Beijing Throwback

When I began my passion blogs approximately ten weeks ago, I would’ve never thought my posts would’ve encompassed a myriad of experiences. This week, I want to revisit my time in China, but this time, I will highlight an unforgettable summer in Beijing.

I’ve only travelled to China twice in my life, and the trip to the capital of China was my first. In the summer of 2007, my family embarked on multiple tours across Taiwan before finishing five days in Beijing. From my recollection, I couldn’t recall a separate instance in which my feet were as sore from walking as they were on that trip. However, the sights from my five days were incredibly remarkable (partially because the smog hadn’t significantly consumed China at the time). With hikes up the Great Wall, a tour of the Beijing Olympic Stadium, and a stroll through the Forbidden City, my family and I were grateful to have this incredible opportunity.

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Cheesin’ hard on the Great Wall since ’07

The prospect of travelling in a tour group in China creates many advantages, including a more structured and organized experience. From the moment we touched down in Beijing International Airport, the bus driver and three tour leaders eagerly greeted us. Our first stop was at Tiananmen Square (named after the Gate of Heavenly Peace). While I was too young to appreciate the historical significance or know about the Tiananmen Square Massacre, I was in awe at the amount of people it could hold.

TiananmenSquare

Separated by the north gate of Tiananmen Square was the Forbidden City, which was the Chinese imperial palace for the Ming dynasty until the end of the Qing dynasty. This prodigious complex holds approximately 180 acres, over 8000 rooms, and over 900 buildings (now you know why I sat down at every bench I came across). The tour of the city lasted the entire day, including a stop at the Palace Museum which is the most visited museum in the world. The museum houses priceless ceramics, exquisite paintings, and other rare pieces of ancient Chinese art.

ForbiddenCity

Of course, what trip to another country would be complete without eating some authentic local cuisine? Beijing possesses one of the most influential culinary traditions in all of China, and most of what Americans know as “Chinese food” originated in Beijing. The first thing you need to try in Beijing is their duck. With light crispy skin, tender meat, and finely seasoned slices, the Beijing duck is too delectable to pass. The restaurant we dined at was apparently renowned as serving the top 5 Beijing duck in the world.

PekingDuck

After a rich night of dining over duck, my family and I followed the tour group and ventured to witness the Great Wall. The pictures online aren’t nearly as awe-inspiring as seeing the structure in person—and to think that the wall was constructed centuries ago adds even more respect. I’m not sure if there are multiple places to scale the Great Wall, but the portion of the wall our group visited was incredibly steep. Many people didn’t attempt to climb the wall because walking down would be extremely dangerous (imagine walking through the HUB during lunch time down an incline of 50 degrees).

Beijingskyline

In the end, we received other amenities, such as massages, acupunctures, Chinese theater, and more. While I was too young to appreciate the political, historical, and aesthetic significance, I am very glad I had the opportunity to explore Beijing and its rich culture.

O Canada

The majority of my relatives live in Taiwan, but I do have relatives who live in North America. One family lives in New Jersey while the other lives in Canada, so we frequently visit them. The suburbs of Toronto and the city itself are undervalued for the thrilling attractions and activities they have there. From skiing expeditions in the winter to strolling through the city in the summer, Toronto has countless activities so that no family will be bored.

Back row (left to right): Eileen, Jocelyn, Ivy Middle row (left to right): grandpa, grandma, me Bottom (left to right): my dad, my mom, my uncle

Back row (left to right): Eileen, Jocelyn, Ivy
Middle row (left to right): grandpa, grandma, me
Bottom (left to right): my dad, my mom, my uncle

Almost every winter break from elementary school to high school, my dad would drive nine grueling hours through tumultuous conditions to see my two cousins and their dad. Eileen, who’s older than me by a year, and Jocelyn, who’s my sister’s age, and my uncle make the nine-hour car ride worth it every moment.

With plenty of snow during the winter, we had numerous resorts for skiing or snowboarding, which I tried for the first and only time there. The four of us typically ski, but we decided to attempt snowboarding. By the end of that day, we were all wincing at every step we took. Either way, Canadian resorts offered many more trails than resorts in the Poconos, so we were able to enjoy the vast Canadian wilderness at the summit of many slopes.

My sister and I stuck to skiing after an unfortunate attempt at snowboarding.

My sister and I stuck to skiing after an unfortunate attempt at snowboarding.

One my fondest memories from the summer was spending an entire day at Canada Wonderland, the American equivalent to Six Flags. Since my sister and Jocelyn are extremely intimidated by the speed and size of roller coasters, Eileen and I eagerly experienced the eclectic thrills at the theme park. From one of the world’s biggest roller coasters, Leviathan, to Canada’s largest outdoor wave pool, Whitewater bay, the exhaustive collection of exhilarating rides was a superb way to enjoy a summer day.

My grandparents are also Canadian citizens so they frequently stay there when the heat and humidity in Taiwan prove to be too extreme to bear. They have found themselves quite comfortable in the summer because of the assortment of Asian restaurants in the vicinity of my uncle’s house. Outside of Asia, I think that Toronto and its suburbs have the most authentic tasting Asian cuisine (and for a modest price). For example, we could enjoy a large party platter of tender sushi for lunch, grab some scrumptious Korean barbeque for dinner, eat some delicious dim sum on the weekend, and can continue the week without dining at the same restaurant. Although we rarely visit Canada in the summer, I cherish spending valuable time with all my family in one place— such as playing an intense game of Mahjong.

Better than night markets and Reading Terminal? I'll see for myself next time.

Better than night markets and Reading Terminal? I’ll see for myself next time.

Outside of these events, Toronto provides various must-see attractions for tourists and locals. The iconic CN Tower, the tallest free standing structure in the Western hemisphere, now grants a thrilling hands-free walk along the ledge of the tower. Similar to many other cities, Toronto has a “historic” section of its city, dedicated to preserving its roots. Walking through this area, you’ll also be able to shop at St. Lawrence Market, which was recently ranked as the world’s best food market. Of course, Canadians love their hockey, so you can spend an afternoon at the Hockey Hall of Fame and get a picture with the Stanley Cup.

This is definitely something for the fearless

This is definitely something for the fearless

While I focused the majority of my blog on my personal vacation with my family, Toronto offers many more experiences and destinations, which makes it one my (two) favorite cities in Canada.

Miscellaneous Taiwanese Memories

I was furiously brainstorming my topic for my weekly passion blog post when I remembered I indicated in my last week’s entry that I would cover some more of my adventures in Taiwan. I have created many remarkable memories there with my family since most of my relatives still reside there. I feel the need to stress Taiwan’s esoteric qualities since many have not even heard of the country, one of Asia’s hidden gems.

Striking view from a trail on Yu Shan, Taiwan's highest mountain.

Striking view from a trail on Yu Shan, Taiwan’s highest mountain.

For instance, two summers ago, my family and my cousin spontaneously travelled to the southern tip of Taiwan to enjoy a weekend. Kenting beach enchanted me with stunning views of white-sanded beaches, lush foliage, and sapphire-blue water. The quaint little beach, only populated by locals, provided the perfect getaway. The gentle breeze and soothing sun merely heightened our satisfaction. Not only was this beach an ideal location to lounge and appreciate time with family (compared to the densely packed at most beaches on the East coast), the town was a short drive from Taiwan’s second largest city, Kaohsiung. Although we only stayed there for one night, our family enjoyed dinner with other family friends at Cardial. The hibachi-styled restaurant served exquisitely designed dishes, including succulent shrimp platters, tender beef tenderloins, and the best mango pudding I’ve ever tasted.

A similar version to Hibachi

A similar version to Hibachi

Another one of my favorite tourist destinations in Taiwan is Hualien, a mountainous region located on the east coast of the island. There, you can explore Taroko National park, home to breathtaking gorges and other stunning views from various trails. Ten years ago, my mom’s side of the family decided to take a trip there for a few days. Along with my nine-year old cousins, we ran away from the tour group and sprinted through the Tunnel of Nine Turns, a trail known for its spectacular scenery yet ripe with hazards (including falling boulders). Although I was severely chastised, the rush of witnessing the interior of century-year old mountains, was more than rewarding. Not only does Hualien possess scenic geographical views, the region is also home to more beaches and thrilling cliff views. While I didn’t visit the beaches and cliffs, my cousin claims that they’re better than what we experienced in Kenting.

The stunning Hualien coast

The stunning Hualien coast

Taroko National Park

Taroko National Park

The best part of being in Taiwan during anytime in the year is to explore night markets. Abundant with authentic food, quality products sold at cheap prices, and ebullient shoppers from myriad ethnicities, night markets serve as ideal locations for families, dates, or any other occasion. While Shilin Night Market, conveniently 10 minutes away from my grandma’s place, is our typical stop, my family would always stop at other night markets scattered throughout Taipei and Taiwan. One of my first memories of Taiwan includes my aunt taking me and my sister to Keelung Night Market when we were three and two years old. Clearly intimidated by the hectic atmosphere, my sister was bawling in my aunt’s lap because I was at a booth greedily eating her oyster pancakes, vermicelli, and soup dumplings. Later that night, apparently I ate her pineapple cake, and that also triggered more crying from my sister. Even to this day, she isn’t too fond of night markets for some reason (I’m not sure why, but I hope I didn’t ruin the experience for her).

If you think this crowd is packed, imagine a three year old trying to make his way through this.

If you think this crowd is packed, imagine a three year old trying to make his way through this.

Carefully garnished with oysters, this o-ah-jian (oyster omelet)  is too aesthetically pleasing to the eye

Carefully garnished with oysters, this o-ah-jian (oyster omelet) is too aesthetically pleasing to the eye

Feel free to scroll down and look through my summer passion blog on Taiwanese cuisine. I sincerely hope you guys have the opportunity to spend some time in another country (it doesn’t have to be Taiwan but I highly recommend it). You’ll experience a different atmosphere, taste unique cuisine, and interact with inspirational natives, something I’m extremely grateful for throughout my travels.

The City by the Bay

Although this week has been a little colder, I still wanted to continue reflecting over my eye-opening time in California. San Francisco, a city with countless hidden gems, presented another reason as to why California is the best state in America. From notable landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge to Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco 2013 ranks as one of my favorite cities.

We arrived in San Jose late at night after a five-hour drive from Los Angeles. The next morning, we drove to downtown San Fran where we walked around the entire city for the day, amassing enough steps for a week. Pier 39 became a necessary stop for us, despite my allergies to numerous seafood dishes. From sea lions sunbathing on the docks to various shopping stores, Pier 39 held many entertaining sights. In fact, there were ferries going to Alcatraz Island, but unfortunately, the tickets were all sold out for the day. However, we stopped at Crab House at Pier 39 for a pricy meal of Dungeness crab. Tender, succulent, and savory, we all took time and relished this delectable meal with a gorgeous view of the waterfront.

Just your average sea lions tanning on the docks

Just your average sea lions tanning on the docks

In addition, we took a visit to the end of Fisherman’s Wharf by stopping at Ghirardelli Square, another quaint shopping area. With the sun gingerly shining down, a gentle breeze hailing from the water, and the soft chatter of tourists on a Monday afternoon, I immediately labeled this setting as an ideal destination for seafood and winding down.

Not your typical crab

Not your typical crab

Of course, what visit to a city would be complete without a trip to Chinatown? Given the rich history in San Francisco’s Chinatown, my parents wanted to see how different it was since they immigrated here (with me in 1998). Since it’s the oldest Chinatown in North America, the sanitary conditions of the district weren’t too appealing, but the architecture was something to appreciate. With San Francisco’s hilly streets, As the most densely populated area West of Manhattan, Chinatown’s rich history was branded in old herbal shops, the Bank of Canton, and other oriental-styled buildings. Strolling through Chinatown grants me the ability to reminisce exploring the streets of Taipei, which is a very valuable experience.

The welcoming arch of San Francisco's Chinatown

The welcoming arch of San Francisco’s Chinatown

The last day in San Francisco, my family and I spent the day in Napa county with some family friends. Known for its rich wines, Napa county is populated with many vineyards, and we stopped at one deep in the heart of the wine-making county. Lounging around in mid-seventy degree weather was spectacular—from free samples of rich cheese and beverages, it was a very relaxing way to end our trip on the West Coast.

The glorious fields of a vineyard in Napa County. Too bad I wasn't 21

The glorious fields of a vineyard in Napa County. Too bad I wasn’t 21

Did you know triskaidekaphobia is defined as the extreme superstition regarding the number thirteen? Shout out to Connor Cassady, former RCL scholar, for providing this unique fact. Next week, I’ll talk about one of the thirteen times I went back to Taiwan, including Kenting Beach, Kaoshiung, and more night market adventures.

La La Land

Earlier in one of my posts, I talked about an exhilarating time in the wilderness of Vancouver. During that same time period, I also visited San Francisco, Los Angeles and its neighboring suburbs. Experiencing sensational weather in Pennsylvania, I couldn’t help but reflect my time in California, where climates are perfect year-round.

We landed in LAX in the afternoon and the first stop we immediately made out of security was In-N-Out Burger, a fast-food burger joint only on the West Coast. I first discovered this chain when I was planning places to visit for the summer, and the stop didn’t disappoint. My first order consisted of Animal Style Burgers and Fries—recommended by my California friends (“animal style” entails additional ingredients added to the burger or fries). While my parents complained that these tasted just like Five Guys burgers and fries, I was too busy indulging in the savory double-double and crispy fries.

Man vs. Food (animal style)

Man vs. Food (animal style)

Los Angeles was a great destination to visit with plenty of attractions within the city such as the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, the Hollywood Walk of Fame (sidewalks in the city with the names of actors/actresses imprinted on stars), Hollywood Wax Museum, and many more. My sister really wanted to explore the Wax Museum and Ripley’s, so I accompanied her while my parents strolled down Hollywood Boulevard. It was remarkable to witness the punctilious nuances in each of the wax figures (like Michael Jackson, Superman, and more) to establish an authentic presence. Ripley’s not only taught me about bizarre (useless) facts, it was striking to stand next to the tallest man ever, fit inside the body of the fattest man ever, and hold a replica of the largest avocado ever cultivated.

Freshman 1000

Freshman 1000

Los Angeles also housed various suburbs in proximity such as Torrance, Irving, Santa Monica, and many more infamous “SoCal” destinations. We visited many family friends in the duration of our stay around Los Angeles, but one of the best activities we did was to hike along some of the Runyon Canyon park trails, where we saw the Hollywood sign and a brilliant view of the California Landscape.

My dad didn't want to hike so we drove up to see the Hollywood Sign first

My dad didn’t want to hike so we drove up to see the Hollywood Sign first

Although our time at Los Angeles was limited, we toured as many places as we could go, including Chinatown. I forget if I mentioned it in my blog about Vancouver, but my family’s proclivity to absorb Chinese/Taiwanese culture goes unnoticed—exploring every city’s Chinatown and sampling cuisine just to name a few of their habits. Compared to other Chinatowns that I’ve been to, the West Coast didn’t fail to impress. The notorious Chinatown gateway welcomed us to various small eateries, and it also had modernized buildings, pagodas, and other Chinese-inspired architectural buildings. Oh, the food was superb (but I find myself liking most food I try).

A plaza from Los Angeles' Chinatown

A plaza from Los Angeles’ Chinatown

Overall, our three-day stay in Los Angeles covered numerous attractions, but there was still plenty to discover, such as beaches, and other neighboring cities. The visit out West definitely spurred my desire to live there sometime in the future, and I’m looking forward to spending more time in the City of Angels.

I'll be back

I’ll be back

Europe 2011

Earlier today, my mom sent me a picture of my grandparents from one of our vacations in the past. Looking at the picture ushered poignant emotions and memories, since that was the last vacation we were able to take with my grandparents (before age held them back from travelling). So I’ve decided to write about the summer of 2011 when we toured London and Paris over two spectacular weeks.

Although this vacation took place nearly 5 years ago, I still recall bits and pieces of the trip. When we arrived in London, we took the first day to recover from the fatigue of traveling through 7 time zones. The next day, we arranged for all of our travel, living, and eating accommodations and began sight seeing. The overcast weather didn’t detract from the sumptuous buildings along the River Thames. The magnificent London Eye stood stalwart along the side of the glistening River Thames. On the other side of the river, Big Ben towered over every picture-taking tourist with the Palace of Westminster gleaming beside it. We had the privilege to observe these striking buildings on a river cruise along the Thames, in addition to the North Greenwich Arena (one of the 2012 Olympic buildings) and Tower Bridge. The aesthetics of these buildings shows man’s appreciation for striking architecture.

My sister and parents posing in front of Big Ben.

My sister and parents posing in front of Big Ben.

Other than these picturesque structures, we rode around the city on a double decker bus pointing out the notable features around the city such as the red phone booth. It was very easy to label us as tourists—a family on top of a double decker bus taking pictures at every little object around the city (my mom took a picture of a bench). As I’ve mentioned before, this was the last time my family went on vacation with my grandparents, so my mom took advantage of this opportunity. As we strolled through the streets and along the river, we took many pictures, but I didn’t mind since I understood the situation.

My grandparents and my mom with Tower Bridge in the background

My grandparents and my mom with Tower Bridge in the background

We boarded the train that brought us from London-Heathrow airport to Paris, reaching top speeds while crossing through tunnels and over bridges. We were very unlucky with weather, as it was pouring in Paris on the day of our arrival. Nevertheless, we asked for advice to see the most notable monuments around the city, making the Eiffel Tower our first stop. It was as breathtaking as everyone said—a towering metal structure constructed with elegance in every twisted beam. We found various locations to view one of the seven wonders of the world and every place offered a new perspective to appreciate the monument.

Almost

Almost

Other than the Eiffel Tower, we walked around the streets of Paris, noting the slight differences between American cities and the one we walked through. For instance, most of the streets were narrower and used cobblestone rather than concrete. The buildings also displayed slight architectural nuances—finely built with stylish scrolls, refined balconies and other polished features. The streets of Paris also gave us the chance to indulge in an authentic French Crepe. The vendors quickly prepared an exquisite-looking crepe, filled with chocolate cream, strawberries, topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar. I wish I had a picture of my grandpa eating the crepe because he looked like a little boy enjoying each bite, chocolate smeared on his left cheek and the tip of his nose.

I consumed my first delectable crepe and absolutely enjoyed it.

I consumed my first delectable crepe and absolutely enjoyed it.

We also hit other attractions in the city, most notably the Arc de Triomphe. I was impressed by this structure than any other one on the trip; its meticulous carvings of French history, tremendous size, and centralized location engendered immense fascination. We also had the opportunity to have a look inside the Notre-Dame de Paris, a cathedral that I should have appreciated much more for its elegant design—stained glass windows, flying buttresses and more.

While we saw various other attractions such as the Pont des Arts (Paris bridge with locks), the closing of the vacation brought our family closer, especially with my grandparents and it’s a time that I’ll hold on to for a long time.

 

My grandparents standing proudly in front of the Arc de Triomphe

My grandparents standing proudly in front of the Arc de Triomphe

Vancouver

When I recorded my This I Believe post last Monday, I referenced a life-changing car ride in California. But prior to cruising along the coast of “The Golden State,” my family and I were enjoying several days in Vancouver, Canada, filled with serene nature walks, stunning views, and perpetual experiences.

After staying the night in Seattle International Airport, my dad, Ivy and I drove up the next day to Vancouver to pick up my mom who was flying in from Toronto. Ecstatic to begin our adventures, we quickly unpacked at the hotel and headed for the heart of the city. My dad found parking close to the state-of-the-art Vancouver Convention Center, and we walked around the area, digesting the views of the Olympic Cauldron from 2010 and the Vancouver Waterfront. Captivated by the sheer size of the cauldron and the beauty encapsulated by the sustainable features of the convention centre, I strolled around the area while my parents and Ivy yelled for me to hurry up.

The next day, we drove to Grouse Mountain magnified my admiration for Earth. Parked at the base of the mountain, we rode a gondola for fifteen minutes before reaching the summit of the mountain where all of the attractions were. On the way up, however, evergreen trees covered the mountain the entire way up, instilling a sense of tranquility. At the crown of the mountain, we enjoyed a “Majestic Birds” show, where owls, eagles and other awe-inspiring birds captivated a large audience. During the show, someone pointed at a wolf pacing back and forth, about five hundred feet away before skulking back into the trees. I was struck by the assiduously carved wooden sculptures around the mountain top. From beaver carvings to mining figures, each piece looked authentic, not to mention that each was about ten feet tall! We wrapped up our day at Grouse Mountain with striking views from The Eye of the Wind, a wind turbine standing 215 feet tall. Architecturally engineered to optimize energy production, this structure also offers sensational sights of the mountainous terrain, including white-peaked mountains, and (of course) more evergreen trees.

At the top of the Eye of the Wind

At the top of the Eye of the Wind

While the past three places were very enjoyable, the third and final day confirmed my genuine passion for exploring nature. Similar to the day before, dreary forecast turned into intense sunlight by midday. We began our last day in Vancouver at Lynn Canyon Park, a destination for hikers along various terrain. We walked along the popular Twin Falls Trail, weaving through trees and along Lynn Headwaters (a stream). Noticing an opening in the grass, my sister and I diverged from the path, much to my parents’ objections, and began to climb over rocks along the stream. Reaching the end of the stream, I gained an exhilarating rush of accomplishment, even when we reached the car. Something about hiking and spontaneous adventures create an exhilarating feeling, that I’ve reveled in ever since.

The start of my Lynn Canyon Park adventure

The start of my Lynn Canyon Park adventure

Our last stop was Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Vancouver’s notorious tourist destinations. Exquisitely erected totem poles attracted many tourists to the park with its vibrant colors, impressive size, and meticulous features. A cliffwalk also tested visitor’s courage, consisting of suspended walkways protruding out of cliffs, reaching 700 feet in length. Walking across this gave me a humbling view of natural scenery, relishing the breeze, smell, and sights. It’s main attraction, the suspension bridge, spanned 450 feet in length and possessed enough strength to withstand the weight of 96 full-grown elephants. Walking across the bridge was extremely invigorating; every time the bridge swayed, everyone began to think about the possible 230-foot drop into the Capilano River below. With these potential risks, I encouraged my mom to walk across the bridge with me, in which she reluctantly agreed. My mom looked as if she were learning how to walk again, clutching the side of the bridge the entire journey across. In addition to the suspension bridge, the park offered attractions such as the Tree Top Village, which consisted of seven suspension bridges through evergreens providing a squirrel’s eye perspective of the forest.

Adventures at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Adventures at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

This trip to Vancouver engendered a deep appreciation of nature and exploration. It’s been one the most enjoyable trips with my family, and I hope you will have the privilege to explore Vancouver’s treasures as well.

Familiar Faces, New Places: Taiwan Winter Break 2015

It’s inevitable for me to cover my unforgettable Taiwanese adventures. In fact, my previous passion blog highlighted my obsession for Taiwanese cuisine. This past winter break, I had the opportunity to fly back by myself and explore Taipei and its proximity with my cousin. Despite dealing with a stomach virus on New Years Eve, I enjoyed an amazing stretch of ten days through ominous hikes, enjoyable night market adventures, and heartwarming relative gatherings.

The days leading up to New Years Eve were exceptionally memorable. While my cousin explored the New Taipei District on three separate Tinder dates (yes, in one night), I met up with my old friend to wander around New Taipei District. It’s worth mentioning that this is the first time that I’ve returned in the winter, so I had never witnessed the lights hung all around the city. Strings of emerald blue lights glittered around Taipei 101, while shimmering white lights cascaded down all around the infamous shopping district. Many buildings also emitted colorful light spectrums, impressing me everywhere I turned. We finished our stroll by eating at a Japanese Curry Restaurant later, which is a surprisingly tasteful blend of two cuisines.

Lights and sights of Xinyi District

Lights and sights of Xinyi District

After recovering from the stomach flu a couple days after New Years Eve, I was back exploring the city with my cousin in Xinmending (西門町) a popular shopping tourist destination. Despite the torrential downpour, we had an enjoyable evening which included sprinting from street to street to dodge the rain bullets. Weaving around the bustling Taiwanese citizens, we caught the subway home where our grandma prepared a robust, homemade dinner.

Bustling streets of Xinmending

Bustling streets of Xinmending

The next morning, my cousin and I spontaneously decided to venture to a place we’ve never been before, so the next morning, we boarded a bus that took us an hour out of Taipei. The bus dropped us off at Jinguashi (金瓜石), a mining town rich in history. There, we found our way to the entrance to Teapot Mountain茶壺山. The fact that a sign warned “danger: snakes, bees, and cliffs” and that the thick fog obscured our vision fifty feet in front of us didn’t phase us one bit (except I’m terrified of snakes). It was one of my most interesting climbing experiences; the trek up the mountain involved climbing on ropes, crawling through holes, and walking over various terrains. We even daringly brushed past signs that restricted us from climbing on “unstable ground,” but hey, when do rules ever stop me?

While the fog covered the scenic views, we still enjoyed the thrills of our spontaneous trip (the bottom right picture says "danger")

While the fog covered the scenic views, we still enjoyed the thrills of our spontaneous trip (the bottom right picture says “danger”)

After a rejuvenating 2.5 hour hike, we caught a bus to Jiufen (九份) a quaint town nestled in the mountains. We walked up and down the hilly streets, with the historical inns and winding roads engendering a bit of serenity. Chinese lanterns lined the rooftops of traditional houses, creating a humbling view of the town and establishing a rich historical ambiance. Of course, no stop in a new place is complete without sampling the local food. Jiufen didn’t disappoint in this category; known as having the best taro balls in Taiwan, I ordered two more bowls after I downed the first portion of starchy taro balls.

Jiufen

It’s safe to say that Jiufen has cemented a lasting memory

The night before my flight back to America, my cousin and I made an obligatory stop to the Shilin Night Market. We purchased a backpack filled with cheap clothing and accessories while consuming savory fried chicken, delectable steam buns (水蒸包), rich papaya milk, sizzling oyster pancakes (蚵仔煎), and of course, mouthwatering mango shaved ice. No trip back to Taiwan is complete without visiting this cuisine-famous night market.

I come back and gain ten pounds from Shilin Night Market delights

I come back and gain ten pounds from Shilin Night Market delights

This is simply one of multiple striking memories from Taiwan. I hope you enjoyed taking this journey through new and familiar places and take visiting Taiwan into consideration.

Ride with Me on the Journey to More Sights: Maine Memories

The idea for the vacation to Maine began as a brushed off possibility, but it soon blossomed into reality when many of our family friends recommended it. After driving for hours and visiting cousins in NYC, we spent the night in Boston. The next morning, we arrived at our first stop in southern Maine: Ogunquit. Translated from the indigenous Abenaki as “beautiful place by the sea,” this quaint small town didn’t disappoint with plenty of scenic views. We spent the next hour strolling along Marginal Way, a scenic 2-mile shoreline trail that spanned from Ogunquit Beach to Perkins Cove (a humble Fisherman’s wharf). This path provided a sense of solace with a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean and blooming flowers along the sides of the trial. Moreover, clutching my Epi-pen in my hand, I got a nibble of a Maine lobster roll, the most savory piece of seafood I had tasted in months. Despite being a brief stop, visiting Ogunquit was simply the beginning of a scenic family vacation (and pounds of delectable seafood).

Succulent lobster roll from the Lobster Shack in Ogunquit

Succulent lobster roll from the Lobster Shack in Ogunquit

On our way to Portland, we stopped to appreciate the gorgeous ambiance surrounding the Portland Headlight. Viewing the fabled lighthouse and the foliage around it—present in numerous Maine postcards—was incredibly gratifying. The setting was flawless—emerald-shaded waves crashed onto the resilient rocks. Plants swayed in the gentle breeze all through the clear blue sky. It’s simply a place you have to visit in the Northeast coast during the temperate summer.

The picturesque Portland Head Light

The breathtaking Portland Head Light (Cape Elizabeth)

After spending the night walking around Old Port and the rest of Downtown Portland, we set off for the main destination: Acadia National Park. Robust with hiking trails and striking nature views, this place houses countless attractions. Beginning at the Schooner Head Trail, my family straddled over rocks along the coastline and boosted ourselves over massive rocks while enjoying the sensational sights such as Otter Cove, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole just to name a few. The sound of water striking the coast, the gentle breeze flowing through the air, vast blue skies and endless views of the Atlantic Ocean offered serenity (that was well appreciated after summer bridge). Of course, much to my chagrin, an immeasurable amount of pictures was taken to put in our family’s annual card.

Perched in front of the breathtaking coastline

Perched on Otter Cliff with the breathtaking coastline in the backdrop (Acadia National Park)

However, the most memorable moment came when my sister and I journeyed 8 miles up a trail to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. Sweating and exhausted, we met up with our parents and waited for the sunset, which came in a myriad of reds, oranges, and magentas.

Observing the stunning sunset from Cadillac Mountain (Acadia National Park)

The next day, my mom and I were the only ones who wasn’t sore from the mileage, so we made the journey up to Bubble Rock to see if we could manage to budge the it. We didn’t. The way the massive boulder was perched slightly over the cliff seemed as it should’ve defied the laws of physics. We wrapped up our trip by shopping at the Kittery Outlets on our way back, at the request of my mom and sister.

My mom and I unsuccessfully moved the rock despite our unyielding efforts

My mom and I unsuccessfully moved Bubble Rock despite our unyielding efforts (Mount Desert)

Overall, this trip to Maine gave my parents and I the humbling opportunity to appreciate the beauty of nature, the chance to consume mouthwatering lobster, and to enjoy adventurous excursions along the coast of Maine.