the temples of Lotus Lake

the Lotus Lake area of Kaohsiung is packed with temples, pagodas, and pavilions. [I've already shown you the Confucius temple and the Dragon Tiger Pagodas - but there are plenty of temples not marked on the tourist map that I still found beautiful and photo-worthy.

I've said it before and I'm sure I will say it again a thousand times over the course of living in Taiwan: one of my favorite things is that you can find temples while wandering just about anywhere.

all of these temples were visible just by walking around the lake path - and we could spot plenty of dragon-topped roofs just a few blocks further back. just another reminder to keep your eyes open and look beyond the guidebook.

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and now I'd like to introduce you to my featured sponsor this month. Olivia is the Australian traveler behind the blog Halfway Somewhere, where she shares her travels and tips on everything from taking photos while traveling solo to how to survive an overnight train journey. I'm also in love with this clever DIY project she imagined - turning leftover foreign coins into magnets. read on to get to know her better, then stop by her blog for more!

I'm Olivia. I'm an International Studies student from Melbourne, Australia, although I try to get out of the country as much as I can. I like to move overseas and spend 6 months or more in a place as opposed to taking trips where you're constantly on the move, so that's what I write about the most on Halfway Somewhere - moving overseas, studying overseas, taking a gap year, all that fun stuff.

what are some of your favorite posts, and why? I recently wrote one called An Australian's first impressions of America that was both really fun to think up while I was in the States this year and seems to have resonated with a lot of people, both Americans and visitors, which is always nice.

Another one I really like is Can Harry Potter teach you a new language? I grew up on Harry Potter and basically love everything about it, so using it to learn Spanish was a lot of fun. Turns out it's not an uncommon thing to do, which is awesome.

what is your favorite trip you've ever taken? While I've never had a bad trip yet and I love all the trips I've done for different reasons, my favourite is probably my first big one when I moved to Ireland after high school. It was the first time I was on my own and out of my parents' house and I was living and working with some great people who I still see as much as I can, even though we're all spread out across the world now. I'd always wanted to spend my life travelling and that trip was like confirmation that this is what I want to do.

where would your dream trip take you? My dream trip is to buy an old Winnebago and spend months (years?) driving slowly around the world. I'll have to get it in the States since they're so cheap over there, so I'll explore Canada and America for a while and then bring it home to Australia somehow. That's probably two years away now, but I talk about it all the time. I try not to write about it too much since it's not happening soon, but every now and then I can't help it and dedicate a post to that dream.

learn more about Olivia on her blog: halfway somewhere
or follow along with:


the writer's block: feeling grateful

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. a loving husband, wonderful friends, and a growing family [in a few weeks, I have a nephew arriving!] we have a plan for the next few years and know where we are going after this school year is up. I've been able to travel and write, and though I pulled my shoulder last week and haven't been able to type so much... I've generally enjoyed good health.

this month I've asked my sponsors to share what they are grateful for this year - a tradition that my family used to hold around the Thanksgiving table. these ladies have had some incredible travels and experiences [some good and some not so good] but have managed to find silver linings along the way. read on to hear more from them, then be sure to visit their blogs when you're done!

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Kia ora, I'm Sarah, I'm in my late 20's and live in Wellington, New Zealand. Sarah Sees The World is primarily a Travel Blog, but also documents my 30 Before 30 achievements - It’s a list of places I’ve been meaning to visit, challenges I’ve wanted to take on, skills I’ve been planning to learn, and personal breakthroughs I’ve been hoping to have.

what experience are you grateful to have had this year? In June this year I was made redundant. After months of stress leading up to the event the stars aligned - an amazing job opportunity came to me. Even better, the start date allowed me to take 4 weeks off and travel to Canada and visit friends. While there were months of stress combined with a very unpleasant work environment, it's an experience I am grateful to have gone through as I can say I'm in a much better place now as a result of the upheaval, and would not be this happy right now if nothing had changed.

what is your favorite holiday and why? My favourite holiday is Waitangi Day. New Zealand's national holiday which falls on February 6th and commemorates the date in 1840 when the Treaty of Waitangi (effectively our constitution or founding document) was signed. Recently Waitangi Day was 'Mondayised' - before 2013 it wasn't celebrated on a Monday if it fell on a weekend. I won't get into the injustice of the treaty (there are differences between the English and Maori versions of the Treaty signed), but while the day sadly is known for its protests rather than celebrations, it falls at the peak of the New Zealand Summer and is the one public holiday you can actually rely on for decent weather.

how do you manage traveling during the busy holiday season? Fitting in travelling any time of year with a full time job and limited leave is challenging but is something I make a priority. The best thing about Christmas and New Year falling so close together is that by taking three days leave from work, you get 11 days in a row off! While I have family commitments on Christmas Day, I'll be heading off soon afterwards to explore somewhere not yet determined.

read more from Sarah on her blog: Sarah Sees The World

check out some of her favorite posts:

or follow along with:

Dollie of Two Wooden Spoons. I float in the space between home body and travel junkie. My blog is a space for me to explore and share my writing through stories. And just like a photographer slowly trains themselves to find and capture the truth (whether it be love, beauty, hardship, or pain) in every situation, writing has taught me the same thing. My blog is a space where I work on figuring myself out. This is a space filled with humor, success, failure, and a whole lotta’ quirkiness (and wine) to help mask the anxiety.

what experience are you grateful to have had this year? This year my husband and I traveled to Romania with my mom to go and take my 86 year-old grandmother on a road trip through Transylvania. After more than a dozen trips back to visit family in Romania, this was my first time seeing more than one tiny corner of the country. It also happened to be my grandma's first time seeing the country outside of her tiny village and the neighboring city. Getting to experience that with her, and giving her the opportunity to see her own country, was something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

who or what are you feeling most thankful for? I am grateful for my grandmother's health and that she was able to join us on our roadtrip across Romania. Many children who grew up with grandparents in another country know how difficult it can be to be away from family. You never know if your visit will be the last one, or if an elderly family member will make it through the next several years it takes to save the money for the trip.

what is your favorite holiday and why? Every year is a tie between Halloween and Christmas. I love Halloween because of the fun traditions and low stress of the holiday. My husband and I save every costume and prop we've ever purchased to creating costumes is always a great time. I'm sure it'll be even more fun when we have kids and get them involved in dress up time. Then again, I love Christmas too because of the magical feeling in the air. There is something peaceful and cozy the weeks leading up to Christmas that isn't around any other time of year.

read more from Dollie on her blog: two wooden spoons

check out some of 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.

what experience are you grateful to have had this year? I'm not sure I'd call my dad's severe heart attack something I'm "grateful" for, but I am so very very grateful that he survived it thanks to everyone involved in the process being where they needed to be at the right times/places and as well as for the power of prayer from all of my real life & online/blogging friends and family. His heart was only functioning at 35% when he was taken from the ER to the cath lab on August 4th and a couple weeks ago he completed cardio physical therapy.

who or what are you feeling most thankful for? Aside from still having my dad in my life, that I still have a job. I can't elaborate on the interwebs, but sadly a few coworkers got pink slipped in the last couple of weeks.

what is your favorite holiday and why? Thanksgiving. Not only was my younger brother (& only sibling) born on Thanksgiving, it is a time to be so very thankful for what we have and the blessings we've had.

how do you manage traveling during the busy holiday season? I've only traveled once during the holiday season -- prepare and don't wait until the last minute! Make a list of what you'll need so you aren't scrambling at the 11th hour and forgetting a critical item that you may not be able to find at your destination (or might cost far too many pretty pennies).

share a holiday vacation memory. Spending Christmas 2003 in Vienna, Austria -- its a bittersweet memory as my granny passed away on Christmas Eve and I was far away from my family, but my penpal's grandparents welcomed me into their home and gave me plenty of hugs, a meal with a couple items from home, and the famous Sacher Torte as a surprise dessert :)

read more from Christina on her blog: Route Bliss

check out some of her favorite posts:

or follow along with:

ps: if you'd like to join my sidebar and be a part of the writer's block next month, spaces are still available through my sponsorship page!


BIG NEWS and the future of ink + adventure

the next few months will be bringing some changes to both this blog and my life. I considered waiting longer to share this news. but for one - I'm not always great at keeping secrets [just ask Husband how many birthdays/holidays he's known his gifts in advance.] and secondly - I've been hinting at this for a while and I know you're impatient to hear. I debated combining this announcement with my reader survey results, since it seemed to make sense... but I'll just mention a few things here and give you a full results post shortly.

well at this point you've probably already scrolled down to peek... but here's our big news:


in case you're new around here [and according to the survey, almost half of you have come on board in the past six months] you should know that my Husband teaches at an international high school. we have been at this school in Hsinchu for two years, and are currently on our third year.

while we have loved this community, made some amazing friends, and will always be thankful for our first international home... we have decided that it is time to move on. it will be bittersweet to leave, but the good news is that everything we loved about this place won't be too far away. because. we are moving to...


we are both unbelievably excited. Husband has accepted a teaching position at one the the best private schools in Asia, which will allow us both to continue pursuing our professional, personal, and financial goals for the future. life in Taipei will afford us easy access to many things via the MRT system - dumplings, dragons, western import goods, IKEA, museums, mountains, night markets... and all without having to deal with helmet hair. and of course that comes along with many other more serious benefits. [not that dumplings aren't seriously important.]

this is the right move for us right now. it won't be a huge adjustment, as we are staying in the same country and are familiar with the neighborhood we will be living in. we already have friends in Taipei, and will only be a short high speed train ride from our friends in Hsinchu. there is a small part of me that wanted to move somewhere new and exciting... but our situation will allow for continued travels around the region and the world. so there will still be lots of excitement and adventures in our life!

um, and obviously this occasion was cause for donning lipstick and having a photoshoot.

one of the [many] questions my parents had for me when we first chatted about this move, was what would happen to my blog? absolutely, I intend to continue blogging. and the bulk of the content will continue to be travel and expat related - which is what readers said you love to read about most.

because we will be staying in Taiwan, I want to dig a little deeper into this lovely island. there is so much here that I still want to explore, and to share. I often receive emails from readers who are planning to visit or move to Taiwan. I'm hoping to publish much of the knowledge I've shared with them already, as well as new ideas that future travelers and expats can benefit from. that being said - I'd love to hear what you want to know.

well. now that the cat's out of the bag, I don't have much else to say. [other than to maybe reiterate how excited I am about this!]

I hope you all have a lovely week, and a happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate it.



Kaohsiung // dragon and tiger pagodas

have you ever wanted to stick your head in the jaws of a tiger? or know what it's like to be swallowed by a giant, scaled beast? our visit to the dragon and tiger pagodas at lotus lake in Kaohsiung let us do both in the the span of 20 minutes.

[warning: this is going to be a photo-heavy post... because you know how I love my dragons]

these twin pagodas are perched on the south end of lotus lake, seven stories tall. you begin by walking a winding bridge path, then enter through the enormous dragon. climb a few levels of spiral staircase and you'll find yourself face to face with dragons on a smaller scale [but no less fascinating.] this was the second time I've gotten up close and personal with my scaly friends. I love how they are always similar but not quite the same.

both pagodas are decorated inside and out with elaborate carvings, paintings, and tilework. they aren't exactly ancient... the pagodas [and much of the other attractions in the lotus lake area] were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s. but then again, much of Taiwan is not any older than that either.

you exit through the tiger's mouth, since "entering a dragon's throat and coming out a lion's mouth symbolizes turning bad luck to good fortune." or at least according to this website. the tigers done up in tilework were also pretty amazing. I've seen a few creatures other than dragons, but these guys with their stripes were a unique sight. [or maybe this is just because I love cats?] we also enjoyed the breeze from a few levels up, since it was well into the 90F range.

if you are in Kaohsiung and looking to spend a few hours, you can walk around the lotus lake and visit these pagodas and several other attractions, including the Confucius temple. this area is definitely touristy, but still fun to explore. [I mean... how many opportunities will you have to walk through the belly of a tiger?]


life lately

well hello there! it's been a crazy few weeks, so let's take a minute to catch up. [in list form, obviously.]

1. the ink + adventure reader survey will stay open through friday, so if you have been thinking of responding and haven't yet - get on it. for everyone who has already taken it THANK YOU. I'll be reviewing the data and sharing it with you [as well as some changes it will effect on the blog] in the next week or so.

2. I've been considering some changes to my sponsorship program. it's been live for almost a year, and I've learned a bit through the experience. I definitely will keep it going, since I use that income to sponsor other blogs myself... but it might look a little different in 2015. I've also been considering some redesign, but need to learn a bit more about coding before I dig in. teaching my blog class has uncovered a lot of resources I want to utilize.

3. I have a big announcement to make, but I'm not ready yet. is that annoying and cryptic for me to even mention it then? maybe. but I want to thank everyone who sent good thoughts my way these past few weeks, because they worked. good news coming soon.

4. I'm trying my best to not let pinterest give me unrealistic expectations about New Zealand. I fell into the trap of extremely photoshopped and geographically inaccurate pins last year when we went to Bali. [Tanah Lot most specifically.] I've found images that claim to be New Zealand that are actually Iceland, California, Thailand, or that one photo that actually is from NZ but has been color-changed to look like the "Scotland fairy pools" with purple trees. I'm trying to do more blog research and look at pictures from people who have actually been there. [and, well, it still all looks amazing.]

5. I feel strange typing this sentence, but: Husband and I went to Texas Roadhouse the other day. they opened one in Taipei a few weeks ago, and it is exactly like in the states. bucket of peanuts, fresh rolls and cinnamon butter, country music, and roadhouse decor. I ordered the 6oz Dallas filet and it was tender as ever and perfectly cooked. the best steak I've had in Asia. oh, expat life.

6. we got hit by a car the other day. [don't freak out Mom!] we were scooting and a car decided to turn right while we were going straight. since scooters usually stay to the right, we got trapped between the car and the curb. we were both going very slow and Husband saw what was happening and did the best to lower the impact and not have us tip over. I do have a small bruise on the outside of my knee, but nothing compared to the crash we had 2 years ago. honestly I've gotten worse bruises from running into tables and doorknobs and kitchen cupboards... which happens often since I'm pretty clumsy.

7. I'm starting to get a bit of the expat holiday blues. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and I always feel bummed when I miss our big family celebration. thankfully the teachers at our school are continuing the tradition of a big potluck dinner. everyone still has to work... but it's better than nothing. I think our disco dinosaur tree might need a few additions this year, but I haven't settled on what to create.

and that's about it. hoping to be back soon with more photos and travel stories, but I've already accepted that less blogging during the holiday season is 100% ok. [and I've apparently decided that the holiday season has already begun!]


7 reasons why you should travel to Asia

have you started planning your travels for the upcoming year? Asia should be at the top of your list! 

after 2.5 years of living and exploring here, I could share a million reasons why you should want to travel to this continent. but for the sake of time... I'll stick with the 7 most simple [but important] things that should convince you that your trip to Asia will be enjoyable, affordable, and delicious.

the beaches

no matter what you're looking for in a beach destination, Asia has got you covered. options range from deserted islands to shores of crowded cities, huts on the sand to full-service high-end resorts. you can party all night in Kuta [Bali, Indonesia,] rock climb in Railay [Thailand,] or relax on gorgeous white sands in Boracay [Philippines.]

the people

not all of my encounters while traveling have been positive. but for the most part, the people in Asia are very friendly. when one of our group was bit by a monkey in Bali, the owner of our hotel drove him to a medical clinic. any time I am lost in Taiwan, people are more than willing to answer my questions and point me in the right direction. [and usually offer me food.]

the transportation

most of us have been on a bus or a plane, but Asia offers a few unique methods of travel you can experience. living in Taiwan, I drive a scooter every day. Thailand offers tuktuks and long tail boats, and both Japan and Taiwan have fantastic high speed trains. there's always a variety of options for getting from point A to point B.

the cost

I know, guys. getting all the way over here isn't cheap. but once you're on this continent, things are ridiculously affordable. traveling on a budget is really easy to do in Asia. you can find food and lodgings for about 1/3 of the cost in the US, depending on what you're comfortable with. you can certainly spend more if you like - plenty of luxury options are available - but if you want to save by eating at 7-11 for every meal and sleeping on overnight buses, it's totally doable here.

the nature

most people picture Asia as full of crowded cities, but there is plenty of green space too. you can take a bicycle tour through rice paddies, ride an elephant through the jungle, or hike through a marble gorge cut through mountains. sometimes you'll have to go farther off the beaten track, but you can find more than [amazing] city skylines here.

the food

if you like to eat, then this continent should definitely be on your travel wish list. [eating pad thai from a street vendor in Bangkok was practically a religious experience for me. for about $3 US.] Asia is also home to the night market- rows of stalls dedicated to serving up unique snacks like squid-on-a-stick and classic dishes like beef noodle. and if you aren't convinced yet, I have 3 words for you: xiao long bao. dumplings in general are extremely delicious, but these little morsels have a soup broth steamed inside which makes them extra tasty!

the temples

one of my favorite things about traveling and living in Asia is being able to visit temples. I love how each country and culture has their specific types of architecture and decoration. I'm partial to the dragon-topped temples of Taiwan, but the orange stone of Bali... the mirrored details in Thailand... the wooden structures in Japan... OK, I just really love temples!

have I convinced you to book a ticket to Asia yet? for more info, check out my travel page for links to posts about destinations in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

[originally published as a guest post on Rhyme & Ribbons]
linking up with Bonnie, Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for Travel Tuesday
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