Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

Good-bye Taiwan (再見台灣)

Taipei 101

Dawn breaking over Taipei and Taipei 101. (台北和台北101的日出)


Yilan

Taiwan’s breathtaking natural beauty. (台灣的蠻好看的自然風景)


NTU National Taiwan University

NTU at dawn. (台大的日出)


Although I left in July…
Good-bye Taiwan, and thanks for everything.

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Yehliu Geological Rock Park (野柳)

Posted in Money, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Taiwan, Transportation, Weather by J on December 31, 2008

Yehliu

The potential rain.

Yehliu Geological Park (野柳) was explored: July 9, 2008.

Yehliu Geological Park (野柳) is one of those beautiful places that’s a bunch of fun to explore and play around in with your friends. Not only is is close to Taipei (just a bus ride away!), it’s really cheap, too. As a student, it was only 25 NTD for me. ^^

And surprise, surprise, there were rain clouds hovering nearby. (It must be the season.) Luckily, they didn’t come over towards us. The right side of the park was heavy with darkness and the left side was bright as could be. The side of the light won. Although, if the darkness did win, it might have been a welcome respite from the heat and humidity. And no, when we got to the top of the “pirate’s hill,” it didn’t get any cooler. It was as if we were too short to reach the breeze or something. Haha~ Anyways, I had a very fun day in the park!

Yehliu

First view of the rocks. Totally sunny.

It’s definitely a place for imagination. One part of the geological park almost seems like you’re climbing a pirate’s hill searching for treasure. In other parts, there’s neat shaped rocks that you can climb on and make funny faces. And there’s even rocks that are shaped like tofu (豆腐)!

Yehliu

A pirate’s hill?

Although I don’t recommend it, we did somewhat subvert the rules. We put one foot over the red line! “Gasp! Shock!” Oh, but the really gross thing was that in the area that I went over the red line, there were all these black little dots on the rocks. When I moved towards these dots, they started moving! It was like a black tide of bugs swarming away from me. Thank-you for swarming away! Imagine if they swarmed towards me. So. Many. Bugs. Ick.

Yehliu

Tofu rocks

Oh! Don’t forget to take a picture with the famous Queen’s Head (女王頭) because it’ll be gone soon due to erosion! It’s a rock shaped like the head of an Egyptian queen, and it really does look like the head of a queen. Yehliu is a cool wonder of nature.

Yehliu

The Queen’s Head

Taking the MRT or the Automobile (坐捷運或坐車子)

Posted in Home, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Taiwan, Thoughts, Transportation, Weather by J on December 31, 2008

giraffe in mrt

It’s a GIRAFFE in the MRT station!

To take the MRT (捷運) or the car to get to where you want to go… decisions, decisions. Of course, in Taipei, it’s infinitely more interesting to take public transit. Not only is it faster to get to main areas of Taipei, you get to see interesting things when you do. For example, you see an advertisement like the one in the photo above. I really had to do a double take when I saw the ad. A GIRAFFE in the MRT?! Genius. Although, I don’t know if these ads for the Very Fun Park were very successful or not.

car

Cruising along the highway to Yilan (宜蘭).

And, if you want to get out of the city, a car is the best option. Buses are okay, but they really don’t give you the freedom to go anywhere you want. The picture above was from when I went to a quiet beach in Yilan (宜蘭) with some friends. There was no one there but us. And the waves that were apparently larger than usual due to a typhoon somewhere past the horizon. And the rain that came upon us as we were lying on the beach. So, in this case, the car is a fantastic option. No matter how much I would like to save the environment. In conclusion, transit advertisements rock. Now only if Vancouver had ads on the buses that advertised something more interesting than safer sex.

zebra in mrt

A zebra too?!

Alishan (阿里山)

Posted in Culture, Food, Outdoors, Shopping, Sightseeing, Taiwan, Thoughts, Transportation, Weather by J on December 31, 2008

Alishan sunrise
Alishan (阿里山) and Chiayi (嘉義) were visited: July 7 & 8, 2008

When we arrived in Chiayi (嘉義) we had some of that famous Chiayi Chicken Rice (嘉義雞肉飯). Although the Chiayi Chicken Rice in Taipei’s Gongguan area is good, Chiayi Chicken Rice just tastes better in Chiayi XD.

Transportation to and from Alishan:

We didn’t spend long in Chiayi (but we had enough time to go shopping while waiting for our bus to Alishan XD) because we were destined to go up to Alishan (阿里山) that afternoon so that we could see the sunrise the next day. Ah, it was raining cats and dogs as we boarded the bus to go up to Alishan. A few things here: The train and bus tickets sell out quickly. If you get to the depot too late in the day, there might not be any tickets left to get up to Alishan. And, be sure to take pills if you get motion sickness. The road the bus takes up the mountain isn’t kind to those with weak stomachs.

For the fun of it, on the way back, we took the narrow gauge train from Alishan back down to Chiayi on the Forest Railway. It takes 3.5 hours and 399 NTD as compared to about 2 hours by bus and 214 NTD. I was really hoping to ride the train with the historical engine, but no cigar. On this train, we discovered that train seats could also be made to face backwards. As the train is also slower, we were able to better appreciate the drastic change in foliage due to the large change in climate from the top of the mountain to the bottom.

Accommodations:

Our accommodations were alright, but the service more than made up for it. The young proprietor of the place was very personable. It’s a cosy little family business. For example, as we didn’t bring enough clothing for the cold weather, he lent us jackets to wear. Also, he let us try driving a scooter around the parking lot. Driving that scooter was just as fun and thrilling that I had imagined it to be =). Also, he helped us buy our tickets to ride the train to see the sunrise and, we had a wake up call at 04:30 too!

Also, it was only about 800 NTD to stay for two people. Another plus was that our hotel was located right where the bus dropped everyone off at the top of Alishan beside the 7-11 of the main parking lot. From our lodgings was only a short walk to the train station that would take us to see the sunrise early the next morning.

It’s too bad that I can’t remember his name or the name of the place we stayed at.

Alishan sunrise

Things to see:

Make sure to rush to get on one of the two trains to see the sunrise! I initially thought that we were early, but when we arrived at the station, we were actually some of the last to line up. Eek! Anyways, the sunrise was lovely, and so was walking leisurely around the top of the mountain after viewing the sunrise. The trees are twisted in some very interesting shapes. I like the heart shaped one best. The copulating (the sign really says this!) dragon and phoenix tree (龍鳳配) was just too trippy for me to see.

Ah~ I can’t help but think of how we went from a lovely sunset in Kaohsiung to a very nice sunrise in Alishan. Simply serendipity. And, that was the end of our trip visiting Tainan to Kaohsiung to Alishan.

Kaohsiung (高雄)

Posted in Culture, Food, Night Life, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taiwan, Transportation, University, Weather by J on December 31, 2008

sizihwan

Sunset watching at Sizihwan (西子灣) in Kaohsiung (高雄).

Kaohsiung (高雄) was visited: July 6 & 7, 2008

The moment the train pulled into Kaohsiung, we made a beeline for Sizihwan / Sizih Beach / Xiziwan / 西子灣 to try and see the sunset. (There’s a lot of variation on the English spelling of this place.) Located within Sun Yat-Sen University (even the university is hidden behind a tunnel), it’s not the easiest place to find. But! When we did find it, we were happy with what we found. It’s a lovely bay, except for the amount of people and garbage there.

sizihwan

Sizihwan (西子灣) in Kaohsiung (高雄)

Somehow, we were very lucky when we went to visit Sizihwan. That night was the opening night of the summer festival! A concert was being held that first night with many famous stars! For example, Mayday (五月天) would be playing (we didn’t get to see them), Kenji Wu (吳克群), Aska Yang (楊宗緯), Penny Tai (戴佩妮), Landy Wen (溫嵐) and more. The whole thing was sponsored by Tsingtao Beer (青島啤酒), so of course I wanted to support Taiwan by drinking some of their beer.

Tsingtao beer

Tsingtao beer (青島啤酒)

The best part of the whole experience was just chilling out on the beach for a few hours watching the sun go down (it’s what Sizihwan is famous for!) and listening to a concert playing out in the background. I loved the fact that there were police at the beach to make sure that Tsingtao drinking people didn’t want to go for a swim that they might never surface from. We left a bit early to avoid the crowds heading home and to check out Love River (愛河) before hitting the sack for the night.

Love River

Love River (愛河)

We stayed at a place called the International Friendship House. It’s run by Melissa, a Canadian ex-pat. Melissa is friendly and helpful – she knows Kaohsiung! And if Chinese isn’t your strong suit, you’re in luck because Melissa speaks English =). Although we only stayed long enough to grab a shower and get some rest in the dorm styled room, I really recommend this place if you’re looking for a nice, clean and affordable place to stay while you’re in Kaohsiung. Another plus is that it’s easy to access from Kaohsiung’s new MRT system.

Dragon and Tiger Pagodas

Dragon and Tiger Pagodas (龍虎塔) at Lotus Lake (連池潭)

The next morning, we raced against time to take a look at the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas (龍虎塔) at Lotus Lake (連池潭). Inside both the dragon and tiger, you’re immediately surrounded by Chinese paintings. They’re of the fierce, folksy kind. Anyways, after entering through the dragon’s mouth, we practically ran to the top of one pagoda and came back down and exited through the tiger’s mouth. There really wasn’t much to see because they’re doing renovation work on Lotus Lake for the 2009 World Games that’ll be held in Kaohsiung in July. So, Lotus Lake was drained.

Next stop, Chiayi’s Alishan (嘉義的阿里山)!

Kaohsiung harbour

Bye-bye Kaohsiung!

Tainan (台南)

oden

Tainan (台南) was explored: July 5, 2008

A couple of days after returning from Japan, my sister and I set off to visit some places in Taiwan. I didn’t have too much time left before I had to return to Canada.

Our Adventure in Tainan (Or, the Kindness of the Taiwanese):

Getting to Tainan was a fantastic little adventure! We took the high speed rail, gaotie (高鐵) from Taipei to Tainan. Sitting on that train was really something else. Such a fast, smooth ride, I just stared outside the window the whole time watching the train outpace all the different kinds of weather that everyone else had. I remember watching as we approached storm clouds and in the time it took to turn my head around to watch it go the storm go by, we were already past it.

Our adventure really started when we disembarked from the gaotie. One of us accidentally misplaced our ticket, so when we tried to pass through the gates, we weren’t able to. So, after talking to an attendant, we waited until the train we had taken stopped at Kaohsiung. The train was searched for the missing ticket, but unfortunately we had no luck. We ended up paying full price for another ticket from Taipei to Tainan so that we could leave the station. Ai~

High Speed Rail

Taiwan’s High Speed Rail (高鐵)

Oh, another funny thing. I had forgotten to ask my friends that we were meeting up with in Tainan for the address of the place we were to spend the night at. And, as the communication wasn’t so clear between us, we ended up spending a while in the station trying to figure things out. Also, as my Chinese isn’t so great, I had a bit of a trying time to figure out where to go. And, what’s more, I knew absolutely nothing about Tainan, nor did I have a map. The ones in the station weren’t too helpful. I was trying to do the whole spontaneous adventure thing, and I really did get it! ^^

After spending a while at the information booth trying to get some help on how to get out of the gaotie station into the actual city portion of Tainan a well dressed older lady spoke to me. (My sister thought she looked like a snobby rich woman.) She asked me where we were going. I told her that I didn’t know. At that point in time, my friend called me on my mobile, and completely unexpectedly, this older woman spoke to my friend and helped us figure out where exactly where we were supposed to go. I couldn’t believe the kindness of this woman.

Outside the Tainan Confucian Temple

Outside the Tainan Confucian Temple (台南孔廟)

To my shock, after speaking on the phone with my friend, this woman offered to drive my sister and I to where we needed to go! In her words, since she was at the gaotie station to pick up a guest that she had to drive into Tainan, she might as well take us. Now, if this was Canada, we’d be entertaining visions of dismembered bodies the instant she offered to take us in her car. I have to admit some of those pictures did creep into my head, but seeing as we really did need some help (the heat was making things worse), we took it. And besides, Taiwan feels so much more trustworthy for some reason.

So, we followed her and her guest out to her car. Our jaws just about dropped when we saw that it was a new Mercedes-Benz. To this day I still can’t believe that she let our extremely sweaty selves sit in her car and seemed to make no bones about it at all. While making some light conversation in the car with the lady and her guest, the extent of her kindness was truly revealed. She said that if we already didn’t have a place to stay, she would’ve let us stay at her place.

Although my sister and I wished to repay her with more than just a “thanks” we can only hope that we have the opportunity to pay such a kindness forward. Thank-you.

Chikan Tower

Chikan Tower (赤崁樓)

The Places We Saw:

After dropping our luggage off, we headed out to eat some food. We ended up eating 2 NTD Taiwanese oden. Oden is food on a stick cooked in a Japanese style hotpot. Yum! It tasted better than the stuff you can buy at the omnipresent 7-11 stores.

Chikan Tower

Chikan Tower (赤崁樓)

For our first stop, we checked out Chikan Tower (赤崁樓). Built in 1683, Chikan Tower is like a big mansion to explore. In emphasis of this point, while we were visiting, there was this lively little boy from who knows where that ran up and down and all about the stairs and the bannisters. It almost seemed as if Chikan Tower was his home. I had a fun time half playing hide and seek with him and looking at the site itself. He was kind, too. There were carp in the water and as he was feeding the fish, he gave us some stuff to feed the fish too.

Afterwards, we went to the Tainan Confucian Temple (台南孔廟) and managed to take a quick peek around the red buildings before it shut its gates for the night.

Musical Theatre

Musical Theatre

After meeting up with some more friends, we wandered around somewhere in Tainan and came across a musical theatre. It was so cool because there were so many people gathered outside in front of the temple watching the theatre. As it was sung in Taiwanese, I didn’t understand a single word, but it was nevertheless entertaining because while it had some sort of traditional folk singing, they suddenly burst into a rap, complete with a chorus line! If you’ve ever seen Hong Kong Lunar New Year films that take place in the ancient past, you’ll have some idea of what we saw.

After the show, because we were all feeling adventurous, we went in search of Fort Zeelandia (熱蘭遮城), now Fort Anping (安平古堡) in the dark. When we found it, we quietly hopped the fence and stealthily ran to check out the fort. While playing with our shadows on the watch tower at the top of the fort, we could hear the strains of the musical theatre that we had just left. It was awesome that we had the fort to ourselves at night.

Across the Flower Garden Night Market

Across the Flower Garden Night Market (花園夜市)

For our last stop, before we headed back to our accommodations, we went to the Flower Garden Night Market (花園夜市). Completely outside and filled to the brim with stalls selling everything imaginable, Flower Garden Night Market embodied “Night Market.” It was loud, it was crowded, there was every manner of shoes, clothes and games situated in its environs, the food was delicious and it was everything that I imagined a night market should be.


Tainan Park

Tainan Park (台南公園)

The next day we all split up and headed toward different directions. While waiting for our train to Kaohsiung from Tainan, we took a quiet breather at a park near the Tainan train station. Tainan Park (台南公園) was quite quiet and provided some shade and respite from the heat. However, it was really odd that we only saw young males, probably Filipinos, at the park. They were leering at us… Yikes!

And then that afternoon, we were on our way to Kaohsiung!

Japan: Osaka (大阪)

Glico man

The Glico man of Dōtonbori Street

Osaka was visited on: June 30, 2008

Osaka is a large and dense city. Even though I use the words large and dense, somehow they still feel like an understatement. Upon arriving in Osaka from Kyoto, it felt somewhat like I was relieving the day I arrived in Taipei from Vancouver – a little bit confused and completely overwhelmed (in a good way) by something so different. Suffice to say, Osaka and Taipei are both large and dense cities. (Both cities have a similar population of about 2.6 million people.)

Hep Five Ferris Wheel

Hep Five Ferris Wheel (Gigantic thing inside a mall.)

Although we only spent a day in Osaka, and spent it mostly shopping in malls and stores ^^, (did you know that we discovered the fabulous Book-Off store in Osaka only to find that there’s one downtown in Vancouver?), we had some baked octopus balls takoyaki and a very good time. Even though I’ve had takoyaki many times I still don’t quite like it. I’d rather eat octopus by itself.

Oh! Osaka’s transportation system is definitely very unique! It’s partially oval. I could not believe my eyes at the number of different routes and connections that were available. Since we only had a day to check out Osaka, we mostly stuck to the tried and true method of getting around: walking. If we had more time, it’d have been fun to try and figure out how the whole system worked.

Osaka at night

Osaka at night.

At night, like Taipei, Osaka is alive with people. Kyoto, like Vancouver, seems to shut down earlier. We wandered around Dōtonbori Street (道頓堀) admiring the neon-lit signs that lit up, moved and came to life. And down the centre of the street were all these parked and unlocked bicycles. Coming from Taipei, you have no idea how tempting it was to take one of those un-rusted, in-full-working-condition-with-the-brakes-not-shot bikes XD. As we had to catch a train back to Kyoto, we didn’t stay too long at night.

After another day and a bit in Kyoto visiting temples like the Chion Temple and the Yasaka Shrine, we headed back to Taipei. And that was the end of our Japan trip!

F4 in Osaka

In Osaka Station: F4 and Taiwan welcome you!

Japan: Himeji Castle (姬路城)

Posted in Culture, Japan, Observations, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Thoughts, Transportation, Weather by J on December 31, 2008

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle, The White Heron Castle, Himeji-jō (姬路城) was explored: June 29, 2008

The WHITE HERON CASTLE!!

Oddly enough, I’ve learned more about Japan than China through school, and there was always this picture of a white, gorgeous castle. And on a gorgeous sunny, blue sky day, I finally got to visit it in reality!!

The Himeji Castle, or the White Heron Castle, is located in the city of Himeji, a few hours from Kyoto. After getting off the train from Kyoto to Himeji, we walked towards the castle. It seems that the whole city leads towards the castle. After all, it was built around it.

In use from 1333-1868, Himeji Castle is an old place. 1868 was the beginning of the Meiji Era and signalled a new way of living for the Japanese. Large social and political changes were happening throughout Japan during this time. I’m so glad that starting in 1956, the castle was restored piece by piece so that future generations could appreciate the castle.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

Upon approaching the castle, like walking towards the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, it’s actually much larger than it looks. It also takes longer to walk there than you’d think, too. It’s virtually a maze and a great defence tactic. When you finally arrive at the gates and continue walking uphill closer and closer towards the actual castle, it’s just splendid. I was thinking of all the battles and skirmishes that occurred. The little holes / windows are perfect for firing arrows or guns at intruders with little repercussion to the defender.

Although I’ve never been to Europe, Himeji Castle reminded me of all the things that I’ve read about European castles. Everything in the castle, from its structure and design to its layout had a specific defensive or offensive purpose, in addition to providing shelter for its inhabitants. For example, the walls are flushed flat so that attackers can’t scale them. Even though artillery didn’t take in Japan, I still don’t know why they really didn’t use it more. Artillery forced European castles to change from the difficult to scale ones to ones set deep into the ground and built according to geometric properties so that artillery couldn’t easily take down a castle.

Another residence in the castle grounds

Inside another residence on the castle grounds. It’s actually much darker inside the Himeji Castle.

Inside the castle, the stairs are very, very steep so that attackers would have a hard time getting up to the top of the 7th floor. As the castle was mostly made out of wood, it had a very nice traditional feel, and a much cosier one than I would imagine an European stone castle to have. Also, as we had to take our shoes off to enter the castle, that probably gave it more of a cosy feel, too. But, why make a whole castle out of wood? I’m completely baffled by this because a single fire arrow could bring down the castle. I guess the angle an archer would have to shoot at at the castle would make it difficult. Also, I guess it’d be more difficult to bring down the castle by a fire arrow because the Japanese bows were weaker as they didn’t have composite bows.

The castle would have been a delight for children to run around in because of all the little hiding spots just in case the castle was attacked. Speaking of children, what struck me was that everything in the castle was really short. Is there some truth to why the Chinese rudely referred to the Japanese as the dwarf people (倭) since way back when in history? (Yes.)

View from the top

The view of Himeji city from the top of the White Heron Castle.

When you make it to the very top, besides a terrific breeze, you get a fantastic view of the whole city. You feel as if you “own” the city. When I was at the top, I felt as if it couldn’t be true that I was really in the White Heron Castle. I could go on and on about the castle, but all what I want to convey can be basically summed up in a sentence: Visiting the Himeji Castle was an unbelievable experience.

Hope you get to go one day!

Japan: Kyoto (京都)

Gion

Gion

Kyoto, Japan was visited: June 27 – July 2

Since Taiwan is so much closer to Japan than Canada, it made perfect sense to hop over there for a short vacation.

The Places We Visited:

On the recommendation of a friend, we stayed in a guest house called Uno House. It has a nice location in the northeast of Kyoto and the price was very agreeable. We stayed in a private room. I guess my favourite part about the guest house was that it was like a sort of maze inside and that it seemed quite traditional. We even slept on the floor on futons. Although I didn’t know any Japanese (but thank goodness I could read some Chinese, so helpful when taking busses), we managed to get around fine.

For me, Kyoto was all about the castle, the temples, the shrines, the spiritual symbols (and some shopping, too!). Thanks to the gracious help of my friends, I got to see some of the best parts of Kyoto within a short amount of time.

Kinkaku-ji

Kinkaku-ji

The places that we went to were:

For a map to see where all the places are: http://kyoto.asanoxn.com/info/kyotomap.htm

Ryōan-ji

Ryōan-ji

Funny thing, it was raining most of the time we visited these sites… I swear the rain clouds followed me from Vancouver to Taipei to Kyoto XD. I really liked visiting all these places, and the most funny thing was that since they’re all major tourist sites as well as places of quiet contemplation (supposedly), the contrast between the noise of the tourists and the quiet of the sites was, well, funny. ^^ Outside of our first day in Kyoto, the weather for the rest of our trip was very good, very sunny, and very hot.

Torii at Heian jingu

Torii gate for Heian jingū

Of all the sites that we went to, I liked the Nijō- (seriously, a castle in the middle of the city?? Cool!) and Kinkaku-ji the best (Gold. Building.). Nijō-jō had nightingale floors for protection against night attackers. When an invader walked on these floors, due to their special construction, they’d squeak. No matter how lightly I tried to step, I could only make the floor squeak when I walked on the floorboards. Very cool and ingenious. The site of the Kyoto Imperial Palace is actually much larger than it seems because the boulevard leading up to the palace is massive. The vastness of the boulevard neutralizes the largeness of the palace. Ryōan-ji was very nice, but I don’t think I’m meant for Zen Buddhism. I didn’t draw out much meaning from sitting at the rock garden. Ginkaku-ji was under renovation when we went, so there was much to see. Oh, Heian jingū was pretty cool. The torii gate was so big! I was pleased to find that the shrine was orange. I thought that they were supposed to be brown for some reason.


Chion Temple

At Chion Temple

The day that we went to Chion Temple, we had the opportunity to see practising monks. When we were walking around the temple grounds, after the many stairs to get up into the temple grounds, we heard the chanting of monks, and on a whim, we joined a line and went inside a building to take our turn in turning something around (like turning a totem pole or something). That was interesting. The main hall was the best, though. It was very dark and shady inside, a welcome respite from the heat, and you couldn’t wear your shoes inside. The prayer area was very large and solemn. It was difficult to see the relics that you’d pray to. It was just massive inside that one building. Oh, and at Yasaka Shrine, we had a glimpse of practicing shrine maidens, miko!


Gion back alley

A Gion back alley

After wandering around for a bit, we ended up in Gion without knowing it. I thought I was just in some very old section of Kyoto. Despite not knowing that I was actually in Gion (I got tired of looking at the map), I was very impressed by the whole area. It felt like what Japan had been before skyscrapers and all the industrialization the world experienced. Oh, this fall I watched a 1936 film called Sisters of the Gion (祇園の姉妹) (good film), and I realised how important the district was to the geisha culture. Although we didn’t see any geisha in the area, when we were walking by the establishments, one of the doors was open and I took a quick glance inside. It looked like the traditional houses in Japanese movies. I wonder how the whole area prevents fire hazards… For that matter, I wonder how the place we stayed in, Uno House, prevented fire hazards…

Food:

The first night in Kyoto, we ended up eating at a yakitori place. It was probably a pub or late night sort of place – like a more upscale version of an university pub. We figured out that yakitori was basically chicken grilled on a skewer. Haha! The whole menu was basically chicken. We had the chicken knees with sake.


Sushi

Sushi!

We also had sushi while we were in Kyoto. The restaurant’s waitresses were dressed in traditional Japanese clothing – something that the Vancouver restaurants don’t do. Although, I think we may have offended them when we asked for wasabi. Are we not supposed to eat it with sushi? Anyways, it was very good. Kyoto’s and Vancouver’s sushi are both very good. But, Kyoto’s sushi is miles better than Taipei’s. Sushi Express? Nooo~ Sadly, we didn’t get around to eating any eel while we were in Japan.


Colonel in Kyoto

The Colonel in Kyoto

Some Thoughts:

Kyoto is a quiet, beautiful and clean place. It’s vastly different from the hustle and bustle of Taipei, even though we stayed over the weekend. Kyoto felt very subdued and relaxed. From what I saw, the clothing that the people wore in Kyoto was much more subdued in colour and style than the clothing in Taipei. The clothing in Taipei pops loud, bright and vibrant colours. There’s also no scooters zipping in and out of traffic or night markets.


Downtown Kyoto at night

Downtown Kyoto at night

As Kyoto as a city is really old, maybe that’s also why it was more relaxed. Kyoto was the capital city of Japan from 794-1868 and Taipei became the capital of Taiwan in 1895. Or even more likely, what the cities supposedly represent probably had/have a larger impact. Kyoto’s old name was Heian-kyō (平安京), meaning the capital of peace and tranquility. Although today, Kyoto is no longer the (symbolic) political centre of Japan, its value as a cultural capital seems to have carried on up to the present day. On the other hand, Taipei is the economical and political centre of Taiwan. People gravitate towards Taipei for its opportunities and this makes the city a locus of change, transformation and energy. Anyways, irregardless of the actual economic and political situations in Kyoto and Taipei, Kyoto seems like the happy, stately elderly people that you see advertised in marketing campaigns and Taipei seems like a young adult brimming with endless possibilities for the future.


A Kyoto back alley

A Kyoto back alley

Kyoto also reminded me an awful lot of Vancouver. Actually, it felt so Vancouver-like with its integration of nature and urban structure. Vancouver’s nature spots, for example, Stanley Park, despite looking wildly grown is actually carefully shaped by human hands to keep that wild-untouched-by-human-hands look. Kyoto has a more domesticated, sculpted-looking kind of nature. As both cities integrate nature and urbaness seamlessly, despite the difference in their respective ages (Vancouver was established as a city in 1886), they’re just so similar. It’s such a surreal experience to be able to slip into a park in these cities and the whole urban feel melts away into the background. I’d like to go back when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. It’d be fantastic! (As long as it doesn’t rain. XD)