Taroko Gorge // Baiyang Waterfall trail

Taroko Gorge is easily one of my favorite places in Taiwan. a huge marble gorge, carved into the mountains, full of hiking trails and hidden temples... what's not to love? last spring when my friend Kelsey was visiting, we went down and stayed in the gorge for a few days to explore.

the Baiyang Waterfall trail was one of my favorite hikes. it's farther back in the gorge, so many of the tour buses don't get that far. we went in the morning and the crowds were minimal. add to that some amazing scenery, a waterfall, and a mysterious "water curtain" tunnel... and you've got a great hike.

the weather was not fantastic, but we still managed. it was misty and rained off and on the whole hike. we couldn't see the tops of most of the mountains... but the scenery at the bottom of the gorge was enough for me. the first time I visited Taroko was after a large typhoon. the rivers were flooded and muddy from all the rain and landslides. but this time? beautiful blue waters.

at the end of the trail, past the waterfall, you can continue on along what they intended to be a road. the workers started carving/blasting a tunnel through one of the mountains and discovered a water source. the water kept flowing and they had to chose a different route for the road, but you can hike through the tunnel to where they stopped. it's dark and filled with water, and thankfully past visitors have left some rain ponchos you can borrow.

PS: I swear, I tried to cut back on the number of photos in this post. I just can't help it. everything about this hike was so breathtakingly gorgeous it almost seemed unreal. even these pictures can't show you the magnitude of this place... I was shooting with a 22mm lens and still had trouble fitting it all into my frame. oh well, I still have about a dozen posts worth of photos from Taroko to share.

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Jenn. she drinks her coffee with Truvia + almond milk and blogs about lifestyle + home improvement over at Near and Far Montana.

linking up with Bonnie, Camila, Jessi, and Amy for Travel Tuesday.


october goals

this whole Hong Kong/visa business really derailed my goals for last month. but for me, one of the lessons of goal-setting is not just to get things done, but to be more forgiving to myself when I don't.

I couldn't have anticipated having to go to Hong Kong. and it's not the first time I have underestimated the amount of time it takes to accomplish something in regards to my book manuscript. so... live and learn. this month we will have friends/family visiting for 2 weeks, so I'm going to be hesitant to overreach with my goals again.

goal updates:

update my manuscript with the edits I made this summer only 1/3 complete.
new goal: complete this by Christmas
do pushups every day that didn't happen.
new goal: workout [run, hike, or lift] 3 times per week
get back on the envelope budget  aside from the expenses from my HK trip, we managed this.
transfer music + photos to my new laptop partially. I think I have all the photos I want.
new goal: complete music transfer so I have tunes to write to
blog at least 3 times per week this one I managed to do! I'm hoping to get a little ahead and schedule some posts for while our visitors are here.
new goal: keep up the 3 posts per week routine.

what are your goals for this month?
linking up with Melyssa for weekly wishes.


travel by iPhone: Hong Kong

I got home late last night from a crazy 36 hours in Hong Kong. the short story: I had to go to apply for a new visa, and tried to make the most of it.

the long story: I woke up at 4am to hop a plane, didn't have the right documents to get a full residency visa and will have to apply from within Taiwan, used up 90% of my sim card data in the first 4 hours of my trip, and realized that it's nearly impossible for google maps to pinpoint your location anywhere in Hong Kong. but I managed to see a lot and eat a lot [and sweat a lot] during my brief stay in this crazy city.

my brain has been turned to mush, so here are some iPhone photos [most that you didn't see on instagram] and a few random thoughts about my travels...

Hong Kong is definitely Asia, but it has a very European feel to me... cobblestones and stairway alleys. [I ended up in a discussion about this with a random guy who approached me in a coffee shop where I was trying to utilize my free 30 minutes of wifi.] Taiwan is a westernized country, but it feels like more of an American-influenced culture. Hong Kong is obviously more British.

one thing I was looking forward to on this trip was to eat some decent Mexican food. I was very nearly foiled by google maps, and spent a half hour wandering around near this place but not quite finding it. thankfully I remembered reading reviews for Brickhouse on TripAdvisor that mentioned going into a dark alley behind a stall where an old guy sold fake bags. I though they were exaggerating. NOPE. but the pork belly taco was worth all the trouble.

the subway system in Hong Kong is phenomenal. I was able to use my octopus card to get everywhere on the MTR. no cabs needed. [though due to the specific time frames for applying for/picking up my visa, I did a lot of backtracking] I visited a few places I had seen on my first visit to Hong Kong, but also got out and explored some new areas.

and of course I took a ton of photos, and you can expect a series of Hong Kong posts in the coming weeks...

somehow, this photo is my favorite of those off my iPhone. I think it really just sums up Hong Kong. it's a crosswalk on a one way road, and they're telling you, in English and Chinese, to look left for traffic. because in Hong Kong you typically would look right before crossing, since cars drive on the left side of the road [there's that British influence again!]

I hope you all have a lovely weekend, and I'll be back on monday. xo


the writer's block: healthy lifestyle

since returning to Taiwan, Husband and I have been making an effort to establish healthy routines. [I ate a LOT of bacon while in the US this summer!] we've been getting into weight lifting, trying to run more, and eating less meat.

but if you're like me, making healthy choices doesn't always seem fun or easy. I've asked 3 of my sponsors this month to share some advice on how they stay active and eat well - I'm hoping it will help both you and me! feel free to share your tips below in the comments, and be sure to visit these lovely ladies blogs when you're done reading.

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Hey new friends! I'm Alicia, writer at Jaybird: Home in Motion. Whether I'm cooking, running, or exploring Chicago, I love to share as I go through stories and photographs. I'm a foodie (the on-a-budget, make-it-yourself kind) and an amateur apartment gardener, so I'm always looking for recommendations of new things to try.

some of your favorite posts to share:
The Wanna List: Throwing Plans to the Wind, Type A Style
One Question to Ask Yourself
Women Who Love Their Succulents Too Much
12 Smart + Funny Summer Reads

what is your favorite way to exercise or be active? I love to go hiking, but I honestly barely go now that I live in flat Illinois. Instead I try to pair exercise with exploration and go on long walks or runs through my neighborhood in Chicago. Who could resist with gorgeous murals like this one? Or this one?

how do you stay motivated to live a healthy lifestyle? By waking up every day and recommitting to my purpose and goals. When I slip up into a giant bowl of takeout or a long, lazy weekend, I pick myself up and try again.

what are your favorite healthy meals to make? I love to cook, so don't even get me started...every Sunday, I make this healthy vegetable frittata so I have breakfast ready M-F. I also love turning vegetables into noodles, like in this spicy raw 'peanut' noodle recipe, or with zucchini noodles cooked in butter with basil leaves. And if I can sneak in a semi-healthy dessert, I looove these paleo pumpkin swirl brownies (real pumpkin, no refined sugar, gluten-free & still delicious).

how do you keep on track with exercise while traveling? Honestly, social media really helps keep me on track! On my last trip, I used Instagram to share photos from my walks with the hashtag #jaybirdwalks. The desire to see something beautiful kept me hitting the hills every day, in part so I could snap a picture.

what is your fitness motto? In life and in fitness: make yourself proud.

learn more about Alicia on her blog: Jaybird
or follow along with:

I'm Christina, the girl behind the scenes here at Route Bliss. I'm a 30-something single wannabe vagabond whose practicality and realist side keeps her planted in East Texas. By weekday I write lots of reports at my job as well as daydream frequently where I want to travel to next, ways to motivate myself to getting fit for health and happiness's sake, and experimenting in the kitchen to make my favorite not so healthy foods healthier. I also like to take lots of photos of pretty things, furry critters (aka canines and felines), and beautiful destinations.

some of your favorite posts to share:
A PSA Regarding Your Heart (re: my dad & his heart attack in August)
Self Portrait: August 2014
RB Budgeting: The Basics Part 1
Monday Monday

what is your favorite way to exercise or be active? I love running outdoors. I'm not the greatest at it, but getting outside, whether on the track or a trail and getting 'away' from it all is a huge stress reliever. When its not option, zoning out while strength training is a close second.

how do you stay motivated to live a healthy lifestyle? Knowing all the oh so wonderful things I have to look forward to inheriting thanks to genetics. If I can prolong something or having to take another prescription medication, why not?

what are your favorite healthy meals to make? I love steamed and grilled veggies as well as grilled/baked chicken + homemade mac & beef when I need some comfort food.

how do you keep on track with exercise while traveling? Not very easily! Last year, it was easier to exercise by way of hiking to various viewpoints in national parks as well as picking places that involved walking since we were on the road for 12 days (and driving most of them). Also, picking a motel/hotel where you unload the vehicle yourself will get you some strength training in. One that I chose a couple years ago didn't have an elevator, so carrying a cooler + luggage up from the parking lot to a second floor + when we left two days later was two good workouts :)

what is your fitness motto? Probably either 'suck it up buttercup' on days I just ain't feeling it ... or one that I saw on a tee recently that describes my goals, "I don't want to be Barbie, I want to be stronger than Ken"

learn more about Christina on her blogs: Route Bliss + Christina McCall Photography

or follow along with:

Kelley from Move By Yourself

some of your favorite posts to share:
Coming to America
Eleuthera Bahamas
Living Abroad Makes Your Crave the Weirdest Things
Sand Dunes in San Cosme Paraguay

what is your favorite way to exercise or be active? I get bored really easily when it comes to working out so I love to mix it up. Take classes, try to new workout videos, pick different equipment at the gym, try a new sport or activity. Right now I’m really getting into yoga.

how do you stay motivated to live a healthy lifestyle? Staying motivated can be one of the hardest thing for me when it comes to exercise. One thing that helps me is following some inspirational people on Instagram. I also love to try new exercise new exercise workshops and classes because they introduce me to some really motivating people.

what are your favorite healthy meals to make? I love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I’m really into smoothies lately, I usually make one every day for breakfast, I’ve started adding chia seeds, they are amazing. I’ve also found soups are really easy to make and great for filling you up without being too heavy.

how do you keep on track with exercise while traveling? Finding the time or motivation to exercise while traveling is usually one of the last things on my mind, so one of the best ways to get a work out in while you are on the road is try some new and fun activities, like going for a hiking, taking a surf lesson or riding a bike around town.

what is your fitness motto? I don’t know if I have a fitness motto. But, I do love to live by the idea that you should never skip a Monday workout. It’s always tempting but, starting off your week right will lead to better and healthier decisions throughout the rest of the week. Also, it makes it a little more acceptable to skip a workout later when you get distracted by some fun weekend activities.

learn more about Kelley on her blog: Move By Yourself

or follow along with:


whirlwind tour of Austin, Texas

when Husband and I visited Texas this summer, our main purpose was to spend time with his sister, her husband, and our new nephew. along with our visit to inner space cavern and several trips to in-n-out burger... we did manage to squeeze in an afternoon in downtown Austin. I've heard such great things about this city. we were barely able to brush the surface of what Austin has to offer - but I wanted to share what we did.

we spent most of our time walking, though if we had known that Austin offers a bike program we probably could have saved some time. the first place we wanted to stop was a store called Toy Joy which specializes in weird and wacky collectibles. by the time we finished perusing, I was starving. we stumbled into a BBQ joint next door [Lamberts] and it turned out to be fantastic. you really can't go wrong with brisket in Texas.

our next stop was the state capital. I had seen it peeking down a street and wanted to at least get close enough to take a picture. by the time we made it all the way there, we decided to go in for a break in the a/c. politics aside, it really is a beautiful building. we opted not to take the official tour, but just wandered a bit on our own. I had fun finding all the stars throughout the building and grounds.

did I mention I'm actually a Texan? I was born in San Antonio and hadn't been to Austin since I was an infant, but I still have a lot of love for the Lone Star State. and being that my family is [very distantly] related to Stephen Austin for whom this city was named, it only seemed right that I at least stop in to see the capitol.

we drove back out to Round Rock, and ended up back at the highway to watch the bats fly out from the overpass at dusk. Austin is apparently known for its bats, and there is a boat tour you can take downtown to watch them fly out for the night. this was a little less intense, but still neat to see.

after our bat excursion, we headed to Torchy's Tacos for dinner. I think we had Torchy's 3 times while in Austin... when they say "damn good tacos" they mean it.

ok, now what do I have to be sure to do the next time I'm in Austin?
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