taiwan lantern festival

// lantern festival // happy accidents

I still have plenty of vacation photos to share, don't worry. but on sunday two things happened: the Taiwan lantern festival opened, and I got a new camera. everything you see in this post I took with my Canon EOS M. [we'll talk more about her later] I'm still learning how to work with the different settings, but in an effort not to be editing until the 4th of July, all I did was resize these photos. and maybe crop one or two.

// festival sign // a few of the many lanterns

the festival covers a huge amount of ground. we were there for maybe 2 hours and barely saw any of it. the crowds were insane, since it was opening night and apparently the president and several pop stars were making appearances. the festival runs for another 2 weeks, so hopefully we'll have a chance to go back and see more. I'm not sure it will be less crowded though - they expect 10 million visitors before the end.

// before + after

most of the crowd seemed to be around the stage area, where there was a giant statue in the shape of the water snake [the animal of the new Chinese year]. we passed through but didn't think much of it at the time. a few hours later they turned suddenly turned all the lights off, so we decided to head out and grab some food. but then the sky lit up with spotlights, we recognized numbers counting down in Chinese, and they turned the snake on. turns out it's not a statue, but a giant lantern. go figure. I was way too far away for a good shot, but it was flashing all kinds of rainbow colors. they followed it up by blasting music and flashing all the lanterns off + on while [of course] shooting off an impressive fireworks show.

// red lanterns // new year's wishes // us + the crew

sometimes, I forget I live in Asia. I know, I know. but we've been here for 6 months now and it feels... normal. sometimes I forget that we live in Asia, but seeing red lanterns always reminds me. somehow they have become the quintessential icon to me. I've been seeing them all over lately for new year's, and at the festival they had hundreds and thousands of them hung on scaffolding. my camera was a little overwhelmed with the lighting situation, but this area was my favorite out of all we visited. it was something straight out of a movie, or maybe a dream...


DIY jewelry display wall

I'm kindof sentimental about my jewelry. every necklace I own has a special significance to me. in some way they are all connected to a loved one, a personal moment, a meaningful event or place. these are not the kinds of things I want to keep hidden in a drawer where they get all tangled up together or worse, forgotten.

so I set out to create a jewelry display. I don't have a dresser or large bedside table, so I knew if would have to be something on the wall. if you scour Pinterest you can find dozens of ideas, but I had one major obstacle: all of my walls are cement.

let's talk about cement walls for a minute. in Taiwan, that's what we have. in our entire house. [I guess tile in the bath + kitchen, but that's just as bad.] putting a nail or screw in the wall involves power tools. and a lot of dust. instead, I have been using 3M command hooks. they are manufactured in Taiwan, so just about every store carries a huge selection. 3M hooks have saved my life. I used them to hang up my belts in my closet, my bags in the bedroom, our towels in the bathroom, our helmets in the entry, hot pads in the kitchen... you get the point. and when I found clear hooks with clear stickings? I knew it was the answer to my jewelry problem.

this little nook in our bedroom was the perfect size for the display. I measured the space and used my bed to lay out all the necklaces in the arrangement I wanted, and matched each up with the appropriate size hook[s]. the different sizes are for bearing different weights, but for this project it was more about what size of chain will fit. then I moved everything to stick on the wall. the best part is you can easily remove a hook and replace it with a clean sticky if you aren't accurate in placing it on the wall. and no ugly nail holes. [this would be perfect for renters]

since the hooks are clear, I decided to use a few strips of washi tape to add a little color + structure to the display. there was also a hideous light switch right in the middle of the area I wanted to use... washi tape to the rescue again!

I love this display wall. every time I walk into my room I see it and smile. organized things make me happy! it's also been helping me wear a little more variety with my jewelry, now that it's all out there to see when I'm putting together an outfit. kindof like an interactive wall art installation.

maybe it's the spring cleaning bug, but I can't stop thinking of what else I can organize and/or cover in washi tape... any ideas?


bangkok: the "night market"

 // let's go for a spin

ok. I've shown you what a night market is before. now I'm going to show you a "night market". one that has all the same basic ingredients - food, clothing, souvenirs - but has been organized and plunked into a clean and tourist-friendly grid. does it have the same authentic flavor? not quite. but I'd be lying if I said I missed dragging my feet through dirt and sweating my face off while trying to avoid the stench of stinky tofu.

// view from the ferris wheel // wanderers // fake water tower // fancy eats + grassy park area

welcome to Asiatique. Bangkok's riverfront night market. complete with food stands, upscale restaurants, theater acts, cheap sundresses, expensive antiques, and everything in between. a word of warning- they are only open from 5pm to midnight. plan accordingly to give yourself enough time to explore.

 // doner kebab // eat me // the line

it's usually best to stop and investigate when you see hunks of meat roasting on a turning spit. doner kebab is a Turkish specialty, and yet, they had it here. clearly Husband had to stop for some, since he's quite some time in that country. a tip for picking food stands? go where the lines are long. it's usually worth the wait.

[I feel like that was a very Bourdain paragraph, don't you?]

// one day I will own this // this too

Husband and I were lusting over the contents of this store for at least 20 minutes. it was full of gorgeous woodwork, and we seriously considered purchasing the giant twisty wheel of wood. until we saw the price. and thought about how expensive customs/shipping would be. and where we could store it while living abroad because Taiwan's humidity would kill it. wah, wah. 

// & me // shops + bars + food + more shops // yes, that's a KFC

most of our time was spent window shopping or eating. [I also may or may not have consumed several mai tais.] but we didn't come home completely empty handed... Husband picked out a pair of red, flowy Thai pants for me, and I also found a beachy sundress. in total I spent $12. win!


bangkok: getting around

 // smoggy sunset from the river

first: I hope you are not getting sick of vacation posts already, as we haven't even gotten to the bulk of the Thailand trip, or even touched on the Philippines. we only spent 48 hours in Bangkok, if you can believe it. and I have another post or two just on this city.

second: being as we were only in town for a few days, we didn't even see most of the city. Bangkok is HUGE. but this is how we saw what we were able to see.

// cab ride from the airport

we flew through both of Bangkok's major airports while in Thailand, and the cab ride in/out of town gives you a chance to see the city. or really, to see just how large and sprawling it is. you'll notice the driver is sitting on the right hand side. Thailand was never officially colonized by a European power, but being sandwiched between French and British colonies clearly has given a lot of influence. that, and being a trading powerhouse with Europe during the 16th century. [thanks, Wikipedia!] Bangkok is still a major gateway to Asia - mostly through the airport. our cab driver had tip money tacked to his ceiling in dozens of different currencies.

one other note about taking a cab - make sure you get one who will use his meter, otherwise you are going to get ripped off.

// water taxi // the rich, the poor, and the European // rush hour

during our stay, we decided to take the water taxi up the river and stop at various temples along the way. the ride cost about 20 baht [less than $1 US] and you can take to boat as far as it goes. we made our way up to the Wat Arun stop, but got to see quite a bit of the city along the way. it was an interesting mix of wealth [note the private yacht], poverty [people living in a shack that's literally falling into the water], and old buildings with clear European influence. you'll see your share of temples and skyscrapers as well. I definitely think the water taxi was a great way to get around, and if when we go back, we will take it farther upstream.

// tuk-tuk

after a night + morning of walking, and an afternoon of climbing temple stairs, Husband and I [or really, my tired knees] decided to take a tuk-tuk from the river docks back to our hotel. what is a tuk-tuk? imagine a scooter that has a metal cart attached to/around it. and a driver that's even crazier than your typical cabbie. it's definitely an experience, but one you should probably have while in Thailand. the good news? you get where you need to go, fast + cheap.

other modes of transportation we took while in Bangkok: free shuttle bus between airports + a ferris wheel [does that count?]


bangkok: wat arun

we visited Wat Arun during our one full day in Bangkok. it's a huge temple complex on the bank of the river, and we easily could have spent another 3 hours exploring. the place just sprawls. buildings and temples and courtyards and statues galore! and it's also very, very tall. my knees were complaining by the time I made it to the top, but the view is worth the climb.

also. wat = temple. and that means they have a dress code. if you show up in shorts or a skirt that is higher than your knees, you have to rent a wrap to make your look more modest. I wasn't the only one sporting a rental sarong, though I did see some ladies bring their own. I think my pink elephants added to the charm of the experience.

Wat Arun was the only temple that we actually went "into" while in Thailand, so I don't have much to compare it with. but it was gorgeous. elaborate carvings, colorful inlay, strands of flowers. it never ceases to amaze me the kinds of intricate detail humans are capable of creating. you can bet I will be visiting more wats when I return to Thailand. [because I will return to Thailand.] but for now, some pictures.

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