Sunday, January 2, 2011

International Travel - Part 1

Now that I have (finally!) completed my series on our End of Summer Adventures, I want to post a few entries on two international trips that I had the opportunity to enjoy in 2010.  

First up - Taiwan!

As a disclaimer, these pictures were taken with our old and very well-loved Canon PowerShot SD1000.  With three kids that have an affinity for taking pictures of everything, it's managed to stand up to most of what we put it through.  However, you can see from many of the pictures from this trip that the poor camera is on its last legs, which lead me to my favorite acquisition of the year.  I hope to go back to Taiwan one day with my new camera to take some better pictures.  But enough of that - on to the adventure!

I've lived in or near cities most of my life, but nothing really prepared me for the claustrophobia that I would experience in Taipei.  Except for a few parks, such as the Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum (the yellow roof of which you can see in the picture below), everything is jammed in to maximize space.  This includes the traffic.

I knew that scooters were big in Asian cities (and Taipei in particular), but it's a whole other experience to be sitting in traffic or trying to cross the street with 50 scooters trying to beat everyone to the next intersection.  There was one taxi ride in particular where I acquired a whole new appreciation for the finer nuances of cursing in Hokkien.  

One of the other things that I didn't exactly learn to appreciate but at least learned how to cope with was the oppressive humidity.  From the moment I stepped outside the baggage claim area at the airport and was rendered blind thanks to my glasses fogging up to the moment I returned to the airport, I spent the majority of my time trying to figure out how to deal with the humidity.  I tried taking early morning walks before it got hot, but as you can see in the below picture, that was a losing effort.

As one of the few people in our group with any experience with the Mandarin language, I regularly found myself translating for my trip companions.  Sometimes it meant translating a particularly funny speech by our hosts (which in the interest of international goodwill, I will not repeat here), but sometimes it meant filling in the gaps in English translations where a well-intentioned advertiser fell a bit short.

One of the downsides to my trip was that I was so busy most of the time that I didn't get a chance to explore as much as I would have liked.  I did, however, get to take the high-speed train to Taichung and Kaohsiung.  Unfortunately, our trip was so busy that most of the pictures I took were of the countryside.  It was so green and lush (we were there in the summer, after all), and the details in some of the local architecture was amazing!

The day before we left, we had an opportunity to act like normal tourists.  More on that in the next post, but until then, here's a teaser of what's to come:

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