The Wander Years

Life in Tokyo through the eyes of a westerner

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はい、チーズ ! Hai, chiizu! 7



kaiseki ryori 会席料理, traditional Japanese cuisine – Kyoto, August 2014


^.^      Kelsey






Grand Sumo Tournament 本場所 (Honbasho)


straight to the face

Sumo wrestling 相撲, Japan’s national sport, has been around since the Heian period (794-1192). It has origins in religious Shinto rituals and later as a form of entertainment at the imperial court. Continue reading


Macau 澳门

On our second day in Hong Kong, we took a day trip to Macau. I’m just going to preface this opening anecdote: it had been a long night. Kasey and I walked 20-25 minutes to where the ferry departed. Despite knowing we would be crossing borders, we both totally spaced on packing our passports for the day. Needless to say, we wasted quite a bit of time going back and forth getting our necessary documentation.


Macau had the coolest mix of Portuguese and Chinese architecture, language, and culture

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Hong Kong 香港


Tsim Sha Tsui 尖沙咀/尖沙嘴

After getting off the shuttle bus from the airport, we were immediately approached by people trying to sell us stuff. It was a strange awakening after the relaxed visit to Taiwan and life in polite Japan! We checked into an 8-person room with triple decker bunks. I’d always heard of the small living quarters in Hong Kong and our hostel was no exception. I ended up on the top bunk which was not so fun. The ceiling was really low with an additional beam that I hit my head on several times. I was able to switch to a lower bunk the second night, though.


triple-stacker bunks… I had to use the shelves as a ladder

We walked around Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood before heading to the Avenue of the Stars at Victoria Harbour. We waited in a huge crowd to watch the Symphony of Lights, a light show that is projected on buildings across the water and choreographed with music. To be honest, it was a bit of a letdown. I’ve seen more impressive light shows at music festivals.


Victoria Harbour 維多利亞港

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Jiufen 九份 & Longshan Temple 艋舺龍山寺

Getting to Jiufen 九份 wasn’t quite as easy as some other destinations in Taipei, but let me to you it was worth it! The town was part of the inspiration for Miyazaki’s anime Spirited Away. Because of this, it’s a popular destination in Taipei for many Japanese tourists and had been recommended to me by a lot of my students. It’s built on the side of a mountain with oceanic views throughout most of the town.


the scenic drive up to the mountains

We took the metro to one of the areas where we caught bus #1062, the route that stops in Jiufen.  The bus ride took almost an hour but was really scenic as well. We even saw a small street parade going on with people in traditional outfits!


randomly drove past this parade

You get dropped off right next to a bright orange temple covered in rainbow-colored dragons. The view with the town and ocean as a backdrop was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Sort of surreal.


breathtakingly beautiful view from Jiufen

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Taipei 臺北 – Maokong Gondola, Shilin Night Market, & Clubbing

Our day started by taking the train back to Taipei from Hualien [click HERE for more on that leg of our trip]. Once in the capital we stopped to have curry fried dumplings and more beef noodle soup for lunch, topped off with sweet soybean milk. Can you tell I loved the food?


curry pan-fried dumplings

Chris went to work while Kasey and I met up with Megan at the Maokong Gondola貓空纜車. We walked around Maokong before choosing to stop at Shuang Hsiang Yuan Tea House, an outdoor tea house. Other groups had packed lunches to eat while drinking the restaurant’s tea. We got some jasmine tea and toast with different sweet spreads. I really enjoyed watching our waiter prepare the tea, pouring water over the clay kettle and wiping the bottom. Despite the thick, misty humidity and being engulfed in bugs, it was a great place to relax for a bit.


boarding the Maokong Gondola 貓空纜車


clay tea kettle covered in water


Shuang Hsiang Yuan Tea House

We headed to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall 中正紀念堂 (built for the former president of the Republic of China) just in time to see the guards take down the flags at the end of the day. The lights starting coming on at dusk and the view of the courtyard between the hall, the National Theater 國家戲劇院 and the National Concert Hall 國家音樂廳 was really impressive.


taking down the flag at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall 中正紀念堂


National Concert Hall 國家音樂廳

We walked around Shilin Night Market 士林夜市, a massive indoor/outdoor market with food stalls, stores, and carts. I pretty much wanted to try everything. I think my greatest desire while traveling is a never-ending stomach. If only…! I ended up going with pepper pork buns and brandy bubble tea!


shrimping at Shilin Night Market 士林夜市

After exploring the market, we headed to Taipei 101, got konbini drinks, and scoped out some options for going out. A club called B.A.B.E. 101 (yes, really) seemed like the place to be because they were having all-you-can-drink specials for $200 (less than $7 USD)! It was really fun and a bit different than clubs in Japan. It was spacious (definitely not for lack of people though) and clean with awesome A/C and surprisingly strong mixed drinks… something that Japan definitely needs to work on.


dan bing = the perfect hangover food (savory egg and onion filled crepe)


^.^   Kelsey

Check out my first day of Taipei adventures HERE