Thursday, February 21, 2013


I'M BACK!!!! And I have a new and profound respect for travel bloggers. How do they keep up with all the names of places they've gone, restaurants they've eaten at, alleys they've wandered down, events they showed up to, and all the things they've seen and people they've met?! I'll try my best anyway.
Thailand surprised me in many ways.
First of all, I was really confused with the currency. It's basically the same as in Taiwan, and that threw me off a lot. Despite prior research I still had it in my head that everything would be dirt cheap in Thailand. Well, 1NTD (Taiwan) =1.01 Baht (Thailand). 30NTD = $1 USD (AMERICAAAA). So I guess, living in Taiwan is dirt cheap too.
Second, tourists in Thailand are not a commodity anymore. They are everywhere, and for the most part have a bad reputation. Thais do not go out of their way to help visitors, unless they can make money off of them. These are just conclusions drawn from my own observations, and experience. And they don't care where you're from either, unless you're me.
My third shock was discovering my alternate ethnicity. Almost every single person I came in contact with in Thailand thought I was Thai as well. They always spoke to me in Thai and when I looked confused, they also got confused. "You look like Thai!! SAME SAME! You not Thai?! WHERE YOU FROM?!" At first I was a bit offended, but after seeing a few pretty Thai girls (...or maybe boys?) I came to terms with it. I do look kinda Thai, because they are slender, petite, have delicate facial structures and are tan. So now we know-I look Thai.
K let's do this. Plane landed in Bangkok, and from there we headed straight up to Chiang Mai. It's the biggest city up North, and famous for lots of things. Such as:

COOKING CLASS: People fly here from all over the world to learn how to make Thai food. Posters for classes were offered at almost all the restaurants and travel agencies we saw, so we did a half day for 700 Baht, cooked up 4 dishes (each was absolutely the best thing I've ever made) and ate it all. I highly recommend Smart Cook School. All the ingredients were super fresh and healthy, kitchen are outside and breezy, aprons were cute, etc. 
 THE NIGHT BAZZAR: There is one huge night market in Chiang Mai. It's packed with fake Ray Bans, Thai art, lamps, colorful bags, jewelry, everything. We ate at this huge seafood pavilion and realized it was Chinese New Year Day when a huge dragon came dancing over everyone! I love dragon dances!! We didn't buy much because the next day we were scheduled for a mountain trek!
LADYBOY SHOW: Can't say you've been to Thailand unless you've dropped in on one of these! I was impressed. Don't know the name of these place, it's in the night market next to where we had dinner!
 MUAY THAI FIGHT: Got convinced by the end of the night to check one of these out. It was pretty authentic, the ring was outside and there were Thai people in the audience. This combat martial art originated from Thailand is very well known and entertaining to watch, if you're into the MMA thing. It's easy to find one, people are along the streets everywhere you go handing out flyers for local fights that happen every night if you're in the city.
MONK CHAT: Boyfriend found this temple where we could go to and talk to a monk about anything. Although I am pretty grounded in my beliefs, I have a lot of respect and am always interested in learning more about other religions. I was surprised at how young our monk was (my age) and he was rather handsome too. Turns out every Thai man has to be a monk for some time of his life, whether he wants to dedicate years or just a week, before marriage. It was just casual conversation, and I enjoyed hearing Buddhism explained by a monk. If you're ever in the area, check it out

Okay, so the purpose of us going up to Chiang Mai was to do an overnight trek up into the village tribes. Admittedly this wasn't my idea but I wasn't opposed. I like adventure, and finding adventures is cake in Thailand. Streets are packed with adventure agencies, so we easily booked a 2 day 1 night trip that included tons of stuff, and we did it all. 
 Butterfly and orchid farm! Random, but it was first place they shuttled us to. 

 One hell of a hike, about 4 hours. The sights were enjoyable, and it was HOT! 

 We stayed over night in this huge bamboo house on stilts. It was just like camping in the ol' days, but just not in a log cabin or a tent. Okay la. 
 Next morning, we went on a small hike and then to the Elephant Riding place. I rode an elephant, but was shocked when our driver started whacking the poor beast on the head w a metal rod. It was terrible, and I will never do it again. Here is me sadly petting a baby in chains. I was embarrassed for not researching and being only vaguely aware of how badly these animals are being treated in this industry. Here is a good article and short clip on what goes on behind elephant riding camps.
 Bought stuff from a long-neck 'village'. Really just gift shops with Burmese women selling their handiwork! 
 Zip-lining with our crew! 
 Bamboo rafting! Here are the boys from our travel group, a mix of Canadians and English dudes.
Lastly, white water rafting. Oh, how I wish I had gotten a waterproof camera for this! Rowing on a raft with rapids and rocks is a lot harder than dragon boat rowing, but fun. 

After we got driving back into town, we grabbed dinner at the Sunday Market and then jumped on the bus to start our journey down south for the islands!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Versatile Blogger Award

My fabulous South African friend and fellow blogger Liesl from Pretty.Random.Things  has nominated me for this award! Thanks girl! Now it is my duty to: 

-Nominate other bloggers I love 
-Let them know I've nominated them 
-Share 7 random facts about myself 
-Thank the blogger who nominated me 
-Add this award to my post

At least, I hope that's how it works. Let's go! 

I nominate my talented, truthful and heartfelt blogger friends: 

Jamie's blog
Didi's blog 
Victoria's blog 
Nicki's blog 

(The Tumblr ones still work but won't highlight lol)

Okay now 7 random facts about me: 

1. I'm laying on my stomach on my yoga mat in the kitchen floor typing this. I prefer it over the couches and bed cause it makes me feel athletic. 

2. I really like using coasters. 

3. I've been cooking over my studio's one-stove top kitchen the past week. 

4. Oh, and I won a toaster oven from my company's year-end dinner. 

5. I've started taking One A Day Women's Vitamins. 

6. I teach kindergarten at an international school in Taipei and my kids are all loosing their teeth. 

7. I love amber ales and they are so rare here. 

8. I hate going to gyms. 

9. I take bus 311 to work and back almost every day cause the MRT is too crowded. 

10. I am going to Thailand in two days and Boyfriend will meet the parents there! 

Thanks again Liesl!  Sorry I took so long to repost :) 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Day in Keelung

Inspired by Anthony Bourdain's episode of Layover Taipei (EXCELLENT PORTRAYAL OF THE FOOD CULTURE), Boyfriend and I decided over breakfast yesterday morning to make a day trip out to Keelung to explore. Keelung is a port city of located in Northern Taiwan, only a 50 minute train ride from Taipei Main Station but a completely different feel. As soon as we got off the train and walked a few minutes over to the waterfront, it felt exactly like Seattle. The air was fresh and salty-I could see cargo ships everywhere as we sat on by the docks to map out what we wanted to do. As almost always, the weather was beautiful.

Since we were only there for the day, we stayed around East Keelung. Downtown is small, a few main streets with lots of exciting dark alleys and the famous MiaoKou Night Market. We walked through the markets and were surprised that lots of stands were already open, and they all had English signs showing what kinds of cuisine were being served. We wandered through some back streets and up a mountain looking for the ZhongZheng Park, which was supposed to have a birds eye view of the city. It was just a random destination, and we enjoyed the journey there. Oh, what fun it is to just go somewhere new to see what you can see! (Actually, as I attached that link I realized we never made it there! I never saw that statue!!!! Oh well, we were SOMEwhere!)

After we were satisfied with our pictures, we embarked back down to the city center and took Bus 101 to Helping (Hoping) Island, less than half an hour up further north to see these cool rock formations I've been wanting to check out for years! Unfortunately, as soon as we stepped off the bus the temperature seemed to have dropped dramatically and I was freezing! If you come to Keelung, bring a jacket!! I could feel the misty/stickiness of the ocean. It's a small little park with a pathway around these rocky shores, and people can walk down to take pictures of these crazy twisted rock formations. 

Back downtown, we combed through MiaoKou Night Market, overwhelmed with the variety of food everywhere. I have been to a lot of night markets, but this one was just insane. Everything I've ever had at a night market was there, and more. Actually at one point I felt nauseous from all commotion and overload of mixed smells. I wish we had taken a picture of the crap load of food Boyfriend and I brought on the train with us to have on the way home. On that day, we had salad rolls, gua bao, fish tempura, oyster omelette, stone cooked corn, wild boar meat, fried crab, starchy stuff I don't even know, egg tart, ginger hot chocolate, etc.

Anyway, like Boyfriend said, it was an excellent way to prepare our appetites for our upcoming holiday-THAILAND!