A Day in Taipei

HAPPY ONE YEAR to the blog

Today we landed in Taipei, Taiwan-our layover stop.  Since we landed in a country we will probably never vacation again, my dad figured we might as well spend the day to explore the city.

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racing the sunrise

This is my second trip to Taiwan; a beautifully green island with the best pineapples and kiwis I have ever tasted.  I spent about ten days here on a mission trip; so it was cool to being able to recognize some of the places, and nice to have a little knowledge about where we were headed.IMG_0702 IMG_0700From Taoyuan International airport to the heart of Taipei was about a 45 minute taxi drive.  We originally wanted to step into YongKang St., an area known for the sort of retro asian, antiquey kind of feel.  It was difficult to communicate between the taxi driver and us, so while we got to enjoy the sights of the local streets and people from the car, we decided to venture into a more public area solely in fear of not being able to get a taxi back. IMG_0707 IMG_0709 IMG_0730We stopped at the magnificent Taipei 101, the third tallest building in the world with 101 floors.  It stands like a dinosaur among the other buildings.  Inside holds the Taiwan Financial Center & Stock Exchange, but (more importantly) a gigantic mall, and fabulous food court.IMG_0715We got there quite early, and enjoyed some traditional dried pork skin filled buns.  The milk tea, and the beef noodles are a must try!

Then we took the Guinness World Records fastest elevator to the 89th floor of the building-89 floors in 32 seconds.  It costs 500 Taiwanese currency to go up, which is about $20, but I’d say the view was well worth it.  We were lucky enough to come on a sunny day, and we’re able to climb up to the 91st floor, where the outside viewing platform was. You can gaze over the whole city and beyond into the mountains and forest and all.
IMG_0717IMG_8224My dad’s sole goal of the whole day was to enjoy some dumplings at the infamous Din Tai Fung restaurant.  Chains all across the world, the line was already piling up an hour before they opened. But I honestly think I could eat those dumplings for the rest of my life.IMG_8228IMG_0724 IMG_8233

s'cute

s’cute

A perfect day to kick if all off. Can’t wait for our next stop, BEIJING<3

谢谢 (thank you)

Maddi

Carry-on Essentials

Packing is always such a daunting task, but the things I put in my carry-on are nearly always the same.  It is important to think about the things you want to have on you always, and it is kind of like holding a piece of home with you on the plane.  Personally, I carry the valuables on me; the things I would die if they got lost on the plane.  While many of these do’s and dont’s may be a little obvious, it is nice to have some sort of list of needs/wants/can’t live without.

DO bring 

  • the valuable electronics such as your laptop, phone, and camera.  While together these seem like a lot, I usually always put them in my carry-on just because they are too valuable to lose.  The laptop is also nice to have during the hour of waiting at the gate to load pictures or catch up on social media.
    • the CHARGERS are important to carry as well! I will leave the camera charger and extra lens in my actual suitcase. Those charging packs for your phone are a good idea!
  • The strings: earbuds, phone chords, laptop charger chord. I know I could not live without earbuds on the plane because for one, music away from the crowd, and two, plane earbuds are not nice.
  • gum (duh)
  • Medicines, glasses, or a pair of contacts (if you have one): I wear contacts, so I keep a spare pair in my luggage and one in my backpack because I simply cannot see without them.  Same goes for medicine, daily medication you need to take everyday cannot simply be lost.
  • Warm sweater or cardigan: if you’re going somewhere hot and tropical, like Bali orCabo, wearing a long sleeve or pants does not exactly sound ideal.  The plane will be cold, so even thought it may be 90℉ at your destination, it is a good idea to have something that will keep you warm!
    • I always bring fuzzy socks because my feet are always too cold & that
  • Little nonsense: pens for luggage tags or a journal and for those visa cards to fill out if you’re going international, little hand sanitizer, hair ties, & facial wipes.

NOT to bring:

  • pillow pets: I’ll admit I have carried mine on a plane once before, but probably will not again just because it was a nuisance to carry around. When there was already so much in my bag, it is just another unnecessary thing to hold onto, and its too big to pack unless you want to waste precious souvenir space.
  • no brainers: sticky foods, things that could spill, water bottles. You can buy them after security.
  • jewelry: too easily lost and equally too valuable to lose

MAYBEs

  • A journal
  • a book/magazine
  • sunglasses: after a long flight, your face may not be your best friend. Or if your stopping somewhere spontaneous between trips, they’re good to have on you!
  • that being said.. maybe some touch up makeup. BUT if you’re going to bring powder PUT IT IN A ZIP LOCK or closed off bag. the chance of the powder breaking in your bag is terrifying.

Anything else? Comment below 🙂

Getting ready for my trip to Asia! Will be posting about it daily 🙂 see you soon

Much Love,

Maddi

Top Tourist Stops // Beijing, China

Beijing-the heart of China.  Dating back to almost 3 millennia, Beijing is home to some of the most ancient architecture-teeming with rich culture and tradition.  So many wonders to see! From Tiananmen Square to the Great Wall, here are some of the top tourist must sees 🙂

Tiananmen Square  is the largest square in the world. As the main entrance to the imperial palace of Ming and Qing Dynasties, it is truly a grandeur.  And although this is true, there is a little forced sense of joy in the face of the massacre that took place.  We also got to delve deeper into some of the history at the National Museum of China just across the street.

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The Forbidden City is absolutely jaw dropping. I remember standing in complete and utter awe at the intricacies of the palace buildings.

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The Temple of Heaven was equally as beautiful.  The sacred temple has been so well preserved, the age is evident in the musty smell that rests in the temple rooms.

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out of all, my favorite would have to be

The Great Wall-our guide took us to more of the rural side of the wall, where tourists rarely go because this stretch was so extensive in climbing.

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At the end of this trip we got to experience the traditional an infamous Peking Duck! This is the must-try dish 🙂

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These are just some of the must dos in this truly grand city.

In about one week, I will be traveling to Taiwan (which I have been to), China, and Indonesia.  I am SO STOKED to return to Asia, head up for more posts and pictures! 🙂

Much Love,

Maddi

My Trip To // Hong Kong and Zhongshan, China {part 1}

In spring of 2012, I raised funds to go on a 10 day mission trip to China with my high school.  China holds a special place in my heart, and I cherish this trip very much because I think it kind of pushed me in the right direction for my life path.

Our trip began in the city of Hong Kong where we walked some parts of the Victoria Peak trailIMG_0210 IMG_0212and Wong Tai Sin Temple

IMG_0187 IMG_0193I remember it was a cloudy, and chilly day. But I felt as if I were lifted into the clouds in such a tall city.

Then we ventured into the countryside, near the city of Zhongshan.  During these two days, we biked for miles through the country, stopping by local villages to converse with the people, with the help of our translators.  I remember how quickly me and my translator became friends, and how difficult it was to say goodbye.  This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.  We got to see parts of China some people never will…China is SO green!

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nonstop rain the first day, which resulted in a obscure haze, but beautiful nonetheless.

We celebrated Easter in a small church in the country where my best friend and I (tried to) lead Sunday school worship for the children.

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fresh tofu

During this time we also visited a couple high schools, and ate the spinny table eight course meal almost every single day (dinner and lunch many of the times!) i remember I refused to eat Chinese food for about sixth months after this trip.  It was an interesting perspective to take on the East.

Next time: Beijing, The Great Wall, and Tiananmen Square!

 

How to Stay Fit on a Cruise (or any vacation)

Travel exhilarates the soul.  Being a stranger in a new place, we grasp towards our instinctive senses: the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the tastes.

“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are” -Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarian, 1825

Food feeds the soul.  One the best, and maybe one of the most important ways to learn about a culture is through their food; it tells everything about a culture’s identity, lifestyle, their community, and traditions.  And on a cruise (or any vacation for that matter) food is everywhere, and all the time.  9/10x guaranteed to be good, or great, or even fantastic-coming from either the 5-star dining on the ship, or the true Baklava from the stop in Greece.

With so much indulgence, it isn’t uncommon (in fact, probably more common than not) to come home with a little extra tummy peeking out of our favorite jeans.  Every cruise I’ve been on someone come back and complains about the 5, 10, even 15 pounds gained.  I have taught myself to stick to a couple guidelines to keep in shape while being able to enjoy myself-easy and effortless ways to stay fit on a cruise:

1. Take the Stairs

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Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

You’re probably thinking, “Effortless? What?”. I promise you, taking the stairs is a whole lot faster, easier, and definitely healthier than waiting for the elevator.  On every cruise I’ve been on, the elevator is a painstaking and awkward process; so many people trying to fit in such a small space that normally ends up stopping at every. single. floor.  A mere 3 could take up to 10 minutes verses maybe 1.5 min it will take to climb them.  It’s an mindless way to walk off the extra couple bites of cake, and when you do it constantly (which you will) every day, it could save you those 2-3lbs.

2. Abandon All Comfort

street food in Pamplona, Spain

Normally on the ship, they will offer dishes that are custom to the place they are docked, and also offer foods that custom to the guests…aka basic stuff you can get at home: french toast, chocolate chip cookie, pizza etc.  While it’ll probably be “gourmet” chocolate chip cookies, don’t waste your calories on the comfort dishes.  Expand you palate and take advantage of the local foods in port; it would be a sin not to!  Ice cream on the ship or real gelato in Venice?

3. Eat More Dessert

macaroons from a farmer's market in Nice, France

macaroons from a farmer’s market in Nice, France

I have a major sweet tooth; I would probably choose chocolate over dinner.  That being said, I tend to eat less of the main course, saving come calories, so I can splurge a little on dessert!

4. Excursions and Activities!

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walking though Venice, Italy

All cruises offer excursions in port, and many/most include some physical activity: biking through vineyards, swimming to the mud baths, or hiking the volcanos in Greece, walking through to sightsee in Florence, or running the trails in Barcelona.  While on the ship, take advantage of the free gym, the track, the pool, some even have ice rinks!  It isn’t hard to be active while having fun.

5. Family Dinners are Still Important

Beach picnic in Zakynthos, Greece

Beach picnic in Zakynthos, Greece

Many cultures eat family style: ordering multiple dishes to share among all of them.  Whether it is your actual family or not, eating family style allows you to try a taste of a variety of different dishes.  You’re not restricted to just one, nor obligated to finish the entire thing-and get to spend quality time with the people around you.

6. Do What You Want

Somewhere Deep in the Med

Didn’t make the daily run this morning? No big. Ultimately, it is your vacation; your time to take a load off and detach from the normal routine.  Listen to your body! Relax by the pool when you want to rest, take a walk around the top of the ship when the sun is setting, and stop eating when you are full.

Cruises are an amazing way to see the world, and wherever you go-let yourself be all there.  Live, Learn, Love Travel !

Much love,

Maddi

Beauty of the Florida Keys and Everglades

This past February I got to spend five days in the Florida Keys with my AP Bio class.  I was completely struck aback by how beautiful it is!

IMG_9866IMG_0075Possibly some of the best sunsets I have ever seen

IMG_9982 IMG_9983 IMG_9966 IMG_9961 IMG_9996We submerged ourselves into the wildlife, and found many unique creatures.

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A Cassiopeia, a jellyfish that lives in the hammocks of the Keys

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Mollusk

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The skin that was shed from a horseshoe crab

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these little crabs were my favorite

The pollution caused by humans left noticeable impact all over the once colorful corals of the Keys.  I was disappointed, and truly heartbroken to see the lifeless, muddy colors; there was still some life, but all stripped of their vibrance.

Because of this, I have tried to make it a point to be more eco-friendly, and conscious in caring for this wonderful earth we call home.  She is one of a kind literally, and it is truly our job to preserve her beauty and fruitfulness.

I was joyed to see The Everglades full of life!  Probably my favorite part of the trip, it is truly a wonder that I think is worth going out to see!  People mistake the everglades for a stagnant swamp, but in reality, it is a flowing ebb of all various kinds of life.

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The Everglades have also faced ecological stress, at one point almost losing all of the water supply.  Since then, people have worked together to reverse the damage, and preserve the beauty here.

The Florida Keys may be a little underrated; truly a gift of Mother Nature! If anything, the earth is something to be nurtured and respect, not stripped barren.  Be kind to your home, and live a life conscious of your actions on those around you.

Much love,

Maddi

Day 12 // Capri is for mi

Lasstt post about the trip! 😦

This is definitely my second favorite place (first Barcelona) that we went to on this trip. Our ship docked in Napoli, and from there we took about a 30 minute ferry to the beautiful isle of Capri.

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The Blue Grotto is always something I’ve wanted to do, but it is so busy with tourists it would have turned out to be a 4+ hour excursion.  After the two long days of going on tours we didn’t feel like doing something like that; we wanted to relax and just enjoy the town!

We took the funicular up to the main center

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Billionth picture of me overlooking some fantastic location.

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Capri is known for their lemons, and I enjoyed the best lemonade slush I’ve ever had

DCIM100GOPROpretty pretty-and quite expensive sights! From designer stores to five-star hotels.

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s/o to daddy ong for taking these candids

love love love.  We were desperately craving the beach so we hit the rocky shores

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#gopro

I’ll have to admit that I was a little uncomfortable at first with the rocks-not something I’m used to! But after swimming in the salty waters all my worries went away 🙂 This would be the perfect place for a honeymoon or if I ever had a need to just getaway from everything.

Some lemon gelato before we headed back to the ship to head home!

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We spent the whole next day at sea to land back in Barcelona where our flight would be.

I am so fortunate to have gone on such a dream of a trip.  I didn’t think my love for traveling could have grown anymore than it did, but I was so so wrong.  I just want to jump into new places and soak everything in; I think traveling is something you have to do even if you life it or not.  It just opens your eyes and overall perspective on life-to put that in the most cliché way possible.

So what am I going to write about now? hahaha subscribe and find out ;P ❤

Much Love,

Maddi