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 ...