For auld lang syne...

(That is, Happy New Year!)

It's 2013! Yay!

Wow, it's 2013! I can't believe it; time goes by fast.

Hoards of people taking shots of
Taipei 101. 
I spent my new year's at Taipei 101 to watch the lights and fireworks and be part of the general insanity. There were hoards of people there. Seriously, if you detest crowds or being close to people, this is not a new years destination for you. But it was great to be a part of the atmosphere. It was as if all of Taipei had come to one spot. Awesomely enough, I was able to see everything from a great spot.  Between a small live concert, many food stalls, and people-watching, there was a lot to do in order to pass the time before midnight.
Another crowd shot.
There's Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall on the left.


Black in Taiwan, Part I: Is your hair real?

Even if I'm wearing a hat,
the visible portion of my hair induces comments.
"Who did your hair like that?"

"Is your hair real?"

"Can I touch it?"

"Why isn't it straight?"

"What's wrong with her hair?  It's ugly!"

*hysterical immature laughter*

(Silent reaction which tells all...)

The above are the types of comments and reactions I receive here in Taiwan on a daily basis. I am not exaggerating, in fact I will repeat: A DAILY BASIS. It does not matter what I do with my hair, neither does it matter whether I do anything with it or not. It gets attention with reactions ranging a gamut of speechlessness, fascination, and (dare I say it?) disgust. Obviously I look different, but my hair seems to be one of the different things about me that people fixate on here.


So this is Christmas...

(That is, Merry Christmas!)

This picture makes me
look short!
It is officially my first Christmas away from home in Taiwan, hundreds of miles away from my family. Tomorrow marks four months since I moved.

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and it's odd to be in a different country during this holiday season. Since Christmas is not an official holiday here, I've been doing school work non-stop, even in the early Christmas hours! I've got papers to write and academic journals to read until January. At first, I thought it was depressing, going to classes and doing school work during the holidays. But now, I see it as a transition. My life's changed, so I must get used to the changes! I'm someone who isn't exactly fond of extreme change, but after moving far away and having to acclimate myself to a myriad of new things, I'm learning to embrace it.

Maybe I'm trying to say that I've grown up.  Therefore, this is my first Christmas as an adult.


Maokong Gondola: The best, cheapest way to see all of Taipei!

The sign at Taipei Zoo station.
You can never go wrong with cute pandas!
The gondola line is boxed in gold.
I made my first trip up to the Maokong (貓空) area of Taipei almost three months ago with a friend, yet the memories are still quiet fresh. Maokong is a gorgeous area in the mountains with a breath-taking temple, lush greenery, and tasty food to try.

Almost as popular as Maokong itself is the method one takes to get there - the gondola! It's one-of-a-kind and easily accessible depending on where you're coming from. From Danshui where I live, we took the red MRT line to Taipei Main Station, then the blue line to Zhongxiao Fuxing, then the brown line to Taipei Zoo. Then, after getting off at Taipei Zoo, we walked a short distance to the gondola station.

(Note: We went before the red line was extended, so coming from Danshui you should switch trains at Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall, then again at Da'an and stay on the brown line to the end).
When you see this sign,
you know you're close to the gondola station!


Shaved Ice @ Raohe Night Market

The shop is spacious, even on a busy day.
Since moving to Taiwan, I've developed an affinity toward shaved ice. Previously, I compared two popular shaved ice locations, Xin Fa Ting and Tai Yi Milk King. Since discovering those two, I've become fond of a third location at Raohe Night Market in Songshan (松山).

Unfortunately, I don't recall the name of this night market shaved ice spot, but it is the only one on the main avenue of the night market. Raohe Night Market is centered around two pedestrian lanes; the shaved ice shop is clearly marked on the right side of the left main street; it will be on your right if you enter the night market from the quieter, rear entrance.


Bike ride through Danshui and Bali Township

Recently, I had the chance to rent a bike and take a ride through Danshui and the small township of Bali (八里), located directly across the river from Danshui. It was a beautiful day when I went, around 80F, not at all winter weather! But I wasn't complaining; I had sunshine on my skin, a smile on my face, and wonderful friends which accompanied me.

Taken from Danshui, that's Bali on the other side

We rented our bikes from a shop near MRT Danshui Station. To rent the bike all day (until 8 pm), it's 100NT. But, we got a 20% discount and paid 80NT since we're students. That's only about $2.75!