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One World in One Lifetime

Archive for September, 2009

Kid on a Ledge

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 30, 2009

Walking Around

This is not a travel entry, but just a weird thing that happen to Mark and me.

Late Sunday morning, while at Mark’s apartment, I was sitting at his desk wasting time on Facebook. I noticed a head bobbing around outside the window. I thought, at first, that someone was fixing something outside. But the person was just pacing outside on the ledge.

Just a kid going for a walk, on a ledge…

Mark and I got up and looked outside to see what was going on. That’s when we realized that the person was just a little kid. He ran over to the corner of the building. Mark’s apartment is on the 6th floor so I panicked thinking that this kid might fall to his death.

I had no idea what to do. I don’t speak Korean. How would I explain to someone what was going on before the kid falls off the ledge? I quickly took some pictures to make it easier for us to explain the situation to the security guard and get help.

Mark to the rescue!

I really didn’t have to think about this for very long, because Mark climbed out the window during my little panicky episode. He shuffled over to the kid and picked him up. Mark said the boy struggled a bit in his arms.

Mark managed to carry him over to our window and handed him over to me. I picked him up and brought him into Mark’s apartment. The kid was wearing diapers and he had a bloody foot. He looked to be about six years old. He was obviously a mentally challenged kid.

I took his hand and led him through the apartment and out the door. I hoped that he would lead me to his apartment so I could tell his mom about what happened. As we walk through the hallway I saw another kid. I ask the other kid, “Is this your little brother?”

The older kid said nothing; not even in Korean. He took the diapered child’s hand and walked him to their apartment. The parents weren’t home. Mark came over. He had his coworker on the phone to translate. We tried talking to the older brother, but he never spoke a word.

It’s a long way down.

Mark went downstairs to tell the building’s security guard what happened. I stayed upstairs. I tried to get the older brother to close the window in his apartment. He just stared at me blankly. I began to think that he too might be mentally challenged.

Then I noticed the diapered child climbing out the window again. I pushed the other boy out of the way; he was standing at the door. I ran over to the window and grabbed the younger kid. Then I locked the window myself.

Mark’s talk with the security guard didn’t go well. The guard thought he was reporting the kid as a peeping Tom. Even with the coworker as a translator, he couldn’t make the security guard understand how dangerous the situation was. The guard just couldn’t be bothered.

When the mom finally came home we tried to talk to her. By this time we didn’t have a translator so we showed her the photos I had taken. She thanked us.

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Posted in Incheon, South Korea | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Seodaemun Prison

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 30, 2009

September 27, 2009

All Pictures

torturing

Locked Up

Seodaemun Prison was used, in the early 1900’s, by the Japanese to imprison Korean citizens who were against Japan’s annexation of Korea. The prisoners were part of Korea’s independent movement and they were brutally tortured during their time in the prison.

Seodaemun Prison

There were many manikins that demonstrated some of the many types of tortures used against the Korean prisoners. I already knew how cruel the Japanese could be, even before I saw this prison. No one did torture like the Japanese during and before World War II.

Make no mistake, there were all sorts of atrocities committed by the Japanese towards the Koreans. It was probably even more horrendous than can be imagined. The written explanations on the wall however were so over the top anti-Japanese that it was a bit comical. The Japanese were always called, “the Japanese aggressors” and the Korean’s were all but painted with halos hanging over their heads.

It reminded me of communist propaganda from China or North Korea.

More torture

Seodaemun Prison is a very educational experience. A trip here helps one to understand the ill feeling the Koreans have towards the Japanese.

All Pictures


South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


Seodaemun Prison
(서대문 형무소)

How to Get There:

Cost:

  • Adult 1,500KRW
  • Child 500KRW

Hours:

  • Mar—Oct   9:30 – 18:00
  • Nov—Feb  9:30 – 17:00

Closed: Jan 1, Lunar New Year, Chuseok, Mondays , Tuesdays after Mondays that are holidays

Videos:

Notes:

  • After the Japanese were driven out of Korea, this prison was used by the Korean government. After that, it was turned into a museum.

Map:

Posted in Seodaemun, Seoul, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

The Flu of Swines

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 29, 2009

September 26, 2009

All Pictures

Stop H1N1!

Swine Flu

Koreans are scared of swine flu. I’m not sure how the everyday Americans feel about swine flu, but here people are scared. There have been many cancellations of public outdoor events for fare of spreading the illness.

Personally I think that swine flu is a great thing for Korea.  I remember Korea one year ago. Let’s say you want to use the bathroom. It doesn’t really matter where you use the facilities, you run into the same problem. There is either no soap or you have to use a  bar of soap that is attached to the sink via a metal rod.

Sometimes the soap looks clean, but most of the time it’s look like the place where all evil originated. I still haven’t figured out whether it is better to use or not use the dirty bar of soap to wash my hands.

soap on a rod the clean version

I don’t want to shake hands.

I always wash my hands. I either use the dirty soap, my own soap that I keep in my purse when I remember to bring it, or wash with only water. Most people, on the other hand, don’t even give the sink as much as a slight glance. They open their bathroom stall and head straight for the door.

hand washing instructions

Snot Rockets in Flight

Some other things in Korea that have ended since a year ago are lots of open mouth coughing, open mouth sneezing, spitting, and snot rockets. I can’t even tell you the number of times I have almost been spat on or almost been the victim of a snot rocket attack. For those of you who don’t know what a snot rocket is, look at the video below.

Now there is liquid soap in more bathrooms and hand sanitizers in many shops and fast food restaurants. In many public bathrooms there are new posters that give instructions on proper hand washing. Sadly, there is still a lot of uncovered coughing mouths and I don’t think that people will ever stop spitting everywhere.

Along with the hundreds of hand sanitizer machines, there are also many “fluguns” installed where crowds are expected. This is a device that is supposed to kill flu germs, I think. I doubt that it works, since after being “flugunned” about three times in Songdo I had a cold the next day.

Flugunnin’

International Fair

Whenever I see the word “international” in Korea, I become skeptical. Take for example the international restaurant area right outside Lotte Word. They have a Japanese restaurant, a bad Chinese restaurant, a Korean version of an Italian restaurant, and about 1,001 Korean restaurants.

African Art

So I was quite surprised at the fair when I saw countries like India, Turkey, and Sweden being represented. Africa was lumped together as if it were one giant country and for a minute, as we walked through the “pathway of Africa,” I thought it would be nothing but bare-breasted women with baskets on their heads, but the African Tribes Living Hall did have some nice African art and pottery exhibits.

The European Culture exhibit was a bit off. It seems that, to the maker of the exhibit, European Culture was just any and everything that wasn’t Korean. It was just a grouping of rooms with a bunch of stuff randomly placed and thrown about. Among the example of Europeanism was a gramophone, a moose head, and several Barbie dolls, one Mexican and one Native American. (All these things are products or animals of North America.)

lame robot

Kekkou desu (No Thank you), Mr. Robot

We were excited to check out the Robot Science Pavilion down High-Tech Plaza, but it too was disappointing. They did have robots that kids could control, but most of them were broken and needed maintenance. As I walked through the building I felt as if the designers of this exhibit just gave up and started putting up movie posters.

Other than the gross misunderstanding of most non-Korean culture and totally misleading Robot Science Pavilion the fair was nice. There were carni rides and a short fireworks show at night to top everything off. I really hope they do this again next year!

All Pictures


 

South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


Songdo
(송도)

How to Get There:

  • 37°23’35.3″N 126°38’04.6″E

From Seoul:

Website

Notes:

This is a really nice place to just walk around.


Global Fair & Festival

How to Get There:

From Seoul take Seoul subway line #1 to Bupyoung then transfer to Incheon line #1. Get off at Central Park Station.

Websites:

Cost:

  • Adult      18,000KRW
  • Student  13,000KRW
  • Child      10,000KRW

After 18:00 tickets cost 8,000KRW for adults.

Hours:

  • August 7, 2009 – October 25, 2009
  • 9:00 – 21:00 Check the web site for more information

Notes:

The fair is no longer in operation. Maybe they will have another one in the future, but I doubt it. It was awesome while it lasted…

Map:

Posted in Incheon, Songdo, South Korea | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Korea’s Aesthetics

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 14, 2009

Mark getting a check up

The Eyes have it.

One thing that Korea is famous for is plastic surgery. In Gangnam, the posh part of Seoul, you will find “Aesthetic Clinics” left and right. Even in the not so fancy areas there are many “Aesthetic Clinics” but most of them look a bit sketchy and far from aesthetically pleasing. I don’t know of anyone who has had plastic surgery while in Korea, other than an acquaintance here and there, but I do know Mark. He got his eyes done.

A happy customer

Surgery in Korea generally costs less than say, back in the states. I met a guy who had brain surgery last year on Halloween for about 2,000USD. He was a teacher and had the national health insurance. His surgery was covered by the government health insurance*, but non-necessary procedures will not be covered.

They are still pretty inexpensive though. That is why people who are in Korea either visiting or working, will get some “work” done while they’re here. And, there are doctors galore to accommodate them.

before

Mark’s Eyes

If you have been following my blog you may have noticed Mark. He is featured in many of my entries. I met him this year at a Lunar New Year’s celebration event. Since then we’ve gone on many trips together.

He used to look like this:

eating green tea ice cream

Now he looks like this:

After

Do you see the difference?

Mark had LASEK eye surgery and no longer needs to wear his coke-bottle glasses. He looked around on several forums online to find a good doctor and picked Dream Eye Center. It cost him about 1,500USD because he got a “foreigner discount”. (I’m not sure if they still do the “foreigner discount”.)

10 hours after surgery Marks eyes were burning, so he cooled them down with a little noreabang.

ZZZZaappP!

The surgery itself took about 15 minutes with a few minutes of prep.  All the eye tests had to be done again and again to check for any changes in his eyes. This is what most of the time was spent on. He went in one Saturday with his glasses and left an hour and a half later with burning eyes minus the glasses. His vision improved over the weeks and months. He has had several check-ups to make sure that everything was still going well. His vision is now almost 20/20.

Before his vision was -5.5 and -6.1 but I can’t find the conversion to the 20/20 scale. Let’s just say that without his glasses, Mark was helpless and could not function on his own. For amusement, I used to hide his glasses right in front of him and watch him blindly feel for them.

eye drops

Right after the surgery though, his eyes stung especially in the morning when he woke up. He was constantly using eye drops. One contained steroids to strengthen his eyes. The other was to fight against bacterial infection. He still uses the eye drops that contains steroids.

***** UP DATE Dec-2013 *****

Years later Mark’s vision is still 20/20. Even though he no longer lives in Korea to come in for check-ups his eyes are very healthy and he has had no problems.

*****************************

Mark got 2 Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf gift cards for filling out an assessment form

* A Word about the National Health Insurance

I know of a few people who have gotten sick or had accidents while working in Korea and had the national health insurance. Some have had no problems with paying their hospital fees, others have. The problem is the hospitalization fee.

You do have to pay for medical attention. You might even have to pay thousands of dollars, or millions of won, for surgery and/or hospital stay. The national insurance will only pay part of the fees for needed procedures and will not pay for anything that is considered unnecessary. The co-pay is not small for some surgeries.

Most medical treatments here are a lot cheaper than in most countries and so is the monthly cost of health insurance. I pay about 85,000KRW a month. When I get sick and need to see a doctor I pay about 3,000KRW for my visit and about 3,000KRW for my individually wrapped medication. But if I needed major surgery I would expect to pay thousands of dollars, like my friend who had the 2,000USD brain surgery.

Mark and his doctor

That said, if you do decide to go to Korea to teach for a year know that the national health care is not free. If you never get any serious injures, it’s really cheap. If you know that you will do activities where you might get hurt, like playing sports regularly or using a scooter, make sure to have some extra “should in case” money or extra health insurance for an emergency.

Posted in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The last days in Taiwan

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 8, 2009

September 2-5, 2009

All Pictures

I saw this from the bus back to Zuoying

Do I have to take a taxi?

I spent the time I had left swimming early in the mornings and late in the evenings. The rest of the day I scootered into town or to my guest house and tried to stay cool.

On my last full day in Taiwan Max, the owner of the Ipanema Surf House drove me to the bus station in Hengchun. I got there 10 minutes before the next #88 Kenting Express left for Zuoying. I think they run every 30 minutes, but I’m not completely sure. The last stop, my stop, was the Zuoying High Speed Railway station.

My train to Taoyuan left at 6:36am the next day so when my bus got to Zuoying my first priority was to find lodgings. My Rough Guides guide-book was of absolutely no help in this matter. I walked through the station and found the tourist information desk. I asked the lady there how to get to the nearest hotel. She wrote something in Chinese on a post-it note and handed it to me. “Just show this to a taxi driver.”

“Do I have to take a taxi? Can’t I walk there?”

A busy Taiwanese intersection

I try not to take taxis when traveling alone in new countries. In Seoul I try to never get into a cab. Cabbies in Seoul drive like they are insane. While traveling I feel safer in a bus or just walking. A bus driver is less likely to be able to murder me and dump my body without any witnesses.

Okay, my murder is not actually the reason for my not wanting to get into a taxi by myself. I feel that taxi drivers are more likely to rip off passengers when they think they are helpless and naïve. A bus driver cannot charge extra or take me the long way, but a cab driver can.

Another thing is that a cab driver can drop me off in the middle of nowhere either out of malice or miscommunication. In such a situation it might be hard to find another taxi to get back. If I took the wrong bus, I can just get on the same bus going in the opposite direction to return. I have also found helpful people on buses who have given me directions or advice.

Lotus Lake

The Garden Villa

This time, it seemed, I would have to take a taxi. It would be a 5 minute ride that would cost me 100TWD, but the directions, the lady said, were too complicated and I might get lost. If it weren’t so hot outside I would have put up more of a fight, but the heat melted away all my reservations.

When riding in a taxi by myself in a new country I always pay close attention to where I’m going. I look out for landmarks and try to memorize the directions. I even take photos of things; I am a tourist. We past a really nice hotel and I hoped that I wouldn’t be taken there. It looked too expensive for me.

We pulled up to the hotel. It was the Garden Villa. Before I could protest a door man helped me out of the car and another one carried my bag in for me. Because the Ipanema Surf House was a lot less expensive than what I was planning, I was way under budget for my vacation. I knew exactly how much money I had. I thought, if the rate is less than that amount, minus the cost of 2 meals, I’d stay. Why not?

I walked up to the desk with no plan B. Where was I going to go if the hotel was too expensive? I inquired about the room rate and was told that it was 2300TWD a night. “Ok. I’ll like a room for one night please.”

When I got to the room I noticed a card with all the room rates. The cheapest one was the room I was staying in and it was 4,800TWD. I don’t know how I got a discount.

Lotus Lake

Lotus Lake

The hotel had a view of Lotus Lake. I was so excited by seeing the pretty pagodas that I skipped lunch, forgot about the heat, and walk around the lake. An hour later I was drenched in sweat and had a headache caused by dehydration.

I went up to my room, took a long cooling shower and ordered room service. For such a fancy hotel, the room service menu wasn’t very good.

Kim Chee!

The Taipei Times

I can help you.

The next day I was at the THSR station very early in the morning. I looked at my ticket then at the prompter over head and figured out where I needed to be to catch my train. As I was walking down the platform an older couple came up to me. They spoke in Mandarin and were asking for help. They didn’t know where to go and they knew no English.

I looked at their ticket and then at the prompter. Their train left for Taipei 9 minutes before mine. I told them in English and with a lot of pointing that they needed to be at platform 2, section 5.

I get asked for directions a lot wherever I go. Once I gave a Korean ajumma my subway map and helped her to transfer lines. I do not look Asian, but I must look like I know where I’m going. If they only knew how often I get lost.

I eventually hopped on a plane heading for Incheon. When I got to the airport in Korea I found Mark waiting for me and was glad to be back in the land of the morning calm.

Mark enjoying some goodies from Taiwan

All Pictures


 

Taiwan
The Republic of China
(中華民國)
(Zhōnghuá Mínguó)

How to get there:

Taiwan in an island so you can enter this country by plane or boat.

Americans get a 30-day visa at the port of entry. Check with you local Taiwanese embassy or consulate for exact details on getting a visa.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110
    • Ambulance and Fire 119

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • If you ever visit Taiwan, write some address and phone number on your landing card, even if it’s for a Starbucks. Never leave the section for hotel’s address blank.

Lotus Lake
(蓮池潭)

How to get there:

  • 22°41’00.7″N 120°17’49.0″E

By MRT:

  • Take MRT Red Line and get off at Ecological District Station.
  • From Ecological District Station Exit No. 2,
  • then take the Bus Red 51 to Lotus Lake stop.

By Bus:

  • Take the Bus No. 6, 17, 29, 31, 38, or 219 to Zuoying North Stop.
  • Take the Green 38 to Confucius Temple Stop.
  • Take the Bus No. 301 to Lotus Lake Stop.

Address:

 No. 1435, Cuihua Rd.
Zuoying District, Kaohsiung City

Phone: +886-7-581-6216

Cost: Free

Map:

Posted in Taiwan, Zuoying | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Nixon’s Head*

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 8, 2009

August 31 – September 1, 2009

All Pictures

The sign for the turn to Baisha Beach

A Day at the Beach

The beach was a 5 minute scooter ride from the Ipanema Surf House. There is very little traffic along the road to the beach, actually there isn’t much of anything. There is a sign by the turn for the beach. It cost 10TWD to park a scooter there and 30TWD for a car. To rent a big umbrella, it is 300TWD, but I didn’t think it was worth it.

Baisha

It was unforgivably hot in Taiwan. Around noon it was even too hot to go swimming. So, I would wake up early in the morning and go swimming. I had the beach all to myself. Even the people selling stuff wouldn’t be up yet. I would go back again in the evening. At that time there would be a huge crowd of about 6 people.

The beach gets a bit more crowded on the weekends, but during the week people don’t show up until about 9:00am. I would leave around 9:30am. That gave me enough time to shower and head out for the town of Hengchun for lunch before the temperature got too high.

yum

I’ll pass on seconds…

I have to say that the food I tried in Taiwan wasn’t all that great. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as life-changingly delicious as Thai or Vietnamese food. Maybe when I go back to Taiwan to see Taipei I will get to taste better food.

There was one restaurant called Bossa Nova. The food and service were okay. I was a little freaked out when an employee’s five-year-old daughter showed up.

She came skipping in and a waiter sat her on a table. She took off her shoes and started walking on the table with her bare feet. No one told her to stop. When she finally hopped off the table no one bothered to clean the table top. I eyed my own table suspiciously looking for footprints.

Another beach in Kenting

Let’s see a few sights

Swimming all day isn’t much fun when you have to leave every time you get hungry and feel like passing out around noon because of the heat. So, one day after my morning swim, I did a little sightseeing; just one day. This was after all, a week of relaxation.

Frog Rock Marine Park

I passed by other beaches along the Kenting road. None of them was as good as Baisha, but they all had restaurants across the street. The beaches in this part of Taiwan aren’t very long and have rocks in and around them.

My first stop was the Frog Rock Marine Park. The entrance fee was 20TWD and 30TWD to park a scooter. There is a hotel in this park that is used for groups of students and families. The hotel is made up of traditional looking Taiwanese buildings. The namesake Frog Rock sits at the edge of the park. There is also a beach, but I was told that it is now closed because of the storm that hit the area in early August.

Is this a warning for me or the crabs?

Stop 2. was Nixon’s Head. I didn’t think it looked like Nixon at first, but after I being out in the sun on the scooter for a couple hours I was able to see it.

Stop 3. was the lighthouse. This cost 40TWD to enter and 10TWD for scooter parking. This park had some nice views of the neighboring beach, but it was really hot. Once I walked up the little hill and had a look around I was dripping in sweat.

I did walk down to the sea though. It was a beautiful view of the southernmost part of Taiwan.

꽃보다 남자 with Mandarin subtitles!

Boys of Flowers in the A/C

After this day I vowed not to go sightseeing again. I would spend the rest of my noons indoors with the a/c on high watching “Boys over Flowers” in Mandarin. The venture on the one tour day did make my afternoon swim much more enjoyable.

* My friend Michelle dared me to name my next blog entry after a republican. She thought I couldn’t do it. I showed her!

All Pictures


 

Taiwan
The Republic of China
(中華民國)
(Zhōnghuá Mínguó)

How to get there:

Taiwan in an island so you can enter this country by plane or boat.

Americans get a 30-day visa at the port of entry. Check with you local Taiwanese embassy or consulate for exact details on getting a visa.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110
    • Ambulance and Fire 119

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • If you ever visit Taiwan, write some address and phone number on your landing card, even if it’s for a Starbucks. Never leave the section for hotel’s address blank.

Frog Rock Marine park
(清蛙石)

Kenting Youth Activity Center
(墾丁青年活動中心)

How to get there:

  • 21°56’20.9″N 120°48’04.1″E Frog Rock
  • 21°56’28.5″N 120°47’57.0″E Youth Center
  • Website

Address:

No.17, Kenting Rd., Hengchun Town, Pingtung County 946, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Phone:

(08)886-1221

Website

Cost:

  • 20TWD to enter
  • 30TWD to park a scooter
  • Free for people staying at the hotel.

Notes:

  • This place is also a hostel, but I think there is an age limit for guests.
  • You have to go to the youth center to get to the rock.

Nixon’s Head
Chuanfanshr
Sail rock
(船帆石)

How to get there:

  • 21°55’52.4″N 120°49’26.3″E

It’s along road 26 between the Kenting Youth Activity Center and the light house.

Notes:

  • This is really not a very amazing thing. I don’t recommended traveling just to see this rock, but if you are passing by, you might as well…
  • … and it’s hard to see Nixon’s head in the rock. It looks more like a gorilla.

Eluanbi Park
(鵝鑾鼻燈塔)

How to get there:

  • 21°54’07.2″N 120°51’02.2″E

Head south down road 26. When the road ends, stop.

cost:

Website

Notes:

  • Walk around and find the path that leads to the sea. This is the southernmost part of Taiwan.
  • There are lots of souvenir shops at the entrance, near the parking lot.
  • You can buy food and drinks near the front gate.

Maps:

Posted in Baisha (near Kenting), Kenting, Taiwan | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Ipanema Surf House

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 8, 2009

August 30, 2009

All Pictures

A Gong Hotel Resort

Just to sit on a beach

In the morning I checked out of my hotel. It was a nice hotel, but it wasn’t near the beach that I had come all the way to Taiwan for. This was a relaxing vacation, not a sightseeing one. I wanted to just lie around on a beach and not do anything for a week.

Most buses are group tour buses

I asked the ladies at the counter for the best way to get to Baisha. They acted like this was a very near to impossible thing to do. “You have to take a bus into town, and then take another bus to Baisha. It could take a long time. Buses don’t come by very often.”

As we were talking, the owner of the hotel overheard our conversation. “I’ll take you for 300TWD.” I don’t know if this was way too much to pay or if it was a deal, but I was willing to pay it. I would rather be sitting on a beach instead of standing at a bus stop.

He took me to the Ipanema Surf House, which is run by a surfer named Max. He used to live in Brazil and is still quiet in love with everything Brazilian. It cost me 400TWD per night for a room.

my private room with TV and a/c

The rooms can be rearranged to fit many people. There were four beds in my room before I got there, but most were moved out to make it a one person room.

The amenities were: free wireless internet, free internet when Max isn’t using his computer, free usage of a huge washing machine, and I think Max gives surfing lessons, though I don’t know how much it costs.

The hotel I slept in the previous night cost 1300TWD a night. That hotel came with a pool. Most of the hotels along the Kenting road cost about 800TWD for the low-end hotels to way more money than I care to think about for the high-end ones. The closer you are to the populated beaches the more the hotels will cost.

my scooter

Scoot on Over

I was able to rent one of the two scooters that Max owned for 400TWD a day. This was great for me because I had budgeted 800TWD per night for a hotel and 500TWD per day for a scooter. The scooter cost about 80TWD to fill up with gas which I did 1.5 times while I was there and gave it back to max with roughly the same amount of gas it had when I got it.

Why don’t more people ride scooters? Funny you should ask that…

Just like Erik Estrada!

Max just handed me the keys for the scooter. He only asked if I had a driver’s license. He never asked to see it or whether or not I could drive a scooter. He gave me a 10 minute lesson only after I nearly rammed his scooter into the side of the guest house.

Baisha

All by Myself…

Baisha beach was not what I was expecting. I wanted an isolated beach and that is exactly what I got. But it was a bit too isolated. There were no nearby restaurants or convenience stores. Every time I got hungry I had to scoot into town.

At the start of my mini-vacation I wished I had gone to Paradise Beach Resort in Vietnam. There I never left the beach. It cost 20USD per night and included 3 meals a day. But I purposely chose not to go to Vietnam because I had already seen Vietnam and I had never been to Taiwan.

Doc Let beach in Paradise Resort in Vietnam

All Pictures


 

Taiwan
The Republic of China
(中華民國)
(Zhōnghuá Mínguó)

How to get there:

Taiwan in an island so you can enter this country by plane or boat.

Americans get a 30-day visa at the port of entry. Check with you local Taiwanese embassy or consulate for exact details on getting a visa.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110
    • Ambulance and Fire 119

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • If you ever visit Taiwan, write some address and phone number on your landing card, even if it’s for a Starbucks. Never leave the section for hotel’s address blank.

Baisha 
(白沙)

How to get there:

  • 21°56’02.9″N 120°43’04.4″E

You can take

  • a taxi.
  • a bus from Kenting to Hengchun and then a bus from Hengchun to Baisha.
  • a scooter.

Driving directions:

Go north on the Kenting road. Once you pass Nanwan beach look out for a 7/11 on the corner of a big intersection. Turn left there. The road will end at a T-intersection. Turn left onto that road. Stay on that road until you see signs that say Baisha.

Cost:

Notes:
  • There is more than one beach in Taiwan with the name Baisha. This is the one near Kenting.

ISH card

The Ipanema Surf House

How to get there:

  • 21°55’53.2″N 120°43’56.1″E
  • Go north on the Kenting road.
  • Once you pass Nanwan beach look out for a 7/11 on the corner of a big intersection. Turn left there.
  • The road will end at a T-intersection. Turn left onto that road.
  • Stay on that road until you see a temple. There are several little shrines, but you are looking out for a temple.
  • There will be a traffic light a few meters from the temple and a road between the light and the temple. Turn left on that road. The Ipanema Surf House is at the end of that road.

Cost:

  • 400TWD/night for a room
  • 400TWD/day for a scooter (He only has 2 scooters though)
Notes:
  • The name of the owner is Max.
    • He used to live in Brazil.
    • He loves surfing.
  • This place is popular among surfers.
  • Max offers surfing lessons for a fee.
  • You can use the kitchen and store stuff in the fridge.
  • You can do laundry here for free.
  • Laundry detergent is free too.
  • The rooms have air conditioning.
  • The showers come with free shampoo and body wash.
  • There is free wi-fi.
  • There aren’t any restaurants nearby (within walking distance on a hot Taiwanese summer day).
  • There is a corner shop that’s about a 10 minute walk away from the house. It’s really just an old guy sell snacks from his garage.

Map:


Posted in Baisha (near Kenting), Kenting, Taiwan | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Where are you Staying?

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 7, 2009

August 29, 2009

All Pictures

the airport limo In Korea

Incheon Airport: If heaven were an airport

I have to say that Incheon Airport is the nicest airport I’ve ever seen! It’s ranked the second highest of all the airports in the world from sleepinginairports.com. The wonders of this ever expanding airport are best seen after the security check.

First off, there are many ways to get to the airport. The most expensive being a taxi. Then there are buses. Korean Air runs an airport bus which goes to and from the airport and expensive hotels. Then there are airport limousines, which are buses that just go to and from the airports and different parts of town. These cost about 8,000KRW or 7,500KRW, if you use your T-money card.

You could take the subway, which will cost you the regular price of your journey and an extra 4,500KRW to ride the special airport line. It goes between Gimpo Airport and Incheon Airport with a few stops in between.

Fun things to do at Incheon Airport

There are many restaurants at Incheon Airport, the options are better after the security screening. The ones on the departure level and above are over priced, but the ones on the arrival level are regularly priced, like the Kraze Burgers.

Once passed the security check there are more restaurant options, free internet, free cultural learning activities (for foreigners only), free showers, a movie theater, a hotel, and more.

Checking in at Incheon with my backpack as a carry-on

Taoyuan Airport: Taiwan

I took my backpack as carry-on luggage to be able to skip everyone, once I got off the plane in Taiwan, as they stood by looking out for their baggage to come around on the carousel of immeasurable waiting. I got in line at passport control and felt good because I was first in line and knew I didn’t need to wait for anyone to unload the plane.

I handed the lady at the desk my passport and landing card with an extra “I’m on vacation”-friendly, “Good evening.” She smiled back with a, “good evening to you too” and took my documents. Her smile disappeared as she asked, “Where do you live in Taiwan?”

Me: “I don’t live in Taiwan. I’m just visiting.”

Lady: “What is your phone number in Taiwan?”

Me: “I don’t have a phone in Taiwan. I don’t live here.”

Lady: “Where will you be staying?”

Me: “…a hotel. I think I wrote ‘hotel’ on my card to indicate that.”

Lady: “Where?”

Me: “Kenting.”*

Lady: “Where?”

Me: “Kenting?”

Lady: “What is that?”

Me: “A town in Taiwan.”

Lady: “Please go to the Immigration office!”

I’ve been to hundreds of countries and I usually write “hotel” as my address. I’ve never had a problem until I got to Taiwan.

I stood off to the side and a higher ranking official came over to me. He walked over with a deputy Fife swagger and a look on his face that said, “All I want is to go home to my wife and kids, but YOU are going to keep me here an extra hour or two, aren’t you? If I don’t like what you say, I’ll throw you in jail.” Yes, his face said all that.

He explained what a HUGE problem I was causing by not having a phone number or address. “How are we going to call you? Don’t you have a friend in Taipei?”

Me: “I’m not going to Taipei. I’m going to Kenting.”

Official: “What is a Kenting?”

I started pulling out all my documents to show this guy that I was a responsible person who just happens not to like to make hotel reservations. “Here, this is my ticket on the high-speed train down south. Look, I even have tickets leaving Taiwan in 7 days. See, I have travel insurance. Would a menace to society bother to take out travel insurance?”

Ipanema Surf House

Then something in my folder caught his eye. It was my travel itinerary. He looked at the items column and saw the word “hotel”. “Oh, you do have a hotel,” he said joyfully. He was relieved. His finger then moved across the line to the name of the hotel and he began to read aloud. “Ipanema Surf House maybe” He dragged out the maaaayyyybe. “You wrote ‘maybe’! You’re not sure?!”

Me: “I couldn’t find an exact address online. I just know it’s somewhere near Kenting.”

Official: “You don’t know where in Taipei you’re going!?”

Me: “I’m not going to Taipei. I’m going to Kenting. KENTING. Down south.”

I pointed to all my other documents, going over each of them and explaining to him why each one vouched for my character. “I have travel insurance, so I can take care of myself if I get sick. I have a ticket for a train leaving Taoyuan tonight. See, I planned ahead. I have a ticket leaving Taiwan in 7 days. I’m not staying long.”

He looked at me suspiciously, “You’re leaving in one week?” He wanted reassurance.

“Yes. I swear! So help me God!”

He stamped my passport, giving me a 30 day visa. Then he handed me a map of Taipei. “Enjoy your stay in Taipei.”

My map of Taipei

* The town’s name is spelled K-E-N-T-I-N-G. I would pronounce it “Ken-ting” rhyming with “renting”. When I heard the Taiwanese people say it, they say something that sounds like “Cunt-ting” with a ring on the “ting”. It was a while into my trip before I realized this minor discrepancy.

Falling asleep in The Kenting Express

The Kenting Express

I usually get a Lonely Planet travel guide, but I heard that the latest edition (2009) for Taiwan wasn’t any good. I couldn’t find an earlier edition so I bought a Rough Guide. I hate this book! Apart from one time when I used it to keep some napkins from blowing away, it was entirely useless.

It’s not to say that the Lonely Planet is perfect. There are plenty of ways it can be improved. But the information is very well laid out with lots of useful information, maps, occasional side stories, great photos, and travel warnings. All in all, on my trips I’m always glad I brought a Lonely Planet instead of not bringing one.

The Rough Guide gave me no information on how to get from the THSR station in Zuoying to the #88 bus stop. The map it had of the area around the station had no street names and very few labels. Since I couldn’t find any information online either, my plan was to get a hotel and find the bus stop in the morning when it was light out. I generally don’t like wandering the street of a new country at night by myself.

As I left the station, I wanted to check my guide-book one more time for a nearby hotel. The area outside the station was not very well lit so I had to look around for some light. I found a street light over where some buses were parked and walked towards them. I sat down on the bench and looked through my book.

It had no information about hotels in the neighborhood. I was getting annoyed. I looked up to yell at the travel-guide-book gods when I saw the number 88 bus park right in front of me. If the bus stop was right outside the train station, why the hell didn’t the “guide-book” mention it!?

I asked the driver the cost of a ticket to Kenting. He whipped out his cell phone and we talked to each other through a guy somewhere in Taiwan who could speak both Chinese and English. He then asked me the question of the day, “Where are you staying?”

AGH card

A Gong Resort

I told his translator that I didn’t have a hotel, but that he could drop me off at any nice, inexpensive hotel in Kenting. I took my seat and watched parts of Taiwan go by. I fell asleep without even realizing I had fallen asleep. When another a passenger shook me awake I was startled; it felt like I was on the bus for a few minutes. “The bus driver says this is a good hotel. You should get off now.”

I de-boarded the bus and sleepily staggered into A Gong Resort Hotel.

All Pictures


 

Taiwan
The Republic of China
(中華民國)
(Zhōnghuá Mínguó)

How to get there:

Taiwan is an island so you can enter this country by plane or boat.

I got my ticket paid for by S.M.O.E. Most ESL jobs will pay for your ticket home if you finish your contract. Some, like SMOE will pay for both your ticket there and your ticket back.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110
    • Ambulance and Fire 119

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • It is a known fact that cheaper flights are to be found on websites that are written in the local language. You might be better off getting a Korean co-worker or friend to help than searching sites in English.
  • If you ever visit Taiwan, write some address and phone number on your landing card, even if it’s for a Starbucks. Never leave the section for hotel’s address blank.

Taiwan High Speed Railway Taoyuan Station
(高鐵桃園站)

How to get there:

  • 25°00’47.0″N 121°12’54.8″E

From Taoyuan Airport:

The Taoyuan Airport is in Taoyuan county not in Taipei. Airports are noisy, so most airports are not located in the city for which they service.

From the Airport take the uBus (number 705) to the THSR in Taoyuan. The place to buy tickets is on your left once you exit the passport check.

Cost:

uBus to the railway station – 30 TWD

Hours:

  • 20 minute ride
  • THSR to the Airport       7:00 – 23:24 every 10 minutes
  • The Airport to THSR      6:30 – 22:30 every 10 minutes

Notes:

The last stop for the uBus is the high speed train station.


Taiwan High Speed Railway Zuoying Station
(高鐵左營車站)

How to get there:

  • 22°41’15.0″N 120°18’24.9″E

From the THSR in Taoyuan, take a train to Zuoying.

You can buy tickets there on the day you travel, but I recommend buying them online before hand.

Website

Cost:

It depends on when you buy tickets and for what time. Buying a ticket scheduled to run during the off peak hours will save you 35% on the fare, if you buy it in advanced. If you pay for your ticket online and pick them up at the station you will save an additional 15%. You can only buy tickets a maximum of 14 days in advanced though.

I managed to get the 35% and 15% discount so I only paid 50% of what I would have if I bought my ticket on that day. I paid 815TWD.

There are non-reserved seats, but they are only available Mondays through Thursdays and only in certain cars. I don’t know how much they cost.

Hours:

  • 1h30m~1h40m ride     Check the web-site for the times.

Notes:

Don’t lose your ticket. You need it to go through the exit at your destination.


Kenting National Park
(垦丁国家公园)

How to get there:

  • 21°56’54.1″N 120°46’47.3″E
  • There are three exits out of the THSR station at Zuoying that do not lead to a parking lot or taxi stand. Take any one of them.
  • Go down the escalator and make a u-turn like you’re looking for the up-escalators. At the bottom of the up-escalator you should see the area where the buses stop. That’s where you’ll find #88, the Kenting Express.

The #88 bus also stops at the other train station in Zuoying. Remember this on your return trip.

Cost:

From Zuoying THSR station – 368TWD

Hours:

  • ride = 2h30m ~ 3h
  • This bus runs 24 hours a day.
  • I think it comes by once every half hour, but I’m not completely sure.

Notes:

  • If your hotel is along his route the bus driver will drop you off in front of it. If you don’t have one, you can ask him to drop you off at a nice hotel. If he doesn’t speak English he will call a translator on his cell phone so you  can communicate with him.
    • This might depend on how busy he is at the moment.
  • Keep your ticket. If you lose it you will have to buy another to get off the bus.

Map:


Posted in Baisha (near Kenting), Kaohsiung, Kenting, Taiwan, Taoyuan, Zuoying | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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