Check out some new photos from the holidays ...

It's hard to believe Christmas has come and gone again ... as 2006 comes in, I find myself hoping for an even better year than the last. The holiday season was fantastic ... having Mom and Bill in town really made it feel like Christmas. Santa arrived with many presents for all ... and I guess I was an extra good little girl this year as Santa delivered a very special gift ... a two week trip to Cambodia!! (Actually, I am currently waiting to renew my ARC, so if all goes well then Cambodia, here I come ... if not, I will have to head to HK to get a new visa for Taiwan ... fingers crossed!)

Christmas dinner was hectic, but the food was delicious and I believe a good time was had by all. We prepared three turkeys on the BBQ, 2 hams from the oven, mashed yams and potatoes, steamed green beans and carrots, caesar salad, apple pies, cakes and all the toppings ... talk about being spoiled this year! It was a bit crazy with 20 people and a very tiny kitchen ... I had to appreciate the years of Murray get-togethers preparing for what? 32? Every year? Gosh ... tough work, although, 100% worth it in the end, isn't it?!

I find myself with a ton of leftovers so I will attempt my first turkey soup this year. After the new year, I will have a Christmas recycling party as I'll need some help finishing up the leftovers, wouldn't want to be wasteful!

So, as the title reads ... some great shots were taken from my 30th birthday party and from Christmas ... if you find a moment, please check them out. Happiness and health to everyone in 2006!

Friday December 23rd, 2005

The cats ... love them ... had me up early this morning ... early enough to watch the beautiful sun rise ... I suppose it was fitting to watch the day come in as today is my 30th birthday! It looks like it will be a great day ... blue, blue skies!

My parents have been enjoying their time here very much ... they are currently at my brother's house and have been there for the past few nights. Although we haven't done much with them, they seem thrilled with our life here. We have introduced them to the plentiful, wonderful food this country has to offer, but that's seems about it. We've all been talking about how many pounds we've put on from all the good food. I suppose that's what the holidays are all about, right? Last night I treated Mom and Bill to my favourite restaurant ... Ali Baba's Indian Cuisine ... it was quite different for them, but they thought the food was terrific ... a bit spicy, perhaps!

We introduced them to teppanyaki, which they love ... I mean how can one not love teppanyaki? They are hoping to be able to find a teppanyaki restaurant upon their return to Victoria. I think Mom will hit China town as well to try and track down some of the special dishes we've introduced her to here in Taiwan.

Tonight is my party at 'People Restaurant Taipei' ... fancy food and fancy cocktails. I am looking forward to this weekend, which will be full of good friends, good food and good wine.

Merry Christmas to all ... I hope you find the holiday season brings you an extra special one this year!

Monday December 12th, 2005

It's hard to believe Christmas is just around the corner. My parents will be arriving in Taiwan in a few days ... they are scheduled to get here early Friday morning. I hope they don't find it too cold. It's about 15 degrees these days, but inside seems just as cold as the outside. My little heater is giving all its got, but it isn't cutting it! My tree is decorated and is hiding in the back room. The cats can't seem to behave themselves, so they have lost climbing privledges.

This weekend was filled with lots of holiday shopping. Shopping for Christmas in Asia is an interesting thing. When you shop in North America, one is used to being able to go to the mall for one stop shopping. The malls here are too expensive to do shopping in, so one has to resort to the many morning, day and night markets. Shopping in the markets allows one to buy some pretty unique things ... I think it will prove to be an interesting Christmas.

I am hosting a turkey dinner at my place on Christmas day. I am expecting about 15 people. My friend, Vernon, will be bringing over his BBQ and we are hoping to roast two turkeys on it. We will also do up some ham in my oven and the rest will be a pot luck, leaving it up to the guests. I feel pretty lucky to have had two turkey meals already this year ... a third is ... well ... pretty special! I guess I'm making up for the past two years of not having any turkey in my life.

My 30th birthday is not even two weeks away ... I'm pretty excited about it! We will be having a big party at a place called People's in Taipei. It's a posh Japanese restaurant ... I hope to get lots of pics. I'm not sure where the past 30 years have gone ... I guess time flies when you're having fun!
If it's not one, it's the other ... kitties for sale?? Anyone? Anyone?
How is one supposed to have a proper tree when the cat won't get out of it? Introducing my little tree climber, Levi. It's going to make for an interesting Christmas. Happy Ho Ho!

Saturday December 3rd, 2005

It was only today (今天 jin1 tian1) that I realized it's been 8 months since I've lived in this apartment and I still don't know my own address (地址 di4 zhi3) ... how crazy is that? Today, I have been writing my Christmas cards ... due to the fact that I have such a large family, I think my address has finally been embedded in my head. I never really knew my address prior because I carry it around with me in a Chinese version. If anyone needs it, I can show them that ... it makes it a bit more simple as most natives here don't understand the pinyin. I suppose learning to write my Chinese address would be a cool thing too ... guess I'll have to add that to my plentiful list of things to do!

Thursday November 24th, 2005

This is me trying to do my homework ... trying being the key word here ... everytime I flip a page, one of the cats attacks it as if it's the best toy a cat could possibly have! It doesn't make for easy studying.

Tuesday November 22nd, 2005

You know you are immune to hot weather when ... this morning I awoke to cold floors, cold walls, cold taps, cold clothes, cold everything ... I now have my heater on, which is too small to heat this big apartment ... thinking it's got to be about 10 degrees outside, I decided to check the weather ... it says it's 18 ... I guess when one is used to humid 40+ degree weather ... 18 is winter! Brrrrr!

Moments of 2003 - 4

What to say about my time in Australia (澳洲 ) ... I wasn't going to write anything, but I did spend 5 months there, so I figure there must be some things to be said.

The trouble with Australia was that I had high hopes ... too high ... I had a one year working visa in my passport and being a lover of the beach and the ocean ... I imagined Australia would be a place I wanted to be forever.

After 5 months of being in Taiwan, 3 weeks in Malaysia, 5 weeks in Thailand and another week in Taiwan, I found myself landing at the Brisbane airport. I hadn't even collected my luggage and I already had a sinking feeling in my heart of not wanting to be there. It was a strange feeling as I couldn't figure out why I felt this way ... but it stuck with me, growing stronger with each passing day.

I spent 3 weeks living with two friends on the Gold Coast, trying to find me some work in a bar. I was able to find a job, but it only lasted a week as I kind of bumped heads with the gay night manager there. My 'working holiday visa' only allowed me to work at one place of employment for three months, at which time, I had to move on ... hence the name 'working holiday visa'. Most companies aren't interested in training you for three months, understandably.

Almost a month in, still having no luck with work and finding the Gold Coast to be a bit of a pretentious and boring place, I decided to make my way up the coast ... first stop, Bundaberg. I had called a working hostel as I had heard fruit picking was the way to go. My account was telling me I needed to stock up some funds as diving, Fiji and NZ were in the plans.

Bundaberg was a great little town. The work was hard, the money sucked and I think I was one of the oldest travellers in the hostel. For $25 a night, I got the top of a bunk bed in a two bedroom house, living with 8 people ... 4 to a room. Ugh. I was to be up for work every morning at 430 am and was on the farm by 5. By 10am it was in the high 30's to low 40's, so one was happy that the work day was almost over. I planted and picked sweet potatoes, planted squash, picked chilis. Nothing great.

After two weeks of work and with a cheque in my pocket, I found myself continuing on. My next stop, Rockhampton. Rockhampton was where I had some of my hard working money stolen. I spent the afternoon playing cards with this Welsh guy, I found myself trusting enough to leave my door open to run downstairs for a moment, only to come back to find my wallet empty. Of course, I confronted the guy and, of course he denied ... but seeing as though him and I were the only ones in the hostel and he had his bags packed ready to leave on a bus ... one has to wonder. The hostel did have video surveillance, but the tape had run out, so they weren't able to confirm my thoughts. Oh well ... it was only money, but nonetheless, I was a little bummed out.

After Rockhampton, I made my way up to Airlie Beach. I went on a three day boat cruise of the Whitsunday Islands. It was quite nice, but the diving wasn't that great. After Airlie, I went to Ayr ... what a hole. I stayed at a working hostel there, which wasn't anything like the organized one in Bundaberg. There was hardly any work, I was the oldest one there ... including being older than the owners of the hostel ... kids ... well, early 20's had been stuck there for months as they were drinking away their money at the bar every night. I stuck around for 4 days before getting out ... I met some interesting characters in that town, oh my goodness. I cut mangoes for 3 days on a farm. The farmer was 70 and had a 19 year old girlfriend. His girlfriend worked on the farm with us, but that didn't stop him from inviting me out for beer and then making a pass at me at the end of the night ... I mean ... as if?! I did find out later, that Danny's Backpackers ... the hostel ... was rated the worst hostel in Australia ... surprise, surprise!

Next stop ... Townsville. I thought Townsville was a great place. I had met two South African's on my boat cruise of the Whitsunday's and they happened to be there the same time as I. It was nice to have some people to chum around with for a bit. I only stayed in Townsville for 2 nights before I moved on to Magnetic Island. Friends of friends lived there, so I was staying with them for a few nights. There wasn't much to do on Maggie Island, but I was waiting for the weather to clear so I could do a dive trip of the sunken S.S. Yongala.

The dive was worth the wait ... the huge vessel was built in 1901, sunk in 1911 and wasn't discovered until 1948. It sunk in the middle of nowhere ... a few people were sick on the way out as the trip was quite bumpy. The boat itself was 30m below, so the dive trip was for advanced divers only. I was in awe of the things to be seen ... it's been my best dive to date. There were schools of fish that were as big as me ... there was a huge Hawk Bill turtle that resides inside the boat ... you could make out certain parts of the boat, like toilets and the anchor and the bathtubs and some of the rooms ... it was an amazing thing to see ... it brought tears to my eyes.

After leaving Magnetic Island, I spent another night in Townsville with my two new SA friends. The next day I was making my way to Mission Beach. The further up I headed, the hotter it seemed to be. In Mission Beach, I ran into a girl I had housed with in Bundaberg. That was the thing about OZ ... you'd always run into the same people here and there as everyone seemed to stop at the same places. Mission Beach was nothing to write home about, so I will continue on.

Cairns ... at this point, I have to admit ... I wasn't having much fun. I had managed to pick up some kind of skin rash thing somewhere along the way ... the doctors weren't sure what it was ... they figured it was a reaction from sea lice, perhaps from one of the wet suits I had been wearing ... anyways, I was put on steroids for a few weeks to try and get it cleared up. I had scarring on my arms for months. Besides that ... I was looking forward to diving in the Great Barrier Reef. It wasn't as great as my S.S. Yongala trip, but it was still very beautiful down below. I stayed in Cairns for about a week and then decided to hop a plane back down to Brisbane.

I had a few days to get packed up and express my thanks to Dan and Becky before hopping a plane to Fiji. My return flight from Fiji dropped me in Sydney as I was making my way to Newcastle to stay with my friend, Warren and his girlfriend. I lived at Warren's for about 3 months. I, again, had no luck finding work. I did do some telemarketing for about a week ... but I wasn't very good at it, so I was let go. There wasn't much else to be found. I had great fun with Waz and I was very thankful he had opened his home to me. I probably would've left OZ a lot sooner had it not been for him. He was my saviour through the bummed times.

I did go to NZ for 3 weeks within that 3 months, but funds were running low and my spirits were kind of down, so NZ probably didn't get the chance it deserved. It was a beautiful country and I made the absolute best of my time there ... I just wish it wasn't so far ... there were so many things to do, I'd like to go back one day if funds were ever to allow it. I did manage a dive day in NZ ... man oh man, the water was cold!

After getting back from NZ, it was only a few short weeks before I found myself making my way back to Taiwan. I stopped in Malaysia for about 8 days on my way ... I mean ... why not ... I had no money and I needed a boost before trying to make a new start in a new country.

So ... yeah ... Australia ... it had amazing beaches ... cheap Indian food ... lots of weird or deadly creatures ... great diving ... some good folk ... lots of weird folk ... weird lingo like, 'heaps' and 'how ya going' and 'mate' but most importantly ... it had good, cheap wine which one could purchase at drive through liquor stores which seemed to be on too many street corners ... now, if only I had me a car maybe I would've stayed!

Memorable Moments of 2003 - 3

Bula ... meaning hello. Upon my arrival into the Nadi airport, it was quite late. There are no flight curfews in Fiji ... planes (飛機 fei1 ji1) come and go all hours of the night.

The thought of having one month to do absolutely nothing was an amazing feeling. I suppose I felt this way upon my arrival in Malaysia ... but I quickly realized that Fiji exists on a time of it's own ... Fijian time ... there really isn't anything to do there ... one may have to go to see exactly what I mean, but let me tell you ... it didn't take me long to adapt.

Prior to Fiji, I had spent 10 weeks travelling up the east coast of Australia ... starting from The Gold Coast and ending in Port Douglas ... I did one month of fruit picking here and there on the way up ... it was to cover the costs for diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

Fiji was a nice escape from the tough travels I seemed to be having throughout Australia. As it was quite expensive to island hop, I didn't get to see as much of Fiji as I would've liked. I did manage to make it all the way around the main island, Viti Levu, which would take about 7 hours if you were to do it in one shot ... My travels started in Lautoka, then New Town Beach, Nadi, Suva, Korovou, Riki Riki, Nananu-I-Ra, which is another island, then back to Lautoka to grab my luggage from a storage locker.

A memorable thing from the trips around ... just when one was thinking about being in the middle of nowhere ... no villages ... big, lush greenery ... small two lane highway ... what should appear? ... a man ... dawdling on the side of the highway wearing shorts and holding a machete ... no shoes, no shirt ... just shorts and a machete ... now, if this were to happen anywhere else in the world, I would think the cops would be notified and an institution might come into play ... but this seemed to be a fairly common sight throughout Fji.

One of my favorite places was Levuka, a bigger island off the mainland, near Suva. The bus ride up was crammed, three people to every two-person seat ... boxes, full of supplies being taken back to the villages, covered the aisles ... there were no glass windows, only tarps that could be rolled down if a storm was to roll through ... happy Fijian music blasted (and I do mean blasted) from the front of the bus as people fanned their faces to keep the flies and heat away for the long journey.

We arrived on Levuka at sunset and I was blown away by my surroundings. Fiji is the most beautiful country I've been to thus far. The colours it can create is unbelievable. I would awake every morning at 5 am so I could enjoy those pink, serene beaches. There always seemed to be a few dogs willing to tag along for the dawdle.

From Levuka, I was able to catch a small boat to Caqala (pronounced than-ga-lie) island ... this is the island I seemed to get stuck on. I went there for what I thought would be two days and ended up staying almost two weeks. There was one other foreigner on the island ... an older lady who taught in Australia. Other than the two of us ... there was the family that ran that place which consisted of about 18 people ... 5 of those being adults, 4 of them being young adults and the rest being young children. It cost $40 Fijian a night to get a very basic man made bure (hut) on the water and included three square meals a day, plus tea time in the afternoons. During the day there was a beach that surrounded the island which you could walk around in about 30 minutes, Fijian time ... regular time, perhaps ... 10 – 15 minutes? At night you were only able to walk within the island as the tide came up quite high.

Three meals were served per day and you were called to dinner with this shell type horn. The meals were very basic, and not varied, but I noticed there wasn't much food offered in most places around Fiji. The tiny shops in the streets would never sell much more than taro, carrots, green beans, cucumbers, pineapples and bananas. The main staple in Fiji seemed to be fish, as it could be caught daily. The food was simply delicious. I mean, how could one possibly get enough of freshly cut pineapple?

My bure had no windows, a door that kinda closed ... if I wanted to get changed I had to move a chair over to hold the door shut. There was a small single mat on a man made wooden frame. There were toilets, but they weren't able to flush ... big barrels of water which contained a smaller floating bucket sat outside these man made outhouses ... one has to pour water in until the water flushes ... the shower area consisted of thin sheet metal ... 4 sheets of it placed together to make a box with no roof. You could, thankfully, latch the door with a small rope. It wasn't too private, but the island was pretty lonely. The shower, of course, had no running water. Water sat in a huge barrel within the 4 metal walls ... with a big red bucket that one receives upon arrival, you are able to pour the water over yourself. It took me about 4 days of being on the island (and probably 4 days of not taking a shower) before the other foreigner told me the ticket over dinner one night.

As it was the rainy season, a storm rolled through early evening every night. It never really lasted long ... anyways ... the ticket ... taking a shower during the storm ... one, it's quite dark so you feel alright stripping down to nothing ... two, it's absolutely pouring rain so there is no way you aren't getting soaked ... three, the shower was placed under a coconut tree ... the tree contained no coconuts, but apparently the natural oils from the leaves run down on your skin leaving it feeling soo soft ... what an amazing thing it was ... truly awesome!

Snorkelling around the island was unlike anything I could have hoped for. I would go in three times a day to follow fish around, check out what was up under the sea. I ran into, I'm pretty sure, the same barracuda on two different days ... his eyes said he was very interested in eating me. I also ran into a small reef shark ... while diving in Thailand we ran into 7 reef sharks ... though, it's amazing how much more protected I felt with all my scuba gear ... with nothing but some fins, a swimsuit, goggles and a snorkel, the shark was very intimidating. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a lion fish ... my best find yet. I must have watched him for a half hour ... what an amazing creature.

I spent my birthday and Christmas on this island. On Christmas day, we were taken across to a bigger island to go to a Fijian church service. I couldn't understand anything, of course, but the singing was beautiful. The church was simple, no seats ... you were to sit cross legged on the floor. It was hot and all of the locals brought with them a fan or some other device as there were a ton of flies within the walls of the church. After church we had a Kava session.

Kava is a ceremonial and social custom in Fiji. It's common in Fijian villages and it is quite normal to see groups of men gathered around the tanoa as a half coconut shell is passed around. A tanoa is a large wooden bowl in which the Kava is prepared. Kava is made from the root of a pepper tree. The root is pounded with a pestle and mortar ... I assume ... until it becomes a fine powder. The ceremony is performed in the presence of a guest ... the guest is, traditionally, seated cross legged in front of the tanoa. The master of ceremonies, acting on behalf of the guest, directs the chairperson to add water to the powdered root. When he is satisfied that the mixture is right he then calls upon his chairperson ... the one who hands off the drinks after the master serves them ... this chairperson takes a cloth and with his bare hands mixes the cloth in the water as if he's cleaning it ... soaking it and ringing it out, soaking it and ringing it out, repeat, repeat, repeat ... one hopes the chairperson has washed their hands before the ceremony ... this continues until the master says it's time to drink. The master presents the guest with the first bowl. When the bowl has been drained ... in one drink ... no sipping allowed ... there is a cry of 'maca' (pronounced maatha) meaning "it is drained" accompanied by two firm claps. The master is next to drink followed by guests in order of rank. It's quite an interesting thing to do, it seems that they take Kava drinking very seriously. Kava itself looks and tastes like dirty water and it mostly left me feeling tired.

After Kava ... it was time to head back to the island. A big Christmas dinner was going to be prepared. As I had been playing volleyball with the kids on the island just before dinner everyday, they invited me to help with the preparations. Their traditional style of cooking is known as a lovo ... basically they stack rocks in rows above some flames and heat them like a grill, then they place fish, chicken, taro and other food on the rocks .... banana leaves are placed over the food, and dirt is piled onto the leaves. The whole thing is left to simmer underground for several hours. Just before dinner ... the men will go with their garden shovels to dig out the evening’s feast ... yummy!

I think I will end my story here as I could go on and on about the many great happenings. Thoughts of Fiji will always bring a big smile to this face of mine.

Monday October 31st, 2005

It's been 11 days (十一天 shi2 yi1 tian1) since I've placed anything here ... I am currently working on a story about my travels in Fiji ... as I have so much to say, it's hard to say where it's going to go ... soon, it will be posted.

I have Datsun in my lap ... my apartment is starting to feel chilly as winter (冬天 dong1 tian1) fast approaches. A cat in a lap is always a nice way to keep warm, although I can see I am going to have to break down and buy a big heater. I wasn't thinking about heating this big apartment when I agreed to take it! For those unaware, Taiwan doesn't have central heating.

I spent the weekend in Kenting ... it's on the south coast of Taiwan. I had been there once before, but I forgot how much fun that place could be. We had a work trip ... two buses in total, about 50 people, I'd say. The weekend was full of fun ... 7 hour bus ride ... food ... dune buggies on the beach ... resort pool ... food ... scuba diving ... food ... drag show ... KTV ... booze ... 5 hours of sleep ... food ... 3 hours on the bus ... food .... 3 hours on the bus ... food ... I ate more that weekend than I did the whole of last week.

It was very tradional style, so it was quite interesting. Imagine, a big round table that can seat about 10 ... a smaller circled table sits raised on the bigger circled table ... this smaller table can spin around ... allowing one to spin it to reach his or her desired dish ... they brought us about 11 dishes for lunch and a repeat for dinner ... plates full of noodles and white rice and fried rice and squid and shrimp and fish and stomach and beef and pork and clams and ham and veggies and soups with fishballs and crab and sea cucumber ... I mean ... ridiculous.

Anyways ... all in all it was an amazing time ... as our group had thinned out and we were mostly foreigners (外國人 wai4 guo2 ren2) we managed to get ourselves into some fun at the evening shows with hot boys as hot girls and hot girls as hot girls and hot boys as hot boys ... haha! Tennis ball boobies in guys faces, boys real parts in girls hands, ice down guys pants ... and so on ... too much fun ... pretty unbelievable that they can get away with that!

And on that note ... that's all for now ... goodbye! (再見 zai4 jian4)

Memorable Moments of 2003 - 2

Langkawi Island, Malaysia to Koh Samui, Thailand

One of the longer journeys I made throughout my travels ... Thailand (泰國) was never in the original plan, but after living in Taiwan (臺灣) for five months, it seemed like a place to check out. I dared to take another speed boat from Langkawi into Satun, Thailand ... the trip was nothing like the one prior ... thankfully!

The boat trip from Malaysia to Thailand was about an hour ... the heat difference was amazing. Malaysia (馬來西亞) didn't strike me as being too hot, but upon my arrival in Thailand, it was toasty. It was rather easy to get through customs ... no one asked me a single question, I didn't even get a hello (你好 ni3 hao3) ... just a quick look through my passport ... it was stamped and I was on my way.

As I stood outside the doors of customs wondering how I would go about getting to where I wanted to go, I met a Canadian girl from Montreal who was parting with her travelling partner. We were somewhat heading in the same direction, so I decided to spend the day on the road with her as where I wanted to be was a long ways away. We bartered with a guy to take us into the city ... we wanted to go to the bus station. When we were dropped off, it was then that it struck me ... I was now in a third world country.

The bus station consisted of two wooden benches ... like something you'd find on a elementary school baseball field, with a piece of sheet metal as a roof overhead. About fifteen people filled the benches. A small battered wooden table sat to one side ... a guy in a big straw hat sat on this little stool, it was much too small for the table ... in his hands were a pencil and a pad of paper. This ... was the bus station. As no one spoke any English, all we could say was Hat Yai ... the guy in the hat wrote down how much we owed and motioned for us to sit. We weren't really sure what it was that we were waiting for or how long we were to wait but alas a van/shuttle bus came by and 15 of us shoved in for the hour journey to Hat Yai.

We were able to catch a train (火車 huo3 che1) in Hat Yai. I was heading to Surat Thani, my new found friend was heading to Bangkok. We had a few hours to kill before the train arrived so we decided to go for our first Thai meal ... so yummy! I was glad I didn't wear socks that day as the spice from the food would've blown 'em right off.

The train ride proved interesting ... people stared at us, some tried to offer us food and by this, I mean ... they were eating plain white rice from a bag with their fingers and by offering I mean they stuck their hand in the bag, grabbed a handful of rice and offered their hand ... hmmm. The best story from the train involves a boy ... he hardly spoke a word of English ... however, what I got from it was this ... he thought my hair (or lack of it) was cool and he wanted me to drink Coca Cola with him. He continually came over saying 'drink Coke, drink Coke' ... eventually, he brought his friend over, who spoke one more word of English than he did to tell me 'friend, drink Coke' ... as a last attempt, he came over to me with something written on his arm ... as he reads from his arm, the words that come out of his mouth are ... 'I love you, drink Coke'. Although it brought a huge smile to my face, he, unfortunately, was once again rejected.

Five hours of being on the train, it was finally my turn to get off. After fourteen hours on the road, I now found myself in Surat Thani ... I was making my way to some overnight boats heading to a few of the islands. I decided to first hit Koh Samui, then Koh Phangan and then Koh Tao. The boat to Koh Samui left at 11pm and it took all night to get to the island. I believe we were on a fishing boat of some kind, as there were lots of guys working downstairs ... but it was hard to tell what they were up to without looking too nosy. The upstairs, which consisted of 11 foreigners, was a low room with dark floors. You couldn't stand up as the deck was about 4 feet high. There were 40 single bed mats along two walls, 20 on each side. I crashed for a few hours with my head on my 30L pack ... this contained everything I had for 8 weeks of travel.

We were woken around 4am and found ourselves being escorted from the boat ... it was still dark. Pick up truck taxis were waiting for us ... I arrived on my first Thailand beach at 430am ... nothing was open, it was pitch black. I took my pack and walked down to the water when I encountered 8 dogs who were interested in playing ... after dipping my feet in the water, I sat in the sand with the dogs, got out my mobile and called my Mom as I couldn't believe I had finally made it ... 20 hours after leaving Malaysia, I was finally in Thailand! The sun rise was spectacular! An amazing 6 weeks followed, leaving me with memories that will always bring happiness into my heart.

Memorable Moments of 2003 - 1

Penang Island to Langkawi Island, Malaysia

I decided to take a speed boat between the two islands as it seemed to be cheaper than going back to the mainland to travel by bus (公車 gong1 che1) . I had taken the bus from KL to Pangkor Island and then up to Penang and both experiences were, um ... interesting. Most of the seats on the buses didn't sit up properly ... you were forced to 'lay back and enjoy the ride' ... the bathrooms (洗手間 xi3 shou3 jian1) weren't in working order ... the seats were very dirty and old and most of them weren't even straight ... so it was like laying back all slanted like ... ugh ... anyways, the boat seemed like a good option as the buses in Malaysia were very questionable ... cheap but questionable.

When I boarded the boat, you are to hand in your ticket and in return they give you a small black plastic bag. Now, my first thought was ... sweet, a garbage bag as I was carrying an orange and banana with me for breakfast. I soon found out the black bags were of no intention for the type of garbage I had originally thought ... they were puke bags ... yes, puke bags. I quickly began to realize why the boat trip was so cheap!

Now, I had to spend about 3 hours on this boat (船 chuan2)... I'm not normally one to get boat sick, but I was certainly counting down the moments until I was able to be free. I am kinda glad I choose a fruit breakfast that morning as I'm sure something heavier wouldn't have stayed down. Between the sounds of people gagging, the smell of fresh vomit, men carrying bigger puke bags to put the smaller puke bags into and the waves crashing up over the windows continually... I really thought we were going to tip over ... puking seemed like a natural thing to do.

Upon my arrival ... sweet, sweet land ... it was pouring rain and my stomach was feeling a bit queasy. I decided, for a change, to spend a bit of money on accommodations ... a bit of money got me a room with two beds, a TV and my very own bathroom with a shower ... it, unfortunately, wasn't hot ... but it was my own! I was kinda looking forward to my own space, a beer (啤酒 pi2 jiu3) and some TV only to find out that the TV had 3 channels and none of them were in English ... I mean, I shouldn't have expected anything else, right? I spent 4 nights in this hut on the beach before hopping another speed boat ... oh no ... to Satun, Thailand ... that is another story in itself.

Malaysia, all in all was a great country (國家 guo2 jia1)... I was lucky to be able to spend about a month in total travelling the sites. Melaka was my favourite place ... a quiet city with lots of character. Malaysia has some great Indian food and I believe this is where my love for Indian food developed ... I could hardly get enough! Believe it or not, quite a number of the restaurants do not give you utensils. I suppose traditionally, you eat with your right hand and your left hand is to lay in your lap as it's used for other things in life ... like bathroom duties ... so I hear. Anyways, being a foreigner and eating with both hands seemed to cause some giggles among the locals.

The only downfall to Malaysia was that the men weren't too pleasant to me ...I always felt the need to be covered up. I was followed once on my motorbike, I was constantly harassed with comments of 'hey baby', 'kissy, kissy' and the likes ... it wasn't overly joyful. I suppose a foreign girl with a shaved head is a bit out of place for them, so I forgive them all for being so rude!

Malaysia is definitely a country I hope to get to again in the next few years to experience some of the changes that may have taken place.

Monday, October 10th 2005

Anticipation ... today I am having a long awaited turkey dinner ... finding a turkey wasn't an easy task, here in Taiwan ... although, having three pairs of eyes looking in every western place we could think of, we were finally lucky enough to stumble upon one. Small and expensive, but nonetheless a turkey!

The plan is to cook it on a bbq ... as we are cooking on the 'BMW of BBQ's' it will prove to be very interesting. I can't wait for a taste!

Today is a holiday as Taiwan celebrates it's birthday ... (雙十節 shuang1 shi2 jie2) ... meaning 'double ten festival' ... it will make for a great day to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving.

Hope everyone is feeling full and sleepy from all that turkey!

My Photos ... (password here)

Thanks to everyone who has taken an interest thus far ... I will continue to post new pics as they come! In response to some comments ... the reason I have so few photos of my travels from 2003 is due to the fact that my camera (照相機 zhao4 xiang4 ji1) broke somewhere along the way. I took beautiful pictures in every country ... Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Fiji ... only to find upon my return to OZ that none of them had turned out. It was very disappointing as I'm not sure I'll ever make it back to a country like Fiji ... it's just so far from everything else. The time spent and the sites seen will always be embedded in my mind and my heart ... an amazing month of solitary paradise.

I was travelling with a friend through NZ and that's how I was lucky enough to obtain some photos. The pics I have from Malaysia and Thailand are from my second time around. Unfortunately, I didn't cover as much ground as I only stayed for about 10 days in each country .... I had 5 weeks less travel time in Thailand and 2 weeks less travel time in Malaysia ... 10 days doesn't allow one much time.

My two cats (我的兩隻小貓 wo3 de liang3 zhi1 xiao3 mao1) ... yes, they are the loves of my life! What can I say ... just look at those little faces! They offer such entertainment, it's amazing. A few things about them:

Datsun was found in a park in Taipei ... he was quite small and missing half his tail but very healthy when a friend picked him up. He's a very independent cat and is great at learning the rules quickly. His likes ... sleeping under my covers, sleeping on the fridge, sleeping in the pink cat carrier, sleeping in my lap whenever he can ... are you seeing a pattern here? His dislikes ... me kissing him and him seeing Levi sitting in my lap ... he usually comes over and bats her off ... it's pretty funny.

Levi was also found in the streets .... unlike Datsun, she was quite sick when she was picked up. A good friend took her in for a month or so to nurse her back to health before she came to her new home. She spent the first few months on medicine and we've since been to the vet a few times. As she gets bigger, however, she does seem to be healthier. Her likes ... biting my toes at 2am, jumping on the kitchen and bathroom counters so she can then jump onto the tops of the doors, biting my earlobes at 3am, climbing to the tops of the window screens so she can then hang from the blinds, chasing the broom while I'm sweeping and then rolling in the pile of dirt ... if there is something to get into, she's in it. She is a great cat, with a great personality and fears nothing ... she must take after her owner ... tee hee! Her dislikes ... taking medication and going to see the vet.

So ... that's about all for now ... if you do want to see the photos, click on the link, then type in my email address The password is taiwaner. Scroll down and check out the albums. I am trying to figure out a way to link the albums directly to my blog, but this is all so new to me ... it will take some time to read about how it all works ... it's a work in progress ... a life story, if you will!

Tuesday, October 4th 2005

Today, as I was sweeping my balconies clear of odds and ends from Typhoon Longwang, (龍王 long2 wang2) meaning 'dragon king', I had to think about the article I read last night. I'm normally not one for newspapers as I find the content to be a tad depressing, however, I had a private last night so I thought the english newspaper (英文報 ying1 wen2 bao4) to be a good idea. A few words from the 'Taipei Times' ...

-- after pounding the nation with heavy winds and rain -- winds up to 230kph -- blackouts left more than 100,000 without power -- rooftops were ripped away -- cars and motorcycles were tossed about like toys -- six homes were leveled --

I think that's more than enough, ya? ... so ... anyways ... while I was sweeping away ... um, silently cursing the trees and the winds ... I have to say, I felt a bit lucky to have a balcony to sweep. Actually ... two ... two balconies to sweep.

Sunday, October 2nd 2005

Well ... here goes nothing ... my very first blog ... more and more of my friends are doing the 'blog' thing ... I have managed to have a look here and there and it all seems quite interesting. I thought ... why not try one for myself ... I certainly like to write. I suppose blogging is kind of like talking to noone ... as one never really knows whose eyes might be reading.

I've been writing a chinese journal (中文日記 zhong1 wen2 re4 ji4) daily ... well, not quite daily ... the past two weeks have been rather busy ... anyways, I quite enjoy being able to write my daily activities out ... of course, it's rather limiting as my vocabulary isn't so big as of yet. Perhaps I find it all so interesting due to the fact that it's in Chinese ... we shall see!

Today is a typhoon day ... we have certainly had our share this year. I think I've already had 4 unpaid days off due to typhoons ... one can hardly afford another ... with the way I like to spend money!

The wind has been howling all night and still remains. Right now my balconies are covered with leaves that have been blown off the trees ... the screens on my windows are misplaced due to winds blowing them back and forth ... sand bags have been placed at the main entrance to my building ... ah ... typhoons ... gotta love em!

Typhoons do, however, make for a nice excuse to stay home and relax ... and this is how the blog starts ...