report I slept the entire way back to Taitung. Lots of other people got sick but I didn't. I am so glad my last ferry ride was okay so that it ended on a good note and hopefully won't leave me to scared to even take a ferry again.
There were some beautifully painted boats in the Naliao Harbour. They appear to be sight-seeing boats.

There is something about water and the coastline that is so peaceful and beautiful to me. I'm not sure if it's just that I grew up around the ocean or not but it just seems to restore me to sit near it and meditate on it's serenity. This Taiwanese man seemed to feel the same way and it make me see how some feelings transend language and culture and are universal in scope.

A picture taken from the stern of the boat watching the Taiwanese flag blow in the wind as Green Island disappears into the distance.
Next week I will conclude my vacation in Taiwan. I intended to finish it this post but I just had too many pictures and memories of Green Island to share.
Next week it is Taitung and Taipei.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Taiwan - "Touch Your Heart"

The tourism slogan for Taiwan is "Touch Your Heart". I adore Taiwan and so I love the slogan, too, for Taiwan did indeed touch my heart. I had the best time and made wonderful memories to last me a lifetime. It was a time of firsts for me: I went snorkling for the first time, rode a moped for the first time and tried some strange and exotic foods like frogs and snake soup.

I took a ton of pictures too many to post today so I decided to talk about my first three days in Taiwan this time and next week I will post more pictures and finish with the rest of my vacation in Taiwan.

Here is a sign outside a restaurant with the "Taiwan - Touch Your Heart" slogan on it. These signs are everywhere in the tourist areas.

We arrived at CKS: Chang Kai Shei Airport [the International Airport in Taipei] just before lunch on Tuesday, October 3rd. We headed for the information booth and got them to book a hotel for us. And found out that we could take the airport bus to the Main Train Station in Taipei and that our hotel was literally next door. We stayed at the Cosmos Hotel and it was so close to the train station. The MRT [the subway system in Taipei] is under the train station, too, so it proved to be a most convenient location. I took this picture of the train station from out hotel window.

We got off the airport bus to the side of the Main Train Station in Taipei. There were lines of these yellow taxi cabs watching us hoping for a fare but alas they were out of luck since our hotel was next door.

Walking through the Taipei Train Station at 1:03 pm and seeing only a handful of people was so shocking to me after the crowds of people in Korea that I stopped to take a picture and admire the peace and quiet. I'm glad I took this picture as I like the way the light falls in this image.

This is a picture of our hotel room at the Cosmos Hotel. It was clean and bright and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a convenient place to stay in Taipei.

I had been warned by one of my blog readers to take "moped repellent" to Taiwan. I thought he was exagerating but I found out that he wasn't. These mopeds are everywhere. I still didn't find them as reckless as the "autobi" drivers in Korea as for the most part in Taiwan or at least Taipei the mopeds seemed to drive on the roads and not on the sidewalks.

Our first night in Taipei we went to "Very Thai" a Thai restaurant I had read about in my Lonely Planet book. It was great. It was open until 2 am and in fact the later we stayed the busier it got.

"Ray" read the menu and decided we needed to try the frogs. We got the spicy ones knowing that after more than 3 years of eating Korean food we could handle spicy food and figuring that the fried frogs would be just too much like chicken. The spicy ones were good - a little boney but good.

The next afternoon we were off to the Sung Shan [the Domestic Airport in Taipei] to fly to Taitung.

Taintung is a smaller city to the South East of Taiwan. The reason we headed for it is that is is the gateway to Green Island. It is, also, the gateway for Orchid [Lanyu] Island - an area where most of the aborginals in Taiwan still live. Taitung celebrates is aborginal culture as you can see even in the telephone booth at the airport.

A picture outside the Taitung Airport. As you can see it is quite a small airport.

A fountain outside the airport.

The gift shop outside the Taitung airport.

The gift shop sells a lot of aborginal beadwork. It reminds me of the native Canadian beadwork.

The Tourist Information Center at the airport was able to not only book as a hotel in the nearby area of Chihpen [ a resort area famous for it's hot spring] but was able to arrange for our hotel to come and pick us up at the airport. We stayed at the Chihpen Hotel. This is a picture of the hot pools that I took from our hotel room window.

That night while "Ray" and I were taking a soak in the hot pools were looked up at the light fixture above us and saw a lizard. I guess he was drawn to the heat of the light.

I was amazed by the tall palm trees in the Chihpen area. It was so exotic looking.

We took a walk before dinner and found this waterfall. It was beautiful and so natural. Unfortunately, the light was fading and to get enough light I had to use a long exposure and I guess I jiggled a tiny bit and slightly blurred the picture. Darn it!

I enjoyed seeing some nature after the concrete jungles in Korea. I just couldn't get enough scenic beauty.

Walking around Chihpen after dinner we came across a temple by the side of the road. We stopped to take a closer look.

A closer look at the temple.

Even the foliage was so exotic looking.
Next week I'll post the rest of my Taiwan pictures and talk about my trip to Green Island and the night markets in Taipei.