Thailand by iPhone

bangkok by night //  wat arun // heading to the pool // power lines // lanterns in the market

longtail boats // fresh young coconut // longtail to ao nang // cheers // thieving monkeys

railay from the water // beach kittens // husband // cave exploring // sea kayaking

currently on a 48-hour layover at home in Taiwan. basically, enough time for a load of laundry and a fresh coat of nailpolish before we head off to the Phillipines. there's no way I'll be able to go through and edit all the pictures I took before then, so today you get a smattering of phone photos. enjoy!


all my bags are packed.


I am a notoriously bad packer. I usually write a list of what I plan to bring... and then totally don't follow it when it comes time to put things in a bag. the actual act of packing takes me forever. hours. I get distracted and start doing things unrelated to packing. like cleaning my bathroom, editing photos, or painting my nails. and then by the time I'm done procrastinating? I'm up all hours of the night drying one last load of laundry.

this trip to Thailand? not so much.

it's friday night. we fly out sunday morning. and my bags are all packed already. that's right, I finished packing 36 hours ahead of time.

[sure, my toothbrush etc. will get thrown in the morning of, but that doesn't really count.]

I had this great idea for a post while I was pulling everything out of my closet: take pictures of each item I packed and list it, show which outfits go together, sort of a "what to pack for 10 days backpacking in Thailand" guide. and then I realized that was just going to add 4 more hours to my packing time and wasn't really necessary. especially since I've never backpacked before and this trip isn't really that kind of a trip [we are only staying in 2 hotels, everything is already planned, there's enough space in my bag I can wear clean clothes the whole time...]


in case you're interested in what I packed, here's a rough list:

3 pairs of shoes 
4 pairs shorts
5 tshirts
8 tank tops
3 maxi dresses
2 1/2 bathing suits
1 long-sleeve shirt
1 light scarf
1 jean jacket
pajamas + underwear
fuzzy socks for the plane

my new journal
1 paperback book
many electronic books
epipen, benadryl, tylenol, etc
basic makeup [mascara] + toiletries
passports, credit + debit cards, visas
photocopies of all the above documents
flight + hotel reservation info

instax mini instant camera
2 packs instant film
DSLR + 17-50mm 2.8 lens
spare battery, extra card, charger
ipad [contains kindle app for reading]
iphone + earbuds
apple charger

yes, I realize that's a lot of electronics to take on vacation. and it makes my carry-on very heavy. and you could totally live off half the amount of clothes I'm bringing. this isn't so much a "what you should pack" list as a "here is what I packed" list. and I consider a little bit of overpacking to be forgivable given my early completion. ok? ok.

I'm making no promises as to when my next post will be... after Thailand we are heading to the Phillipines, and school doesn't start back until mid-february. [thank you, Chinese new year, for a month-long vacation.] I'm trying to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy some new experiences, and most of all relax. so that may or may not include taking advantage of hotel wifi. regardless, I'll be sure to have plenty of photos + stories to share when I return.

see you all in the year of the snake!


pu tian temple + statue garden

tucked away up in the hills of Hsinchu is one of the most unique places we've come across in Taiwan: the Pu Tian temple + statue gardens. the temple itself is really a series of temples and shrines, dedicated to various deities. one small area is set aside for single persons to come and pray, usually with their mothers, for a love match. another [less popular] shrine is to the god of the underworld.

the largest portion of the temple sits beneath an enormous statue of Guan Gong. according to what little I was able to find out about this place from the internet, the 120m tall statue is actually a museum. I think the entrance is inside the temple... and since I'm not entirely clear on etiquette regarding tourists and cameras... I probably won't be finding it anytime soon.

to get to the first section of the gardens, you have to cross the temple courtyard and then navigate through a warehouse-like building that is packed full of enormous wooden carvings and elaborate benches. this building also contains a shrine and another mini-temple area. [does it sound like I'm describing a video game - some new Legend of Zelda level?]

the other "gardens" are really a series of winding paths and tile stairs throughout the steep hills west of the temple. most of the statues pictured here are eastern in origin, but the gardens contain a wide variety of cultures [including a replicas of the statue of liberty, medival knights, greek goddesses, hindu deities, mythical beasts, african natives, and a stegosaurus skeleton.]

I think part of the charm is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. statues are displayed both in odd groupings - english hounds with asian lanterns and egyptian queens - or in collections by the dozen. there are piles of broken bits and pieces, and seemingly random items in storage or simply forgotten. you can wander for hours, spotting new treasures every time you visit.

the gardens go on for quite some time, though many of the paths have been closed off or have grown over with plants. there is one museum building open, and quite a few others that are blocked off. in the open museum you can find elaborate carvings and models, animal skeletons, teapots, and jade carriages. who knows what's hiding in the closed off portions?

I think at one time the gardens must have been a popular attraction, but for some reason I can't find any kind of official documentation on the internet. [even on google maps, it lists "Zhèngzàichuán Memorial Park" as the name of the site, but that term doesn't turn up anything.] it makes me wonder... where did all this stuff come from? and why has so much of it been discarded and piled up rather than preserved?

regardless of the mystery surrounding this place [or perhaps because of it] it has become one of my favorite places in Hsinchu.


Chinese class party

the past few months, Husband and I have been taking Chinese lessons along with some fellow western teachers. our teacher, Spring, was very sweet, and very patient with us. some of us were better students than others. some of us missed a lot of classes [due to scooter crashes, sickness, and substituting in my case] but we all learned at least a little.

our end of class party was last week. we hung out, drank some wine, shot some pool, played games in Chinese, embarrassed ourselves with skits we wrote, and laughed a lot.

I'm hoping to do more work on Rosetta Stone once we are back from vacation, but I don't think I will ever master the Chinese language. honestly, we get by just fine on what little we know. but thanks to this class we've learned enough to order our food without shrimp, and that's a win in my book.



editing: photos from our trip to the Pu Tian temple and statue garden, random adventures around Hsinchu, and from our Chinese class party. hoping to get it all done before chinese new year break, since I'm sure to amass more pictures while on vacation.

eating: curry fans is our latest restaurant obsession. can you call twice in 4 days an obsession? after a cold and windy scoot around town, walking in and being handed a hot bowl of flavorful broth is like a sip of heaven. their thai beef pumpkin curry is perfection in a bowl. just incredible. I can't seem to find a website, but expect a post on this place in the future. I also made my own refried black beans for the very first time... amazing. we're never buying canned beans again.

sweating: my first run! [well, kindof.] now that I'm done with subbing, I've been getting back to the gym. I've graduated myself from the bike to the elliptical, and earlier this week I warmed up with a jog around the indoor track. it felt wonderful to run. next trip, I did two laps. my knee had been pretty achey from all the rain and cold, but I'm trying to build up some endurance in anticipation of our vacation. I plan to spend a lot of time on the beach, but I'd like to be able to suffer through a hike or two and some sightseeing.

decorating: I finally finished painting the third canvas that I bought way back when. I've been trying to figure out what will match our living room and decided to copy the pattern on our chair. the colors aren't exact, but it turned out really well. the first canvas was this DIY tape project. the second canvas... I'm going to repaint because it did not turn out right. I've also been working on a Valentine's revamp of my bunting banner, and started a display for my mini instax photos.

anticipating: our trip to thailand! we leave in 10 days, and just finished booking our hotel in bangkok and flight down to krabi. I'm already starting to get panicky about packing... I've never been on a trip like this... or had only a backpack to travel with. I'm trying to remind myself that barely 6 months ago I packed MY ENTIRE LIFE into 3 suitcases and moved to the other side of the world, so 10 days out of a pack in Thailand should be a piece of [gluten-free] cake. regardless of what will or won't fit in my bag, it's going to be an incredible trip. temples, markets, longtail boats, beaches, waterfalls, tasty food, good company, and more stamps in my passport. and most importantly, some time to relax.

reading: I recently downloaded a bunch of classic novels, and I'm debating between starting Wuthering Heights [have not read in a decade] and Little Women [never read]. in the meantime, I've been catching up on blogs. the internet has been full of awesome inspiration since the new year, so I'll leave you with a list of posts that have really resonated with me:

rejecting negativity [wonderforest]
adapt, quit, or evolve [a beautiful mess]
"finding yourself" [the daybook]
taking care of yourself [maiedae]
fear + blogging [our city lights]
relationship challenge [the happiness project]
28 questions to ask yourself [tiny buddha]
this is your year [the atelier]

["currently" post inspired by Danielle at Sometimes Sweet]


taichung, part 2: adventures in natural history + turkish cuisine

after Husband and I went to the rainforest greenhouse in Taichung, we walked over to the National Museum of Natural Science. the very first thing we noticed was a giant Mayan pyramid in the courtyard of the museum, with a countdown clock to the end of the world. clearly, the world did NOT end on 12.21.12, but the apocalypse exhibit was still interesting.

the museum also housed an assortment of dinosaurs, historical artifacts, and science exhibits.  we wandered around until closing time, then meandered through downtown in search of a Turkish restaurant we had heard a rumor about.

Taichung has a really interesting feature: a very long park that runs through downtown for miles [or would that be kilometers?] the botanical gardens are at one end of it, but it stretches for quite a while. we didn't walk the whole thing, but there were tons of people out jogging and skating and walking their dogs.

after a while, we found the road we knew we had to turn off of to get to the restaurant. but we didn't know if we needed to head north or south. we turned left and walked for about 20 minutes [ok, maybe it was 5. my hunger-brain might have exaggerated it at the time.] before deciding to stop and ask some friendly Nova store workers ^^  if they knew where this mysterious Tukrish place was.

after debating with 4 different employees and searching on 3 different electronic devices, they determined we were heading in the wrong direction and called us a cab. [side note: I love how friendly and helpful people are here in Taiwan] the cab showed up and a few minutes of rush hour traffic down the road, we were there. turns out "very far away" and "30 minute walk" translates to 800 meters. oh well.

the food was well worth the adventure in getting there. Husband lived in Istanbul for 6 months during undergrad, and then traveled the central and eastern part of the country with a Fulbright program in 2011. he gave the cuisine his stamp of authentic approval. we had tea, goban salata, beyti kebab, lentil soup, the works. the owner/chef came out and he and Husband chatted in Turkish for a few minutes while I drank my coffee. we definitely plan to go back next time we are in town, and recommend it to anyone looking for some tasty Turkish while in Taiwan. [for more info, read this thorough review of the restaurant]

after dinner, they called us a cab and we were off to the high speed rail station. our trip into town took about 15 minutes, but that night our crazy taxi driver was fueled by some awesome tunes [courtesy of Madonna and Air Supply] and we made it out to the station in less than half the time. even after living in New York, I can definitely say that was the most terrifying cab ride I've ever had. but we survived, and made it to our train with plenty of time to spare. all's well that ends well I suppose, but  next time I will be wary of getting into a cab blasting 80s pop...
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