everything food

I made this blog mainly to document my awesome experiences with the best thing on the planet - FOOD! Up until recently, I decided to also blog about my travels and my life. I hope you all enjoy!

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I’m back in North Carolina now. After 5+ months of living in Taiwan and 10 days of family vacation, I am finally home. I figure I’d “wrap up” my series of blog updates on my travels with some final thoughts on my experience abroad this past semester.

I’ve you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you can probably tell I’ve had a great time traveling and experiencing different things this past semester. A really good friend of mine who has gone on exchange before told me that studying abroad is like being in a dream. Everything is perfect. The friends you make, the things you do, the places you go. Everything is great because it’s all situational. When it’s all over, you have to wake up and face reality again. Here’s a small picture recap of my favorite moments, people, trips, etc.

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While I think it’s a little too early for me to agree or disagree with the dream idea, I am very much prepared to face the reality of being back at home. In a month, I will begin my last year of undergraduate university. Soon, I’ll be looking for a job and making my transition into working to support myself and contribute to society. I couldn’t be more excited.

I hope to keep in touch with the great friends I’ve made throughout the whole process. Without them, nothing would have been the same. My journey in Taiwan has been an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

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Penghu Trip

My time here in Taiwan has quickly come to an end. I’ve been here for over 5 months and still feel like there is so much I haven’t done or seen yet. Fortunately, last weekend I went to the Penghu Islands with five other friends, Julien, Min, Frederic, Anne, and Olivier. Taiwan has this really awesome policy where they encourage tourism to Penghu Islands so they allow free camping on almost all of the beaches around any of the islands.

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We decided it would be really fun to do this so we bought tents and flew out of rainy Taipei on Friday to arrive to hot and sunny Penghu weather.

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The first night we decided to camp at Aimen Beach, a touristy beach with a lot of trees for shade. Since we flew out late Friday night, we didn’t get to explore much that night but we did have a nice relaxing start to our trip just chilling on the beach.

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Luckily we were the only people camping on the beach (I don’t think it’s common for locals to do this…) so it was great to have the place to ourselves.

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On Saturday we took a boat to one of the island of Ji Bei (吉貝) which is north of the main island.

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We bought a package that included round trip boat ride to the island as well as scooter rentals and unlimited water activities like banana boating, jet skis, and snorkeling. The weather was sunny and amazing.

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We spent the day on the island having fun at the beach and we even had time to drive around the island and see what it was all about.

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My friend Olivier brought his kite surf and he was able to get some good wind that day!

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My friend Frederic has an awesome underwater camera that we took pictures with as well!

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Ji Bei Island seemed really vacant and empty. There weren’t many inhabitants on the island and most of the commotion seemed to be centered around the touristy beaches.

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It was really interesting to see the places where people actually lived and empty harbors. Very cool perspective.

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Later we went to the famous Rainbow Bridge by downtown Magong City to watch the sunset.…

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That night we decided to go to an all you can eat BBQ where you grill your own food. I’m starting to think it’s a very big “small island” thing to have all you can eat BBQ’s. I was not mad at all. Everything was delicious and I was stuffed.

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They had seafood too like oysters and clams which were pretty delicious. My friend Julien ate so many oysters it reminded me of Happy Hour half off oysters at East End back at home.

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On Sunday we decided to explore the main island a little bit more so we drove around on our scooters to find some nice beaches where Olivier could also kite surf. We found a really nice beach at Shan Shui (山水) which had a really cool secluded area that we set up tent at.

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There was a part of the beach that no one was really at right by our tent which was awesome. We just hung out there and had a lot of fun. Everything was feeling more and more like a proper vacation.

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After a few hours of beach life, Olivier and Frederic stayed behind at the beach and chilled while me, Anne, Julien, and Min did a scooter tour of some of the scenic spots around the island.

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We drove across the GREAT Penghu Bridge which basically bridges the main island with some of the other islands like Bai Sha (白沙) but mainly Xi Yu (西嶼). The bridge is pretty big and epic but the coral that are on the ends of the bridge are even cooler.

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The things we do with cameras…haha!

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We also saw the Basalt Rock formations, which were really cool looking. I have to admit though, they look so much more epic in pictures. They aren’t as tall as I thought but they are very cool.

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Next we went to an abandoned/ancient/old village or town called Er Kan (二崁) and saw many abandoned things.

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We wrapped up the day with a nice meal back at Shan Shui with Frederic and Olivier and had a great night. I know this is going to be more than cliché but the sky at night with no city lights, it’ll never get old.

Monday was a very chill day where we did a lot of exploring around Shan Shui. We found a really cool trail that led to a cliff that was perfect for many things, one of them being jumping.

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One thing about my whole experience in Taiwan in general is that I have tried and done so many things that I’ve wanted to do for so long but haven’t had the opportunity. Cliff jumping is one of them. Don’t get me wrong, standing on the edge looking down at your friends having jumped already is a pretty nerve-wracking situation but THANKS NIKE because I just did it.

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And then I did it again.

You all who know me know that of course the waves got the best of me. Hah.

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That night we ate awesome food and had what seemed to be the proper ending to a proper vacation: the Penghu Firework Festival!

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15 minutes of nice fireworks paired with surprisingly good music! We got so hype so naturally we stayed behind at the festival grounds after everything ended and camped there.

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Going home the next morning was one of those “face reality” moments where you realize vacation and relaxation is over and you have to go back to not only rainy Taipei, but also the end of the semester, exams, presentations, and most importantly, the ending of our time here in Taiwan together.

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Overall, my trip to Penghu was one of, if not THE, best trip I took in Taiwan. Close friends, great weather, beautiful island, it was overall an amazing vacation. I am so glad I went with the people I went with at the time that I did. Thanks to Frederic and Julien for some of these pictures!!

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Kaohsiung

A few weekends ago I went on a weekend trip with some friends to Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan. One of my friends Angela is from there so she offered to show me and my friends Julien and Min around.

On Saturday, I met up with the three of them in Tainan where I had been staying for a few days with my grandma and uncles. We visited the Narrow Passage Café which was really cool because it was one of the first places I went to when I first came to Taiwan in 2008.

After hanging out for a while, we took the train to Kaohsiung and got settled in at Angela’s house. My friend Julien has friends from his home university studying in Kaohsiung so we met up with them at a nice sports bar to watch the Bayern vs Dortmund football game.

Kaohsiung is actually a pretty big city, although smaller than Taipei, it has a really nice feel to it. The south of Taiwan is known for being more conservative and “Taiwanese” so it was cool to experience a mix between traditional Taiwanese culture in a more modern, international sense.

The next morning we woke up and went to the grocery store to buy food for breakfast. I eat out almost every meal, every day in Taipei so I was really excited to finally be able to cook a meal. It’s also really fun to cook with friends so that was an added bonus.

Julien told us he wanted to make salmon quiche so we all helped and the quiche turned out really well. Homemade food is always the best.

Later that day we rode scooters to Lotus Lake (蓮池) which was really nice. Riding scooters around Kaohsiung was actually really crazy. Driving through city traffic is pretty much like playing Mario Kart on Toad’s Turnpike- weaving in and out between other scooters and cars is exhilarating and there are pretty much no traffic rules in Taiwan so….yeah, it was great.

Lotus Lake (or Pond) was beautiful, there are many shrines to gods and there was even a huge dragon that you could walk through.

We also cast the traditional “bua bei” (博杯). I have good things coming my way apparently!

We also had a famous drink I recently discovered called 奶蓋茶, which literally translates to milk covered tea. Basically it is sweet tea with a kind of salty, milk foam on top. With all of the sweet drinks in Taiwan, this has become one of my favorites because even though it sounds like an odd combination, the saltiness of the foam works really well with sweet green or red tea.

We also walked through an old railroad station that has been converted to a park/outdoor art gallery. It reminded me a little bit of Highline Park in New York, one of my favorite places in the city.

Overall, the weekend was great! This post is pretty late, I’ve been pretty busy with finals and presentations that are coming up this week but I thought I’d still update you guys on my travels and everything.

Partial photo credit goes to my friend Julien again!!

Green Island!

Time really goes by so fast. It’s been over a month since I’ve last updated this and now I have no idea where to start. A few weeks ago I went with a huge group of friends to Green Island, a small island off of the east coast of Taiwan.

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We were a mix of local Taiwanese and exchange students from all over the world. To get to Green Island from Taipei, you have to first take a 5-hour train ride to Taitung City and then take an hour boat ride to the island.

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My friends and I (mostly me I guess) were really excited about the boat ride because apparently it was crazy. If you go on Youtube you can find videos of people filming the boat ride. You can hear everyone in the background of the video puking. The waves are supposed to be crazy and the motion sickness is real. Needless to say, the boat ride was really fun and interesting for me since I don’t get motion sickness!

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Once we got to the island, our hostel provided us with some bikes for the weekend. We were able to tour the island a bit which was nice. The island is really small so we ate in the center of town and had pretty good authentic Green Island food which is basically Taiwanese food but with local ingredients like deer meat and seafood.

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We also had a specialty desert- shaved ice with seaweed! True to Green Island, they took a Taiwanese desert and added seaweed. I got the combination which had beans, mochi, and almond tofu. It was a nice salty/sweet contrast.

That night we made a huge campfire on the beach near our hostel. The weather was really nice and I’m always down for a late night bonfire.

Even though Green Island is really small and it wasn’t really tourist season, it was great having a huge group of 20 friends all relaxing and enjoying each other’s company on the beach.

The next day we went to the hot springs. Because the island is so small, we rode our bikes to the hot spring place which was really nice because we got to ride along the coast and see a lot of natural scenery around the island. Green Island is known for having natural seawater hot springs. It’s actually 1 out of the 3 places in the world that have them so it was cool to be able to do that.

The hot spring was also next to a huge cliff that we could walk up which was also beautiful.

After the hot springs a few of us went exploring some more. The landscape on Green Island is really beautiful. Even though it was raining a little that day, everything was still so amazing. I really like that the island is kind of untouched.

That night we went to a nice all you can eat barbeque restaurant where you grill your own food. Me and my friends made clam soup with aluminum foil, water, clams, and some salt!

The place also had KTV and if you’re reading this, you already know that as soon as I finished my food, I got on stage and sang a few songs. Me and my friends impressed everyone with our rendition of “Stand By Me” so much that a table of parents paid for us to sing it again.

Afterwards we found a nice spot by the beach again, this time without the fire since it was raining. Some of my friends set off fireworks which was great.

Overall, the trip was amazing. Everyone had a great time and we had a lot of great times.  I would definitely recommend people visiting Taiwan to spend a weekend there. Initially, it was tough to plan and organize everything, but in the end, it was all worth it.

Special thanks to my friends Julien, Daniel, Blair, and Sophie! Many of these pictures are theirs..they have really nice cameras so I thought I’d share their nice pictures instead of the ones I took on my iPhone.

I’m hoping to update everyone more on my life in Taipei in the coming weeks. Hope everyone is doing well!

Hong Kong Trip!

This past “week” was my spring break although spring break in Taiwan is really different from back at home. Last Thursday was a national holiday, Tomb Sweeping Day, where you are supposed to make sacrifices to your ancestors and clean their tombs. Friday was Children’s Day so I guess NTU decided to let us have that day off as well. Even though the break was short, it was still nice to have time off.

I went to Hong Kong from Wednesday to Monday with a few of my exchange friends. The trip was really fun and it was interesting to see another part of Asia. Hong Kong is very different from Taiwan in many ways. Most people speak a dialect of Chinese there, Cantonese, although almost everyone could speak either English of Mandarin. They also drive on the other side of the road compared to America and Taiwan which was pretty weird to get used to at first. My friend almost got hit by a bus crossing the street because he didn’t look the right way.

Anyway, here are a few highlights and pictures from my trip. On Thursday morning, my friends, Tom and Artur, and I met up with my friend from back home, Kay Kay. She had been in Hong Kong for almost a year now and it had been a while since I last saw her. It was great seeing a familiar face in a new city. She took us to a nice dim sum restaurant where we had traditional dim sum foods like pork siu mai, shrimp dumplings, noodle rolls with meat inside (chang fen), and my favorite, tripe. We then went walking around the area, Mongkok, where there are many street vendors and stalls selling typical Chinese knockoff goods.

We also walked around Tsim Tsa Shui, a classic touristy area with a nice view of the harbor and Hong Kong Island. Afterwards we met up with our friends from NTU, John, Gloria, and Ryan and had traditional wonton noodle soup for dinner which was so good. It’s really cool being able to eat the original, more authentic version of dishes that you can eat back in the States.

We also had egg tarts- a popular Cantonese dessert.

After dinner, we met up with more NTU friends, Sophie and Adrien, and headed to Central where we did a local pub crawl! The nightlife in Hong Kong is pretty different from Taipei in that it reminds me of Chapel Hill with all of the different bars and going from one place to another versus in Taipei where you pretty much stay in one place at a time. There are a lot of foreigners in Hong Kong so we met a ton of people from all around the world. We even met a guy from Winston Salem which was crazy.

Friday morning Tom, Artur, Sophie, Adrien and I went to Macau just for the day. We did a small tour of the city and got to see a lot of cool monuments and historical sites. It was really cool to see the contrast between the modern city where all of the casinos were and the old buildings built by the Portuguese and Chinese dating back centuries ago.

We visited a temple and walked around the old city center where there were many shops and stalls. The layout reminded me of France and Belgium where the roads are all stone and there are fountains and squares. It really didn’t seem like we were in Asia anymore.

After eating dinner at a nice Portuguese restaurant, we went to the MGM to gamble. I had never gambled before so I was pretty excited. My friends and I played blackjack and call it beginners luck but I was able to win 1350 HKD, about $174!

On Saturday the five of us walked around the city center on Hong Kong island. We went to a tea museum and had traditional Chinese teas afterwards, the botanical gardens which also had a small zoo in it, and we also visited a few historic churches and buildings that were very cool.

We also took the ferry across to Kowloon where we went to the Avenue of the Stars. It was a much nicer day out so we were able to get a better view of Hong Kong island from across the harbor.

 

On Sunday, Tom and Artur went back to Taipei so Sophie, Adrien, and I decided to visit the Peak since the weather was much nicer than the previous days.

The Peak is one of the highest points in Hong Kong and from the top you can see everything. It was really nice to see the city from up top.

That night we had dinner again with Kay Kay and another friend I randomly bumped into, Akhil, who I’ve known since middle school. We had traditional barbeque pork (char siu) which was delicious. The place we went to was a very local restaurant packed with a ton of people, which is always a good sign. Afterwards, we all went to the top of the Ritz Carlton hotel where there’s the highest bar in the world. The view from the top was amazing, especially since it was nighttime with all of the city lights. It was a great ending to a great trip.

Hope you all are doing well!