Adventures living as expats.

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