Category Archives: Live From Taiwan

Every Dog Has Its Day

Have I mentioned that I love dogs? Well, I do, and this week I am going to fill you in on two awesome places that you can bring your dogs for the day in Taoyuan County.

The first is called 綠風草原, and it’s located in Zhongli. You’ll need to take a car there, because its pretty far from any form of public transportation, though you could take a taxi. This place used to be a golf course, but has since been re-purposed into a dog park, though its pretty obvious what it was originally intended to be. The scenery is so beautiful, with trees dotting the walkways and grassy hills surrounding the pond(which must have originally been the water hazard!) your pooch is going to think he’s died and gone to doggy heaven. It’s a popular place on the weekend, so get there early to ensure that you get a good spot, and watch your worries melt away. Make sure you bring a sheet or towel to sit on, as the grass can be quite damp, and why not enjoy a picnic while you’re at it? The entry fee is 150 NT and this can be used towards purchasing food or drinks, though I recommend you bring your own snacks as the food is pricey and not very good.
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(In these pictures you can clearly see the park’s golf course roots!)
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(When I went there were ducks in the pond, and then there were these great big inflatable ducks. Looks like the management decided to cash in on the recent duck-craze that has gotten ahold of Taiwan.)
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(The dogs absolutely love this place!)
The other place is called 老爸的後花園 Located in Longtan, you are going to need your own wheels to make it there, but it’s worth it! The feel is a lot different from 綠風草原. As you enter the garden and follow the vine-covered walkway to the brick-house restaurant, it feels like you are going to pay a visit to a rich family at their country-side estate. The whole place is surrounded by trees and gardens, and it feels like you’re in a small forest, especially for Taiwan (having a large yard is very rare here). The restaurant is beautiful and has a relaxing atmosphere, and oddly you will see dogs freely roaming around indoors. The food is not great here either(though the dessert was quite delicious), but that wasn’t really why we went there. The garden outside is awesome, and your dogs will love it. We went on a Tuesday, so there weren’t a lot of other people there, but I’ve been told it is another story altogether on the weekend. It’s fun to chat with the other guests and see their dogs too anyway!
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(The restaurant it beautiful, but the food wasn’t great…good thing I brought a snack!)
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(We had a lot of fun with the dogs in the garden. The poster is about supporting animal adoption, something that I hope you will consider after reading this!)
I highly recommend making it over to either of these spots at least once (even of you don’t have a dog, you can play with the ones you see there!). Let me know what you think if you make it over to one of them, and share your experiences here!
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How To Get There:
綠風草原– Here is a link to their website, it’s in Chinese, but there is a map.
老爸的後花園- Here is their Facebook page with contact information.

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Chinese phrases of the day:

綠風草原= Green Breeze Prairie

老爸的後花園= Dad’s Backyard Garden

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Hitchhiking to Dog Temple

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(Bark at the moon!)

I have had so many amazing experiences living and traveling in Taiwan, and I’d love to tell them all! So today I’m going to share a hitchhiking dā biàn chē 搭便車 experience I had in my early years here in Taiwan.

It was mid-October, 2009 and the weather in Keelung was cold and wet…it’s always wet there though. The port town of Keelung jī lóng 基隆 in the North of the island has an infamous reputation for raining on people’s parades(literally). It rains practically all 365 days of the year, and locals nick name it the “Rainy Port”. The humidity there is ridiculous, and if you forget to turn on your dehumidifier, mildew will cover your walls in a heart beat(I myself had a horrible experience with this). Despite the weather, Keelung is a great place to get a feel for Taiwan. The local people are extremely friendly, and the beautiful coast and mountains surrounding the area are filled with beautiful locales waiting to be explored.
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(Some pics of the beautiful harbor-town Keelung)
My Taiwanese fiancé Ruby and I had been dating for around a month, and we weren’t going to let the weather win, so we decided to do what many Taiwanese locals love to do in the cold seasons and take a trip to the nearest hot-springs to soak. Hot-springs, or wēn quán 溫泉 as they are called in Chinese, are prized for their restorative properties, and they have been since the Japanese occupation of Taiwan and before. In fact, many of the islands’ hot-springs are historically tied to the Japanese colonization of Taiwan.
The closest place to Keelung is Jinshan, a town that exists only around the hotspring industry. Jinshan jīn shān 金山 in Chinese means “gold mountain” and the amount of capital that the place generates with its hot-springs ensures that it is aptly named, though, unfortunately there is no mountain made of gold. Like many hot spring-towns in Taiwan, there are resorts of varying prices and quality lining the streets of Jin Shan.
Ready to pamper ourselves, Ruby and I got an early start. We headed downstairs and took a bus from my apartment complex to the train station.    There are buses to practically anywhere you could want to go (within reason, none to Kending, or Penghu, sorry!) around the train station. We stocked up on some snacks, ordered a couple of teas, then found a bus headed for the resort town. It’s fairly easy to get there from Keelung by bus, though you lose a lot of time waiting, and the ride itself is probably going to be around half-an-hour or longer, so it’s best to drive if that’s an option.
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(A few photos of the community I lived in at the time)
When we got there, it was a simple matter of checking in at the various hot-springs and asking around about the best prices in town, as some of the fancier places can be quite pricey. If you have the money, it’s worth it for the experience, but we were on a budget so we went the cheap-route. After looking around we found a decent place for around 250NT for fifty minutes. That was incredibly cheap, and I doubt it’s possible to find a deal like that now. Though it wasn’t the most beautiful place in town, it worked for us!
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(Left: a picture of Jinshan. Just walk around until you find a place that suits your fancy. Right: a beautiful hot-spring resort in Jinshan…not where we went though!)
Quick Tip: For anyone planning to go to a hot-spring in Taiwan, remember to bring your own towel as you will have to buy one from the resort if you need one, and they generally overcharge much more than is reasonable. Also bring water or sports drinks, you’ll need them!
Two things happen every time I visit a hot-spring. 1. I pay for around an hour of soaking time, but usually only use 20-30 minutes of that time. 2. I am completely dead-tired despite doing nothing but sit in water, and I usually sleep like a baby on the bus ride home. This time was no exception, but it took a considerable amount of effort to get there, so we decided to check out a famous temple in the area
The Eighteen Kings Temple shí bā wáng gōng 十八王公 is not far from Jinshan, so we decided to take a bus over and check it out. The temple is situated along the coast, and the waves can be big and scary on a windy day. The temple is famous due to the story of a fisherman and his dog. The fisherman drowned at sea, but his dog survived. Being the loyal animal it is, the dog jumped down into the grave the local people dug for the fisherman, not wanting to be separated from its master. Now people come there and make offerings to the dog and pray. It’s a really cool place to visit, and just goes to show how awesome dogs are!
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(People come here from all over to pray and make offerings)
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(The dog that made this place famous!)
After leaving the temple, we once again got on a bus and headed back to Keelung…only after a while we realized that I had left my camera and we got off and tried to walk back to get it. We were a long way off at this point, but no buses were coming, so we just started walking, and the creepiest ting happened. After a while we looked back and we noticed that as we walked under the street lamps they were turning off, one-by-one, but all of the ones ahead of us were still lit. It was super creepy, just like something out of a scary movie!
About half-way back to the temple we came across a middle aged man parked on the side of the road. He had been fishing and was putting his catch in his trunk. We asked him how much further up the road the temple was, and he told us it was still pretty far, and offered to drop us off there. We took him up on his offer and got in the car. While driving, I remember him constantly muttering to himself, and given the setting and the lights from before, it was quite a strange encounter.
He dropped us off at the temple and we asked around if anyone had found a camera..,but no one had. After taking one last look around we headed back to the bus stop to wait for the next bus back to Keelung. I  might have lost my camera, but I gained an interesting story to tell along the way. Too bad about all of the pictures I took though!
So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this story, and I’d love to hear you share your own interesting stories or experiences in the comments below. See you next time!

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Chinese phrases of the day:

搭便車= hitch-hiking

基隆= Keelung

溫泉= hot-spring

金山= Jinshan

十八王公= The Eighteen Kings Temple

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Wedding Crashers!

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(Ruby and I preparing for the wedding…not ours, at least not yet!)

Not too long ago, Ruby and I were invited to her friend’s wedding hūn lĭ 婚禮. This was the third wedding I’d been invited to since I’ve been in Taiwan, so I knew more or less what to expect. There are lots of interesting traditions that accompany wedding ceremonies in Taiwan, though in recent years do to Western influences, many of these have changed. For example, long ago, one of the things that was expected of the bride was for her to hand-sew her own wedding gown, wear a traditional head-dress fèng guàn 鳳冠. Nowadays people just don’t do that, who has the time? But some traditional observances have survived.

For example, rather than giving presents to the bride and groom as we do in the west, friends and family give the couple red envelopes hóng bāo 紅包 when they sign in the guest book, and don’t be offended or shocked when the family records how much you gave, it’s part of the traditional culture so the bride and groom will know how to appropriately show their gratitude. Of course, close friends and family are expected to give more, and the minimum acceptable amount is typically 1200NT or about 36USD.

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(This is a picture of one of the red envelopes you give/receive at a Chinese wedding. The picture was taken from here.)

Before we even get as far as the wedding, it is still commonly expected of the groom to ask the bride’s family for permission to marry her, and often pay a dowry. The bride’s parents use this money to buy furniture and other necessities for the newly-wed couple, so the dowry is mostly a symbol that the groom will be financially able to provide for their daughter.

Once the parents have agreed to the marriage, the family then consults the traditional lunar calendar to choose an auspicious date for the wedding. Then they have an engagement party , which is paid for by the bride’s family, but when it comes time for the big day, the groom has to foot the whole bill! This is a little different from the way we do things back home!

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(A few shots of the venue, it was pretty darn fancy!)

At the wedding, which is usually held at a hotel or a restaurant rather than a church, there are lots of activities and games. One of the activities at this past wedding we attended was a guessing game. When we first entered we selected one of several colors of paper to write our name on then stuff them into their respective jar, and hopefully guess the bride’s second gown color correctly(the bride typically changes twice during the ceremony). The bride and the groom pull out slips of paper and lucky winners get to go to the front of the banquet room and offer words of congratulations, pose for a picture and claim a prize! We didn’t win, but I won’t hold it against those who did.

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(Ruby, at the entrance to the hotel. She makes those flowers look bad!)

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(the table where we guessed the bride’s dress color, and the guest book)

Another one of the activities was played later on. Everyone had a box of candy at their spot at their table, and those who had a sticker on the bottom we the lucky winners of a memorial pin of the couple’s wedding…Ruby was a winner this time, and I’m still jealous! These are just a few examples, but there are tons of possible activities. There is also usually a slide-show showing the couple’s story and their pictures over the years.

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(Ruby’s prize-winning bear)

If you have been to a lot of Western weddings, one thing you may notice missing is a wedding cake, but don’t worry, you will have your choice of traditional dishes, and at the end of the ceremony the newlywed couple will present you with a box of gourmet cookies xĭ bĭng 囍餅! The character is made by joining two of the character  , which means happiness, which makes sense, because your wedding should be the happiest day of your life, right? It’s not uncommon for newlywed couples to be given lots of gifts with on them, like napkins or coffee mugs for example.

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(The happy newlywed couple)

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Taiwanese wedding, take it, it will be an interesting memory that you will cherish for the rest of your life.

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(That was fun. Not long before It’s our turn too!)

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Chinese phrases of the day:

婚禮= wedding

鳳冠= a traditional wedding headdress

紅包=red envelope(s)

訂婚=engagement

囍餅=the cookies that are given to friends and family of the bride at a wedding

=a combination of two of the character , which means happiness (used for weddings)

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No Hitching, Just Hiking: Part 3 獅頭山

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If you missed it, check out the first two posts in this three-part series here and here! And now, for the grand finale…
On Sunday I went with a group of friends to go exploring in shī tóu shān 獅頭山, Lion-Head Mountain. The mountain park is huge and borders both Xinzhu and Miaoli Counties. Just as any good adventure, we went in with only a vague idea of what we were doing and where we would end up, and as usual, Taiwan did not disappoint.
The most challenging part of the day was getting to 獅頭山, which isn’t easy if you don’t have a car, but it is manageable. We took a shuttle-bus from Zhongli to the Taoyuan HSR station and bought our tickets. Honestly, this was part of the fun of the trip in itself, as I had never been on the HSR (High-speed rail) in all of my time in Taiwan. We didn’t get seats, and surprisingly had to stand, which I would have thought was not allowed, but I’m not going to complain as it was just a ten minute train ride to the Xinzhu HSR station(the normal train is around an hour). From the HSR station, we went and hopped on a shuttle-bus to the 獅頭山 visitors’ center. The tickets ran us 100NT a person and included round-trip fare(though be careful, the last bus back is at 6pm).
Once in the park, we visited the visitors’ and got maps of the local attractions, then we hit the trails!
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(Check in at the visitors’ center to get a map)
It was a surprisingly hot day, but luckily I had sunscreen this time. The hike up the main trail was not very difficult, though it was pretty steep. It took us well under an hour to climb. Along the way were tons of smaller side-trails and temples, but we didn’t check them out this time, as we had thought we would see them on the way back, but plans have a way of changing. More to explore next time!
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(on the way up)
At one point at the top of the trail, you have an awesome view of the mountains and a giant Buddha in the distance. And then you head down a trail, into the jungle and towards the mountain’s main attraction.
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(You can just make out the giant Buddha in the distance…grab a hiking stick if you need one, you’re not there yet!)
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(Descend through the jungle, and you will be well rewarded!)
After hiking through the peaceful forest trail, you come out into a clearing where you find yourself dwarfed by the area’s huge temple, which is carved out of the face of a cliff. This place has such an incredible view of the surrounding mountains, and it’s unreal to think about the manpower and dedication that went into building it.
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(Go ahead, soak-up the view!)
We rested at the top and enjoyed the view for a bit, then we went into the temple and burned incense and I explained some of the traditional religious practices to my friends before we left.
We headed down to the lower levels and were pleasantly surprised to see a group of musicians playing traditional music in a pagoda by the cliff-edge, as well as a store selling many traditional items, such as paper money for burnt-offerings and intricately detailed folded-paper dragons and boats for the same purpose.
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(A good chance to take a look at the traditional side of Chinese culture)
By this time we were hungry, so we followed the signs to the temple’s restaurant. The meal was delicious and inexpensive, only costing us 600NT for five people. And the food was vegetarian, naturally, as we were in a temple! There are also rooms available for travelers who want to stay the night and watch the sunset in the majestic mountains.
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(You’ll be hungry when you make it up here!)
Wile we were up-top, we spotted a giant Buddha statue in the distance and decided that we wanted to get a closer look.
We hiked down to the road level and found a bus to the 獅頭山 visitors’ center, then took two other buses to get to Emei Lake é méi hú 峨眉湖, the home of the giant Maitreya Buddha.
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(A view of the temple from down below, the bus stop is down here)
It was difficult getting there without a car, and in hindsight I think that a cab ride would have been far more practical, but that’s what made it an adventure!
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(Nice country roads the bus will take you down as you go to Emei Lake)
Unfortunately you are not allowed to go into the enclosure where the Buddha stands unless in a tour group, and there weren’t any when we were there. The Buddha easily dwarfs the nearby building, which is massive in its own right, and there are lots of other impressive sculptures in the surrounding area, but they pale in comparison.
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(That’s one big Buddha!)
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(The sign above the entrance says “the world is one family”…that includes pigs too!)
The area surrounding the Buddha was originally built as a reservoir, though it is no longer used as such, and there is a nice trail which you can follow around the lake and across a suspension bridge, though it was under renovation when we were there so we couldn’t take a closer look. Still, it was worth the trip to see a Buddha statue that is taller than the Statue of Liberty!
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(The world is in the palm of his hand)
Check out the rest of the pictures here!
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How To Get There:
Lion-Head Mountain- The easiest way to get here is by car, but you can also take a bus from the Xinzhu HSR station directly.
Emei Lake- It’s tricky getting here without transportation, I suggest taking a bus from the Lion-Head Mountain visitors’ center and then switching buses, or take a taxi
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Chinese phrases of the day:
獅頭山= Lion-Head Mountain
峨眉湖= Emei Lake
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Double Down! 雙十節

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Last Thursday  was guó qìng jié 國慶節 Taiwan’s Independence Day, also known as shuāng shí jié 雙十節 Double Ten Day because it is celebrated on October tenth, 10/10. Besides the holiday though, there is another reason that this was a special day for Ruby and I. It was our four-year anniversary nián jì niàn 年紀念! She’s the love of my life; she’s beautiful and she can put-up with my terrible jokes and childish antics. What more could a guy ask for?

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(She’s my pride and joy!)

So, to celebrate we did something we haven’t done in a while and we decided to take a day trip to one of the island’s many scenic mountain areas…Nanzhuang.

To get there we took a train to Zhunan and then took a shuttle bus over to the Nanzhuang old street in the mountains of Miaoli county. The bus station is directly across the street from the train station and opposite from the 7-11. The tickets ran us 100NT per person and gave us day passes to take the bus to three destinations: nán zhuāng lăo jiē 南庄老街 Nanzhuang old street, xiàng tiān hú 向天湖 Xiangtian lake, and xiān shān 仙山 Xian Mountain. What a bargain!
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(Here I am, at the Zhunan train station)
The bus ride to Nanzhuang took about 40 minutes, and when we got there we checked out the visitors’ center which had a lot of information on the surrounding tourist spots, as well as a little about the local aboriginal tribes yuán zhù míng de bù luò 原著名的部落 and their history. We chatted with the staff to find our next bus, which was just out front, and we headed out to the aboriginal village and culture center at Xiantian lake.
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(This is where the bus drops you off, it’s also where you can catch a bus to the local attractions, or back to Zhunan station)
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(Here’s a map of the bus route and the local sights, but also make sure to grab a copy from the information center)
The bus ride to the village was worth the trip alone to catch a glimpse of the scenery as we slowly snaked our way up the mountain road. It was like we were in another country, or world.
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(It is just amazing up there in the mountains!)
When you enter the village there are several stands where you can get some aboriginal snacks, such as wild-boar sausage and mă gào dàn 馬告蛋, eggs marinated in mă gào 馬告, a really fragrant type of seeds that the local sài xià zú 賽夏族 Saisiyat tribe uses for seasoning many of their dishes.
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(This stuff tastes so good, I had to learn the secret recipe!)
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(And here it is! 馬告!)
I have a feeling that they don’t get many foreign visitors, as one young aboriginal girl kept marveling over my hair, asking me why it wasn’t black and if I had dyed it. I am used to this kind of stuff, especially as I live in a county area, though not to this extreme.  This just multiplied the feeling that, even though people were speaking Mandarin and there were plenty of Taiwanese tourists around us, we were no longer in Taiwan!
Another thing that the aboriginal people in this area are famous for is honey, and you could see lots of beehives with swarms of bees, placated by the strongly scented smoke that was burning by their homes.
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(There were lots of bee-keepers and people selling honey in the village)
As we went through the village and looked through the different stalls, we eventually came to the lake which this place was named after. It was a beautiful lake, and there was a tree-shrouded path that led around it. It was a relaxing hike, and any direction that you looked you had beautiful scenery popping out at you, be it the lake itself, the flowers and trees, or the gorgeous mountain backdrop that overshadowed it all. It was fantastic!
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(The walk around the lake is a great escape)
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(Just taking in the natural beauty)
When we had made our way around the lake, we came to an aboriginal culture center which displayed a lot of beautiful handmade artifacts that the Saisiyat people had used to do anything from carrying children to farming. Practically everything was woven from grass or made from bamboo, and the craftsmanship was impressive. There was even a traditional bamboo house with many artifacts on display for viewing, though, unfortunately, taking photographs was not allowed in the museum.
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(The aboriginal culture center is definitely worth a visit)
One interesting display described the tribes origins, and the myth surrounding how their people came to be in that area.
After finishing up I’m the village, we waited for the bus and headed to the nearby Donghe suspension bridge dōng hé diào qiáo 東河吊橋. The bridge is massive and it is quite thrilling(and a little scary) when it wobbles and springs up and down as you cross. The view of the river below was just awesome from the middle, and on the other side was the head of a promising hiking trail.
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(You’re not supposed to run on these things, but I was too excited to see the view!)
After hiking a ways up, however, we realized it just led to some lucky people’s homes. Though I bet there is a trail if you continue on back there,  we chose to turn back and catch the bus back into Nanzhuang.
While we waited for the bus, we walked around the area and took a look at a few interesting pieces of aboriginal art, and perused a gift shop where the local people sold their handmade bamboo crafts. The homes in the area were beautiful and the people were very friendly, and I really envy them their beautiful mountain home, but it was time for us to head back into the hubbub of modern civilization.
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(We didn’t get to take photos in the museum, but there was plenty to photo here!)
By the time we got back to the old street, we were starving and immediately got in line at the first stand we saw.
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(They sell the best huā shēng bīng qí lín juăn bĭng 花生冰淇淋捲餅 I have ever had!)
The entrance to the old street is really narrow, but it opens up a bit as you get further inside. Besides the usual snacks, there was one particularly famous stand selling the local specialty, guì huā fĕn yuán bīng 桂花粉圓冰.
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(The local specialty. Make sure to bring home a jar of 桂花 jam to spread on your toast!)
After refueling we found ourselves at the back of the old street, where there was a gigantic temple and a 100 year old post office from the Japanese occupation period. There was also an old school (the sign said 100 years old, though it looks like its been rebuilt) and a 100 year old stone pathway leading down to the street below. This place is old!
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(Taking a break on the temple’s steps)
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(Here we are at the 100 year old post office!)
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(Here’s the old school…)
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(And an even older tree!)
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(This path is over a hundred years old too!)
Unfortunately it was getting dark, so we didn’t have time to go out to Xian Mountain, but I don’t mind. It just gives us a reason to go back! Before heading back, we checked out one last suspension bridge in the surrounding area, and then used our day passes to head back to the train station. It was a great day, and I slept like a baby on the way home. Who knew having fun took so much energy?
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(Taking one last photo in front of the visitors’ center before leaving)
Check out the rest of the photos here!
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How To Get There:
Nanzhuang old street: To get there take a train to Zhunan and then take a shuttle bus over to the Nanzhuang old street. From there you can use your day pass to take busses to the various local attractions. Also, If you stay in a hostel in Nanzhuang, your day pass can be validated for a second day.
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Chinese phrases of the day:
國慶節= National Day
雙十節= Double Ten Day
年紀念= anniversary
南庄老街= Nanzhuang old street
向天湖= Xiangtian lake
仙山= Xian Mountain
原著名的部落= Aboriginal tribe(s)
馬告= a seed that the Saisiyat people use for seasoning their food
賽夏族= the Saisiyat tribe
東河吊橋= Donghe suspension bridge
桂花粉圓冰= an iced desert consisting of chevy balls of cooked flour and covered with osmanthus jelly
花生冰淇淋捲餅= a ice cream wrap with peanut powder
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Filing Taxes in Taiwan

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Okay, since most of you who will be coming to Taiwan will probably be teaching ESL or doing some other kind of work, I figured I’d outline the tax filing bào shuì 報稅 process for you, since I filed mine the day before  yesterday, for the second time this year.

Taxes are filed  in May, and the process is generally really easy, though not all schools will tell you how to handle it, even if it’s your first year in Taiwan.  All you have to do is take your W2(the Taiwanese equivalent at least), your passport and ARC down to your local tax office and pull a number and wait in line at the counter that handles alien taxation (no, not aliens like the ones that built the pyramids, alien as in foreigner!).
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I have filed taxes in 4 different cities here, and I find that the quality of service varies (one guy made me do all of the counting, and one guy seemed like he couldn’t count himself!) but I have found that overall the tax clerks have been very helpful. You may even end up working for a school that handles your taxes(not ideal, in my opinion), in which case you may never have to see the inside of a tax office.

 

There is also an e-filing service, though I would not recommend using it (it was really buggy when I tried to use it a few years ago, and I ended up having to go into the office anyway!).
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Other than all of that, I’ll leave you with a few pros and cons to chew on.

 

Pros:
1. Foreigners can file their taxes a few months early and get their tax returns faster than locals.
2. It is really easy to file taxes in Taiwan, and the tax office clerks usually help you with all of the hard parts, and will tell you about things you can deduct (such as rent, depending on your income).
3. You can get your return even faster if you use direct deposit

 

Cons:
1. The e-filing service is not very user friendly.
2. Foreigners cannot file by mail, though Taiwanese can.
3. If you are leaving Taiwan, you will be able to file for a return, though you will not be able to use direct deposit (you will need to sign a waiver to allow a friend to pick up the return for you).
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Chinese phrases of the day:
報稅= file/declare taxes
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No Hitching, Just Hiking: Part 2 七星山

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This past Thursday, I went to Yangming Mountain Park with a few friends. This place is huge, the air is fresh and the scenery is beautiful. There are tons of hiking trails, hot springs and scenery to take in, and it’s also a famous place to go to see Taiwan’s national flower, the beautiful plum-blossom méi huā 梅花, and many others when they bloom in the spring.

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(Ruby and I with some beautiful plum blossoms…not at Yangming Mountain Park though!)

But we didn’t wake-up at 5AM to take the train from Zhongli to Taipei just to see a bunch of flowers! Our mission was hiking to the tallest peak in the park, qī xīng shān 七星山 Seven-Star Mountain.

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(A shot of the train station in the early morning)

 

We took the hóng 紅15 bus from MRT Jiantan Station which goes directly to the trail head. On my previous visit, I had taken bus number 260 from Taipei Main Station and switched busses at the Yangming Mountain Park visitors’ center. Either way will work fine, depending on your plans.

 

This was my first time taking a bus directly to 七星山 though, and like any good adventure, it was a little chaotic. When we got off the bus, the sky looked really gloomy, and before we had figured out where the trail was, it started raining heavily. Luckily we were right next to a free wēn quán 溫泉 hot spring, and we were faced with a choice. We could either climb-up into the mountains in the pouring rain and freeze our butts off, or we could soak in the hot spring for a bit and wait the weather out. Easy choice, only there was an unexpected surprise…
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(The hot spring from out front)
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(The hot spring is on the other side…a naked hot spring. I had no idea it was going to be this kind of party!)

 

After relaxing in the hot spring, we decided to figure out where to go and asked around a bit. Eventually we took a bus back to the visitors center and got on another bus to take us to the trail head. We got off at the deceptively named 七星山 stop, which was nowhere near the mountain, and we had to walk for a bit before coming to the trail.

 

I had done this hike a few years earlier in the hottest part of the summer with my fiancé, Ruby, but it was a totally different animal this time. Hiking in the summer’s heat made it a lot more difficult and exhausting, but this time it felt rather easy and it only took about an hour-and-a-half up and down, whereas it had probably taken around three hours total the last time. As you climb up, you can see tons of sulfur deposits and it feels like you’ve traveled to another planet.
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(This sign talks about the volcanoes in the area which we owe the hotsprings to!)
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(A few pictures of the misty mountain)

 

I had wanted to make this hike again because the last time I was there, my camera’s batteries died when I got to the peak, and I was hoping to take a few pictures of the scenery from the top this time. Nature was conspiring against me, however, as the higher we went the foggier it got. we could barely see anything. And after a while the wind picked up and I felt like I was going to be blown away!
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(They were building a new rest area and had left all of the tools out. This is when the wind picked up!)
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(Here I am at the top. Couldn’t really see much that day)

 

After hanging out at the top for a bit, we made our way back down the other side of the mountain and checked out the other peak. The scenery was spectacular and it was a fairly easy hike down. Embarrassingly, the trail ended just by the Lengshuikeng hot spring where we had started off at!
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(Soaking our feet in the hot spring water)  

 

Unfortunately the hot spring was closed for cleaning, though we soaked our feet in a natural hot spring pool just out front. It was cold, windy and we were hungry, but it was another amazing day in Taiwan.
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Check out the rest of the pictures here!
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How To Get There:
Yangming Mountain Park- Take bus number 260 from Taipei Main Station (outside the South exit)
七星山– Take the bus at the Yangming Mountain Park visitor’s center, or alternatively take the 紅15 from MRT Jiantan station
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Chinese phrases of the day:
梅花= plum blossom(s)
七星山= Seven-Star Mountain
溫泉= hot spring(s)
= red
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