Taiwan Trip 2016: Part 3

October 17 – October 22: Taipei, Taiwan

We returned to Taipei Monday night and headed over to Din Tai Fung at Taipei 101 for some delicious dumplings. This restaurant chain began in Taiwan and is now a world famous Michelin Star restaurant. My favorite part of the meal was dessert. We ordered dumplings filled with warm, amazing chocolate. They were awesome! This restaurant is so delicious we went back on Thursday, but on Thursday we went to the original location.

Here we are outside the restaurant taking the customary picture with a life-size dumpling.
Here we are outside the restaurant taking the customary picture with a life-size dumpling.

Black Sand Beach

On Tuesday, we went in search of a beach since we weren’t able to get down to the beach in Kenting due to the typhoon damage. One of David’s (John’s Uncle) colleagues told David about a black sand beach not too far from Taipei. So we went to check it out. It was not beach type weather at all on Tuesday – it was cloudy and rainy. But the black sand beach was beautiful! I have never been to a black sand beach, so I was excited. And this beach did not disappoint. John took a lot of great pictures. I want to frame some and put them in our house when we move.





David then gave us a tour of the coast. We took a scenic route home to Taipei. It was a beautiful drive and awe-inspiring to see huge mountains right next to rocky beaches. I loved the drive home.

Taipei 101

Once we returned home, we headed to Taipei 101 to see the city from the 87th floor of Taipei 101. Taipei 101 has 101 stories, and it is the 5th tallest building in the world. To get to the observation level on the 87th floor, we rode the world’s fastest elevator. In just 34 seconds we traveled up 87 floors (well, I think 82…we entered the elevator on the 5th floor). My ears popped on the way up.

Looking out over Taipei.
Looking out over Taipei.
John and Uncle David
John and Uncle David.
Taipei City at night.

Yangmingshan National Park

The next day (Wednesday), we headed to Yangmingshan National Park. I think this was my favorite part of the trip. I love the beauty of nature and of the sky. We went on two hikes and walked a total of eight miles. The first hike was a circular trail through grasslands. The second hike was to some falls. The second hike was much more rigorous. The first hike was definitely my favorite. I loved being able to see the beautiful sky. During the second hike, it felt like we were surround by rainforest and couldn’t see the sky at all. It was still beautiful, but I am a sky girl 🙂 It was a very windy day, which actually turned out to be a great thing because we got pretty warm while hiking. We were beat when we got home but it was well worth it.













Martyr’s Shrine

On Thursday we toured the Martyr’s Shrine, ate the most amazing shaved ice, once again went to Din Tai Fung, perused Taipei City Mall, and visited Longshan Temple. The Martyr’s Shrine has amazing architecture. We arrived in time to observe the changing of the guards. I felt so bad for the soldiers because it was super hot outside. I can’t imagine how hot they must have felt in their uniforms.







Once we were done at the Martyr’s Shrine, we needed something cold. David led us to Smoothie House, a famous shaved ice location. This place has been written about by CNN. It certainly did not disappoint. I forgot to take a picture of the shaved ice until we had already eaten half of it. I don’t think it’s worth posting haha. After the shaved ice, it was time for some more dumplings, and they once again delighted our taste buds. Then we headed to some local shops and the Taipei City Mall. It was fun to walk through the mall and observe the people shopping. It was very different than an American mall. David said it reminded him of an indoor Taiwanese night market.

Longshan Temple

Our last stop of the day was Longshan Temple. The architecture was incredible. I enjoyed sitting and watching all the worshippers who came pay their respects and offer prayers. It was a neat cultural experience. I thought a lot about faith and the role that God plays in my life. It made me grateful for faith and belief that God hears and answers prayers and that He created a plan for our eternal happiness.



Confucius Temple

On Friday, our final day in Taiwan, we headed to a Confucius temple. Once again, the intricate architecture was amazing and beautiful. Friday was super hot…92 degrees. I enjoyed seeing the temple, but it wore me out. We ate lunch at a Latin restaurant and lingered there for a while. The food was great and the air conditioning was delightful. We then hopped on the metro and took the red line all the way to the end of the line to Tamsui.






Our final evening in Taiwan we spent in Tamsui. This was a great way to end the trip. We walked along the river that connects to the Taiwan Strait. We had fun walking through souvenir shops, and then we stumbled upon a waterfront restaurant with delicious food and an elegant/beachy/relaxing ambiance. It’s hard to describe the feeling of the restaurant, but it was an absolute perfect ending to the trip. We could see the water from our table, and part way through dinner fireworks started going off. I joked that Taiwan was giving us one heck of a farewell!




And now we are sitting in the L.A. airport, and I am beat. We woke up a little before 6 a.m. Taiwan time, and now it’s almost midnight there. We still have about nine hours to go before we are home. I tried proof reading this blog post for grammatical errors, but I’m so tired I am sure I missed a few haha.

It’s been a great vacation! We loved exploring a new culture, disconnecting from “normal life,” and seeing a new, beautiful part of the world.

Click here to view part 1 of our Taiwan adventure; click here to view part 2.




Taiwan Trip 2016: Part 2

October 14 – 17: Kenting, Tawain (Written on October 17)

On Friday morning, we took the HSR (high-speed rail) from Taipei to the very last stop in the Southern direction, Zouying. It’s fairly inexpensive (by American standards) and is very fast. From the Zouying stop, we took an express shuttle bus to the Howard Beach Resort, where we’re staying in Kenting. It was about a two/two-and-a-half hour bus ride.

When we booked our trip to Taiwan, I spent time researching Taiwan beaches. Since Taiwan is an island, I figured there would be lots of beaches. However, there seemed to be only one area of the island that is famous for its beaches, and that is Kenting. Kenting is on the exact opposite end of the island from Taipei. Before our trip, I also spent a lot of time doing online research about how to get to Kenting and where to stay. I scoured websites and blogs and struggled to find information. At the bottom of this post, I’ll include information about how to get to Kenting and where to stay for all Americans/Westerners wanting to travel there from Taipei.

Sadly, there was a typhoon here a week ago, so the resort’s access to the beach was blocked off by lots of downed trees, and the scenic tour of the Botanical Gardens/Kenting National Park was not offered due to the typhoon damage. Those were the two things I really wanted to do down here in Kenting, so I was pretty bummed at first. I don’t think we’ll ever get back here again, so it felt like a major bummer.

John and I made good use of the pool and the indoor water park. The pool overlooks the ocean. So even though we couldn’t access the beach, we still had a beautiful view. Kenting is technically in the tropics and the ocean is so, so blue. The view of the ocean is such a tease since we haven’t found a way to get down there! The indoor water park is much smaller than American water parks, but it was still fun. There weren’t a lot of people at the water park, so we were able to go down the slides multiple times with no line whatsoever. The lazy river wasn’t as “lazy” as American lazy rivers. The current is much, much slower and requires you to paddle a bit. Another interesting thing is that the hot tubs here are luke warm.

Connected to the resort is a restaurant called “Rabbit Rabbit.” It’s a western style restaurant and it’s delicious and super cheap! We’ve eaten there four times haha. Saturday night we tried a Tex-Mex restaurant connected to the resort called “Smokey Joe’s.” It was interesting to try Taiwan’s version of Tex-Mex… it’s not exactly the same as in America. The smells of the food here in Taiwan (both in Kenting and Taipei) have been really hard for me. A lot of the smells make me feel fairly nauseous.

I’ve definitely felt pretty homesick while here in Taiwan. I miss being able to speak the same language as everyone else. In Taipei, there are a lot more English speakers than here in Kenting. John’s uncle isn’t here with us in Kenting, so John and I have to rely on ourselves to communicate with others. We feel pretty alone and isolated. I will be happy to be back in Taipei this afternoon.

The resort’s very blue pool.
Relaxing poolside.
Relaxing poolside.
We walked around the resort in search of walking trails. However, we kept encountering warning signs about snakes, so we decided to snap a picture of the scenery and head back to the pool.
We walked around the resort in search of walking trails. However, we kept encountering warning signs about snakes. So we decided to snap a picture of the scenery and head back to the pool.
It looks like we're standing on the beach, but we're actually standing on the road above the beach.
It looks like we’re standing on the beach, but we’re actually standing on the road above the beach.
The beautiful ocean we were never able to get to because of all the typhoon damage.
The beautiful ocean we were never able to get to because of all the typhoon damage.

Some fun things I want to remember:

  • Swim caps: Here in Taiwan, it’s customary to wear swim caps in the water. Everyone wears swim caps. If you’re not wearing one, you’re not allowed in the water. Whenever we’ve gone to the outdoor pool, the lifeguards have given us caps to wear. However, when we went to the indoor waterpark, we had to buy swim caps. So now John and I own our very own Taiwanese swim caps!
  • Please “alight” the train: All the train announcements have been in English. Instead of saying please “exit” the train, the announcement is please “alight” the train. We learned form John’s uncle that this is a British saying.
  • “Selfies” in front of the pool: A lot of resort guests don’t get in the pool, but they come and take “selfies” at the pool. They’ll stick their feet in the pool and take a picture, or they’ll sit on a lounge chair and take a picture. Then they leave. It’s fun to watch. From what David has told us, water recreation isn’t a huge thing in Taiwan like it is in the U.S. Perhaps that’s why even though Taiwan is an island, there aren’t a lot of touristy beaches.
  • “Typhoon broke the beach”: We asked one of the lifeguards how to get down to the beach. He didn’t speak English, but I think he got the gist of what we were saying. He typed something in his phone, and then his phone translated what he typed into English. The English translation was: “Typhoon broke the beach.” English translations make me smile 🙂

The view from our hotel room is beautiful! We’re on the top floor, and our view overlooks the National Forest and a picturesque green mountain. It’s beautiful down here in Kenting. I am grateful we’re able to spend a few days outside of Taipei. It’s fun to see the beach and countryside. I also very much enjoyed the HSR trip. In just a couple of hours, we were able to see hundreds of miles of Taiwan. If you come to Taiwan, I highly recommend traveling the entire length of the island. Kenting is so, so different than Taipei.

The view from our balcony.
The view from our balcony.


Click here to view part 1 of our Taiwan trip.


Where to stay in Kenting: We stayed at the Howard Beach Resort. As a heads up, the hotel’s mobile website isn’t in English. If you use a computer, you can access their website in English. If you call the resort, ask to speak to someone who speaks English. They’ll transfer you to someone who speaks English. There will always be someone at the front desk/concierge desk who speaks English. However, the individuals who work at the resort’s pools generally do not speak English, but they are very friendly and we’ve been able to communicate somewhat. The Howard Beach Resort offers private beach access, a beautiful outdoor swimming pool, an indoor water park (small by American standards), an arcade, a bowling alley, and the resort offers five different tour options of the surrounding area. Kenting is a national park so there is a lot to see. The resort is pretty old. From what I read online the top floor is the nicest, and that’s where we stayed. There are definitely many parts of the resort that seem old and worn down.

How to get to Kenting from Taipei: Take the HSR (high speed rail) from Taipei to Zouying. It’s about a two-hour train ride. Then take the Kenting Express Shuttle Bus from Zouying to Kenting. The Howard Beach Resort is actually the very last stop on the Kenting Express Shuttle. It’s about a two/two-and-a-half hour bus ride. The drivers don’t speak English, so just make sure to stay on the bus all the way to the very end of the line. The Kenting Express Shuttle leaves every 30 minutes from Zouying. To buy your ticket, just walk out the bus exit from the Zouying HSR station and the Kenting Express Shuttle ticket counter is just outside that exit. It’s so nice that the last stop is the Howard Beach Resort. The buses back to Zouying HSR station leave every 30 minutes from the resort.

Taiwan Trip 2016: Part 1

October 24 marks my and John’s one-year wedding anniversary. When John and I got married, we decided to honeymoon in Southern Virginia. We rented a cozy, quaint cabin and enjoyed the majestic fall scenery. We chose to plan an international trip during our first year of marriage, as opposed to right after our wedding. I am so glad we did this. I loved our relaxing stay in Southern Virginia, and it’s been fun to look forward to this two-week trip to Taiwan that we booked back in February. While we’ve been gone, I’ve tried to write updates every few days. I’ve broken the trip up into parts, rather than having one forever long blog post. Here’s the run-down of the first part of our trip…

October 10 – October 13: Taipei, Taiwan (Written on October 13)

On Monday, October 10 around 5:30 p.m., we boarded a plane at Dulles Airport and headed to Taiwan. We had a 4-hour layover in L.A. Our plane ride from L.A. to Taipei lasted 14 hours. I thought it was going to feel suuuuper long, but thankfully I slept a lot. After 24 hours of traveling, we arrived in Taipei at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning (October 12). Taipei is exactly 12 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone in the U.S.

We spent that first day seeing the local sites in Taipei. My goal was to stay awake until at least 8 p.m. I made it to 9 p.m. Although, 7 – 9 p.m. was a significant struggle…I was so, so tired. I think we’ve adjusted fairly well, and our jet lag has been minimal since we were able to stay awake all day on Wednesday.

We had breakfast at a delicious French bakery on Wednesday. We liked it so much, we went back on Thursday.
We had breakfast at a delicious French bakery on Wednesday. We liked it so much, we went back on Thursday.
Entering the grounds at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Entering the grounds at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
On the steps at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Our great host - John's Uncle David.
Our great host – John’s Uncle David.
The LDS Temple in Taipei.
The LDS Temple in Taipei.


Outside of the “Apple Store” in Taipei 101. A very, very tall building and an ornate mall.
The view looking up from beneath Taipei 101.

The people here have been so nice and friendly! I was nervous about not knowing Mandarin, but a lot of people seem to know English. The street signs are in English (as well as Mandarin), and the announcements on the metro are also in English.

Starbucks has become a favorite spot of John and mine, even though we’re not coffee drinkers. When we go there, we know that the workers will know how to speak English. It makes us feel at home 🙂 Starbucks here has a delicious mango passion fruit smoothie. One thing that’s different in Taiwan is ice isn’t commonly served. When we ordered this delicious drink, the Starbuck’s worker let us know that there was ice in the drink and wanted to verify that was okay us. We thought this was odd until we realized that ice isn’t commonly served in drinks here. Tonight we stopped in 7-11 and the 7-11 didn’t have slurpees!  In my mind, slurpees are a 7-11 staple…but I guess it wouldn’t be in a country that doesn’t generally serve ice in their drinks 🙂

Another thing that caught us off guard is the number of mo-peds. Mo-peds are everywhere!


Tomorrow John and I are headed off to a resort in Kenting, a city located in the very most Southern part of Taiwan. It’s known for its beautiful beaches and majestic mountains.