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!

 

 

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

 

 

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!

 

 

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