Hey folks- Since I am no longer in Taipei..I’m moving blogs!
Here’s the link to my new blog:
See you there!
It’s been a whirlwind of the past 3 weeks..I have gone from Taipei to China to Taipei to DC to London. I do NOT want to get on an airplane again for a long time. My body has no idea what time zone I am in and is currently hating me.
China was a completely exhausting, challenging, but amazing experience. I will work on writing my posts and uploading pictures from my travels- it will take some time, and since I’m currently at a hotel (and writing on the free computer in the lobby) I probably won’t be able to finish for about a week or so.
Being back in the US was great, I wish I had more time with friends and family, but I’m glad that I had the time to go home for a quick stint.
I can’t believe that I’m finally in London, and this will be my home for the next year (at least-hopefully more!). The weather was absolutely perfect today- high’s in the 60’s, low’s in the upper 40’s. I had to break out my leather jacket. This weather is such a breath of fresh air compared to the constant barrage of humidity and 90’s in Taipei. It’s nice to see leaves turning and to know that fall is just around the corner. I spent the day wandering through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, which was beautiful and a nice time to relax and soak it all in. After a quick power nap, I hopped on the Tube to the TKTS booth and got a ticket to go see Sister Act on the West End. It was really funny, and everyone was constantly giggling in their seats. I wish I could remember some of the lines- they were priceless.
My roommate comes in on Friday, so we’ll start looking at flats then- I tried today, and failed miserably. By the time something is posted as available online, it’s gone within hours. Every single one I called was gone-they were posted this morning, and I was calling at 9:30 am! So, it’s definitely going to be a scramble, but we’ll get it all figured out.
More posts to come as I get settled and can use my laptop somewhere with free wi-fi..which is like finding a needle in a haystack in this city. Nothing comes cheap, that’s for sure.
well, folks..it’s finally arrived. I leave in the morning for my week-long China trip. I’m flying from Taipei to Beijing, and will be spending 3 days there, before taking a 13 hour night train (I paid extra for a deluxe cabin with a private bathroom-I’ve heard horror stories of the toilets on night trains in China, think beetle nut spit and other nastiness) to Shanghai, where I’ll spend the weekend visiting the sites and going to the World’s Fair. I really just can’t wait to be on the Great Wall and get my picture there. Once that’s happened, I’ll feel complete on visiting Asia.
Since I’ll be in China, I most likely will not have access to post any updates during my trip- they block all social media sites (I’m guessing my digital marketing degree that I’m going to be working on would not get me far if I wanted to ever work in China..unless I’m clever). So, I’ll work on posts and updates when I get back- I’ll have 2.5 days in Taipei before heading back to DC for a whopping 4 days.
Currently, Taiwan is in a Typhoon Warning, and we have, 3, yes THREE typhoons circling the entire island. Walking to and from work today was not a pleasant experience. I was drenched to the bone by the time I got to work- it was raining so hard it was coming through my umbrella, and the gusts of wind just kept taking my umbrella out of my hands. Here’s hoping that my flight isn’t canceled or seriously delayed tomorrow..regardless, I’m sure it’s going to be a bumpy experience. And, I’m flying on Air China..so no Delta upgrades for me😦 I’ve been saying all summer how I wanted to experience a typhoon in Taipei, and of course, it happens when I am going on vacation. And one of the typhoons will be following me this week to Shanghai. Joyous.
Today was my last day at work- I was so happy to leave- my terrible class today was more awful than they’ve ever been. I actually told one of the students, “You are the worst behaved child I have ever met.” (I don’t think that’s proper English, but that’s beside the point) I might have mentioned throwing someone out of a window at some point, but I don’t think anyone heard me. Not like they would understand, anyways. These kids know how to get under my skin.
I can’t believe I’m leaving Taipei in 10 days..it’s not hitting me for some reason. I think once I get back from China, it will really hit me. Well, it has to. I haven’t begun packing-that will be a fun, and heavy process. Luckily, I had a great weekend going out with friends and going to the beach this weekend, at least, until the typhoon rains came in and got us drenched.
I feel like I’ve been rambling about nothing, it’s 2AM, I’m exhausted, and I am getting up in 5.5 hours to begin my China journey. Look for updates in a week or so!
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been living in Taipei and Asia in general for 6 months. I feel worlds away and that I’ve been out of America forever, but the past six months have really flown by. I am sad to say (and a little embarrassed) that in my time here, I have learned practically zero Chinese. It took me almost 4 months to learn how to say my address correctly. Apparently, I still have a hard time saying it right. Although, I think it’s just the Taiwanese assuming that I’m a complete moron and am not saying my address correctly, even though I know I am. Point: Today, I was out and did not feel like taking the subway home and sweating the 10 minute walk home, so I decided to hop in a cab. I gave my address, in Chinese, and the guy said, Huh? in Chinese. I repeated the same thing, he said, “Tourist?” No..I am not a tourist..and I want to go home. I said my address again..he repeated the address, sounding confused. Luckily, I have my address written down in Chinese, along with a map with my building circled. He proceeded to say, Oh, Okay, and repeated my address. It sounded the exact same as when I said it. I wanted to punch the man in the face. This happens more often than you could ever imagine. I got in a taxi last week, said my address, and the driver didn’t say a word, and just stared at me for a good 10 seconds. Awkward. After showing him my address card, he just started driving and never said one word the entire taxi ride. Luckily, he got me home. I am not going to miss the guessing game that is Taiwanese taxi drivers.
This is my last full week in Taipei-I’m working all week (including Saturday, another thing I am not going to miss) and next Monday. It’s surreal that this is my last full week in Taipei and that my time here is really coming to an end. I wish I had this week off so I could explore more of Taiwan- I’ve barely left the city of Taipei since I’ve been here. It’s hard to justify leaving when everything is here in the city, and it’s so damn hot I don’t want to be outside for long. The only trips that I have made out of Taipei have been to the beach in Fulong twice (and hopefully a third time this weekend) and to Guandu/Bali township to the Formosa Fun Coast water park.
The water park was actually really nice and I was enjoying myself with my friends, until I started getting denied on every water slide in the park. Since I’ve been here in Taiwan, I’ve dropped about 25 pounds (one thing that has made me very happy about living here) which means I need new clothes. I splurged at one of the bazillion department stores on a new Polo swim suit (which was made in Taiwan, but I had to pay the ridiculously overpriced import fee-because that makes sense) because when I went to the outdoor pool here in Taipei, my old suit was literally falling off of me- I had to hold onto it as I walked around. I was happy to have a nice swimsuit that fit me, until I got to this water park. Apparently, my suit did not meet the water park requirements, and was unsafe for water slides- it has two tiny rivets on the back, which, according to them, will ruin the water slides. All the while, the Taiwanese are wearing straight up underwear on the slides. This infuriated me as I had paid to enter the park, and was able to slide away the first part of the day. It’s like once I was noticed by one lifeguard, they radioed to everyone in the park that I had a faulty suit and couldn’t be allowed on anything. I couldn’t get through anyone- we even tried hiding my suit in between our group..to no avail. If I heard that whistle one more time.. Seriously, I’m not a lucky person.
My first beach experience was less than ideal- it was during a sand castle festival- so it was completely packed. And most Taiwanese cannot swim, so they have a super tiny area netted off for you to swim in- and you cannot leave this area. The area allowed for swimming was probably half the size of a football field at best, for thousands of people. This left a sour taste in my mouth and I had not planned on going back, until one of my friends mentioned that just on the other side of the beach was an area without lifeguards (and free) that was much cleaner, nicer, and didn’t have many people. Going back to this place was definitely a much more fun and relaxing experience- the water was clear, and we didn’t have to worry about any nets or lifeguards on a whistle trip. Granted, there were no facilities- we all had to change into our swimsuits practically in someones driveway. I learned that I’m really bad at changing into a swimsuit while holding a towel to cover myself..I could not manage holding the towel while putting on the suit. Luckily, I don’t think anyone (or too many people) saw.
I find it completely ridiculous to the extent that Asians will go to to NOT get a tan, or any sun for that matter. While America is full of tanning creams, Asia is overloaded with everything whitening. You always have to be careful when you’re buying lotion- because, more often than not, it has whitening cream in it. The umbrella ladies abound in Taipei- you constantly have to dodge out of the way so you don’t get stabbed in the face with one of the umbrellas. It’s always comical watching the ladies without an umbrella try to shield themselves. I see ladies running across the streets with half a newspaper covering their face, and moms/grandmas with their kids running to the nearest spot of shade. This is a daily occurrence. Granted, it’s unbelievably hot here and I have considered at times pulling out my umbrella to shield myself from the sun, but I’ve never caved in. I just cannot justify using an umbrella when it is not raining. I saw a lady the other day on the escalator going down to the subway who pulled out her umbrella, because there were literally two slivers of light breaking through from above. I don’t think that 3 seconds of sunlight is going to give you a tan, miss.
Last week, I went to the Taipei Zoo with my friend, Michael. The zoo is a bit of a trek (3 different subway lines), even though, in reality, it’s quite close to where we both live. One thing I’m going to miss dearly about Taiwan is how unbelievably cheap everything is. The cost of admission to the zoo? 60NT for me, which is less than $2 US. The student price was either 20 or 30NT..I don’t know how they can even afford to keep the place running with the admission price so low. We had a lot of fun at the zoo, except we both about suffered from heat stroke. The zoo is massive-and has just about every animal you could imagine there. For some reason, they had a workout park in the zoo, and both of us morons decided that it would be fun to see who could do the most pullups. I won by 2 (granted, I could only do 9) and then immediately thought about puking. Doing that was a mistake. We saw some peculiar things at the zoo- one of the hippos had died, sadly. It smelled really bad, and I didn’t realize what was going on, until I noticed all the water was drained, and there was one hippo floating in the little water that was left, and a forklift was there going in to remove it. A lot of the other animals we saw that day were feeling a little excited..and it got weird. One monkey was just hanging out pleasuring himself..one of the elephants stuck their trunk inside of another elephants nether region..I guess everyone has their needs at some point. I felt dirty watching, though.
Though living here can prove to be incredibly frustrating at times, I really have enjoyed living here. I’ve learned to just laugh off the frustration and ridiculous things that happen to me on a daily basis- otherwise, you’d probably go insane. It has been quite the experience. I’m going to miss waking up every day and seeing the out-of-place Taipei 101 towering over every other building from my bedroom window, and seeing the palm trees and pretty mountains(at least, when it’s a clear day). I will miss how unbelievably cheap everything is. Going back to America for a few days, and moving to London, is going to be eye-opening being reintroduced to real prices. I’m definitely going to experience sticker shock. I’m going to miss being one of the tallest people around- it’s nice being on the subway and looking above almost everyone else-it also helps in pushing people out of my way. It’s also going to be weird going back to a place where I am not a minority. Living here, I’m constantly being stared at, talked about, and on several occasions, had pictures taken of just me, or with a random Asian. I’ve gotten used to it, and learned to just stare back until I make then uncomfortable enough to stop looking at me. I was talking with my friends and we’ve all said how we need training to be re-introduced to society in the English world-living in a place where most people don’t know what you’re saying has led me to say just about whatever is on my mind and what I want-I have almost no filter here anymore. I’m going to have to remind myself that soon, everyone is going to be able to understand me again.
That’s it for now, it’s probably going to be a relatively uneventful week, since I’m teaching all week. Some of my kids I will miss, and some, I will jump for joy at the thought of never seeing them again.
The past six weeks have been kind of crazy- I can’t believe I haven’t updated this since the end of June. It’s not that I’ve done anything too terribly exciting here in Taipei, but I’ve decided to make some changes. We all know that teaching English to little Taiwanese children is not what I set out to do in life, and I was really coming here to just take some time off, relax a little, and get some traveling in and around Asia. I think I’ve been successful on that front.
Things at school had been less than ideal, and I decided that it was time to pursue other options. Many of you know that before I came to Taiwan I was looking into and beginning to apply to grad schools, but decided to come here instead. After lots of thought and careful consideration, I have decided that now is the time for me to go back to school. I’ve been accepted to the Master’s of Digital Marketing program at Hult International Business School in London, England. Yep, I am heading off to another country! I am so excited and think that this will finally put me back on track to get into the career that I want (I did get a Marketing degree after all, and have yet to use it).
I can’t wait to be back in an English speaking country..you have no idea.
So what’s on my agenda? I will be going to Beijing and Shanghai in China August 31-September 6, and will be flying back home to DC on September 9 (a 27 hour flight..) and then will be flying from DC to London probably on September 14. I need to take all of my stuff home to unpack and repack- since London is going to be much colder than the oppressive heat that is Taipei.
I’ll try to post some retrospectives of what I’m going to miss (and not miss) about Taiwan over the next few weeks. My brain isn’t fully functioning right now- I had a 102 degree fever and have been taking copious amounts of meds today to get it back down to a normal temperature.
So, should I change the blog to americaninlondon? Keep it as americanintaipei? Or do you have any better suggestions? Let me know!
4:30 AM. The day had finally arrived. In just a few hours, I would be riding an elephant through a Thai jungle. It was as if it was Christmas morning (which I’m already freaking out about being in Taiwan for, since I will be without my Hallmark ornaments, will have to work on Christmas Day, and there are no Fraser Firs in this country), or I was getting ready to go to Disney World..I was bursting with excitement, and felt like a little kid. This was going to be a good day, no matter what.
I had a mini-panic attack the night before when I called the tour company to re-confirm, when they told me that they wanted to cancel because I was the only person who had signed up for the tour. I thought to myself, well, this is just my luck..I came all the way to Thailand to ride an elephant and now I’m not going to be able to. After pleading with the tour guide and telling them this was the only day I could go (I had a spa appointment the next day, and I was not going to cancel that), she said she would call me back in 5 minutes to let me know. After 15 minutes that seemed like an eternity, she finally called me back and said that we were on and they would do the tour with just me. Phew. Crisis averted. Okay, let’s get back to elephant day.
So, I had to get up at the butt-crack of dawn, because I was going about two hours north outside of Bangkok, and the driver did not want to get stuck in Bangkok morning traffic. Well, we still hit traffic for about an hour. All I wanted was some Starbucks, which was nowhere to be found outside the city. I had a nice, large, well air-conditioned van with a personal driver and tour guide. I thought it would be awkward having a tour guide just for me, but it proved really nice and relaxing. I typically loathe and avoid doing tour groups at all costs- if I can afford a private tour guide, I’ll definitely be going that route again. I was able to do everything at my pace, and didn’t have to follow a tour guide with a flag and microphone, praise the Lord. As we were leaving the city-limits, I realized that this would be a perfect movie setting- a lone American on a tour getting carted off to the countryside, where he gets kidnapped and sold off to the black market. My heart might have skipped a beat for a second, but quickly brushed that off and told myself to not think of that for the next 8 hours, or this might be a long day.
After a couple hours in the van, we arrived at a small town and the tour guide took me through a local market. My thought was, oh great, another market. Um, we have these in Taiwan, they smell of stinky tofu, and I usually avoid them at all costs. But, this was a nicer experience. My tour guide took me through the market, which had all kinds of crazy things I had never seen at a market- from live frogs to crazy looking fruits. The live frogs and eels in buckets really creeped me out. At least the frogs had nets over the buckets because they were jumping all over the place..but what if somebody accidentally tripped and kicked the bucket of eels? I did not want to have live eels sliming their way over my sandals, and I’m extremely un-coordinated. So I steered clear of those buckets and watched my footing very carefully. All of the vendors seemed truly ecstatic to see me- the tour guide had told me that I was her first tour since the protests had began, and I was the first foreigner (aka white guy) in over a month to visit their market. Everyone was giving me fruit and coconuts chopped open with a straw for free. I felt bad, but it was nice to be fawned over. Oh, and I’m pretty sure the coconuts here are different, because I was expecting super sweet coconut milk, which I thought would be refreshing, but instead got 80 degree coconut-ish water that had a pee-color to it. It was really hard to finish.
From the town market, we made our way to the BFE’s..I seriously had no idea where we were going- we were driving through country roads. At one point, we saw a herd of buffalo or bulls just chilling in a big mud pit to stay cool. We rolled up to some farmer’s house, where I saw a cart with two ox attached to it. The tour guide said, okay, now you ride ox cart. Whaat? How random. After the obligatory posing next to the ox and in the cart for pictures, I climbed the makeshift ladder into the cart with my tour guide- where she gave me one of those chinese farmer hats that you see them wearing in the rice paddies (or, if you haven’t seen that before since you live in America, it’s just like what you would picture..ridiculous looking). I hesitated at first, and said, really? I quickly realized the need for this hat, because as soon as we got away from underneath the trees, it was about 125 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. I think my blood was boiling. We strolled through the countryside for about 25 minutes I think, which was pretty, but again, so random. I really enjoyed watching the ox in front of me take a massive dump as we were on the ride- I did not need a play by play of that. And the mosquitoes really loved me on this part of my day. I was constantly swatting something away from my body. The ox cart driver and my tour guide? Never moved an inch. Maybe they’re immune, or just don’t care..but if I see a bug near me, I’m going to try to kill it.
After the ridiculously hot, but neat, ox cart ride, we hopped back in the van (thank you, driver, for having the AC on before I got in, and greeting me with an ice cold bottle of water) and made our way to Khao Yai National Park. I believe this is one of Thailand’s largest, if not the largest, national parks. I was told they have wild elephants, bears, and tigers (lions, tigers, and bears..oh my? anyone?!) but of course, I did not see any of them. I did see one monkey. Since it’s so damn hot out, the animals sleep most of the day and are hiding in the dense parts of the jungle/rainforest. We did hike past some fresh elephant poo, so I know that they were near. We drove through a nice portion of the park, which was very pretty, and my tour guide took me on a little hike to some beautiful waterfalls. We had to walk on some of the steepest stairs I had ever seen in my life- you can bet I was holding on to the railing..and I was not looking forward to walking back up these on our way out (I was practically crawling at points they were so steep). When we got to the waterfall, it was beautiful, and much larger than I was expecting (it was apparently a low water level day). My tour guide mentioned that they had filmed a scene from “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio there, so you know it’s a cool place. Okay, enough of this..let’s get to the elephants, PLEASE!
We drove out of Khao Yai and made our way to a hotel-type place where I was going to have lunch, and then, finally, ride my elephant. The lunch was deliciously simple, and I was greeted with about 6 different plates of food, that just seemed to keep on coming. It really was a great meal and perfectly prepared. I just felt bad that I left so much food behind. Once I was done with lunch (I tried to eat really fast, I was just too excited) all of a sudden, here comes my elephant just trotting down the street and up to where I was eating. How cool. I was in awe. Finally, my moment has arrived. I’m sorry that it’s taken me 1400 words to get to this point. Her name was Susie, I think, a 14 year old elephant. It was weird to think that this massive animal is 9 years younger than me, but that’s okay- I don’t know how I would have felt if I had to get on an even bigger elephant.
It’s kind of intimidating at first- I had those images from the reality TV shows of when animals fight back and elephants running through the streets and killing people..but once again, I put those thoughts away quickly. I tried to be as gentle as possible, and did not want to do anything that would upset the elephant- we were up high..and I did not want to get thrown off. I got into the basket with my tour guide, and the elephant trainer (the mahout, I believe they are called) was riding on the elephants neck, directing her by nudging his feet against whichever ear was the direction we needed to go. I was happy for the fact that I didn’t see any crazy scars or wounds on the elephant, and I never saw the elephant trainer poke or stab her with the scary stick, but he did have it on hand. So, that made me feel like they are being treated OK.
We had about a 45 minute elephant ride through the jungle. There were times when I had to dodge branches and tree limbs because we were up so high, and hold on for dear life to the edge of the basket- we went down some super steep inclines, and I was sliding right out of that basket like it was greased. After making our way through the jungle, we reached a little creek/river and started going in. This is when it got really cool. The mahout got off of the elephant and hopped on the riverbanks, taking my camera from me so he could take all the pictures in the world. Once he got off, it meant I got to get out of the basket, and ride on the elephants neck! It was so cool, but a little uncomfortable- elephant hair is really prickly. I was riding the elephant through the river..and most of the time, what was I thinking? My white shorts are going to get ruined. Yeah, dumb idea for wearing white..I was thinking, ooh, wear linen shorts, it’ll be more comfortable..not, you’re going to get river water on you which will ruin all your clothes. As we were trekking through the water, the elephant kept filling up her trunk with water and spraying it up into the air- this is what really got on my clothes. It was refreshing to get a misting of water, and a little gross, since that’d be like me blowing my nose on someone. That’s when my tour guide went, “Oooh, your shorts. Oh no.” Oh well. Luckily, most of the brown river water came out. But seriously, it was just so surreal to be riding an elephant..and without the trainer, no less. If you want to see all of the pictures, look at my Elephants photo album (linked at the bottom of the post). It truly was a once in a lifetime experience, and I am so glad I got the opportunity. After our elephant trek finished up, I rewarded the elephant with a big bunch of bananas that I got to feed to her. I kindly asked her not to eat my hand, because she kept licking my hand..which, I’m sure she understood what I was saying..let alone English. The mahout tried to get the elephant to pick me up with her trunk- she picked the trainer up no sweat, but she wasn’t having it with me. I figured I was a little too heavy. No worries- I didn’t want to piss off the elephant..I was wearing flip flops..and her massive feet were right next to mine..she could have stomped me at a moment’s notice. I would like to continue walking, thank you.
After the elephant ride, we made our way back to the van and headed back to Bangkok. What a day. It was great to have the personal tour guide- she told me a lot about her life in Thailand and her family, how she lives in the city but all her family is in a farming town, much like the ox cart place we went to, and how she misses them so much and wants to go home. And she also told me a lot about Thailand, the people, their thoughts on the protest, and how they just want their lives to get back to normal..which they all seemed very optimistic about when they were talking to me-I hope that the tourists get back and go on their tour to support them-I don’t know how they were making it for the last month without any tours. It’s things like that that make you realize how good you’ve got it.
I woke up ridiculously early after our night running from the ping pong guys on Patpong..even though I had a long day and got only four hours of decent sleep. I was not happy about this. Oh well, I should be used to little sleep by now. Today was a total day of relaxation, which was perfect, as I had just come from Taipei after a pretty bad week of teaching the little monsters. I waited around for a few hours until Caitlin and her friends made their way to my hotel (remember, it’s not the easiest place to get to) and we were all absolutely starving, so we asked the front desk for a recommendation. From what I understood, we were going to “Anachardies” for some good Thai food. Turns out, it was called, “Anna and Charlie’s.” I was close. But not the name you would expect for Thai food..more like mediocre Western food. Luckily, it really was good Thai food.
I didn’t have my camera with me, of course, or I would have taken a picture of my first-ever curry dish. And boy, it was tasty. I had some delicious green coconut curry with chicken and steamed rice, that was only a little spicy, thankfully. It was served with a ton of flatbread-like grilled bread that was perfect for sopping up all of the green deliciousness. I thought the meal was a steal (I think about 140 baht, so less than $5 US), but the girls mentioned that they were steep prices for Thailand. I guess I’ve gotten used to Taipei prices, and things in a restaurant like this would be at least double. (I went to a Thai restaurant over the weekend after craving some good Thai food, and got a bill for $600 NT (18 US) for exactly the same thing as I had above..which was not nearly as good). Nevertheless, it was my first real meal in Thailand, and I was very happy.
After lunch with the girls, we walked back to my hotel and lounged in the luxurious lagoon-style pool for a few hours. We spent most of our time in the water just hanging out, or trying to find the smallest sliver of sunlight through the palm trees and buildings to get some sun. By the pool was probably the only place in Bangkok that I ever felt chilly. After hanging out poolside for a while, the girls had to sadly make their trek back to their jobs in Chon Buri (if you want to follow Caitlin’s blog, Elephants and Thai Babies, click the link on the right side of my blog). I had a great time with them and visiting Caitlin, but we definitely didn’t get enough time in. Hopefully we’ll get to meet up somewhere in Asia before we both leave!
Because my day wasn’t relaxing enough, I decided to take a power nap and then met up with Nick, who is one of my BF’s Lauren (from college) cousins. We had met up back in the states a while back, and he’s now in Bangkok as a Professor at one of the universities. Of course, not having a working cell phone proved very challenging. After wandering around aimlessly searching for a tall white guy, I went into a hotel and used a pay phone to call him-which was much easier. Five minutes later, I found Nick and one of his friends and fellow teacher. We wandered through the streets to find some dinner, where I had my first Pad Thai experience. It was shrimp pad thai, and it was delicious. I had no idea what Pad Thai was, even though I’ve heard of it all my life. It was great, except for my last bite which I swear was nothing but chilies. That was not a fun way to end such a good dish.
We left dinner and made our way to the Lebua at State Tower hotel, one of the nicest hotels, and tallest buildings in the city (it’s the 2nd tallest). This hotel was beautiful, and everything about it was grand. It made me feel like I was staying at a HoJo. We took the elevator up to the 64th floor and were greeted by several eager employees (Thai people are beyond friendly and hospitable- everyone always bowed when greeting you, and my doorman always saluted me) who whisked us away to the Distil Lounge..a rooftop lounge with spectacular, mesmerizing, breath-taking views of Bangkok at night. Words and pictures, sadly, just cannot do it justice. And we were living the life of luxury- we had a little couch to relax on, and were served with a warm towel to freshen up. First class? yep. I had a wonderful martini, but I can’t remember what it was. Something fancy and tasty. The views were just amazing, and the cool breeze from being up so high was wonderful- I wasn’t sweating, which was the only time in Bangkok when that occurred.
Unfortunately, the night-time photos of the city didn’t turn out so well, I’ve got a shaky hand and couldn’t ever get a clear shot. But, you get the idea. After our one drink at the lounge, we had to take the elevator back down to reality- I have to remind myself that I am now operating on a teacher’s salary. But for that hour, I sure felt like we were living the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
All in all, a ridiculously relaxing day, not full of touristy-sightseeing. That was for the next two days. I had to get back to the hotel and get to sleep- I had a 4:30 AM wake up call to fulfill one of my life-long goals- riding an elephant!
A New York Times article best sums it up, “THE heat. The traffic. The crowds. That’s all anyone ever talks about when you say you’re going to Bangkok.” All of those couldn’t be more true, and I found myself saying the exact same sentences anytime someone asked me about Bangkok or what I thought of it. Particularly the first sentence. I truly believe that Bangkok is the hottest place on the planet. I have never sweat so much in my life, and if you know me, I sweat a lot. You never really get used to being constantly wet and in uncomfortable clothes.
That being said, Thailand is an amazing place, and I had an awesome time (for the most part). It’s been almost two weeks since I got back, and I’ve been super lazy ever since, so I’m going to do my best to remember everything that happened. I arrived late on a Saturday night, and for some reason, I went into the stupid-tourist mode as I got off the plane. I was wandering aimlessly around the Bangkok airport looking for maps and getting ready to get a taxi, when someone from the tourist counter asked me where I was going. I told her that I was staying at the Chatrium Residences, and she asked if I needed a car. Of course, I did, and for some reason, I went along with it and had her arrange a car for me. She told me that the price would be $1100 baht (about 35 bucks) to the hotel. That seemed pretty steep to me, so I asked, “well, how much is a taxi outside?” She told me that it would be the same price once I got outside. Stupid me believed her. (My taxi ride from the hotel to the airport when I left was a mere 400 baht) As soon as I got in that car I knew I had been played, and it didn’t feel good. I was slightly ashamed of myself for being that tourist that I always strive not to be. That’s the person I always laugh at as I walk past them. But, alas, today, I was that person. Oh well, I can’t win them all. And, at least, I had good AC and the driver got me quickly to the hotel without any issues or asking me for an address or directions. That was the only car ride of my trip that I would get to my hotel so easily.
I was staying at the Chatrium Residences- Sathon, in the Sathorn neighborhood of Bangkok. I’m still not sure why the hotel has Sathon in its name, and not Sathorn. It was a pretty nice hotel, that also is an apartment building, so I had a large studio apartment to myself for 5 nights. I suspect I was one of 10 guests staying in the hotel, that had 7 towers that were 16 floors each. The hotel had a great pool that was perfect for cooling off in every day, and I enjoyed having a hotel room that was much larger than my Taipei apartment.
It was a nice hotel, with an even nicer price, but the location. Not the best. Bangkok is ridiculously massive, and I had no idea where the hotel really was when I booked the hotel. The hotel was a taxi ride to the nearest metro station, which took anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, depending on the traffic (the time of day never seemed to matter, the traffic was always at the most random times). My last full day in Bangkok I realized that I was a short walk to the express bus line, which was brand new, and free for the week, that I could take to the nearest metro station. So, that was nice, and saved me a lot of time, and a little bit of money. Okay, enough rambling, back to day one.
So, I got settled in to the hotel pretty late on Saturday night (around 11:30 or so) and my body was still an hour ahead on Taipei time. But, I had to quickly change and get ready to go meet one of my good friends from middle and high school, Caitlin. She recently moved to Chon Buri, Thailand to teach English there. She was in Bangkok for the weekend, so we were going to meet up and hang out. Of course, my cheapo pre-paid Taiwanese cell phone didn’t work as soon as I landed in Thailand, which caused serious frustration on my behalf for the next 5 days. Trying to meet up with someone in a city you are not familiar with and without a working phone is very problematic. But, we always seemed to make it work. I called Caitlin via Skype from my hotel room and we decided on a place and time to meet. Of course, I was late, since I didn’t know where I was going, but luckily, Caitlin and her friends were there waiting for me.
I had no idea where we were, theme of the week, and we just wandered the streets looking for a place to get a drink and catch up on things and talk about our new Asia lives. As we were walking, we were constantly approached by sketchy men. “Pingpong?” they would all say. Not your typical game of ping pong, I was informed. Apparently we were strolling the Patpong area, which is world-famous for its pingpong shows and other risque/adult things (yeah, this is where the whole ‘ladyboy’ thing is). You don’t even want to know how or what they do with the ping pong, it’s disturbing. These men did not want to take No for an answer. If you said no, they would keep asking you, or then, would try to lead you to a bar or club for drinks. After almost walking down one sketchy alley, we ditched the ping pong men and found a bar. The first one was pretty normal, the second bar we went to was full of middle-aged white men with Thai women wrapped around them. Needless to say, my first night in Bangkok didn’t leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy. I actually missed Taipei. I went to bed that night thinking to myself, I really hope that Bangkok and the rest of my trip isn’t like this, or I’m going to be pissed. Fortunately, things got MUCH better and I ended up having some amazing experiences. Despite the creepy men, I did have a great time hanging out with Caitlin and getting to catch up. Definitely nice to see a familiar face!
more updates to come..
I wanted to do a post highlighting some photos of my wanderings around Taipei the last month. Most of these pictures I’ve taken on one of my lazy Sundays. There’s nothing better than a nice, sunny, warm day where I just walk around for a few hours and just see what I see. No expectations. There always seems to be some kind of a surprise, and, hopefully, I have my camera to capture the moment (and it hasn’t died from snapping away too much). If not, at least I have some nice pictures of the beautiful parks around the city that I lounge around in. It’s the perfect way to relax, and gets me recharged for the work week.
All of these photos are in my Facebook albums, and I’ve got the links below if you want to see more.
After class one day, Kersandra, one of my Chinese teaching assistants, asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner with her for some traditional Taiwanese food. I said sure, because I was telling her that I hadn’t had too much Taiwanese food, because, well, it scares me. I was a little reluctant, but she said, “we’ll go somewhere delicious.” So, we hopped on the MRT (the subway) to Guting, the exit where both of us live near, and walked to the Shida Night Market. I asked her where we were going, and she told me that she had only been here twice and really had no idea. Comforting. We happened upon one of the many food stalls, she asked me if it was okay, and I said, uhh..sure. Like I could read the menu. She ordered for us, and I sat down and waited..starving, and with some butterflies in my stomach. Out came two dishes each- a bowl of soup, and two slimy-looking things. She was salivating, I was trying to hold back a barf-burp.
As you can see from the picture, they really were coated in slime. I was given chopsticks for this, which I am notoriously terrible at. I thought to myself, how the hell are you supposed to pick up a slimy meatball with a chopstick?? And I SURELY was not going to eat one of those in one bite. It took me about 10 tries to pick it up and it falling down, splashing the slimy-juice everywhere before I gave up and started to cut it up with my chopsticks. Of course, everyone was laughing, and Kersandra was already on her second meatball/dumpling thing. My first bite was a little too big, and I damn near puked. The taste really wasn’t that bad, but if you know me, I am big on texture. I can’t do slimy stuff. I can’t do jello. I can’t do whipped cream. It was repulsive. I ended up just pushing around the dumpling casing, and just eating the meat inside. Sorry for offending you, random Taiwanese food-staller. At this point I was really wishing I had filled up my water bottle a little more before I left work.
Next up? The bowl of soup. I figured this was going to be a safe bet, or at least a safer bet. I started moving my spoon around the soup, and noticed some very odd looking things floating around in it. I really can’t describe what they looked like, and I was past the point of taking pictures. The color? Flesh. The shape? Kind of like a rubber eraser- one of those cylinder-shaped ones. The texture? Rubbery and tough.
I took a breath, and hesitantly asked, “Uh, so, what’s in this soup?” She quickly informed me, “Oh, it’s pork lungs.” PORK LUNGS?! That was my reaction. I seriously about had a heart attack when I realized that I was eating chopped up lungs of a pig. I like my pork and all, but not that part of a pig. It was a very weird texture, and kind of tube like. I do have to say though, out of the two dishes I had just eaten, the soup was much more edible for me. Kersandra gobbled up both of her dishes and I left a good portion on the plate, I really wasn’t hungry any more. I tried to be as polite as possible, but she, and the other patrons, were definitely laughing at my expense. It’s okay, because I’m kind of used to it here.
I figured that I would return the favor and invite her to some American/Western-ized food. And I knew that I could use something that I could actually eat after consuming pig lungs and slime. So, we wandered over to Yofroyo, an amazing frozen yogurt joint that is just like Pinkberry or the million other frozen yogurt places in America.
This place has become pretty famous here, and they just opened another store in Taipei. Unfortunately, that means they raised their prices. But, for a small cup it is only 65NT, so about $2 US. Everyone complains about how expensive it is, but I remind them of how much it would cost back home. My favorite (and what I always get back home) is the Original flavor (a light citrus flavor) with fresh strawberries and granola. It’s super light, makes me feel healthy, and makes me think of home a little.
But here’s the kicker, while I was indulging in my small cup of Yofroyo, Kersandra wouldn’t order a thing. Her response, “Oh, I don’t really like American food.” Excuse me?! I ate pig lungs and slime, and you won’t have frozen yogurt? And how can anyone not like frozen yogurt? That being said, we haven’t eaten together since. I hope she doesn’t find this blog.
I’ll stick to the places with picture menus for now. Although, I am planning on enrolling in NTNU’s summer session Chinese program to learn some Chinese. Then, maybe, I’ll be able to order and read a menu!
BTW, here’s the links to my most recent Taipei photo albums (I’ll be adding some more posts soon):