Page 2 of Go where the pepper grows Travel Blog Posts

Asia » Hong Kong » Kowloon April 4th 2013

3am is never a good time to arrive, least of all at a place you've never been to before. Hong Kong's not that bad in that regard: at least there are no touts vying for my tourist dollar, and it feels pretty safe. I take the fast train from the airport to the Central train station on Hong Kong Island. The hard part is trying to orientate myself once I'm out of the station. A maze of barriers, high curbs and stairs awaits me, which is not fun to undertake with too much luggage. As it's the middle of the night, the escalators don't work. Eventually, I manage to cross the very busy street via a pedestrian bridge and find the right bus stop on the other side. When the bus finally arrives, I try to ... read more
Amazing crispy noodles and veggies in black bean sauce
Tram in downtown HK island
Praising the Buddha

Asia » Macau » Macau April 2nd 2013

At China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, I buy my ferry ticket to Macau. As the name already suggests, there are quite a few ferries to mainland Chinese cities like Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Dongguan and Gaoming. Thus, the ferry terminal is heaving with mainlanders, all of whom seem to have come to Hong Kong to go on a shopping spree. Their presence doesn't really faze me, though, as I don't have to compete with them for seats. I pass through immigration, where I get stamped out of Hong Kong, then walk to the gate to wait for departure. The ferry itself takes only about an hour to get to Macau. The ride reminds me of the one I took from Ko Tao back to mainland Thailand. The South China Sea is rather choppy that day, making ... read more
Ruins Of Saint Paul's Cathedral
Pasteis de nata
Little Buddhist shrine

Asia » Taiwan » Taipei March 30th 2013

With my internship in full swing, I'm a little too busy, which means I can't embark on as many excursions around Taipei as I would like to. Kind of...unusual for me. I wouldn't have thought that teaching can be that strenuous. No, wait, that was a lie, actually I pretty much expected it to be that way. Tuesday's the worst, where I got three classes with only a short lunch break in between, and afterwards I feel like a bag of dicks. By the way, please spare me the smart arse-comments in the vein of "You think that's a lot? Well, I have five classes each and every day, 365-82, and you don't see me complaining!". For a teaching noob like me it's tough enough standing in front of 40+ students, let alone performing well and ... read more
Me with first year law students
Famous and delicious stinky tofu
Oldtimers singing

Asia » Taiwan » Taipei » Wulai March 22nd 2013

Time do go hiking while I still can. I leave the house a little too late in the morning, take the MRT to Xindian, the last stop on the Green Line, which takes me already a good 45 minutes. Then outside the station to wait for the bus to Wulai with a lot of old Taiwanese people, who seem to be constantly hiking everywhere. When the bus comes, they try to do the idiot Chinese thing of pushing in before everybody gets off, but I stand my ground, hop on and secure the last seat. No point in being overly polite and offering my seat to rude, old people who are still fit enough to hike all over the island anyway. 40 minutes later, I'm in Wulai. Lonely Planet describes it as 'rural, bucolic splendour', a ... read more
Aboriginal mural
2nd level of Xinxian Waterfall
Fried noodles and spicy silken tofu

Asia » Taiwan » Taipei » Danshui March 16th 2013

The historic seaside town of Tamsui, located northwest of Taipei, has been on my list of places to visit ever since I came to Taiwan. Technically a district of the mega-city of New Taipei, Tamsui (also known as Danshui) is easily reached by metro, being the northern terminal station on the red line. Its long and storied history saw several European nations fight for hegemony in the Taiwan Strait and as a result, Tamsui was occupied various times. First the Spanish arrived in 1628, establishing the town and mission of Santo Domingo to secure their interests in the Philippines against the Dutch, the British and the Portuguese. Fort San Domingo was built by the Spanish in the same year as a military, political, trade and missionary base. In 1642, the Dutch expelled the Spanish, took over ... read more
Former British consulate
Depiction of Taiwanese Aboriginals with stretched earlobes
Vegetarian pizza

Asia » Taiwan » Taipei » Neihu March 10th 2013

Hiking is the Taiwanese thing to do on the weekends, and I take full advantage of every free day that I have to leave busy, noisy Taipei for its green fringe, where I can breathe in some clean, fresh air. This beautifully sunny Sunday I plan to make my way to Neihu District to visit Bishan Temple (Bishanyan, 碧山巖). From Fu Jen, it takes me about an hour and a half to get there. In between I stop by at Guting station to buy some 飯糰 (those lovely rice balls I fell in love with in Hualien) at Taipei's most famous fan tuan-stall. Taiwanese people are pretty crazy about food, and word gets around quickly where you can get the best. Thus, it may only be 7:30am, but there's already a long line of people waiting ... read more
Bishan Temple main terrace
I thought this couple spoke German, but turned out they didn't
Fuming dragon

Asia » Taiwan » Taipei March 3rd 2013

As Jaclyn's departure draws nearer, we take full advantage of our last weeks together and indulge in food, sights, and all the cultural activities we can absorb. One excursion we do is to the mountain village of Jiufen, a quaint place along the northeast coast, not too far from Taipei. Once a centre of gold mining during the Japanese occupation, Jiufen retains its wealth these days through clever marketing to domestic, Chinese and especially Japanese tourists as a traditional, olde-tyme village untouched by modernisation. And in fact, after we get off the train in Ruifang and hop on the local bus to Jiufen, all we hear is Japanese. Of course, what we find upon arrival is not an isolated village cut off from civilisation for the last 80 years, but a comely little retro town ... read more
Can't escape those eyes
Fantastic hotpot just around the corner
Oldtimers playing a type of chess

Asia » Taiwan » Taipei February 21st 2013

Back in Taipei, we take advantage of the last few free days before my internship starts. We hop on a local train to the porcelain-producing little town of Yingge. We visit the Ceramics Museum, where several exhibitions of artworks of budding sculptors and artists from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, China and Hong Kong strike our interest. The main reason for us to make the trip, however, is Yingge Old Street. There we find pottery and ceramics shops in abundance, selling everything from bowls mass-produced in China to locally crafted goods. After browsing for a few hours, we finally decide on a tea cup, a few bowls and one fine clay pot made in Japan. One thing that we appreciate most about Taiwan is the night markets. Shida district boasts one of the most famous and dynamic ... read more
Safety first!
Main course
Best veg buffet

Asia » Taiwan » Tainan February 12th 2013

Time's running out, commitments are drawing near, so we skip a few destinations in the southern and central regions, and head straight to Tainan. The city was recommended to me by a friend whose judgment can generally be trusted. Tainan is the oldest city in the country, and its fourth largest. Hence, we find a dynamic city steeped in history and traditional culture, just what we're looking for. It's the second day of Chinese New Year, which means that unfortunately, we have to pay a little too much for our faceless, danky hotel room. Also, we find things a tad unpredictable, especially opening hours of restaurants and museums. On our first night, we walk around, trying to get a late-night snack, but can't find anything worth mentioning. No local food stalls, nothing. So we settle for ... read more
Taoist wizard strikes a pose
White suggests sinisterness, treacherousness, suspiciousness and craftiness

Asia » Taiwan » Hualien » Yuli February 10th 2013

Roughly halfway between Hualien and Taitung lies the small town of Yuli. The main reason for us to go there is to do some hiking in adjacent Yushan National Park, explore the surrounding area, and spend Chinese New Year's Eve in relative peace and quiet. The southbound local train takes only little more than an hour. We arranged to get picked up from the train station, as our homestay is located a few kilometres outside of Yuli. A friendly bald man in his sixties approaches us, waving and smiling, and we proceed to introduce ourselves. After a few minutes' drive, we arrive at a big country house with a beautiful garden overlooking the Central Mountain Range. The lady of the house comes out to greet us. Inside, we are sat back and offered some tea. It ... read more
Pouring the tea
Volcanic mapo doufu at a different place
Stunning Yushan National Park

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