An appetite for action

This year has certainly been unlike any other year like I have never experienced before, for a number of reasons that affected so many people. Starting late 2019, was the heat and the bushfires that much of Australia experienced. I remember packing up and leaving the beach house in a hurry just before New Year’s, once the power shut off and our dog struggled in the heat. On the drive back to Melbourne we listened to the news on the radio, with warnings for Melbournians to evacuate if they were in close proximity to a fire, and to take care and watch with caution if they were in a surrounding area.

I will never forget heading to work in the CBD in early January to a city I had never experienced, with a haze of smoke and dusty skies. It was a constant reminder of what was happening all around us, as Australia truly begun to understand the impacts of climate change.

But part of me wonders, do we actually know? Do we really understand the causes, the problems, and the lasting effects? Spending time at my Dad’s property in February definitely got me thinking about our relationship with nature, and how important every aspect of our ecosystem is in cultivating growth and change around us.

The COVID situation

After a quick trip to Tasmania in February to enjoy all the region has to offer (quite literally) and attend a friend’s wedding, we were back in Melbourne with a trip to New Zealand planned for early March. As we heard the news of ‘coronavirus’ breaking out in countries far away, we were unaware of the significant threat it posed, or that we would soon be experiencing one of the harshest lockdowns in history.

We made it to New Zealand without a hiccup and stayed informed of the news as we travelled around the North island for ten days. We had a wonderful holiday; packed with rainforest walks/runs, waterfalls, sailing the Bay of Islands and indulging in some incredible food and wine. We visited the town of Taupo, where we were amazed at the size of the lake; we had never seen one so big, only on American TV shows. We experienced the stench of Rotorua and marvelled at the sulphuric springs as they boiled away, letting off steam.

We heard coronavirus warnings on the radio as we drove from town to town and were impressed with the speed at which the country was informing the public. We doubted that Australia would have such precautions in place this early on. We had just finished a tour of the Waitomo glow worm caves, one of the most incredible things I had ever seen, when things really started spiralling out of control around the world. It was our second last night in New Zealand, and while we were having an amazing time away, we were looking forward to getting back to a familiar place, as chaos unfolded around us.

We made it back within a few days of the mandatory quarantine being enforced for people who had been out of the country. Not that we went anywhere or did anything when we returned anyway; we found ourselves working from home and not leaving for many other reasons at all, other than to shop for food and to exercise.

The state of being

I have shared my thoughts and feelings throughout the year, and some of my posts may have been slightly repetitive, which only emphasises the state of being for 2020.

While I write of cities, of the bush, of time spent travelling earlier this year, I reflect on these major events and wonder what the next year, even the next 10-20 years will bring. It seems that this way of living has already become ‘business as usual’.

Here in Victoria, Australia, we have been doing so well at keeping cases down, but as we begin to let international travellers back in, I can only wonder what will happen after the last debacle, and with what’s going on in New South Wales at the moment, who knows. Of course, I am hoping for the best, for a level of control, for strong leadership and guidelines that will mean that we don’t find ourselves to a similar situation that we were in earlier this year in 2021, for both the pandemic and the environment, although things are not looking great.

But there are signs of respite, such as this beautiful story of a thought to be extinct pygmy possum being recently found on Kangaroo Island after bushfires destroyed much of the island last summer.

As America comes to terms with the idea of a new president in Biden, someone that has climate change well and truly on his agenda, we can only hope too that Australia has a plan, because if things keep going the way they are, it doesn’t seem that we will be able to enjoy our country for much longer. Every summer will be the same; fires, loss of and significant damage to wildlife and an enormous volunteer effort to manage the situation. As David Attenborough would say, this is just not a sustainable way of living; we need to drastically change our approach before it is too late.

This year has shown that when given strong leadership, we as a community can do it, we can get out of almost anything, or at least turn things around. So, let’s make 2021 a year of learning, reflection and action on anything that is within our control.

Have a safe and happy Christmas break everyone and see you next year!

Enjoying all the region has to offer: Hobart, Tasmania

At this very moment, times are incredibly difficult for the travel industry and the rest of the world. By publishing this post I’m not encouraging people to travel right now, and expose themselves and others to COVID-19, but reminding people that we live in an incredible world, and there is a lot to look forward to when the end is in sight. Let me tell you a bit about my trip to Hobart earlier this year.

In January 2020, we went on a quick 3-night trip to Hobart, Tasmania. We are so lucky to have this idyllic city not too far away – only a short flight or boat ride over the Bass Strait from Melbourne.

We arrived late at night and had to collect our apartment key from a building on top of a hill in Salamanca, “Lenna”. It was a beautiful old mansion, with ornate features and despite being ready for bed, I stopped to take in its charm.

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Lenna, Hobart

In the morning we went to Salamanca market, which was bustling. I had never been before but had heard good things, and I was not let down. There were so many stalls selling stunning local produce and handmade items. We purchased some peanut butter, a set of wooden coasters for our table at home, enjoyed some fresh berries, perused some luxurious leather goods and sampled some whiskey from a distillery that we planned to visit the next day.

We had a wedding later in the day, and the ceremony was only a short walk away at Battery Point. However, due to spending a little too long enjoying the harbour at lunchtime, we were running late, so we caught an Uber. The reception was at Frogmore Creek Winery, which was a gorgeous location. Nestled among the vineyards, we enjoyed the remaining light filled hours outside, before heading in to begin the celebrations.

Frogmore Creek
Frogmore Creek Winery view

The next day we hired a car and drove out to Old Kempton, a renowned whiskey distillery north of Hobart. We arrived and walked through another beautiful old building and sat in the courtyard, as a musician strummed his guitar and sang. We ordered some food and wine, sat back and appreciated the company – there was a group that had 2 large white dogs that were on their best behaviour. We love seeing dogs on holidays because it reminds us of our dog at home, which always puts a smile on our faces.

Old Kempton
Old Kempton Distillery

After the distillery, we went to Taroona Beach for a stroll. It was a beautiful day;  slightly overcast with a light breeze but the sun occasionally showed through the clouds. Being so close to Antarctica, it rarely gets too hot in Hobart, a piece of local wisdom I had picked up at the wedding. We made our way along the gravel track of the shoreline while looking out to sea. I was careful with my footing because I had for some silly reason decided to wear heels, but this gave me the chance to stop from time to time to imagine icy embankments in a nearby land across the ocean.

Taroona Beach
Taroona Beach

That evening, we walked along the harbour as we had done so many times over the past two days before enjoying seafood and wine, and admiring the artwork on display at Landscape Restaurant. The restaurant offered a dining experience inspired by the island of Tasmania, an it was a wonderful way to finish our trip.

For a place that takes less than an hour to get to by plane, we Melburnians should really visit more often. We are very lucky to have such diverse cities in Australia, and although it wasn’t my first time in Hobart, I enjoyed it as much as the last. If you haven’t been, I would highly recommend taking a trip when COVID-19 is behind us. If you have been, I have no qualms in encouraging you to back, as I am sure you will discover something new to love like I do every time.

Holiday Here This Year – Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

While I love travelling overseas, Tourism Australia’s recent campaign for locals to Holiday Here This Year has really resonated with me.

Okay, so I might have a New Zealand trip coming up, but that was booked last year, before our country’s tourism economy dipped significantly, largely due to the bushfire crisis.

Other than New Zealand, my husband and I won’t be going overseas, and have instead planned a few smaller trips in our minds, maybe to Queensland or northern New South Wales. We love the East Coast, so later in the year it might be a nice place to go (we’re thinking Byron Bay or the Sunshine Coast).

A weekend getaway

Last weekend, we took a trip to Phillip Island, Victoria. It’s a beautiful place, with so many drawcards, including the pristine beaches (Smiths Beach, YCW, Forrest Caves to name a few), a newly renovated Winery, which we were told was recently bought by 3 young couples who (obviously) know the market really well, food and wine galore (Isola Di Capri, Cape Kitchen, Rusty Water Brewery are some examples) and a laid back feeling of being with nature. It’s a quiet place with clean air and plenty native Australian gum trees, visible from most aspects.

For locals, it is worth spending at least a few days. For overseas visitors, I would recommend spending at least a week. The town of Cowes is right on the coast and is a beautiful spot to grab a bite to eat and a glass of wine, while looking out to sea. Go for a stroll to the end of the pier with a gelato in hand and watch the local kids jump into the water, or look out across the stretch of blue-green ocean to the mainland.

Cowes
Cowes, Phillip Island

It’s only an hour and a half or so drive from Melbourne, or there are buses you can jump on to get there. I encourage locals to take their dog, who is bound to a have a wonderful time splashing in the waves and running along the beach during doggy friendly beach hours in the summer. During the winter months when only the seasoned wet suit clad surfers tackle the rough waves, dogs are allowed on the beach at any time in most places.

Choosing somewhere to stay

I would even recommend staying outside of Cowes, for that real beachside experience. If serenity is what you are after, I would suggest checking the Moto GP calendar, as the side of the island where the track is can get very noisy on race days, but in my opinion is the best side to stay. There are so many houses for rent, many at affordable prices. It’s a great place for a group of friends wanting to have a good time, or a family looking for an escape from city life.

For locals, it’s a small slice of paradise that isn’t too far away, and for overseas visitors, the relaxed vibe definitely make it worth the visit. I should also mention the penguin parade, the chocolate factory, the go karts and the amusement park if you’re looking for more reasons to go. When planning your holiday research which side of the island will suit your needs best, and how far away you want to be from the main town, and you’ll be set.

Please leave a comment if you have anything else to add, I would love to hear from you!

The grounded feeling of flying

I love flying.

There is nothing quite like being thousands of feet in the air, looking out the window and not being able to see anything within my reach, except for the wings of the plane. I love passing through clouds and watching, amazed as they disappear around me. Even being stuck for 1 or more hours with at least 100 strangers doesn’t faze me. I enjoy listening to how people react to certain situations in a confined area, as they seem to forget that they won’t be up there forever, that the ground will be beneath us in a matter of time.

Usually it’s children that cause stress for many on planes. But we shouldn’t always blame the children! There is an abundance of people who fly regularly, and many of them may come across as rude, but the flight attendants always smile and respond as positively as possible. There are also the drunk people – who may have enjoyed a few too many beverages before getting on board and end up having a loud conversation with their new friend sitting next to them. There may even be an exchange of phone numbers because some sort of relationship has been established – whether it’s business or personal.

I am happy to keep to myself on planes – as I said, I like to watch and listen to the people around me. If a passenger next to me strikes up a conversation of course I engage but I also understand that it is just friendly chit chat because they have nothing else to do, and want to seem interested in whatever the person next to them has been up to, or brag about what they’ve been doing, so that they are at least occupied for part of the flight.

It is a good way to meet people, if that’s what you want. I remember years ago when I was coming back from a solo trip to Europe. It had been a full-on holiday, on a Contiki tour with a bunch of other keen young adults, ready to explore. I had also spent some time with my mum’s cousin in Holland, which was lovely. Despite a great trip, I was looking forward to unwinding with a wine or two on the plane before arriving home to see my boyfriend. Luckily for me, I was sitting next to a lady who was also enjoying a beverage and was keen for a chat. We talked about our time overseas and our lives in Melbourne. At the end of the flight we said our goodbyes and never saw each other again.

A time to reflect

I don’t mind it being just me and my own company either.

I find that my mind is clear when I am in the air, and I know exactly what I want and how to achieve it. It’s a good time to reflect on life, and hear nothing but music in my ears, or the sounds of a plane full of people. I think about family, friends travel, work – you name it, it will most likely cross my mind as I sit up there in the clouds.

I always try to get a window seat, especially if I am going somewhere I have never been. I like watching the horizon, as the plane lowers to the ground, and seeing buildings and/or clumps of greenery and water beneath me. Apparently, this choice of seat means I’m selfish but hey, I know what I like. If the window seat isn’t available, I make do.

When I step off the plane, I am sad that this time of reflection is over, but excited at whatever awaits me. Being on a plane adds an aspect to travel that doesn’t happen anywhere else. It is crazy to think that when I am in the air, I somehow manage to feel so grounded.

The hours, sometimes days that follow hold a refreshing memory of that feeling – the feeling of complete possibility, of never-ending opportunity.

Although I have nothing planned, I am looking forward to my next flight already, wherever that may be to and whatever I may be thinking about at that point in time.

Taiwan and it cultural quirks: Part V

On our last full day in Taiwan, we went to the National Palace Museum. Having seen the Smithsonian last year, we were ready to be amazed, as it we were aware NPM was known to be one of the largest displays of Chinese imperial artifacts in the world.

From the outside, it was spectacular, with its brilliant grounds and architecture, nestled amongst the picturesque mountains. We made our way through the rabbit warren of rooms, learning about Taiwan’s different dynasty’s as we went. The jewellery that was on display was special, and so vibrant in colour. We learned that jade is Taiwan’s national stone and is meant to bring the wearer good fortune. I was fascinated by the traditional scripture and how the writing is read and written vertically, rather than horizontally, as it is in English. Each character was so delicate I couldn’t imagine how anyone (let alone a young child) would remember each symbol and be able to differentiate them at the speed that we read and write.

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We saw many temples and admired their cultural significance, including the Confuscious Temple, the Longshan Temple and Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. They were busy places but worth visiting. Tourists attempted to fit the front of the temple and a face or two into the screen of their mobile phones, which reminded me of an article I had read on Mount Everest, and the crowds of people at the summit. It felt like the wrong place (at least to me) to be taking selfies. After seeing these, I must admit, the temples in Taipei were some of the most beautiful that I have ever visited.

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I recently read that protests similar to those that are happening now in Hong Kong could possibly break out somewhere like Taiwan. The anti-government protests are against extradition laws held between Hong Kong and China, China being a communist nation. Protestors do not want this law to pass, fearing that it will be the end of civil rights for Hong Kong. I can’t imagine the beautiful streets of Taipei full of protest. It seems such a peaceful, organised city, much different to that of Hong Kong, which we visited on our way home back in April. But who’s to say what is likely to happen anywhere. We can only hope that something will be learned or changed as a result.

This is the last post in my series on Taiwan and I don’t like to leave it on such a serious note, but it is important that people realise that these protests are not so far away, and they involve people just like us fighting for what they believe. How would you feel if you were in a position like this?

Those of you who have read Part I, II, III and IV, I hope you have enjoyed reading what we got up to on our trip. Taiwan is a beautiful place, with so much to do and see and I would love to go back one day soon.

Taiwan and its cultural quirks: Part IV

Yellow taxi

Something we wanted to do on this trip was visit the infamous Taiwanese whiskey distillery, ‘Kavalan’, and we knew it was a bit of a drive from Taipei. If we were there for longer, we would have got the train but given our short trip, our hotel told us that the best way to get there would probably be by taxi (really?). We followed a woman who worked at the hotel to the taxi rank and watched as she spoke to the driver in the local language. He nodded and said something to her, which turned out to be the price – and it was reasonable, so we got in, not expecting to be in a yellow taxi for yet another day trip, but ready to explore.

We had been driving for a while and had gone through a few tunnels that must have been through mountains. It was a beautiful drive – the countryside in Taiwan is just spectacular! We entered another tunnel and I watched the brown walls pass by and waited until I could see light at the end. Soon were outside, at the base of some huge mountains, when the driver, who spoke very little English turned to us, pointed to the top of the mountains and said ‘coffee’. There was no way he knew how much I loved coffee, and I thought it was very nice of him to point this out. We smiled and nodded and thanked him. Not long after, we began making our way up a mountain. The road was narrow, and we had to pull over whenever a car needed to get past. After a winding drive of over 20 minutes, we pulled into a gravel driveway at the top. The driver stopped the car, turned to look at us and said ‘coffee’ and pointed to a building. It wasn’t until then that we realised he thought we wanted to go to this coffee farm! There must have been some confusion between the lady at the hotel and the driver! ‘No, no…whiskey’, was all we said and luckily, he understood. ‘Ahh, whiskey!’ He said and turned the car around. He apologised and pointed down the mountain, which we assumed meant it wasn’t far away.

The grounds of Kavalan

We had driven at least half an hour and were passing through a small town. To be honest, it felt like we were lost. The driver called his friend who was kindly able to provide directions to the distillery, thank goodness! When we got there, he said to take as long as we needed and that he would wait there. We thanked him and got out of the taxi (at last!). The grounds were huge and very well kept. We enjoyed a whiskey tasting, though couldn’t understand the man as he explained what each different whisky was, but it didn’t matter. We were in a foreign country sampling some of the finest whisky and were glad to have finally arrived. We even mixed our own whiskey after sampling three different kinds and deciding how much of each we wanted to add to our test tubes, 6 ml in total. After we had written down our ratios, the instructor mixed us large bottles that we could take home. He sealed the bottles and put them into a box, which we wrote our names on. We were quite surprised by this final touch and very happy. What a good idea!

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After a long and unexpected day being driven around Taiwan in a yellow taxi, we were looking forward to setting out on foot to explore Taipei once more.

Dinh Tai Fung

One thing that we absolutely had to try in Taiwan was Dinh Tai Fung. We had tried this restaurant in Melbourne and had learned that it actually originated in Taipei, so were pretty excited to check it out. We were staying right near the DTF at Taipei 101 and went to have a look the first day we arrived. When we got there, we realised there was an 80 minute wait for a table. We were pretty hungry, so decided to go another day. The original DTF wasn’t far from where we were staying either, so we thought we should check out that one anyway.

We went to DTF the day that we went to Shifen and Jiuffen actually! We had returned from the day trip and were starving and weren’t disappointed. We ordered at least four different kinds of dumplings, including their famous Sha Long Bao, or soup dumplings. We had heard that the dumplings at DTF were some of the best, as the casing was so delicate. It was a delicious meal but we couldn’t help remembering the dumpling restaurant we had been to on our street food tour.

Exploring and eating are two of my favourite things to do while on holiday. I highly recommend going to DTF in Taipei and making a trip out to Kavalan, however you end up getting there!

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Taiwan and its cultural quirks: Part III

Another tour we had organised was a trip to Shifen and Juifen. We knew that these were traditional towns in Taiwan, and the areas were famous for lanterns, mountains and waterfalls.

We were surprised when a yellow taxi met us at the hotel, ready to take us on tour. There was a girl sitting in the front seat already, who greeted us with a warm smile as we clambered into the back seat. Our driver and tour guide introduced himself as Barry and we were off. We made chit chat with the girl in the front seat and learned that she was from England. She was friendly and told us she had not been in Taipei for long, so was interested to hear what we had been up to.

Yeh Liu Geopark

Our first stop was Yeh Liu Geopark, which Barry told us wouldn’t take long to look around. He waved us goodbye and got back in his car, where we soon realised that he would wait until we were ready to leave. The first thing I noticed were the people. There were tourists everywhere, posing for photos with the rock formations and talking excitedly amongst themselves. The three of us stuck together and walked around the Geopark admiring the rocks and stopping to take a few photos (no posing snaps with the ‘princess rocks’ though, sorry to disappoint :)). We could see a track that led through some trees, so went to explore. We all liked hiking, and it seemed like a less crowded option than the geopark. It turned out to be a beautiful walk through the greenery, towards the clifftop we could see from back at the park. As we walked along the track, we saw colourful butterflies of all sizes spreading their wings as they gracefully moved across the bushes.

When we returned to the taxi, Barry had gotten us each a bubble tea, which was very kind of him. I had never had one before and was a bit thrown by the blobs of goo that came up through my straw from time to time but enjoyed it none the less.

Shifen

The next stop was Shifen. Barry stopped the car, let us out and pointed down the street. He suggested we get something to eat because the next leg of the drive was long. He joined us this time, as we walked down the crowded main street, fascinated by the number of lanterns available for people to purchase, light up and let go into the sky. None of us wanted to do this ourselves, as we were aware of the impact these lanterns had on the environment when they landed, so we moved on. There was a railway track right through the middle of town and stalls on either side. We crossed over a bridge and found ourselves in a quieter part of town, where locals cowered over broken lanterns, mending them to get them ready for sale.

Back on the other side of the bridge, we saw a medium sized pig running through the crowd of people, squealing as it skipped along, clearly on a mission. It was quite the spectacle, as tourists reached out to touch it. One man even gave it a firm slap on the behind, which was very amusing.

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On the way to Jiufen we stopped to look at the ‘Golden Waterfall’ on a mountain near an old mining town. The water was brown or golden coloured because of the copper and iron that came from the surrounding rock.

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Jiufen

The next stop was the picturesque town of Jiufen, nestled amongst the mountains, almost Cinque Terra-esque in feel. There were shops and food stalls on either side of us as we walked down the steps of Jiufen Old Street. We were beginning to regret our decision not to get food in Shifen; we were very hungry by now. On the walk down the mountain, we tried a coriander, peanut butter ice cream burrito which filled a hole, and later stopped for some dumplings.

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It was a different tour than we expected but was very enjoyable. Barry turned out to be a kind, funny man who knew the area well. We hadn’t expected to spend the day driving around in a taxi but it was a nice experience as a small tour. We were actually getting pretty used to touring in taxis by now, but I’ll explain that in my next post.

I would definitely recommend this day trip to Shifen and Jiufen for people who want to get out of the city for a day and see more of Taiwan’s beautiful countryside.

Stay tuned or Part IV!

Taiwan and its cultural quirks: Part II

The first night we arrived, we had to check out some of the night markets we had heard so much about. Every search we did prior to landing in Taipei led us to blog posts with pictures and descriptions of delicious looking food. We knew that there were a lot of districts in the city that had famous night markets to choose from, but since it was our first night, we thought we should try one of the best: Shilin night market.

A Taiwanese feastmarket style

It was raining, but that wasn’t going to stop. We knew the train was meant to be really convenient in Taipei, but we were hungry, so caught a taxi. This took us close to one hour because Shilin was on the other side of the city to where we were staying, right near Taipei 101.

When we finally arrived all we could see were bright lights, drizzle falling from the sky and a crowd of umbrellas. Our first stop was a convenience store to pick up some umbrellas of our own; the rain was relentless and didn’t look like it was going to stop any time soon.

We ventured into the market and the first thing I tried was a local delicacy, barbecue Pleurotus Eryngii, a type of oyster mushroom grown nearby. It was tasty with its salt and pepper flavouring, and the man at the stall gave me a generous portion.

The next thing we shared was a giant Taiwanese type of chicken schnitzel, which was delicious. It was lucky we decided to share one because it was literally SO big. The chicken was surprisingly juicy and the crumb was coated with a chilli seasoning.

I left my husband in search of a rubbish bin and walked up and down the rows of market stalls for some time before I was able to find one. I returned to my husband, who I had left in a long line to get a Taiwanese Black Pepper Bun, which was delicious.

I was getting full by this time but didn’t want to leave without trying some dessert. We each got a mochi, which we knew to be a Japanese treat, but had heard Japanese food was good in Taiwan too.

The rain was still coming down when we decided to get a taxi back to our hotel, and as we approached, we could see Taipei 101 in all its splendour, illuminated by red lights. We agreed that we would check it out the next day.

The visibility situation

As we were about to cue for tickets to the observation deck of Taipei 101 the next day, we saw that the visibility was very poor. I suggested we wait and it actually ended up being the last day of the trip before we went up. Visibility was excellent, so we were very happy with our decision to wait.

The views were spectacular, and we were higher than Elephant Mountain now so could really notice the contrast between the city and the mountains that surrounded us. We saw an interestingly shaped figurine for sale as a magnet and as a printed picture on items such as mugs and drink bottles. When we saw a giant statue of the figurine we became even more curious. We eventually learned that it was a ‘Wind Damper’ and its purpose was to counter the effects of wind or other strong motion, such as the earthquake that occurred just days before we arrived.

Views of Taiwan

We explored other night markets as the trip went on, but Shilin was definitely the standout. The fact that we waited until our last day to go to the top of Taipei 101, only for the visibility to be excellent was a perfect result.

These are some more reasons that I think Taipei is one of the best places I have travelled to and will have to return sometime soon. Stay tuned for Part III!

Taiwan and its cultural quirks: Part I

Has anyone ever been to Taiwan?

My husband and I recently spent 6 days in Taipei, and we weren’t sure what to expect, but I’ll tell you what, we loved every minute of it!

I’m going to tell you about our trip by uncovering our adventures as a series of interrelated ideas. A lot of the time, one thing led to another, which made for a lot of choices on our trip. Isn’t this the best way to travel?

So, let me tell you about our street food tour and hike up Elephant Mountain – two activities which we did not end up doing on the same day, but as promised, they are interrelated.

The streets of Taiwan

We had booked a street food tour for our third day there, which we were pretty excited about. For some reason, which is strange because we both really love our food and we travel overseas at least once a year, we had never been on a tour like this before. It was almost ignorant of us, assuming we knew the best bits about Asian food as a result of our travels through Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Japan because as we found out, we most certainly did not!

The food we tasted on the tour was fabulous, but so were the people we met and the cultural quirks of Taiwan that we learned about. It is such a great way to experience a new place. Walking through the busy streets allowed me to take the time to appreciate the beauty of what went on around me. A lady hunched over a bucket of nuts, shelling them to uncover the best bits, a team of pastry chefs working to create a Scallion pancake masterpiece or a fruit stall owner offering the freshest fruit with toothpicks to use as forks so that customers could keep their hands clean.

We ate some tasty and very unusual food, which I will tell you more about another time, but the people we met on the tour and the things we learned about Taipei also made it very memorable.

Market stall

There were 3 fellow Australian’s on tour, along with 2 girls from the US, a girl from Israel and an older guy from Canada. Some people, like us were travelling in pairs, but were just as keen to chat as the solo travellers. We found out about restaurants and must-see attractions that we foolishly had not factored in but luckily, we took their advice and checked out Elephant Mountain.

Where city meets mountain

It was a great hike, and we passed a lot of people on the way who were looking sweaty and accomplished as they stumbled down the steps. It was lucky that the steps had been built, as the slope was quite steep. There air was full of humidity, being April, and we were drenched in sweat. But we had dressed prepared – we made a quick pit stop to the hotel to change into our sports clothes after a busy day of sightseeing.

The views were magnificent. It felt like we could see the whole city, including one of the top 10 tallest towers in the world, Taipei 101, and the brilliant mountains that surrounded us. It was phenomenal – I don’t think I have ever seen such a contrast between a city and the surrounding mountains. It was a different view than we would get from the top of Taipei 101 – but I’ll get to that in another post.

For now, I hope you have begun to realise why this little discovered place is now one of our favourites. It was a short time there, but there is plenty more to tell you about Taiwan. Stay tuned for part II.

Comparing two cities

Isn’t it strange how sometimes when you are in a place you compare it with somewhere else that you’ve already been?

You look around, get an understanding of the people, the weather, the landmarks and reach a conclusion that this place is very similar to somewhere you have been before.

Maybe it is because of the need to feel familiar with our surroundings, despite the fact that a lot of travellers think they would be comfortable anywhere.

Don’t get me wrong; I love exploring new places, but we all know that familiarity breeds comfort, which makes us feel content.

So why do we do it?

What is the point going anywhere if all you’re going to compare it to somewhere else?

Aren’t you there to take it all in; to experience the culture, food and the people? Why does this place need to be likened to somewhere else?

Back to the Golden City

Maybe we like to compare a new place with the most recent location that we have visited. On a trip to Auckland a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but compare the city to San Francisco. We only returned from our trip to the states in August 2018, so it is relatively fresh in my memory.

We spent quite a bit of time in San Francisco down by the water, exploring the pier and riding bikes over the Golden Gate bridge and through the narrow streets.

In Auckland, we looked out to sea while dining on oysters from a restaurant near the port. The water was relatively still, just as it had been in San Fran.

The ferry to Waiheke Island was not unlike the ferry to Alcatraz, although the destination was indeed different.

Is this something that we only do after reaching a certain level of experience while travelling? I realise I have only recently started diving into my portfolio to compare two cities.

Maybe it is us showing off to ourselves; being proud that we have already been somewhere like this and knowing that upon returning home, we can tell others how this place has similar characteristics to another. It helps paint a picture and allows an understanding for people who have visited one o the places.

Breaky in the Big Apple

On our second day we had breakfast at one of the only places we could find open on a Sunday in the city – and it was such a cool café, with its relaxed vibe.

We walked through a small room with a few tables to an outdoor courtyard with tables and bench seats. We sat ourselves down and looked up – skyscrapers towered over us, visible through the lights which dropped from the roof with a dull yellow glow. There was some rap music playing, and I actually felt like I was in New York City. My bircher muesli took a while to arrive (something about them making it on the spot instead of soaking overnight) but that was fine by me as I sipped my coffee(s) and sat back to take it all in.

To liken to not to liken?

There were at least three instances where I likened Auckland to somewhere else, which I had not expected to do.

I wonder if I’ll feel the need to liken my next holiday to Auckland, or to America as well? After reflecting on this post, I think I’ll just take it as it comes.