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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Only 3 weeks left...

Starting from the top...
My hostel in Taiwan... called Taiwanmex (owned by a mexican)
Chang Kai Shek memorial
random sign that says I love Taipei
more of the memorial
the hostel cat that liked to sleep in our room
(left to right) Manila, Me and Lisa eating lunch in the Philippines (we were sitting with our legs in the water), and then me trying to do my best at making tea at a tea house
and the last one is LOVE in front of Taipei 101

November 28, 2007

Nothing much has happened since I got back from my trip, just a lot of school, homework, tests, and studying Chinese. The Taiwan program finally got all my stuff in the mail so I should find out within a week or so if I am accepted to that, then I can finally start finalizing my plans for winter break. I found two more cheap airlines that offer a lot of flights, basically ANYWHERE in Europe and then Morocco and Turkey on top of that. The only problem is that I'll have to be doing a lot of this traveling alone and I don't speak any of the languages of a lot of the places I am looking into going. My list so far of confirmed trips is Spain, Morocco, Spain again, France, and Norway... from there I'll head off to London or Dublin. They have flights to anywhere in Europe from those two places so I was looking into traveling to Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, the Czech Republic and some others, depending on the dates of Taiwan. So that is going to be fun to plan.
all cheap tickets to wherever you want

Also I got in touch with some people from Egypt and it should be pretty easy to transfer my application over to the summer, so hopefully that will all work out in the end and I can still graduate on time.

I still haven't gotten my pictures up from Taipei and the Philippines because facebook isn't working, but I'll post them here as soon as it works. And I'm getting sick... yay...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

General things about the trip

I really liked Taiwan... I'll probably get in trouble for saying this since I'm in China now and they might block my site or something... but we shall see

Here is why Taiwan is better than China:
People wait in line and are considerate of one another.
People follow traffic signals.
There is not garbage and pollution everywhere.
Nothing is censored (like news and wikipedia)
People wait in line for the subway and wait for the people to get off before getting on in an ORDERLY manner.
The government doesn't tell the people what to think.

Also since their news isn't censored, I got to read about China's attempts to block Taiwan from joining the United Nations in Taiwan because nothing about this can be read in China because its all blocked. And I also read about China refusing to send any mail from Taiwan to people in China that had a postmark saying "UN for Taiwan" and made the people receiving these letters sign something saying they renounce all attempts by Taiwan to join the UN which just kinda seems childish to me and counterproductive.

I really hope the Taiwan program comes through because I would like to study there and get more of the other side of the China - Taiwan problem.

About the Philippines...
It was kinda scary at first, but I think thats just because everyone was making me scared with their stores but I really liked it though. I kinda wish we spent more time there and less in Taiwan... but that just gives me another excuse to go back to the Philippines in the future haha. And now I can say that I have eaten pigs blood and brain YUM!

Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Taipei, Manila, coconut plantation and back to Shanghai

Sunday, November 11 2007

On Sunday Me and Lisa met our friend Adam from IU and went out to an all you can eat hot pot place for lunch. It was pretty good but more expensive that I would pay for lunch in Shanghai, but everything is more expensive in Taipei. BUT, Taipei is much cleaner, much more organized, and much more polite than Shanghai so I am ok with paying a bit extra. After that he took us to the largest bookstore in Taipei thats open 24 hours and it's rumored that all the starts go there at midnight to check out the books haha. I picked out a couple of small comic books in traditional characters (they still use them in Taiwan if you didn't know) to see if I could get through it and understand anything. After browsing around there for a while we headed off to see his university, Taipei University, to see where he has his classes and everything. After that we headed off to visit another night market but it wasn't as good as the one we saw the first night. After that we headed back to the hostel to play with the cat and then go to sleep for the next day.

Monday, November 12 - Taipei 101

Today we went to Taipei 101 which is the tallest building in the world in 3 out of 4 categories (haha) so I guess that means it's the tallest... and we rode the fastest elevator in the world to the top haha. They gave us a free audio tour thing so we walked around the observation deck on the 89th floor and saw the whole city from there. I also got a postcard and mailed it home to mom and dad haha, I wanted to send some more to other people but I couldn't remember their addresses. After we saw the whole city we went to the ice cream shop they had up there to use our $15 off coupon (33 Taiwan Dollars = 1 U.S. dollar, so less than 50 cents) they gave us when we bought our tickets, and it was gooooood. Then after that we went up to the 91st floor where you can actually go outside, but it was waaaaaay too windy and cold so we went back inside for a bit then went and found lunch at a small place. After that we made our way to Peace Park and walked around there for a while and were pooped so we headed back to the hostel. So Lisa took a nap and I got busy with doing all the necessary things for applying to the Taiwan program I found like getting more recommendations, transcripts, essays, application things. I figured I might as well apply for it while I still have time and I can decide later if I want to do it or not. And then for some reason the Australian guy brought home 2 lab puppies, one brown and one black. He said someone got them as a present but didn't want them so left them outside and he couldn't handle it anymore so he took them and brought them back to the hostel so we played with them all night but then by the end of the night he found someone to take them so that was that.

Tuesday, November 13 Taipei Zoo
Today me and Lisa got up and headed to the Taipei zoo. I think it was pre-school day though because there were only pre-schoolers there haha. Animals we saw included lions, gorillas, penguins, red pandas, turtles, zebras, camels, monkeys, birds, ferrets, meerkats,koalas, fish, and a lot of bugs and butterflies. After spending a while there we headed over to the gondola that took us up to the top of the mountain where they have all the small tea growers and tea houses. So we walked around for a while then stopped at a tea house and drank some tea and ate some noodles then headed back to the hostel cuz we were really tired from walking around at the zoo all day.

Wednesday, November 14 Taiwan Hot Springs and Dinner with the Malaysian friends
Today was a pretty relaxed day. Me and Lisa slept in and then headed to the hot springs for a few hours. There was a crazy old man doing yoga things on the rocks... but he did thinks like stand on his head for 20 minutes at a time on ROCK and then hit himself in the head with a metal pole and hit his legs with a sledgehammer... I don't know... Then we headed back to the hostel and napped because the hot springs made us really tired and then we went out to dinner with the australian guy and 3 malaysian girls from our hostel. After that me and Lisa hung out at the hostel and then went out for the night.

Thursday, November 15
Today we went to a history museum of Taiwan that had a lot of things about the native tribes and also a strange collection of Czech puppets for some reason. It wasn't that great of a museum though and we left and there was an old man outside painting and had lots of other one sitting around him. I walked up and he immediately stood up and said "Where you from, America?" And I said yes and he got really excited then asked if I was from California or Chicago and then he said America is a great country and he loves it haha. Then he talked to us about all of his paintings and everything and emphasized that his paints were "Taiwan" watercolor paintings NOT "Chinese" ones haha. He told us he was 72 and that he really wanted us to take some of his pictures back to the US so I bought one for $100 (about 3$ US). We talked for about 15 or 20 minutes with this guy who spoke English surprisingly well because he never went to school or anything. By this point the general consensus was that Taiwanese people are a lot more friendly in general than Chinese people haha. After that we headed to Longshan Temple, a budhist temple, to visit and then hung out with our friend Adam one more time before leaving.

Friday, November 16 - Bye bye Taiwan! Ni hao Republika ng Pilipinas!
We got up early today and went and got breakfast at McDonalds for $75 (about $2.10 US) and then got some coffee to use up the last of our Taiwan money then headed back to the hostel to pack up and say goodbye to everyone and the cat. We paid the owner $800 (about $25 US) to take us to the airport where we hung out for a while before getting on our flight to Manila, Philippines. The flight was pretty short and smooth and we got there with no problems and were picked up by Evelyn and Boy who are friends of Lisa's step mom. They quickly whisked us away to a fresh seafood market to buy dinner. On the way there we just started out the window at the Philippines and I can safely say that it is a lot poorer than Shanghai and a lot more dangerous too. On the way there I saw a lot of police standing on corners or in front of buildings with machine guns and a lot more homeless people. We got to the fresh seafood market and looked around while Evelyn got dinner for us then we went to a restaurant out back and gave them the food and they cooked it. Now I usually try to stay away from seafood because I don't like fishy tasting things, I don't like pulling heads off of shrimp and then peeling the shell off, I don't like sucking meat out of crab shells, and I don't like rubbery things like squid and octopus. But this ended up being our dinner for the night: huge shrimp complete with heads and shells, crabs cut in half to pick out the meat, squid, and something made mostly of pig blood... and fresh mangoes and lycones yummmm. And after that they took us to our hotel which was pretty nice to drop our stuff off. Then they took us to a bar/restaurant area of town to walk around and we found a bar with live music and sat down for a bit but there was no one there yet and no music we left at the suggestion of Evelyn and Boy to find a new place. So we walked around for a bit then they decided that we should go back to that bar because there is was nothing else haha. Then we sat for a bit more then they decided to take us to a place they like to go... but halfway through the drive there they decided it was too far and took us BACK to that place, but they wouldn't let us stay out alone so they waited in the car for us while we stayed there for a bit. Then afterwords they took us back to our hotel and told us we shouldn't leave because its too dangerous but if we did leave to not go far. But me and Lisa were waaay to tired to try and go find somewhere to go and we just made a quick seven eleven run and went to sleep because we had to get up at 545 the next morning to go to the Villa Escudera.

Saturday, November 17 coconuts and waterfall lunch

So we got picked up at 7 am after having our first american breakfast since leaving the USA at the hotel. It was a 3 hour drive so me and Lisa basically slept on the way there with breaks to eat filipino snacks. When we got there we had a tour of the museum of all the worldly collections of things and a lot of floats of various bible scenes and of Christ that they use in a parade on Palm Sunday. After that we headed over to lunch which was fun. They have a waterfall that falls into a shallow pool
thats maybe a foot deep that has a lot of tables and a really good buffet with fried bananas, soups, beef, chicken, crab, noodles, rice and a lot of other things. So you sit with your feet in the water while eating the buffet, and they also bring you out a fresh coconut with a straw in it for your drink. After that we headed over to the pool to swim for a bit then headed into the coconut pavilion to watch all the dances from different native tribes of the Philippines. Then we headed back to the city for dinner at the oldest restaurant chain in the Philippines, but it kinda seemed like a Steak-n-Shake or something, not too fancy. But they ordered us their famous grilled chicken, fresh mangoes again, and something called "sisig" that me and Lisa ate. It tasted really good because they loaded it up with hot sauce and calamanca juice and spicy peppers. And after we ate it we found it it is a mixture of pork face slices and brain... but it still tasted good haha. Then they took us home and told us they were really tired so we could go out alone but to stay near the hotel. So me and Lisa got ready and went out and were walking around for something to do when a dirty little girl ran up to me and started begging for money and I told her I didn't have any which was true because I couldn't find an ATM that would work or I totally would have given her a bit of money. But I guess she didn't believe me because she then wrapped her arms around me and locked her hands and wouldn't get off. Lisa was trying to give her some coins she had to get her off, then she finally let go of me and grabbed the coins from Lisa but then yanked her hair then rain way. I don't know why really, maybe she didn't think it was enough money or something. Then me and Lisa kept walking but we were getting kinda nervous because of all the guards we were seeing everywhere and then we met someone who told us about a place that we went to that was nice and had live music again. So we hung out there for a while then headed back to the hotel.

Sunday, November 18 Last day of the trip and back home to Shanghai
Today they picked us up and took us to an old Spanish fort that had been controlled by the Japanese, and the Americans, and the British at various points and we hung around that area for a while. Then after that we took a carriage ride through a historical part of Manila and saw a lot of old buildings and prisons where the Japanese kept all the Filipinos during WWII. After that they took us to a big mall. It was kinda scary since they had bombings in October at malls in Manila so at each entrance they had a security guard with metal detectors and they looked through your bags to get in. And inside they had bomb sniffing dogs and guards with guns walking around. The mall was crazy though, they had more knock off than China and it was a lot cheaper too. And what was really funny was that I heard people saying that all their stuff comes from Korea and NOT China so the quality is much much better haha. After that they took us to the airport and dropped us off and me and Lisa waited there for our delayed plane and got back to Shanghai at about 130 am, got a taxi and headed home for class at 8 am the next morning.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Off to Taiwan!

Sunday November 11, 2007

Before I left for Taiwan I had my test which went relatively ok, and then me and Lisa finished packing and headed towards the airport. We waited there for a long time because we got there really early, and then our flight took off at 1230 am and we slept most of other way there. We got to the Philippines airport at about 4 am and had to sit there and wait until our next flight left at 1120am which wasn't terrible. The airport itself as kinda dirty and I heard it was dangerous so we were scared to sleep but there were a lot of security guard everywhere and they wouldn't even let you in the building if you didn't have a flight. So we sat on uncomfortable seats for 5 hours and then checked in and sat in some different uncomfortable seats for an hour. But as we were leaving we had to pay 750 peso for using the airport haha, which is about 17 dollars, luckily I had withdrawn some money earlier so we could pay it. We got on our short flight to Taipei and landed and everything went fine and we got picked up at the airport by a driver. The hostel at first seemed a little grotsky because its basically an apartment with a bunch of rooms, and there are 2 stalls that have bathrooms in the kitchen, not in a separate room, and the showers are outside in things that look like porter-potties, and you could hear everything through the walls. BUT its actually really fun, the people are really fun, and they have a cat. The location is also really good so we never have to go too far from anything. So the first night me and Lisa just walked around because it was already getting dark and we didn't know our way around very well. Then on Saturday we got up and had sushi for lunch before going to the National History Museum and a Chang Kai Shek memorial which was fun, and then we came back to the hostel to hang out with the people here. As of now there is me and Lisa, about 9 girls from Thailand that are really loud, 2 korean guys, a chinese guy and girl, a funny australian guy, and a funny old man who are staying there so it makes everything pretty fun. Also the owner is from Mexico and he speaks to me in Spanish now because his English isn't that great, so I can practice my Chinese and Spanish at the same time haha. So now its SUnday morning and me and lisa are out to meet our friend Adam from IU and we are heading out to explore the city more. Also I didn't get into my program in Egypt for next semester, so I actually have to either go back to IU next semester or find something else to do... the more time i spend in Taipei the more it seems like a viable option...