Saturday, August 18, 2012

Taiwanese Adventure

Now to report back on my summer vacation to Taiwan...

First off the first thing I thought about Taiwan was, I am in teaching in the wrong country. haha The people are so unbelievably friendly and go out of their way to help you, the food is amazing and the landscape is so diverse. It is just so different to Korea. The Taiwanese people are so chilled and laid back and still very old school as asian countries go. Their English is obviously taught a lot differently because even when they don't speak much you can still pick up their meaning and the way they word their questions and sentences is a lot better than in Korea.
The most obvious difference is that Korea seems to be the most militarized Asian culture. They are very stuck in their ways, there is only one way, to question it would be wrong. There are hierarchies in all parts of social and business life. Family comes first, to the point that you live with your parents your whole life and take care of them till they die. When you get married you move in with your husbands family. There is no individuality and diverging from the Korean norm immediately labels you as outcast. They are a very materialistic culture based on monetary values and looks.
I'm making it sound bad but that is not the point, that's just their way. That is how they have been brought up and that is how they will bring their children up and they seem to be thriving under it, it's just that other parts of Asia are very different.
The Taiwanese culture is a lot more relaxed. We met some girls and a guy that were speaking to us about the culture and when we said that we teach in Korea the one guy mentioned that he once tried to get a Korean girlfriend (because the Korean girls are supposed to be the most beautiful...they really are!) but he said that it didn't work because he could not get used to how attached to their family they are. This came as a surprise to me, I know all the Asian cultures are VERY different but I thought that that was one of the similarities they had. Apparently not. What was also very refreshing about Taiwan was that they all tried to speak English to us, no matter how good or bad their English was. Koreans do not speak English to you unless it is almost perfect because they are too scared of making a mistake as this would make them look foolish in front of you. Taiwanese people do not seem to care which was great because I could help them and they could help us get around and order things and get the information, and oh my goodness are they helpful. They will literally walk you to the place you need to be even if it is completely out of their way just to make sure that you get to the right place. You only have to stand and look at a map with a confused look on your face for five seconds and someone will come and ask if you need help, or just point to things and try and tell you where to go even if they can't speak English. It made us feel very welcome and at home.
The list of differences goes on and on so I won't bore you with them all.
Don't get me wrong though, I know that Korea was the right choice, Taiwan seems to be a place I would fit into very easliy and because so many people speak English I would not have been forced to learn the language or get involved as much as I have here.
This is a big reason I know Korea was the right choice, I left South Africa because I grew up in a comfort zone, I went to primary school, high school and uni with the same people, yes I made many friends along the way but a lot of them stayed the same. I am very grateful for that but it also made me realize that I can't live in my comfortable bubble forever. I need to get thrown into the deep end and make my way back. Alone. Yes I had to work while at Uni and do things for myself more than others but not really, I always knew there were people to help me, I always knew that if I fell someone would catch me. That is exactly what I had to get away from, I needed to find out who I was, alone, not with my safety net. This is exactly what Korea has done for me, there is no one to save you when you need it, yes there are people to turn to and they can point you in the right direction but most of the time you have to do it yourself. Sometimes its so easy, other times you want to cry because its so hard or frustrating and others because its so hilarious but mostly you learn the lessons you have to by making mistakes and not by someone telling you what not to do. You learn the language because it makes it easier, you learn to understand the culture so that you can understand the people and slowly it starts to get easy, second nature and you realize you did it all yourself and that's the best part. To live in another country, and really live, not just fit into the group of expats is harder than it looks and some days I feel like if I really achieve that I can do anything. It might be childish but it puts a lot in perspective for me and I guess that's all that matters.

So excited to go on vacation!
To get back to the actual vacation, we started off with a night in Taipei where we  visited one of the most famous night markets, Shillin night market. It was awesome!! It's a lot like the markets in bangkok, the clothes and shoes are dirt cheap and the food is amazing. You can smell all the different spices they use that make your mouth water. There are also stands of fresh fruit everywhere! We visited a little temple that was near our hostel which was really pretty and also very different to the architicture of the temples in Korea, the taiwanese incorporate more of the chinese dragons and things in their artwork and structures.
Temple near out first hostel in Taipei

Shillin night market

Street food-so good!

This is like a bread dough thing with meat and herbs cooked inside it, was so good and about R7!


Traditional taiwanese breakfast

The next day we headed to Taitung to catch the ferry to Green Isalnd but underestimated how long it would take and so when we arrived in taitung there were no more ferry's to take us over so we had to spend the night there. WE had no idea where to go so I asked the guy at information who spoke hardly any English and just said Hotel, 1 night, 2 people and he's like ok, wait here and disappears. A little while later some other guy comes back and says follow me and takes out bags and shows us to his car. Sally and I got in and then looked at each other and were like, where they hell is he taking us? Turns out he had like a little guest house down the way and so we stayed there, he even organized our ferry tickets there and back and a taxi to the port. We paid him and thought, ah he definitely just over charged us, turns out he actually undercharged us. He also drove us to go get food at a traditional Taiwanese place and drove us back without asking for any money for petrol. He also woke us up for breakfast in time so that we wouldn't miss our taxi and he gave us his number to call in case we needed anything. That's just the kind of help they give you without even asking for it.
We then headed to Green island and stayed in a hostel type thing there for two nights. The Isalnd is really tiny so we cycled round the whole Island the scond day. I think its about 24km's round so it really isn't big It was so beautiful! I thought I was going to pass out though because it was so damn humid that it makes it so much hotter and the sweat was just pouring off us! We got to the hot springs at one point though so we could cool off in the showers before heading in. The hot springs are one of 3 natural saltwater hot springs in the world!! It was the strangest feeling because you are looking into the ocean with rocks and seaweed and other sea creatures but then when you get in its hot, as in bath water hot! Once we soaked there for a while we went to the man made pools and jacuzzi's at the top which were also pretty awesome.


cute little restaurant

This is like a fruit thing that has crushed ice at the bottom with mango and ice cream and milk. They have them in Korea too. Quite popular

Cocktails on Green Island

When we cycled around green island

View when cycling

More cycling views

salt water hot springs

Sunset on Green Island
After green island we headed to Kenting which has the best beach in Taiwan. It was beautiful with cute bars, coffee houses and restaurants along the beach with palm trees and all, exactly what I pictured for my vacation! The draw back, it rained, the WHOLE time. The only day there it didn't rain was the day we made friends with some girls who studies in Taipei and they took us on a tour of Kenting which was so stunning and we would never have been able to do it ourselves as we can't speak chinese so it was a really great way to see it all!!

So 6 days in Kenting were pretty much spent, reading, catching a glimpse of the sun so go to the beach and then get drenched, eating A LOT, taking walks and sleeping. At least we got to sleep in and relax which was really great! Not having to wake up to an alarm is still the best feeling in the world.

After that we headed back to Taipei for another 2 nights and 3 days which were mostly spent in more markets and temples but we also went up the 101 building which used to be the tallest building in the world until I think Beijing built one taller. Although it does have the fastest elevator in the world. It takes 39 seconds to get to the 89th floor, it moves at 1010 meters per minute, which is 16.83 m/s. You are on the floor and next thing you know you are 500 meters above ground, its crazy.
The view was amazing and they giv you an english tour thing that you listen to that shows you around and explains the history of the building and Taipei, its so interesting.

WE also did the Maokong Gondola which is a cable car that takes your over Taipei Zoo and through a very pretty part of Taipei. At the top there are food places that were really good so we had some lunch there before heading down. i will add all the photo's on here or you can go have a look at them on facebook.

All in all it was a great trip and I will most definitely go back again! I would also recommend it to anyone thinking of going!!

Well that is all the news for now so I will post again when I have more news, Don't forget to send me news from home!
Miss you all.

Kenting on the one beautiful day we had :)

one of the view sites on Kenting

The girls from our hostel we made friends with

Popular light house that the British built on Taiwan

View spot

Add caption

On top of the woooooorld!

Again the girls we made friends with that took us on the tour

Awesome sunset

Sashimi at a traditional taiwanese place, SO GOOD

Amazing brownie at this local place where we made friends with the owner

It was raining, so why not have fun in it?

Because it is literally typhoons obviously umbrellas don't do anything so this is the next best thing. was quite fun but it gets hot in that thing!!

Pad thai mmmmm

At the markets, wanna buy a fish? at like 11pm. haha

Glass blowing

A different type of the bread thing

Pancake with banana in the middle and chocolate and condensed milk on top :)

Taipei 101 building

Te fastest elevator in the world

View from 101

These are sculptures sculpted from coral. amazing

Coral again. So much detail!!

Longshan temple, so pretty

Bubble tea

Maokong gondola

Riding the gondola up to the markett at the top

Stunning temple we found outside the night market near us

Such pretty detail!!