DIY Taiwanese Bubble Tea

What’s tall, a shade of mocha brown, has tiny balls and a big fat straw inside it?

Why it’s bubble tea of course! 

Also known as boba drink, pearl tea drink, boba ice tea, boba, boba nai cha, zhen zhou nai cha, pearl milk tea, and probably many other names, bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the early 1980’s.

What started as small tea stands outside of elementary schools on the streets of Taiwan has now become an international phenomenon, with plenty of stores in North America and other parts of the world serving bubble tea!

The bubbles in the tea are tapioca pearls that are usually made of caramel, starch, and chamomile extract. This cool beverage is not just a fad, its addicting, and in Taiwan especially, it is a lifestyle.

Since bubble tea is so well known and loved in this country I decided I was going to try to make my own!
There are many ways of making this delicious drink. You can use different types of sugar, syrups instead of sugar, and even different blends of tea! It’s hard to go wrong, which is a big reason behind why I chose to take a shot at this Taiwanese staple.
For this experiment you will need:
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Tapioca pearls
Sugar
Milk (regular or soy)
Black tea
A strainer
2 pots
The quantities in this recipe are for one portion so just adjust accordingly, depending on how many glasses you’d like to enjoy!
Step 1: Take 30 grams of tapioca pearls and boil on medium to high heat in 500 mL of water for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the tapioca turns a dark brown colour.
 Step 2: In a separate pot, add 300 mL of water and 10 grams (or 1-1.5 tea spoons) of black tea and let it boil for one minute. Next add 300 mL of milk and once it starts to boil reduce heat. At this time you can also add the amount of sugar you desire, I added two teaspoons. Stir this mixture occasionally.
Step 3: Next strain the black tea leaves from the milk tea.
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Step 4:Once tapioca is cooked (dark brown), strain it and place it in a cup like so.
Step 5: Add the strained milk tea into the cup filled with tapioca and ENJOY!
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You may add more ingredients as desired but here you have basic Bubble Tea in five easy steps! Although it didn’t taste exactly like the tea one can find in a shop, the gratification of having made it with my own two hands made the drink THAT much more enjoyable. It’s also nice because you can control just how sweet or how strong you make it!

However, if you’re trying Bubble Tea for the first time, you should really go to the experts. In Taiwan, there’s an abundance of fantastic tea stores, but here are some excellent places, courtesy of BuzzFeed, that you should definitely try!

 

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My Time in Taipei & What it’s Meant

As I look back at the last five months of my life all I can think is wow. 

It may be cliché but I can’t help but wonder how the time went by so quickly?

Seriously is there somebody with a remote control for my life and have they been pressing x2 >> this entire time?

A lot of emotions come to mind as I reflect on the past five months living in another country.

Nervousness, gratitude, growth, discovery, doubt, self improvement, amazement, shock and many more words come to mind.

I’ve met so many amazing people, seen countless incredible sights, shared and created fantastic memories and overall experienced so much; many of these experiences were things I had never thought possible before taking this trip.

 

Eye-opening.

That would be the one word that I believe best summarizes my experience abroad. Growing up in a North American society my mind has been organized and programmed to think in one way. My time spent living in Taiwan, and also travelling to four countries in between, has allowed me to see how people of other backgrounds think.

As my home base, I’ve had some insight into how Taiwanese society operates, I’ve noticed differences between this society and the one I grew up in. I’ve also noted ways in which I feel Taiwan is both ahead of and behind the game in comparison to my home country of Canada.

To name a few, the public transportation system here (comprised of subway, buses, bicycles, etc.) is extremely convenient, expansive, and inexpensive. Also when you purchase a product in Taiwan your receipt comes back with a number, this number is automatically entered into a bi-monthly lottery! How neat is that!?

There are of course other aspects of living in Taiwan that I have had to unwillingly get used to. For one, most restaurants don’t have knives here. It’s as if your teeth are your knives and for a Westerner trying to eat a large piece of chicken, this is not always practical. It’s also very common for people to very loudly clear their throats here, and at first these tendencies can seem disruptive but sooner than later you become accustom to it. It becomes normalized and then you almost forget it ever bothered you in the first place.

No one society is perfect but what this tells me is that its important to define and acknowledge difference as more of a learning opportunity than anything else. Difference shouldn’t be frowned upon as being a negative trait, but rather as a chance to learn and potentially make a positive change.

Working with Taiwanese people really showed me a lot about some of their common characteristics. They were nothing but extremely generous and complimentary towards me. Maybe I just got lucky, but the Taiwanese people I have met here are very hard working and very generous people.

Although shy at first, after a few weeks my co-workers really opened up to me and shared more about their lives. They were very curious about me and asked many questions about my life in Canada, and of course I always asked them the same questions back. These informal exchanges greatly enhanced my understanding of their every day lives and overall culture.

They also liked to joke with me more, even poking fun at my Chinese pronunciation. I’m grateful for the time they took to help me learn how to order coffee or my favourite food in all of Taiwan: dumplings (shuǐjiǎo).

I can honestly say that this experience was not exactly what I first expected. But there is something to be said about the expectations I had in that they stemmed from a lack of knowledge and also from listening to other people’s thoughts on what Taiwan might be like (it is worth noting that most of these people had never actually been to the country before). What I take from this is that, listening to what other people think about what you plan on doing is not always going to be the best thing you can do for yourself. Sometimes you need to just go for it, you might make mistakes or encounter unexpected circumstances but if you don’t try it how will you ever know?

Although different from my original thoughts, I more importantly wouldn’t change this experience for the world. I believe it has helped me to grow and mature greatly. I’ve lived with a stranger who quickly became a good friend and I’ve also lived by myself and learned more in the past five months than any semester in university!

I’ll always be grateful to this tiny yet proud country and the wonderful souls I have met in it. I will miss the night markets and their yummy snacks and fresh juices. The UBike system, the bars that stay open until 7 AM, and most of all, yeah you guessed it, dumplings.

A Tour of Taroko National Park

A few weekends ago I explored Hualien City, the county seat of Hualien, with my friend Josh (who by the way is super talented and responsible for all of the pictures of myself that I included in this article.)

I wanted to show him one of Taiwan’s most scenic areas so naturally we ventured to Taroko National Park!

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This was a slightly ambitious one day trip, however from Taipei we were able to make it to the park and enjoy the sights all before it got dark. To maximize your time you just need to be sure to get up early the day of and do some research prior to arriving in Hualien City.

There are two methods of getting to Taroko National Park, the first being by combo ticket and the second by taking a direct train. The two are close in cost, with the direct train being the faster and more comfortable option. For more information on transportation between the two cities, consult this expertly written blog.

Josh and I decided before hand that we were going to rent scooters in order to travel at our own pace and have the freedom to chose exactly what areas of the National Park we wanted to explore. Once we arrived at the train station in Hualien City we were approached by the owner of a scooter rental shop and he quickly escorted us to his nearby shop. It cost $500 NTD (or $22 CAD) to rent them for the day and of course they came with helmets #safetyfirst

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If you don’t feel comfortable driving a scooter there are also buses that will take you there and you can learn more about how to catch it here under the <About the shuttle bus in Taroko> heading.

We were feeling adventurous that day so we found our way there using our good friend Google Maps, however my new favourite app Maps.me is also really good for directions and accuracy! Once you are out of the core city it is essentially a straight shot and the whole ride will take you approximately 40 minutes.

On the way to the park the views of the mountains were beautiful but once we reached an area just outside the park, the beauty we were immersed rose to a jaw dropping level.

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We proceeded to the Visitor Centre and got some helpful information from a very friendly park enthusiast. I recommend doing this just to take a break, go to the washroom, or buy a snack and some water.

We then took a left out of the Visitor Centre, went straight for 500 metres and eventually took a right following the signs for Taroko Gorge. We quickly noticed that everyone is required to wear helmets in the park due to the potential of rock slides, luckily we already had ours.

We road along the impressive Taroko Gorge until we arrived at the Swallow Grotto. The potholes found in the cliffs were especially impressive, not to mention the built in springs.

There is a trail you can walk that is about half a kilometre starting from the beginning of the Swallow Grotto, it’s called the Yanzikou Trail and it offers an up close and personal view of this impressive rock formation.

Since we rented scooters, we continued to ride along until we got to Cimu bridge where we stopped to take in the awe-inspiring architecture complimented by the surrounding astounding landscape.

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The rushing grey water that flows throughout these marble mountains is most likely this colour from the rocks and sediment below it, but there are places in the stream where marble rock is exposed and clear blue water is visible. This combination really is stunning in person and despite being completely natural, looks as if it was painted to be that way.

Next we found a waterfall that we got to observe from a nearby (somewhat nervewracking) suspension bridge. It was pretty wonderful to witness this raw and powerful display of nature.

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Below is a map highlighting the major scenic spots within the Taroko Gorge. You can find out more details on the Taroko National Park website including various tour suggestions.

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Personally, Taroko National Park served as a large reminder of how small we as humans really are. Everywhere you look at in this park, from any angle, you are surrounded by mountains and gorges up to 3,000 metres in elevation. The park is literal eye candy, a dazzling visual experience if you will. The greenery, the waterfalls, the shrines, and statues are all sensational and I guarantee you will say the word “WOW” at least five times during your time there. It is trips like these that emphasize how beautiful this world is and how important it is that we enjoy our world’s wonders in a respectful way.

Why You Should Travel While You Are Young.

I have been extremely fortunate to have grown up with a family who has traveled together to parts of Venezuela, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Dominican Republic, United States of America (RIP), Italy, and our home country of Canada.

Now as a young woman I’ve been given the amazing opportunity to work and live in the country of Taiwan, and since have traveled to Hong Kong, South Korea, and most recently the Philippines.

The traveling I’ve been able to accomplish since living in Taiwan has definitely altered the way I think about and see the world and has only made me want to explore more of it. I strongly believe every young person should travel and spend some time away from home, now let me tell you why:

  1. Travel teaches you about the world in ways a textbook can’t.
  • Sure you’ve read about other countries in one of your global studies or international relations classes in school, but when you actually have the chance to speak and interact with people of the country you are visiting, you learn authentic truths that are often contrary to popular belief. Forming a unique and individual opinion is much more character building then assuming what you’ve read or heard from the news is the complete truth.
  • These experiences abroad become imprinted into your brain and this newfound knowledge provides you with a basic understanding of another culture. The town I was raised in is not abundant in diversity, which until this trip helped to further my cultural ignorance. Traveling has helped me become aware of the distinctness of many ethnicities I once naively assumed were similar, something that I believe is so important. Ignorance is NOT bliss people. 
  • Learning also occurs as you meet the most interesting fellow travellers.  Did you know they speak Luxembourgish in Luxembourg? I would have never guessed that until meeting somebody from there! When you travel with new people you meet you exchange valuable cultural knowledge through your conversations. You begin to understand each others cultural norms and customs, which then allows you to see why they react to situations either similarly or differently then yourself. You now understand that what might seem rude to you is simply average behaviour in that person’s country of origin. And you learn about their home and the countries they’ve visited, which makes you realize that…
  • There is SO much of the world you never thought of visiting because you’ve never really thought about all there is to see on this fascinating planet. This has made me realize that if I don’t travel now, while I’m young, and begin to discover it, I’ll be far less likely to want to do so once I am older.

2. Travel rewards you with the most unique experiences.

  • When you travel to different countries you experience things you could never see or engage in at home. I would have never been able to observe the traditions that take place during the month of Taiwan’s Ghost Festival had I not been here. I likely would have never cared to learn a thing about Hong Kong’s politics had I not been visiting during the time of an important election. Not to mention all of the amazing foods and drinks you never knew you were missing out on!
  • The experiences you have often push you to go outside of what you previously considered your norm. In Taiwan they have a delicacy called, “stinky tofu” and my Taiwanese friends told me that if I did not try it, it would be as if I never lived here. So I tried a food I would normally never would. Did I enjoy the taste? Not exactly… but will I remember the time I tried this local cuisine in an authentic Taiwanese restaurant? Absolutely.

3. Travel gives you perspective.

  • Often as youth we say the phrase “I’m too poor for that” but we really don’t know what it’s like to be poor compared to say young people in the Philippines, where 26 million Filipinos are considered poor, and 12 million below the poverty line.
  • I received a dose of first hand perspective after speaking with local Filipinos (who are the friendliest people) on an island hopping tour. They  were so excited and felt so lucky to be there that day as they explained they’d been saving for 6 months to take part in it. The cost of the tour was 1,200 Philippine Pesos, approximately $30 CAD… Have you ever saved so long for something worth so little? I know I haven’t.
  • Once you pass through a rural village in this country and see the structures people call their homes, and the conditions they live in every day, you realize calling yourself poor is not acceptable. And once you see what other people go through, it makes you want to find real ways to help poor communities around the world. You wonder how people with so little can be so happy, and you self reflect because of it.

4. Travel makes you more responsible and resourceful

  • When visiting a new country I have been surprised with how helpful locals often are with providing directions to tourists. That being said, when traveling you ultimately need to look out for yourself. Traveling has helped me realize the world in fact does not revolve around me. It doesn’t matter if you need to get somewhere to catch a flight, if all of the train tickets are booked, they’re booked. 
  • Meaning you need to find a solution and plan better for next time. Whether thats downloading a map of the area you know you will be in, or formulating a plan A or B in case things go horribly wrong (because odds are, at some point, they will). In this sense, you learn from your mistakes and you learn QUICKLY.

5. Travel makes you more appreciative

  • Vacationing on a budget means staying in hostels aka a room of bunkbeds with complete strangers sharing a small number of bathrooms. Its amazing how inexpensive these places can be (anywhere from $7 to $15 CAD a night) but of course there is a reason as to why.
  • It is in these situations, where the accommodation is not luxurious but enough for you to get by, that you grasp how fortunate you are to live the way you do when you’re at home. If there’s one thing that’s for sure, I will do my best to never take hot showers and toilets you can flush with a button for granted again.
  • The bittersweet aspect of travel is that at the end of your amazing experience you get to return to your regular lifestyle, and although that place remains the same, you will have grown in some way. For me this place currently is Taipei, Taiwan and I feel extremely fortuitous to have chosen a city that has become my second home. While I travel I miss the clean and busy streets filled with kind people and yummy foods.

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One travel lesson that especially resonates with me is not to assume I am guaranteed anything. This principle carries true to many aspects in life but serves as a reminder that we are never guaranteed old age. This begs the question: why wait until you’re older to travel? Why wait until you have more serious obligations and responsibilities to deal with? Maybe you’ll retire later than the average person, but you also will have seen and experienced so many different things!

Taking time off for travel seems to have a negative connotation in North American society. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, a stigma does exist, as often people are perceived to be lazy or crazy. I don’t believe this reaction to be valid because by traveling you are making the effort to learn so much more than you could ever learn from studying, working, or remaining in one place. You also become a person of higher global understanding, something our world needs now more than ever.

Of course we have responsibilities in life, we have to complete our education, pay off our debts, take care of sick family and friends, but when the time in your life allows for it, traveling needs to be at the top of your priority list.

And so fellow millennials (yes I’m looking at you),  instead of buying the newest sports jersey, or Kylie Jenner lip kit, I urge you to save your money. Put it towards something that will continue to repay you for the rest of your life, and develop you into a wiser, happier, more resourceful, and more grateful individual.

I don’t know about you but I refuse to live a life that I reflect upon and wish that I had seen more, done more, and ultimately LIVED more.

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PSA: The definition of young in this article is not unilateral, if you are in good health to travel, and aren’t bound to one location, who cares what your age in physical years may be, I say it’s never too late to get out there and explore!

 

Climbing the Dragon’s Back

One of my favourite adventures during my trip to Hong Kong had to be a hike called the Dragon’s Back. This duration of this hike depends on two factors: how fast you walk and how many pictures you take.

IF you’re the traveller who needs to capture every angle in their photos (me) I’d give it 3.5 hours, BUT it can be done in up to 2.5 if you move quickly.

What I find amazing about Hong Kong is that it’s city centre of impressively tall buildings is surrounded by mountains that not only offer a calm escape, but also incredible views.

The Dragon’s Back hike is well known. You can find reviews on TripAdvisor, that may suggest you book a tour or take a bus. And you can also learn more about the trail from LonelyPlanet, but if you’d like an inexpensive method, tried and true by yours truly, keep reading.

My friend Adalia and I woke up early one morning, grabbed the freshest take out sushi I have ever had, and headed to MTR station Chai Wan, located on the end of the Island line. Like many countries in South Asia, transportation cards for the subway, buses and street cars, can be purchased and reloaded at 7-11 locations; they take convenience store to a whole new level over here.

So if you’re visiting, grab an Octopus Card, it will definitely be worth your while!

Next I recommend taking Exit A from Chai Wan MTR station, where you will walk through a mall. Keep to the right and exit at the first outdoor walkway, also located on your right. Take the outdoor walk way and continue straight, perhaps 2 minutes, until you find a set of stairs to take you down.

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Once you reach the bottom, walk across the street towards Wan Tsui Road, you should see the sign no problem.

Next walk straight on Wan Tsui for approximately 200 metres

Then take a left on Lin Shing Road. After turning left you have an incline walk, for roughly 350 metres. Once you reach the top of a small hill you’ll find an intersection and see the entrance for the Cape Collinson Catholic Cemetery across from you.

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This sounds strange, and at first looks strange, but go through the entrance and walk up the first set of stairs towards your left.

Again it’s a tad odd, and you’ll think “Are these really the right stairs?” “Am I being punked?” But they are, and you’re not. Once you’re there you can’t miss them!

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Continue straight up these stairs, up to the very top, until you are out of the cemetery and into the nature! This part of the climb is steep so take your time, use the railing, and remember: the view IS worth it.

Keep walking up the steps until you come to a clearing. To your right you should see the wooden sign pictured here, walk towards the direction of Tam Tam Gap.

From here on out it’s essentially a straight shot! Just follow the road to the trail, which will eventually head left, and don’t stress, sign posts will indicate the way.

The first bit of the trail is shaded, and not much of an incline so it’s really nice. It is a bit rocky so make sure to watch your step.

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Next you will see a sign indicating the Dragons Back! It might be a little tricky to see at first so be on the look out for a point where the path diverges. Follow that sign and start walking up towards the left. And then keep walking. And then walk some more…

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Right about now is when you can start to get really excited because at this point you are CLOSE. If the sign’s aren’t enough, you should be able to gage it from the amount of sweat on your body, gotta love that Hong Kong humidity. 

Here I wasn’t even at the top of the peak and I was literally speechless!

Once we reached the summit, we not only felt super accomplished, but we were blown away by the scenery. On a good day, you can clearly see the nearby Shek-o Beach, as well as the area of Hong Kong called Stanley behind you.

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Feeling like Dany Targaryen after conquering the 🐲🔙

A post shared by creative communicator (@careolinadoidge) on

Instead of going back the way you came from, I suggest you continue down the other side of the Dragon’s Back for some more amazing viewage. This direction is towards Shek-O Village, where you can have amazing Thai food and relax by the beach.

Once you’re back on flat ground, take a left out of the trail and wait for the #9 bus on the left side of the road to Shek-o Village! After Shek-O you can take the #9 back to the original MTR station you came from.

This hike has inspired me to attempt to climb Teapot Mountain 茶壺山 located near Jinguashi in northern Taiwan. This trail is much more difficult than Elephant Mountain, located in Taipei. Unlike the city views of Elephant Mountain, (20 minutes to climb), Teapot Mountain (4-5 hours to climb) lies in the heart of the wilderness on the northern coast, boasting views of the Pacific Ocean and even involving rock climbing at points.

Okay, so it’s ambitious, but after the Dragon’s Back I feel ready to tame another mountain!

Happy Hiking Friends! 

Dragon’s Back Route

More Hong Kong Hikes

Fear Not Food Lovers

When I talk to people about life in Taiwan I am often bombarded with questions about food.

“But…. what’s the food like over there?”

“What do you eat everyday?!” 

“Is it mainly just rice??”

It’s true that I eat a lot of rice and noodle based dishes, (which I am more than okay with because frankly they are delicious) but I have also found plenty of alternative meal options, that are healthy, scrumptious, and most importantly, diverse!

Taipei is a city with a population of 2.7 million people, so naturally there are restaurants of almost any cuisine one could possibly desire! I’m talking Spanish, Italian, Indian, Thai, Mediterranean, Vietnamese you name it, this city has it.

Recently I decided to try a German restaurant called Oma Ursel’s and it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time!

Oma Ursel’s German Restaurant and Bakery has operated in Taipei since 2004. It’s safe to say they definitely know what they’re doing when it comes to serving freshly cooked food.

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The exterior of the building has an old fairy-tale feel to it and the outdoor patio is extremely quaint and makes you feel as if you are visiting your grandmother’s home. Waitresses dressed in traditional German outfits add to the cultural experience.

Their menu is filled with authentic dishes, with lunch and dinner specials ranging from approximately $300-600 NTD ($13-$25 CAD). Oma Ursel’s offers great value for the freshness, high quality, and accompaniments of their dishes see for yourself and check out their menu here!

When I visited I had fresh fish and spaetzle noodles for dinner; it was delectable.

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The restaurant has homemade vegetable and chicken soups, in addition to fresh salads for appetizers.

For myself, and my fellow dessert lovers out there, the real winner is their dessert selection.

With fresh pastries and pies made each day, your choice of dessert is included in most lunch/ dinner specials and they are all to die for. Don’t forget tea or coffee is also included!

Apple pie and caramel ice coffee. Is there a better way to end a meal? Maybe. But this way is pretty darn good. 

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Coming from an Italian background, most of my family and even many of my friends always have food on the brain. Some firmly believe that they could not survive over here because they believe the food is so “different.”

What they have yet to see is that there are SO many fantastic food options to choose from, even for the pickiest of eaters. So to help debunk this myth I’m going to start writing more about the meals I have and the new foods I indulge in.

Hopefully I’ll provide some knowledge about how delicious authentic Taiwanese cuisine can be while showcasing how diverse the restaurants of Taipei are!

Stay tuned for updates on traditional Taiwanese restaurants, and look out (be glad you are nowhere near my kitchen) for a personal attempt at making a few authentic recipes!

Until then, stay hungry friends!

Oma Ursel’s Restaurant and Bakery Taipei

Menu

Facebook Page

Review by The Taipei Times

 

 

 

A Taste of the Pacific Ocean

Have you ever tasted the Pacific Ocean? Maybe an unexpected wave crashed into you right when you opened your mouth to yell something at a friend or sibling?

I realized this past weekend that fortunately, the Pacific is much less salty than the Atlantic! Why is this relevant you ask? Because recently I chose one windy day to go snorkelling and although I likely swallowed an entire glass of salt water, it was extremely worth it.

My friends Sandra, Shiun and I met at Taipei Main Station and took the 1811 bus to LuoDong! The bus ticket will cost you $110 NTD (and the bus leaves at 8:20, 9:20, and 10:20 AM, so naturally we took the latest one.

CAMERAThe stop for the snorkelling is called Long Dong Port.

The location is remote so before leaving make sure to stock up on food, water, sunscreen, and to bring all necessities: bathing suits, towels, sunglasses, etc.

Once we got off the bus we walked down some bamboo stairs, continued straight for about two minutes, and before long saw a quaint shop on the corner that rented snorkel equipment.

For $70 NTD we rented a snorkel and began the journey to the “Dragon’s Hole” for some underwater adventures! The path to the snorkelling cove is straight from the shop (ProTravelTip: remember to follow the people, the crowd rarely leads you astray) and is a tad difficult to get to, unless your parents put you in rock climbing classes as a child.

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It takes about 15 minutes, and my best advice is to just take your time, wear some running shoes, and look before you step/ jump.

Once you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view and will instantly forget how annoying that rock trek was. Place your bags somewhere on the rocks, strap on that snorkel, and jump in!

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The water was perfect temperature for swimming and we quickly found a spot where, what I like to refer to as Dory’s (ahem Finding Nemo ahem), we’re hanging out!

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After swimming around and taking in the bunches of beautiful coral and fish gathered around them, we spotted a rock formation where people we’re jumping off.

It was about two storey’s high so of course we had to jump off of it. After scaling up the rock formation, with the help of two ropes tied to the rock, I quickly took in the view before taking my leap! Oh, and plugging my nose.

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We swam, laughed, and soaked up the sun during lunch while we reflected about just how lucky we were to explore this hidden treasure at so little cost! After all, it’s important to be in the moment, but in that moment it’s also extremely important to reflect and appreciate what you are experiencing.

There are some days in life we wish we could relive because they were THAT awesome, and let me just say that for me, this was definitely one of them.

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Travelling to Long Dong?

First, download BusTracker Taipei from the app store.

On your way home, the 1811 bus can pick you up at the Long Dong Port at 3 PM or 6 PM.

Alternatively, you can take a bus to Keelung (for example bus 791) and then from Keelung buses leave every 10 minutes for Taipei.

Bus 1811: http://www.taiwanbus.tw/information.aspx?Line=3025&Lang=En

 

Typhoon Tyranny!

My Taiwanese experience got a little more authentic after this past Tuesday, September 27th as Typhoon Megi made landfall in Taiwan. And just like Miley Cyrus it came in like a wrecking ball!

Schools were closed, work was cancelled, and most businesses, except for the trusty and ever so populous 7-11’s, were closed.

Typhoon Megi was especially threatening to the country as the centre of the storm passed directly over Taiwan, moving from east to west and beginning in Hualien City.

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During

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In Hualien it brought ashore winds equal to that of a Category 4 Hurricane.

As the winds and rains of Megi ravaged Taiwan, the effects of the storm were also greatly felt in the west of Taiwan. The island’s Central Weather Bureau showed steady winds of 100km/h in Taichung City with gusts of 198km/h on Tuesday afternoon.

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The storm even effected Eastern China as multiple mudslides occurred resulting in at least 30 people missing.

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More than 14,700 people were evacuated in Taiwan, while millions lost power and hundreds of thousands of homes were without water. Typhoon Megi killed four people and injured more than 523 in Taiwan in total.

Prime time typhoon season in Taiwan is July to September.However these massive storms are possible from June to October and supposedly are more rare but often more fierce in October.

Check out this video from CNN’s report on Typhoon Megi to get a visual representation of what this country is dealing with.

Luckily for myself I live in Taipei, the capital located in northern Taiwan. The effects of typhoons are not felt too strongly here however within six hours of Megi hitting Taiwan, 75 mm of rain was recorded.

The radius of this storm was large and it’s safe to say it effected Taipei in a greater way then the last two typhoons Meranti and Malakas, who’s force was felt off-shore of Taiwan.

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This was the third typhoon Taiwan has been hit with in the past 2 weeks. Oh and good news folks, my friends tell me theres rumblings of another typhoon for this coming week. Strap in real tight Taiwan, you’re in for another strong shower!

Reports on Typhoon Megi: 

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2016/09/26/2003655949

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/26/asia/typhoon-megi-taiwan-weather/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/29/typhoon-megi-dozens-missing-after-landslide-hits-chinese-village

https://weather.com/storms/typhoon/news/typhoon-megi-forecast-taiwan-china

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-37503174

To Infinity and Beyond at Wanli

The date was September 24, 2016. It was a Saturday, but not your average sleep in, watch Netflix, and run some errands kind of Saturday.

After persuading my roommate Greg to join me, I was starting to get nervous as I lay awake in bed. The hour was 8: 45 AM, and it was time for me to get ready.

After throwing on some athletic gear and making a quick breakfast we were out the door and on our way to our high flying adventure.

We met a large group of fellow adrenaline seekers at the Taipei Main Bus Station’s Terminal A to take Kuo-Kuang bus 1815.

Our destination? Wanli, New Taipei. Our mission? To run off a cliff, float 200 feet in the air, and capture some amazing views.

The bus to Wanli took approximately 40 minutes, and to me it felt even faster as I thought more and more about what I was about to do. But believe me there was no way I was going to let myself back out (I told too many of my friends, I’d never live it down).

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When we arrived at our destination we got off the 1815 bus and shuttle vans promptly picked us up to take us up the mountain to the take off sight!

Five minutes later at the top we suited up in our paragliding harnesses, and helmets!

Naturally, I chose a Hello Kitty one.

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We worked with members of Mustang Paragliding Club that day and they were amazing! They made you laugh and feel calm, were very organized, and even gave you a selfie stick and a go-pro to use during your flight! Afterwards the 8G micro SD card was yours to keep, who doesn’t love free micro SD cards?! 

This shuttle service, provided by the Mustang Club, was organized by an organization called Taiwan Adventure Outings and they were responsible for this flawless event!

They purchased our bus tickets ahead of time so all we had to do was get on the bus and pay them there. They negotiated a group price for us that was extremely reasonable at $1,500 NTD or a little less than $65 CAD.

If you’re in Taiwan and are looking to do some adrenaline or nature based trips, Dustin and Ryan at Taiwan Adventure Outings are your guys! Check out their fan page and even look up their group on Facebook to see the paragliding and many other awesome trips they hold each weekend!

My paragliding experience was 6 minutes of pure bliss. There was no time for serious nerves as the take off happened so quickly that once I got in the air I was just so happy to be up there!

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Looking straight I saw the beautiful blue water of the Pacific Ocean, behind me were lush green mountains, and below there was a town that appeared to be micro-sized. The sky was so clear you could see for miles, once I was in the air I really did not want the flight to end.

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My guide was extremely kind and really fun to float with, during the flight he had us going in circles, going up and down, and I loved every second of it! To catch a short video of my amazing experience, check out my latest Instagram: @careolinadoidge or my Facebook page !

I can’t even describe how happy I am that I went through with paragliding. This experience proved to be a reminder that sometimes you just gotta suck up some courage and go for it!

Its common to complain about feeling bored or too comfortable in our routines. I think its important to think about what we can do to change that, it can start with something small and simple, or be something more drastic. For me the important thing was all about stepping outside my comfort zone and pushing myself to do something I wouldn’t normally do.

 Lululemon advocates it, and going forward I’m going to try and abide by it. Do something this week that scares you or pushes you, and afterwards see how you feel.

 

OH and in case you want to get back to Taipei Main Station: Catch the 1815 Bus!

Here’s the schedule and listed stops: http://www.taiwanbus.tw/information.aspx?Lang=En&Line=8236

 

Taiwanese Mandarin and Hokkien

Traveling to a country different than the one you were born in can often involve dealing with a language barrier.

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In my case, I’ve found this to be too true. Although a large amount of people in Taipei can speak a decent amount of English, it is common for people outside the city to know less, and in both situations there is still not much room for lengthy communication.

I stand by the statement made by Rita Mae Brown when she said that, “Language is the road map of a culture.  It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”

Not understanding a certain language can leave you feeling all of the above, but I really believe that you cannot completely understand another culture, or really get to know the people you meet from it it, until you speak their language.

Sure I can have basic conversations with Taiwanese people but even not being able to ask a sales person more than “How much for this?” in Mandarin bothers me.

And just when I thought I was starting to be able to detect the sound of Mandarin. I was walking down my street one day past a place where an elderly man owns a small fruit market.

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He was sitting close to the street talking to what looked like his close friend, only it didn’t sound like Mandarin. After consulting with one of my Taiwanese friends they suggested it was likely Hokkien, which instantly made me wonder, what is Hokkien?

Hokkien is a dialect that descended from old mainstream Chinese. And after some research I realized there’s several variants of the Hokkien language, Taiwanese Hokkien just happens to be one of them! But Medan Hokkien and Singaporean Hokkien also exist as spoken languages in parts of Indonesia today!

The majority of the people who continue this language are elderly Chinese men and women, as Mandarin has become the more commonly used standard. Despite this, author Kuan Eng has created, “My First Book of Hokkien Words” to help continue and teach Singaporean youth the language. hokkien

If you think Mandarin sounds difficult to learn consider the fact that Hokkien has 8 tones, instead of 4 tones like Mandarin. These tones come with strict rules of pronunciation that I think native speakers would agree are no piece of cake to learn.

Mandarin and Hokkien represent just one case of language differences. However there’s even differences between the Mandarin spoken in mainland China and Taiwan!

Often the same words are used but mean completely different things, or the words are simply completely different! Take for example the word “pineapple.” In China it is called bo luo but in Taiwan it is referred to as feng li.

For more on those differences, check out this video.

With so many languages in South Asia that were previously unbeknownst to me, it’s been an interesting struggle to try and learn some basic phrases and comprehend the differences between each.

(Don’t even get me started on the differences between Cantonese and Mandarin)

However this difficult learning experience made me realize that had I never taken this amazing opportunity to travel and work abroad I would likely still have no knowledge of these languages or their existence.

In North America the popular mindset is that English can get you anywhere, and through any circumstance, but I’m here to tell you that simply knowing English will not provide you with a truly deep experience while you travel, so if you have the time and the means, the best advice I can give would be: learn another language. 

For more info about Hokkien:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwanese_Hokkien

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singaporean_Hokkien