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    Asia Travel

    Taipei Taiwan Last Minute

    Location: Taipei Taiwan

    We were supposed to go to Hong Kong, but canceled at the last minute due to the violence going on there. What to do? Where to go? How about Taipei Taiwan last minute? Great decision. What a great place.

    Like Formosa Free Walking Tour
    Lungshan Temple

    I knew nothing about Taipei. I didn’t mean for it to be my second choice. And after spending six days there, I can most assuredly say you should put it in your travel destinations.

    Here are my favorite things we did in beautiful Taipei Taiwan last minute;

    Like It Formosa

    As we do on our first day in most cities we did a “free” walking tour with Like It Formosa. Our tour guide Eleanor was amazing. Her wealth of knowledge about Taipei old and new, ancient history and current events made the three plus hour tour remarkable. I highly recommend Like It Formosa. On the tour we made several stops but my favorites were;

    Like it Formasa Free Walking Tour
    Original painted movie poster, Sanxia Old Street

    Lungshan Temple – this is a favorite of locals – one of the few that survived WWII. This 300 year-old temple is in one of Taipei’s oldest neighborhoods and it is visited by people of multiple faiths including Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians. As a visitor it’s a wonderful place to see local people who bring offerings of flowers, food and other items as they worship here to several gods including a match-making god and a fertility god.

    Sanxia Old Street – partially restored (with additionally restoration underway) this ancient street was built during Taiwan’s period of Japanese rule and displays the baroque-style architecture of the period.

    Like it Formosa Walking Tour
    Chiang Kai Shek Memorial

    Chiang Kai Shek Memorial – a bit shocking in its immensity, it was here we learned on our tour details about this man…someone I would have thought the Taiwanese revered. But Chiang Kai Shek held the country under martial law for decades, and in his life acted more like an Emperor than a President and so the Taiwanese have mixed feelings about the leader of the Republic of China.

    Tower 101 and Neighborhood

    On our second day we wandered the city on our own and enjoyed riding up to the top of the Taipei 101 Tower. We had bought ticket online ahead of time but did not need to as it was not busy at all. The view in this 1200 foot high building is remarkable, and the elevator ride is impressive – one of the fastest elevators in the world.

    Taipei 101 Tower
    The 1200 foot Taipei 101 Tower

    The tower building is also home to a vast shopping mall as well as a wonderful food court in the basement. We enjoyed dinner here walking around and choosing a variety of dishes including the popular oyster omelet, glazed chicken, tempura vegetables and a chocolate pound cake.

    Taipei 101 Tower
    From the 101 Tower Observatory

    We hiked up the arduous 500 steps to Elephant Mountain, a popular and sometimes busy viewpoint of the city. It was a real workout, but we were glad we did it.

    Elephant Mountain
    The view from Elephant Mountain

    Local Markets

    We visited the lively, local Beitou daily market where locals buy and sell everything from bok choi to pigs trotters and papaya to frogs legs. It was busy and loud and colorful and I loved it.

    Beitou Market
    Pig trotters at Beitou Market

    We also visited two of Taipei’s famous night markets…there are dozens of night markets. These serve as gathering places for locals to walk, meet, eat, drink and shop. We loved the Shiling Night Market and spent several hours there grazing our way through dumplings and octopus and more. We also went to the Linjiang Night Market, but it was rainy and wet that night and there were not many people out enjoying it.

    Shiling Night Market
    Shiling Night Market

    Cooking Class

    As I do as often as I possibly can while traveling I spent a day in a cooking class with a local chef. It was outstanding and I learned some fun recipes and enjoyed a great meal at the end with Chef Calvin of GoTuCook. I’ll be writing a full blog about this soon.

    Taiwan Cooking Class
    Cooking with GoTuCooks

    Taipei Eats

    As usual food is a big part of our travels and one of the best things we did during our visit to Taipei was a Night Food Tour with Taipei Eats. Our guide Diego was awesome! And we tasted at least ten different foods and I was about to explode by the end of the night. I highly recommend this tour and ask for Diego. Some of my favorite things were Taiwan Green Guava with salt, Taiwan “burger” which was pork, peanut powder and cilantro in a hot fresh Bao Bun, scallion pancake, soup dumplings, Moon Cake (filled with egg yolk and sweet red beans. We also tried stinky tofu (no thanks) and betel nut (like tobacco – eww) and the specialty of Taiwan pineapple cake. What a wonderful night it was.

    Taipei Eats Food Tour
    Scallion Pancake

    Out of the City

    We spent one day checking out some sights outside of the city. Originally we wanted to do some hiking, but the weather turned wet so we ended up booking a shuttle service with Klook that would take us to several beautiful and interesting places outside of the city throughout the day. I’m really glad we did because we enjoyed most of it. We especially liked;

    Yeolin Geo Park – a UNESCO National Geological site with incredibly strange yet beautiful geological formations on the sea in the north of Taiwan. It was fascinating and if you had the time you could spend many hours in the park.

    Yeolin Geo Parak
    Yeolin Geo Park Formations

    Jioufen – a historic mountain side village literally hangs from the side of the mountain. Jioufen is now pretty much gone over to tourism, but we still enjoyed the beautiful views from the town and walking around the historic old village. We had a remarkable bowl of beef noodle soup to that was worth the price of admission.

    Jioufen
    Jioufen Mountain Village

    We also stopped at Shifen…but were a bit disappointed in this place. First of all it was pouring down ran, but mostly it was crowded with tourists who come to release paper lanterns into the sky for luck. But it was pretty kitschy and not at all authentic and so we didn’t love it. Maybe on a sunny day…

    Shifen
    Shifen Village, note lantern being released in the back

    Taipei Taiwan Last Minute

    We have no regrets about our visit to Taipei. We stayed at the Dandy Hotel near Daan Park, which we loved. The room was small but comfortable, the breakfast was incredible and the staff was excellent. Right next door was the Metro. We used Taipei’s remarkably efficient and inexpensive metro throughout our visit and loved it.

    And finally the Taiwanese people are wonderful. They are proud to be Taiwanese NOT Chinese, although there is a small faction that wants the island nation to return to China and the People’s Republic of China. But everyone we met wants to remain independent with their current government (Republic of China) which has been governing for 70 years despite the fact they still are not recognized by the United Nations.

    Taipei Taiwan last minute. So glad it happened.

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    Inspire

    How to Prepare For a Long Flight

    Seattle to Shanghai

    Location: Seattle Washington USA

    Even after all the flights I have taken, I still don’t enjoy it. And our flight to Shanghai is 13 hours – one of the longest we have had. We will fly from Seattle to Shanghai non-stop on Delta Airlines. How to prepare for a long flight? With all the flights I’ve taken, I have a system.

    I don’t like taking sleeping pills, because I am just too drowsy throughout the following days, so I have developed a a long-flight preparation plan. Even when the flight is not 13 hours (most of our flights are 3-6 hours) I practice the following flight preparation plan:

    Two-Three days before;

    No alcohol and no spicy foods. Eat healthy, low sodium and easy to digest foods.

    Drink lots of water

    Exercise

    Moisturize my skin

    One day before;

    Make sure my carry-on is well organized and includes the following; passport, earplugs, headphones, eyemask, water bottle, Ibuprofen, motion sickness medicine, chapstick, moisturizer, neck support, wet wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste

    Exercise

    Get a good night’s sleep – limit late day screen time

    Do all of the above from two-days before

    Day of Flight;

    All of the above

    Get up as early as I can but limit caffeine

    Drink a lot of water in the hours before boarding

    Moisturize

    Set my watch to the destination time

    Dress in non-binding clothes including shoes and socks or be sure to pack a pair of socks. Wear a sweater that can be easily put on and off and used as a blanket.

    I never wear my contacts on the flight. I always wear my glasses.

    Greet my flight attendant and be kind to them. Not only do they deserve it they might be more inclined to help if I need something during the flight.

    After I board;

    Organize my space before take off so I know where my things are including earplugs, water, headphones, neck pillow etc. I also use wet wipes or sanitizer and wipe down my tray table and armrests as soon as I sit down.

    I like to support my feet and either do that with an inflatable foot rest or my backpack.

    Take two ibuprofen with water

    Look at my watch and visualize the place I’m going and the time of day it is there…see myself there.

    Find a meditation station on the in-flight audio or iTunes and begin listening to the calming voice and music.

    If I want to eat before sleeping, I choose a light, non-spicy meal and have a non-caffeinated non-alcoholic drink. I never drink wine because it dries me out.

    After the meal I go to the toilet, moisturize in the bathroom, brush my teeth and use my chapstick too.

    Back at my seat I settle in. Get cozy and warm. Check my watch and think about what time it is where I’m going. Find my meditation music and sit back. Clear my mind of everything or think about fun things I want to do when I arrive. Think about my breathing – like in yoga breath deep from the belly. Relax my jaw. Relax my shoulders. Think about restful sleep.

    If I wake up, I drink water. I take a walk to stretch. I take more ibuprofen. I moisturize and use chapstick. Then I settle back in again with the restful music.

    This is my best advice for long haul flights. Sometimes I watch a movie if I’m having trouble falling asleep. I never sleep soundly, but I do arrive relaxed and not too disheveled. On arrival I always try to stay awake until a normal bedtime for my destination. Luckily for us, we arrive in Shanghai in the early evening. We should be able to go to bed and hopefully wake up ready to go on our first full-day in China.

    I have purchased some compression socks to try this flight. This is the first time I have done that but I know many people swear by them. So I’ll give it a try.

    I welcome your suggestions for making a long flight tolerable. Please comment below. If you like our blog, please pin and share. Thanks!

    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    The Grand Adventure – Around the World 3.0

    Off For Another Nine Months

    Location: Around the World

    Here we go again. When this all started in June 2016 we said we would either be gone for six months or six years. Well, it looks like we have found a way to make this travel life work, and I expect we will continue well beyond six years. It’s time for our around the world adventure year four.

    Belize

    I have learned so much since we started this adventure. But it’s probably not what you are thinking. Sure I’ve learned how to get good deals, how to maneuver public transit, how to pack and how to say thank you in ten languages.

    But those are all technicalities. Not the soul of the journey. Because really, what I have witnessed, experienced and felt the most blessed about is the way this adventure has changed me deep inside. Serendipity.

    Spain

    Watching the sunrise and the moon set at the same time on top of the most peaceful and serene mountains in Galicia, on the final days of my walk across Spain – I experienced deep gratitude.

    Conversing without sharing a language with a tiny and precious old man in a backwater village deep in Bangladesh, a man who had nothing to give but wanted to serve us tea – I was humbled.

    Having a monk come out of the temple and invite us in for a special tour in Sri Lanka. Sharing with us his temple as his pride for it beamed light out his fingertips and then him blessing us quietly and sincerely for our continued safe journey – I was exalted.

    Meeting a tiny Himba girl in Namibia and watching her smile up at Arne with her face full of wonder and awe. I was in love.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world
    Sri Lanka

    We have watched people so different from those in the USA embracing their cultures, their foods, their history with love and understanding of each other – I was astonished.

    One rare Bangladesh
    Bangladesh

    I am secure in my belief that you can never understand the world, or its many problems, unless you travel. You cannot pass judgement on anyone, anywhere on this earth if you are doing so without ever leaving your own country.

    I know this as fact. And more than anything, this is why we continue. Do not fear for us, we are careful. Do not question us we are smart. This lifestyle is not for everyone, but if you wanted it, you too could do it … and you would never be the same.

    500 days of summer
    Namibia

    So once again we depart. Time to say farewell. It’s time for our around the world adventure year four. Our first leg was 22 months. Our second was nine months. And this one – 3.0 – will also be nine months from September to June.

    After that – who knows?

    We’ve seen a total of 96 countries (some of those before we started the Grand Adventure) and we have rarely returned to a country. With 3.0 itinerary nearly complete, it’s clear to us that we are now tackling less touristy countries, more remote and more exciting – those are our favorites.

    We can’t wait. So for all of those who have been asking the where, when, why, and how of our itinerary, here it is. We hope you will follow along. We welcome your questions.

    Note – we are usually booked about six months in advance. We are not spontaneous travelers. That is not our style. We are in a constant state of planning as it is, one of the more difficult parts of our journey.

    China – September – Booked

    China

    We have been to China before and we loved it. Five years ago we traveled to South Korea and China. Visiting Beijing and Xian I was enchanted with the history, the food and the mystique of China. So it’s time to go back. We will visit Shanghai first, then take a river cruise on the Yangtze. We had reservations and plans to spend a week in Hong Kong, but this week we cancelled those. This is the first time on our Grand Adventure that we felt it was unsafe enough to change our plans. Hopeful we will visit Hong Kong in the future.

    In Shanghai and on the Yangtze we are on a private tour.

    Instead of Hong Kong we are headed to…

    Taiwan – September -Booked

    COUNTRY NUMBER 97

    Taiwan

    We actually had discussed going to Taiwan early on in our planning, but the flights were expensive. Funny though, booking flights today it was quit inexpensive. So Taipei here we come. The time we would have had in Hong Kong (6 days) will now be in Taipei. We plan to book a food tour and a cooking class- exactly like we had planned in Hong Kong. I don’t know that much about Taipei, so it will an adventure.

    Malaysia – October – Booked

    Malaysia

    We have only ever transited through Malaysia but have heard such wonderful things about this country we can’t wait to spend an entire month there. First we visit northern Malaysia and Borneo to see the orangutans ( a bucket list for me). Then we have a week in Kuala Lumpur followed by almost three weeks on the island of Langkawi.

    We are in hotels in Borneo and Kuala Lumpur and in an Airbnb on Langkawi.

    Myanmar – November – Booked

    Myanmar

    COUNTRY NUMBER 98

    Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has only been open to tourists since 2012, and the tourism industry has been slow to grow due to all the much bigger Asian players out there. But this is exactly the kind of destination we are interested in…experiencing the history and culture before it gets run over by tourists.

    We will be in four different locations over an entire month, taking our time to really slow travel in Myanmar. We have two weeks in a hotel perched on famous Lake Inle. It may be too much time, but if it is we will sit back, relax and read.

    Oman – December – Booked

    Oman

    COUNTRY NUMBER 99

    Oman is consistently showing up in lists of where to travel now – particularly where to travel if you don’t want to be with hordes of tourists, tour buses and cruise ships. And that sounds right up our alley.

    We will spend ten days in Muscat, the biggest city in Oman, with some day tours planned as well as renting a car to do some exploration on our own of this small, beautiful, historic and safe Middle East country.

    Kenya – December – Booked

    Kenya

    COUNTRY NUMBER 100

    We have skirted Kenya on our African travels, not intentionally, but for some reason have not stepped foot there. So we plan to spend our Christmas holiday lounging on the beach in Kenya.

    We have done two safaris in the past (as well as two additional Elephant safaris) so we will not do a safari in Kenya. Instead we have a beach Airbnb and we plan to relax and enjoy the side of Kenya fewer people visit.

    Mauritius – January – Booked

    Mauritius

    COUNTRY NUMBER 101

    Well we love a remote island and have had some of our best travel experiences on tiny islands in the Indian Ocean (Seychelles, Maldives) and so this time we will venture to the teeny island nation of Mauritius. Here we plan to really get ensconced in the community, spending six weeks enjoying an Airbnb, the pool and not a whole lot more.

    Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana – February – Partially Booked

    Zambia

    COUNTRIES 102-104

    Our plan is to visit Zambia to see Victoria Falls, one of many bucketlist waterfalls I am working my way through. We will be staying in Livingstone Zambia but the falls border Zimbabwe and it’s easy to walk across the border.

    Not as close but close enough for a day trip is Botswana, and we will take a guided to tour to Botswana while we are in the region.

    Uganda – February – Booked

    COUNTRY 105

    Uganda

    Ever since I saw Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist I have dreamed of trekking to see the Mountain Gorillas. Mountain Gorillas are NOT FOUND anywhere in captivity in the world, and they are endangered. The only way to see these magnificent primates is to hike into the mountains of either Uganda or Rwanda.

    Instead of having a 60th birthday party for me in 2020, I chose to spend the money and go see the Gorillas. I doubt I will regret it.

    Rwanda – February – Not Booked

    Rwanda

    COUNTRY 106

    Well, we are in the neighborhood, so why not pop over for a quick visit to Rwanda – the safest country in all of Africa. Following the genocide in 1994, Rwanda has made a remarkable comeback. Twenty five years later Rwanda has a growing tourism industry, thoughtful memorials and museums explaining the atrocities and a welcoming culture. We will visit the cosmopolitan city of Kigali and spend several days on Lake Kivu.

    Israel – March – Partially Booked

    Israel

    COUNTRY 107

    When I was a little girl I went to summer camp. My young and fun camp counselor had just returned from visiting Israel and she told us so many things about the country, which at the time I knew nothing about. Fast forward fifty years and I am finally going to see it for myself – a dream come true.

    We plan to spend 16 days in the country, about ten days with a car traveling to both ends of this small country and then another six days in Jerusalem. We want to take our time and really experience this remarkable land.

    Armenia, Georgia – March – Not Booked

    Armenia

    COUNTRIES 108 & 109

    Like Oman, Armenia and Georgia are two countries few people visit and yet both are safe, welcoming and full of remarkable history. It’s time to discover them.

    Our plan is to spend about a week (maybe a little less) in each country and travel by overnight train from Armenia to Georgia. The weather may still be cool in late March, but we are excited to see more of the former Soviet Union and learn how these resilient people have recaptured their culture, religion and history.

    Cyprus – April – Not Booked

    Country 110

    Cyprus

    Gonna kick back for a couple weeks on the island of Cyprus another underrated destination of glorious beaches and remarkable history – and the birthplace of Aphrodite.

    Very inexpensive with few tourists, this island off the coast of Turkey should be a wonderful respite.

    Malta – April – Not Booked

    Malta

    COUNTRY 111

    We will spend April and May relaxing on the island of Malta, another up and coming tourism destination we want to see before it gets too crowded. This beautiful island is autonomous and has sat peacefully and often unnoticed in the Mediterranean just off of Sicily and Tunisia.

    We will stay in an Airbnb here and hopefully have warm late spring weather to enjoy the sand and sea.

    And then what?

    Okay – that is as far as we know for now. Following Malta and as summer emerges in Europe we are considering a car and train trip throughout much of the Eastern European countries we have yet to see; Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This should take up all of May. But details are still developing here.

    The Grand Adventure Laos

    From Estonia we hope to head to Finland and spend time exploring the northern areas. By this time it should be middle of June. We are currently debating our options from here…Greenland perhaps? Or maybe a Rhone River cruise in France. Perhaps hiking in Scotland. It’s too soon to know.

    Our plan is to be back in the USA and our Villa by the third or fourth week of June. And then we start planning for The Grand Adventure 4.0.

    Count down to lift off…five days. Yes indeed it is a fabulous life. My Fab Fifties Life.

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