A weekend in Taipei, Taiwan

A weekend is just enough to get a taste of Taiwan and realize you want to go back again before you’ve even left.  Taipei has an excellent public transit system, free wifi and lots of cultural & crazy experiences.  Here’s a quick preview of Ronda and my trip as we met my college buddy Andrew (who flew in from Japan with a few other friends).


Night Markets

If there’s one thing that Taiwan is known for its certainly the diversity of its night markets.  We stopped by at least 3 different markets and although some were “the biggest” or “best” according to a guidebook we found them all to be wonderful.  They sported an assortment of sights and smells including the infamous “stinky tofu” and all the parts of animals that you may not have wanted to sample.  I highly recommend just about anything on a stick and if you can handle the smell, stinky tofu is a delicacy!

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Night markets are easy to find and almost every subway station has *insert Taiwanese name here* Market listed on the exit signs.  We always felt safe but I advise anyone going to a public place like these market be careful with your valuables!

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Wulai

Wulai is a mountain village boasting the largest waterfall in Taiwan, an abundance of natural hot springs and the opportunity for a jungle adventure.  Luckily its only a 45 minute bus ride from Xiandan station at the end of the Green Subway line.  You can take a taxi for about $600NTD ($20USD) or ride the bus like we did for $15 NTD ($.50 USD).  Once there I recommend taking the cable car over the river to see the waterfall.  It was stunning and I can’t wait to share more; enjoy these photos for now. Continue reading

Flash Mob Pillow Fight – Seoul Flash Mobs

Yes.  We had a pillow fight.  Yes.  It was absolutely and completely epic.  Yes.   You should have been there!

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A few weeks ago I had this stupid idea for all my friends to come and have a pillow fight at the park.  One thing led to another and I created Seoul Flash Mobs.  A few weeks ago we had our inaugural event with a onesie subway ride.  Last Saturday was the real grand opening with the best pillow fight Korea has ever seen!

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Photo by Mark Grybos

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Seoul Flash Mob’s volunteers!

 

One thing led to another and the event went from a hundred or so RSVP’s to over 2,000!  I worked with Minwoo from Seoul Gone Wild & Kiara from Explore Korea to help arrange a new location and set up a crazy after party.  With weeks of anticipation future pillowfighters questioned what the “patriotic panda” signal would be as the organizers made sure the event would remain safe.  No zippers or buttons was an easy sell as a few #sarcastaposts suggested bringing a traditional Korean wooden pillow.

 

Photo by Mohammed Sami

Photo by Mohammed Sami

This video shows the quieter side of things from Korean Videographer Hong Yoon

Check out Symon Powlison & his team of camera men’s epic first person video.  You really feel like you’re in the fight with his vidoe!

 

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My students picked this picture because…

My Korean co-teacher came up to me and asked if it was okay for the students to show me pictures.  I heard him using my name in class and then speaking Korean for the last 15 minutes but thought nothing of it.  But then they explained in English why they choose each picture specifically for me.  It was adorable and its moments like these that makes me love teaching!

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Some of my favorites were:
I picked this picture because…

“You are able to teach us all day everyday” (open 24 hours)
“You love us!” (hugging polar bears)
“You teach us good things but also take away our bad things” (light & dark artistic sphere)
“You always have new ideas to help teach us” (fireworks)
“You like climbing mountains” (2 hikers)
“You have many students and like teaching” (Chinese classroom)
“You teach us and don’t care about money” (foreign currency)
“You are clean and pure.” (glass of water)
“You are perfect!” (bullseye)

Garden of the Morning Calm – Seoul Hiking Group

After an exhausting day and faux-rescue on Wunaksan it was time to relax at Korea’s Garden of the Morning Calm.  This colorful light show reminds many foreigners of Christmas and is fitting to visit in the winter.  Multicolored lights adorn trees and bushes throughout the massive garden.  Its a popular spot for Korean couples who can be seen frolicking hand-in-hand and posing for romantic photos.

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They have everything from love-struck bow & arrows to giant mushrooms, butterflies and other crazy concoctions.  The brilliant display mixes a rainbow of colors with our imagination to create a fantasy wonderland.  Its best to go after sunset so you can get the full experience of tunnels & lighted pathways.  Give yourselves an hour or two to explore but you don’t need all night.  It really is the perfect way to relax after spending your day on the nearby mountains.

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Bukhansan National Park’s highest peak – Baegundae

Last summer I made the responsible (albeit disappointing) choice to skip mudfest in lieu of staying healthy and climbing Bukhansan National Park’s highest peak, Baegundae.  Leaving the following Thursday for an extreme trip through Vietnam  I knew that I didn’t want to fight a multi-day hangover or any bruised limbs from the alcohol supported escapades at one of the dirtiest festivals in the world.  As a result I offered to lead a hike up Baegundae with Seoul Hiking Group.  That’s how Brian and I came to meet some new hiking buddies, Heidi & Jason!

The Korean language barrier presented some difficulties finding the right entrance.  At first we ended up at the same entrance Brian & I had taken a few months back which was a 4 hour trek to the base of Baegundae.  This time we were searching for the 1.5 hour route!  Luckily my Korean was capable enough to buy a map and ask for directions so we quikcly found a cab and arrived at the Baegundae-Sogwicheon Information Center.

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When first stepping on the trail we had roughly 500m of vertical remaining in the 835m climb up Baegundae.  It began as rough cut stone steps and boulders surrounded by th_DSC6490e natural beauty of Bukhansan in the summer.  Green trees with the occasional flower flanked our path as the sweat rolled down our faces.  Jason, a first time hiker was soon converted to a naturalist and took regular breaks to get a full feel for mother nature’s splendor.

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A few minutes in we found ourselves at a “temple.”  It had none of the usual pizazz with a bland roof instead of the typical painted parapet.  We were greeted by two “mountain dogs” as a Korean woman approached.  There was a small antechamber for prayer with a spectacular buddha but otherwise this locale appeared to be the simple residence of these pleasant folk.  We played with the dogs for a few moments and said our thanks before continuing the trek.

 

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