Temple Trotting and Some R&R

Tuesday, February 9th

Sadly our trip is winding down, we've got 2 days left, and although my heart was happy, the rest of my body was starting to feel the affects of constant traveling (both walking as well as my lovely fall down the mountain!) and Tina and I dubbed our last 2 days in Thailand as ones of relaxation and taking it slow...perfect! {PS - if you need to catch up any or missed yesterday's post, you can check out Cambodian posts HERE and Thailand HERE!}

We slept in Tuesday morning for a bit and by this time we had hit all the must haves in Bangkok so it was a little easier to relax a bit and just pick up smaller adventures here and there as the opportunity presented itself. With that being said, our first stop of the morning was walking to a smaller temple called Wat Indra Viharn. The temple is believed to be almost 600 years old and one of it's main attractions (sadly not 600 years old!) is a Buddha statue that stands 105 feet tall and shadows many of the surrounding temple buildings at the site. This temple was a little odd, and sadly since it is not such a "big name temple" there were no English descriptions for anything. Off to the back was a green Buddha looking much like a giant gummy bear, near him was an area set up for people to receive hair cuts, and off to the side in another building was a deceased monk in what looked to be a glass coffin case. Again, like I said, I was really hoping for some descriptions to some of the things I saw here!

Leaving the temple we hopped on a river boat taxi for one last ride down the canals and headed back to our hotel...we had relaxation in mind! The night before Tina and I had decided that for our last night in Thailand we would splurge on a hotel room (splurging after spending no more than $10 a night on a room for the previous 2 weeks still doesn't equal a very expensive room though!). We had 2 must haves for our room and when we looked online for a room that was all we were concerned about; Tina wanted a comfy bed and I wanted an outdoor pool. Done and done, we booked our room and we couldn't be happier. Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon after leaving the temple, we went back to our hostels, ate a quick lunch, grabbed our luggage, checked out and headed for Dang Derm Hotel.

I would like to say check in was a breeze, but of course what fun is travel if you don’t have a couple hiccups in the way. We go to check in and have everything ready and the guy asks us to pay. I hand him my credit card and he says the hotel doesn’t take cards {how they accept an online booking fee is then beyond me!} Tina and I regroup, we start looking for another hotel in the area (it’s our last day and physical cash is running low) meanwhile, the guy is persistent that we have to pay in cash. After 10 minutes or so we tell him we’d like to cancel our reservation…suddenly everything changes “well, umm, I can try the credit card machine I guess but it doesn’t always work…” (funny how moments earlier he was claiming they had NO way of taking a card!) Well long story short they took the card and we got our room. We got to our room and in less than 15 minutes we had both assumed our positions; Tina in bed and me pool side…and life was good!

This was like a castle after 2 weeks of staying on bunkbeds in rooms with up to 10 other people!

After getting thoroughly pruney in the pool and sun kissed on the lounge chairs we headed out for dinner and stumbled upon a small shop that had an amazing green curry dish that I quickly scarfed down. After dinner we spent the evening getting Thai massages, eating scorpions (hey when the opportunity presents itself!) going for yet another swim around midnight and then as Tina called it a night I went for one last stroll through Kaosan Road before heading to bed relaxed, happy, and with a scorpion dancing in my belly!

Silk Worms & Chinese New Year

Monday, February 8th

Holy moley guys! I'm so sorry, I am STILL not finished with my Thailand trip...between my computer catching a computer flu and currently being out of commission and then me getting sick for the past 2 weeks (ugh that's another story in itself) and the fact that life just doesn't ever stop...well anyways...I'm behind, but I haven't forgotten! If you might be behind on reading as well, you can catch up with me on Thailand HERE and Cambodian adventures HERE

Monday morning we decided to try, yet again, to check out this amazing floating market that we kept hearing so much about, so we set out earlier, went to the same market that was closed when we were there before and THERE WAS STILL NOTHING THERE! Apparently, after we asked around more, the people thought we were crazy, they couldn't figure out why we thought there was a floating market in this location since there never had been...ok Bangkok, you've got us on this one...and as for the floating market, we'll get you next time!

We decided to enjoy a little more time in the flower market that we had skimmed the day before and then afterwards, my curiosity got the best of me and I told Tina I wanted to go check out an amulet market that I had read about several places. I knew nothing about what an amulet market was, but that only further tickled my curiosity. If you aren't quite sure, and amulet is an object, often religiously related, that is thought to protect the wearer or owner from harm or to bring them luck. The amulet market in Bangkok was no let down. The 2-3 streets that had amulet sellers were covered with people selling. Some simply had a dozen or so amulets laid on a blanket while others had tables full of hundreds of amulets. From the little I was able to talk to the sellers I gathered that a majority of them were Buddhist decent and most had a picture of Buddha on one side and a monk or a symbol for the monk (I'm not sure if it was the creator or simply an important monk) on the reverse side. 

It was obvious that the amulets ranged in age and material, although many were made from stone and wood. And there were serious buyers walking around with magnifying glasses trying to find the days best deal. I on the other hand, having no idea what I was looking for, simply picked one that I thought would remind me of my trip to Thailand and chalked it up as a nice $1 souvenir! Checking out the market wasn't a huge time commitment, but if you're ever in the area I'd suggest checking it out!

After checking out all the amulets we decided to see what all the fuss was about the Jim Thompson House. We had seen multiple guidebooks suggesting that we check it out, but yet again, we had no idea what we were in store for {ahh one of the beauties of traveling!} First off, I am so glad we visited the house! It was really neat to see and I learned a lot as well during the included tour. Jim Thompson was an American architect who fell in love with Thailand and its people and moved there permanently in the 1940's. He pieced together his house from nearly a dozen local homes creating a one-of-a-kind Thai home to live in. While in Thailand Jim Thompson helped to revitalize the silk industry and many credit him today for the booming industry in Thailand. In 1967 though Thompson went on vacation to Malaysia and never returned. His house was eventually turned over to the Thai government and has been a museum now, open to the public, for over 40 years.

Thompson's home was beautifully decorated with many Buddha statues and traditional Thai pieces that he collected over the years. Likewise, there were displays and workers on hand to explain the process of creating silk starting with the worm and ending with a beautiful piece of cloth. It was a fun learning experience, and I'm glad we checked it out...our feet on the other hand...they were ready for nap time!

After a MUCH needed nap Tina and I put on our party pants and headed to China Town to ring in the Chinese New Year. Oh my goodness, this place was PACKED!!! For starters I felt like I was back in Taiwan with all the Chinese people crowding the streets and hearing Mandarin all around me, but there were so many people, Chinese and tourists alike, that navigating the crowds was just a tad tricky! 

Funny story of the night. Tina and I had been walking around for less than 30 minutes when this middle aged Turkish man approached us and began talking with me eager for someone to practice his English with. I figured that eventually he would part ways or he would get lost in the crowds, but he was a persistent bugger! I can't lie, at one point (probably 2 hours into our new friend Oz following us) we decided to go off on a side street and duck into a grocery store to try and lose him. We killed about 10 minutes in the store laughing that we had to hide to lose him. We turn around to finally leave, and who do we see....Oz. "I thought you ran away from me, like maybe you didn't want this old man following you, but I found you, I'm so happy!" {umm dear Oz, that's exactly what happened, but you just took this to a whole new level now!}

After a great duck dinner, some delicious Chinese snacks, and bidding our new friend goodbye we headed back late to our hostels (well not before stopping to see a New Year show at a temple we were passing bye and trying unsuccessfully to get a taxi) where Tina caught up on some sleep and I people watched outside my hostel with a beer in hand and a smile on my face....Thailand, you're way too good to me!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Food Challenge} part 2

Thanks for tuning back in for this weeks episode of "What Tracy Ate!" {haha a girl can dream about having her own eating themed reality show right?!?!} Last week for Tuesday's Taiwan-ism I posted HERE about the first 25 items on a list of 45 items you just HAD to eat in Taiwan,  and I wasn't doing too bad with a total of 18 of he 25 foods having been crossed off my list  thus far. Soo, needless to say, this week we are going to tackle the 2nd half of the list and see how I did on these items as well!

Remember, if you're wanting visuals to accompany your reading, click the link HERE for CNN Travel's list of 45 of the best foods in Taiwan that you CAN'T live without...and they've got a picture for each food! -- red foods mean they've been checked off my personal list!

26. Mochi - Oh Mochi how I love you! This sticky rice paste ball almost always comes with a surprise of red beans or sesame seeds inside and makes my tummy oh so happy!}

27. Lantern Soy Sauce Braised Food - Again, this isn't fair! It's a food stand specific food...I'm going to have to go on a hunt in Taipei for this guy!

28. Sun Cakes - Mmmm sun cakes! {yes we have both moon and sun cakes here!} The first time I tried one of these my school director went to Taichung for the weekend where these pastries originated and brought me back one and I was hooked. The pastry is so flaky and buttery while the inside is filled with a creamy type malted sugar...it's a must try!

29. Tube Rice Pudding - I feel like I've had things very similar to this just without the bamboo tube to stuff it in, but alas..another food to check out!

30. Taiwanese Breakfast - I mean I've lived here for 8 months...of course I've had breakfast lol. This is a pretty broad category, but I'll give their breakfasts a thumbs up a vast majority of the time!

31. Pig's Blood Cake - You may recall the first time I tried this food here that I thought I was going to get sick to my stomach. Well I'm proud {I'm not sure if that's the right word here!} to say that I've purchased many of these in markets since that day and have grown to love this snack! It's essentially a really sticky rice mixed with pigs blood and soy sauce and covered in a spicy sauce, peanut powder, and cilantro...delicious! 

32. Three Cup Chicken - Can't say I've even heard of this soup...I may have to do some asking around!

33. Tamsui Agei - This Japanese snack sounds a little iffy to me! Tofu, fish paste, and bean noodles...can't say I'v heard of this one either. 

34. Ban Tiao - I learned something new! I've just been calling these Hakka noodles, but whatever you want to call them, this fat rice noodles with meat sauce on top are quite tasty and the perfect stomach filler!

35 Hot Star Fried Chicken - Ok CNN, no more restaurants for me to go on a crazy duck hunt for!

36. Cuttlefish - Yeah cuttlefish, it's one of those foods that walking through the market if you've never seen this before you just HAVE to ask what it is! They look like a cross between a squid and an octopus and in my opinion are quite tough for seafood. I'd eat it again if  I had to, but I'm not seeking these out in my spare time either. 

37. Aiyu Jelly - tasteless gelatin ...pretty much sums this up! Taiwanese people love to put this in teas, juices, and sweet soups. Can't say weather I like it or not as it honestly has not flavor! Just a jelly texture that Taiwanese people love so much! {fun fact, they call this texture QQ and you'll see it everywere!}

38. Pidan Tofu / Century Egg - Yeah, been there, done that, no thanks! These eggs are, by my understanding, put raw in a mix of surfer and I'm not sure what else to age. They come out looking hard boiled-isk (as in you can tell the shell off and still have an egg shape). But, the white of the egg now looks like brown jello, and the yok of the egg is green...I kid you not. I tried to be optimistic, I even gave it three bites...no thanks I'm good on this one now! The white was much better than the yok which I couldn't even choke down, but I'd be fine if I never ate another one again!

39. Steamed Spring Roll - Holy moley yes! Think of a deep fried egg roll from the United States. Now don't deep fry it so it's still fresh and crunchy...now may I introduce you to spring rolls?!?! Oh, and the peanut powder inside is just the perfect final touch!

40. Spicy Hotpot - Hot pot, what would Taiwan be without you! You order your flavor (in this case spicy) and they bring you a small pot of spicy broth and place it on a burner at your table. Once the broth is boiling they bring you a plate of raw meats, veggies, tofus, and seafood items to cook in the broth. You can then eat it as a soup or over rice (how I prefer it) and everything is cooked to your liking!

41. Tiger-Striped Chicken Gua Bao - Another restaurant to hunt down! 

42. Chicken Wing Rice Roll - Although this chicken wing/rice combo sounds intriguing, I can't say I've come across this yet. 

43.  Giant Pork Balls Soup - Pork ball (of any size) is quite popular in Taiwan and I've sampled this soup both at school as well as night markets. To me it's nothing out of the ordinary, but it's nice on a cold day. 

44. Wu Pao Chun Bakery Bread - Now they've got a bakery for me to find!

45. Biandang - Bento boxes. I was in love with these guys when I moved here! For $1.50 USD I could get a box with a piece of meat 2-3 veggies and rice all just by pointing since I knew ZERO Chinese! Now these convenience boxes are just that, an easy meal, and I rarely have them anymore, but they are ok in a pinch!

List 2 total... 12/20 or 60%

GRAND TOTAL - 30/45 or 67%

Not too shabby Taiwan...not too shabby!

{What snacks would you want to try?!}

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Food Challenge} part 1

I'm not sure how long you've been stuck  lovingly reading my blog, but before I moved to Taiwan I posted one day about some of the foods that I was anticipating trying once I got here. (Check out the post here)  Well, I've recently been Challenged {thanks Caitlin!} to see how many of the 45 foods on the list I could eat this year... needs to say I was a little shocked at how many I've actually tried and what ones surprised me once trying them!

So here it is! CNN Travel's list of 45 of the best foods in Taiwan that you CAN'T live without...and my personal thoughts on each of these beauties! (PS, if you're wanting visuals to accompany your reading, click the link and they've got a picture for each food!) -- red foods mean they've been checked off my personal list!

1. Braised Pork Rice - This night market staple is delicious, flavorful, and crazy cheap...definitely a must try (I'm not going to lie I could eat several helpings of this dish alone!)

2. Beef Noodle - There's a shop behind my house I've been to multiple times. Not bad, but I wouldn't give it rave reviews either...just as the name implies...soup with beef and a bunch of noodles, to me it's nothing novel.

3. Oyster Omelet - I just had to give this one a try despite its slimy appearance. It's an egg omelet with some sweet potato starch added in to get it a really texture and a spoonful of oysters inside. Depending on the vendor it's topped with some sort of sauce. This wasn't TERRIBLE, but it would have been tons better without the sweet potato starch!

4. Bubble Tea - Holy moly have I had bubble tea! You can read a whole post on this sugary loaded cup of goodness

5. Milk Fish - I like fish, but I've never been one to go seek it out, so needless to say several of the fish items on this list remain unchecked!

6. Slack Season Danzai Noodles - This is a restaurant specific item that I haven't made it to yet.

7. Pan Fried Buns - I love a good pan fried bun here! Walking through the markets looking for food can sometimes be a daunting task, but when you find a man selling some of these, you know you're in luck!

8. Gua Bao - Well, this was a learning experience for me! I’ve had this several time now and had no idea what it was called! It’s a sandwich made from a steamed bun (super soft and fluffy) and filled with some type of flavorful pork (I think belly). Not the most filling of foods as they are rather small, but they always hit the spot!

9. Iron Egg - I see these everywhere, but haven’t quite felt the need to try one of these bad  boys yet!

10. Pineapple Cake - Pineapple cakes what would I do without you! They are a signature item in Taiwan and one that people love to give as gift {and that I gladly accept!} For any of my Mexican family reading, the easiest way to describe these is the Taiwanese version of Barritas de piña {for those of you who have never tried either....I'm sorry for the sad world you must live in! :P }

11. Tian Bu La – molded fish paste…lordy, nothing should start with a description like that unless you work for the play dough company! We have this at lunch more than I’d necessarily like to admit. I can’t say that it’s a favorite, but I eat it.

12. Ba Wan – I haven’t had these yet, but I’ll have to look into them, they don’t look bad and I have a feeling they might be something I keep checking out at the market and hadn’t been able to put “a name to the face” yet.  

13.Fried Chicken - Ok, I know this one sounds funny, but guys, I'm pretty sure they put crack in their fried chicken here...it is beyond delicious! You can buy it at restraunts, at McDonalds, from lunch box shops, but my favorite is the street vendor chicken! There's a lady that stands outside of the school and has a fresh batch ready with sweet potato fries everyday when the kids let out, and I'm telling you it takes special restraint not to pay her a visit everyday!

14. Flaky Scallion Pancake / Green Onion Pancake - These green onion pancakes are a funky little thing but a great breakfast or late night snack. The are esentially a really thin pastery that they fluff up {I'm mesmerized watching them make them!} and mix with scallions. They are then often served with an egg and some type of spicy sause...you've got to try them!

 Oyster Vermicelli – can’t say I have

16. Stinky Tofu - Been there, tried that...no thanks! I'm not going to lie, when Josh was here he asked what was wrong with the sewers when we were walking through the market that you could smell them above ground...I politely informed him that he wasn't smelling the sewers, but rather the stinky tofu stand next to us...enough said!

17. Sweet Potato - Thank you 7-eleven and your endless supply of freshed baked sweet potatoes...I don't know where I'd be without you!

18. Shaved Ice
 – This deserves a place next to the friend chicken…how they can take a block of ice and make it taste so good is beyond me! This is literally shaved ice in which they put condensed milk on top and your choice of fruit (strawberries and/or mango are highly suggested though) and your mouth is suddenly in heaven!

19. Pepper Cakes
 – another good friend it’s nice to have a name for! My friends tease me about these, they know if I see them that I will have to get at least one! They smell so good and are cooked over an open flame making the crust on the outside of these cakes crispy and on the edge of being burnt and the insides with beef, pork, or cheese….mmm, so good!

20. Din Tai Fung Dumplings - simply some of the best soup dumpling I have had in Taiwan...I mean, I had my birthday dinner at this place...that's saying something! ;)

21. Fish Ball Soup
 – This is hand and hand with the shaped fish paste…I’ve eaten it, it wasn’t terrible, but seriously, what’s with all the fish paste!

22. Ribs Stewed in Medicinal Herbs – I’ll be honest here, I’ve had some of these “medicinal herbs” they tasted like cleaning solution…I’m not sure I want to venture into a cleaning solution flavored meat.

23. Goose
 – quack, quack! The goose here isn’t bad, and the dark sauce they generally serve it with is wonderful. Best yet, it’s the closest looking thing to a taco that I’ve had in Taiwan! They use a really really thin dough to put the goose and sauce in and roll it up like a taco to eat…score!

24. Ding Bian Cuo  Can’t say I have, but might be worth a try!

25. Taiwanese Sausage with Sticky Rice

Current total... 18/25 I’m at a 72%. Not too bad for 7.5 months!

Check back next week for the 2nd half of this massive list!

Back to Bangkok!

Sunday, February 7th 

If you aren't quite caught up on Tina and I'd whirlwind adventure through Thailand and Cambodia, you can check out some of my previous posts if you'd like!

We flew back into Bangkok late (like super late!) Saturday night, barely found our hostel, and then awkwardly helped ourselves to 2 empty beds (the man in charge of the hostel wasn't there anymore and so a guy staying there told us where he knew of 2 empty beds...thanks buddy lol).

Sunday morning was a lazy start for us. By this time in our trip we had been like the Energizer Bunny on caffeine high for a little over a week and coupled with the lovely limp I had recently acquired due to my fall, we weren't in a HUGE hurry to be out the door before 6am ;) {ok maybe it was almost noon by the time we got our tushies moving...a girls gotta sleep you know!}

Our goal for the day was to go see the reclining Buddha in the Wat Pho temple in Bangkok, but silly us, why would we have thought that any plan we had would work out THAT easily! We decided to walk the 1+ish miles to where Wat Pho was, only to get there and have a guard inform us that they would be taking a break for and hour or two and we should just come back at 3...okey dokie...now what. (Us: 0 Day: 1) Let's drag our tired selves and my swelling knee to the nearest floating market just under a mile from where Wat Pho was...perfect idea! {OK, stop reading if you get as squeamish as I do! But, in hindsight, if I would have known how infected my knee had become that morning, I'm not sure I would have left the hostel at all....but hey, I lived to at least type this post right?!}

So we start walking towards the market, it's about this time our joint data plan decides to run out though...bye bye Google Maps...so we resort to asking just about every other person on the street for assistance. Sadly, our luck allowed only about 5% of those people to actually understand our English; we were praying we were going in the right direction. On our way to the floating market we passed the huge flower market that I had read about before hand. I was a little giddy inside since it had sounded cool but I wasn't sure if it warranted a trip of its own...score for the day! (Us: 1 Day: 1) Well, long story short, we were glad we got to see the flower market, because the floating market we were told was already closed for the day...bummer (Us: 1 Day: 2) But seriously, the piles of orchids, yellow carnations, and flower buds they had was unreal!


Hey look, it's 3pm...back to Wat Pho we go! We get in line, buy our tickets, check out the maps, and realize instantly that this place is HUGE! You see all the pictures of the reclining golden Buddha, but you never really realize how many other buildings are also within the temple grounds besides the famous Buddha himself! We walked around for a while trying our best to hit each of the smaller temples {shoes off, shoes on, shoes off, shoes on lol} and then happened upon a small Chinese New Year celebration that they were holding. We sat down for a bit to rest our legs and watched a little of the musicians and lion dancers in the meantime. 

Then it was time, you didn't even have to look on a map to find the Reclining Buddha, it was the only building at the temple with a line! I'm not 100% sure what I was expecting, but guys, this Buddha was huge GINORMOUS! Like you couldn't even begin to get his whole face in a single picture let alone his whole body type of ginormous! While laying down, at the tallest point he measures 49 ft tall and from head to toe he is 151 ft long and apparently he's not even the biggest Buddha statue in Thailand?!?! We walked around Wat Pho for about 2 hours total checking out the smaller "temples" including a court yard containing over 400 Buddha statues {when I say we saw a lot of Buddhas in 2 weeks I wasn't lying!}

By the time our stomachs started growling  and we remembered we had a good 20 to 30 minute walk back to the hostel, we decided that we were "templed out" for the day and the smells of pad Thai were quickly pulling us in! With our bellies full and happy we could think of nothing better than a nap! Waking up later from our naps Tina and I both agreed that after all of the days walking we had more than earned ourselves a 30 minute Thai massage {and kudos to my masseuse, her eyes about bulged out of her head when she saw my knee, but she did great and never once touched it! haha}

After we were nice and relaxed, we spent the rest of the evening exploring Khao San Road. This lively street is packed with young local, tourists of all ages, all the Thai foods you could ever wish for, enough beer to drown a fish, and enough oddities to keep you scratching your head long after your night ends! Some snacks, some shopping, and lots of sight seeing were complete before we climbed into our beds like a pair of exhausted street dogs.

Bangkok, it was great seeing you again!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Taiwan Public Transportation}

Oh transportation options in Taiwan...what a love hate relationship we have! I can never claim that I can't get somewhere on this tiny island (the amount of time it might take to get there...well that's another story!) We truly do have about every option of public transportation that you can imagine available here!

We will start with the most common/basic and work our way out from there!

Taxi: Who doesn't love a good taxi ride?! You get to get into a car with a strange man and give him directions in the dice-est Chinese he's probably ever heard all the while patting yourself on the back knowing I couldn't have done much more than point 6 months ago lol. We have 2 types of taxis here, the typical yellow guys and then the private cars (think along the lines of Uber). Most taxis here start their meters at 100NT ($ 3.22 USD) and then add to that depending on  the distance you travel.
Convenience: 10  /  Price Point: Not so hot! (ok maybe a 4)

Train: How I love the trains in Taiwan! Where I live (maybe 8 minutes from the station) I never have to wait more than 15 or 20 minutes for the next train in either direction and more often than not they are good about being on time (although a 3 or 4 minute delay is sometimes expected!) They might not be the fastest route for traveling across the island, but within my county they can take me just about anywhere. We have both local trains (they stop at every train stop possible) and express trains (skipping the littlest of the stops and shaving off precious time) but there's almost always also a seat available! One learning experience about the trains (and other public transit systems here) is the use of 2 colors of seats to signal who can sit where. Typically the blue seats are open for anyone while the purple seats are reserved for the elderly, pregnant, or handicapped. The train can be packed with people standing and they still honor those seats, it's heartwarming to see!
Convenience: 8 /  Price Point: 8

Bus: Ugh, the buses! We've got a tough love hate relationship with each other! When the buses are on time (Tory's quote "never on time, always late!") and their stop is CLEARLY marked they work like a breeze and are as cheap as you can get. BUT, I've had buses running 30 minutes late before, others refusing to stop and pick people up, and often times the stops are only located after consulting google maps and 17 random pedestrians! In their defense though...the buses truly do run just about everywhere!
Convenience: 3  /  Price Point: 10

HSR (High Speed Rail): The HSR is a bullet train of sorts that at top speed runs about 180mph (yeah that's my top speed to!) but alas is also the most expensive method of travel in this teeny island. There is currently 1 stop per county in each of the western counties and nothing along the east coast. Three more stops were recently added in December 2015, so I'm not positive is further expansion is in their future or not. The HSR is fast, obviously, but for some (myself included) it's not always the most convenient of transportation due to its location in my county. For some price comparison here, I can get from my house to Taipei in 1 hr & 20 min on the train and pay 80NT ($2.58 USD) or take the HSR and in 37 min (plus 25 min driving to the HSR station) pay 290 NT ($9.35 USD) and really only save me 15 minutes in the long run. It's honestly a toss up for  me to preference!
Convenience: 10/5 (speed/location)  /  Price Point: 1

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- 

Although these are the forms of public transportation available in my town...Taiwan isn't finished dazzling you yet! Throughout Taipei and other counties we also have available:

- Subway
- Cable Cars
- Ferries
- Speed Boats
- Planes
- Taxi Scooters
-U-bike (bike rental)

So take your pick...what do you think you'd want to try out here?!

Until We Meet Again Chiang Mai!

I promise I haven't forgotten about Chiang Mai! Life here keeps on trecking by and I'm working on these posts little by little!  If you're afraid that you may have missed some though {or you just loved them so much you want to read them again! ;) } you can check out my Cambodia trip here and my Thailand trip posts here!

Saturday, February 6

Today was our last day in Chiang Mai, and although we wanted to relax a bit after our amazing elephant adventures, I also wanted to see as much of this amazing town that I possibly could! Tina decided she needed a day to sleep in, but the Energizer Bunny inside me wanted to go, go go! So, I was up early and out the door by 8:30 in the morning in hopes of finding the perfect seat for the annual Chiang Mai flower festival parade (I figured I might as well watch it, we were staying so close you could hear EVERYTHING going on anyways haha). Lucky for me, walking a little funky and with a nasty gash on my leg from my fall, people eagerly let me sit on the curb in front of them...prime seats! We waited much longer for the parade to start than I think many of us had anticipated, but it surly didn't disappoint once it did!

Floats COVERED with flowers, traditional Thai dancing, local musicians, beauty contest contestants, and floral dragons lined the streets as we hung our mouths open with awe and what all they had created. The parade was not quite finished when I snuck away shortly after noon, 2 hours worth of parade and a grumbly tummy was enough to put me in search for food!

Afterwards I went back to hotel quick to grab Tina, and we were headed (gimpy and all) towards a market that my dear friend "Lonely Planet" had recommended for food and sightseeing alike! Lucky for us not only was Warorot Market massive, but it also connected to the smaller more local market Ton Lam Yai .... 2 markets for the price of one...yes please! Within the market someplace I grabbed a bite to eat and having no idea what I was eating {story of my life in Asia!} it was rather good; some type of broth with noodles & pork! {I'm not sure if I've shared my market wisdom with you yet! When I enter a market, I instantly look for the longest lines of local looking people, do a quick check to the stall (to be sure they are selling cat burritos or snake eyes lol) and then hope in line as well. When I get to the front I smile and hold up 1 finger, and low and behold my friends, that is how you order 1 of whatever their best selling item is!}

Around the outskirts of this market were dozens of people selling items made from handwoven fabrics, oh my word, if my growling stomach hadn't been so disrupted I could have stayed there drooling over their handmade goods all day!

After sufficiently filling our bellies and stocking up on market souvenirs we hit up a couple local temples including Wat Buppharam before heading to the Saturday Walking street (Wualai Walking Street Market) south of the city. Holy moley, I don't know if I've ever been to a market this before, this baby was huge! Food and hand made crafts lined both sides of the streets, and every couple of minutes there would be roads jutting off to the left or right with more goodies for you to check out. After more than 2 hours of perusing we decided that we couldn't possibly eat anymore, we didn't have a need for anymore hand carved elephant items, and we had more than covered gifts for everyone that we knew (plus some!)  and that we had better leave while we still had a couple bucks to our name. We grabbed our bags, hailed a cab, and headed back to the airport (crash free this time!)....until next time Chiang Mai; until next time!

Tuesday Taiwan-ism {Humidity}

I know, I know, this seems like a rather weird topic for today's post, but if you'd ever step foot on this island, you'd understand! Guys, it is humid as all get out here! I'm not just saying during the summer months when one would expect it...nope, all dang year long!

When I arrived here in August I thought it was going to be just a temporary thing, you know, it's August, it's humid, OK. It wasn't until late September and I was contemplating buying stock in the sweat-wicking tank tops I continued to purchase and wear under my outfits everyday that I knew this humidity was here to stay.

Fast forward to December & January...it's winter here {fun fact, it was in the high 30's several days and we had 2 flakes of snow one day...a first in the last 80 years and quite brutal when there's no heat in the houses!}...and it's still humid! You are freezing so you put on 20  layers of clothes...only to take them off damp at night because, you guessed it, it was too humid and you were sweaty in the cold!

Springtime is here with a vengeance now and the humidity is coming back with full force once again, we can only see what this summer brings with it!

"Fun" you only have when it's humid 364 days of the year:

1. You ALWAYS feel sticky
2. You feel the need to shower...about 5 minutes after stepping out of the shower!
3. Your papers & notebooks are always limp and damp  feeling
4. Your shower NEVER dries out
5. You start to find fuzzy mold on your clothes and shoes from the previous season
6. Photos & wall art curls the instant you hang it on the wall
7. Your jeans feel perpetually damp
8. It's a constant debate on whether it's better with the window open or closed
9. Bugs LOVE the humid climate!
10. You begin to forget what it feels like to actually feel DRY!

I Speak Elephant

Oh my goodness, these blogs are going to get the best of me if I'm not careful! I'm still trying to finish up the 2nd half of my Thailand trip but life doesn't stop and the list of adventures to blog keeps on growing {hmm maybe this is a sign that I need to lock myself in my room for a week to work on blogs AND then I will have nothing going on in life to need to blog...I'm liking this lazy idea!}

Last time I left off with Thailand I was on the topic of our trek through the mountains of Chiang Mai and the Karen Tribal Village (click the links to catch up on reading if you're behind!) and I promise I've got just ONE more post to finish up our time in Chiang Mai (...and then onto Bangkok haha).

Friday, February 5th 

Today was the big day! We had hiked a mountain, swam in a waterfall, played with the children in the Karen village, & left  half our knee on the side of the mountain, and now, today....WE RIDE ELEPHANTS!

I'm going to be completely transparent here, I have ridden an elephant before. I was maybe only 8 or 9 though and I went to the circus with a friend for my birthday {oh hey Megan!} and we rode an elephant there. But, we were inside, in a fenced in area, the a box on top of the elephant and seat-belted in...and let's be honest...it's just not the same!

But today was going to be different and the anticipation was real guys...I'm telling you I'm shocked Tina is still friends with me after all the giddy school-girl excitement she had to put up with from me during our trip! We woke up in our lovely bamboo huts and Tina and I went for a walk around and checked out a neighboring tribal village down the road from where we stayed. By the time we got back to our camp breakfast was ready and our clothes were being laid out for the day. After a hearty breakfast we donned our new attractive get-ups (the elephant trainers, also known as mahout, at this particular location all wear the same clothing to help the elephants identify with who is training them and to help them feel comfortable with "new" people around them). Our mahout outfits consisted of a pair of baggy denim pants, a button down denim shirt, and the suggestion of a swimsuit and flipflops to finish off the attractive ensemble!

Once we were suited up we headed to the elephant training center behind our hut and we were introduced to our elephant that we would train with for the morning. After helping her gorge her heart out on bananas and watermelon rinds, it was time to get down and dirty...ok not before playing with the 4 year old baby elephant they brought out {omg so stinkin' adorable and with the ornery streak of any 4 year old human child!} We were each handed a list of typical commands you would want to say to your elephant like walk,  turn left, stop, and make me some popcorn (ok maybe not the last, but a girl can dream!) with the phrases translation into "elephant" next to it. For example, when we wanted to get on the elephant we would say "yok kha" and he would lift his leg for us to climb on and similarly we would say "bhai" and "toy" to go forward and backwards respectively. 

After practicing with each of these words, it was time to put us to the test! To get on the elephant {remember we are riding this guys bareback} we tell them "yok kha" and they lift their leg. We then step onto their leg while trying to get a hold of an ear and some back skin and tell them "sung" and they lift their leg higher until we are able to swing our other leg up and around their neck. Once we were on their neck we scooted forward until we were just about on top of their head and then reward them for letting us on and not trampling us with some bananas! After the circus of mounting the poor guy it's then time to actually DO SOMETHING while you're up there! We had a trainer standing next to us and we had to show them how we could back the elephant up, stop him, walk forward, & turn both left and right...easier said and done when you've had all of 5 minutes to learn elephant!

Once we had each proven ourselves worthy (twice!) we also had to show them (and ourselves lol) that we know how to get off  the elephant as well! Luckily it was a piece of cake!  Just kidding! We had to fling both of our legs in front of us so that they were sticking off the front of the elephants head, tell him "jaa long" to put his head down, and the slide feet first down the front of the elephants head, off of his trunk, and pray you landed on both your feet in front of him...TA DA! Seriously I felt like we were in a circus act haha.

After we knew our way (ish) around the elephant it was time for our ride! By this time several other couples had joined the original 6 of us and we were up to 10 or 12 total people. With 2 people per elephant we needed some extra...bring in the reinforcements! We had a total of a half a dozen elephants before us and they assigned us in pairs to each one. After Tina and I were given our elephant (Sah Wah Dee), Tina made a comment that "of course we have to ride the biggest one!" and a trainer reassured us...no, he's the 2nd biggest...oh much better buddy, much better! Tina got on first and sat behind his shoulder blades & I got on next on top of his head and it was show time!

We rode the elephants around the property for about 30 minutes through several paths, down a stream {easier said than done when your "naughty elephant" decides he needs to scratch his back on EVERY tree we pass!} and through a field before we got to the elephant pond. The plan here was to walk your elephant straight into the pond and then bathe him, but after being told we had a "naughty elephant" they had us park him on the side of the pond and bathe someone a little more under control. Although some people were a little hesitant to jump in a start scrubbing down their elephants, I couldn't have been any more excited. I mean seriously, how many times in  your life do you have the opportunity to bathe an elephant?!?! {Fun Fact! To wash the elephant we took a specific plant that looked like a big bamboo and cut it into manageable sized pieces and then used this mixed with water to create a later for the elephants. And, of course, when you finished scrubbing them...they got to eat the leftovers!}

After bath time comes mud bath time!!! If you thought I was excited for regular bath time, I was 100X more excited for mud bath time {again poor, poor Tina!} 6 of us and our little elephant friend were led to a mud pit at the back of the village and my little elephant buddy jumped right in and I was right there behind him! Only 2 others joined us in the mud while the other 3 decided that a mud bath wasn't in the books for them for the day, but honestly, I'm not sure if I've ever laughed so much! We were instructed to pick up globs of mud and throw them at the elephant. Ok, great, what they didn't say was that elephant was going to try and do the same thing, and miss himself, time and time again, and instead hit us with mud globs. How this 2 ton animal manages to  miss his giant back and instead land repeatedly on my head is beyond me, but he did! After our romp in the mud we clearly needed one more bath for the day (sans elephant) to help clean the mud out from EVERYWHERE before settling down for a late and well deserved lunch!

After lunch, we loaded into the pickup trucks and went on a short ride to a nearby river. Here we were treated to the most relaxing bamboo raft river ride that I have ever had {ok, so maybe it's the only bamboo raft ride I've ever had, but it was still crazy relaxing!} Seeing locals fishing, bathing elephants, and walking to the markets near the river were spectacular views and a terrific way to relax and unwind from the days excitement. Upon finishing our river ride, the trucks were waiting for us once again, but this time to take us each back to our respective hotels. After about an hour and a half trip we arrived to our hotel a little before six and collapsed on our beds and took a much needed nap!

We ventured out after nap time :) in search of food and not only found an amazing pad Thai place, but also a great show that was going on at the local flower festival {more to come on that I promise!} All in all, I'd count the last 2 days as a pretty successful & memorable 48 hours for the books!

Tuesday's Taiwan-ism {Thailand Video}

Today's Tuesday Taiwan-ism is coming at you from a little different angle because I just finished something and I'm so darn excited to share it with you I just couldn't wait! As you know, I just got back from an amazing whirlwind adventure in Thailand & Cambodia. And  of course, if you know me at all, I took about a gazillion and 2 pictures  while I was gone and with the help of my new action camera, I got some pretty great video footage while I was traveling as well!

Well, long story short, you can have the most amazing  pictures and  videos in the world, but if you don't do anything with them then they are useless. So, I put on my thinking cap and went to work creating my first ever travel movie {ok let's be honest, my first movie of any kind!} and I am so stinkin' excited with how it turned out!

So without further ado, I present to you...my Thailand Travels!