Thursday, October 29, 2009

another life-changing post about my plant

excuse my brief diversion from taiwan pictures, but i know how popular posts about my plant are. i just wanted everyone to know that the thing is blooming like crazy, not only is it only the second time it's bloomed in nine months, but there are more flowers than i've ever seen on it. there are so many flowers they're falling to the floor! it's like springtime for hitler in here!

but seriously, despite being very small these guys are super fragrant. it's actually a little suffocating close to the plant. but nice to know i can actually nurture life out of something.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

how to succeed in free, democratic, progressive china

the typhoon ended up being quite disappointing, though to be fair, i guess when it finally "hit" taiwan, it was only a tropical storm. what we got out of it was two days of solid rain, which in itself is impressive. i've never seen it rain so hard for so long. nevertheless, for something that royally screwed up many of my plans for the trip, i was a little let down. i didn't even get to say "batten down the hatches!"

though i guess it did have its upside. by the time it was clear when the storm was going to hit the island, i was already ensconced in an excellent hostel in hualien, a city on the scenic east coast of taiwan. because pretty much everybody had been canceling trips due to the storm, i was one of three people in the place, and during the day the owner would just lock up, put up the equivalent of a "gone fishin'" sign, and drive us around, showing us the sights. we went to a swimming hole in a river, saw a beautiful restored japanese military building, slept in book stores and had an amazing sashimi lunch at the local fish market.

one of the most striking differences between taiwan and china is how good the food is, no matter where you get it. the sashimi we had was, while not quite as good as the sushi at tsukiji, definitely the second best i've had in my life. (and at three dollars for the whole meal, easily tops on a value basis.) while taiwanese cuisine itself isn't too interesting, the food everywhere was fresh, lite and delicious. i pretty much drowned myself in fruit juice and milk tea, my favorite of the latter being the lately discovered (by me) roast japanese tea flavor.

as for a quick rundown of my itinerary, i basically did a counter-clockwise circle, starting and ending in taipei. major stops were taichung (where i saw baseball and met up with andy), kenting (where i learned to surf), and hualien (where i was basically a bum for 6 days and went on several scooter rides). i had originally planned to hike one of the 3,000+ meter peaks in the center of the island, but the storm put the ol' kibosh on that idea. i did get to do a bit of hiking on my last full day there, climbing a 1,000 meter peak in a small national park north of taipei, but the weather was horrible, redeemed only by a soak in a free public hot spring i shared with 15 old naked taiwanese men.

by the end i found it very hard to leave taiwan. the place is beautiful (and we're talking haiwaii beautiful, combined with lots of really tall mountains, it's like sticking the sierra on kauai), the people are polite and friendly, and there are absolutely no hassles when traveling around. you aren't constantly worried about people trying to rip you off, like here in china, and even the subway bathrooms are nice and clean. with no language barrier either, it was honestly one of the most relaxing vacations i've ever had.

a detailed account of the trip will probably take too long, but i'll try over the next couple days to put up some pictures in individual posts, explaining parts of the trip.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

taiwan post forthcoming

so i'm back from a great trip to taiwan. apologies but i won't get around to posting on the trip for a little bit as i'm somewhat occupied working through some issues locally, among them studying for the GRE. but never fear, posts are bubbling around in the back of my mind.

in the meantime, you can check out pictures here. explanations will be forthcoming.