Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kenting Days and Nights

Kenting is actually a national park with beautiful scenery. Although we spend a fair amount of time we relaxing, we did take a tour of the park with the resort. The national park sits at the southern tip of Taiwan and on one side is the Taiwan Strait and the other side is the Pacific Ocean. We drove by an old gate and climbed up steep stairs to look at this ancient wall. Next, we stopped at a gas well where we saw Chinese tourists walking over hot rocks and over flames. Some eccentric Taiwanese man baked sweet potatoes over a fire and made a big production over it.
Next we continued further and stopped at several spots overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Awwwwww, nice sandy beaches and clear blue water.

More sand dunes and clear water with big waves. It is truly a beautiful country.
My parents, J, W, and I spent probably half the day together. My parents rested and visited the bar in the evening while J, W, and I went into town for dinner. The first night we went to a Mexican restaurant and had decent Mexican food. It certainly was no Latinos Restaurant though! After dinner, we walked the main street and took in all of the food vendors, groups of teens and college students, and gift shops. It was a combination of a Taiwanese night market and Coney Island but without the guidos.
I had read about stinky tofu, a delicacy which is basically fermented tofu. I decided I had to try it once so J, who had eaten in Taipei, bought some with cabbage and hot sauce on it. Stinky tofu can be described as ripe cow manure mixed with garbage and a hint of BO. I took a bite and did everything I could not to spit it out on the street. Although I read some have compared it to blue cheese or goose liver, I can only describe it as taking a big handful of cow manure and shoving it in your mouth. It is disgusting and have no clue why anyone would willingly eat it. That said, I can now proclaim I ate an authentic Taiwanese dish. J did buy me an ice cream after to get the taste out of my mouth but I swear I could smell it on me for the rest of the night.
The next evening we returned to town and at a small Thai restaurant where I had a wonderful Pad Thai dish and a couple of beers. I am unsure if it is a southern Taiwanese thing but there was a couple who had a golden retriever and lab lounging under their table. Surprisingly I was a little weirded out about it but then I realized that I was being foolish, the dogs were impeccably groomed, and were not bothering anyone. Anyway, wouldn't I like to bring my dog to a restaurant if I knew he would behave as well?
Again we walked around and this time stopped in shops. Nothing appeared interesting enough to purchase so we returned to our room for the evening. We left the next morning and continued our journey to Kaohsiung, another lovely stop on our journey.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Kenting in Photos

My parents, J, W and I toured the Park with Kimmy from the resort. We stopped at this amazing view of the Pacific Ocean.

We had a lovely view from our hotel room. For some crazy reason, they upgraded our rooms when we arrived. I love Taiwan!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Swimming in Kenting

The firt part of our vacation included relaxation at a resort in the southern part of Taiwan. The south is a tropical zone so this means the weather can be and was sunny, warm, and a bit humid. Our resort sat across the street from a beach on the Taiwan Strait. This body of water separates Taiwan from mainland China. The water was clear, blue, and very warm. Although I am a bit chicken about swimming in the ocean, I felt comfortable here because the water was relatively calm and shallow.

My parents, J, W, and I spent part of our first morning on the beach under an umbrella we rented. The resort had a tunnel under the road for guests to access the beach and a foot bath for returning. J, W, and I went in the water for quite awhile. W thought it was hysterical when one of us dove under and popped up right in front of him.

It appeared that you could go snorkling to see the corral but we decided to spend time relaxing either in our room or by the pool. W thought eating sand would be a great idea and after a few handfuls, we decided the pool would be the better option for him. Fortunately, the pool had several options for young children including an ankle deep area, a slightly deeper area and a regular pool. We probably spent several hours either in or by the pool. J gave me exactly what I wanted and I lounged for a few hours each day in a lounge chair with a good book. Sadly, the pool did not have a bar but I did just fine relaxing quietly by myself.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Home Base

After traveling from Taipei to Kenting, Kenting to Kaohsiung, Kaohsiung to Tainan, Tainan to Chiaya (it was supposed to be Alishon National Park but the road to the park was washed out), and Chiayi to Taichung, we are finally at our home away from home. I have much to share. Taiwanese people are amazingly friendly, helpful, and kind. The food tastes delicious and I am more adventurous regarding food than I thought I would be. The sights are unlike anything I have experienced in the Western Hemisphere. I promise there will be many photographs soon and tales to tell. For now, we are home, at least our Far East home, and it feels good.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Relaxation at Last

Yesterday we arrived in Kenting, a resort town situated by the Taiwan Strait (Strait of Taiwan?) Our trip involved two hours on a high speed train and two hours on a bus WITH NO BATHROOM. This caused a problem as I drank too much water and thought I would pee my pants. I contemplated actually peeing my pants but managed to hold it until we were dropped off in town and I ran across the street in front of traffic and raced up the stairs in McDonald where I used a squat toilet. I will do anything when I have to pee THAT BAD.

While my family waited for me and as usual, some incredibly nice and helpful folks arranged a taxi to take us to the resort. When I checked in, the staff told me that we had been upgraded to an ocean view room on the top floor. Our room is huge and perfect for W to explore, play, and walk around. We have cathedral ceilings and a balcony perfect for drinking wine in the evening. We spent the afternoon at the pool where W enjoyed the wading pool.

Okay, now the full disclosure. I can be a huge jerk when I travel. Perhaps I can explain it by the fact that I am rigid to a fault and like things just so. Although there are four restaurants at the resort, only one was open. It was a big buffet with ridiculous amounts of seafood. For some, that might seem like heaven, fresh seafood at a seaside resort with the sea. And fish. But for those like me who gag when I look at fish and young W, I viewed this as the BIGGEST! DISASTER! EVER! After pouting for about ten minutes, I finally succumbed to the fact we would be eating there and made do. It was fine, not great, but fine. By the end of the meal, W had a total and complete meltdown so we went back to the room, changed him into his pajamas and he feel asleep withing ten minutes. So did I.

J returned to the room with a bottle of wine and I managed to pull myself out of bed to drink wine on the balcony. Honestly, I have it so rough. I weep for myself. Two lizard or salamander or slithery type creatures joined us for good conversation and the view. I felt like I was in some old Disney cartoon when two bunnies hopped in the little garden below us and birds tweeted (not on Twitter) in the background.

This morning W woke up at ridiculously early o'clock so we lounged in bed while he climbed over us and told us how things were supposed to be in very elaborate terms. Breakfast at the buffet turned out to be delicious and W finally got his favorite, about five or six pieces of cheese. I ate some interesting roll with a sweet bean mixture inside, regular eggs, and freshly ground coffee among other things. Plus, I scarfed down my new favorite fruit, guava.

After breakfast, we dressed ourselves for the beach and took the tunnel from the resort to a nice cove with umbrellas, chairs, and gloriously clear blue water. We spent nearly two hours there and much of the time in the water before returning to the room. W adored the sand and water and giggled endlessly as we bounced him in the waves and dove under water to pop up in front of him. The delight on his face makes the fifteen prior weeks so worth it all.

Monday, May 17, 2010

We Arrived!

After a seriously long day of travel, Nana and Grandpa, W, and I arrived in Taiwan. Holy heck it was a long trip. W did amazing considering his ears gave him some serious pain halfway through our flight to Japan. The poor boy screamed for close to an hour but some seriously amazing Asian grandmothers came to the rescue to give suggestion, support, and even some hugs. Seriously, people here are friendly, helpful, and amazing.

In usual Andrea fashion, I have about a bazillion little bruises on my arms from lifting W's giant car seat/stroller combination. I am always graceful that way. We arrived an hour early in Taiwan and after going through customs and getting our bags, J met us with the hugest smile I have ever seen on a human being. After a brief moment of pause, W smiled and was thrilled beyond thrilled to see Dada again. If I had been the suave blogger, I would have captured a photo of this reunion but I was too busy being tired and happy. So you will have to do with a description.

So far I love Taiwan. The city is not as overwhelming as I thought it would be. There is a mix of dingy midcentury buildings and beautiful traditional architecture with bright colors on the roofs. The tree's roots and trunks twist and turn and palm trees remind me that yes, I am finally in a warm climate. A very warm and steamy climate as the sweat on my back reminds me.

Our hotel offers a complimentary breakfast and believe it or not, it is at KFC. Before you roll your eyes that we stooped to eat at a fast food restaurant, the meal itself is more Asian tradition. We had a sesame pastry with egg, cheese, and some bean paste. Of course I pounded a couple coffees and W ate two hash browns. I have to admit I am a little worried about finding food for W but I think that I am just unfamiliar with my options. In fact, I should not worry at all as he shared a purple rice wrap with eggs, onions, and more bean paste. And yes, he loved it.

For my "animal watch" (I have to befriend animals in new countries, it's how I roll), I met two cats in a bookstore near our hotel. Both looked like my mom's cat but one looked more like a short haired Persian. I am embarrassed to admit I shrieked a little when a stray dog came running out of some bushes and headed down a busy city street. I promise not to be so shrieky again.

Tomorrow we travel south by high speed train and then take a bus to Kenting where I promise you, I will be lounging, drinking, swimming, and lounging some more.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nerves Are Stirring Up

What does a logical person do six days before she takes a five week vacation half way across the world with a 15 month old? Well she rearranges furniture, that is what she does! Because she, I mean I am smart that way. Bags to pack? Nah, they can wait. Laundry to fold? But it looks so pretty in the basket all mixed up and colorful. Procrastination and I have a serious and long relationship. If memory serves me well, I remember staying up late my freshman year in high school to illustrate an Odysseus children's book I wrote for a class project.. Oh yes I did. So why not pack for two people on a few day, no, hours before we leave. You know that will work out swimmingly!

Actually, I have done a fair amount of packing but I have received helpful suggestions about mixing up our clothes, diapers (W's, not mine), and other items. Tomorrow I will rearrange our bags, pack some more, pull aside the quieter toys for W on the plane, send out some paperwork, and drink a big ass glass of wine.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Packing Extravaganza

While Wes napped, I began the daunting task of packing our bags. For the first time EVER, my bag cannot be called gigantor the bag! It is not at its weight limit. I can lift it with one arm without grunting and breaking into sweat! Of course, I have six more days before we leave so there could be several moments where I think, no, I need 35 pairs of underwear and two more pairs of shoes, dammit! I hope to restrain myself. Here's to hoping.

Despite making a list of things I still need, I need to get more things that were not on the list or on the list and I forgot. My plan was to heard to the stores to purchase said items but W is napping and it is so windy and nasty, I just don't want to leave the house. And no one can make me! After Mother's Day brunch, M will come to the house to watch Wes and I will head out to do motherly things like buy pacifiers and diapers and private lady products. And about 100 other things including a portable DVD player, DVDs, and a fistful of sedatives from my FOURTEEN AND A HALF HOUR FLIGHT. Did I mention that is only one of three flights? And we leave Pittsburgh at 7:50 a.m. on Saturday and get there 9:40 a.m. on Sunday (9:40 p.m. Taiwan time?) Seriously, Mother of the Century Award BETTER BE forthcoming.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

3 Weeks to Go

Three weeks from today, W, my parents, and I will have just taken off from the Atlanta Airport on a fourteen and half hour flight to Japan. I do not think I have accepted this idea. I should be making lists, making some reservations, and getting myself prepared but in some way, I am scared. No, I am terrified of being in a completely different country, experiencing a totally different culture for five whole weeks. Of course this an experience of a lifetime. We will not be staying in Japan but will be continuing on to Taiwan to meet up with J who has been on sabbatical for the past twelves. And while I am terrified, I am also so excited that W, J, and I will be reunited and I cannot wait to see how W reacts when he first sees his dada.

Over the next eight weeks, I plan to chronicle our preparation, packing, travel, and experiences for family, friends, and whoever happens to stop by. I might work through my fears here about being away from home and possibly making an ass of myself in a very foreign culture. It is better to get it out beforehand than it is while being smack in the middle, right? I might work through my lists here too in case anyone has suggestions, from their experience, about what I will and won't need while traveling. Just to warn you, I suffer from over packing disease. I don't think it is too contagious but it can cause your spouse to not be thrilled about lugging around Gigantor the Bag because really, do you expect me to carry my own heavy bag? Of course not!

So three weeks to prepare, three weeks until I see J, and three weeks until 24 hours of airplane travel. I hope you all enjoy the ride!