Gagabber

Adventures living as expats in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Weekend Trip to Hong Kong, 2016

Jeff had a few extra days of vacation this month that he needed to use so we booked a last minute flight to Hong Kong to visit our friends Tane and Yan.  Conveniently we were able to fly directly out of Taichung and avoid the 2 hour drive to the Taipei airport.  After a quick 1.5 hour flight, Tane and family surprised us at the airport and joined us on the short ride bus ride to our BnB in Discovery Bay.

That night we opted for a relaxed dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant.  It didn't quite compare to the authentic taqueria close to our house in Oregon, but you can't be too choosy on this side of the world.  :-)
Getting ready to dig into our tacos and burritos.
We lucked out with an amazingly clear day and were able to see the lights of Hong Kong Island from Discovery Bay.   
The next morning we set out with plenty of water, comfy walking shoes, and a rough itinerary of places to visit.  Jeff has been quite a few times, but this was my first trip so he was the official tour guide for the day and managed to fully wear us out.
We took the train to Victoria Harbor for some awesome views of HK Island.  
Star Ferry on the way back from Kowloon.

Before leaving Taiwan, we watched Anthony Bourdain's HK show and one thing high on my list was a seafood dinner on Lamma Island.   Many people trek around the island when they come to visit, but the weather was HOT so we opted for some cool refreshments overlooking the bay while we built up an appetite for dinner.  


Dinner view
Our seafood spread was certainly one of my favorite meals and included - crab, clams, calamari, oysters, fried rice, veggies, and (after Jeff's persistent bargaining) 2 free beers.  



On our final day, we all went up to the Peak for lunch and sightseeing.  We were both amazed by the scenery, and Jeff was stunned that he had never taken the time while he was in HK to see the Peak.  


Fun times on the tram!
Yan cooked up an amazing meal for our final dinner.  Sadly I was coming down with an embarrassing cold that left me sneezing nonstop so I opted to rest up in our BnB.  Yan was so sweet and packed up dinner for me and I'm convinced her fish and ginger soup drastically sped up my recovery time.
Practicing being Dad with adorable Ariayana.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kyoto Cherry Blossoms

The first weekend of April was the annual Tomb-Sweeping Holiday in Taiwan so we took advantage of the long weekend and booked a quick trip to Kyoto.  We were hoping that the timing would be right to see some of the famous sakura trees blooming.  We arrived just in time along with many other tourists.  

On our first day we badly needed to stretch our legs so we walked through Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine exploring the old temples and various market venders throughout.   Later that evening we strolled through Gion Street and got a glimpse of a geisha with the fully white make-up, adorned hair, and  6-inch high wooden sandals.  I was told that you shouldn't take pictures so I painfully resisted the temptation.  For dinner we enjoyed the most delicious bowls of ramen we've ever tasted.  
The first of MANY cherry blossom selfies.  We both agreed that we look tired in this one, but couldn't manage to get the "perfect" selfie so this will have to do.  
It's popular for tourists to dress up in kimonos and explore around Kyoto.  I wasn't brave enough but certainly loved seeing the outfits.  


Tea time treat - a rolled matcha cake
Our second day we opted to see a few more temples in the morning and took the bus to Rokuon-ji Temple, also known as the golden temple and Ryoanji Temple, which has a beautiful lake in the center.   That night we had a long standing reservation at a popular and well reviewed Kaiseki (traditional multi-course Japanese dinner) restaurant and walked around for almost an hour searching for the location and asking local shops to no avail.  As I got hangry, we had to settle for yakitori and were left speculating about the meal that we missed.  
Rokuon-ji Temple
Ryoanji Temple


On our last full day we toured Fushimi Inari after a close friend recommended seeing it.   In the afternoon we visited Nijo Castle which is famous for its "nightingale floor" that squeaks like birds as people walk on it in order to protect the occupants from possible assassins.    We wrapped up the evening with an amazing sushi dinner that ended in a bit of disaster for Jeff after a piece of sushi slipped out of his chopsticks into his soy sauce dish.  We enjoyed a good laugh along with our sushi chef who of course witnessed the whole episode.  

Traditional Japanese breakfast - very filling and kept us going until a late lunch
Fushima Inari
I couldn't resist this grapefruit juice regardless of the $5 price . 
Honke Owariya - soba noodle lunch
Nijo Castle entrance
Nijo Castle grounds
The history and delicious food really captured our hearts in Kyoto.  We don't often return to places in our travels, but I could absolutely see us visiting Kyoto again in the future.  
My last cappuccino in Kyoto

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Day Trips around Taichung

Although I'm still taking my Chinese classes every day, I've decided to take a few days off here and there to do some more exploring around Taiwan.  This post covers a few trip highlights with the girls over the last few weeks.   

On our first adventure we headed first to Changhua to see a very large temple on the highest hill in the city.  We really enjoyed how peaceful the area was and the lack of other tourists there while we visited.  
Great Buddha of Baguashan
View looking out towards Buddha from the temple
We also really enjoyed our time in Lukang, a historical city with many well preserved buildings and temples.   I'll definitely remember this as a great location to take visitors.

Lukang Mazu Temple
Lanterns at Lukang Mazu Temple

Grilled squid in the market in Lukang
Snacks in Lukang
Molu Lane - aka Breast Touching Lane, not so narrow in this shot but it definitely narrows down in the middle

Without a doubt our strangest stop of the day was to the Glass Temple and Glass Gallery.  The highlight of this destination is a glass maze  filled with LED lights where visitors are required to wear gloves and slippers in order to keep the glass pristine.

Glass Gallery maze



On our next trip we headed to Nantou and hiked to the sky ladder which offers some scenic views and a bit of adrenaline for those with a fear of heights.  



After our hike we zipped through the curvy mountains to a tea farm that Sarah's teacher had recommended.   The views were gorgeous, but we weren't able to try any tea as the boss seemed to be off for the day.

We timed our trip well and got to see some beautiful cherry blossoms 

Carolyn is a pro with the selfie stick








Monday, February 15, 2016

Exploring Taitung for Lunar New Year

Jeff got a full week off for Chinese New Year so we took the chance to do some more exploring around Taiwan and visit Taitung.  Sadly there was a big earthquake in Tainan (about 95 miles south of Taichung) the night before we left and many people were hurt or died in a building collapse.  Jeff had to wake me up during the earthquake and to be honest I had was too groggy to think much about it until the next day when we started reading the news reports.  Our hearts were definitely with the victims and families during the holiday.

Under advice from Taiwanese friends about the heavy traffic, we left at 6AM and didn't encounter any traffic slow downs along the way.  The weather was a little cold for our first few days so we did some sightseeing and exploring initially.  

Famous mochi shop in Taitung
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake that is very chewy and pretty tasty.  Our favorite was peanut flavor which tasted a little like Reese's. 
We stopped at a crowded local restaurant and had delicious beef noodle soup and dumplings.

Balloons in the park
Xiouheliu - big waves and rock formations
Dragon Bridge at Sanxiantai
Hike up to the lighthouse on the "Island of the Three Immortals"  
There were so many fireworks for sale to get ready for the festivities of CNY.  Jeff insisted that we needed to purchase some of the mortars, but I've heard too many stories of lost fingers and hands so I stubbornly refused.

Towards the end of the trip, the weather started to warm up and we enjoyed a lot more time on the beach surfing, playing in the waves, working on our tans, and roasting smores over the campfire.

Yumm
How many twins can you spot?  
This beach was only a few minutes walk from our BnB.


One morning we opted to head on a hike and didn't fully realize what we were getting ourselves into.  It ended up being a stair-stepper hike that took 4 hours and left us barely able to hold a conversation.
The picture doesn't do it it justice, this was STEEP.
View from the start of the hike.
Once we got to the top, the view was completely covered in trees and brush.  This sign was the only reward for our pain.