Monday, May 30, 2011

Dream Vacation

George and I had the chance of a lifetime! A few years ago, we decided we wanted to go on a trip to visit Taiwan. George had served his mission there and loved it. He hadn't kept in touch with anyone really, so we were just going to see everything we could. Well, this year, George's dad retired and made it sound like he would be happy to keep our kids for some amount of time:), so we decided to do it! My parents watched 2 kids, and George's parents watched 2 kids. Everyone was exhausted by the end...including us!

I am going to attempt to tell about our vacation through the pictures. Nothing will be in order because I can't figure out how to switch pics around on blogger, but you'll get the idea. And if you get tired of all the details, sorry! This is also my only journal entry:)

About halfway through our trip, we visited Taroko Gorge. This was an amazing adventure! It was also a 2 hour train trip to the eastern coast of the island of Taiwan. This was a view outside of our train window...a rice paddy full of scarecrows! And they were needed.

This was another view out of our train window. An island in the Pacific Ocean called Turtle Island. Can you see the turtle? Hard to tell which end was which:)

The food situation was a little bit depressing for me. I had done some research about good restaurants and had a big list of places in Taipei. There were a few problems. #1-We were too tired to "go" anywhere to eat. Once we were at our place to visit, we would go until we were starving and then have to find somewhere really quick. #2-Geo's chinese speaking skills are really good. Vocabulary and reading skills, slow and not as good. Which means, if we went to a restaurant with a sizeable menu (which all of them were), I would want George to read me the whole menu and this was just too hard. So, he could tell me what the main part was, usually pork or chicken, but not much else. #3-Nice sit down restaurants were expensive and we were trying to eat cheap. Anyway, the first night, we ate at a nicer Teppanyaki place, got food we didn't care for and it was even more expensive than we would have paid here in the US! Sad. So, I was a little disappointed, but I did find some things I loved, and that helped:)

The above picture was the "mission" reminiscent meal. We went to the local grocery and Geo picked up a curry package, rice noodles, and frozen dumplings and fresh pineapple. He cooked it all up and it was the only meal we ate in our apartment. Very good!

This was one thing I loved...a sweet bread filled with red beans. Sounds crazy, but oh! So GOOD!
I also had what looked like a huge cinnamon roll that was filled with red beans. Yum! George did not go for these, too weird, I guess. That was ok. More for me!

This picture is a little disgusting, but this was another one of our faves. It was called cong zhua bing. It was like an onion bread in a pancake shape. They fried an egg, put cooked lettuce on top, put that all on the pancake ad folded it like a taco. We liked it best with no egg or lettuce, just the pancake. We ate these 3 times:) Some of the other things we ate: Ba-lah (I loved this...a fruit like an unripe pear covered in a spice that I have no idea what it cinnamon? I could have eaten this all day!) Beef Noodle Soup- we found this on some back road alley (really, it was like walking into somebody's back door into their really small kitchen). Bao-this was a steamed bun with stuff inside. Very tasty. Subway and McDonalds- we couldn't help this..we were starving for familiar food on day #1 so we found a Subway and we met up with George's brother at a McDonalds and were pretty hungry, so we ate there.

This was a picture of a "may-may", the Chinese word for little sister. George has these wonderful memories of little may-mays and how cute they were. This little girl was twirling in the rain, so I took her pic. Her mom gave us permission, but she was not thrilled. This was the reaction we got from most children in Taiwan. But when they smiled, oh, how adorable these children were!
These pictures were of a very touristy Taiwan temple called Longshan. It was interesting to see the worship of this totally foreign-to-me religion. People go here to pray to and worship their ancestors and also some other Gods and Goddesses. This was not a Buddist temple, though we did see some of those. The statues here were of Heavenly Mother and the goddess of the sea, I believe. People would bring food on special plates and put it out on long tables for their ancestors to eat the "spirit" of the food. After a specific amount of time, they could then take it back home and eat it. This was so strange to me. I saw plates of fresh fruit, cookies, and Doritos. I guess you would buy what you would want to eat in the end. They also all were burning incense. This represents prayers going up to the ancestors or gods. When you walked back to where there were many people worshipping, the smell was really intense!

This was a place you would stick your incense sticks in so they would stand upright and continue to smoke.
This is a symbol of good luck. We saw these everywhere...also at our local Chinese restaurant here!

We rode a glass bottomed gondola up and over a few mountains. This was amazing. It was so rainy (EVERYDAY!) and cloudy, but the mist was amazing. We just disappeared into clouds. Really cool!
When we got to the top of the gondola ride, we got out and walked for a very long time on a windy road. We were looking for a temple. Turns out, we were on a loop and had gone the wrong way...we could have gotten there eventually (you know, 8 miles later) but we settled for this Buddist temple pictured above. A man came out and spoke some English to us. He was surprised that we were not from Europe, for some reason.

These two pics are from the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial building. The marble lions are everywhere! They are to protect important buildings, temples, and bridges. We saw a lot of them. They were very cool. This was an interesting plaza. There was some manner of religious ceremony being led here...televised and being performed by many men and women following some guy in a blue suit. They were all in clear ponchos, except the man leading them. He had a guy holding an umbrella over his head. On either side of this very serious service were multiple groups of young teens practicing for a hip-hop dance competition happening on another building on this plaza. Modern meets ancient. It was fun to watch!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

So excited!

I will blog about it in about 10 days. Or maybe you already know:)
Anyway, so excited!