Amed Trip

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Category: Bali

May 2nd, 2013. Currently in: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia / GMT+8

This blog post is also available in Japanese.

 

It’s already been a month since I arrived in Bali. Yep, the time flies!

As Japan is now during the Golden Week, one of the big holidays, I find larger number of Japanese tourists here in Ubud. I think places like Kuta, Seminyak and Jimbaran are more popular destinations for tourists, the get-drunk-and-party type of places, but Ubud has recently (and quickly) become one of the popular destinations too. Often people stay in the South but come up here for a day to visit Monkey Forest and enjoy some calmness that is harder to find in the South. I love this village, Ubud. The size, the people, the beautiful green we see everywhere, the culture, the artists… It’s just that we don’t have the beach and I had been dying to go diving and snorkeling ever since I come here.

So I went. I picked Amed, a small village located on the East edge of this island, as numbers of people suggested me to go. And I cannot be thankful enough for those who did because I LOVED IT!

 

From Ubud to Amed

It takes about 2.5 to 3 hours by car to go to Amed from Ubud. I went there with a local friend this time, and he kindly offered to drive so the cost was only the car rental (450,000 RP, about USD45 for 3 days) plus gas. Many people charter a car with a driver, which is widely available in Ubud or any other larger places in Bali. There are also options like tourist buses and taxi. People told me I can even go by my scooter, which I’m not confident enough that I can without getting caught (you don’t really need a license to drive a scooter within Ubud, but you do if you are going far) or making a sore butt.

The way to Amed from Ubud was beautiful, going through towns like Gianyar and Semarapura on a winding road. This is the shortest way in distance, but I was told that because the road is really winding it is actually faster if we took the coastline.

 

The weather was very nice that we were able to see the beautiful Gunung Agung, the highest mountain (volcano) in Bali on the way.

 

Stay and Diving

Amed is one of the popular places for diving and snorkeling.

The place we stayed is Galang Kangin Bungalows & Cafe (they only have their website in Japanese but the information is widely available in different websites if you search with the name + Amed). This place is owned by a very friendly Japanese lady, who is actually more like a Balinese now that she has been married to a Balinese living in Amed for over 10 years! I decided to stay here as I can also ask for diving (I don’t have a license yet) and it is located right in front of the beach that I can go diving and snorkeling easily from there. I’d like to say I made a very good choice.

They have different types of rooms (although not many) that you can choose from: with air conditioning or with fan, beach front or in the garden, twin, double, etc. It’s clean, very reasonable in price, and I had not realized how nice it really is to be just right in front of the beach! There are several very nice hotels up on the hill with your own swimming pool, but imagine the long stairs you have to climb up after a nice swim in the ocean. My newly made friend said, “by the time you are back, you’re so sweaty that you need another swim”. So if you like to enjoy the beach, how close you are to the beach could be quite important.

 The horizon you can see from the bungalow is just amazing. We see many boats lined on the beach, that are full of fish in the morning and later in the afternoon when they come back. Amed is a place also to enjoy fresh fish :-)

 

Although it was a very nice day when we got there, it had rained two days before that the visibility of the sea wasn’t so good. But because of that we were able to find so many fish happy with the rich plankton. After arriving at 11am, I dived once before lunch, and once after lunch.

 

I had only dived once before in Japan but I loved it. And it was sooo much fun this time too! I love the feeling that I am knocking on the door of the fishes’ home and secretly (well, not really, probably I’m too big for them to not to notice) joining their life. The owner of the bungalow, Mutsumi, dived with me, gave me all the instruction of things that I need to know. She is so experienced, really good to dive with.

I also enjoyed snorkeling. Although I did not have a chance to try this time, there is a new sport called “Free Diving” which is quickly becoming very popular around here. It is diving, but without the air on your back. It’s a combination of yoga and diving, going under the water with huge fins, holding your breath. So you do yoga beforehand in order to breathe better. It seems like some people love it, and some people really don’t like it, but a girl from Switzerland I met there seemed to have enjoyed it a lot.

 

The Mountains and Ricefield of Amed

Ubud is famous for Ricefield. If you drive just a little bit out of Ubud, you will see an amazing view of ricefield. But the ricefield in Amed was also very nice, different from the view of Ubud as they have mountains and the beach.

A very nice gentleman from Australia I met in Amed took my new friends from Switzerland and I to the “secret spots” of his. He liked Amed so much that he built a villa of his own. All the places he took us to were so beautiful. Just a thanks is not enough for what he gave us. Moreover, he says, “Taking you all there and seeing how much you appreciated it, I was able to realize once again how beautiful this is. Thank you!” What a person he is.

I had lots of wonderful meetings with people, and enjoyed diving and snorkeling. I cannot ask for more. It was an amazing weekend. I am definitely coming back to Amed.

 

If you are looking for a little more calmness on your vacation, Amed would be a wonderful place to be. Highly recommended ;)

5 Things I Love About Taiwan

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Category: Taiwan

January 10th, 2012. Currently in: Kanagawa, Japan / GMT+9

This blog post is also available in Japanese.

 

The time flies. It’s been already over two weeks since I returned to Japan from Taiwan. It’s great to be home, but I truly loved my life in Taiwan.

Before I forget it all, here are the 5 things I love about Taiwan.

 

1. Soy Milk and Taiwanese Pancake

These are my favorite breakfast, how I started my day in Taiwan.

In Taiwan, most people eat out as food is very reasonable. Many breakfast shops are open early and you see many people buying breakfast to take to their work. The soybean milk and tanpin (the Taiwanese pancake) taste quite different in every restaurant. I used to buy these two at the street stand near my office building every morning – truly delicious!

The lady and a younger man at the street stand are very nice, gave me big smiles when they see me every morning. When I wake up late, they tease me tapping on the watch “you’re late!”. They even let me taste their new menu.

This breakfast is my favorite not only because of its wonderful taste but also because of the warm time they gave me to start my day with a smile.

 

2. Kindest People

Taiwanese people are generally super kind. I was surprised by how nice they are when I first arrived, and always appreciated their personality.

People come talk to me to help when I am lost on a street. When I went into a wrong cafe to meet my friend, the staff at the cafe kindly walked me to the other cafe a few hundred meters away. People always give their seats for those who are older on MRT.

There were moments when I was touched how naturally kind Taiwanese people are to others, almost every day.

 

3. The Environment

I thought Taiwan has a great environment for living. The city of Taipei is surrounded by great mountains and we see many green around the town. They are still adding more stations and probably lines too for MRT but it’s already quite convenient especially with the size of the city. And what I appreciated the most is it’s safeness. I never felt scared when I am out alone at night. I say Taipei is even safer than it is in Tokyo!

 

4. Night Market

There are several fun night markets in Taipei – and other parts of Taiwan. It is like we have festivals every day!

Some night markets have more food than others, and some have more clothings than others. Night markets are popular every night but they get especially clouded during weekends. I went to several night markets with friends to eat or just to walk through after dinner. Anyone from families to youngs, locals to tourists goes to night markets in Taiwan.

Now I’m used to the smell of the stinky tofu too :)

 

5. Scooters

People in Taiwan ride scooters a lot. It’s really handy there.

Honestly speaking, I don’t feel comfortable watching small children or even babies riding scooters with their moms and dads but I could not stop smiling when my roommate or friends gave me a ride on their scooters. Riding on scooter and going through the town of Taipei is simply fun!

 

Ok, 5 is definitely not enough for me to write my favorite things in Taiwan. The food is great, I love how good the needle and miso soup tasted in early morning after clubbing. People in Taiwan do not drink much while they eat but I liked how we enjoyed drinks after dinner. The dance school in Taipei was great with very attractive instructors. And more than anything, I was really lucky to be able to meet my roommates and friends in Taiwan. The time I spent with them is truly precious.

 

With much thanks to them all.

Taiwan is highly recommended especially for those who have not yet been there!

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Category: iikata.com

December 25th, 2012. Currently in: Kanagawa, Japan / GMT+9

 

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas :)

Hualien Trip

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Category: Taiwan

December 19th, 2012. Currently in: Taipei, Taiwan / GMT+8

This blog post is also available in Japanese.

 

Last week my best friend visited me from Japan so we took a short trip together to Hualien, a town in East Taiwan, together.

 

Jiufen

There is a train you can take if you would like to go straight to Hualien from Taipei, but we stopped by at Jiufen on our way to Hualien.

Taking a bus from Zhongxiao Fuxing station, it is about an hour trip from Taipei to Jiufen. The driver spoke Japanese and helped us from getting off at a wrong station!

 

Jiufen, unfortunately, was raining quite hard. We have rain pretty much every day in Taipei in December but it seems like it rains even harder in Jiufen.

We quickly walked through the arcade full of small shops, went to see the famous tea house from the movie Spirited Away by Miyao Hayazaki and ended our Jiufen sightseeing.

You should be able to see the great view if it was sunny. And even if it is raining hard and cold, it was definitely worth going.

 

Stay in Hualien

We took taxi from Jiufen to Ruifang then got on the train from there to Hualien. After 2.5 hours of train ride in which my friend and I did not stop talking catching up each other’s stories of the last two months, we arrived at Hualien station. One of the owners of the hostel we stayed in came to pick us up at the station.

We stayed at Shin-i Sei-chi Minshuku, a very clean hostel (more like a hotel) ran by a Japanese and Taiwanese couple. It’s a Japanese-friendly hostel (I believe the website is only available in Japanese) however the owner told me that about half of their customers are Japanese and the other half is a complete mix. The owners can also speak English.

The beautiful room renovated just two years ago had pretty much everything you need – wifi, a double bed, TV, small table with two chairs, fridge, quite big bathroom with wonderful water pressure (I find this quite rare in Taiwan), and all the goods including toothbrush, shampoo, soap, towels and hair dryer. 1,200 NT (about 36 USD) for a room / night for two people.

Although I was really happy to find this comfortable room, it was not the best part. The owners were very kind and knew exactly what we need. As soon as we arrived, the Japanese owner, Katagiri-san, welcomed us and gave us all the details about where to see and eat with his handmade map. The two restaurants we went from his list were both amazingly delicious: a goose restaurant and a seafood restaurant, both specialty of Hualien.

 

Taroko Tour

We had asked for the Taroko Gorge tour on our second day when we made our reservation. Leaving the hostel at 9am, the tour took the whole day until our return at 5pm. Katagiri-san, our hostel owner, was our wonderful guide.

It is not a surprise that his tour is so good, now I know that he has taken over 4,000 people on his tour!

 

The Ocean in Hualien

The first stop of our tour was the seashore of Hualien, so beautiful in color with huge waves. It’s hard to tell by the photo but the waves were so big I was even frightened a little.

Because the sea deepens down close to the shore, Katagiri-san told us that the nets we saw not too far from the shore can catch fishes in deep ocean such as headfishes and bonitos. Hualien is actually famous for headfish, which we enjoyed at a seafood restaurant for our second dinner at Hualien.

It’s hard to believe such a beautiful ocean and the amazing mountains can be seen in a single view!

 

Katagiri-san tells us so many stories as we go. He also gives us his original 10 quizzes, so difficult that the average score he says is 2.5 and the highest is 5.5 of 10 points, but really interesting and you can learn so much about Taiwan, also about Japan.

 

Taroko George

Here we come! We arrived at the Taroko National Park, where the famous Taroko George is in. I can hardly tell how amazing it is just by the words of photos.

 

Driving through the magnificent gorge, we stopped and walked around at certain spots, had lunch, listened to Katagiri-san’s talk. But really, we were just blown away by this nature.

 

It is not just tourists who take the road at Taroko National Park. This is the only road to go to Taichung from Hualien therefore used by many locals however with this dynamic nature, the road is often damaged by rockfall or mudslide, especially after typhoon. We too saw a lot of signs “Beware of Rockfall!” and traces of the damages.

 

I would highly recommend Taroko National Park if you ever have a chance to visit Hualien. I’m not sure how much information he would be able to give you in English, but Katagiri-san’s tour was great indeed. It was 1,500 NT (about 45 USD) per person for more than two.

 

The Native Dance

We went to see the dance by natives at night, held daily for free of charge. The girls were very pretty with colorful costumes and the men’s dance were very powerful.

 

I really liked Hualien, so glad I had a chance to visit. It is not very far from Taipei, highly recommended!

 

Related Post

Tainan Trip

 

 

Why Taiwan is Friendly to Japan

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Category: Taiwan

December 17th, 2012. Currently in: Taipei, Taiwan / GMT+8

This blog post is also available in Japanese.

 

Since I arrived in Taiwan, I have been wondering why people here are so friendly to everything Japanese. Stores carry various Japanese products, Japanese is written on signs and advertisements everywhere, Japanese TV shows, musics and magazines seem to be quite popular and a lot of people learn Japanese. When people notice that I am Japanese, they become even friendlier. (Taiwanese people in general are really friendly, super nice people.)

 

Japan used to rule Taiwan for 50 years from 1895 to 1945. Although it was not colonized, it is easy to assume they would have a negative impression about Japan. But the fact is, they are super Japan-friendly. Why?

It is famous that Chiang Kai-shek, the 20th-century Chinese political and military leader, was Japan-friendly and many say that this is the reason behind Taiwan’s friendliness to Japan. Yes, maybe this is one of the reasons but this cannot be the only reason especially now with the anti-Japan sentiments in China and South Korea. (And people’s opinions toward Chiang Kai-shek varies.)

 

So I asked some people in Taiwan for their ideas. It’s embarrassing to admit that I haven’t learned history so well but with their ideas I was able to understand the reason behind. Well, it’s history. And opinions vary. But I’d like to share mine here with thanks to those who shared their ideas with me.

 

Changes in Taiwan due to Japanese Ruling

During the period of Japanese rule, Taiwan has experienced big changes. There are different aspects in this but it is said that the 50 years have brought big changes to Taiwan, which was not as developed as Japan then. And many said that people appreciate Japan for bringing these changes and that is one of the biggest reasons for the Japan-friendliness of today.

 

Language

There are a number of native groups in Taiwan and they used to fight each other. They are independent from others and each group speak its own language without text.

Not being able to communicate is said to have been one of the reasons for the private war and the fact that Japan introduced education to the natives and made Japanese as their official language (and their common language) was appreciated.

 

Time, Law and Sanitary Management

I have heard that Japan introduced these three key things to Taiwan during those years: the concept of time and law, and the importance and methods of sanitary management. There is no doubt that the sanitary management is essential. I would not make an argument here about whether the time and law management is right or wrong. But if this was true, these definitely have been penetrated into Taiwanese culture.

 

Railway

It is said that Japan focused most on railways in the urban development and traffic improvement. In Taiwan, where they have five great mountain chains and 293 mountains that are over 3,000 meters (about 9,900 feet), transportation had been a major issue. It is said that Japan’s railway project has immensely improved their mobility.

 

There are several other things that Japan has introduced to Taiwan and we can recognize many of them today. Opium-eradication is one of them.

However all of these are not enough for me to be fully convinced. No one knows what would have happened if Japan did not rule Taiwan then. One could argue that maybe Taiwan would have been better if Japan did not rule. And, most importantly, even though it is said that Taiwanese people’s living level have improved by Japanese rule, ruling never goes so smoothly that, although it is hard to face, there were many deaths in this.

 

Comparison with the Chinese Rule

Japan lost the World War II in 1945 and Taiwan was placed under the administrative control of the Republic of China. I have heard that then everything that was sort of straightened by Japan was collapsed and people in Taiwan had to go through hard times, which made them think that “Japanese rule was better compared to China”. Anyone struggles when their environment they were used to change. I have not looked into how their lives actually changed but I thought this explains a lot about how people became to like Japan more.

Of course, the current situation has influence of many other factors including Japan-friendly policies and obviously it is not that all Taiwanese people love Japan. We have received a great amount of donations from Taiwan for 3.11 tsunami and earthquake disaster and I have heard that many of them were by the so-called “elites” in Taiwan, such as doctors and the representatives of major companies, who tend to think that Japan has brought all the education and technology for them that they are thankful. Some of the company representatives have decided to take a certain amount of percentage “automatically” from their employees’ salary as the donation to Japan.

 

For me, a Japanese, it is wonderful that Taiwanese people are friendly to Japanese and I really appreciate their kindness to us and our friendly relationship. I want to introduce many other wonderful things about Japan, the country I love. But at the same time, I think it is essential for us to think about the reason behind of the friendliness instead of just appreciating it without knowing or thinking.

If all of us could face these factors, I think more Japanese people will be able to have their own opinions about our own country, our politics and the issues around them, including the territorial issue with China and South Korea.

 

 

Tainan Trip

Tags: ,

Category: Taiwan

Currently in: Taipei, Taiwan / GMT+8

This blog post is also available in Japanese.

 

As I am here in Taiwan to live instead of to travel around, I hadn’t really gone outside of Taipei. But I had a chance to visit Tainan, a South West part of Taiwan during the weekend in November with a group of friends. I thought I’d share a bit of the information including how to get there, the hostel we stayed in and the places we went to see.

 

 

HSR (High Speed Rail)

Taiwan is a fairly small island, approximately 36,000 km2 (14,000 sq mi). The High Speed Rail is running on the west coast, exactly like the Shinkansen in Japan but in MUCH MORE reasonable fee of 1,300 NT (about 40 USD) from Taipei to Tainan. Took us about 2 hours.

Leaving in the early afternoon on Saturday, we had no problem getting tickets at Taipei station from the ticketing machine however it is better to check the availability during the weekend, especially early or late in the day on their website.

 

Hostel

For the first time in my life I stayed in a hostel! Two of our international group of friends had lived in Tainan before so we received the “friendship discount” to this cozy hostel called DODORO’S.

The newer building was fully booked but we were able to have another building just for five of us. We didn’t use it but they had kitchen with fridge downstairs. We stayed upstairs where we had a room filled with four futon mattresses and another room with a bed. It was fun, kind of reminded me of my school days. We enjoyed beer and long time chat until just before the sunrise on the lovely balcony, in a really nice and warm Tainan breeze.

 

Sightseeing

Unlike Taipei, there is no MRT type of transportation in Tainan so we used buses and walked a lot. The bus is 18 NT (abot .6 USD) per ride.

 

Anping Old Fort

The oldest castle in Taiwan, built in 1964 by the Dutch. You can also go up the observation tower and see the town of Tainan.

 

Temples

There are so many temples in Tainan and we visited the one right next to the Anping Old Fort.

 

Lunch

We ate really good seafood nearby (unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the place…) in a casual restaurant.

The food in Tainan is said to be really good and they have a lot of Tainan original food. We had oysters, shrimps and others and everything we had was very tasty :)

The food was so good I filled my stomach a little too much. I know I shouldn’t have because we went to a desert place right after that.

I must admit, I was not so excited when I saw what we were going to have but when I tasted it I really wished I had left some space in my stomach. I think it was Tofu with pearls in a milk soup served cold. Not too sweet at all that even I, who normally don’t really eat so much sweets, loved it. No wonder the place was so busy!

 

Fort Provintia

This place too is from the period of Dutch rule.

 

Long Distance Bus

We took a bus to get back to Taipei from Tainan on Sunday night. It was a lot busier than we expected. We went to the street where all the bus companies are lined around 4pm to get the tickets for the bus leaving a little after 5pm and it was all sold out in all three companies. We were lucky to be able to book the bus leaving around 8pm, it only had some seats left.

Leaving around 8pm, we got to Taipei around midnight. The seats were so comfortable that I slept 4 hours straight! It’s hard to believe it costs only 400 NT (around 12 USD)!

 

Tainan was a very lovely town. Many of my Taiwanese friends told me that “there is not much in Tainan!” but the sunshine and warm temperature warmed our hearts as we had been a little too tired of the continuous cold rainy days in Taipei. I really liked Tainan.

Thanks to the friends who made the trip so much fun!

 

 

Housing in Taiwan

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Category: How to

Currently in: Taipei, Taiwan / GMT+8

This blog post is also available in Japanese.

 

Where do you usually stay when you travel to a different country? My choice is usually hotels, maybe hostels but now that I am staying for two to three months in one country and especially because I wanted to have the experiences living like locals, hotel was not really my option. Here I would like to introduce you two services I used to find places to stay in Taipei.

Before I came here I booked a place to stay only for the first 8 days, deciding to find a place to stay for the rest of my stay in Taiwan after I get here so I have a better idea of the best areas and average pricing, etc. And I’m glad I did so.

I found my first place through Airbnb. I love this service! I also just found out that they have a beta Japanese version available now. Probably many of you already know that this is a service where people can list their available rooms or the whole apartment / house for rent while they are away, and we the travelers can find the place to stay. I love the interface, so easy to use. Lots of photos and people’s voices, which would give you a really good idea of the place and communication with the host is smooth. This can be used as an alternative to hotels or for homestay experience, maybe like a dorm, all depends on the place and people. Because I wanted to be able to ask questions and learn about Taipei from the host I looked for a place with hosts.

The wonderful host I found, Sophie, was in my mother’s age and had a daughter living in New York. She had her guest bedroom with private bathroom for her guest, in which I stayed for a week. She was such a sweet host, responded to my emails very quickly and even came to pick me up at the airport! She had just started to use Airbnb and had two couples staying at the room before me. Because both of them were staying for only a couple of days and were just traveling, she told me that she, an early riser and early-to-bedder with a full-time job, did not see them very much. But because I wanted to talk I woke up early and had breakfast with her every morning before she goes to work, telling her about my new experiences I had the day before, which was really good for me. Although I do not live there anymore I feel like I have a mother in Taipei!

I think your experience will really depend on the place and the people but I could have been alone, not able to talk to anyone and receiving no advice if I didn’t stay there, so I’m really thankful I used Airbnb.

When I was in Japan I thought maybe I could just continue staying there if I liked Sophie’s place but that did not really work out as the room was already booked after my leave! Sophie was so kind and offered me the room after the next guest’s leave but I was ok. Taiwanese people are just surprisingly kind. I was telling people I meet that I needed to find a place to stay and many friends recommended websites that I can use to find apartments. One friend even offered me to stay at his place while he is away to a different country! Well, most of the websites are in Mandarin and my Mandarin is not really there yet to understand it all… but there was one website in English: Tealit.com. It’s like a Taiwan version of Craigslist.

Here I was able to find posts (mostly by Taiwanese people who speak English) about available rooms. Having best areas in my head I contacted about 5 of them and received 2 replies. One was not accepting short-term stay so I went to see the other one and decided to live there right away. In the place, we have Taiwanese couple, students from Uzbekistan and the U.S., and now me :) All really cool people and hearing Taiwanese couple speaking to each other in Mandarin definitely should help me improve my Mandarin!

I’m glad I found places this way. I love the people I live with, Sophie and my current roommates. Taiwan’s housing is quite reasonable however rooms available on Airbnb are quite expensive compared to others. For example, my current monthly rent is about the same as the average weekly rent on Airbnb! Finding an apartment just for yourself could also be a bit of hustle and expensive without one year contract. And the area I live now is quite convenient.

There are many things you wouldn’t know before you come to that place and housing is so important. I hope this helps you if you have a chance to live in Taiwan for a couple of months :)

Welcome!

Category: iikata.com, Uncategorized

Currently in: Taipei, Taiwan / GMT+8

This blog post is also available in Japanese.

 

Welcome to iikata.com!

So glad to have the site finally (pre)open. Here we provide English and Japanese localization services including translations, interpretations and subtitling.

I think we explain enough about the services on each page so I would not repeat them here. In this blog, I am looking to write about a wide range of things from localization-related posts to my globe-trotting experiences. It would be great if this can be read by many of you.

Please kindly give me your opinions regarding this website if you find anything funny. Of course, your questions are always welcome too.

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Amed Trip

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