Taiwan, Day 3: Chiayi And Kaohsiung

The breakfast buffet was so bad that I was still hungry after that. Then the tour bus took an hour to Alishan in Chiayi where we visited a tea store. Didn’t know that tea could be so expensive. Though I opted not to buy tea, I still learned of how Taiwanese made and drink tea. Then the bus took us to another store where they sold Taiwanese fried fruits.

The more south we got, the worse were the meals. However, at least I could eat something, unlike some people on our tour who were more picky.

In the afternoon, we visited the Fo Guang Shan Temple in Kaohsiung. Earlier this year, we visited the replica one in Wollongong, Australia. In general, the main temples of these 2 were similar. The outsides were different. They both didn’t have a good impact on me except that the they were so big.

Then we visited the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas on the Lotus Pond. This place must be an overrated tourism place of this trip. There was almost nothing to see. The smell of stink tofu was the only thing that was left of this area.

Before dinner, we went to a store to make some pineapple tarts by ourselves. The experience was kinda good as I haven’t baked anything for quite some time. Saw some sunset at the Pier-2 Art Center near the Fisherman’s Wharf.

Though the room in the Hotel D had a good decoration and was bigger than the other previous 2, it only had a walking shower and not a bathtub.

The tour guide took us to the Liuhe Night Market and here we had the first milk tea at a Tea Top store. At this place, I found someone who resembled Jackie Chan and asked him to take some photos. Other group tour companions also mimicked my action though we all doubted that he was just a fake.

Last but not least, my bond with the others was tighter when we had lobsters and played cards together late at night.

Taiwan, Day 1: Taipei

After so many days convincing my sis to go somewhere abroad this fall, I finally had her to travel with me to Taiwan, my fav place recently just because of Mayday. We booked a 4D4N tour by Nam A Chau on Tiki because the it offered the lowest price possible.

We spent the first night on the VietjetAir plane. The tour leader brought us some snack (breads) but we didn’t eat them all because we were so tired that we just wanted to sleep. Lately, I’ve brought some music with me so I could rest easily. But this time I still couldn’t have a good night sleep on the plane after all. Thanks to the ushanka, I kept my ears warm enough on the plane. This should be a must-bring hat for me on all flights from now on.

Was it the first time I welcomed dawn on a plane? I don’t remember. But the aurora really lifted my mood after 3 hours. After clearing customs and getting my booked SIM card at Taoyuan airport, we headed to the double-decked bus for our first meal in Taiwan. Our female tour guide was a Vietnamese who used to work in Taiwan for many years then later married a Taiwanese, so she explained the geography and cultural differences of the Northern, Central and Southern Taiwan so well. I thought she was the best tour guide I’ve ever met. I bet this tour would be a great experience which would change my perspective on traveling in a tour group.

Just like in Australia, all people in the bus must fasten their seat belts. The tour bus today took us to Shifen where we visited the waterfall and released a hand-written lantern to the sky. It’s my birthday today, so my wish was for health and peace, written in Chinese-Vietnamese.

After lunch, we went to the Yehliu Geopark and then the famous Taipei 101. It was good that Taiwan tourism was limited for Chinese mainland people. I hardly saw Chinese people invading these tourist spots.

After having dinner in a basement restaurant, we came to the Look Hotel for some rest. The tour guide helped us find the way to the Ximending night market where we strolled packed streets of food carts and musical performances. Finally, I took a sip of the real Taiwanese tea from 50 Lan brand. Such great tea with delicious toppings!

Phu Yen – Binh Dinh, Day 2: Nhan Mountain And Dien Cape

The train reached Tuy Hoa Station at 9:10am, just in time the flight from Hanoi landed in Tuy Hoa Airport. The bus came to pick me up and I made friends with 3 new girls: 2 were my friend’s colleagues and 1 was kinda the tour leader.

We came to the Nhan Mountain first. The Cham tower looked just like other Cham towers I have seen in Nha Trang, but the overview of Phu Yen land and sky from the mountain was majestic.

Then the tour bus took us to a pagoda before we had an early lunch at 10:40am. Delicious one. Then we had a long rest after checking in Saigon – Phu Yen hotel.

Around 3pm we departed for the Dai Lanh aka Dien Cape. I climbed up to the lighthouse with so many steps and found out I was still scared of heights after all. From there I went down to see the beautiful beach.

The tuna sushi at dinner was so delicious. Just two meals and I realized that Vietnamese food was so good. Thai, Singaporean, and Australian can’t hold a candle to Vietnamese cuisine.

The tour guide was very helpful. He went with us to try the tuna big eye dish, a specialty of Phu Yen. He also called it “ocean headlight”.

Australia, Day 14: Newcastle

It took me about 3 hours to reach Newcastle. First, I had to take a bus to Hornsby, then sat in a train. It was a very lovely travel because the train passed by the rivers, creeks, and lakes on the right side. First time I learned that a seat in a metro/train could change direction. WOW! Just trying for a photo, my sis and I didn’t really put our feet on the seats.

At the station, I was trying for the beach. When I reached the Strzelecki Lookout, I knew that I was on the Memorial Walk and the Anzac Memorial Bridge was not far. Finally, I reached the place. Though it was very sunny and windy, I still enjoyed the breathtaking views of the city and the beach. I also read some signs here, but Australian history was no fun, specifically when it involved in the World Wars.

Fist time I dipped my feet in the sea where I saw people swimming and surfing, Bar Beach. The water was a bit cool, but not really cold.

I recorded a video of Central Coast by the train on the way back.

Australia, Day 13: Bushwalking At Cumberland State Forest

As usual, my twin sis’d like to take a day off to rest. But yesterday didn’t wear me out so I decided to take a leisure stroll alone. And the destination I picked was the nearby Cumberland State Forest.

I was at the bus stop around 10AM but had to wait for so long that I thought I made a mistake reading Google Maps again. But then the bus came and took me to the forest at 10:40AM.

It took me some time to read the forest map near the gate and figure out which trail to start first. There were 3 main walks with indicators of easy or moderate grade, and 1 great north walk not near the other 3.

As I saw nobody walking like me, I started doubting this place was closed (on Wednesday) but still kept on walking. Then I saw exercising people, not just cars. And I began at the middle of the number 2 trail (red one) where I saw the board called Palm Gully Trail (1km return 1hr moderate grade). I really liked the billboard system of this trail. It guided me through the forest and made me think I wasn’t lost.

And I got to the center of the forest (I guessed) in just about 5 mins. Two thoughts crossed my mind: I either walked too fast, or the time indicators are for kid’s speed. The center had more people. It was like a picnic and bbq area with a cafe nearby. Then I saw the entrance of the number 1 trail (yellow one) with a board written Sensory Trail (350m loop 30mins easy grade).

I followed and old couple and a boy. They walked slowly and the woman helped the boy learn the trees in the forest. I copied them a bit by reading the boards carefully. And it took me 16 mins to finish this trail. Ah, I saw some small trash on the trail. Aussie kids still needed to improve environment awareness though.
I started the Palm Gully Trail all over again. This time I saw some adults bushwalking alone like me. The couple and the boy also did this trail. It also took me 16-17 mins to finish this whole 1km trail.

Then I saw some guys instructing a group of people something. Later, I realized that this game was high ropes course. A former colleague told me that in Vietnam we could find it in Dalat.

Next, I spared 30 minutes to do the number 3 trail (Forestry Trail) bushwalking. That involved some 5-min video recording. Sorry that I tried to stabilize the video in vain.

Then I sit down at the bench to have some peach or plum and watched some birds (rainbow lorikeets and maybe noisy miners) for a while. Indeed, the cawing and/or croaking sound of the birds in the forest was what freaked me out the most.

On the way back, I took my shoes off to remove dust from the inside. Then I found a small tree branch fitting right into the hole of the sole. What a remarkable memory.

It looked like it would rain but then it was sunny again so I determined to walk back to my brother’s home. Took me 1 hour on the streets though my sis-in-law kept calling and told me she’d pick me up.

This must be the best day of my Australia trip though I still have half of the journey to go.

Australia, Day 1: The Longest Flight

A small story before the departure.

“Due to engineering requirements your flight JQ62 09/02/2018 from Ho Chi Minh City to Sydney is delayed. Your flight is now expected to depart Ho Chi Minh City at 6:30pm on 09/02/2018 and arrive in Sydney at 7:10am on 10/02/2018.”

Because I was at the home airport, there’d be no reimbursement from Jetstar even though the delay time was 14 and a half hours.

Then I contacted Liberty Insurance. I’d bought travel insurance twice with Liberty before this trip, but this was the first time I experienced the claim process. Yesterday I called the hotline, and they sent me an email with instructions. Then my sis sent the documents for the delayed trip via email.

Today, they replied with this part, “Regarding the claim for a delayed trip incident from 2:00 pm on February 9, 2018 to 18:30 on February 9, 2018 in Ho Chi Minh City, the Claims Department regrets that this issue is not covered because delayed trip benefits are only considered when the insured person is abroad.” (My own translation as they wrote in Vietnamese).

The streets were so crowded with people prepping for the upcoming Tet (Lunar New Year) that we hardly book a Grab car in the early afternoon. We had to walk a bit from home to get in a cab. Luckily, as I had known of the traffic, we got the airport on time.

This was my longest flight ever, around 8 and a half hours. After searching for the free entertainment on the plane in vain, I filled in the Incoming Passenger Card then took a rest.

I found it very difficult to sleep sitting on the plane though I had a neck pillow. I had music and ebook but they couldn’t get me tired enough.

And I found it very cold in the middle of the journey. My legs needed to be straight for a rest so I put them on my sis’s.

I kept checking the screen in front of me and felt like the plane still had a long way to go. Why was I not excited at all?

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 12: Garzê To Danba

I hardly slept so I got up early. I rushed Alex to pack things up because we had to walk to the bus station. By 6 AM, we were there and Alex found a cute Chinese girl with a red cap on the bus station. He was so glad when she got on the same bus with us that he wanted to sit next to her. What an asshole! When we stopped for lunch somewhere, he tried to talk to her a bit, but she just revealed to him that she was a journalist from Fujian and traveled to Tibet. I didn’t like her way of Western traveling at all. Don’t know why Alex was so attracted with such a girl.

The bus looked like a truck with so many things on the floor, blocking the isle. The music on the bus was too loud. Also, the driver used too much of the horn. Anyway, I didn’t feel like I would get a fever again. Hope my tonsils won’t hurt me again, either.

At the bus station, we realized that there would be no bus back to Chengdu tomorrow. Alex asked the red capped girl for help, but she only told us the thing we already knew in a way too aggressively even though she smiled, then left. Thanks to another Chinese girl who spoke English, we could book the bus ticket for the 6:30 AM bus the day after tomorrow.

Maybe because the Fujian girl was a bit rude, Alex behaved nicer to me? In the hotel, he told me I was special today. Also told me I looked more cute when I was tired. Ha ha! We decided that we’d go about Danba tomorrow because we only could come back to Chengdu the day after.

On the way to have dinner and back, I bought a pair of earrings looking like the one of Aussie woman for 30 yuans and gifts for my siblings (a folding fan for my sis and a prayer wheel for my lil bro). We had another beer but Alex didn’t like the black beer much. He wasn’t drunk, but he told me he could do everything to please me, then corrected that he would do ALMOST everything. He smiled when I asked what the exception was, then replied that it was weird stuff. So funny!

Tonight the sky had a few stars. I saw the round moon. It must be day 14 or 15 of the lunar month. These were the first stars I’ve seen since I came to China. I had expected more than that.
Alex helped me massage my neck before we went to sleep.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 8: Zhonglu Tibetan Village

As the hotel owner told us to go to the Zhonglu Tibetan Village at 8 AM, we went downstairs on time. However, we had to wait for 1 hour for an Aussie couple.

The Aussie couple were old, but they were nice. They talked to us a lot, about their trips to Eastern Europe and Mongolia, and many things else. Alex even talked to them about his robot work and science.

I liked the hike today a lot. The sky was clear. It was sunny. I preferred the sun to the clouds. I envied the Aussie woman who told me she moved out of London at 21 and traveled a lot. I wish I could travel that much.

We got back to Danba around 1:30 PM then went to see what I thought the famous Suopo Watchtowers. Didn’t cross a dangerous bridge because it was unlikely that we could climb those watchtowers. We talked to a young Austrian couple on the way back to the hotel.

On the road to the center in the evening, a Chinese guy came talking to me in English. He said he was traveling from Hunan and was studying architecture. A nice guy indeed. He also showed me where to buy a mosquito racket. Actually, I didn’t intend to buy any. Just wanted to make Alex see it.

Met a Western guy who speaks Chinese at the hotel lobby. I told Alex, “I so love him” and Alex said he spoke Vietnamese very well, too. “The point is that you don’t love me.” The Western guy helped us with info of where to stay in Ganzi. He said he was married and living in the north of Beijing. His wife is Chinese. Alex joked, “I want his wife.”

I missed the fireworks due to my shower. Then Alex told me it might be fireworks from a wedding or so.

Though the hotel was modern, Danba was a nice mixture of Chinese and Tibetan. I loved life here very much. I didn’t wanna go to anywhere else or go back home. Maybe after a wild and rainy Tagong, Danba made me feel a lot better.