Longshan Temple – Taipei, Taiwan

Even if you only have a half day in Taipei make sure you get to the Longshan Temple!  Its a stunning Buddhist temple with regular visitors and local parishoners.  Founded in 1738 as a haven for Chinese immigrants from Fujian the settlers built Longshan in honor of Kuan-in the Buddhist goddess of mercy.

Long Shao Temple

How to get to Longshan Temple
MRT Station: Longshan Station
Hours: 6am to 10pm
Fee: Free

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Longshan (alternately spelled Lungshan) was erected in the Manka district of Taipei.  It was dedicated after the Lungshan temple in their home town and aptly named for the root temple.

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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

A bullet train to Tokyo, where weirdness is only trumped by deliciousness

Shinkansen to Tokyo

_DSC0514After spending the weekend in Shimanto City made our way to Tokyo for a 48 hour stay.  My travel buddies Susan and Steph joined me for what_DSC0519would be a LONG train ride, the first 5 hours of gorgeous rivers, forests and ocean views were on a standard train before we were able to transfer to the Shinkansen, more commonly known as the bullet train.  Riding the bullet train is quite a novelty, it feels like you are in an airplane gliding over the ground with port holes slightly larger and more comfortable seats too.  Accelerating in and out of each station gives a little sense of wonder but the craziest part is trying to find a seat.

 

 

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We had unreserved seats and swayed back and forth walking down the aisle.  As the train came to the next turn I had to brace myself on the seats nearby in this 320 km/h (200 mph) journey.  Napping and writing the time away we finally arrived in Tokyo, grabbed a subway card for ¥500 ($5) and charged it with about ¥2000 ($20).  We were told that should be enough for a day or two and we ended up only needed to add a few more dollars.

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Mt. Fuji from the bullet train aka Shinkansen

The subway itself is slightly confusing; its owned by multiple different companies and depending on where and how you buy the ticket you may not be allowed to ride certain trains.  Suicide doors in almost every station keep people away from the tracks and everyone lines up allowing passengers to disembark before they get on.  Its safe, clean and on time but the lack of cooperation between subway lines was frustrating and the best thing to do for directions is find a good app. Android’s Tokyo Subway Navigation worked wonders for me and I highly recommend it for anyone visiting Tokyo!

Advertisement in the Tokyo subway

Advertisement in the Tokyo subway


Asakusa, Tokyo_DSC0565

_DSC0630Next stop was Asakusa where we would spend a few nights at the Asakusa Khaosan Ryokan Hostel.  Susan, Steph and I joined our buddy Blaine and split a 4 “bed” private room.  The beds were actually just mattresses on the floor but were immensely comfortable and at roughly ¥160 a night split 4 ways it was one of the cheapest options in Tokyo.

Asakusa is a quaint part of Tokyo with many restaurants and a bustling market.  The market goes from the main road to the Sensoji Temple with many shops along the way.  These stalls sell everything from touristy knick knack souvenirs to delicious snacks and even samurai swords!  Be sure to check out the kooky mask selection and taste the local treats before venturing to the incense filled temple for a cleansing of your mind and body!  As Tokyo’s oldest temple, Sensoji is worth checking out.

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Market near Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo

 

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Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple

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Korean Photo Contest

I need your help; I’m submitting some photos for a Korean Tourism Photo contest and can’t decide which photos to use! I narrowed it down to 10 choices but can only submit 5 photos. What are your favorites (pick up to 5)?

Gyeongbukgung at Night #1

#1 Gyeongbukgung at Night #1

Gyeongbukgung at Night #2

#2 Gyeongbukgung at Night #2

Gyeongbukgung in Spring

#3 Gyeongbukgung in Spring

Hiking Seoraksan

#4 Hiking Seoraksan

Jirisan Reflection #1

#5 Jirisan Reflection #1

Jirisan Reflection #2

#6 Jirisan Reflection #2

Night Hiking Achasan

#7 Night Hiking Achasan

Seoraksan's Dinosaur Ridge #1

#8 Seoraksan’s Dinosaur Ridge #1

Atop Namsan

#9 Guarding Namsan

Bukhansan's crow flies into the sun

#10 Bukhansan’s crow flies into the sun

 

Hiking Namsan in Gyeongju – Seoul Hiking Group

A few weekends ago I took my second trip with Seoul Hiking Group to Gyeongju.  Our first night we stayed in a Yangdong, a lovely hanok village before moving on to the southern city famous for its ancient history and modern beauty.  A shoutout to Warren, Diana and Breanne for organizing another great event! Gyeongju is a former capital in South Korea and holds a wonderful heritage.  Exploring Yangdong was a great way to get started before heading to Namsan mountain.  (yeah its different from the Namsan in Seoul I saw with my students).  Gyeongju’s Namsan is a great hike boasting wooded pathways, ancient Buddhas and royal tombs. _DSC1150 _DSC1153 _DSC0966 We started out strolling along a path and quickly came to a series 3 royal tombs.  Korean tradition is to build these massive mounds for their ancient rulers and they can be found all over Gwangju. _DSC0970 Back on the trail we walked past ancient sculptures as the path became less obvious.  Flowers were in bloom throughout the mountain providing a colorful spritz to each scene.

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_DSC0988 _DSC0990 After crossing a stream we found the first fork and followed Warren’s advice taking a left quickly discovering an intricate carving.  The Three Buddha carving is famous in the area and hundreds of years old! _DSC0998 _DSC0999 _DSC1007 _DSC1014

 

The path continued and Spring grew ever more evident.  Before long we found our first view of the valley so of course I climbed a boulder and struck a pose!

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