Christmas in Taiwan

Trip Start Oct 28, 2006
Trip End Nov 2007

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Monday, January 8, 2007

Hello everyone!

    First of all, we hope all of you had a wonderful winter holiday.  We spent ours in sunny, tropical Taiwan.  It didn't feel all that much like Christmas as we're used to it, but we had lots of fun nonetheless.  Before going to Taiwan, the foreign English teachers at our school all had a secret Santa Christmas exchange.  It happened at our favourite bar (JJokki JJokki), and Mr. Kim, the owner of the bar, supplied us with lost of delicious food and drinks for free.  Ian got a pair of shin guards for soccer and Mel got a handmade crocheted tocque.
    We landed in Taipei on Christmas eve, and then took a bus to the city where Ian's friend Chris is teaching English.  The bus ride showed us much lush tropical greenery and the temperature was 23 degrees celsius.  Chris met us at the bus station and we took a cab that followed him on his scooter.  We stayed at his cousin Kevin's house.  Kevin and his wife, Rayne, have been teaching in Taiwan for seven years and they are quite established there, with two cute little daughters and two cats and a dog.  They were back in Canada for the month of December, so we had the house to ourselves (and Chris and the pets, of course).  We also had access to a scooter all week, which we both enjoyed thoroughly.  Ian did the driving, as Mel was too chicken, and he has decided that he really wants a scooter to get around Chuncheon. 
    The scenery in Taiwan is absolutely breathtaking, as the conditions are perfect for palm trees and other tropical plants, which are everywhere.  The buildings are slightly more run-down than in Chuncheon, and more of them are abandoned.  In fact, across from the house where we were staying was an abandoned school that was really fun to explore.  The strange thing about it was that it wasn't as if it was closed down and abandoned.  It was as if one day everyone left in the middle of the afternoon.  There was still chalk on the boards from lessons, there were still books on the shelves in an office and there were juice boxes that still had juice in them.  They were delicious (just kidding).  Ian picked up a few English books from an office as souvenirs.  Also nearby the house was a giant sitting Buddha sculpture (72 feet tall) that sits at the top of Baguashan mountain and looks out over Changhua.  The sculpture was surrounded by walking trails and fountains and streams and other nice scenery.  Also at the top of this mountain were several decommissioned war planes which had been turned into tourist exhibits.  Also, while we were there, there was an earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale at its source, but where we were, it measured only 4.  Still, it was pretty intense.  We were inside at the house and everything started shaking and rattling, but we were more surprised than scared.  Neither of us had ever experienced anything like that before.
    Taiwan seems to have many more Western things than Korea does and naturally, they are less expensive.  There are more Western cars, food, clothes, etc.  We had a chance to do some shopping along a street called the 'Yellow Brick Road'.  It had nothing to do with the Wizard of Oz, but it was a road that was paved with yellow bricks (duh...).  There were alot of inexpensive clothes shops.  Mel dragged Ian around there for an afternoon or two, but somehow Ian managed to spend more money than Mel did.  Go figure.
    Also in Changhua were many temples -- Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist.  They were all ornately decorated and quite beautiful.  We also visited a museum in Lukang, which is one of the oldest Chinese cities in Taiwan, as it is on the west coast and closest to China.  The museum had originally been a house owned at one time by the richest man in Taiwan, and
was converted into a museum in the 1970s.  It was full of traditional Chinese artifacts, clothes, and ancient farming implements.  Chris' girlfriend Sandy was nice enough to take the afternoon off work and show us around these places.  She's a real sweetheart.
    We also spent a day in the nearby metropolis that is Taichung.  We drove there on the scooter (about 40 minutes) and used them to get around the city.  Taiwanese drivers are insane, especially those driving scooters.  There are thousands of scooters, and they will squeeze through any hole they can.  And we thought Korea was bad.  While in Taichung, we visited a posh mall, and went to a sports complex to use the batting cages and pitching cage.
    The last day we were there, we visited Taipei.  We got to stay in a nice 4-star hotel called Caesar Park, which had a delicious buffet, and we visited Taipei 101, which is currently the tallest building in the world, by some standards.  Inside Taipei 101 is the world's fastest elevator, which ascends the 500-plus meter building in about 30 seconds, with a top speed of 1010 m/min (about 60 km/h).  We took the tour and ascended the building.  The scenery from the top was really amazing.  You could see the whole city nestled between mountains and everything looked so tiny.  We were so high that we were actually above clouds.  Also in Taipei, we got to sample some of the Taiwanese night life.  The first bar we went to had a live pop band, and the singer was very good, although we couldn't understand anything he was saying or singing, but from the audience's reaction, he was funny too.  After that, we went to a bar called Carnegie's, which had been recommended to us by one of the guys working at the desk at our hotel, which was a dance bar with lots of other foreigners.  Mel had a great time, anyway. 
    Our flight back was comfortable, but once we got back we had missed the last bus to Chuncheon, so we took a bus to Seoul station and had to transfer to another train station in Seoul, and by the time we got there we had missed the last train to Chuncheon.  We ended up paying 120,000 won (like $140 CDN) for a taxi from Seoul to Chuncheon, and the guy drove like a maniac.  We made the trip in less than an hour (it is a 2-hr train ride), and at times he was going nearly 190 km/h.  Bullet taxi.  This was our New Year's Eve, and we stayed in and watched Seinfeld on DVD -- we didn't want to spend any more money.  So I guess New Year's didn't really feel too much like New Year's this year, either.  Ah well, we can make up for it by having lots of good times on regular days while we're here...
    This is getting kinda long, so we're gonna end it here... we hope you enjoy the pictures!

Ian and Melissa
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