Fantasy island vacation

Who hasn’t fantasized about being shipwrecked on an island? Quiet, solitude, and the struggle to survive. Sounds like a really good vacation.

Unfortunately, most of us will never get the chance to actually be shipwrecked on an island, but two weeks ago I came the closest that I’ll probably ever get.

Orchid Island is a two-hour boat ride (or thirty-minute plane ride) from the east coast of Taiwan. Even though it’s technically (and officially really is) a part of Taiwan, it’s a completely different world from Taiwan, isolated by water, distance, and bad cell phone reception.

The island is only 28 miles (45 kilometers) in diameter, with one road that circles the whole island and another that cuts through the middle. The coastline is mainly cliff or rocky coral and the west half of the island has some pretty rough waves, but the east half has much calmer water and some sandy beaches, so there are a couple good swimming spots.

orchid7.jpg

The island is made up of mountains covered in dense jungle with few trails and lots of snakes, so exploring inland isn’t really an option.

orchid8

Orchid Island is a tropical island, which means that one minute it feels like the air is trying to smother you with a wool blanket, then the next minute the sky is trying to drown/electrocute you.

orchid9.jpg

When I visited, there was a big holiday in Taiwan, so every hostel and hotel was filled to capacity with tourists. Me and my crew managed to find places to sleep, but it was definitely  a tight squeeze. Even though the hostels were full, the island still felt quiet and isolated, which made me wonder how much more peaceful it must feel on a normal day.

orchid10.jpg

We spent our time swimming, hiding from thunderstorms, and trying local food.

orchid11.jpg

Because the island is tropical, it’s home to poisonous snakes (including sea snakes) and plants, so dodging those made the experience that much more exciting.

The locals were hecka nice and helpful and the pigs, dogs, goats, cats, and chickens that ran through the streets gave the whole experience a rustic feel.

orchid13

Even though I probably won’t get to experience being shipwrecked, at least I feel shipwrecked if I go to an island that’s isolated, peaceful, and occasionally tries to kill me.

Super Chicks

My plan was to visit a place called 60 Shih Shan (60 Stone Mountain) in Hualien County, Taiwan. I was gonna take the train to a small village, then take a bus up to the mountain. When I got off the train, though, there weren’t any buses … or literally anything else. No buses, no taxis, nothing. Just me, two old dudes, and a rice field.

As I was checking my phone to figure out my options, two chicks showed up and somehow saw that I needed help (I think I just have a really confused-looking face idk). When I told them where I was trying to go, they told me the buses didn’t run there this time of year. Before I could figure out a backup plan, though, they offered to drive me up in their car cuz “we have nothing better to do.” They drove me up, told me all about the mountain, then drove me to another train station so I could get home. And they took real good pictures of me too.

64 60shih

These girls were so nice and they reaffirmed what I already knew: Taiwanese people love me so much.

Traveling in Taiwan is the best. People not only want to help, but are excited to help. It’s really given me a pay-it-forward attitude. Now I look for opportunities to help others too. Thanks, Taiwan.

Here are some pictures of 60 Shih Shan. Apparently, it’s best to visit during summer, but I think winter is an alright time too.

65 67 66 68 62

Cat cafe in Taipei!!

I went to a cat cafe today. Was everything covered in hair? Did it smell bad? Did the animals get all up in my food? Was the food gross? No, no, no, and no.

Dog and Cats Cafe is a cozy little joint in Taipei. There are 15 cats, 2 dogs, and 1 bird. It felt very clean, the animals didn’t bother us while we ate, and the atmosphere was waaaay chill.

The food was super great. I went with my pal Jimmy who’s backpacking though Taiwan right now (which is a cool thing to do and I’m gonna start doing it this Friday!). He ordered the rice gratin and I got lasagna and both were *excellent*.

cat1

lasagna

The cats and dogs were real chillaxed the whole time. They basically slept and ignored us. I thought they’d perk up once our food came, but they didn’t pay any more attention to us while we ate than before.

cat7

cat6

bird1

Once we finished eating, though, the owners gave us some cat treats to feed them — then we got real popular. Couldn’t keep the cats off of us.

cat4
Great place, great food, and great cats.

😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻/10

See more on my Snapcat (username gordygordyblog).

Taipei Museum of Drinking Water

Drinkable water is the only type of water that people should drink. However, most of us take for granted that the water we drink didn’t start that way. That’s why the museum of drinking water. People have been drinking water for forever. Why not a museum?

waterselfie

This building is Naboo-worthy.

waterbride1

And wedding-worthy.

watercos

And cosplay-worthy (or is this another wedding)?

waterbride2

“I’m so glad you came to my wedding at the Taipei Museum of Drinking Water.”

waterlevers

Very important levers.

waterlevelsme

I got to be Mr. Manager!

waterme2

Finding my place in the world of drinking water.

watermen

BAAA!!” McKay found his!

waterfree

You better believe we took all the FREE drinking water we could!

waterme

BELIEVE.

waterleggy
If you call someone with good legs “leggy,” does that mean I’m “butty”?

Taipei Museum of Drinking Water 10/10 would recommend.

Looks like crap

POOP IS FUNNY. POOP-THEMED RESTAURANTS ARE VERY VERY FUNNY.

Note: To fully enjoy this post, you need to know that squatter toilets are common in Asia and what they look like.

poopsquat

Voila. (But never ever this clean.)

Just like any good joke, poop jokes have to be surprising, out-of-place, and so wrong they seem right. And that’s why having a restaurant where all the food looks like poop is funny.

Modern Toilet is located in Ximen, one of Taipei’s biggest shopping districts. If you have trouble finding it, just look for the giant toilet outside.

poopmoderntoilet

Modern Toilet’s idea is simple: put normal food in bowls and dishes that look like toilets. The rest is magic.

Enjoy delicious golden curry while being reminded that poop isn’t always brown.

poopcurry

Enjoy some refreshing shaved ice while reminiscing about the last time you filled a toilet to maximum capacity.

poopcream2

Have some chocolate soft serve while embracing what you’ve always thought about it.

poopcream

Not only does the food look like crap, but everything in the restaurant reminds you of the special time you spend on your cell phone.

The walls.

poopwall

The lights.

pooplights

The seats.

poopseats

Even the bathroom (aka the “VIP Lounge”).

poopbaday
This is a fancy potty that squirts water on your bum-bum.

Modern Toilet serves hot pot, curry, pasta, and ice cream. All meals include a dessert (poop soft serve) and beverage. The prices run from 350 NT (hot pot) to 120 NT (big ice cream) and all the dishes are big enough to split between two people. You have to spend at least 90 NT per person when you eat here (it’s a very popular joint).

If you like poop, you’ll like this restaurant.

pooping
I like poop.

Do burritos make us American?

I’ve been wanting Mexican food ever since I flew into Taiwan. In fact, the last meal I ate before flying to Taiwan was a burrito, chips, and salsa.

So, this weekend, after TWO MONTHS of not having Mexican food (two months and four days to be exact), I found a place called Macho Tacos in Taipei.

I was skeptical of how tasty the food would be and whether it’d be worth my money (you can get a decent meal here for 2 bucks but a burrito at this place was 5ish), but the pictures and menu online looked authentic, so I was optimistic.

macho4

Because the menu and pics online looked so authentic, I expected to see Latinos behind the counter when I walked in (Taipei is pretty international, so I wouldn’t have been surprised), but there were just the usual Taiwanese people. That made me less optimistic, but I figured I’d give it an honest shot anyway. I ordered a macho-sized (large-ish) burrito with taco meat.

Mis amigos, I was not disappointed. The lettuce inside the burrito was crispy and fresh, the tortilla held together well and tasted normal, the ground beef was perfectly seasoned, the cilantro-lime rice tasted just like Cafe Rio, and the salsa had all the right juices and flavors. It was muy delicioso, but could have benefited from some sour cream, guacamole, and a side of chips (which you can order separately and I’ll definitely do that next time).

burrito

While I was eating, I felt a connection with the burrito. It felt like I was eating my people’s food, a piece of home.

I remembered working with other missionaries in Russia to make Mexican food: cooking and seasoning ground beef and chili, making homemade tortillas, chopping and mixing vegetables to make salsa (which we’d eat with crackers since tortilla chips aren’t a thing in Russia).

macho1

Why do so many Americans love Mexican food? Why did we work so hard to make it on my mission?

Americans eat lots of pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers too, which you can also buy at restaurants here, but I think Mexican food is different. Mexican food has a homemade quality and feel that other “American” foods don’t match. Homemade pizza doesn’t taste the same and to make hamburgers or hot dogs at home, you basically just buy packaged meat and buns. But you can make all the parts of a Mexican meal at home without thinking twice about it (except tortillas — homemade tortillas are a pain).

I understand that Mexicans and Americans eat different kinds of Mexican food: Americans mainly stick with tacos and burritos, along with some of our own spin-offs like nachos and chili, while Mexicans have A LOT more than that. But what we call “Mexican” is actually American to me.

So thank you, Mexicans, for giving us your best.

And not to get political but I’m going to: America is such a great country. Sure I get annoyed that the bread and chocolate aren’t as good as they are in Europe and that Americans like to whine a lot on Facebook (“MY freedoms say I can do this!” “Well MY freedoms say you can’t!”), but comparing it to other places I’ve visited (like Russia and Mexico and even Italy), it’s SO clean, SO safe, and there’s SO much less corruption that it’s selfish and unchristian that immigrating into the US is SO difficult.

I have friends from other countries who have college degrees or have even married US citizens (legitimately) yet struggle to maintain a visa or get a green card. They’ve had difficult lives and worked hard to come to America, leaving behind family and culture in exchange for the American dream, but in America they’re getting even more difficulty and harder work with little reward. If their native governments can’t recognize them for their hard work, then ours should. They can help America out just as much as burritos can.

Anyway, Macho Tacos in Taipei is very tasty and authentic. I saw some Latinos and other Americans there too, so I’m not the only one who thinks so. Walking out of the restaurant, I had to remind myself that I was still in Taiwan, my burrito having temporarily transported me home.

macho2

MONKEYS GOT HATERS TOO

I went into a jungle the next day. By Kaohsiung is a small mountain called Shoushan and it’s a designated national park. I had been there and explored a bit the day before when Taiwan Grandma dropped me off, but I saved the heavy hiking for the next day.

I was very excited to go because there were supposed to be monkeys all up over the place. I’d only ever seen monkeys through glass or in a cage before, so I was excited to see some real ones in real nature. I mean, that’s why people come to Asia, right?

The day before the big hike, I’d looked up how to get there (without Taiwan Grandma scooting me there) and read some reviews of the park. All the reviews said the scenery was amazing, but a lot warned about the monkeys.

I knew monkeys could be a bit crazy (I’ve seen Jumanji), but these reviews said that a single monkey would appear and look all cute, then there would be millions of others surrounding you, their emotionless monkey faces staring you down as they closed in to steal whatever they could from your hands and backpack. I imagined their little monkey fingers touching me and pulling at me and bossing me around like the kindergartners I teach, which made me nervous about going into the jungle alone.

The next morning, I found my way to Shoushan and walked into the jungle. It was 100% covered in trees, the clouds and leaves blocking light from coming in. It was a legit jungle!

shoview

There were a lot of people on the main path, but I took a side trail into what looked like a denser part of the jungle. It was only a couple minutes before I heard rustling in the branches above me and could see monkeys. They were just hanging out in the treetops, chillaxing as branches bobbed up and down in the wind. They didn’t pay much attention to me, but I was still nervous. What if one of them TOUCHED ME ? So I just stood there until a group of Asians walked by, the monkeys not paying attention to them either.

shomonkeyking

After the Asians passed through, I decided it was safe for me to go on. A couple monkeys came out of the bushes, crossing my path as I walked. I watched as they crawled over the path, coming close but not too close. They seemed a little afraid, but not as much as squirrels or birds. More like ducks, I guess.

shomonkey

I made it to the top of the mountain without being touched/jumped on/raped by the monkeys. There were a lot just hanging out in the trees and crawling along the side of the trail. They didn’t beg for food or anything. The pretty much ignored the people and the people ignored them.

shomonkeybutt

So I don’t know what’s up with all these people cyberbullying monkeys. I’m sure they can be cray, but I think that, generally, monkeys are good people.

shostairs
Wooden stairs in Shoushan.
shorockpath
Path through some rocks.

Dahu Park

Visit Dahu Park in Taipei! It’s a great place to …

… see some very attractive person!

dp1dp2
Me.

… see some squirrel!.

dp3

I mean, it’s probably a squirrel, butt I can’t see the head,so.

… see some cranes!

dp7

~Very Asian.~

… see some little girl trying to hunt a duck!!!

dp8

Little girls and animals. A must-see.

… see some people hunt fish!

dp9

Ha! Get them fish before they get you.

… see some lady take pictures of her dog like it’s a person!!

dp5

Spoiler alert, lady: puppies turn into dogs who get old and die.

… see nerd(s) LARPing!

dp4

Spoiler alert: your dreams will take you as high as that broom, kid.

… feel like you’re at a classy park!!

dp6

Duck (goose?), crane in tree, people. *nice*

… butt last, butt not least, see this cool bridge!

dp10

The Moon Bridge is very cool. Very must-see. Very must-stand-on.

As you can see, we all need to go to Dahu Park. It makes you feel super classy and it’s v v cool. #Taipei #ShareThisPost

Elephant Mountain

You’ve heard of elephants, you’ve heard of mountains, but have you heard of Elephant Mountain? Elephant Mountain is a mountain in Taipei (A mountain in a city! What is this, Lord of the Rings?). But before I tell you what it’s like to visit, let me give you a little history.
Taipei is also known as “Elephant City” because of the elephants that rule there. It all goes back to when Babar the first elephant king came to Taiwan.  People and elephants used to live in peace. They co-owned businesses and threw parties and stuff. It was pretty cool.
Anyway, Babar crossed over from (wherever elephants are from) and was like, “We can do so much better.” So he started a war with the humans. Since elephants are so much bigger than ordinary people, the elephants won and they continue to rule Taipei and most of Taiwan (but mostly just Taipei) to this day.
It’s not a big deal. They just get to cut in lines and have preference in elections (1 elephant vote = 1,000 people votes and there are only, like, 4,000 people in Taiwan anyway so) and offer human sacrifices sometimes. But it’s mainly whatever.
Anyway, so hiking Elephant Mountain is a real snap. There’s a set of old stairs that take you to the top of the mountain in about 20 minutes. It’s a fast hike, but it’s very steep and it’s (of course humid), and (depending on when you hike it) can be pretty hot. All this translates to SWEAT SWEAT SWEAT.
elephantmountain1
I mean, it’s just a bunch of stairs going straight up.
So, to be prepared, the most important thing to have is water and sugar water. I’d say have a half or a whole liter of normal water. Sugar water is water with electrolytes and junk added to it. Usually, I don’t approve of non-water drinks, but you’re gonna sweat so much that you’ll feel pretty terrible (I got an annoying headache) if you’re not replacing all the stuff your body’s sweating out. So, bring a bottle of sugar water (I recommend dolphin water – it tastes like a very mild Sprite without the carbonation).
What you wear doesn’t really matter. It’s not a real hike because it’s so short and it’s paved the whole way, so just wear something breathable and comfy (or maybe something you can run in if the elephants get in a sacrificey mood).
The selling point of the hike is the view you get of Taipei 101. It’s almost impossible to get a bad picture of it from on top.

I hiked it with my friend Spirit Sword (middle) and my new friend Xin Yi.
The hike up is real pretty too.
So it’s a draining hike, but the views very very pretty. There are plenty of trails to explore on the way up and on top of the mountain too, so plan to look around for a bit.

And watch out for dem elephants.

Here’s a sweet vid of the hike:

Picture vomit: Taiwan

These are some pics I took of some places I went during my last week in Taiwan. 😉
Sun Moon Lake Wen Wu Temple
After being in the big city for two weeks, it was nice to bust out and get into nature. We (my fellow white American teachers and I) were able to visit rural areas, including this temple on a secluded lake in the foothills of Taiwan. The grounds are pritt, the temple is made from granite and jade with super cool carvings, and there’s a stairway with 365 steps leading down to the lake (one step for every day of the year). You gotta check it out.
View of the lake from the temple.

Steps leading down to Sun Moon Lake.
Took the liberty of taking a shot with my birthday stair.
Alishan
The word “shan” in Mandarin Chinese means “mountain,” so Alishan just means Ali Mountain. This mountain is part of the mountain range that creates the spine of Taiwan. It’s a real popular place for peeps to come and watch the sunrise. Just be sure to bring a jacket or sweater so you’re warm enough. Also, bring running shoes so you can appreciate the scenery on a jaunty little morning run.
View from up top.
The forest.
The beach!
I got my fingers in this pic for artistic purposes.
Honestly, I don’t love Ocean (because sharks and fish), but when it’s hot and humid outside and you haven’t been swimming in three weeks, it feels pretty good to put on some jaunty European swim trunks and dip in water for a bit. We took our tour bus down to Kenting, which is a party destination on the southern coast of Taiwan. We swam in the evening and partied all night. It was trick.
#jaunty
#nightlife
Crowds block traffic because #nightlife.
So these were my some neat places places in Taiwan. I appreciated them.

A travel expert’s advice on Taiwan

It’s me. I’m the travel expert. I’ve been in Taiwan for TWO WEEKS, so that makes me a tiny expert on how to travel here. So sit back and relax: I have your whole trip planned.
1) Language: In my travel group, there are about five Mandarin Chinese-speakers and they’ve been a big help, especially since Chinese tones make anything written in pinyin impossible to pronounce correctly (for example, “Tansui” is pronounced “Dan-shway”), HOWEVER a lot of people in Taiwan know simple English. The main things you need to know are directions and how much stuff costs.

Because so many people know simple English, they know how to say numbers, so figuring out how much something costs isn’t a big struggle. Also, it’s very easy to learn the Chinese finger counting system (hand gestures they use to count from 1 to 10). It’s very handy (pun!) and helped me buy a smoothie once (click here to learn).

Directions are tricky regardless of whether or not you’re speaking the same language, so using a combination of your smart phone and finger pointing is the best bet (kinda like dating in Provo).

Not pronounced how you think it is.
**On a side note, Taiwanese people are so nice. They’re very polite and (a lot of the time) excited to speak/help with Westerners. Also, I’ve been in a big city for two weeks and I’ve only seen ONE drunk person. So.
2) Transportation: Get an EasyCard or TaipeiPass. These cards allow you to use public transport and get into state-run places (like museums and the zoo). The TapeiPass only works in Taipei, but is very cheap (about $25 USD for a week’s use or $7 USD for two days). The EasyCard works like a debit card: you put money on it and use it to get on any public transport anywhere in the country. It only requires a minimum deposit of $100 NTD (New Taiwan dollars) to get one.
Taipei MRT (metro)
3) Bring extra deodorant and TP. In Taiwan, deodorant isn’t really a thing, so they don’t really sell it. A lot of people don’t wear it, so if you want to stay fresh, be sure to bring your own. Also, many bathrooms don’t have toilet paper, so be sure to have some with you AT ALL TIMES.
4) Avoid effing stinky tofu. Stinky tofu is fermented tofu. It is the most repulsively regurgitative thing I have ever smelled. It smells like crotch sweat mixed with dog breath mixed with rotten milk. Terrible terrible blegh blegh blegh. It’s sold at a lot at street markets, so be prepared to be smacked in the nose by the devil and all his angels.
Y DO U EXIST ?
5) Eat at bakeries and fruit stands. As I’ve mentioned before, the food here is a strugg for me, BUT I’ve discovered that if you want a quick tasty meal, bakeries and fruit stands are the way to go. The bakeries here make breads with a variety of flavors: sweet and sticky, savory and cheesy, chocolatey and nutty. It’s all very delish and I highly recommend it if you’re a weenie when it comes to Asian food (like me).
The fruit here is way good. Stop by any fruit stand and grab a mango or dragon fruit to eat with your bread and you’re on your way. Just be sure to bring your pocket knife and get ready for sticky fruit-covered hands (I’m duh-rooling right now).

6) Bring sandals and a raincoat or umbrella. It doesn’t rain every day here, but when it rains, it POURS, so be sure to have a something to keep you dry (if you’re into that type of thing). Sandals are also a must because they dry a lot quicker than shoes when they get wet.
7) This phrase: The most useful and only thing I know how to say in Mandarin is “mon-go bing-shah” which means “mango smoothie.” Just walk up to the smoothie bar, say the magic words and bingo! You got yourself heaven.

Coco is bae.
One more thing: Once you’ve made it to Taiwan, you can fly to other parts of Asia for hecka cheap. Taipei to Bangkok roundtrip for $329, Taipei to Hong Kong roundtrip for $225, Manila for $268, Sydney for $700, I’M CRYING WHY DIDN’T I PLAN THIS BETTER????? But, once again, the lesson is: Once you get out of the States, flights are a lot cheaper.

So that’s Taiwan. It’s a great place except for the stinky tofu. Avoid avoid avoid. 

Is the food in Taiwan good????

I kno I already talked about this, but I don’t love the food in Taiwan, BUTT I like to keep things positive on PFB, so I’ll get the negative out of the way real quick:
Do you ever see Asians post pictures of food? No because it’s all just rice.
Have you ever seen a fat Asian? No because all they do is sweat and eat rice (see this post about humidity).
What I’m saying is that all they eat is rice. There’s some steamed veggies and meat too, but everything is rice. I’m able to eat until I’m full, but overeating is a struggle because the food’s not super tasty and that’s what gets me. 🙁
But let’s move on to what’s tasty in Taiwan:
Dragon fruit
Sometimes white, sometimes purple inside, it has the texture of a kiwi and is mildly sweet and juicy. If you eat a whole purple one by yourself, it dyes your poo purple for the next day or two.
Mango
Tbh, I never really had a mango until I came here, so I can’t compare them to the ones in the states, except I know these ones are at least twice as big and (duh) a lot more fresh. Hecka juicy and squishy. So sweet. I love them. FYI: I’m eating it wrong in this pic. The best way to eat them is to try to chop it in half (avoiding the big white pit in the middle), cutting it into squares (like a checkerboard), turning the skin inside out, then eating it. That’s confusing.
Basically any fruit here
It’s all good and fresh and juicy, but pro tip: bring a pocketknife so you can chop up and open the fruit you buy from fruit stands.
Anything mango-flavored
Mango ice cream, mango smoothies, mango shave ice, mango juice, it’s all good. And mangoes are so sweet that I SWEAR they don’t add any sugar if it’s mango flavored. I’ll swear it a million times.
.
Pot stickers and dumplings
They’re the same thing, just pot stickers are fried and dumplings are boiled. They usually have pork or some veggies inside. I prefer pot stickers because SALT butt w/e.
Dolphin water
I don’t really believe in non-water drinks, but in Taiwan you sweat so much (because it’s so HUMID) that it’s worth throwing some random electrolytes back into your body. There are a lot of waters that have extra energy-boosting junk in them. This one is dolphin water and it’s good and tastes like dolphins.
Steamed pork buns
Who knew you could cook a whole bread thing just by steaming it? Asians, that’s who. The steamed roll is really spongy and the pork is side is v tender. It tastes a lot like pulled pork. All it needs is some BBQ sauze.
Asian burrito
It’s just a giant spring roll. I don’t actually like spring rolls, but I know lots of folks do, so I thought I’d show you a pic.
This whatever
Next to mangoes, this is the most delightful thing I’ve had in Taiwan. It’s like a naan bread with eggs, ham, cheese, basil, and a spicy sauce inside. It might be Vietnamese, but it’s REALLY good.
So, even though I’m not gonna get fat here, there are plenty of goodies to snack on. Yes plz!!