Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 12 (part 2), 13, and the trip home

I need to finish the posts about the trip to Taiwan before I forget or get too busy doing things here. The evening after the last time I wrote they had a lady come who was going to thread the hairs off our faces. I didn't really understand why, but they think it is very healthy and attractive to rip the peach fuzz off your face. This hurts way way bad. The first thing this lady did was pull our head hair away from our faces with a hair net/band thing. After that she covered our faces with this chalk stuff that smelled kind of weird that she said would help the hairs come out better. She then wrapped a long piece of string around her fingers and went to work.

The part that hurt the worst for me was around the edges of my face by my normal hairline. I don't know if this was because she was getting longer hairs that she didn't intend to yank out or if that is just a more sensitive area on me or what. I was trying to summon strength from within, go to happy places, and clenching every muscle I could think of to stop myself from jumping out of the stool I was sitting on. Luckily I made it to the end of my turn and she plucked out a few of my stray eyebrows for good measure.
After me it was Jon's turn. The process went down the same way; hairnet and chalk
Then hair ripping.
He was doing all that he could to summon strength etc., but I could tell this was hurting. I don't know how I looked when she was plucking me, but the winces and groans were probably similar. After he was done I knew he was not happy. He was a very good sport about it because Lloyd had wanted us to try this for some reason. I thought his hair looked funny when the lady pulled the hairnet thing off so I took a picture.
Jon wasn't too happy for the rest of the night after this because it hurt him way way bad. I don't really think that either of us will ever have our entire faces threaded again. I would consider it for doing my eyebrows or something but ripping of my invisible peach fuzz seems pointless. After this we pretty much just went to bed. I managed to get a picture of the other room that we stayed in for a few night when some of the family was there for the wedding. You can tell from the picture that it is quite a bit smaller than the other room.
The next day we packed up our stuff and went out for a little bit to grab a few things that we decided we wanted to bring back. After that we went back to Lloyd's made sure everything was packed and didn't weigh too much. We ate some food that Lloyd brought us. This was kind of scary. I ate a soggy sandwich thing with strange meats and vegetables in it that I couldn't tell what they were because it was all crammed in the hogie bun and covered in some sauce stuff. I ate most of one of those and then tried some soupy stuff. The soupy stuff had a clear brownish broth that was kind of sweet and it had chunks of something white and ice floating in it. I ate some and the white stuff made me think of mayo for some reason and that thought kind of made me lose my appetite because the idea of mayo in a gelatinous blob kind of grossed me out so I made Jon finish that for me. Lloyd and his girlfriend drove us to the airport and waited as we checked our luggage. They even took a picture of us with the tomato head man. I have no idea why his head was a tomato, but his shirt said I heart Taiwan and he had a laptop so we took a picture.
They didn't hang around at the airport for too long with us because Lloyd's girlfriend had class that night. We went through security and as we were walking to our gate I heard someone saying our names. A member from one of Jon's areas who works for the airport had found out our flight information and met us on the other side of the security check. I thought that was really cool that he would do that. He took us up this secret restaurant lounge place and told us we could eat whatever we wanted. I wasn't really hungry because I had forced myself to eat the most of the sandwich and Jon wasn't really hungry either. I still ate and apple and had some juice and Jon had some ice cream and soda. It was pretty cool to be in this little fancy pants place, but I felt bad that we had just eaten because this guy had probably paid for us to eat. We chatted with this guy for a while and when it was about half an hour before we could board the plane we headed over to the gate.

We waited for a little bit and then got on the plane. I stayed awake the whole flight and watched some random movies and episodes of TV shows. I also listened to music and crocheted a hat. It is a little too small for me so maybe I will give it to Alexis or something. They gave us dinner on the plane and the options were pork or fish. Jon went with the pork, so I went with the pork (both options didn't sound too great to me). The pork ended up being a very good choice. I didn't eat any of the meat but I stirred the meat around with the noodles and veggies it came with and ate the noodles and veggies and it was good. They also gave us breakfast toward the end of the flight. This time I got the omelet because I knew the porridge was a bad idea. The omelet wasn't anything amazing but it came with yogurt and fruit and it was edible. We landed in LAX earlier the same day we left from Taiwan. That was kind of exciting because we went across the dateline and just met the sun on the other side of the ocean.

We got off the plane and went trough customs and got out luggage x-rayed. This took forever. I was kind of worried that we might not make our next flight, but it as fine and we ended up getting to the gate of our next flight with like 45 minutes to spare. We got on the flight back to Salt Lake City and I listened to this guy and girl flirting pretty much the whole time. We made it to Utah and my mom picked us up from the airport and drove us to Jon's parents house where we picked up our car and drove home. We were tired, but we made it and I was able to sleep well because I didn't sleep on the plane, so i think I got over the jet lag... hopefully. We also had a surprise waiting for us when we got home but I will have to write about that later because this is already long enough and its late. It is nice to be home.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 10, 11, & 12- The beach and Taoyuan

Saturday we went to Yilan (this is pronounced ee-lawn) to go to the beach with Lloyd and his girlfriend. It was super fun. We left his house around 9:30 then picked up his girlfriend and drove to the coast. We got to drive through the longest tunnel in Taiwan. It was really long I doubt anyone could hold their breath while going through it because it took us like 20 minutes to drive through. When we got to the beach it was cloudy but really hot and kind of stuffy feeling because of the humidity. We walked over to a surf shop place and Lloyd rented surfboards and told us that we were going to have a surfing lesson. I was pretty excited because I had never been surfing and I thought it would be fun to try it out. We put on the yellow shirt things they gave us and walked back out to the beach where we picked up our surfboards and got the first part of our lesson while still on the sand. This guy showed us how we were supposed to get on the surfboards and how to get up on them. Jon translated the lesson for me because of course it was in Chinese. Luckily he was showing us while he was talking so I was able to catch most of it without needing it translated. The surfboards they had us use were huge because i guess that makes it easier for beginners.
After our dry lesson on the sand we went out to meet our instructor in the water. He showed us a few things and then just had us go at it. I was surprised because it wasn't really that hard for me to stand up on the surf board. True we weren't tackling any monster waves or doing anything crazy like that, but i was able to get it pretty quick. The beach was actually pretty crowded so we tried to go where there weren't really any people. I found out that there weren't really any people over where we were because the water got pretty choppy because waves came in from two different angles. This probably made it harder on us as we were trying to learn, but I only ran in to one person with my surfboard and it would have been more had we tried somewhere else. Sadly my ability and desire to surf came at a price. As you can see from the picture my board was really big and so getting it out into the water and hefting that thing around was pretty difficult. I have a pretty good bruise on my hip from trying to hold it. One time after riding a wave in I jumped off the surfboard and landed kind of weird on the sand and sprained my ankle. It didn't hurt too bad at the time so i just kept on surfing. Among my other wounds from surfing was a pretty bad rashy thing on my legs. I think it was from the sand and laying on the board and the water some how. Now it looks a bit better- it is more like a bunch of red dots scattered across my thighs and it only hurts if I touch it.

I think the worst battle wound, besides my ankle, was my knee. I can't remember exactly how it happened but somehow a wave caught my surfboard and the fin on the bottom of the board whacked me super hard in the knee. I have a pretty good bruise from that too. After surfing until we were really hungry we went in and had some lunch. Jon and I shared a box lunch thing with rice, meats, veggies, an egg, and some tofu. I didn't really eat any of the meats because I didn't want to, but I ate enough rice and stuff to be satisfied. After eating lunch we went back out to the water again to surf some more. This time I had Jon bring the camera so we could try to get some pictures. We switched off who was surfing and who was taking pictures so we wouldn't get the camera wet. Jon, Lloyd, and his girlfriend all had a pretty hard time getting up on their surfboards, but I did manage to get this awesome picture of Jon where it looks like he was an awesome surfer.

Sadly, when we went back out to the water after eating lunch I was pretty tired so I had a harder time getting on my feet and getting the board out where i wanted it. Jon did get a few good pictures.
Even though I was tired we did manage to get one video of me riding on a baby wave. Surfing was way fun and I think I would like to try it again sometime.
video
After we were done at the beach we dropped off our surfboards and got back in the car. We headed into town and got some ice cream. Jon and I both got pineapple because the other flavors were weird things like purple rice, taro, and red bean (taro and red bean can be good, but I just wan't in the mood). After ice cream we got some scone-type things. I really liked these. I can't remember what they were called but it was a fried round flatish scone like thing with an egg and green onion omelet thing on it. I don't know if it was because I was really hungry from the beach or what but it was FANTASTIC!

After eating Lloyd took us to a spa where you put your legs in a pool and fish come and nibble at you. The camera died at the beach and we didn't have any spare batteries so we didn't get any pictures of this. At first when I put my feet in and the fish came it tickled like crazy. I got more used to it after a while. The fish in the pool just looked like goldfish, so i don't know if only special fish will nibble your dead skin off or if any goldfish would. The fish liked nibbling at my ankles because there was some nice dead skin there for them to feast on. Once the fish were done nibbling we left the spa and drove back to the Taipei area.

We dropped off Lloyd's girlfriend and then met his mom and aunt for dinner. We went to a steak place and it was pretty good. The steak wasn't anything amazing, but there were a few appetizer type things that they gave us before the steak which were very tasty. One was a soup thing where on the bowl there is a bread/pastry dome covering the soup and you smash that down into the soup and eat it in the soup. This was delicious. The soup reminded me of a thin corn chowder. Another one of the appetizer things that was really good was this little bowl of casserole stuff. On the bottom there were some penne-type noodles and it was cheesy and had little shrimp in it. Yum. Honestly this was probably the best meal I have had in Taiwan. I was glad that I ordered a sirloin steak because on the menu it didn't say how many ounces the steaks were or anything and I figured sirloins are usually smaller and have less fat than other steaks. My steak still seemed pretty big, but with my appetite from a day at the beach I was able to conquer my steak and all the previous courses. Jon and everyone else got these massive steaks that I would not have been able to finish half of. The way they cook their steaks must be different than we cook them because they have less flavor and a different texture. Even though the steaks weren't the best I've ever had I really enjoyed that meal.

After dinner we stopped at the house for Lloyd's mom and aunt to grab their swimming stuff because we were going to go to some hot pools and they wanted to come with us (we were still in our swimming stuff from going to the beach earlier). We drove up into the mountains and stopped at a few places but their hot pools were under construction luckily we found a place that had some open that we could go to. We told Lloyd that we wanted to go to the ones where you wear swim suits, so he made sure we didn't end up at the naked ones. At first when he was talking about them I thought that these were natural hot springs but after going to them I don't really think they were. There were a bunch of pools of various temperatures with bubbly seats and high pressure shower things. It was pretty fun and relaxing, but I realized that the hot water was not doing good things for my sprained ankle so I put my leg in the really cold pool at the end to try to get the swelling to go down. One of the cool parts of these pools was that we got to wear swim caps. The picture is kind of dark but it is us wearing our swim caps by one of the pools.
After the hot pools we drove back home. When we got here we took showers and I packed while Jon and Lloyd figured out the details of our trip to Taoyuan for the next day.

Sunday morning we got up and headed to the train station with our backpacks. We got on the MRT (this is what they call the Taipei subway trains MRT=monorail train) and went to Taipei main station and got on regular train to Taoyuan. When we got to Taoyuan we worried and waited for one of Jon's friends to pick us up. She had said the previous sunday she would be at the train station at 8:30 because our train would get in about then and church starts at 9:00. We got off our train around 8:20ish and waited and wandered around the front of the train station. At 8:50 when we still hadn't seen her or been able to get a hold of her on her cell phone we thought that we might have to take a taxi. We decided to give her until 9 when church was supposed to start and if she wasn't there then we would take a taxi. She called us at 8:59 to tell us she was coming. We made it to church in time for the sacrament hymn. A lot of people in this ward knew Jon and were so happy to see him. We had tons of people coming and talking to us after sacrament meeting and after church. It was kind of cool that a lot of people remembered him and really liked him. During relief society I was able to sit by a sister missionary from Washington and she was able to translate the lesson for me. I have been really fortunate that both sundays here there have been people that were able to translate for me. After church we went to our hotel which conveniently allowed you to check in as early as noon, so that worked out perfect. We were both tired from being up late and getting up early so after eating the bagels we brought for lunch I propped my foot up on some pillows and we took a 6 hour nap. We woke up at about 6:30 and made the bowls of noodles we had brought for dinner. The noodles were good but they were a little spicy for my liking. We watched Ice Age showered and went back to bed. Sunday was very much a day of rest. We woke up this morning and got ready for the day. This was our hotel room.
It had two little beds in it that I kept forgetting weren't soft until I went to sit on them. I am getting used to sleeping on not so comfortable surfaces, but I'm excited to sleep in my own bed again.
The no shower curtain thing is still kind of weird to me. I guess they don't really care if the whole bathroom is wet all the time. The hotel wasn't bad for only being about $40 and there were some pretty great complimentary items. In the bathroom there were razors, shower caps, and toothbrushes with little tubes of "whiteman" toothpaste. On the table between the beds there was a little cup with q-tips, teeth flossing things, and condoms (very classy- I guess that is what you would expect from a hotel that not only rents rooms for the night but rents them in three hour increments). After packing up our stuff, and some free goodies, we went down to see what the "breakfast" included. After looking over the strange meats and veggies we decided to go for the toast option. We toasted bread in a little toaster oven and then I put some peanut butter and strawberry jam on mine. It was tasty. We walked around Taoyuan and Jon pointed out some places where different things happened or where he used to eat this or that etc. We did a little shopping and some of the stores that were open and because it was swelteringly hot Jon got a bingsha and I got a lemonade thing with chunks of aloe in it. All the walking around wasn't doing good things for my wounded ankle (I had hoped that it would be completely healed after staying off of it all sunday afternoon), so we decided we would head back to Lloyd's so we could just relax. Had we not come back so early we could have had dinner with a member in Taoyuan that offered to feed us, but I don't know what we would have done all day waiting around in the heat. We took the trains back to Lloyd's and now it is Monday afternoon and I'm laying on the floor with the fans on. Tonight Lloyd is going to have someone come and thread the hair off our faces. It'll be interesting to see how that goes. Tomorrow is our last day in Taiwan and then we fly home. Jon just told me he wants to eat Cafe Rio when he gets home. We have had fun, but I think we are both about ready to come home.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 9- Failures and Successes

When I wrote this morning I mentioned that we slept in for a long time and the fact that it was pouring rain didn't help get us out the door any quicker. We took the train to an electronics store and walked around but Jon was disappointed because he didn't find what he was looking for. We ended up just walking back to the train and going to another stop and wandering around this mall place for a bit, but it was a mall full of expensive stores like Chanel and Armani so we decided to take a bus. Taking the bus was kind of an adventure because we had never been on this bus before and it was kind of a spur of the moment decision to take the bus and we pretty much just got on the first bus we saw. I was getting a little worried because the bus map said that this bus went to Taipei main station, but we had been on the bus a long time and we still weren't at the station. On the way we did pass a Nu Skin building so we took a picture out the bus window.
We did eventually make it to the Taipei main station on that bus. When we got to the station we looked at train times for the train that goes to Taoyuan (this is not in Taipei county so the subway type trains don't go there). The next train wasn't until about 5:30 and after some deliberation we decided that we would want more time than just a few hours tonight to spend in Taoyuan. Since we were already at Taipei main station we decided to walk around the Taipei underground mall. This is a mall that is literally underground so they were pretty creative in the naming of it :) This mall was a lot better than the expensive mall because most of the stores weren't expensive. We walked around and bought some stuff. We found some pretty cool stuff at the underground mall, so in the end it was a successful day but we did a lot of wandering around the city. We did also decide that we are going to probably stay the night in Taoyuan from Sunday to Monday because Jonathan wants to go to church in Taoyuan and if we stay there Sunday night we can do the stuff there on Monday that we wouldn't want to do on Sunday. Because tomorrow is Saturday Lloyd ( I don't know why I just thought of this but his nickname in Chinese means little dragon) has the day off and is going to go with us to the beach so that should be fun. It probably won't be sunny, but I have learned that just because it is raining or is cloudy doesn't mean it won't be really hot. It is weird that it is already Friday and we are leaving on Tuesday. It doesn't seem like we have been gone that long. This morning when Jon told me it was Friday I didn't believe him and I had to think of what we did each day/ate since Monday (I remembered Monday was when I threw up). It has been nice to be on vacation but it will be nice to get back to my own bed. Oh that reminds me I took a few pictures of where he have been staying.
This is where we have been sleeping half the time we have been here. This room is a bit bigger and the floor has these mats on it that makes it a little more comfortable to sleep on than the wood floors- I know because the other room didn't have them. I'll maybe try to get a picture of the other room, but I don't know if I'll be able to because the one Aunt that lives here is sleeping in that room. To give an idea of the size the width of the room was about the width of the blanket things that are our bed. This room is quite a bit wider because we can fit all of our crap on the one side and still have some space on the other.
This is the bathroom. It is the kind where the entire bathroom is pretty much a shower so the floor is constantly wet. They have a pair of slip on sandals that you can use if you don't want to get your socks/feet wet when you go in the bathroom; they stay on the mat outside the bathroom door so they are always there if you need them. That reminds me- you don't wear shoes in the house. Everyone takes off their shoes before they come in. On the back of the door there are some more sandal slippers that you can wear if you do want to wear shoes in the house, but outside shoes stay outside and the sandal slippers stay inside. Kind of a interesting cultural thing, but it probably helps so you don't have to sweep and mop the floor as much. I'll try to get a picture of the living room later- when I was taking the pictures of the bathroom and our room Jomama and the Aunt that lives here were in the living room area and I thought it might be slightly awkward if I just randomly took a picture of them sitting there and couldn't explain why. Well I think that might be all I can think to write about tonight. Because today wasn't very eventful we didn't take many pictures but the other picture we took while we were out was this one.
This was in Taipei Main Station and it was pretty busy so Jon took a picture. You can't really get the whole scope of it from this picture- just know that Taipei main station is the busiest station and it is busier at night.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 8- The Zoo

Yesterday I slept in pretty late and while I was sleeping Jon played a computer game that he found. When we finally got up and left we decided to skip breakfast and go straight for lunch. We got some potstickers and this was probably the first time that Jon said he was kind of ready to be back in America because he didn't know if he was supposed to give the waitress the paper with our order on it or wait for her to come get it. He ended up giving it to her but he thinks that might have been wrong. After lunch we got on the train and went to the Taipei zoo. I absolutely loved it! We had fun taking pictures with some of the crazy statues that were in the zoo.

The first animals we saw in the zoo were the ones that were indigenous to Taiwan. We saw some wild boars, deer-like things, little jungle cats, and rodents, but the coolest things in this section were the monkeys. Some of them were playing king of the branch- one monkey would climb up on these branches and then one of two other monkeys would climb up and try to wrestle all the other monkeys off the branch. Some monkeys were picking at the other monkeys and eating the bugs they found. One of the most interesting things was a kid had some bubbles and had been blowing them and the wind blew one all the way to where the monkeys were and one monkey stuck out his hand to catch the bubble and it popped and the monkey seemed so confused about where it had gone. It was interesting to see how the monkey interacted with the bubble. After the Taiwanese animals we went to the insect house. One of the coolest parts of this building were the rooms with butterflies flying around. When we got into the first of these rooms there was this Taiwanese lady jabbering away and pointing to these two butterflies that were obviously mating while hanging on to a branch. The lady then started shaking the branch and was confused as to why they were flying away. Jon told me she was saying things like "what are they doing?" and "are they sleeping?" Really? They were obviously connected at the butt with some white goop... anyway moving on. The butterflies were really cool and were flying around and eating fruit and stuff. After we left the room there was a group of girls pointing at a butterfly that had escaped from the room. Jon was able to catch it and take it back into the butterfly room. This is him letting it free (it kind of flew at his face after he opened his hands so he is making a pretty good face).
Most of the other stuff in the insect place was kind of icky and insect like, but this is Jon with his head in a bubble that made it so you could get a closer look at some crickets. He tried to get me to go in there before he went in because he didn't see the crickets, but I saw them and didn't want my face that close to them even if it was behind plastic.
After the bug place we went into the panda house and saw some cute pandas. The first one was sleeping and this one was rolling around on its back and scratching its tummy with its back legs.
After this I can't remember exactly what we saw next but I will just mention all the different things we saw. We went to a really cool nocturnal animal house where they had trained the animals to think that the day was night and the night was day so that we could see the animals when they were awake. There were some adorable little owls (half of the owls I saw I would think of what Hogwarts student had that type of owl. The little ones were like the owl Ron gets later in the books pigwidgeon. Wow I'm a nerd.). We saw some bigger owls eating mice and we saw a little cat thing eating a whole rat. We saw some sugar gliders and other little nocturnal squirrel like things. I kind of think the little owls were one of my favorite things we saw at this zoo. After the nocturnal place we saw the Australian animals (kangaroos and other marsupials along with some big horned ibex thing), Asian animals (we saw some Asian elephants that looked like they were dancing and I think this is where we saw the tiger. The tiger was right up next to the window so that was really cool), the desert animals (pretty much just some big camels), and then the African animals. The African animals were pretty cool because not only did we get to see giraffes eating and lion cubs playing we got to see elephants from really close up. I think this was Jon's favorite part. He was very excited that we were going to see the elephants and kept asking when we were going to get to them. Also by this time he was getting kind of tired so I think seeing the elephants re-energized him a bit.

After the african animals we went to the amphibian and reptile house. We saw some snakes and lizards and frogs and stuff that were pretty cool. As we were in there the lady came around saying that they were closing and to hurry through. I didn't realize that the zoo closed at 5 and it was a little before 5 so we tried to hurry to go up to the penguin house, but we didn't make it before 5 so I had to be happy with a statue of a penguin.
We then walked down from the top of the zoo back to the exit. I probably wouldn't have mosied as long at some things if I knew the zoo closed at 5 and it was nearing closing time. I had a lot of fun at the zoo even though we didn't get to see all of it. We had someone take this picture of us in front of the zoo after we got out. I didn't mention this before but it was raining pretty hard off and on at the zoo so that is why we are looking a little soggy in some of the pictures.
After the zoo we had some dinner at McDonalds (I will probably not be losing weight on this trip if I keep eating McDonalds) and then we went on the Maokong Gondola. Jon wanted to go in the gondolas because he never went on them when he was here before so we did.

We had a good view from the gondolas because we were going up a mountain. This picture has Taipei 101 in the background (almost every time we see Taipei 101 now we say "another great place to view Taipei 101" because the audio guide we took there kept pointing out great locations to view Taipei 101 from).
It was kind of scary riding the gondola because it would have been a long way down if something broke and we fell. It didn't help to abate these fears that Lloyd had told us that a year or so ago some people died because there was a typhoon and some of the gondola cars broke off. Luckily I didn't feel too unsafe, but I did pick out the place that I did not want to fall the most. The trip up to the top of the gondola took about 45 minutes and when we got there we got off and had no idea what to do in Maokong. There were some hiking trails and there was a tea place, but it was a little late for hiking and the tea place didn't sound too great either so we wandered around for a few minutes and then got back on the gondola. When we rode down it was getting dark so we were able to see the view at night and that was pretty cool.
When we got to the bottom of the gondola we got off and saw signs pointing to the dancing waters, so we decided to check it out. It was 7 when we got off the gondola (I knew this because there was a clock thing that was playing some crazy music and had some dancing animals on it) and we sat by the fountains for about 15 minutes when we found out that the fountains do their little shows every hour on the half hour. We decide that we would wait and it was pretty cool. There was music and lights and dancing water- What more could you want? There were, I think, three songs that the waters danced to. I can't remember what the first one was but I think it was a classical piece and then the second one was The Swan and the last one was some asian one with singing. I took a video during the last song. This is my first video that i've posted to the blog so I hope it works.
video
I had a pretty smart moment while watching the fountains- Jon said that his favorite parts of the fountain were the ones that spun and I said that those reminded me of sprinklers and then I looked at the other parts of the fountain and said "actually a lot of them remind me of sprinklers." After the dancing waters we went back to Lloyd's and he took us to go get foot massages from blind/mostly blind people. This massage hurt like crazy. The part of the massage that felt the best was when it stopped. I was trying to relax because they told me it wouldn't hurt so bad if I relaxed, but it wasn't true it hurt just as bad. I guess there were a few parts that didn't hurt and felt pretty good but overall it was a pretty painful experience. We then came home and I watched Jon try to beat the game he had started playing that morning. I showered and got ready for bed and Jon still hadn't beaten it so I went to bed. This morning I had some crazy dreams that I was in the hunger games and all the other tributes were from my elementary school and the arena was at a playground/park. It was a very bizarre dream. I think that today we are going to some place that is supposed to be very beautiful and has a lake with paddle boats should be exciting.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 7- Taipei 101

This morning we slept in then took the train over to some place that I can't remember the name of and we walked around the shops and bought a few things. Jon has made sure that our food choices have been more American since the other day, so for lunch we stopped by starbucks and got a roast beef and cheese croissant. We saw a movie theater and Jon has wanted to see Iron Man 2, so we looked at the movie times then walked around more shops to kill time until the movie started. It was a pretty good movie- lots of action and fighting type stuff, but it was a great excuse to sit down for a while and do nothing. After the movie we took the train over to Taipei 101. Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world for a little bit, until another taller building was built. It is called 101 because it has 101 floors. They still do have the world's fastest and most high tech elevators though. The elevators were pretty impressive and the building was cool too. Just kidding.

The building was cool because it was very clear weather today and we could see a whole bunch of stuff in all directions from the top.

Besides having some cool elevator technology they had this really big heavy ball thing that helps absorb the wind and any earthquake shaking so the building doesn't feel like it is swaying in the wind. I remember watching some thing on tall building in one of my science classes (probably in junior high) and they talked about these things, but I had forgotten all about that until I saw this one today. It was pretty crazy and big and expensive according to the free audio guide we got.
Our ticket to go up 101 included the observatory floor 89 which had the audio guide and windows that could look out in all directions, floor 88 which was another place you could see the big ball thing, and floor 91 which was where you could go outside and look off the building and feel the wind blowing.

After checking out the view from the top we went back down the fancy elevators with their pressurized cabins and speeds of 1010 meters per minute. We then had dinner in the bottom of 101 at the Subway (this Subway wasn't really any different than the ones in the US no corn or anything like that).

It was good and my tummy is feeling good. After that we went back to Lloyd's and went to play badminton with him and some friends. I'm really bad at badminton, but Jon is pretty good and I don't give up easily. Luckily we were just messing around and weren't playing for real or keeping score or anything.

After this we scootered over to a night market to grab some food for some people. This was the first time since Monday that I have been in a place like that and it wasn't too bad. I caught a whiff of stinky tofu but it was pretty far off and I was able to hold my breath so I didn't hurl instantly. Its been a pretty good day, but I realized this morning that my bum is sore from the bike seat yesterday. I can't believe I have been here for a week and I'm still going to be here for about 6 more days.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 6- Danshui

This morning when we left we stopped by the Mos burger for breakfast. I was a little worried about eating because I didn't know how my stomach would deal with having food in it again, but it was ok. At Mos burger I got a breakfast sandwich that was similar to an egg and cheese mcmuffin except that it had lettuce on it. It was pretty good but I wasn't feeling quite hungry enough to finish it so I made Jon eat the rest of it. After that we got on the train to go all the way up to Danshui. Danshui is the northern-most stop on the train and where Lloyd lives is one of the farthest south so it was a train ride of almost an hour to get up there. I took a picture of the trains. They remind me a lot of the tube in London. We have little cards that we beep to get through a little gate and then we go down to the train and we beep again when we leave the train station. The train wasn't too full when we left this morning. It hasn't been too busy most of the time when we have been riding it. There was one day when we were going home at around the time lots of people were getting off work so there were lots of people standing, but we weren't really packed in too bad.

When we got to Danshui we walked around some of the shops and bought some stuff and then we went to McDonald's for lunch. I think Jon wanted me to have some food that wasn't like the stuff I had thrown up the day before. I was pretty grateful for this and I had chicken nuggets and fries and Jon had a Big Mac. The next thing we did was my favorite thing we did all day- We rented a tandem bike for two hours and rode around on some boardwalks and bike trails next to the ocean (they call it river, but really it is just like an inlet because hardly anything is flowing into it and going to the ocean).

We rode the bike down to this bridge and then back up. Luckily there were only a few hills that we had to go up. I had never ridden a tandem bike before so that was really fun and I got to sit in the back and relax while Jon did most of the work.

After our bike ride of approximately 20 km we got some tall ice cream. It wasn't amazingly tasty but it was pretty good and it was cold.
We then took a boat ride up to the fisherman's warf. This is us on the boat ride up there.

The main reason we went up to the fisherman's warf is because there is this cool bridge that is called lovers bridge so we took a few pictures. I think Jon felt really awkward taking a picture while kissing because Taiwanese people rarely kiss in public.

We got some giant smashed out breaded chicken things for dinner. They were pretty good and I didn't feel bad that I wasn't able to finish the whole thing because no one was watching me eat it. Also because we didn't eat all of it we tossed a few little pieces of chicken to a little dog that came up to us while we were eating. (In this picture you can seen some of the cool new earrings that I got earlier today)

Here is another shot of us by the bridge when it was lit up. You can't really tell in this picture but the lights on the tall part of the bridge were mostly green and there were also some pinkish ones.

After we were done up at the bridge we got back on the boat and went back down to the main part of the city. We walked around a few more shops and looked to see if this place that Jon went on his mission that had amazing mango ice things was still open because we walked by the one in Taipei and it was closed. Sadly this one was gone too, so I will probably not get to have one of those. We got back on the train and rode the train back to Lloyd's. We decided to stop and get a mango bingsha because we didn't get to have the other mango thing. Bingshas are kind of like a slushy/icy drink and they are pretty tasty. We are now home hanging out in our room and waiting for Lloyd to get home so we can show him the stuff we bought today. Oh that reminds me of an interesting Taiwan fact: They don't have the same work-type laws that we have in the US so they can ask you to work crazy hours and not pay you overtime and if you won't work the crazy hours then they will probably just fire you. That is why it is almost 11 pm and Lloyd isn't back from work yet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 5- Reader Discretion is advised

Monday morning we got up and had some breakfast. I had a sandwich thing that was pretty much like a spicy chicken sandwich with a fried egg on it. Breakfast foods here are so weird to me. After breakfast we drove with Lloyd (he was able to get the day off) and the twins to Neihu where his brother lives now. We met Lloyd's brother, his wife, and the other two kids at a breakfast place and waited while they finished eating. After that we drove to the hotel that his brother had stayed at the previous night and met one of the uncles and aunts and waited while his brother packed up their stuff. When we left we had all of the boys with us, and the car was very full. Lloyd has a toyota sedan and we had Lloyd, me, Jon, the twins, and another cousin in the car. Jon got to be the lucky one in the back seat with the three boys. We drove up to the northern coast of Taiwan to what used to be a gold mining city and walked around the shops and bought a few things. When I talked to my mom she told me to take lots of pictures so I held the camera today and took some pictures. Here were some of the places we went in the gold mining city.
I just had to put this one first. I have had to use a couple toilets like this- luckily I'm really good a squatting.
This is me and the boys and Lloyd at lunch. You can tell a lot about the kids personalities from this picture- the older one next to me was more mature and well behaved, but you can tell that the twins are a bit less so because the one couldn't even pay attention long enough to take a picture and then the other one is laying all over Lloyd and just being crazy. It made for an interesting day having them along with us.
Look at my amazing chopstick skills. This is probably how i look before I eat most things- slightly worried. Luckily this was pretty good it was a ball of pork from my soup.
Now this place was just freaky. As we were walking along we came to this little mask museum. All the walls in three rooms were just covered with freaky-looking masks. We are trying to make faces like the two masks in between us.
Next to the freaky mask place there was a little museum type place that had a bunch of old stuff. They also had a place where you could put on clothes and take a picture, so we did.
We didn't just take one picture we took two.
We took this picture in the same museum type place and that dragon smelled old and gross. That reminds me- I have not yet mentioned how very fragrant Taiwan is. I don't know if it is just because of the humidity that it makes smells more powerful or what, but smells seem more intense and they are constantly changing. As you are walking down the street you will smell good smelling food, sewage, flowers, and nasty smelling food all in about 30 seconds.
This is the view out to the ocean from the city we were in. It was up on the mountain so there were a lot of stairs. This was taken out the window of a place where we ate some blocks of white and orange flavorless goo with red beans and green beans and ice in it. I hope my description accurately captured the weird and sliminess of it, but despite its appearance and texture it wasn't too bad.
After we had walked around the shops and weird museum type place we drove to the gold mining museum. Sadly the museum is closed on Mondays and we didn't know this. We still walked around and took pictures.
Because the museums were closed we hiked up the mountain. It was pretty steep and the fatter twin was practically yelling sounds of exhaustion the whole way up. Lloyd shut him up for a few minutes by saying that I wasn't having any problems climbing and I was a girl.
We stopped at this place because we were tired of climbing and we could feel like we accomplished something because we made it somewhere rather than just turning around in the middle of the stairs.
This is us in front of a big rock thing at the top of our climb before we started back down. Jon and I are looking a bit tired.

After we hiked down we got back in the car and the little boys were so worn out from hiking that they fell asleep in the car. A few minutes peace. Oh that reminds me on the way from Neihu at the beginning of the day Jon was saying he didn't think that they could be quiet for 5 minutes; they tried but even in their being quiet they weren't very quiet. It was funny because he pointed out to them that I hadn't said anything for probably 20 minutes, which was true. I had just been looking out the windows and listening to them ramble away in Chinese that I didn't understand. From the gold mining city we drove back to the Taipei area and stopped at a night market to grab some food. Jon got some fried chicken, so I ate some of that, and Lloyd got a bunch of stuff and had me try some of it too. We then stopped and got some ice cream and walked through some more of the market. One of the most foul smelling things in Taiwan is what they call stinky tofu. They know it is stinky, it is called stinky tofu, but they still eat it and they think it is good. I don't understand how something that smells so nasty could possibly taste good. The reason I thought of stinky tofu was because two of the boys got some to eat. Gross. We walked back to the car and drove back to Lloyd's house. We sat in the living room for a little bit with his family and then went to our room because the one family member that Jon really doesn't like because she is really loud and really rude got here. We were laying on floor and I started feeling kind of queasy, so I decided to try to sleep and see if that would help. I fell asleep for a bit until Lloyd came in and started talking to Jon. ***WARNING*** READERS WITH WEAK STOMACHS SHOULD NOT CONTINUE. I realized that this was not just going to go away on its own so I quickly left the room and headed for the bathroom. Lucky for me, and everyone else, it was unoccupied. I sat on the toilet because I wasn't sure what end was going to be the lucky exit of whatever was making me feel so gross. I was just thinking about how I know how to say exit in chinese and the second part of the word means mouth and it just so happens that everything in my stomach made an exit through my mouth. As I was sitting on the toilet shaking (pre-vomiting) I prayed that I could just get this over with and then the thought of stinky tofu entered my mind and everything was quickly removed from my stomach into the garbage can. Besides the nasty taste in my mouth, the burning in my nose, and the tears streaming down my face I felt much better after throwing up. I tried to wash my mouth out a little in the sink without drinking any of the water (I didn't want to get a parasite and have this joy continue). I then went to our room and told Jon what had happened and he asked me if I had told anyone... Of course I didn't tell any one how was I going to do that sign language? He was very sweet and went and took care of it for me. I brushed my teeth and went to bed because I didn't feel too great. Now I feel much better. We'll see how I feel after breakfast. While I was sleeping Lloyd helped Jon plan out the rest of our week, so today we will be going to Danshui and doing stuff up there. I'll try to take lots of pictures.