Wednesday Write-Up: Writers Block

I am having a little bit of writers block today. Maybe it is the adorable two-year old wanting me to play a Thai dice game with her. Maybe it is the excitement of having awesome guests staying with us that have traveled all the way from our hometown to journey through Southeast Asia. Maybe it is the heavenly hot days that we have been blessed with since 2014 started. Maybe it is a little of all of these. We have been out showing our friends, Sean and Laura, the best Hua Hin has to offer and it has been great actually knowing what to do and where to go. Hua Hin is not really the town for us (we are big city dwellers much more), but the classic Thai tourism is pretty good here.

Today we went to the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation here in Hua Hin and rode on elephants. It was our friends’ first time on an elephant and they loved it, as did we. I will forever love and want to be around elephants. I would highly recommend if you want to go on an elephant “trek” you support this foundation that takes in used and abused elephants and nurses them back to health. I had written a post in the past (Elephants on Parade) about two other elephant shows/treks in Hua Hin and, while they were okay, this one I felt really good about going to.

Our friend, Laura, taking a picture of Song Kran, the youngest elephant at Hutsadin Elephant Foundation

Our friend, Laura, taking a picture of Song Kran, the youngest elephant at Hutsadin Elephant Foundation

One funny story for today… As we were riding on the back of a giant (probably 10-12 feet tall?) 40-year-old male elephant with tusks as long as my arms, Zoë asked, “What are we gonna do today?”  Chad and I both laughed as we realized what a charmed life she is leading right now (and us as well)… riding on elephants has become so common place to her that she was already asking what was next. It reminded me, yet again, of how incredibly blessed we are to be on this adventure.

So, I am off to see and do more, and hopefully this writers block will lift by Friday. I am sure it will. I just have to get back on the proverbial horse (or should I say elephant).

Is there anything you have always wanted to see or wondered about Thailand? Leave a comment and maybe I can help. Maybe it will help alleviate this writers block. Thanks for reading everyone!

Monday Montage: Survey Shows

My mom is here!!! My mom is here!!! This is my first experience having a family member visit us while we have been so far away from home. As you can probably tell I am a little excited ecstatic that she is here. It has been like a hypnagogic hallucination (now that’s a phrase I will be using more often…Thanks thesaurus!)  being able to visit with her in person, well when I get my five minute turn at least. Z has not let Nana out of her sight, in fact this morning I told Z, “I love you” and Z responded, “Nana”. Hilarious!

On another note, I wrote a post recently about promises to myself. One of them was to remain positive even when a situation makes me want to throw in the towel, throw up my hands in despair, or lay on the floor and throw a huge tantrum. Hmmm… I will think of other clichés to use later, I know there must be some more. This week I have encountered many opportunities (like how I phrase that? So positive right?) to put my gumption to the test. I am going to write more about that on Wednesday, but if you follow And Three To Go avidly (who wouldn’t, am I right?!) then you probably noticed that I did not do my usual post this past Friday. When we arrived back in Hua Hin from picking my mom up in Bangkok, a huge storm left floods and fallen trees in its wake. We came home to our villa with no water or electricity. We roughed it for two days and one very hot night before the power came back on. We are still without water, which has been giving us so many more excuses to hop in the pool. I am so thankful that we have a pool, it has been our bath, our reservoir and a wonderful way to cool off. See, these tests to determine my fortitude are nothing (just kidding…please no more tests!!).

Last Wednesday, I asked you what you would like to see and read about on And Three To Go, and I received some great ideas and suggestions… Thank you all for your help! Okay, enough of hearing about my week, I want you to see it too! Here are this weeks pictures…

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Some signs that I saw along the road that appealed to me for some reason… I think it was probably the added tire sign, adds some real flavor to the advertising opportunity.
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Sorry to all the men reading, but the fact that they have maxi pads out for you to feel and see before you buy them makes me laugh.
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This blew my mind when I first saw it in our travels years ago… Eggs are not refrigerated anywhere that we have been except in America. I wonder why we Americans need to be different? (That’s a rhetorical questions..haha)
1-IMG_8773The flood as we drove home from Bangkok, quite the adventure! I felt especially bad for the scooter drivers, but everyone seemed to have a good attitude about the river that used to be the road.

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Zoë really wanted her picture taken with this guy. He was the welcoming committee at the Tokiya restaurant in a mall in Bangkok.

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Nana and Zoë on their first day together! They haven’t been separated since.

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80’s Flashback! Amway is alive and well in Thailand, except you don’t get invited to dinner with friends so they can give you their pitch… Here you can just go to the Amway store.  Nice!

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There are even knock-off trucks in Thailand. Here is an “Isusu” work truck.

If you all have something that you would like to see here in Thailand, let me know and I will try to include it next time! Thanks again for following along on our trip!

Keelung Night Market: Not Recommended for Toddlers

Disclaimer: I do not consider myself someone who caters to her child. Of course, there have been changes to the way I live since having my little bundle of joy, but I strive to continue my life as it was. There are very few things that I feel are not suitable for me to bring Zoë to (hence this trip of ours). An example of something I would not include Z in would be taking her to the movie theater, I would probably be unable to pay close attention to the whole film, so why waste the money. Another example would be taking her to a dance club, it’s just not easy to dance well while holding a toddler, although at least the loud music would cover the sound of any tantrum she may throw. May have to reconsider that one… Regardless please remember this as you read the post.

On Monday, we decided to check out the Keelung Miakou Night Market. It was a particularly hot day in Taipei and we thought that Keelung, a town just northwest of Taipei, would be cooler. We also wanted to experience more of Taiwan and Keelung is close and relatively easy to attempt without prior planning.

In all honesty, I was unaware that there was a famous night market in Keelung until we recently watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show “The Layover” that highlighted it as the best night market in the Taipei area. I had high hopes for this epicenter of Taiwanese street food.

We hopped on the train at Taipei Main Station that ends in Keelung. The tickets cost about 40 NTD and they have trains leaving every 15-20 minutes.

Be aware-there is a train that goes to another destination that says it stops in Keelung, but actually passes it and you will end up on the train for 6 hours or so instead of 40 minutes. The correct train will be the one that has it’s final stop in Keelung.

Keelung is a port town, and quite often there is a cruise ship in town filled with mainland Chinese people ready to experience Taiwan. What this means is that Keelung is a tourist mecca, they are set up and prepared for an influx of tourists at any moment. The night market is no different, that is if you are used to massive amounts of people squished in a small street. Personal space is truly a foreign concept.

We arrived and made our way towards the Miakou Night Market. It was a 15-20 minute walk from the station straight down the road the station lets out on and is on the right. It was impossible to miss. The smells, sights, and sounds were overwhelming. There was every type of Taiwanese street food that I could think of. We walked through it all once slowly, taking it all in, traversing as best we could through the crowds. Then we turned around and decided to try some of the food offered.

Anthony Bourdain ate food from this stall, and the line proved it!

Anthony Bourdain ate food from this stall, and the long line proved it!

One of the food stalls at Keelung Night Market

One of the food stalls at Keelung Night Market

We started with a famous Taiwanese dish, the oyster omelette. The omelette’s are made with canned shelled oysters, eggs, and tapioca starch and covered in a ketchup type sauce. Chad and I sat down and dug in, but neither of us could finish it. The texture was slimy, and was actually rather tasteless. It is not often that I am unable to power through a plate of food, but this dish left me feeling a little nauseous. We decided after that to go with things we knew and also things that could be easily carried as I wanted to get out of there. The crowds, the heat, and having a toddler with us just got the best of me.

Zoë and I making our way through the crowd

Zoë and I making our way through the crowd

There are always a couple of options that parents have to take their children places. The child can walk, ride (usually in a stroller), or be carried.

Letting Zoë walk could have easily been disastrous, people did not look where they were going, but at what was around them. She could easily have gotten trampled and hurt, if not worse. Also, the people were very excited to see a child with blue eyes and blonde curly hair, and we could have easily lost her in a crowd of people that mobbed her to take her picture.

Using a stroller would have been impractical, if not impossible. That is unless Humvee makes a stroller/tank that could part crowds of people in its way. (Not a bad idea actually, maybe I should contact Humvee…)

Carrying a 30 plus pound squirming child is like carrying a large heat blanket meant to test your patience, fortitude, and strength. It is like Navy SEAL Hell Week… or so I’ve heard. It is easier when done for a short period of time, and it helps when it is not 90 degrees outside.

We carried Z. Between the heat, the people crowding to take her picture, and the constant pressure of thousands of humans surrounding me, I couldn’t take it. I got a little cranky. Lucky for me, Chad is an understanding husband, and we left the market.

On our way back to the train station we stopped at a large pier with a bunch of wooden sculptures that apparently were slides according to all the children in the area. We let Z run around and play. She had a blast, there is nothing so wonderful than seeing her smile, play and laugh. That was the highlight of my evening in Keelung.

Her smiling face always makes me happy

Her smiling face always makes me happy

So my advice to the parents out there that want to see the Miakou Night Market in Keelung is to get a babysitter. Go by yourselves, sans kid(s), and join the crowds, eat the street food, and enjoy the experience. It is embarrassing to say that I had to throw up my hands in defeat and walk away from this, but I feel that I need to be completely honest about all that we do on our travels. Even if I fail at being able to be the best traveler and am just me.

To the parents out there that have achieved super-parent status and have enjoyed taking your small child(ren) to the Keelung Miakou market, my hat is off to you. And if you want to leave hints and help on how to make it more child accessible, please leave it in the comments. I may be just stubborn enough to try it again.

Typhoons, Tailbones, and Time

So I have to admit that we did nothing this week that could be considered touristy. We lived a blessed life this week again, for sure. But I have nothing special to write about, as far as what you should see or do in Taipei. The “typhoon” (I use quotation marks because honestly I have seen far worse storms in California), my bruised tailbone from my fall down the stairs, and my subsequent paranoia about falling again in the rain prevented us from doing much this week.

When you travel long term, it is important to take time to do normal, real-life things sometimes. One cannot bustle around and be on the go all the time, especially with a toddler (I blame having a kid, but in reality, I need the down time more than her probably).

Despite the fact that we didn’t see any sights, or take any pictures of monuments, we did do some things that I do feel everyone should experience. They may seem mundane to you, but I feel refreshed and renewed for the new week because of them.

1) We had housecleaners come and do a deep clean of the house we are renting.

I have never had professionals clean my house. The house that we are renting previously belonged to three cats. Chad is allergic to cats and he has been suffering in silence. Yes, I could have done the work myself, but at the price of $20 an hour, we were both willing to let someone else do it for me. I am thankful that I was able to partake in this luxury. I know that in the States it is much more expensive, but I think everyone should enjoy this at least once. Especially all you hard working momma’s out there!

2) We stayed in and had a game night with good friends.

Last night after the babe went to bed, our friends came to our jungle oasis bearing gifts of hamburgers and fries (I know, awesome friends right?!). We sat and played the Battlestar Galactica board game until the wee hours of the morning (hence the lateness of this post). What a great time it was! I was the cylon and I ended up winning. I promise that is all the details I will go into about the game, Battlestar Galactica is not exciting to everyone I am sure, but I sure do love it!.

Regardless of what game we played, it was nice to relax and spend time with good friends. Last night I was Jenny, not just Zz’s mom, as she loves to call me lately. I think it is very important for every parent to take time to just be themselves occasionally. I know that it seems like that would go without saying, but I know many parents who never do so, or feel guilty when they do (I am totally pointing my finger at myself right now).

3) We spent a whole day in the house, just us three, and enjoyed each others company.

The typhoon day was such a blessing. Both Chad and I were nervous that many of the trees surrounding our house seemed like they may fall and break through our roof at the slightest breeze, but the Lord kept us safe in the wimpy torrential rainstorm. It ended up being a great day of togetherness!

Having Chad and Zoë with me all day, every day for the most part, I often forget to actually connect with each of them. I just end up going through the motions. I am so glad that there was a day that we were forced to stay in with each other, so I could reconnect with my two favorite people.

Make sure to take time and have a “typhoon day” with the ones you love too.

Next week I promise that I will write more about the wonders of Taiwan. Until then, what are some of the ordinary yet exceptional things that you would recommend that everyone do this week?

Wednesday Write-Up: Life of Luxury

This week has been awesome! We have caught up with most of our old friends. We have explored parts of the area that I never had before. We have also moved into a high rise apartment in Banqiao, Taiwan for the next 16 days until our long term apartment is available. Banqiao  is a 5 minute metro ride into Taipei City and is much bigger and flashier than it was when we lived here 5 years ago. We rented our small studio apartment on airbnb.com and are quite happy with the location and amenities.

We are on the 39th floor with an amazing view, have access to a lap pool and children’s pool (which we still haven’t used because they require you to wear swim caps… unfortunately, that was not something we packed for this trip), and even get boot-legged newly released movies available on our lovely 45 inch flat screen free of charge. It has been a little like living a life of luxury, in a very small cozy room.

I never thought I would say this, but I have been loving the food. Back when we lived here before, it was all I could do to not constantly complain about the horrible, oily, food. Chad and I often paid exorbitant prices to have “American” food because of our dislike of most of the Taiwanese food. Or at least, that is how I remembered it.

I was sitting here pondering earlier this evening, at how my tastes have changed since I was last here. Those things that I once found delicious, like cheese dan bing, and beef noodle bowls, have not been what I have remembered them as. I have steered away from them for the most part and have been eating other local favorites that I still love, such as shabu shabu (also known as hot pot), dumplings of all types, boba tea, and all the wonderful fresh fruit that I have been unable to enjoy since leaving sunny California. My stomach has been full and happy here in this big city that we used to call home.

It does feel like home here too, we have settled into Taiwan as though we had never left, but with a new perspective and way of living that makes it so that we actually do things. Chad and I are realizing the things that we missed here because we were hungover or on our way to our next hang over. Zoë has opened the door for us to really explore our old stomping grounds and see Taipei in the day time! Not that Chad and I were drunks or anything like that, it was just a different time and we had different priorities.

Zoë has also changed another part of Taiwan for us that I was slightly dreading. The looks of fear, condescension, and down right hatred are not pointed in these Wàiguórén (mandarin for foreigners) anymore. This time in Taiwan is completely different, now when we enter a place of business or walk down the street, locals do not run to the other side of the street or stare at us blankly, they come up and engage us. They want to meet and talk to Zoë! So far everyone has been extremely polite and she has not had anyone poke her or slap her (as I hear may happen, it is kind of like cheek pinching in the states), they just want to say hello and occasionally take her picture. Zoë is loving the attention and now goes up to all the local children she meets along our walks to say “nice to meet you” and “Nǐ hǎo” (mandarin for hello). It really is so cute. Because of Zoē I feel welcome here, which I was not expecting! She is our little ambassador of good will.

It is great to be back in Taipei, Taiwan. I look forward to traveling more around the island and being able to write about our adventures. Until then… Zàijiàn!