Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

Taroko Gorge (太魯閣國家公園), Hsincheng (新城) & Hualien (花蓮市)

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Flowers near Hsincheng (新城).

During the time of the Qingming Festival (清明節) (April 4th), a friend and I decided to jet off (ironically by train: chug, chug, chug-a-lug) to visit Hualien’s Taroko Gorge. Thank-you for not raining!


Hsincheng (新城):

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Nearby Hsincheng (or in it?).

We stayed at a very nice place in Hsincheng. The hotel was situated where it was basically a reserve for the Taroko native people (原住民). The organic veggies provided were reminiscent of home. Mmmm… food.

One thing to watch out for when you’re in this area are the DOGS. Ohmygosh. There are many dogs all over the place and some are probably strays. I don’t know. They are very, very territorial. Growl!


Taroko Gorge (太魯閣國家公園):

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The Buddhist monastery near Tiansiang.

Ah! The most fun part.

We walked to Tiansiang (天祥) from Taroko (太魯閣). On the way, we encountered close calls with tour busses and cliffs (jump!!), dark tunnels, one way roads and loads of “falling rocks” signs. I even learned the characters for “falling rocks” because I saw it so many times. It’s 落石 luo4shi2.

I was in awe when we arrived at the cliffs. I forget what they’re called, but they’re on the No. 8 highway. They’re magnificently tall. So tall that… you just can gape in wonder. According to the tour guide that I was eavesdropping on while we stopped there, there used to be native people that lived at the top of the cliffs and got to the top by going up a trail on the face of the cliff (of which, I was unable to discern).

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Bright red bridge.

We also saw the Swallow Grotto (燕子口) and the Tunnel of Nine Turns (九曲洞) in addition to other things on the highway. Like bicyclers and cars and busses and cars and scooters and cars and scooters.

A very, very good day. I’m so 熟 (shou) with the road now! There’s just something good about walking. However, it also felt so good to arrive in Tiansiang. We did it! (And early, too. We made it in time for the bus back.)


Hualien (花蓮市):

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The cows in Hualien city.

Hualien, the city, was okay. Although, I’d call it more of a town than a city. Where was everyone?

Lastly, the Mochi / Magi / Mashu (麻糬) etc. So good! Get it from the Zengji Mashu (曾記麻糬). Don’t forget to bring stuff home for your loved ones! (Traditions…)

(Note: It’s so weird to look at photos that you have taken the day of that you write on because it already seems so far removed.)

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Yangmingshan (陽明山)

Posted in Culture, Exchange Students, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Weather by J on March 15, 2008

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Photo taken by my friend while at Yangmingshan (sitting on my camera).

For my first time to Yangmingshan (陽明山), there couldn’t have been a better time to go. It was the first weekend that the flowers were all blooming, and the weather was great to boot!

Had some delicious sausages, purple yams and ice cream at Yangmingshan. It was fun just to wander about checking things out with friends.

I can definitely see why people like to go up to Yangmingshan to “escape” from Taipei. (It’s still in Taipei.) There’s lots of people in both places, but it’s totally different from the city below. It seems like a type of cultivated wilderness. All in all, just, nice.

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Pretty in pink.

2008 Pinghsi Lantern Festival (平溪天燈)

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What a beautiful night to check out the Pinghsi Lantern Festival (平溪天燈).

I ended up following a large group of new exchange students to Pinghsi. First, we took the MRT to the end of the Muzha line (the Taipei Zoo) and subsequently got on a bus to Pinghsi.

A comment on the systematic bus system: cool!

To get on the bus going to Pinghsi or back to Taipei, you can either stand or get a seat. There are two lines for this. Obviously, the line to get a seat is much longer. The ride to Pinghsi take 1.5 hours. The flat rate there and back is 150 NTD

At Pinghsi, it is much like a night market, except that this ‘night market’ centres itself around railway tracks, is in a mountainous area and has bajillions of firecrackers, fireworks and sky lanterns setting off into the night air. It all makes for a loud, noisy, and charming view.

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A concert of sorts

On this night, you can buy a sky lantern, paint it full of hopes and wishes for the future and then send it off into the sky. It reminds me of New Year resolutions, but not quite so doomed to failure.

Also, there was some sort of concert in an adjoining area of the ‘night market’ area. I was only able to catch a teensy bit of it, but it looked nice. Actually, more that it looked cool and dangerous. I saw a bit of fire tossing. Flash, flash, flash!

One a closing note: Where do all these lanterns end up the next day?

2008 Lantern Festival at National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (元宵節:國父紀念館)

Posted in Culture, Exchange Students, Night Life, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Weather by J on February 17, 2008

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The night of touching down in Taipei, I headed out to take a look at the lanterns at National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Despite the insistent rain, many people were out to admire the lanterns. I must say, regardless of which school level produced the lanterns (the elementary, the secondary, or the university school level), all the lanterns were very well done.

I think it would have been fun to have been able to participate in this competition myself. My lantern display probably would be filled with wacky things.

Shilin Night Market and KTV (士林夜市和好樂迪KTV)

Posted in Culture, Exchange Students, Food, KTV, Money, Night Life, Night Market, Shopping, Taipei, Thoughts by J on January 17, 2008

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Oyster omelette place. The neon lights. Hunky dory. Taipei is neato.

Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)

This time, I actually went to the real Shilin Night Market (士林夜市)! And not just the area just off of the Jiantan MRT station (劍潭車站) when I went to see the ISWAK 2 promotion. And the other time, I accidentally went to the wrong one at the Shilin MRT station (士林車站).

Food was good, just like last time. The bunch of us ate at the oyster omelette shop where the star of Taiwanese drama, Corner With Love (轉角*遇到愛) was taught how to make oyster omelettes. Yay! I used to watch that show in Canada. The oyster omelettes were GOOD. Oyster omelettes = 蚵仔煎。

After, some shopping at Shilin. Lots of things to buy.

KTV

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Lastly, KTV from near midnight to 5-6 ish in the morning. Wow! 6 hours at KTV! This time, I went to a Holiday KTV (好樂迪) place instead of a Party World KTV place (錢櫃PartyWorld). Apparently there’s only 2 KTV chains in Taipei…or so I’ve heard.

Anyways.
I had a lot of fun at KTV.

I’m finding more and more it’s the company you keep and the attitude you have towards things that make things cross over into the very fun category.

For about 400 NTD, the whole 6 hour KTV experience was quite an affordable affair. The buffet was pretty good, too. I still can’t believe we made it through 6 hours of KTV. Wow.

And one of the lovely things we did was have breakfast together. Last time that happened was when we came back from Mint and had a very late night snack. Eating together beats watching television and playing videogames by a longshot. Yatta!

My friends are awesome for knowing about all sorts of things in Taipei and whatnot. Because of them, I think Taipei is really growing on me.

Clubbing at Party Room

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Inside this huge, out of this world mall named The Living Mall (京華城), there are 2 clubs on the 12th floor to choose from. That night, we went to Party Room. Checking out Plush will be for another time. Also, I think I’ll have to go take a look at the mall in the daytime. It is so cool looking.

We went in with a huge group on Ladies’ Night (a long line up to get in). 17 of us in total, mixed company, sending off a friend. So, as a matter of course, we rented out a booth to sit and lounge at.

Observation
Oh, oh! Something really funny that I saw while I was dancing near the front with my friends was that when I looked behind us, there was this sea of guys barely moving their shoulders or anything…just staring at the front. That was kind of creepy. Quite robotic like.

Party Room Disadvantage
However, one downside to Party Room was the drinks. They were decidedly awful. Any of the cocktails I got were, in plain, gross. Only the beer was passable because those weren’t made up by the bartenders. Perhaps the bartenders were new or something.

Transportation
Taxis in Taipei. They are so convenient (and cheap)! Especially if the public transportation is closed down. I just realised it’s like having your own personal chauffeur. Oddly, they all seem to be old men driving the taxis. Well, I guess that isn’t quite so odd.

An aside:
I just made the connection today the reason they were showing My Chemical Romance (an American rock band) on the overhead screens all night long. Apparently, they’re going to be performing at the club very soon.

Last thought:
This progression of liking this sort of night life is an interesting phenomenon. A sort of letting go and having control at the same time. Who would have thought?

Term 1 is Ending! The Final Push

Posted in Academics, Culture, Exchange, Exchange Students, NTU, Taiwan, Thoughts, University by J on January 6, 2008

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The year starts off slightly off-centred. A new adventure to be found every day!

A news brief to kick off the new year…

With this week left before the finals start, it’s starting to get a little… how shall I say this? It’s time to turn the gas on! Vroom, vroom!

Reporting on other areas:

This month has been the preparation and steeling of feelings, for people are departing throughout this month. Many of whom I will probably never see again. But hey! At least there’s the internet… and visitation rights.

So, in culmination, in contrast to December’s mostly party-like atmosphere (as much as we could make it), January looks to be a balance between send-offs and school.

Finally a posting related to academics.

Winter Solstice (冬至)

Posted in Culture, Exchange Students, Food, Learning, Night Life, Taipei by J on December 22, 2007

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I was almost done when I remembered to take a picture…

Previously unknown to me was the Chinese celebration of the Winter Solstice [Dongzhi] (冬至). It’s a nice little celebration where families are supposed to gather together and eat tangyuan (湯圓) which are balls of glutinous rice in soup. I like mine in red bean soup with black sesame inside the tangyuan (紅豆芝麻湯圓) [pictured here]. So with a couple of friends, for the first time, I celebrated Dongzhi!

ISWAK 2 Autograph Session (惡作劇2吻的簽名會)

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L-R: Jiro Wang (汪東城), Joe Cheng (鄭元暢), Danson Tang (唐禹哲)

帥哥!帥哥!Hot boys are out and about in Taipei! For example, Jiro Wang (汪東城) on the left looks really handsome in person. Actually, more than anything, he was more pretty than handsome. But still, very good looking. And, he carries off his clothing very well.

Deciding to join some friends in checking out what an autograph session (簽名會) was like, I found myself at the Shilin Night Market (士林夜市). We were all waiting for the It Started With a Kiss 2 [ISWAK2] (惡作劇2吻) cast to come out.

After a bit of a wait (we waited for 4 hours, but we got there early), the cast came out. Unfortunately, Ariel Lin (林依晨), the actress who plays the main character, Xiangqin (湘琴), wasn’t in attendance.

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Smiley, smiley!

I thought it quite funny that when the cast was posing for the fans to photograph them, they would all turn as one mass towards one side when the emcee shouted out, “turn left…right…centre!” But I have to admit that it is quite an intelligent approach to satisfying fans.

Also, to have the opportunity to handshake (if you wanted) the real people behind the fantasy world of television was neat in itself. After all, stars are no less human than we are.

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Smiley, smiley!

A note on the fans:

I was so surprised that fans came from many different places to see these stars. Yes, they are quite famous, but wow! In addition to the majority of high school students that were there, there were even people from Japan and Korea in the audience! I have reason to think that some of them possibly flew in (an airplane) to have their ISWAK2 gear signed. Or they could have been foreigners who just happened to be in Taiwan at the time. Maybe Taiwan’s entertainment industry can do for Taiwan what Korea’s entertainment industry did for Korea.

Anyways, some of the fans’ ISWAK2 signs were so impressive. They were mostly all handmade, and this one sign had a huge picture drawn in the likeness of one of the stars. The dedication! However, this dedication is also kind of frightening at the same time.

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Pretty, pretty!

For example, I saw one fan that was situated further back tell one that was further up front that standing wasn’t allowed because it was the sitting section. Actually, it was more of a fierce finger wagging, “no,” and a subsequent hand motion motioning downwards. Surprisingly, the one further up front obeyed.

Later, as we were all packed in very close together in a small space, I started thinking about what would happen if these fans started to riot…

The ISWAK2 autograph session was certainly an interesting experience!

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The multitude begins early on in the afternoon…