Saturday, July 21, 2007

Taiwan: River Rafting and More Gorgeous Hotsprings!!

So on this day my family and I did some white water rapids. Like most good things it was about another two hour drive with my crazy cousin driving (it seems crazy runs in the family). Like most Taiwanese driving, it scared the heeebeejeebees out of me. When we made it to our destination I opted to not bring my camera along lest we tip over. It was fun, the white water wasn't that 'intense.' It was more for families. Nonetheless, there was about 20 rafts of people with us so there was constant water wars with mini buckets provided by the staff for the rambucious kiddies. It felt good to do some physical activity besides walking, and was a nice float with beautiful scenery.

After the "rapids", we headed across the street to a local hotel/resort that housed some hotsprings. This one was differed from the previous one in that ut catered to couples and adults as opposed to families with kids. There was a public hot spring area (for the breeders who had bred) or you could rent little private rooms. We split into two groups and enjoyed some down time for a bit. The room held a spectacular view of the local scenery. The warm spring water with some cool Heinekens made for nice rest after the rafting. Another feature of these hot springs is an area where spa goers are able to boil some eggs in some 100 (Celsius!) water. Pretty nifty. The eggs are often complimentary for those in your party with extra ones available for purchase. Enjoy the pics.

Me, scared as hell from my cousin's driving.

View of the resort.

Another view. Take in the beauty!

A picture of our quiant little abode.

View from the room.

Very nice, but it would have been nicer if I could have shared it with someone besides my cousins.

Sis and I.

My crazy driving cousin cooking some eggs in hot spring water.

My two cousins and thier girlfriends. Love them.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Taiwan: Hot Springs and Sunburn (Ouch!)

If your wondering what day and all that crap it is for me, I am not sure anymore. It is Friday morning here, but besides that, we don't need a play by play each day. I do not find it necessary to keep you up to date when I might go eat or take a dump so for my own sake (and for the sake of your precious time) I am keeping it minimal.

So yesterday we went to the hot springs along the coast of southwestern Taiwan. After about a two hour drive we arrived at our destination. The second half of the drive, the part past the nasty city traffic, was beautiful. The mountains rose up to sky with their peaks resting in the undersides of large dark storm clouds. On the other side lay the large blue expanse of the ocean, which went as far as you could see. The water along the Taiwan Striaghts, the water between China and Taiwan, often being turbulent, was causing huge, powerful waves which slammed against the rocky beaches.

This area of Taiwan is considered a tourist destination by many Taiwanese as was evident by the large number of families I saw stopped at rest stations and picking up supplies for the day's excursions. Many of the people who actually live in the region are the island's original inhabitants, or the aborigines. Unluckily, much like many other places, and as with the Native Americans in America, the aborigines of Taiwan are slowly being assimilated into Taiwanese/Chinese culture. The amount of space they inhabit has become smaller and smaller and their way of life is also being absorbed and/or used for commercial gains.

The spa itself was decent, but compared to some of the conditions I had been present to within the last couple of days it was pretty freakin sweet. The were several different pools ranging in temperature of the water, ranging from refreshingly cool to warm, to "Oh my god" I just got first degree burns! Also nice, was that several of the pools were 'flavored' with various 'health items.' One pool contained rose petals, another held Chinese herbs for healing, and yet another held ginseng. The hot water was nice and relaxing, but with 90+ degree (Fahrenheit that is) the cooler pools felt much better. That and the amount of little kids surrounding me set me at unease in resting in warm water, especially since we all know what warm water makes you wanna do ;(). So I was either in the really cold or really hot pools. The rest of the time I spent sunbathing. DON'T fall asleep in the sun when you are on a tropical island. I was asleep for no more than fifteen minutes and I am still a lobster today! Oh, but it was worth it. Till later, I need more lotion!

Smiling cause I am relaxing, soaking it up. Relaxed a little too much as you will see!

Cool (as in chilly) pool shot.

Hot water!!

Not so relaxed or happy.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Taiwan Day 2

On this day we had a grand ole lunch with much of the family, nothing spectacular. Just some buffet style food and a restaurant full of ten million kids and parents that seemed unconcerned with whom their children were terrorizing. More about the Asian kid phenomenon later, it deserves a full blog entry unto itself.

Anyway, what stood out about today was the evening dinner we had that was atop a mountain. The ride up there was graciously provided by an uncle, who by the way had been drinking all day and playing Mah-jong as well. Every time I've seen people, usually older men, play this game I think they are required to have alcohol and smoke as many cigarettes as possible (Dann's house on poker night in the winter). So the street up the mountain was just that. A one lane windy, curvy street that caused great alarm in my sister and I.

Finally arriving at our destination, I forgave the kamikaze driving for the view I received atop the mountain where the restaurant lay. The view was breathtaking and miles of land could be seen in all directions. The valley that held a city below us had a slight layer of fog resting on it and the nearby mountains were accented by the heavy storm clouds lurking behind them. It was about sunset so the scenery was breathtaking (pictures below). The food was pretty good, and I even tried the turtle soup. Hey! I said I would try new things and I did. No comment on the taste. Alrighty enjoy the pics, talk at you later.

My aunt Sophia and her two children, Satan's spawn #1 and Satan's spawn #2.

Some cousins, my grandfather, and I enjoying some food with about five thousands kids.

My mother and her sisters. Seriously, I wouldn't mess with these women. My friends know I am not lying about my mom.

Scene from atop the mountain.

I can't tell which is more breathtaking!!

As the sun sets...

I promise I was smiling. That is, I was smiling until my mother told me the main course was turtle soup. The poor turtles!

Freaking beautiful! Wish I could have shared this with someone. Besides the many children who insisted on touching the guy with blue hair's hair.

Turtle soup...Yeah. Can't say much about this one. Kinda salty, that's about it.

Taiwan Day 1

Oh the trip to Taiwan from Japan was only about three hours, but oh hell! It really sucked. As we were leaving Japan, typhoon "Man-Yi" was heading for it and it caused some mighty fine turbulence. I almost lost everything residing in my body at that point. We finally made it to the airport safely where our relatives swooped us away to our abode while we are here and some much needed rest ensued.

We are residing at my grandfather's house which he has lived in for I am not sure how long, but longer than I have been alive. He actually lives in the province of Sinshin, which is located in the city of Tainan. Tainan city is located about 30 minutes away from Kaihsiung which is one the largest cities in Taiwan, besides the capital of Taipe, which resides about 4 hours north.

The weather here is a tropical climate which is currently in the rainy season. I've seen it literally rain, between here, Tokyo, and Oklahoma everyday for about a month and a half now! So the heat and the rain means HUMID weather. You biatches complaining about the humidity don't know jack. As soon as I get out of a COLD shower, I instantly start sweating again, and air conditioning isn't "common" in this little village (kinda like my apartment back home). The timing is similar to that of Japan. Take your Central time and set it one hour ahead and reverse the am to pm or vice versa.

The next day my mother awoke me to accompany her to the local daily market. What a fun place for a foodie to visit. Whether you feel like fish, fresh vegetables (or pre made salads), chicken feet (and heads, gizzards, etc..), noodles, fruit, or tofu (yeah baby!), it could be found. With prices already marked low to compete with neighboring vendors, with a little or no haggling one can receive a meal for about two - four dollars, one that even I (the human trash compactor) could split into two meals. HHHHmmmmm mmmmmmm!

Later that night, we attended one of the many traveling markets that rotate their nights in various cities and/or parts of cities. This night being one the biggest and most crowded nights to attend in the neighboring Kaihsiung area.Items ranged from games, to many varities of food vendors for whatever craving you might be having (sweet, spicy, sweet and spicy). Endless tea stands were abound, ranging in all flavors of fruit, root and herbal varities. Clothing and accesories could also be purchased. The cheap prices and festive atmosphere are some of the main draws for people to attend such outdoor markets. It is like going to the mall on Sat, except cheaper and there are more Asians.

Seafood heaven at the local morning market.

Meeaaattttt! No it is dog, strays are everywhere here. But now that I think about it, I have only seen one cat in the week I've been here!

Fish balls, and the balls of other creatures as well. I promise they taste better than they look.

I am not even a fan of them when they are alive. I don't mind snakes or turtles, but I just don't like slimy things. Bleah!

Just two of the local peasants indebted to the Lin/Brown family making dumplings to pay us. They were forced to skip lunch as they happened to forgot my veggie and shrimp dumplings. Timmy don't eat pork!! Just kidding people.

This is how they roll in Taiwan. This is pimpin' Taiwanese style. Its so cute.

Sushi stand at the night market.

Pretty cool stand. "Catch" your own shrimp and then you cook them yourself. At least you know its fresh.

One vantage point from the Outdoor Traveling Night Market. Asians love crowds, except me. I am claustrophobic, very much so.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tokyo Day 4

So Thursday was our last full day in Tokyo and it was a doozy. Busy and on the go, my dogs were barking before lunch time. Oh, but it all added up to a good last day. We started off at the world famous fish market. While we missed the hardcore action, I still got the freshest sushi in the world from one of the nicest host/chefs I have ever met.

Then we went to the anime geek capital of the world, Otaku. This area is where many an anime/ tech lover can find their full desires. Full of manga stores, I saw more jap anime fans that the Los Angeles Comicon. This is also the place you go when you want anything to do with gaming, as evidenced by the pics of the Nintendo station i found.

Then we hightailed it back to the Shibuya district's Harajuku area to see the Meiji Shrine (Shinto Shrine) and do more shopping.

Line to get into a sushi restaurant at the Tujiski Fish Market. Each place held about 8 - 12 people.

Freshest plate of Sushi I've EVER had in my life. It seriously melted in my mouth.

The nicest, most helpful, sushi chef, host I have ever met. Look up his restaurant at...

We are happy fish lovers!!

Otaku, perfect for gamers and anime freeks.

Rare picture of me holding sweets!

At the entrance to the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya -Harajuku district.

The courtyard of the shrine.

My sis with some of the locals.

Harajuku shopping street!! Yeah, and it isn't even X-mas!

Oh yes I did! I sure as hell met Snoopy at the Snoopy store. Ok, maybe it was a doll, but it was cool anyway.

Tokyo Day 3

So needless to say, day three got off to a rocky start (reference day two). So much was not cataloged for this day, but it was still fun. Just lower key, that and making fun of either my mom and/or I from my sister or both of them for my all night escapade. Anyway, we spent time walking around the Shibuya area that holds the Harajuku shopping area. This is the area where when you see all the youngsters with their hip colored hair and eccentric outfits, they hang here. Toy stores, Gift shops, clothing boutiques, up to high end Vuitton, Chanel and Dolce and Gabbana all lay on the same strip creating a tourist heyday. Definitely a stop for any trip to Tokyo whether you are shopping or just catching some local flavor.

Today was also the first time we attempted the subway on our own. It was not too pretty. The subway is jammed pack and since most of the signs are partly in English it is very easy to get lost. Oh, and we did get lost! But learning is a lot faster and more fun that way anyway.

Crazy add we saw in the subway. Have do idea what it is for, but it is funny nonetheless.

A small section of the Hello Kitty section in a 6 story toy store called "Kiddie Land" in the Harajuku district.

A common site in many restaurant's store front. Replicas of the food showing with prices. It helps when you don't know Japanese!

My dinner that night. Some curry and soba noodles, tempura shrimp and veggies and a nice cold Asahi.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Siyanara Japan, Ni-how Taiwan

So this morning we are leaving Japan. Sigh. I had a blast here. Met plenty of cool people, saw many great sights, and had plenty to eat. I think it is fitting that as I write this that Sia "Breathe Me" is playing. I am excited to head towards Taiwan, but I am also saddened by the short amount of time I was able to share with this country and its people. I will be back. And yes I will catch everyone up on the trip so far with pics and what not. See you in Taiwan.

Tokyo Day 2

So Tues, was our first full day in Tokyo. We had planned to take a tour in the morning, but we were misquoted a time and missed the departure time. So we scheduled one for the afternoon. It was all tours are, hurried, usually focusing on what you do not want to see and boring. This one wasn't that bad. I am just more of a walk around the city and learn the layout myself kinda guy, and if I get lost it is all the more likely that I am going to remember my way around next time.

Some highlights was the Asuska Buddhist Temple/ shopping area. This is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, having survived past city fires and the devastation of WWII. Being such an old place it was so crowded, due to a local holiday, that I could hardly feel any spiritual connection whatsoever. The Imperial Temple was beautiful, well the outside was since it is closed off to the public. Dinner was great that night, except the experience was partly marred due to the family's close contact all day and jet lag. So what did I do, I went for a drink at the local gay bar(s).

It was a blast. The gay "area" was about ten minutes away from our hotel. We stayed in Shinjuku and the gay bars were present in an area called Shinjuku-Ni Chome (Two-Chome). The area has about two-hundred bars, including bath-houses, "sex cafes", and plenty of drinking spots. I went to several bars and got a good idea of the variety. Granted I was confined to bars that would welcome non-Japanese speaking tourists, it was still a good descriptor of the scene. I had soo much fun with some new friends that time slipped away (hey! I was still on Oklahoma time which is the complete opposite so I was wide awake at their 4 am!) that it was about 6 am before I made it back to the room. To my surprise, not really, my mom had gone to the police!! We soon got a hold of each other and after some bitching got things squared away. My sister, who was with my mom at the police station, told me that my mother told them I was 27 and they laughed at her. DON'T laugh at my mom. She yelled at them. They calmed down and asked her for a description, she said I had blue hair and they laughed again, and even harder!! She started crying! Poor over-protective mother. I love her, but jeez I am 27. Till next time.

Breakfast at hotel. American and Chinese style food. Pretty freaking good dim-sum.

My mom, sister, and the rain at the heart of Shinjuku, the "Shinjuku Subway/Train Depot."

Many delis are abound with loads of varieties of food for the picking.

Another view of Shinjuku station. This is not even near crowded!

One view of Japan from the 40th of floor.

Asuska Buddhist Temple (oldest in Japan) and market.

The Asuska market!!!

My Rickshaw staff awaits my return!! Notice the nicely shaped thighs!

Us outside the Imperial Palace. My connections couldn't come through that day.

Sushi Dinner!! Hhhhmmmmm, hhhmmm, hhhhhmmmm, good.

A view of a Japanese gay bar in "Shinkuju-Ni Chome", "Logos." Lots of fun!

New friends!! Carlos (an American) and Finn (from Germany, living in Japan). Thank you guys for showing me around and getting me in deep trouble with my mom.