Meeting the Natives at Taiwan Indigenous Cultural Park

I’m taking a break from writing my Cebu series because I’m in the mood to write once again about this country that has a very special place in my heart. As you might have read from my previous posts, I lived in Taiwan for several months last year. Since then, the island of Formosa have marked its beauty in my memory. Little did I know that such a small country would be so rich in culture, heritage and history. Continue reading

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Taiwan: Yamay Theme Park

Extreme Roller Coaster Ride

If you have some kids along with you or you’re looking for an Enchanted Kingdom experience in Taiwan, then you may consider to visit Yamay Theme Park  at Taichung County. Travel time from Taipei to Taichung takes around 45 minutes by the high speed train and around 3 hours by bus. Yamay theme park is just one of the several theme parks in Taiwan. This theme park is divided into two parts. One is the amusement park while the other one is a big swimming pool resort. They have separate entrance fees. If you have a longer time, then you could try both parks and sleep over at their hotel. This time, we only had one day so we chose to go to the amusement park and enjoy the rides.  Continue reading

Taiwan: Taipei City

At Taipei 101

Since I lived in Kaohsiung City during my 5-month stay in Taiwan, I had not seen much of Taipei. That’s why I was really excited when my brother told me that we would go to Taipei to give me a tour around the city. I was really looking forward to explore Taiwan’s capital city. And just like what I saw in some advertisement, I would agree that Taiwan truly touches your heart because every new place you visit has so much things to offer. I would describe Taipei as a big metropolitan city. There are more people  compared to Kaohsiung City. Furthermore, there are much more skyscrapers especially at the downtown area. We only stayed in Taipei for two days so let me just give you the highlights of my trip.

Highlights:

1) Taipei 101. I guess for anyone who wants to visit Taipei City, Taipei 101 is a must see destination. It was once the tallest building in the world before the opening of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. This was the first spot we visited when we arrived in Taipei. Taipei 101 is the symbol of the growth of the Taiwanese economy. I went up to the tower even though there was a long line of tourists. I paid 400 NT (P 563) for the entrance fee and I was able to bring my 5-year-old niece for free when I went there last March. Anyway, the beautiful view up the tower and the experience to get on to their super fast elevator were already worth the price.

Taipei 101 (got the aerial shot from here: http://www.news.vnu.edu.vn)

My niece at the observation deck

There was a festival when we went there

2) National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. This hall was built in memory of Chiang Kai-shek, the former president of Taiwan. I really liked this place because of the remarkable structures of the buildings. I found this place more cultural. It shows the old Chinese architecture amidst the modernized city of Taipei.

With my brother’s family

3) The Presidential Office Building. This serves as the office of the President of Taiwan. It is located in Zhongzheng District in Taipei. This became the official presidential office after Taiwan (Republic of China) separated from Mainland China.

The Presidential Office

4) Taipei Zoo. If you want to see a giant panda then you should definitely visit this zoo. Taipei zoo is currently the largest zoo in Asia. It is located at Muzha, the southeastern part of Taipei City.Unfortunately, it rained and it was freezing cold when we went there so we decided not to go inside the zoo anymore. However, I searched for a picture of the giant panda on the net to show you what you could see inside the zoo.

The Giant Panda at Taipei Zoo (got the pic from this site: http://en.wikipedia.org)
It was early March and yet it was freezing cold in Taipei

5) National Palace Museum. If you are interested in Chinese history, then the National Palace Museum is a must see destination for you. It is a huge art museum in Taiwan that contains a large collection of ancient artifacts dated back from the Neolithic age to the Qing Dynasty. According to wikipedia, this museum was the 11th most visited art museum in the world in 2009. Due to time constraints because we only spent 2 days in Taipei, we didn’t go inside the museum anymore. We only had a picture taking outside the museum 😀 .

National Palace Museum top view from http://en.wikipedia.org
Outside the Museum. Nakasama namin si lola sa pic hehe 🙂

6) Danshui. Finally, our last stop was at Danshui Township. This is a sea-side town in Taipei County. This place is popular for watching the sunset in Taipei. I loved this place not only because of the beautiful view of the sea but also I found the town itself  really amusing. We found some cute shops beside the sea. Moreover, there are so many things to buy in Danshui including native delicacies, souvenirs, clothes, shoes etc. I recommend this place if you want a glimpse of the sea in Taipei and buy different kinds of stuffs at the same time.

My sister-in-law

Danshui Township

Bear shop

Found these cute hats

Starbucks overlooking the sea at Danshui

Taiwan: Kenting Beach

If you are one of the folks who enjoy lounging on the beach and you’re staying in Taiwan, then you might consider visiting Kenting. It’s one of the popular beaches in Southern Taiwan. It’s a well-known destination for summer getaways. Kenting is located at the southern tip of Taiwan. This area is already near to Batanes. Last summer, my brother joined a marathon in Kenting so we all traveled all the way from Kaohsiung City to Kenting for a 2-day vacation. It took us 2 hours and a half from Kaohsiung to Kenting by car.

Taiwan Map--Kenting at the southern tip of Taiwan

What to Do in Kenting:

1) Have fun at the beach. If you’re in Taiwan and you just wish to splash on the beach, then I guess, Kenting is already a good place to visit. Moreover, I love the atmosphere in Kenting. The place seems so serene and relaxing. I recommend this place if you want to take a  break from the buzzing city of Kaohsiung and Taipei. You can enjoy water sports and scuba diving on the beach.

My nieces playing on the shore

My nephew trying to break into the sand castle (fortunately, my brother was able to stop him before he did lol)

My niece and nephew

My sister-in-law and I hiding from the scorching heat of the sun

2) Enjoy the picturesque rocky shores. I considered this as the best part of my trip to Kenting. These rocky shores are really worth visiting. It made me feel like I was at some part of Europe.

Feels like I'm on top of the world

I love the view!

3) Visit the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium. This is a big aquarium that contains marine exhibitions. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit this aquarium but my brother said that it’s one of the popular tourist spots in Kenting. I searched for some pictures from the net to give you a glimpse of this aquarium.

Kenting Aquarium (Got the pic from http://www.michaelturton.com)

The Big Aquarium (got the pic from http://www.tripadvisor.com)

4) Ride a bicycle around the town. As I’ve said, I love the atmosphere in Kenting because it seems so serene and relaxing. Try to ride  a bike around the town and enjoy the ocean breeze. My niece and I borrowed a bicycle from the hotel where we stayed and rode the bicycle around the town. Actually, it was quite an extraordinary type of bicycle. It’s like two bicycles combined into one. One thing that amazed me about Taiwan is that you could find different types of bicycles in the country. Well, I didn’t have the picture of the bicycle so I just tried to look over net.

This was the type of bicycle that my niece and I used. It was really fun. You should try this in Taiwan (got the pic from http://www1.cs.columbia.edu)

Our hotel in Kenting

5) Go to the night market. And of course, don’t ever leave Kenting without dropping by at their night market. The night market is one of the best ways to experience the night life in Taiwan. It is where you could taste the local delicacies for a cheap price. Moreover, you could buy lots of pasalubong at the night market. So dropped by at the night market and eat until you drop!

Who wants some colorful shades?

The busy night market

My niece drinking buko juice

Wow frog eggs???

How to go to Kenting:

Check out this page from wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Kenting

Ni Hao Ma?: Learning Chinese in Taiwan

Studying in Taiwan would always be one of my greatest experiences. First of all, it was a dream come true for me as I had always dreamed of studying abroad. Once again, God made it possible for me to achieve a dream that I thought was out of my reach. Right after graduating from college, I went to Taiwan to learn Mandarin Chinese. Well, I don’t have any Chinese blood, studying the language is just my personal interest. Furthermore, since China’s economy is now rapidly growing, I just thought that learning Chinese might be an advantage in the future. So after undergoing a meticulous medical examination and an interview at the Taiwanese Embassy for my visa, I finally made it to Taiwan last February just in time for the Chinese New Year.

Mandarin Chinese is the official language of Taiwan although the local people have their own Taiwanese dialect. However, compared to Mainland China that now uses the simplified Chinese characters, Taiwan still uses the traditional Chinese characters which are more difficult to write. I have an older brother who is  living in Taiwan with his family so I was really looking forward to see my nephew and nieces. This was also my first time to visit  a foreign country so I couldn’t help but get easily amazed with everything that I saw. Hehe. 🙂 I stayed at my brother’s house in Kaohsiung City. Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan after Taipei and it is located at the southern part of Taiwan. I took the spring semester at Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages from February to June. Wenzao is a big and popular language school in Kaohsiung City. They offer different languages such as French, Spanish, English, German, Japanese etc. but of course, the most popular for foreigners is the Chinese Center.

I was so excited and nervous at my first day of school. I was excited to see my class and nervous at the same time because I didn’t know anyone there. The Chinese Center usually handles small group classes so there were only nine students in my class. I was the only Filipino in my class and the rest of my classmates came from Germany, United States, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, France, and South Korea. Being the only student from Philippines, I felt pressured to study hard because I didn’t want  to bring shame to our country. Unfortunately, before coming to Taiwan, I had never tried to study Chinese. Apart from the words ni hao (hello) and xie xie (Thank you), I knew nothing about the Chinese language. You could imagine my surprise when at my first day of class, our teacher asked us to introduce ourselves in Chinese and take note, she didn’t use English at all. She could speak English but she didn’t use it in teaching our lessons. I heard that in this school, teachers only use Chinese in teaching the lessons as they believe it would make the learning process faster for the students.

My Class

My teacher gave me a Chinese name Ai li (愛莉). Since my real name is Lovely, Ai (愛) means love and li (莉) means the flower jasmine. All my classmates called me Ai li , which I also prefer because I feel quite uncomfortable using my name Lovely whenever I introduce myself to foreigners as their next question would be “Is that your real name?” 🙂 Anyway, it was my first time to be with a large group of foreigners so I didn’t know how to approach them at first but I was really grateful because all of them had been very kind to me. I even had this classmate from Canada who works as an English Teacher in Taiwan. He has been living in Taiwan for three years and is now married to a Taiwanese. I would never forget his kindness as he often tried to help me when I was having a hard time understanding the lesson. He had studied Chinese before so his level was quite advance for the beginner’s class. I also had a German seatmate who had been really helpful to me whenever I had some questions about our lessons. I found our class just similar to the ordinary classroom setting in the Philippines. There would be the diligent and hard-working type of students and there would be the easy-going type of students. There would also be the funny ones who love to joke like my American and my German seatmates who are really fun to talk to.

My Chinese Book

However, studying Chinese is not a  joke. I must say it is one of the most difficult things that I have ever studied in my life. For a beginner like me, who had never tried studying Chinese before, learning Chinese was terribly difficult for the first time. Well, what makes it difficult? I think everything makes it tough starting with the characters. Chinese has almost 3,000 characters. Each character has a different meaning. Remembering the meaning of each character is already a challenge much more memorizing how to write them. In Chinese, there’s a step by step procedure on how to write the strokes. At first, I thought I could just copy the character by writing it in the way which I found the easiest but I was totally wrong. Instead, I have to memorize the sequence on how to write the strokes for example, from left to write and from the top to bottom. Above all, what makes me crazy is the pronunciation. Chinese has four tones and each tone has a different meaning 😯 For example, the word Mài (賣) means to sell and the word Mǎi (買) means to buy. These two words have entirely opposite meanings but the pronunciations have a minor difference so one must really be careful in pronouncing the tones. And take note, that for the locals to be able to understand your Chinese you must be able to say the right tones. Chinese pronunciation has always been the most difficult thing to learn for foreigners.

Chinese Lesson

Overtime, I was able to adjust to the language. One thing about Chinese is it’s difficult but very interesting to learn. I must say that living in Taiwan has helped me to understand the language faster since everything that I see and everything I hear is Chinese. After a few months, I found myself able to read some signs on the street. Something that I could brag about to my brother when I get home. Hehe 😀  I could already order some Chinese food at a local restaurant. More importantly, I could already order my favorite drink Zhēnzhū nǎichá (珍珠奶茶) which means pearl milk tea. Furthermore, I could already understand the price that the seller tells me whenever we visit the night market. I found the experience very rewarding. What makes me happier is when the local people understand my little Chinese 🙂 . My almost 5-month stay in Taiwan is indeed one of the most unforgettable parts of my life.

Students of the Chinese Center

Drinking the Taiwanese Milk Tea

The school's parking lot. It reminded me of Sanchai going to school on her motorbike 🙂

Eating while studying 🙂