legends of the hidden temple

for the past 2 years, I have been spying this temple out of the corner of my eye. a quick flash of red and a dragon-topped roof, peeking out of an alley. it's just off one of the main roads I drive on a weekly basis.

nearly every time I'd drive past, I would tell myself "I should stop there are and take pictures." or "I should drive down that alley and check it out." BUT I didn't have my camera, or was on my way to get my haircut, or had groceries that needed to get home. so in my mind this place became more and more of a mystery. I started referring to it as "that hidden temple in that alley" which inevitably led to 90s gameshow flashbacks.

well, I finally made it a point to stop with my camera and grab some pictures.

it's not the largest temple. not the prettiest or oldest. it's build in the most awkward of places. but it's a symbol of something I love most about Taiwan - the unexpectedness. because around these parts, you never know when a hidden temple will reveal itself around the next corner.

and now I'd like to introduce you to this month's featured sponsor: Maria of Wanderlust. she is currently living on the coast of Portugal, and it is every bit as lovely as you'd imagine. [I'm dying over the photos of this beach!] her recent posts detailing her travels to London are filled with gorgeous photos as well.

I'm Maria Ana, an nineteen-year-old university student who's currently living in Lisbon. My biggest passion is to travel and that's the main subject of my blog. Explore new cultures, its people, its food, its art, its language, fascinates me. I'm also very interested in photography, books and cinema. In regular days, I like to take long walks to rest my head from this crazy world or enjoy, with good company, some hours talking about anything and everything.

your two favorite posts to share: One of my favourite posts is about Barcelona. It was such an amazing trip, and I loved all the photos I took. Barcelona is such a vivid city: the architecture, the markets, the streets... The beauty of this city is beyond words.

I think it's important to travel inside our country. That's why I really like to share some photos and info about the beautiful places near where I live. This post is one of my favourites. It's about my "home", it's about the beauty of the region and it is something I like to share, because I think everyone would enjoy to visit these places.

what is your favorite trip/vacation you've ever taken - where to and why? It's really hard to choose one favorite trip, I must say it is impossible! I've been to quite a few places, but I didn't have my blog back then, so you won't find any photos or details about those adventures. I loved every trip I've been, but I can refer two "special":

New York City: I was only ten years old when I went to NYC, but I will never forget those days. I was astonished with the tall buildings, the people, the environment... It was all new, different and amazing at the same time. I was just a kid, but since those days that I wish I could live there. There, you have the world in just one city. I remember that when we went to Chinatown, it amazed me how every neighbourhood made you feel your where in a different part of the world. I also visited Newark, which is where many portuguese live and I felt like I was home when, truly, I was in NYC. I can't find the words to describe the hapiness and the marvel of a kid that was suddenly transported to the most amazing city in the world.

Italy: I went on a nine-day trip to Italy with my mother and some of her friends back in 2009. From Milan to Rome, we visited many many italian villages and cities along the way. This country is so welcoming, so comforting. The culture, the food, the language, the people, it is impossible not to love it all. In almost every city, you are literally walking through history. You have beautiful monuments everywhere. You have the most amazing museums. And of course, you'll eat the best pizzas of your life, what's not to love? I can never forget Italy, it's a magical country where the history and the art really touch you, deep in your heart.

where would your dream trip take you? That's an excellent question! I wish I could travel all around the world, but there are certain places that are definitely on the top of the list, such as: Egypt, Mexico and a road trip across the United States.

describe yourself in 3 words: I think I can describe myself as a fair and compassionate person who is, above all, a dreamer.

learn more about Maria Ana on her blog: Wanderlust
or follow along with:


fall and other things.

every year [that I've been living in Taiwan] my mom sends me leaves from Michigan. I also always buy a tiny pumpkin. these are pretty much the only fall things going on around here, as it's currently 88F feels like 90F outside.

there are a lot of things I love about life in Taiwan, but I sure as heck miss a good Michigan fall. tailgates, apple cider, sweatshirt weather... I don't get that here. so please excuse me while I turn on my air conditioner and create myself a little fall photoshoot.

I've been sleeping awful lately. I'm not sure if it's because we started watching Twin Peaks and the freaky dream sequence is giving me nightmares, or that I found a 2.5 inch long cockroach waving its antennae at me in the bathroom the other night. [because that's also giving me nightmares.] Happy Hallo-week?

we're planning to celebrate this friday by cooking burgers and fries [I've deciphered the In-N-Out animal style sauce] and a movie marathon. my movie choice would be Hocus Pocus, obviously. though I could possibly be persuaded to watch Cabin in the Woods or Army of Darkness. that's about as scary as I can handle. how did I end up marrying someone who LOVES horror films?

in other news: I gave my blogging class students a survey yesterday and I really really loved it. I used Typeform and the survey turned out beautiful, and the results were easy to interpret and share with the class. I feel like I have a good plan for the rest of the semester now.

the feedback was helpful, and I actually had fun putting it together. so I'm thinking of creating one for this blog... hopefully you'll take it if I do? I'm not planning any major changes around here, but there are a few things I've considered doing. I think some feedback from my readers would be helpful.

speaking of readers... I realized I have almost 900 followers on bloglovin. first thought: AWESOME. second thought: when/how did this happen? about a year ago I started "blogging seriously" and I had a thought that maybe I could reach 1,000 followers by the end of 2014, but decided that might be an unrealistic goal. well, not so unrealistic now, thanks to every one of you who has come on board this journey with me!

have I mentioned lately that I love you guys?

there's been a lot of unbloggable things happening around here too. I'll try to keep the cryptic tweets and posts to a minimum... but I can't just say nothing. there's a few not-so-great things, but mostly good stuff, and a lot of decisions to be made. I'd appreciate any prayers/thoughts/good vibes/juju you could send my way in the next few weeks.

I hope you're enjoying fall where you are [and whatever it looks like!] how are you planning to celebrate this Halloween weekend?

linking up with Nicole for TYS Thursday


the writer's block: around the world in 8 minutes

this month for the writer's block feature, my sponsors are going to take you on a tour of their favorite destinations around the globe. pack your bags, read on, and be sure to visit their blogs for more when you're done!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I'm Brittany Ruth and I'm an American living in Germany. I write about my travels all over Europe. I also share my antique and flea market adventures, occasional DIY projects, and anything else that inspires me to write!

featured destination: Iceland

what do you consider a must-do for visitors here? There are several must-sees for Iceland. I recommend that you tour The Golden Circle. You can do this on your own or with a tour. I also recommend you spend some time in downtown Reykjavik exploring the town, talking to the super nice locals, shopping for a woolen sweater, and eating some yummy seafood. Also, make sure you stop by The Blue Lagoon before or after you head to the airport.

what is your favorite thing to eat in Iceland? There were so many good eats in Iceland. My favorite thing that I ate would have to be down by the Reykjavik Harbour at a restaurant called the Seabaron. You can get in line for some delicious and affordable lobster soup with a side of crusty bread.

any fun or largely unknown facts to share? Many of the people in Iceland still believe in Elves. I happened upon what is called an Elf Rock while in Reykjavik. The sign next to the rock explained the history of elves and that you should come and go as you please but never do harm to them and they won't use magic to punish you.

what is your favorite part about visiting Iceland? I had been excited to visit Iceland because I love the fact that so many of my favorite musical artists are from Iceland. The beautiful landscape and unreal views drew me in and I was so impressed with Iceland that I would love to return. I loved everything about it. Except for the how expensive Iceland was.

tips for anyone traveling there? If you are wanting to book any excursions like a puffin tour or whale watching you can walk down to the harbour and book it on the spot. Wanting to book something more adventurous like snorkeling between the tectonic plates? You can book through Arctic Adventures on the main shopping street or visit their website. The best way to get around is by car. The best time to come would depend on what you want to see. I prefer the summer but you can also see the Northern Lights in the winter. Don't forget to pack a rain jacket, warm clothes, and some hiking shoes!

learn more about Brittany Ruth on her blog: The Rococo Roamer

read her favorite posts:

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.

featured destination: Colorado Springs, Colorado

what do you consider a must-do for visitors to Colorado Springs? Travel to the top of Pikes Peak (via car or train), tour the Air Force Academy Chapel, the US Olympic Training Facility, Miramont Castle, and spend some time with nature at Garden of the Gods. Have more time? Hike the Manitou Incline!

what is your favorite thing to eat there? Anything served at the Airplane Restaurant ... or one of the food places in Old Colorado City

any fun or largely unknown facts to share? The Air Force Chapel actually contains four chapels -- the Protestant one that is on the upper level with the beautiful stained glass + on the lower level, a Catholic chapel, a Jewish synagogue area, and a area for Buddhists to worship.

what is your favorite part about visiting Colorado Springs? I've been here twice and both stops enjoyed spending time walking through the Old Colorado City neighborhood as well as the views while walking/driving through the Garden of the Gods

tips for anyone traveling there? Car is the best way to get around -- you can fly in to Denver and drive down or catch a flight directly into Colorado Springs. I visited in May and in June; May was a bit cooler and fewer crowds. If you're from a higher humidity area, don't let the lower temps frighten you -- what 35 degrees felt like on a May morning was the same as what 50 degrees feels like on a spring/fall morning in East Texas thanks to the lack of humidity. Don't forget lotion (drier area) + extra water if you're from a lower elevation!

learn more about Christina on her blog: Route Bliss
Hi! I'm Olivia. I write about living overseas and travelling at Halfway Somewhere. I'm back home in Australia finishing university right now, as soon as I finish I plan to exhaust as many working holiday visas around the world as I can before I get too old to qualify for them. My biggest goal is to get my hands on a 1974 Winnebago motorhome and spend my days driving around. Hopefully in the next few years I'll get that going - after I graduate and work out the money situation!

featured destination: Madrid, Spain. I just got home after spending a semester living and studying there and it's skyrocketed up my 'favourite places' list. The first time I went I didn't like Madrid at all but now I'm a big fan.

what do you consider a must-do for visitors there? A walk down Paseo del Prado stopping in at the different museums along that road is a great way to spend a day. The Prado is the most famous, but I prefer the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen museums. They're much more modern and are more my style.

what was your favorite thing to eat in Madrid? An easier question would be what don't I like to eat in Madrid! The food there is insanely good, and cheap too. It's somewhere you can afford to eat at a lot of restaurants, thanks to the cheap menu del día's available. I did write a post earlier this year called An ode to croquetas, so it's safe to say those are one of my favourite things to eat there. They're gooey inside, crispy outside, and you can get them in all sorts of flavours. They're just amazing.

any fun or largely unknown facts to share? My favourite fun fact about Madrid is about the Fuente de la Cibeles, a fountain in the city centre. It's located next to the Banco de España and above the old gold reserves. Back in the day if the gold reserves were in danger of being stolen, the bottom of the fountain would give way and the water would flood the basement room where the gold was kept to keep it safe.

what was your favorite part about living in Madrid? I love how cheap it is to live in Madrid. Being the capital city, it's obviously not the cheapest place in Spain, but compared to other capitals in Europe it's a bargain. You still have world class art galleries, shopping, history, culture, and sport like many other places but the cost of living is much lower than Paris or London. It's also really easy to get out of the city and explore the rest of the country - an hour or two by train has you in a whole new place with its own stories and customs, which I love.

tips for anyone traveling there? Summer in Madrid can be a killer - there's just nowhere to go to escape the heat coming off all the concrete and buildings. But spring is perfect. It's beautiful, everybody's happy winter is over, and the vibe just changes. You still might need a coat though! The weather can be fickle at times.

learn more about Olivia on her blog: Halfway Somewhere

read her favorite posts:

if you're interested in being featured next month on the writer's block, I still have ad spaces available!


Kaohsiung // Confucius Temple

even after living in Taiwan for 2.5 years, I don't consider myself an expert on the culture or religions here. my knowledge of temples [for as much as I enjoy photographing them] is still pretty limited. part of the confusion is due to the blending of beliefs that happens here in Taiwan - some temples are places of worship for over 80 different deities. and many people here have created their own personal mix between Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk worship.

some of the temples even blend Taoist and folk deities [these are usually the colorful ones topped with dragons.] these are the ones I most often stumble upon, because they seem to spring up between buildings and around alleyway corners. and... a roof full of dragons is hard to miss. Buddhist temples are still colorful, but usually simpler and focused on the Buddha, obviously.

temples dedicated to Confucianism are the most plain, and I never really went out of my way to visit one. the Confucius Temple in Hsinchu has been under construction since we moved here, so when we had the opportunity Confucius Temple on Lotus Lake in Kaohsiung I was extremely curious.

we walked up to the front door and two old ladies seated at a table waved us in. I gestured to my camera and they nodded yes, but then repeated something that sounded to me like "you can only take six." I always hesitate because I don't want to be rude, so I resigned myself to not taking pictures if I couldn't understand the rules. thankfully, a young family was exiting the temple and the wife explained to me that the rule was "pictures are ok, but no flash."

I can't believe I almost didn't have any photos of the details inside this fantastic temple. the patterns in this place were amazing. the carvings, the hand painted details... everything was so symmetrical and repetitive. I could have taken a thousand pictures. [but, I had guests with me and we had other things to see.]

I still love my dragons, but from now on I won't be dismissing Confucian temples as potentially plain and boring.

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.


a quick hello + a cash giveaway

I've been up and down and around this island over the past few weeks, and I have to tell you I'm exhausted. having visitors in town is always fun, but leaves me feeling like I need a vacation. am I the only one? we roamed Hsinchu on foot, took the high speed down to Kaohsuing for my first visit south, wandered Taipei, hiked through Taroko, and rode gondolas in Maokong. I love that visitors are an excuse to play tourist and try new things [and for their photography skills, as evidenced above.]

I have so much to blog about that it's tough to know where to start... as you can see it is already wednesday and I have yet to post this week! I started working on something this afternoon, a post which might include some of my most favorite temple photos ever taken. [and not a single dragon, if you can believe it.] but for some reason I just can't bring myself to publish it yet. hopefully you all will find it worth the wait once it makes an appearance.

as consolation for you today, I want to tell you about an AMAZING paypal [aka cash!] giveaway that myself and the fantastic ladies hanging out at Living In Another Language are putting on. the best news for you: if you already follow me on twitter, instagram, or bloglovin then you qualify to make additional entries below. good luck!

as Amanda says: this giveaway is open internationally, but you must have a Paypal account set up to receive the prize. make sure you read the terms and conditions below, check out the lovely sponsors, and enter daily! the more you enter, the more entries you have in the pot, and the better chances you have of winning!


The first entry is (always) free, just by clicking 'enter!' Terms and Conditions listed below:
1. Giveaway is open internationally. 2. Be sure to actually do what the giveaway prompts say, because I check the winning entry thoroughly to be sure the entry is valid. 3. If the entry isn't valid I will pick a new winner. 4. Once the winner is validated and emailed, he/she has 48 hours to reply and accept the prize. If he/she does not reply within 48 hours a new winner will be selected. 5. The winner must have Paypal. Once the prize money has been transferred via Paypal, it is no longer Living in Another Language's responsibility. 6. Enter away! HAVE FUN!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway


Hong Kong // Victoria Peak

the view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak is iconic. it's that image you picture when you think of the Hong Kong skyline, and it's one of the most popular photo-taking spots in the city. I visited Victoria Peak [also known as just "The Peak"] on my first visit to Hong Kong. I came away with some amazing images, but on my recent trip to HK I decided to go back to this spot and shoot while the sun was setting.

there are several options for viewing the skyline from the peak. on our last visit, we paid the extra fee for access to the SkyTerrace 428 viewing deck. this time around, I purchased a regular tram ticket [accidentally] so had to figure out another spot for shooting.

there is a free viewing deck across the plaza from the main peak building, which I settled on as my spot for the night. the main building that you walk into while exiting the tram [pictured above] boasts the highest viewing deck, but the free one offered no less of an amazing vantage point.

I set up shop next to a girl with a tripod and extremely professional-looking gear. and then I just waited for things to get dark, and had fun playing around with my various camera settings. since I was without a tripod I tried to keep my exposures less than 1/3 of a second and sort of balanced my arm on the railing.

if you find yourself in Hong Kong for any amount of time, I would absolutely recommend a trip to the peak to take in the view. though I had some unpleasant encounters on my trip to HK, this view [and the tasty tacos I had afterward] made up for it.


tips for writers: starting your book

as I've mentioned a few times, I'm currently in the process of writing my first book - which is just as exciting and terrifying as you might imagine. writing a book has been a dream of mine for years, but it took a lot of courage and motivation to actually put pen to paper [or really- fingers to keyboard.]

it was nearly one year ago that I finally sat myself down and wrote the first 3,000 words of my manuscript. to celebrate, today I want to give you some tips on how YOU can get started writing your own book.

Make a Plan.

if you want to write a book, you probably already have an idea what the book will be about. that's a good place to begin, but life will be much easier if your sit down and create an outline of your story. the book I am working on currently is a non-fiction travel memoir. I have a pretty good idea of how the plot goes [since I lived it!] but I still started out by defining a time frame the book would cover and a list of major events. this framework helps keep me on track and moving my plot forward.

Set Realistic Goals.

when I first started my manuscript, I thought I would be able to complete, edit, and publish it within six months. that was not a realistic goal for me. something that has worked better for me is to set a goal of writing X times per week, with my sessions being from 2-4 hours depending on how things go. I also like to set monthly word count goals based on my average output. you have to look at your available time and writing speed to figure out what will work for you.

Write What You Know.

or maybe a better way to say it is: know what you're going to write. use your existing knowledge and life experiences to help construct your story, or do the proper research. have you lived in or traveled to San Francisco? maybe that would be a good setting for your novel. always wanted to write a Victorian-era romance? better brush up on Victorian clothing styles, dialect, and architecture. this rule can apply to writing non-fiction as well. I have a pretty good memory, but both my journal and my blog have been indispensable resources.

Just Keep Writing!

a lot of people [myself included] get sidetracked by the end-details of writing a book. should I self-publish? do I need an agent? will anyone buy this thing? but all of those concerns will be irrelevant if you don't actually finish writing your book. other times, writers will get discouraged and quit partially through their draft. just remember that rough drafts are supposed to be rough. if you get stuck on a particular event or plot point, move on and come back to it later. you can always improve on a bad page, but you can't edit a blank one.

have you ever considered writing a book? hopefully these tips will motivate you to get started!

[this first appeared as a guest post on Hello, Neverland.]



grab yourself a cup of coffee, it's time for another life-catch-up session. here's what I'm currently up to...

adventuring: all over Taiwan. Husband's cousin and one of my NJ friends are here visiting this week, and we've been trying to show them everything Taiwan has to offer. we've already devoured some xiao long bao and taken them for a ride to Maokong on the Hello Kitty gondola, and this weekend we will be traveling to Taroko Gorge for some hiking.

loving: that the weather is starting to cool off [at least a little] here and the grocery stores have imported some tiny pumpkins. obviously, I had to buy one for the apartment. it's kind of turned into a tradition these past few years.

editing: photos from Hong Kong, photos from Taroko, photos from this summer... ok I still have a HUGE backlog of pictures. I've been doing my best to not take SO many this week, but it's difficult when faced with mountain views and colorful dragons.

struggling: with scooter issues. our scooter decided that it was going to break down this weekend while we were all the way downtown and it was pouring rain. we took a cab home, and Husband and I went back the next day and thankfully found a shop nearby that could fix it. [until the next day, when the scooter we were borrowing from a friend broke down on our way to the train station.]

lifting: Husband and I have been keeping up with our weight lifting, and I was really impressed that I increased my max deadlift by 10kg in one month.

creeped: by the old man at a nearby temple who made the cut-throat gesture at us while we were visiting the other day. I have no idea if we did something wrong or offensive [we weren't even taking pictures] but the four of us walked away as quickly as possible.

geeking: over the blog I designed for Husband. if you're a teacher, or have interest in world history and geography, you might want to check it out.

reading: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. I've mentioned before the shelf over at out school full of books left by past teachers... this was one I grabbed because I had heard of it and never read it. how do I say this? it was more depressing, and less sexy, than I had expected. not that it was bad. it was just different from most of the other vampire-related things I have read.

grateful: for the comments you all left on my posts about blogging with heart and my solo travels in Hong Kong. have I mentioned lately that I love you guys?


blood moon lunar eclipse

yesterday morning [Taiwan time] the internet was flooded with talk of the upcoming "blood moon" lunar eclipse. the last eclipse was not visible at all from Taiwan, so I really wanted to try seeing this one and shooting some photos. [the next one visible here isn't until 2018!]

according to the internet, the eclipse would be happening between 6:30 and 7:30pm. normally, we would be at the gym during that time on wednesdays. but a series of events led us to cancel our gym plans and re-create In-N-Out Burger's animal style fries for dinner instead. #sorrynotsorry

I went up to our rooftop just before the peak of the eclipse. to the bare eye, the moon didn't look all that red. but I was dealing with a lot of light pollution [and some regular Taiwan haze.] if I had more notice, I probably would have tried to scoot out into the hills somewhere to shoot away from the light. the situation was a bit of a challenge. BUT it was something really interesting to see, and I would probably have been happy even if all my photos didn't turn out.

this shot above was an 8 second exposure, while the rest in this post are 2 seconds. I shot everything at ISO100 and f/2 with my 50mm lens. ideally, you would want more of a zoom lens [200mm or maybe more] to shoot the moon. I wasn't able to get a lot of detail, but when I crop the heck out of the photo you can kind of see some craters.

it was also really windy. I set up my tripod and started shooting, while keeping a hand close in case it decided to tip over. I definitely had some issues with camera shake and focusing. the tripod was definitely a must! I used the 2 second self timer to help keep my hand from adding to the problem.

I really love that while I was watching the eclipse wednesday night from Taiwan, others [maybe you?] were watching wednesday morning from elsewhere in the world. don't laugh, I think about those kinds of things a lot. were you able to see the eclipse where you were? did you get some good photos?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...