Wednesday Write-Up: Thailand Dreaming

I think I may just have to stay in Thailand forever. Well, at least for the next three months. If the rest of the three months are as fantastic as the first week has been, I am in for a wondrous time.

We left Bangkok by the public train in the early afternoon last Thursday on our way to HuaHin. We got there a couple of hours early to buy our tickets, carting our ever-increasing luggage (seriously, how do three people accumulate so many things each place they go?). We made our way to the ticket booth and on the way were stopped by a travel agent from one of the tourist agencies located in the train station. He told us that all the tickets for the train we wanted to take were gone because Thai people get their seats for free. He was nice enough to offer us expensive seats on a private bus. Don’t worry, we had this scam tried on us before in our travels and knew better than to trust the kind but misleading gentleman. We ventured onto the ticket window and although the first class tickets were indeed all gone, we happily purchased second class tickets. Even the lady at the ticket counter warned us that the second class seats with no air conditioning were very hot and we should wait for the next train. Chad and I are not that easily swayed though.

I was so glad that we took those second class seats. It was a sublime day. We traveled for five hours with the window down and the old rotating fan cooling us periodically. We got the chance to talk to each other, buy fruit and snacks from vendors running up and down the train cars, and getting to know the people around us by smiling and nodding and using our little ice breaker named Zoë. She makes locals that would normally ignore us, open up and try to get to know us, especially if they themselves have children as well. It felt like a true Thai experience, not a tourist Thai experience.

On The Train to HuaHin

On The Train to HuaHin

Five hours later we arrived in Hua Hin, Thailand. We grabbed a songthaew (basically just a truck with benches in the back used as a taxi) to our temporary home for the next 5 days, Sea Harmony Guesthouse. I plan on writing a full review of Sea Harmony on Friday, but just so you know, it was awesome!

The next day we checked out HuaHin City Beach, which was a white sand beach lined with resorts, vendors selling everything you could possibly need on the beach, and people giving horse riding lessons. The beach had little shade, was quite dirty (we found a used hypodermic needle, ewwww) and I was constantly worried that Z would run out in front of an oncoming horse and get trampled. Instead of thinking negatively about these things (see I am starting to work on my promises) , I chalked it up to a lesson learned. We would try a different beach next time.

HuaHin City Beach

HuaHin City Beach

Z Playing at City Beach

Z Playing at City Beach

That was really the only day we had to relax and enjoy the beach, because we had to find a house to rent! Chad and I never like to do things too far in advance, and we felt that 4 days was more than enough time to find a place to live. We had ideas of what we were looking for in a house here in HuaHin, Chad had started researching rentals online while we were still in Taipei. We waited until we arrived in HuaHin to book a place because we wanted to make sure that the neighborhood was actually where we wanted to stay. We learned our lesson from booking our place in Curacao without knowing exactly where it was.

What Chad and I did not realize is that all the homes that were for rent were being snatched up in lighting speed because high season is on its way. High season, apparently begins in November and ends in April, and is the driest time of the year, as well as the coolest (still above 80 degrees Fahrenheit though, thank goodness!). We were up to the challenge though and poured over any website that seemed to have houses or condos for rent.

We went and looked at a couple of places, but one stood out to us. A four bedroom villa with a private swimming pool, full kitchen, and every household item we could need. The house was a bit out of HuaHin, about a 10 minute drive, but we decided the quick drive (and the price of the rental car) was worth the house and it’s amenities. Did I mention that the house also comes with a weekly housekeeper, pool caretaker that comes two times a week, and a gardener as well? The house was exactly what we had dreamed about having in Thailand before we even started on this trip.

We moved into our villa yesterday and are finally settled in today. We are enjoying every moment and have been pinching each other to make sure that we are not dreaming. I feel so incredibly blessed.

The Villa at Night

The Villa at Night

Z and Jen Playing in the Pool at 8:30 in the Morning.

Z and Jen Playing in the Pool at 8:30 in the Morning. Best Way to Start the Day!

Not only do I feel blessed about being here in this spectacular country, but I found out this week that my mom and my sister both bought tickets to come visit us! My mom will be here in just a week and my sister shortly after. I can barely wait to show them why I love Thailand so much. I hope that they will love it as much as I do.

Truly, this whole adventure has been a dream come true so far. Every day, every destination, every new person I meet, makes my life feel more rounded and full. This has truly been a trip so far and I so appreciate you following along with me. Here’s to more fun and adventure just around the corner…

Monday Montage: The Land of Thailand

We have officially been in Thailand for one week, and what an amazing week it has been! I have so much to tell you about in my Wednesday Write-Up this week. Until then, here are some of the pictures that I have taken so far.  Thanks for following along on our trip, I am so glad you are with us!

1-IMG_8539I was very excited to see that they have a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at the Central World Mall in Bangkok. In my opinion, they make the best chai tea lattes in the world (literally, I have tried chai tea lattes all along this trip around the world). I was a little embarrassed with how excited I was to see this sign.

1-IMG_8559Someone wanted to be a ghost and I think she did a pretty good job. This was taken in our apartment in Bangkok. It was a lovely place we found on airbnb.com. You can get a little glimpse of the view through the window.

1-IMG_8575I know that this is not a great picture, but this is the wall of the restaurant in our Bangkok apartment building . It made me laugh every time. You only live once… so you must spit water out of your mouth in a pool? Well, okay, I’ll try it…

1-IMG_8578Waiting for our fried rice breakfast from a street stall in Bangkok. Breakfast for all of us for 50 baht ($1.50) and it was delicious!

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Bangkok Train Station

1-IMG_8600One of the towns on the way to Hua Hin, taken from the train.

Two Days in Bangkok

We just spent two days in Bangkok and I have to say, I had a great time!

I have been to Bangkok numerous times in the past, it has never been my favorite city. I used to think that it was overwhelming in pretty much every way. It seemed seedy, dirty, and smelled like raw sewage. On top of that all of my senses were overloaded as people pulled at me whether physically or verbally, asking me to buy their wares trying to use the accent of the English they thought I spoke (most of the time they thought I was Australian, that’s okay with me!). I always would spend as little time as I could there.

This week my opinion about this thriving metropolis changed. I realized that the reason I have disliked Bangkok for so long may have been because I wasn’t giving it the chance it deserved. On our previous trips here, Chad and I were two young fun-loving married people with no kids, staying in the backpacker mecca called Khaosan Road, only venturing out of that area to see some wats (temples) and golden Buddhas on our first trip to Bangkok together. Every other time in Bangkok, we would eat, sleep, and drink only in the neighborhood around Khaosan Road. And yes, that road is filthy and gross, it smells like acid diarrhea (sorry if that’s too descriptive, but at least you didn’t have to smell it). There is more crime due to there being so many travelers in one place, carrying their big backpacks around with everything they own. It’s a pickpockets paradise and an overall unpleasant place to visit.

Fast forward to this week. Chad and I are still young, fun-loving married people, but now we are also parents. Zoë has changed the way that Chad and I travel. We no longer have a real night life, but my goodness, how much better our days have become. I confess, I often miss sleeping in until noon (or later), but getting up at the crack of dawn has enabled us to see so much more of the places we have been on this trip so far. This is not to say that I will not be remembering these early mornings and repaying her when she is a teenager by making her arise at dawn when she wants to sleep in. All’s fair right?

We chose an apartment on Airbnb.com in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok, honestly because it was close to the shopping malls and I really wanted to go to H & M and Forever 21. I know it seems silly and mundane, but when a tall girl like me is somewhere in Asia that they sell clothes that fit, that girl makes a concerted effort to take advantage.

As it turns out, the apartment was amazing, on the 25th floor of a slightly older building. The building had convenience stores, a few laundresses, a gym (no I never got a chance to use it, I feel so ashamed), a pool, and the best Thai food restaurant that we found in the area. The place had everything you could possibly want… it made me want that in every place we lived, so I may be ruined for travel now.

We spent much of our first day shopping at Central World Mall, giving some of Chad’s hard earned money to H & M as they were having an excellent sale, and we legitimately needed some new clothes (traveling long term seriously wrecks your clothing).

Later that day we met some friends of a friend at a restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms which was within walking distance to our apartment. I won’t go into details about the place, but you can find out more about it here. It was actually fairly good, with normal Thai cuisine, just at a little more expensive prices because the touristy and gimmicky aspect of the restaurant. We had a great time with our new friends and agreed to meet up again the next day.

We spent much of the day before hanging out with our friends searching for our next meal, which is always my favorite thing to do in any place, but especially Thailand.

I think I probably have eaten myself into a larger size of pants since being here. The food we ate in Bangkok was delicious and I would leave a meal with a full stomach, but with an addiction that made me want to order more and more. I am always reminded of the Monty Pythons’ Mr. Creosote skit as I sit and eat my meals in Thailand. You can watch that here  if you like, but it is a little gross so be prepared…

Anyways, so far I have eaten chicken with cashews, pad thai, papaya salad, green curry with chicken, red curry with chicken, spring rolls, fried rice (with spicy fish oil), spicy seafood salad, pork satay, sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour fish, and tons of steamed jasmine rice. All of these meals have been exquisite in their flavor and presentation, and all of them have been inexpensive.

Oops… I got a little off the topic there for a minute, but you know how I get about food…*drools.

Back to Bangkok, I felt like I was actually enjoying the time there. We never once went to Khaosan Road and I am happy about that. We spent time as a family walking around the Sukhumvit neighborhood and enjoying seeing the city in the daytime.

We plan on going back to Bangkok periodically for shopping, and to pick up anyone that comes to visit us at the airport (keeping my fingers crossed, Mom!) as it is a quick trip from Hua Hin to the capitol of this wonderful country. And I am looking forward to more time in Bangkok, not only for the great food and the new clothing, but to be able to experience this massive overwhelming city in a new way. I am glad that we gave Bangkok another chance.

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Do you have a favorite Thai dish that you think I must try? Do you have good, or bad, things to say about Bangkok? Leave me a comment, I love to hear from you!

Wednesday Write-Up: Bangkok

I cannot believe that our time in Bangkok, Thailand is almost over already. We leave for Hua Hin, Thailand tomorrow morning.

It has been a whirlwind couple of days of shopping, food, and new experiences.

I have to start with the shopping because there are numerous H & M and Forever 21’s (named XXI Forever here) and we only had a chance to visit one of each. I have found it difficult to understand the clothes that the stores are selling presently though. There are racks upon racks of winter clothing. no I do not mean just pants and long sleeve shirts, I am talking wool sweaters, lined pants, down filled coats with fur lining… Is there something I have missed here?! Is this Thailand or Minnesota? Maybe we entered some sort of worm hole as we thought we were entering Central World Mall in Bangkok, but actually traveled through a hole in our reality to the Mall of America? Or have we deceived ourselves into thinking that Thailand is a tropical climate and everyone here is laughing at our belief that we have read on the internet is real…. I am hoping that everyone shopping here is just preparing to travel to snowy climates and what I hold true in my heart is real, that Thailand is warm year round and never snows, we shall see, and you, my wonderful readers will be the first to know if I see a snowflake fall.

I have quickly forgot about the apparent blizzard that is on its way every time I have sat down to eat. Yes, I am in love with food. I am sure that Chad and possibly every one else I know gets sick of the amount of time I talk about food. I cannot help it, it’s my obsession. I wish that I had more of an obsession with cooking food instead of eating it though. It would be much easier keeping svelte. I plan on writing more about the delicious fare on Friday.

We consciously decided when we were booking this part of our trip, that we did not want to spend too much time in what is, admittedly, our least favorite city in Thailand. I do have to say though, I do not feel like we have done enough here so far. I think that a few  short trips will be necessary while we stay in Hua Hin the next couple months.

Hopefully the winter weather will not keep us from returning soon. I hope to see you soon Bangkok!

Monday Montage: Goodbye Taipei

We have arrived in Bangkok, Thailand!  I am currently hanging out in our short term rental that we got on airbnb.com and relaxing after a very long day of traveling. Here are the last pictures I took of Taiwan. I cannot believe our time there is up already, it was very sad leaving our friends, but I was ready to see some new places. So here we are … IN THAILAND!!!

The corner of the roof of the National Concert Hall

The corner of the roof of the National Concert Hall

Public Bicycles for rent and the Barbie Restaurant on the right

Public Bicycles for rent and the Barbie Restaurant on the right

Wall of a pharmacy

Wall of a local pharmacy

Dessert at Dazzling Cafe at the Breeze Center

Dessert at Dazzling Cafe at the Breeze Center- Seriously delicious!!

Another dessert at Dazzling Cafe Photo taken by Angela Liu

Another dessert at Dazzling Cafe                                    Photo taken by Angela Liu- Thanks Angela!

A decorated street corner near our house

A decorated street corner near our house

CKS Memorial Hall and Liberty Square

This past Sunday was a gorgeous day that made us want to be out of the house, which is not normal for us. Sundays are usually our lazy days, but with our time dwindling in Taipei and the wonderful warm weather, we had to take the opportunity to see more of the city. Chad had the idea to go to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall here in Taipei and walk around.

……

Just to start with a little background information… Chiang Kai-Shek (CKS) was the President in China until the communist party started a gruesome civil war with him. He retreated to Taiwan when China was no longer safe for him and ruled for over 30 years under martial law. That is just my badly summarized version of his life, if you want the full story, check it out here.

When CKS died in 1975 The Taiwanese government began planning a memorial hall for him. They started building the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial on what would have been his 90th birthday in 1976. It was completed in 1980 on the anniversary of his death.

…..

Chad, Zoë, and I arrived at the CKS Memorial Plaza, now called “Liberty Square” that houses the memorial early in the afternoon. It was an easy metro ride straight into the park (CKS Memorial hall stop on the green line). We walked through the beautiful gardens lackadaisical, taking in all the scenery while letting Z run around and tell us about all the new things she saw along the way.

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The garden on the way from the metro to the plaza

We came up to the actual entrance to the Liberty Square, an enormous white gateway topped with a purple roof that looks like an open wall of a pagoda. There were many people milling about, most were taking pictures, but there were also a bunch of teenagers practicing their hip hop dancing. I really wish I had a video of the teens, they were decidedly serious about their dance moves. I would have watched them longer, but there was no stopping Zoë for even a moment. She wanted to go, go, go!

The entrance to the plaza

The entrance to the plaza

We continued walking towards the CKS memorial hall, which took us between the National Concert Hall and the National Theater. These matched buildings were impressive to say the least. I will let the picture of them do the talking as I would hate to bore you with flowery adjectives that I found on thesaurus.com.

The National Theater  Photo credit here

The National Theater-
Photo credit here

The National Concert Hall Photo Credit Here

The National Concert Hall- Photo Credit Here

As we were walking past the palatial and stately (okay, so I used the thesaurus a little) twins, we noticed a walkway beneath them. We decided to explore and found that there are restaurants, shops, and a coffee shop. We grabbed a coffee to give ourselves the much-needed energy to keep up with our excited, and extremely active toddler.

Running towards the CKS Memorial Hall

Running towards the CKS Memorial Hall

We resumed our trek down the plaza toward the massive white and purple octagonal building that houses the statue of Chiang Kai-Shek. We walked up the sets of stairs quickly, well Z hopped “liked Tigger” up them, and looked upon the likeness of the controversial and loved former President . The gigantic statue of Chiang Kai-Shek reminded me of the Lincoln Memorial, I think it was the fact that they are both sitting and have similar positioning. We happily realized that we had arrived just in time to watch the changing of the guards. We took some pictures of what turned out to be an exceedingly long performance and ducked out before the show was over. It was interesting, but not enough to hold our attention that long.

Hopping "like Tigger" up the stairs

Hopping “like Tigger” up the stairs

Changing of the guard in front of the CKS Statue

Changing of the guard in front of the CKS Statue

We walked down the stairs on the left of the memorial hall and realized that this building also had a secret entrance below it. Okay, so it wasn’t really a secret, but in all the times I had been to the site in the past (quite a few actually when we lived here before) I had never noticed it. Inside were some souvenir shops, a post office, a museum, and a few food and snack places. We walked though and exited out the other side, deciding to make our way back to the metro station to head home.

Along the way we came to a pond that was full of Koi fish. Lucky for us there were statures that looked like Koi as tall as me selling fish food for just 10 NT. Z fed the fish a few times while I sat and took in the surroundings. There was a quaint white bridge over the pond and the foliage surrounding it made it feel like you were in some sort of Chinese impressionist painting.

Feeding the Fish

Feeding the Fish

The little bridge over the pond

The little bridge over the pond

The plaza was one of the most magnificent and enjoyable memorials I have been to in Taipei or anywhere. The natural and man-made aspects of the area fit together perfectly and make it so that no matter where you look it is pleasing to the eye. So take a day, or an hour, pack a picnic, or grab a meal in one of the restaurants located in the grandiose buildings, no matter what you do here, it will be a lovely experience.

Wednesday Write-Up: Promises, Promises

Every time that we are heading to a new location on our journey, I make promises to myself about how I will be, or what I will do differently than I did in the last place. This is one of the incredible parts of traveling long-term, each new place you go to, you have the chance to learn from the last place. I have to admit that I have been awful at keeping these goals and promises to myself. So, I decided to write what I plan to change about myself and my routines in our next destination (THAILAND!!!!). This will help keep me honest and also make me strive harder to actually follow through on what I want to do. Nothing like public shame and humiliation to make one strive to complete tasks and goals. So here they are:

1) I will choose to be positive, no matter what happens when experiencing new things. I have a tendency to lean towards the negative in most many aspects of my life. I like to call it being realistic, but most often I am just being a downer. I loathe the fact that there have been a couple of times during this trip where my negativity (usually rearing its ugly head as frustration and annoyance) has ruined an experience for all of us. It hasn’t happened often, but I want these experiences to be happy memories, not memories of me losing my cool and getting cranky. I am going to throw my expectations and frustrations to the wind and have FUN!

2) I will find a bible study to join, and/or make sure to do one on my own, EVERY DAY! I am a much more grounded, loving, kind, and patient person when I devote the first part of my day to studying God’s Word  and praying. I realize that not all of you are Christian, but this one is more important than my morning cup of tea. I will not be able to accomplish goal #1, unless I make sure to give my day, and myself, over to God. Do any of you know of a good study that I can find online (physical books are just too hard to carry around at this point)?

3) I will start some type of physical activity/exercise and make it a habit! I have never been an example of physical fitness. I am not one of those ladies that has had defined muscles, or was able to jog or play sports. My exercise of choice has always been walking in the city on nice sidewalks, I want to do more. I am not overweight, but my endurance is acutely lacking. I want to be able to run (only if I need to, let’s not get carried away now) and play with my daughter for the rest of my life. I also genuinely want Zoë to be raised to be physically fit. I think Thailand will be the best place to start getting my butt in gear. Now I just have to decide what I want to start with. Swimming lessons? Zumba classes? Or just getting up and jogging around town? You guys could help me out with this one, what’s the best way to get started?

I am counting on all of you, my friends, to not let me make excuses for myself. If I write a post someday in the future about how I wasn’t able to keep these promises to myself, call me on it and leave me a comment! Or, if you just want to encourage and support, those comments would help me a great deal. Thanks for keeping me on my path to being a better person and following us on our adventure!

Monday Montage: Last Week In Taiwan

This week is our last week in Taipei and we have been trying to see everything that we haven’t had a chance to yet. It turned out that we ran out of time to see Hualien and Taroko Gorge (again, Ack!). Well, I guess that that will be the first destination for our next trip to Taiwan. Next week we will be in Thailand!

The police are watching us

The police are watching us

This guy was climbing the walls in a hiking store...just a little creepy looking

This guy was climbing the wall in a hiking store…just a little creepy looking

Heping Road at night

Heping Road at night

Civic Boulevard at night

Civic Boulevard at night

Bourbon bears? Hmm

Bourbon bears? Hmm

That is a strange temporary building next to the Dandy Hotel

That is a strange temporary building next to the Dandy Hotel

Taipei World Trade Center, or as I call it the Minecraft Building (xbox owners will know what I mean)

Taipei World Trade Center, or as I call it the Minecraft Building (Xbox owners will know what I mean)

A rummage sale (tons of vintage things) we happened upon while walking in the Xinyi district

A rummage sale (with tons of vintage things) we happened upon while walking in the Xinyi district

I am not sure what this is all about, but they are always sitting and meditating outside of Taipei 101

I am not sure what this is all about, but they are always sitting and meditating outside of Taipei 101

Wild, Wondrous Wulai

This week we decided to take the trek to a town just south of Taipei called Wulai. We traveled to Wulai many times when we lived here years ago. Wulai is famous for it’s natural hot springs,  waterfall, and a gondola that takes you to the top of the waterfall (yippee, I hope that you can detect my sarcasm in that expression). It is just a short 45 minute scooter ride from Taipei.  This time around we had to take public transportation because Chad and I are just not comfortable having all three of us on a scooter (it is possible, I have seen families of 5 on one scooter!). We mulled over the options to get there and decided to take the MRT to the Xindian stop (last stop on the green line) and then take the 849 bus to Wulai. It was the cheapest way to get to Wulai, just costing 7 NTD for the MRT and 15 NTD for the bus (about 75 cents US). You can take a taxi from the Xindian Station, but the going rate is 600 NTD ($21 US), so the decision was an easy one.

The Metro ride was smooth and painless, but long, taking about 45 minutes. The bus ride, on the other hand, was quite an adventure. We thought that going to Wulai mid-afternoon on a weekday would mean that the bus would be empty and we would have seats for the hour-long ride. As we got on the crowded bus, there was standing room only. “Ok”, I thought, “I can do this”, as I held my now sleeping two-year old with one arm and the plastic swinging handle above my head with the other hand. I was great until we started moving, that first pump on the gas, I almost fell backward into the crowd. The bus driver obviously thought he was practicing for the Indy 500, driving like a maniac over the tiny, winding, mountainous roads. I let go of the handle and grabbed onto one of the side bars like my life depended on it. I say I grabbed onto it, but what I really mean is I wrapped as many of my limbs around it as humanly possible. With each turn I could feel my arm (and leg) muscles straining and working out. Who knew that I could “pump iron” while taking a bus ride?!

When we got closer to the town, finally enough of the elderly people who have priority to the seats disembarked so I was able to sit down. I was shaky and a bit car sick, but I felt like I had just ran a marathon and came in first (obviously I would come in first, I am the ultimate example of fitness). All this excitement and we hadn’t even made it to Wulai yet!

When we arrived at the terminal stop in Wulai, we walked a short distance to the main road that takes you through the touristy part of the town. It  looks like a walking path, but be aware because taxi’s and scooters fly through there with apparent disregard for the many pedestrians diving out of the way.

The main thoroughfare through Wulai

The main thoroughfare through Wulai

The street is lined with souvenir shops selling aboriginal crafts (most of them looked like they were made in China, but some shops did look as though they had actual hand crafted products), Taiwanese sausage stands, and restaurants that all offered the same dishes. You can find out more about the dishes in this Pig Pig’s Corner blog post .  We grabbed a couple of sausages and started exploring.

Taiwanese BBQ sausage, yes please!

Taiwanese BBQ sausage, yes please!

Walking across the colorful bridge on our way to the waterfall

Walking across the colorful bridge on our way to the waterfall

A not so pretty way of getting power from one side of the river to the other

A not so pretty way of getting power from one side of the river to the other

The river is a greenish blue color and foggy from the hot springs

The river is a greenish blue color and foggy from the hot springs

Almost to the waterfall

Almost to the waterfall

Wulai is a fairly small town and is easily walked, after the tourist street, you cross a bridge to the actual town.  I always judge the size of a Taiwanese town by the amount of  7-11’s they have. Wulai has one 7-11, it is small, so don’t worry, even if you aren’t much of a hiker, walking through Wulai is doable. For those of you using strollers, there are no sidewalks, but the streets are nice enough where that was not an issue.

You can take a taxi to the waterfall which is about 1 km up the mountain, but I love to walk and we decided to trek it. The way is nicely paved, but is just one lane with no sidewalk, so make sure that you pay attention, because taxi’s will try to take you out at every blind turn.

A picture of the whole waterfall

Wulai Falls

The walk was non-strenuous and quick, taking only about 20-30 minutes. When we reached the waterfall area we realized that there was a little train that will take you from Wulai to the waterfall. I was happy to have walked though, it worked off the sausages that we ate along the way. We walked past more souvenir shops, some cafes, and the Wulai Tram Museum.

Also at the top of the hill is a gondola that takes very brave people to the top of the waterfall.  It is the oldest gondola in Taiwan. Yay… that was said with complete and utter respect and fear. Chad and I discussed taking it to the sights at the top of the waterfall that we have heard are amazing, including a restaurant called Tops that overlooks Wulai. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I love adventure, especially when it makes me fear for my life, but the bus ride already gave me enough adrenaline rush for one afternoon.

See those dots hanging over the gorge...yep, those are the gondolas... in fact the oldest gondolas in Taiwan

See those dots hanging over the gorge…yep, those are the gondolas… in fact, they are the oldest gondolas in Taiwan

We made it to the waterfall! And for some reason we decided it was a good idea to squat while taking the photo?! Anyways, you get half of the waterfall and us

We made it to the waterfall! And for some reason we decided it was a good idea to squat while taking the photo?!

Zoë was quite fascinated with the Wulai Falls

Zoë was quite fascinated with the Wulai Falls

A statue of an aboriginal man and his dog

A statue of an aboriginal man and his dog

We (meaning Chad) took some pictures of the waterfall and decided to take the Wulai Log Ride back down to town. We bought our 50 NTD tickets at the Wulai Tram Museum and boarded the train without waiting. As with any other tourist destination in Taiwan, I would highly suggest going to Wulai only on weekdays. There are very few people and no lines to speak of so it is much more enjoyable.

Painting of the Wulai Log Train

Painting of the Wulai Log Train

We walked back to the bus station and I boarded the 849 with some trepidation. We were lucky this time and Chad and Zoë got a seat. I felt like working out my now stronger muscles a little bit more, but soon a seat opened for me as well. We were able to take the bus all the way back to Taipei Main Station which cut about 20 minutes off our trip back.

I really enjoyed our trip to Wulai and we will definitely go back. We didn’t take the time to go in the natural (and free) hot springs, but will next time for sure. It was just sprinkling enough to make me not want to get into a swim suit. As far as the gondola goes, that will have to be done at another time, or maybe never… I say this as only a person scared of heights can hope.

Wednesday Write-Up: Spiritual Lesson Learned

Every Tuesday for the past five weeks I have made my way to Grace Baptist Church near the Gongguan area of Taipei to attend Bible Study Fellowship. I  have really enjoyed studying and discussing the Bible with my discussion group, a wonderful group of Taiwanese women that have been incredibly warm and welcoming.  I loved getting to know my group,  women of faith walking their love of Christ instead of just talking it. And the fact that they study the Bible and discuss it in English (I was the only native English speaker!) was just awe-inspiring. I do not know that I will ever be proficient enough in another language to do something like join a bible study using it, I can barely function using English!

I was captivated by the stories of what many of the ladies in my group had to go through to be Christian here in Taipei. It helped me put in perspective how easy we Christians have it in America.  We may get persecuted to a certain extent back in the States, but it is rare to hear about someone being ostracized from their family because they choose to be a Christian.  Or maybe I just grew up in a more accepting area, because I always felt that my beliefs were not an issue for those I was in contact with, or at least people seemed to quietly tolerate them.  I have honestly never felt hated because of my faith (well, except for in the media occasionally, but that’s a story for another day, very very far in the future, if ever). I think that many people in my home town (maybe all of America, but I hate to speak for such large numbers of people) think the same that I do, that everyone should have the freedom to have faith in what they wish. My time attending the Taipei BSF has really made me realize that I need to be thankful that I am able to state my beliefs and share them without fear of recourse.

I have often prayed and asked God what He wants me to learn on this trip that he has so generously blessed us with. I think that this may be one of the lessons (among so many others so far, a few of my previous blog posts can fill you in on those) that He wants me to grasp and act on. I have lived in a bubble for so long as far as my faith goes, that I often hear stories about people persecuted for their faith, but have spent little, to no time actually, thinking or praying for those that struggle in a society where freedom of religion is not a right (either politically or societally) . Attending this bible study has been a wonderful lesson in empathy and love for me. If you pray, please help me in praying for the wonderful ladies here in BSF, as well as all the Christians here in Taiwan.

Now on a totally different note, the countdown has begun, we have 12 days left in Taiwan, so the packing needs to begin. Seriously how is it that I can accumulate so much crap stuff in three months?!? More on that fun topic later…