Yangmingshan Part 2

IMG_4655

Yangmingshan vegetable paddies

It’s Friday, and that means Aunt 1 wants to go up to her weekend house in Yangmingshan again. Today, instead of heading straight to the house, we actually went up for lunch first. At first I didn’t even know where we were headed…just knew that we were heading quite deep into the mountain. Eventually we branched off from the main road, the passing cars became scarcer and scarcer, and the buildings became more squat and rustic. Suddenly we broke out from the tree canopy into a scene that looked like something straight out of a Chinese kung fu movie. We were in a plateau cradled in the midst of the Yangmingshan mountains—a flat expanse of plant terraces lush with calla lilies and vibrant vegetables as far as the eye can see.

IMG_4667

We walked down a winding path that went straight through the plant terraces, and right in the middle of the field of greens, there was a quaint little restaurant run by a friend of my aunt’s. It was completely empty inside, so we had privacy to chat as we liked.

IMG_4694

Long, winding path through the veggies

IMG_4671

The “restaurant” hut

IMG_4622IMG_4642

While we waited for the dishes to come out I explored around the immediate area…

IMG_4661

IMG_4669

Huge (~3’ long) winter gourds in the back…

IMG_4624

Veggie paddies forever…

IMG_4678

The dishes were served up super hot and fresh, and many of the vegetables were home-grown.  Crisp bamboo stir-fry with mild chili and sesame oil pork:

IMG_4643

Left: stir-fried bamboo; right: sesame pork

Delicately soft steamed fish:

IMG_4647

Special preserved winter gourd to flavor white rice.  Strong fermented flavor and very salty. (It came in one small block but my grandma split it up before I could get a good picture).

IMG_4652

After the very satisfying meal, we dropped into a garden store on the street.

IMG_4697

It was filled with lots of random cute odds and ends for the garden.

IMG_4710

Sunlight-activated bouncy dolls.

IMG_4703

Lots of Asian-sized plants.

IMG_4700

Plant-able beans with words like “happiness,” “good luck,” etc…

IMG_4721

A pond lily with way too many bugs in it:

IMG_4727

We then went to the house and I took a few nice pictures of the view:

IMG_4783

The living room (and grandma):

IMG_4748

Some bedrooms:

IMG_4744

IMG_4739

There was no wifi yet since the house is very new, so I edited some video footage offline with the great view as the backdrop.

IMG_4753

Watch the Yangmingshan Pt. 2 vlog!:

I’ve finally put up a few videos so you can go check it out at the Youtube link at the top of the page will take you directly to my channel.  Feel free to let me know if there’s anything I can improve on or if there’s something you want to see in future posts. Until next time!

First post: Welcome to the motherland

taipei 101

The countdown is over and I am finally starting my 3-and-a-half month trip overseas. After so many weeks of anticipation, even my initial arrival at LAX gave me goosebumps. This will be my first real dabble in independence. Even though I lived away from home throughout college, I always made sure to visit often to check up on my parents and my dogs— I’ve never truly been away from home for such an extended period of time…not to mention being in a foreign country.

LAX → Taoyuan International Airport is a grueling 13 hours, nonstop. On a long flight like this, exit row and bulkhead seats with extra leg room are basically the best spots in the cabin, as they have the most leg room, offer quicker exit at the end of the flight, and are often closest to the bathrooms—everyone wants these seats! I was exceptionally lucky to get transferred to an exit row seat when I checked in. These seats aren’t available for reservation directly online, since several requirements must be met (over the age of 15, responsible for emergency exit duty, single traveler), and I only got the chance to transfer since I was one of the first in line to check in.

I was happy to see that Eva Airline had an extensive entertainment system comprised of a touch tablet that included movies, music, TV shows, games, and shopping. There was even a USB port for popping in your personal material. I watched two movies from their library and played sudoku during breakfast.

And the food….I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious everything was.

Dinner: parmesan chicken with mushroom rice pilaf and broccoli, bread roll, smoked salmon with dijon potato salad, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, dragon fruit cake

20150820_200256

Breakfast: congee with ground pork and veggies, bread roll, green beans, pineapple and orange

20150821_052635

Even with the spacious seat, variety of entertainment options, and good food, I was still so tired and so dead at the end of the flight. I always find it difficult to really fall asleep on a flight, and this time was no exception. I think I only “slept” for at most 4 hours. I looked like a disaster at the end of it, with a tangled nest of limp hair and dark eye bags no amount of concealer could hide. It was already 11:30 PM by the time I exited the arrival gate, and I can’t even describe how grateful I was to my aunt and my cousin for being there to pick me up at that late hour.

Nevertheless I am finally overseas in the land of my ancestors…Taiwan! I am so excited to be here—it’s wet and crazy humid and everything kind of has this Asiany smell…I love it all. The next day my aunt took my grandma, my cousin, and I out to her house in Yangmingshan mountain for the weekend. During the drive the bright sunlight suddenly morphed into pelting rain at some point—the first signs of the incoming typhoon. Boy, do Taiwanese people whip out their umbrellas fast. At the first signs of rain, everyone outside was suddenly brandishing a colorful umbrella or wearing a rain poncho as if they had sprouted out of their hands at the sense of wetness.

typhoon umbrellas

Taiwan is also the Land of Mopeds. There are mopeds everywhere, and everyone rides them, even dogs. Literally saw a dog riding on the floor of a moped today like nobody’s business. Yeah I know, pics or it ain’t real, right? But unfortunately that particular moped passed by so quickly I couldn’t get my phone out fast enough. Also, my DSLR is currently out of service just because I couldn’t find its battery charger anywhere in the house before I left, and also it’s got the dreaded Error 99 that I still need to troubleshoot once I have a good battery in. It’s part of the reason I feel so off here…I desperately want to record everything, but there’s only so much I can do with a cell phone camera, and I am still easing into using a camcorder 😦

Anyway, my aunt’s house in Yangmingshan is absolutely beautiful. As with most houses in Taipei, it’s apartment style (because unlike suburbs in America there are just so many people and there is no space for regular houses), and it has AMAZING views. The whole unit is spotless white marble and minimalist elegance with huge floor length windows in every room that basically blow up your retinas with the magnificant sight of a vividly green and lush Yangmingshan mountain outside. Further words won’t really do much justice to how beautiful it was so I’m inserting a few pictures of the apartment. Sorry, since my DSLR is out I had to pull these pics from my videos and they’re quite blurry.

living room pool

SO…that’s it for now. I am trying to withhold on too much blogging until I get my life here in order (aka get a charger for my camera) just because I want to do this properly and that requires more legit pictures! But yeah, be at ease friends, I am alive and well in Taiwan but the real challenge ahead lies in figuring out how to navigate the public transportation system o.O I promise next time I’ll have better pictures to show!