My Day in Taipei

It’s literally been a MONTH since I updated this. I’ve been home longer than I was gone. But time flies I suppose. Not true really, but it’s been a month. Lots of ups and downs and just putting things off has finally caught up to me. But that’s for another time. My trip report still isn’t complete. And with me not getting any younger, I better get this written down before I forget it all for ever (Just kidding, this was the trip of a life time).

Since I never published my blog before, and only ever posted it and left it to reflect on, all your visitors from Facebook will likely not see this again,unless you’ve bookmarked me. It’s be back to Hikes and gym updates starting next week! ūüôā

 

Anyways – Taipei. For you all who may need refreshing: I woke up insanely early and made my way to BKK International Airport on roughly 2.5 hours of sleep. I had a couple hours to kill and I was hungry and this was my last shot at amazing Thai food. I checked my luggage and went to find food. I settled for a fabulous meal of a breakfast sandwich, tater tots, and coffee and Burger King. After hogging all the plugs in the lounge, charging my iPad, iPhone, and portable charger, I boarded the plane to make my way to one of the most high-tech cities in the world. As luck would have, I was sat next to a dude who was way to interested in¬†telling me his life story and how he travelled a lot for work. I smiled and listened for a little bit, but after about 45 minutes of flying, lack of sleep caught up to me and I didn’t hear from him until he shook me awake to let us know we were to get off the plane.

I stepped in to a slightly familiar place, being in Taipei International less than a month prior. Checking that I had all my carry on, instead of making my way to the next Terminal, I headed out to customs to check out the City. I had paid a little extra, $20 I think, to have an extended layover in hopes of exploring Taipei. I had always dreamed of seeing Taipei 101 in person, and this was my prime chance to check it out. The Airport offered a free tour to multiple locations in the city, for people with long enough layovers. The guide gave me the bad news that the tour no longer went to Taipei 101, but urged me to go anyways. “Take the tour to the first location and check it out, because it is really interesting, and then take the metro downtown, and bus back tonight.” Wow. Ok sure I can totally handle that… Fingers crossed. I made my way to the counter, checked in and boarded a massive double decker bus. There was a total of THREE people on the tour.

The guide spoke the entire way from the airport to the city, which was a good 3-40 minutes. I learned more about Taipei, Taiwan and China in that 40 minutes than I had in my entire life. I shamefully did not know that Taiwan was under the Republic of China, and I did not know that there was many different types of Taiwanese people. I think my favourite part of the lesson was when he announced “Taiwan is very free to do what we want. We speak out against government without fear. We have over 100 channels on TV! China? NO Channels!”

Our first (and my only stop) was at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, part of the Memorial Square. This stop was super interesting as the museum had a lot of things regarding the War, Canada, and Vancouver! The hall had 2 guards that stood perfectly still for an hour at a time, and then every hour, swapped out. I need to reiterate that they stood PERFECTLY still. Not like a guard in England. They were statues. After they changed, a guard would walk up to each of them, ensure that their uniform was impeccable, and adjust them to mirror perfectly.

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After exploring the grounds, I headed out on my own in search of Wi-Fi, some food, and an ATM so I could find my way to the heart of the City. The Memorial Hall was based in the wedding district of the City, almost like New West. I walked down and popped in to a tea shop, ordered something to eat, and worked out how to get to the metro, and to the downtown core. Taipei is an incredibly we laid out city. The underground that they have set up is miles aIMG_8867head of anything I had experienced elsewhere, and it was a refreshing change to waving down trucks on the side of the road in Thailand. The Metro took my right to the base of the Taipei 101. I stepped out and looked up. Prior to this, the largest building I had ever seen was the Columbia Centre in Seattle. this was a good 30 stories taller. After paying my entrance, I made my way up to the observatory in the world record breaking ‘fastest elevator in the world.’ After 10 seconds or so, I stepped out on to the 89th floor to look over the City. It was unreal. The sprawl, the layout, and how the city adapted to the mountains and valleys as is reached past my line of site was humbling. Seeing the curvature of the earth, while subtle, was something to take in as well.

After taking in the sights, I elevatored down to the fifth floor and explored probably one of the most expensive malls I’d ever been in. On the main floor I 360’d a Tom Ford, next to a Dior, next to a Burberry, next to a Luis Vuitton, next to a Fendi store. This went on for all five stories. I window shopped until I couldn’t take any more, and retreated to the only affordable part of the centre: the food court. Enjoying some of the best ramen I’d had in my short life, I settled up and made my way across the street to try my luck at public transit once more. Stepping out on the street was pretty cool, as Taipei has a pretty expansive Bike Share program, which is something Vancouver is starting IMG_8877up this summer. There was 100’s of identical bikes being ridden all over by tourists, business people, and joe schmoes all over. I made my way across the street to purchase my bus pass and went to sit on the bench to wait for my ride home.

After watching no busses come to my stop for almost an hour, I walked back to the station and ask what time I could expect the bus to be coming by. I then learned that I was at the wrong stop, and was promptly collected by a double decker bus on route to the airport. The ride itself was fascinating, as it twisted through different parts of the city. It was amazing to see the different sections. Unlike Vancouver, they had areas for shopping for specific things. One of the saddest, yet most exciting roads I drove down was the street that was literally LINED with pet stores, with hundreds of tiny puppies jumping up at passerby’s in the window.

I disembarked at the airport and walked directly past everyone waiting in line at the ticket booth, thanking myself that I haIMG_8887d mine issued in Thailand. I got to my gate and settled in to wait for my flight. By this time it was almost 11 PM, and save for 2 short sleeps (the hostel in Bangkok, and the flight to Taipei) I was losing wind fast. I was adamant to stay awake until I was on the plane, so my sleep wouldn’t be interrupted. Finally, after what seems like the worlds longest boarding process, I was on my plane. By this time, I was Sufficiently grumpy and incredibly irate. I’m not a huge fan of crowds, so I sat and waited until last to get on. Navigating to my coach seat was an ordeal. My flight was jam packed, compared to me way there, and someone was in my seat. A family from India was visiting relatives in Surrey for the first time. The son, my seat stealer was very excited about this, and asked if he could have my window seat. I declined as politely (not really) as I could and promptly closed the shade and leaned my pillow up against it. The flight was delayed due to a domino effect on the tarmac, and we ended up waiting almost 40 minutes to take off. By this time I was struggling to stay awake, with the only thing doing so being my neighbors breath and inability to understand that my headphones indicated that I had no real desire to talk to him. I lost resort told him that I don’t like flying and took out a couple of Valium from my walk on bag. I told him I was going to try to get a little shut eye and that I would chat when I woke up in a few hours.

13 hours later I woke up to the stewardess shaking me, letting me know that it was time to go. I looked around to an empty plane and blushed. I slept an entire flight across the Pacific Ocean. I grabbed my things, thanked them for a lovely flight and hustled off the plane. It was 7:00 PM in Vancouver and I was excited to see my friends and family. I grabbed my gear and navigated through customs. Greeted by Alex and Mom, and a temperature a little more bearable, I made my way home.

The trip behind me, I spent the night in awe. It was such a whirlwind, and we packed so much in to such a short trip. I now understood what it meant to truly travel, versus going on a vacation.¬†I can’t wait to hit the road again.

 

Here’s to the next adventure.

 

 

Cheers.

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Learning to Dive in Koh Tao

Whelp… coming close to the end of the adventure. Our final destination in Thailand is a good one: The amazing island of Koh Tao, an incredibly beautiful, small island located in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao is world famous for it’s dive sites, and a popular place to spot Sea Turtles, Whale Sharks, and a multitude of tropical fish. After all the excitement at the Full Moon Party, I think we were all looking for something a little slower pace and a little more relaxing.

Leaving to Koh Tao was uneventful. In typical Thai fashion, the boat was late, for no other reason than “it’s late.” We boarded an hour late and a short trip later, we were offloading and in the back of a truck on our way to¬†Carabao Dive Resort on the other side of the island. Being late, we quickly hustled in to the office to get started on day one of our open water dive course. Hoping that we were not to late, we were told to relax: day one was strictly orientation, and was only the two of us.

After unloading our packs in the dorm and ordering food at the restaurant onsite, we settled in to our class room and watched our diving movie. A couple hours later, we were all schooled up, and ready to retire for the night, to complete homework and finally get some R & R. The dorm in Carabau was really interesting. A huge room, with 8 bunk beds, but big, almost queen sized, with lots of locker space and a view to kill. When we arrived we had only two roommates: a couple quiet dudes from Germany. We spent the night chilling out, enjoying the A/C and talking to loved ones back home.

The next morning, bright and early we got back in to class. We found out that our two German friends were also going to be taking their Open Water Certification with us. The morning flew by, as our instructor, Xavier, taught us the ins and outs of basic diving and teaching us how to breath and how to use the SCUBA equipment. After a quick lunch we were already on the boat, on our way to Shark Bay, to do some hands on learning. Sadly, or luckily, depending on how you look at it, we saw no sharks, but had a blast learning how to do the basics, staying under the surface for about an hour. Pretty surreal stuff, especially for the first time.

After our lesson, we retired for the night, and took a short nap again. While it seems easy, diving really took a lot out of me, and i found myself drained. We chilled out for a bit, before getting dressed to head back up island in to town. Kirsti and Russ had made it to the Island and I wanted very much to have a little bit more of a relaxing night with them before parting ways again. Josh and I hitch hiked, and were picked up by an old local lady, and her dog on a scooter. Being hesitant at first, given my scooter history this trip, the three of us, and the dog, made out way in to town. Arriving all in one piece, we met up and found a neat little Italian place for dinner, as we all still seemed to need some carbs after a rough full moon.

The next morning we had our second day of classes, finishing off our book work and testing, and then heading back out to Shark Bay (again, no sharks, don’t worry Mom) for the final of our skills tests, and a quick fun dive around the bay. What can I say? totally totally surreal. Floating, and swimming under water was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Even though I just spent two days learning, i kept catching myself forgetting to breath, as I was entranced in the fact that I was 30 feet under water.

Time out. I just realized that we had dinner with Kirsti¬†and Russ this night. Not the night prior. We didn’t do shit the night before. The only reason I remember this is because Xavier gave us the terrible news that we had to be up and on the boat. I refuse to edit my blogs, so… deal with it.

The next morning the four us were up and in the water by 7:00 It was great, since the air was still cool, and it was easier to get suited up. We dropped anchor at a dive side called Shark Island. Again, Mom: No sharks. It’s called that due to the shape of the island, which looked like a huge fin. This was our first big deep dive. Going down 18 meters, we explored and circled the whole little island, seeing a sting ray, angel fish, barracuda, and thousands of other fish. After an hour, we surfaced, and made our way to our last site for diving, which took us on a tour of an old sunken diving boat, as well as some fantastic coral.

Back on deck Josh had made friends with the boats skipper, and assisted in catching some fish to be used for dinner that night. Who knew how simple it was to catch fish with nothing more than a piece of twine, a hook, and some rice. Several dumb fish later, we were on our way home for lunch. We made it to shore, and put away our gear, now officially divers. IMG_8802

I honestly cannot wait to dive again. While it was on my bucket list, I was quite hesitant. I’m not big on being in areas where I feel trapped, and 18 meters under the water was definitely daunting. I’m looking forward to some of the amazing dive sites that BC has to offer. In the afternoon we packed up, as it was our last night in Koa Tao. We opted to go to a bar just a short walk away, to enjoy the scenery, relax, and, of all things, play some chess. After getting my ass kicked twice, I kindly declined a third game and focused on my drink at hand, discussing our game plan for the next day.

IMG_8826We retired early, and woke up with our bags ready to go. Bidding our good byes to our German friends, we made our way to the dock to catch a ¬†catamaran to the mainland. A short two hours later, we were back on shore and loading on to a bus. Speaking too soon, Josh proclaimed that we were finally going to get a good bus, as the company we’d booked through was one of the best. 2 hours in to our trip, the AC turned off, and the bust started heating up. The driver opened all the windows that opened, two of them, and continued down the road. 30 minutes later, the bus smelled like a boys middle school locker room, and I wager half the people in the bus had opted not to wear deodorant. The bus pulled off to the side of the road for a couple hours while we waited for a second bus to pick us up. After reloading our baggage and getting back on a nice cool bus, we uneventfully made our final destination back to where is all began: The Oasis Hostel, Bangkok. With a few hours to spare before bed, we toured Khao San road one last time, picking up trinkets and gifts for our friends back home. I had to leave at 5 AM, so I wanted as little sleep as possible, so that I could sleep the entire way on my flights. Getting back around midnight, we showered, and went over luggage, packing as much in to my bag as possible, so that Josh’s trip to Japan could be a little bit lighter. I lay¬†down to sleep, sad that this was the last day together, but excited for the next: A full day solo, in Taipai!

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Gotta love Thai Transit.