Spirited away in Jiufen

On Friday Ben, Honza and I decided to finally make it to Jiufen. I think it was our fifth attempt to do so, but something was always in the way. Whether it was thunderstorm, hangover, university assignments or something else, we somehow never managed.

Jiufen is an old gold digger village that huddles against the steep mountains, surrounded by rainforest. It took us nearly two hours by bus from Taipei. The old tiny streets with a lot of crooked stairs and red lampions and the sun melting over the sea and the misty mountains give the village a rather mystical feeling. No wonder that the Japanese regisseur  Hayao Miyazaki was inspired by Jiufen for the setting of his anime movie “Spirited away” (in German it’s “Chihiros Reise ins Zauberland”).

The sun was burning hot, and the streets full of Japanese tourists, but nevertheless I enjoyed the village a lot. Tons of tiny restaurants, food stands and cute shops wind up the alleys. The highlight was of course the often photographed Ah Mei Tea House, an old tea house that clings on the side of one of the higher mountains. We drank an iced coffee and mango slush in the cafe opposing the tea house, so we were able to shoot some really cool pictures of it. 🙂

We went back to Taipei with the bus ( we waited in line for over an hour, because all tourists wanted to go back) and had some Dinner in the Paulaner Brauhaus. I had German bread with butter and I might cried a little 😀 Can’t wait to have proper bread and no toast again!

Oma Sentence: Am Freitag sind wir nach Jiufen gefahren. Jiufen ist ein altes Goldgräberstädtchen in den Bergen nördlich von Taipei. Obowhl es nicht groß ist, hat es mir dort sehr gut gefallen. Die Aussicht aufs Meer, die vielen kleinen Gässchen mit roten Papierlampions und die vielen Restaurants sind einfach total schön! Das Highlight war das Ah Mei Tea House, das Wahrzeichen von Jiufen (und in jedem zweiten Taipei Kalender zu sehen). 

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Vietnam – Scooters, Iced Coffee and the burning sun

Prepared for a post with a looot of text (and even more pictures)? Yes? Here we go!

Right after mid-term exams Ben and I packed our backpacks and flew off to Vietnam for 10 days. I had to leave Taiwan to extend my 90 days Visa and we found some cheap flights to Ho Chi Minh City, so we gave Vietnam a shot. On Wednesday evening the 27th, we took the bus to the airport and spent half of the night in the ice cold waiting area (and got a cold). Our airplane left at 6:30 and we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at around 9 in the morning. I will go through our Vietnam trip city by city: Let’s go! 🙂

Map

Ho Chi Minh City

When we arrived tired after the exhausting night at the airport and at first sight, the city was a shock: thousands of scooters on crowded and small roads, terrible heat and humid air, super chaotic, no traffic regulations and every 10 meters someone approaches you and want to sell you sun glasses, cigarettes or massages. Puhh! We checked into our hostel near the backpacker street and went for the first Vietnamese food that day: we had some beef noodle soup (Pho) which was very delicious. That day we just strolled through the city center over markets to the river, where we did a little boat tour over Saigon river. In the evening we had some really amazing food again, before we went back to the hostel and had some beers on the terrace before falling into bed.

(Actually I didn’t take too many photos that day – I was a little bit afraid for my camera ;))

Oma Sentence: Ben und ich sind nach unseren Halbjahres Examen nach Vietnam geflogen, weil ich mein Visum verlängern musste. Wir sind über Nacht geflogen und unausgeschlafen wie wir waren war Ho CHi Minh City wo wir gelandet sind ein totaler Schock: so chaotisch!! Wir haben den ersten Tag dort damit verbracht die Stadt ein bisschen zu erkunden und super lecker gegessen. 

The next day looked way different: with a good night of sleep the city wasn’t that overwhelming anymore. After some delicious breakfast we headed to the war museum, where we spent most of the morning and noon. It was really interesting, but also a little bit propagandistic ;). After the museum we went to the old and beautiful post office, where we sent some post cards to family back home. In the evening we booked a bus to Mui Ne for the next day. The women at the Travel agency informed us, that the next few days will be national holiday, so hostels will be crowded and we should book soon. When we looked up hostels in Mui Ne for the next day and we literally found nothing…

Oma Sentence: Nach einer Nacht mit viel Schlaf, war die Stadt auch schon garnicht mehr so überwältigend. Wir haben den nächsten Tag in einem Museum über den Vietnamkrieg verbracht und haben die alte und schöne Poststation besucht. Abends haben wir dann einen Bus nach Mui Ne gebucht, aber leider online keine freien Hostels mehr gefunden weil es Nationalfeiertag war. 

Mui Ne

Despite the fact that we did not have a hostel for the night, we still took the bus to Mui Ne the next morning. We met some French people in the bus, who told us that hostels are booked out since a week and that it will be hard to find something. When we sat in the bus, we looked up hostels again and found one, that wasn’t free the day before (someone probably cancelled) and we were quick enough to book it. It wasn’t the cheapest, but we had a place to sleep that night and that was all that counted for us :D. We arrived in Mui Ne in the afternoon and first had some ice coffee and lunch with the group of Frenchies. Vietnamese Ice Coffee is very delicious! They have a little coffee filter on top of the glass, where the coffee runs through and then add some ice cubes and/or some condensed milk. The owner of the cafe also had a cousin or something who rented scooters, so we did that right away and drove off to our hostel. The hostel was actually more a bungalow village surrounded by trees and it felt like sleeping in the jungle (especially because of the massive amount of geckos on the walls). The owners were Günter from Germany and his Vietnamese wife and they were super friendly. Later that day we took a swim in the sunset, had dinner and drove around to find a gas station, which was quite compliacted. In the end we bought two PET bottles of petrol from a parking lot guard of a Beach Resort. We probably paid way too much and it also could have been olive oil, but we really needed some petrol and the scooter survived it. 😀 In the evening we met the French group again for some beers in a Beach Bar.

Oma Sentence: Obwohl wir kein Hostel hatten, sind wir trotzdem in den Bus gestiegen und haben dort eine Gruppe von netten Frnazosen kennengelernt. Im Bus haben wir im Internet nochmal geschaut und eine freie Bungalow Unterkunft in Mui Ne gefunden (wahrscheinlich hatte jemand last minute gecancelt) und die haben wir schnell gebucht. Der Besitzer war deutsch und sehr nett. 🙂 In Mui Ne angekommen haben wir gegessen und einen Scooter gemietet und später dann noch im Meer schwimmen gewesen. Abends haben wir uns mit den Franzosen auf ein Bier getroffen. 

The next day we woke up rather early, packed our bags and went to the resort from the Frenchies, where we stored our bags for the day. Then we did a tour with them and a Vietnamese tourist guide (who could only speak French, but the others translated for us). First we walked the fairy stream, a little river you can hike up for 30 minutes, then we drove to a fishing village to have lunch and coffee. Afterwards we visited a whale museum (where Ben and I refused to pay entrance for one room with a whale sceleton) and a little temple for fishermen. Then we visited a sheltered workshop for disabled people, who did sand-art. The things they produced were really cool, but it was a Sunday and they were still working, while tourists could look at them. Had a little bit of bitter aftertaste.

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag haben wir mit den Franzosen und einem Vietnamesischen Touristenführer eine Tour gemacht. Als erstes haben wir den Elfenbach erkundet (kleiner Fluss den man hochwandern konnte), dann haben wir in einem kleinen Fischedorf zu Mittag gegessen. Danach haben wir ein Museum und einen kleinen Tempel besucht und dann eine Behindertenwerkstatt besichtigt. Die hat mir allerdings nicht so gut gefallen, weil es ein Sonntag war und die trotzdem arbeiten mussten, während Touristen sich das angucken konnten. 

After the sheltered workshop we visited some old temple, which was really cool! See for yourself:

Oma Sentence: Danach sind wir zu einem total schönen Tempel gefahren:

On our way to some sand dunes we encountered a police incident. They pulled the scooters with the white people over and told us that we have to pay up to 1mil Vietnamese Dong, because we have the wrong driver’s liscence. Luckily Ben was the only one with an international driver’s liscence and we convinced them that in Germany you can drive a scooter with that liscence as well. The others had to pay around 20 euro. This is apparently something normal in Vietnam and this is how the police makes some money on the side.

Oma Sentence: Auf unserem Weg zu einigen Sanddünen wurden wir von der Polizei angehalten und die Franzosen mussten ein bisschen Bestechungsgeld zahlen, weil sie nicht den richtigen Führerschein hatten. 

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After that we visited the sand dunes, where the French people rented a Squad and Ben and I hiked up the Dune. In the evening we took a shower at their apartment, went for Dinner and some pool and beer in a bar with them, before taking the nightbus to Nha Trang. Nightbusses are crazy! You have bunkbeds in the bus, where everyone over 1,70m doesn’t fit in (so for me it was perfect – for Ben… not so much). You get a bottle of water and a blanket and you are supposed to sleep there, while the bus is speeding over curvy coast streets and stopping every 2km to let someone else hop on. CRAZY!!

Oma Sentence: Danach sind wir die Sanddünen hochgeklettert, das war ziemlich cool. Abends sind wir dann Essen gewesen und haben mit den Franzosen Bierchen getrunken und Billard gespielt, bis unser Nachtbus nach Nha Trang kam. Nachtbusse fahren über Nacht (was ein Wunder :D) und sind voll mit winzig kleinen Stockbetten. Ich pass da gerade so rein. Man bekommt eine Decke und eine Flasche Wasser und angeblich soll man darin schlafen, währen der Busfahrer wie ein Berserker über enge Küstenstraßen heizt. 😀

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Nha Trang

We arrived in Nha Trang at around 5:30 in the morning and took a taxi to our hostel, where we stored our bags. Then we walked to the beach and took the first swim on the day in the sunset. SO beautiful 🙂 And there were so many people on the beach at 6 in the morning 😀 All the Vietnamese people go there for a morning swim before the masses of Russian tourists occupy the beach on the day.

Oma Sentence: Wir sind dann in Nha Trang passend zum Sonnenaufgang angekommen. 🙂 

Back in our awesome hostel we had some breakfast on the rooftop with view over the city. Yummy! If you ever stay in Nha Trang, book a room in the Mojzo Inn hostel: best hostel we’ve ever been in! The personal knows your name, treats you like a friend, braids your hair for scootering, rents you a scooter, books you a bus…

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That day we spent at the beach, swimming, reading and relaxing. In the evening we strolled through the city and the souvenir shops and had some beer.

Oma sentence: den Tag haben wir dann entspannt am Strand verbracht!!

The next day we took the scooter and went for some waterfalls one hour scooter-ride outside the city. We drove through some fishing villages and some stunning coast views. You have to hike a bit and then you can jump into the waterfall. Of course we did that :). After the waterfall we went back to the city and visited some ancient temples. Since we were wearing shorts, we had to wear grey tunics. Ben looked like a real life monk 😀 nearly left him there 😉 In the evening we took a shower at our hostel, grabbed our bags and took the night bus to Hoi An.

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag sind wir dann mit dem Scooter auf wunderschöner Küstenstraße zu ein paar Wasserfällen gefahren, bei denen man runterspringen konnte! 🙂 Danach haben wir noch einen Tempel besichtigt und wir mussten so graue Kutten tragen. Ben sah 1:1 aus wie ein Mönch. Ich hätte ihn beinahe dagelassen 😀  Abends sind wir dann mit dem Nachtbus weiter nach Hoi An gefahren.

Hoi An

We arrived in Hoi An around 6:30 and first had some iced coffee and then walked to our hostel. On our way we already felt that Hoi An will be way more relaxing and calmer than the other cities in Vietnam and we immediately fell in love. 🙂 We arrived in our hostel, relaxed a bit and rented a scooter from the owner – lady for 5$ a day. That day we spent strolling through the beautiful ancient town of Hoi An, where some parts are only for bikes and pedestrians. The ancient town is nearly unchanged since 200 years, when Hoi An was still a very important trading habour for Chinese and Japanese and later also for Dutch, French and Portugese merchants. The city is actually under UNESCO protection because it is so beautiful. We bought a ticket, with which we could visit 5 of old houses, museums or old trading halls. That day we visited one attraction already. There are many tailors, souvenir shops, jewellery shops and other beautiful things. Ben got himself a linen shirt tailored and I bought myself a floor-length dress (I can never buy these in Europe – too short legs, but apparently I have a very Vietnamese body size ;)). The city gets especially beautiful when it turns dark and the whole city is eluminated by silk lanterns and candles that flow on the river. We ended the day with a beer and then went to bed early.

Oma Sentence: Hoi An war mit Abstand der schönste Stop unserer Reise. Die Altstadt ist seit 200 Jahren unverändert und UNESCO Weltkulturerbe und wirklich wunderschön!! Besonders abends hat die Stadt eine ganz tolle Atmosphäre. 

The next morning we had perfect breakfast (fruit, omlette, fresh juice and ice coffee) and then went with the scooter to find a nice beach. Ben also gave me my first Kathi-alone-on-a-scooter lesson. I drove like 200m straight and was very proud of me, but curves were already too much and Ben had to take over again 😀 We thought we found a nice beach, but it was a super weird one with big sand bag to hold back waves or something. Probably useful but not nice to chill. We stayed for an hour or so, since we payed the parking and a sun lounger (for like a euro each). We then decided to try finding a better beach and drove along the coast line. First we only found like weird abandoned hotels and construction sites where no-one was working, and no nice beach. We drove around for maybe 40 minutes until Ben discovered a tiny sign saying “To the Beach” and that was it: our dream beach! Long white sand beach with palm trees and beautiful turquoise water. We spent half of the day at the beach, relaxing in the sun. In the afternoon we went back to our hostel, discovered that we both had the very unhelathy colour of a lobster and then went to the city again, visiting a market, picking up Ben’s shirt and visiting some attractions with our ticket again. We finished the day with delicious food and Mojito. 🙂

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag haben wir einen schönen Strand gesucht und das hat ein wenig gedauert. Letztendlich haben wir aber unseren Traumstrand gefunden! 🙂 Ich bin an dem Tag auch mal Roller gefahren, aber nur ungefähr 200m 😀 Später sind wir dann wieder durch die Innenstadt geschlendert, haben einen Markt besucht und ein paar andere Sehenswürdigkeiten. 

 

The next morning we woke up quite early again and after breakfast went to the city once more, to visit the three last attractions with our ticket. Around noon a driver from the hostel took us to the airport and we took the airplane back to Ho Chi Minh City. The bus would have taken 21 hours, and we didn’t want to loose one day. The flight was only 36 euro, so it was very convenient.

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Morgen sind wir dann noch einmal in die Innenstadt bevor wir mittags dann den Flieger zurück nach Ho CHi Minh genommen haben. 

I have to say that Hoi An was the most beautiful and relaxed city of our stay and I really really enjoyed our time there!! If you go to Vietnam – check it out!

Ho Chi Minh City (again) and Mekong Delta

We arrived in HCM in the late afternoon and checked into the same hostel as the first time. We then went for some food and booked a Mekong Delta tour for the next day. Later that day we met a nice guy from Berlin who also stayed in our hostel and we had some beers on our terrace. We also messaged the French guys we met in Mui Ne and all together went to some bars for beer. Drinking is ridiculously (and dangerously) cheap in Vietnam. You get half a liter of beer for under 50ct.

Oma Sentence: In Ho Chi Minh City haben wir uns abends wiede rmit den Franzosen getroffen und einen netten Reisenden aus Berlin kennengelernt, mit denen wir ein Bierchen trinken waren.

The next morning (very early and a with a bit of an hangover) we took our tour bus to the Mekong Delta. We didn’t know how else we should see it, so we booked a guided tour – which was ok, but also a bit annyoing…

We first visited a pagoda and a biiiig Buddah and then took the boat over a branch stream of the Mekong to turtle island, where we had lunch. After lunch we took the boat to a coconut candy workshop, where we could see how coconut candy is made. Very delicious – but also very sweet. After the workshop we took little rowing boats through small arms of the delta, which was really cool! After that we were taken to a bee farm, where we got tea and had to listen to some really horrible music.. 😀

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag haben wir eine Mekong Delta Tour gemacht, die geführt war und daher nicht soo cool. Wir haben erst einen großen Buddah besichtigt, hatten Mittagessen, haben eine Kokosnuss Süßigkeiten Workshop und sind mit kleinen Booten über die Flussarme gefahren. Dann haben wir noch eine Bienenfarm besucht und mussten uns ganz schreckliche Musik anhören 😀 

In the early evening we were back in our hostel, took a shower and than took our bags to met a friend from the Hanze, who is currently studying in HCM. We had Dinner and cocktails together and then took a Grab – Taxi (similar to Uber) to the airport, where we flew back to Taipei.

Oma Sentence: Abends waren wir dann mit einem Mitstudenten aus Groningen essen gewesen (der macht momentan sein Auslandssemester in HCM) und haben dann den Fleiger zurück nach Taipei genommen. 

Conclusion

I was a bit afraid of Vietnam, since I heard a lot of horror stories about pickpocketing, people who rip you off and food that makes you sick. All my fears were for no reason – nothing got stolen, we probably sometimes paid a bit more than the locals but we didn’t get ripped off too bad, we didn’t get sick and our sunburn was bearable. Vietnam is something totally different than Taiwan, a bit poorer, dirtier and rougher. The people are still super nice, the food very delicious and the country definetly worth a visit!! 🙂

Oma Sentence: Ich hatte mir vorher ein bisschen Sorgen gemacht über Taschendiebe und das wir das Essen nicht vertragen. Am Ende war das unbegründet und wir hatten eine tolle Zeit! 🙂 

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Yehliu Geopark and Keelung

Last Saturday Ben, I, our flatmates from Austria and some friends of theirs visited Yehliu and Keelung. It takes around one hour by bus to go to Yehliu from Taipei. Yehliu is a sweet little harbour city.

Oma Sentence: Am Samstag sind wir mit unseren Österreichischen Mitbewohnern nach Yehliu und Keelung gefahren. Yehliu ist ein süßer kleiner Ort an der Küste. 

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When we arrived: SHOCK. Hundreds of busses with (chinese) tourists…

The first stop was in the Ocean Park where we saw a really weird show. First there were seals, after that a Russian diver group with Ninja Turtle costumes and then some Dolphins. I really didn’t like the show, I had pity for the animals and the show in general was way too hyperactive with annyoing music and stupid jokes :D. Also the rest of the aquarium was kind of sad, the tanks were too little for the animals and there were no plants.

Oma Sentence: Der erste Stop in Yehliu war ein Meerespark, wo wir uns eine Seelöwen, Akrobatik und Delfin Show angesehen haben. Das war allerdings garnicht mein Fall. Die Tiere taten mir nur leid und der Rest der Show war viiel zu aufgedreht.

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After this rather sad experience we went for some food and then visited the Geopark. Despite the fact that there were way too many tourists, the park was really interesting. Washed out corall riffs and a great view over the ocean and the mountains. I was impressed! Let the pictures speak for themselves:

Oma Sentence: Der zweite Stop war ein Geologie-Park mit verschiedenen Felsformationen und Korallenriffen die aus dem Meer gewaschen wurden. Die Bilder sprechen für sich: 

After the geopark we took the bus to Keelung. We nearly died on the way, because the bus driver was waaaaaay too crazy… You can imagine it like a ride in the Knight Bus from Harry Potter 😀

Keelung is a harbour city, which is very industrial but also has a lot of charme. Our first stop was Cheng-Chung Park on top of a mountain, from where you were able to overlook the city and watch children playing games. If you ever go there watch out for children and / or grandparents with little racing cars, they might drive into your ankles 😀

Oma Sentence: Danach sind wir nach Keelung gefahren. Keelung ist eine Industriestadt am Meer, die aber trotzdem einen schönen Charme hat. Zuerst haben wir in den Cheng-Chung Park besucht, von wo man einen schönen Blick auf die Stadt hatte. 

Our second stop was the famous Keelung Night Market, which is a little bit different than the ones we know from Taipei. The food was a little different and there was more crazy stuff to try. Also more sweets and cakes were offered. Most impressive was one street with a little temple, which was dedicated to food only and beautiful yellow lanterns were hanging on the sides.

Oma Sentence: Dann sind wir auf den berühmten Nachtmarkt gegangen, wo wir verschiedenes Essen ausprobiert haben, bevor wir dann zurück nach Taipei gefahren sind 🙂 

After the night market we took the bus back to Taipei 🙂

Wild Hot Springs Bayan – Quick escape from the city

On Friday Ben and I decided – despite the weather forecast (rain and rain and rain) – to make a little hike and relax in the wild hot springs up in Yangmingshan National Park. We read a description on how to get there on the internet and felt well prepared. Well – we weren’t…

We found the bus without problems and met a very friendly Canadian couple in their mid sixties (??) who were orginally from Hong Kong and currently travelling for 4 months of which, by now, they have been in Taipei for six weeks. We talked about travelling, Taiwanese food and a lot more on the bus ride, and decided that when we are retired, we want to be like them for sure. #couplegoals!! They have been travelling every year for several months, because they want to see something of the world. They were really amazing! In the course of our bus ride, we realized that we do not know where we have to get off the bus. The friendly Canadian man asked our bus driver and then showed us on the map that there are several stops called Bayan. Since the couple got off from the bus earlier than we did, he asked a Taiwanese old lady that she should tell us when to get off. She agreed, but also got off from the bus before us. So she told the bus driver and another Taiwanese couple that they should tell us when we have to get off 😀 So in total 8 people were involved in making sure we find the right bus stop and we had to wave good bye to all of them for at least three times… 😀

We finally managed. Our internet guide didn’t tell us that the bus ride actually would take about an hour, so we were slightly confused 😉 So if anyone wants to do the tour as well: the bus ride takes over an hour!!

The hike to the hot springs wasn’t actually that complicated and we managed to find them quite easily.

Oma Sentence: Am Freitag sind Ben und ich im Yangmingshan National Park zu heißen Quellen gewandert. Wir hatten den Trip eigentlich ganz gut geplant, aber schon an der richtigen Bushaltestelle auszusteigen hätten wir ohne die Hilfe von freundlichen Taiwanesen und einem freundlichen Kanadischen Pärchen nicht geschafft. 

We arrived and asked a group of older Taiwanese people if we could put our bags under their rain shelter, because it started to rain again. After some hot and cold baths we decided to put a mud pack on, as we saw some old ladies doing that. Apparently we did it wrong because an old man was shaking his head when we started and led us to some hotter springs and digged for mud with his shovel. Again we weren’t as prepared as he was.

Oma Sentence: Die Wanderung zur Quelle selber war relativ einfach. Wir haben in den Quellen gebadet und ein freundlicher älterer Herr hat uns gezeigt wie man richtige ein Schlammbad aufträgt. 

With hot mud all over our bodies we showered under a (pretty ice cold) waterfall and then relaxed in the hot springs again. After that the same old man invited us for some tea he was preparing. When it was time to go, the rain intesified, and the people who we shared the rain shelter with were already gone, so our bags were pretty soaked. Most of the Taiwanese had their changing clothes in plastic bags with them. Again – better prepared than we were.

Oma Sentence: Die Schlammpackung haben wir dann unter einem ziemlich kalten Wasserfall wieder abgewaschen und haben von dem selben Mann Tee bekommen. Als es Zeit zu gehen war, waren unsere Taschen ziemlich durchgeweicht, weil es stark angefangen hatte zu regnen. 

It got already dark when we went back to the street where we left the bus and we arrived there exactly when it was dark. We looked up the bus schedule – 30 min to wait for the last bus that would come on that day and it was (of course) raining a lot. Luckily we were able to stop a car with an old Taiwanese couple who had been at the hot springs as well and they took us with them to Taipei City in their nice and comfortable (German) car and shared some fruit with us.

Oma Sentence: Auf dem Rückweg hätten wir eine halbe Stunde im Regen auf den Bus warten müssen. Zum Glück hat uns ein älteres Pärchen, dass auch in den Quellen war mit ihrem (deutschen) Auto wieder mit zurück in die Stadt genommen 🙂 

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Moral of the day: we would have been stranded without all these kind people helping us! 😀

Spring Break in Kenting

Spring Break was amazing! We had one week off from university and we travelled down to Kenting. Kenting is the most southern point in Taiwan with a big national park and a lot of seaside and some very white beaches. It is therefore super popular amongst Taiwanese because most other beaches are black or grey (because of some former Vulcano activities).

We took the midnight bus on Friday and arrived after some more or less relaxed sleeping hours (why the hell are Taiwanese busses always sooo cold??) at 6am in the morning in Kenting. Our first stop was (of course) 7-11 to get some strong coffee and some breakfast before we headed to the beach to nap and take the first swim of the year. In April. At 7 in the morning. Best life!

Oma Sentence: In unseren Frühlingsferien sind wir in den Süden von Taiwan nach Kenting gefahren. Kenting ist super beliebt, weil es dort viele weiße Strände gibt (und die sind sonst in Taiwan eher in der Minderheit). 

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In the afternoon we set up the tent on our camping site and went to the first evening of Spring Break Festival on the Beach. Sad thing was, although it was on the beach – you were not allowed to swim in the sea… I can partly understand, since drunk people and the ocean might not be the best combination, but still 😀 I was wearing my bikini! Luckily there was a pool 🙂

Oma Sentence: Wir haben den Nachtbus genommen und sind dann erstmal schwimmen gewesen morgens um 7 Uhr. Am Nachmittag haben wir unser Zelt aufgebaut und abends waren wir dann auf einem Festival am Strand. 

Next morning we woke up after a few hours of sleep at 7:30 because it was way too hot in the tent… after some bikini shopping and food we went back to the beach to get some tan and swim in the sea. In the evening we had an amazing Taiwanese barbecue before heading back to the festival.

Oma Sentence: Die Nacht war kurz, weil es super warm im Zelt war. Den Tag haben wir dann am Strand verbacht, abends gegrillt und dann wieder auf das Festival. 

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Same game next morning. At 7:30 sharp we woke up. The night before a rather weird smell like dead animal inhabited our tent. When we emptied our tent, I discovered that one of the shells I was collecting on the beach the first day, wasn’t actually dead, died in my backpack and stewed in the heat. After cleaning everything and hanging it in the trees around our tent we went to get some food and then headed to the beach. In the evening we had the last evening of festival. Before that we got some “little” beers and some food on the night market.

Oma Sentence: Nach einer wiederum kurzen Nacht, haben wir eine tote Muschel in unserem Zelt gefunden (die einen sehr miesen Geruch verströmt hat…). Den Tag haben wir dann wieder am Strand verbracht und abends nach einem “kleinen” Bier wieder auf das Festival gegangen. 

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One more night in the tent (without a proper mattress) and then the others left and we decided to stay and rent a hostel with the Czech guys and some friends of theirs. We rented some scooters and explored the coast side. Our dinner was in a really little fishing village, where I probably had the freshest fish of my life while watching the sunset.

Oma Sentence: Am Dienstag ist der Mehrzahl abgereist und wir haben uns zusammen mit Freunden ein Hostelzimmer gemietet. Dann haben wir uns Roller geliehen und haben damit ein paar Strände erkundet und waren abends in einem kleinen Fischerdorf zu Abend essen. Mit Blick auf den Sonnenuntergang!

On wednesday we went for a bigger tour with our scooters along the coast. We saw a part of the national park with a lighthouse, some old caves and the “Kissing stones”. Then we scootered on, along some very stunning landscape and stopped whenever we thought it is worth to take a photo. For instance we saw the most southern point in Taiwan (with again maaany Chinese tourists like in Hualien). The best stop was at a beach, where the waves were really cool, and we were like children jumping through the water. After that we headed for some snack in an old and tiny village, where we found a super shady grocery store with a cute old man selling cool drinks and snacks for a few dollar. We finished the day with a lot of food and an evening on the beach.

Oma Sentence: Am Mittwoch haben wir eine etwas längere Roller – Tour gemacht und einen Teil des Nationalparkes erkundet. Wir haben zum Beispiel einen Leuchtturm, Höhlen und die “Küssenden Steine” gesehen. Wir haben auf der Tour überall da gehalten wo es schön war und man tolle Fotos machen konnte. Der beste Stop war an einem Strand mit ganz vielen Wellen und wir hatten einen Mordspaß 😀  Den Abend haben wir dann mit Essen und einem Bierchen am Strand ausklingen lassen.

Thursday was our last day, which we spent to scoot around, chill on the beach and sipping some fresh coconut water. We watched the most beautiful sunset on the beach and went back to the small fishing village to have once again (although another restaurant) super delicious seafood. 🙂

Oma Sentence: Den dritten Tag mit Rollern haben wir damit verbracht an andere Strände zu fahren, Kokoswasser zu trinken und den Sonnenuntergang zu bewundern (jap, das war da wirklich so kitschig!). Abends waren wir dann wieder in dem Fischerdorf zum Essen. 

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On Friday we took a half-illegal taxi back to Kaoshiung, from where we took the bus back to Taipei (this time the bus wasn’t that cold ;)).

Oma Sentence: Freitag sind wir dann mit einem halb-illegalen Taxi nach Kaoshiung gefahren und haben von da den Bus zurück nach Taipei genommen. 

Hualien, East Coast and Taroko National Park

In the beginning of this blog post I have one thing to say: the impressive landscape and nature of the East Coast and Taroko can’t be captured by photos, all the photos I took show a fragment of the whole scene. To experience the impressiveness, you should definitely go there yourself 🙂

So since our university week is very short (only Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday courses) we have a lot of free time to travel. This weekend we decided to go to Hualien for two nights: one day Hualien, one day Taroko National Park and one day the East Coast scenery.

We took the train to Hualien and then the bus to our awesome Aribnb 🙂 The day we spent in Hualien, we had really delicious local dumplings (more and puffy dough than the ones in Taipei) and took a walk on the sea side before having dinner on a night market. We also rented a car for the next two days, since it was the most convenient way to visit Taroko and the East Coast highway.

Oma Sentence: letztes Wochenende sind wir nach Hualien an die Ostküste gefahren. Den ersten Tag haben wir damit verbracht Hualien zu erkunden und lecker Dumplings (gefüllte Teigtaschen) zu essen. Mjamm! 🙂 Außerdem haben wir ein Auto für die nächsten beiden Tage gemietet. 

So the next morning we got up pretty early and drove to Taroko. I had a very handy book from my former flatmate (Lana, thanks again at this point!) about all the different trails in the National Park and we chose different trails that led us through beautiful valleys, impressive rivers and huge mountains. The Swallow Grotto Trail required to wear ridiculus helmets, because of the possible danger of stones falling down on you (didn’t happen to us!). The Changchun Shrine Trail was somewhat dissappointing since a massive amount of Chinese (rude) tourists occupied everything.

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag haben wir dann mit dem Auto und zu Fuß den Taroko Nationalpark erkundet. Der Park ist wirklich wunderschön mit vielen großen Flüssen, steilen Schluchten und teilweise leider auch vielen (Chinesischen) Touristen. Auf einem Wanderweg musste man Helme tragen, die sahen ganz schön lustig aus 😀 

After this experience we decided to also visit some of the Cingshui Cliff Area Trails (not reeeaaally a part of Taroko, but close by). We drove on the coast highway and stopped whenever we thought it is beautiful. Sadly also the best photo spots were occupied by large bus travel groups (and way too many people with selfie sticks…). In addition we didn’t manage to get to the beach, since the stairs broke down in the last earthquake. Nevertheless we took some really nice photos and then headed back to our Airbnb.

Oma Sentence: Neben dem National Park führt eine Küstenstraße an der berühmten Cingshui Klippe. Hier waren leider auch wieder die vielen Busreisegruppen. 

When we arrived at home Ben started to feel sick and after some time it became clear that he had some serious food poisoning. He rested at home, while we grabbed some dinner. Sadly it didn’t get better when we came back, but worse (I’ll spare you any details ;)). In the night we even had to take him to the hospital (so glad we had a car) where he got medicine and spent the night. In the next morning we picked him up again and he decided to go back to Taipei straight away, while we others made a trip down the Highway 11 on the east coast.

Oma Sentence: An dem Abend als wir wieder zu Hause waren ging es Ben plötzlich ziemlich schlecht und wir mussten ihn ins Krankenhaus bringen. Ziemliche dicke Salmonellenvergiftung hatte er sich zugezogen. Morgens ist er dann direkt mit dem Zug wieder zurück nach Taipei gefahren und wir haben den Tag noch damit verbracht die Ostküste mit dem Auto in Richtung Süden zu fahren. 

Here again we stopped whenever we felt it was a nice spot to admire the landscape and take photos. The trip was a lot of fun, even though we had no chance to get to any beach. All beaches were closed or under construction, because it is still winter season here and Taiwanese do not fancy to go swimming at this time of the year. The most impressive stop was at Shihtiping, where huge rocks reach into the sea and you have a spectacular view on the mountains and the seaside. In the evening we went back to Taipei by train back to Taipei.

I am tired of writing, so let the pictures speak for themselves 🙂

Oma Sentence: Die Ostküste ist wirklich wunderschön mit Bergen auf der einen Seite und Meer auf der anderen. Die Bilder sprechen für sich 🙂 

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Monkey Trail

Last Thursday Ben and I wanted to escape the city for a little while and see some nature. We decided to hike the Monkey Trail, which is a tiny part of the Yangmingshan National Park in the north of Taipei.

We had to take the Bus up north to the foot of the mountain and just when we started to walk up the stairs, the inevitable rain started again. Still it was quite warm, so we decided to continue.

Oma Sentence: Am Donnerstag wollten Ben und ich ein bisschen Natur neben all der Großstadt erleben und sind den Affen – Wanderweg gewandert. Natürlich hat es genau dann angefangen zu regnen, als wir angefangen haben zu laufen. 

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The first part of the trail is only stairs, stairs, stairs… and I am really not a fan of stairs!! After a few minutes we were soaking wet from rain and sweat, but because we are real adventurer we were wearing the right outdoor equipment and hiked on ;).

Oma Sentence: Der erste Teil vom Wanderweg waren Treppen, Treppen und Treppen. Nicht so toll… Nach ein paar Minuten waren wir komplett durchgeschwitzt und durchgeregnet 😀 

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The second part of the trail is the more interesting one: it is rather flat and winds through impenetrable rain forest. The rain was really heavy by then and the path was super foggy. The warning sign indicated that this is the path where we are able to see monkeys – if we are lucky! It also said that we shouldn’t look them in the eyes because that makes them aggressive and we shouldn’t feed them and bring no food with us (I totally forgot about my banana in my bagpack and rediscovered when we were back in the bus – upps!).

Oma Sentence: Der zweite Teil des Weges war interessanter: der Pfad war relativ eben und rechts und links war undurchdringlicher Regenwald. Es war super am regnen und mega nebelig auf dem Weg. Auf dem Weg sollte man dann Affen sehen, wenn man Glück hat! 

So we walked that trail and kinda got dissappointed, since no monkeys were in sight. Then suddenly (maybe attract by my banana?) we heard some noises in the trees above us and saw a whole monkey family jumping through the jungle. There were even two baby monkeys!! We immediately tried to take some photos but most of them didn’t work out so well. The monkeys just were too fast. Still it was really an adventure to see some monkeys in their natural habitat, with no Zoo fence or something.

Oma Sentence: Wir haben tatsächlich eine Affen-Familie gesehen!! Mit zwei Babyaffen 🙂 Das war irgendwie schon verrückt, so ganz ohne Zoogehege.

The rest of the path was not less exciting: we wanted to take a side-path to see a waterfall when a huge animal blocked our way. Since it was so foggy we could not see it properly but it could have been an adult monkey or some huge wild cat or something. The rest of the way I was pretty scared and I was happy when we reached the last part of the hike: stairs again!

Oma Sentence: auf dem Weg nach oben haben wir dann noch ein ziemlich großes Tier gesehen (Wildkatze, großer Affe? Wer weiß?), das war ganzschön gruselig und ich war ziemlich froh als wir die letzten Treppen hoch zu einer Straße geschafft hatten. 

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On top of the mountain we took the bus back home. I think I never enjoyed a hot shower that much 😀

On Sunday we went back with some friends from university because they also wanted to see the monkeys. Sadly we didn’t see any, maybe because more people were hiking that day… or we were just really lucky on Thursday to see some 🙂

Oma Sentence: Dann haben wir den Bus wieder nach Hause genommen – die Dusche tat wirklich gut! 🙂 Sonntag sind wir dann mit ein paar Freunden den gleichen Weg nochmal gewandert, aber haben leider keine Affen gesehen. Wir hatten am Donnerstag wohl einfach wirklich Glück! 

Kaoshiung – Hello Sun!

Two weeks ago we went to Kaoshiung with a couple of friends to escape the grey and rainy Taipei for some days of sun. Kaoshiung is a city in the south of Taiwan.

The decision was made super spontaneous when we were in university on Wednesday and it was freezing cold the whole day. We checked the weather report for Kaoshiung and since it said it will be over 20°C we decided to go on Thursday.

We took the TRA (regular train, but not the cheapest one – really comfy and hot lunch boxes on the train!!) in the morning, which took us in 5 hours to Kaoshiung and there it was: the SUN! 🙂

After checking in our hostel (the Czech guys we were travelling with knew a Slovakian hostel owner, so we got a room last minute) we strolled through the city and had some amazing hot pot for dinner. Hot pot is related to the European fondue and basically means you throw everything (meat, vegetables, seafood and noodles) in a big pot of boiling soup. It was delicious!

Oma Sentence: Vor zwei Wochen sind wir nach Kaoshiung, einer Stadt im Süden von Taiwan gefahren, weil es dort wärmer war als in Taipei. Am ersten Tag sind wir abends “Hot Pot” Essen gegangen, das ist so ähnlich wie Fondue. Sehr lecker! 🙂 

The next morning we went to rent scooters for two days, so we didn’t need to walk everywhere. I didn’t drive myself but was sitting on the back of Ben’s scooter. I was really afraid at the beginning, since the Taiwanese traffic is way different and definetly more scary than German traffic 😀 In the end I got used to it and when you are part of the scooter-mob it is fine.

Oma Sentence: Am zweiten Tag haben wir uns Roller geliehen und haben damit die Stadt erkundet. Sehr aufregend 😀 Ich bin nicht selber gefahren, sondern saß bei Ben hinten drauf! 

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We drove to Qijin, an island that lays in the sea in front of Kaoshiung. We didn’t swim but took a walk on the seaside and up a hill, with a marvelous view on the city. At night time we got dinner at a  night market and afterwards we drove around with our scooters. We went up Soushan mountain, to have a view on the city and visit the LOVE sign up there and drove to the Lotus Lake to see the famous Dragon and Lion Pagoda.

Oma Sentence: Wir sind mit den Rollern nach Qijin gefahren (das ist eine Insel die im Meer vor Kaoshiung liegt) und sind da auf einen Berg gewandert um Fotos zu machen. Abends sind wir nach dem Abendessen auf den Soushan Berg gefahren und haben die LOVE Statue besucht und danach zum Lotus See um die Drachen und Löwen Pagode zu sehen. 

The next morning we got up “early” (at 10am :D) and our scooters took us to the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center (or just Big Buddha). We walked around the center half of the day, taking tons of photos. Unfortunately you can’t take any photos inside the center, so I can only show you how it looked from outside. We were also ringing the “peace bell” which is supposed to let our whishes come true. Then we went back to Kaoshiung through some really beautiful landscape and pineapple farms. In the evening we went out clubbing and finished the day with some Pilates at 5:30am in the morning :D.

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag sind wir mit unseren Rollern zum Großen Buddha gefahren und haben den halben Tag dort verbracht. Leider durfte man keine Fotos im Center machen, deswegen kann ich nur Bilder von draußen zeigen. 

The next we slept loooong and relaxed in the park most of the day. 🙂 On monday we wanted to take the highspeed train back to Taipei at 8pm in the evening, but apparently student tickets are limited and the regular price was too expensive. So we decided for the bus instead, which took us in 6 hours or so back to Taipei. The bus however was also pretty comfortable and not relatable to German or European busses. All in all, the travel was definitely worth it, Kaoshiung is amazing and the weather was really good! 🙂

Oma Sentence: Sonntag haben nur relaxt und am Montag sind wir mit dem (wirklich komfortablen) Reisebus wieder nach Taipei gefahren. 🙂 Die Reise hat sich total gelohnt, Kaoshiung ist klasse und das Wetter viel besser 😀 

 

Lanterns in Jingtong

Yesterday Ben and I, together with some other students, went to Jingtong (close to Pingxi) for the Lantern Festival held during the Chinese New Year celebrations. Jingtong is a small village (more a street with houses than an actual village) up in the mountains that surround Taipei.

We got up very early in the morning and took the train to Houtong which was our first stop. Houtong is Taiwan’s cat city and hosts over 100 kitties and probably over 100 kitty-souvenir shops as well 😉 Although I am a huge cat lover, the city wasn’t really my taste. The cats where sometimes on a leash and only there for the tourists’ amusement. Also, there were too many souvenir shops that were trying to sell kitten related stuff. Still, we touched the Kitty-Good-Luck-Rope (at least that’s what we were told) and had some lunch in the city.

Oma – Sentence: Gestern waren wir mit einer Gruppe anderer Studenten in Jingtong für das Laternen Festival. Auf dem Weg dorthin haben wir einen Zwischenstopp in der Katzenstadt von Taiwan gemacht, das war für meinen Geschmack aber ein bisschen zu touristisch.

After the cat city we took the (super crowded) train for another hour which took us slowly through a really beautiful landscape on the way to Jingtong. We spent the afternoon exploring the small village, walked across the “Lover’s Bridge”, bought some little lanterns, strolled through the hills around the town and had (of course) some food. In addition, I drove the New Years train haha! Choo Choo here comes Kathi 😉

Oma Sentence: In Jingtan selber haben wir die Stadt und die umliegende Gegend erkundet. Wir haben die die Liebesbrücke überquert und lecker gegessen. 🙂 

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Celebrating Chinese New Year didn’t only mean to fire up some lanterns but also to write whishes for the future on a bamboo stick and hang it up in Jingtong. There were thousands of these sticks hanging around the village and we also decided to join this tradition.

Oma Sentence: In Taiwanesischer Tradition haben wir unsere größten Wünsche auf einen Bambus Holz geschrieben und zu den anderen abertausenden gehangen.

In the end we did what we came for: sending some lanterns in the sky. Everyone had one side on the lantern and I wrote a Happy Birthday wish for my granny on it.

Oma Sentence: Am Ende haben wir dann natürlich Laternen steigen lassen. An dieser Stelle nochmal alles Liebe 🙂 

Hello Taipei

My last post was ages ago. Sorry for that. 🙂

In addition I would like to introduce some sort of a new thing on my blog. Since I am abroad for a while now and my grandma at home also wants to understand what I am doing here, there will be some “Oma-Sentences” in German every once in a while beneath the pictures. 😉

I finished my internship before Christmas and headed home to spend Christmas at home with my family. In January I went to Budapest and Belgrade and afterwards I spent my days preparing and packing for – TAIPEI!

I am here for exactly a week now and I get more and more used to the city. Still everything is pretty new and exciting. Ben and I spent the last days visiting the attractions of Taipei and took (literally) 1.000 photos.

For example we visited the Chiang – Kai Shek Memorial Hall and saw the changing of the guards there.

Oma – sentence: Das ist das Chiang Kai Shek Denkmal, das Ding ist wirklich super riesig und ziemlich beeindruckend. Da in der Nähe wohnen wir 🙂 

Another day we hiked up the Elephant Mountain, where one has an amazing view on the skyline of the city. We spent the whole afternoon there until the sunset, which was pretty amazing.

Oma – sentence: Hier sind wir auf den Elefanten Hügel gewandert um ein paar Fotos von der Skyline von Taipeh zu machen. Wir haben den ganzen Nachmittag da oben verbracht und auf den Sonnenuntergang gewartet, das hat sich auch total gelohnt!!

We also visited a lot of temples on the way, saw some Chinese New Year fireworks and best of all – visited a lot of night markets. There, you can eat about every food you can imagine and buy everything from Hello Kitty selfie sticks to baby clothes. My favorite food so far are shallot pancakes with fried egg, dumplings, and little cakes filled with custard – so delicious!! Another day we went with a group of international students to have a snake meal – Ben and I opted out at the end when it came to drinking blood and venom with some sort of medicinal alcohol. In the end, we tried some snake soup but I didn’t like it at all! 😀 In addition we visited Ximen – a part of the town which is packed with bubble tea places, fashion shops and loud pop music. It feels like a very Asian and hyperactive version of Piccadilly Circus in London. 😉

Find some randomly chosen pictures of Taipei below and let them speak for themselves – no words needed 🙂

Oma – sentence: Das hier sind ein paar wild ausgesuchte Bilder von Taipeh. Wir haben verschiedene Tempel besichtigt, waren auf vielen Nachtmärkten zum Essen und waren mit einer Gruppe von anderen Studenten Schlange essen. Ich hab mich da aber rausgehalten und nur einmal von der Schlangensuppe probiert – ist gar nicht mein Fall 😀 Wir waren auch noch in einem Stadtteil namens Ximen, wo es total bunt, laut und voll ist und ein Laden neben dem nächsten Ramsch verkauft. 

Also Check out Ben’s Blog for more!! 🙂