Tag Archive: vacation


I woke up at 5am.

Had to leave at 6am, or else my family and I were not going to make it to the airport on time.

You might be thinking, how in the world does a connection flight from Vancouver-Seattle to Seattle-Paris take so long that you need to leave at 6am?

Well, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. While Vancouver->Seattle->Paris is indeed the path I took to get here, it did not involve a connection flight.

It did involve 3-4 hours of driving in a Alamo-owned Kia 2017 SUV.

We also got there much hella early. I thought the trip was going to be 5 hours or so, but we ended up being almost 4 hours early for the flight. Heck, the damn display boards that show departures and arrivals didn’t even show our flight because it was too far away.

So, we waited.

Sometime before leaving the house at about 5:20 am, the still-drowzy me decided it would be a fun thing to bring the Lucina figma with me and take pictures of her “travelling” the world. Sleep-deprived me still thinks that is a good idea, but neither of them realized how awkward, embarassing, and time-consuming it would be to do that. It wasn’t until I tried to take a shot of her “closing” the door did it occur to me. So I swapped her out for a key-chain.

Simple....r

Simple(r)

Much more manageable.

Our plane gate got moved because the gate we were originally supposed to be at was taken by a plane that should’ve left at 9am, but was instead delayed until 12:10.

I had never flown Delta before, and didn’t actually know much about Delta airlines, other than the information about focus on customer service that I heard about in class, but frequently attribute it to the wrong company. I was pleasantly surprised about the flight. While economy class will never be exciting or comfortable for long double digit hour flights, their on-board entertainment was nice (they had Finding Dory,and some other recent movies, and oddly enough, TED Talks), food was good and given out frequently (snack, lunch, snack, breakfast, with water & drinks spaced between), and the people were nice. It was an improvement over constantly flying Air China/other Chinese airlines.

I also took a lot of pictures of Lucina doing stuff on the plane. I mean what else was I going to do?

When we finally did arrive near 9am Paris time (9 hours ahead of Vancouver), we were faced with delays involving Paris airport staff not being aware we were there, an Uber strike, and some early-morning difficulties (I mean the loading people didn’t show up when the staircase guys did, and they forgot to come in the first place). Stepping into the airport was the first realization of “I can’t assume people speak English here”. While I might have learned some French in secondary school, I am definitely not good enough to be able to use it. Throughout my entire short time in Paris, I always wondered if I should begin a conversation with a shop attendant with French and then switch to English if it doesn’t work out, or just use English. I stuck to the latter most of the time. I probably should’ve done the first option, but I remember Larouche saying French people don’t like others butchering their language (and I was embarrassed).

Though, knowing some French helped when reading signs and things like that. I could kinda tell what food I was buying/eating, and I knew generally what the signs and directions meant. It would’ve been a lot more helpful if there wasn’t English translations for basically anything of note though. I would just read the English one, then skim the French one and then nod to myself. “Ah, of course, yes, that makes sense.”

Our tour didn’t start until Saturday, and it was Friday morning, so what did we do? Explore Paris! Duh. (with the help of a tour guide)

We first went to the Chateau de Versailles (no I am not doing the fancy a). It was still early (about 10am), and there was heavy fog in the morning. The palace was nice. Lots of old paintings of previous kings and other people I should remember from social studies. More French paintings, nice living rooms, nice furniture, and a lot more paintings. I guess this would’ve been a lot more inspiring if I knew about French history, or had some kind of connection to it, but even then, how much would I have really cared? When I pretended it was Canadian history (lol), I still couldn’t find much personal importance for it beyond, “cool it was part of our history, and it’s a nice painting”. I guess it’s just not my thing.

I also have a problem with photographing paintings, the rooms, and the furniture. Beyond the fact that the lighting is A W F U L there for photography and the large amount of people crowding the place, I just don’t see the point in photographing pictures. I’ve always thought of photographs as a way to take a snapshot of a memory, tell a story, or remember an event, but how does that happen from taking picture of a picture? Yes, now I have a copy of an old painting of an old French king (Louis XIV), but what of it? I could easily google a photo of that painting, and I would have the same experience looking at that picture, and the one I took. Things like this should be captured with the eye, not the camera. But I digress. Here’s a small album of the palace. I snuck a little bit of Lucina, but it was definitely hard to do (and AWKWARD!!).

After that, we first went for lunch and had some baguette sandwiches, and then went on a boat ride along the Seine. It was freezing out there. It was already 1 Celsius, but then you add in cold wind… it was painful. The river was nice though. Fog started to peel back a bit, so it was easier to get photos. Here’s a few of them (I’m lazy).

And then with what short time was left, we explored a bit of the Louvre. This place is incredible. It’s hard to describe how impressive it is. There’s just so much stuff here! Once again, my thought on taking pictures of pictures applies here, and a little bit to sculptures as well. But I had to do it. Also, museum’s lighting is not very good for photography. They shine the light directly at the canvas and it refracts light and makes part of the photos white. Yuck.

Before a small album, there’s something I need to say about the Mona Lisa. The picture is very small compared to the many other massive works in the museum, yet it’s by far the most popular work there. But the most interesting thing is what people do when they see the Mona Lisa. They don’t really go look at it, because they’ve seen it on the internet before. What they do is just take a glimpse of the picture, then proceed with the actual important part – taking pictures of the Mona Lisa. So many people there are taking selfies with it, or taking pictures of it behind a reflective glass box. Too many times do you see camera flashes go off (that damage pictures!) and people retaking selfies. We live in a world where sharing your experiences with others is more important than the actual experience itself. I find it a little bit of an insult to the many works of art in the Louvre. Of course you’ll see the odd art student around, making sketches of the paintings and sculptures, but too often you just see people press the shutter button and then move on. These paintings were a lot more enjoyable viewing experience than the national history ones in the palace.

Also, you can buy a 3DS cartridge for 20 euro that is basically a virtually guide throughout the museum with 30 hours+ of audioguide. Definitely a more interesting purchase than one of the many books they have. And of course, I bought it. I could probably buy the books online, but not this.

Here’s the album.

And then it was time to go to the hotel. The hotel was really small, and the elevator fit like 6 people max. The beds for 2 separate people (my parents) and 1 person (me) were basically the same thing, only it was split in half for the two people bed. Weird. The washrooms also don’t have exhaust fans… or shampoo. Just body wash. Also, I need to comment on driving in Paris.

It’s C R A Z Y.

It’s like China without the masses of people, and drivers who are going to run you over. People walk basically beside the car, generally no one seems to like stopping, and there’s always a traffic jam somewhere. The roads are super small, cars go through all the most random little paths to get around traffic, and they have intersections in intersections IN INTERSECTIONS. They also have crosswalks that are split in two. There’s a light to lets you get to the middle of the road, then another light that lets you get to the end. It’s weird. If I had to drive here, I’d go crazy.

Well, I am already kind of crazy for not sleeping yet. It’s past midnight and I got to wake up at 6 again.

Later.

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Here I am writing about Taiwan day 2, without even finishing day 1’s entry. Mainly because I don’t feel like writing day 1’s… Hopefully I’ll stop being a lazy bum and link some pictures into the entry later. I doubt it though. I DID IT! THERE ARE PICTURES! This should slightly make up the lack of blogs (which makes me think of The Most Least Interesting Man in the World) and original pictures.

So today was a much more intriguing day.

First off, the hotel we stayed at was literally a lakeside hotel. As in if I looked 90 degrees out of the balcony, I would see lake water. It was quite an impressive view. Almost as impressive as the fact that the hotel looked much more impressive and more modern than any hotel I have ever been too. Though it wouldn’t be more impressive than the lakeside view if the view wasn’t foggy.

Here’s a view.

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Kind of pretty.

I woke up at 5. AM. Naturally.

Big fucking surprise that I’d wake up extremely early on vacation instead of during school days when I need to wake up that early.

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Welcome to the early morning, glad you could wake up.

Breakfast started at 7, which seems natural for Asian countries (though I really only know about China and Taiwan). Breakfast was not what I expected it to be. The only kind of breakfast I’ve had at restaurants for free re the standard continental breakfasts. Cereal, milk, coffee, toast, eggs, and muffin/pancakes if they’re generous. Apparently not here.

This was pretty much a lunch/dinner buffet. Rice, chicken wings, sandwiches, noodles (some Taiwanese make-it-yourself thing), veggies and pretty much whatever you’d expect to find at a Chinese buffet.

And it was free.

Apparently there are a wider variety of things to choose from for breakfast at other hotels.

Just makes me wonder what kind of huge selection that must be, as theirs was more than 5 large dinner tables (the ones that sit probably like 6 people on each side).

They also have a great Christmas tree.

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The tree I didn't have this year.

Moving on, apparently we were going up the mountains. Cool. We stopped at places along the way, the most notable one being a temple. Although I do know that Taiwan has some infatuation with 7/11’s. There was like at least 15 that we passed by. Basically any small location that had people, had a 7/11. This store also sells clothes. 7-Select brand clothes. I know I’ve said this before (although no one has seen it yet since it was in the other blog that hasn’t been completed), but what the hell is this, 7/11 has essentially become a 1 stop shopping experience for anything you’d need from a 24 hour store.

I only remember the temple because I was forced (a bit I guess) to do a prayer & wish thing when my mom this prayer/charm thing.

It's pretty, and definitely not gold.

It’s pretty, and definitely not gold.

On the other side it has something about good fortune and educational success. Note: educational, not academic. I did their ritual of blessing and made request(s) during the prayer (though during the ‘wish’ period where I was supposed to think of requests, I was thinking if I was doing it right or not… To redeem myself I made requests afterwards, though I don’t think that works. Probably didn’t redeem myself). Then I hung it on a tree alongside hundreds of other wishes. Maybe someone should give god (or is it ‘God’? I don’t know too much about the statue I was praying to…) overtime pay since he’s going to need it.

This is only one wall.

This is only one wall.

Afterwards, we went up the mountain. Rain likes to come and go in Taiwan much more than Vancouver did for me. Apparently that isn’t normal though. Maybe a little bit of Vancouver has followed us here. Can’t say if that’s a blessing or a curse.

The rain made it not very enjoyable to frequently explore areas outside the car. Which pretty much translates to: what’s an ‘outside’?

 

On the way up the mountain, the dark rain clouds towered over us and wouldn’t leave us alone. It’s like that damn blue shell in Mario Kart. It won’t stop tracking your ass until it was satisfied with what it has accomplished – ruining your time. Though the rain wasn’t even a big problem on the way up. Our major delay came from a construction site that was in the middle of the road, which we couldn’t pass until they were finished some 40 minutes later.

All about the (mountain) base.

All about the (mountain) base.

Instead, those rain clouds (that eventually stopped housing rain) became the thing to gaze upon on the way up. I mean other than puffy grey-white floating shapes, the bland assortment of rocks and skinny trees didn’t exactly provide much to enjoy. It’s a much more enjoyable time when you think about how you’re trying to reach the clouds.

And we did.

And we went beyond.

The mountain (Alishan) was quite a bit higher than the clouds today. At the peak, there were moments where your typical beach scene’s water had been replaced with clouds. A cloud ocean, they called it in Mandarin (loose translation). While the oceanic scenes of clouds we saw weren’t anything incredible like being literally surrounding by cloud-water, the bits of it that we did get to see were quite pretty.

IMG_0830

If you jumped from that cliff, I don’t think you could exactly swim in this ‘ocean’.

Well at the (near) peak of the mountain, we did some sight-seeing again, and went on this little weird train thing. Honestly, I really have no clue how the hell, or why the hell we had to take the train on the way back, or even be on a train at all, but when you have an experienced tour guide, I don’t think you really question it… too much.

Oh right, before I forget, I learned a little about bribery in Asian countries again. 100 Taiwan yuan is what it takes for the bus driver to treat you special. In case you’re wondering why we’re on a bus in the first place (I was), only the mountain’s own buses can drive anywhere beyond the parking lot. Fun, eh.

By the way, exchange rate from Taiwanese Yuan to Canadian Dollars is something like 27 to 1.

So that 100 NT (that’s what all the signs say, I don’t have a clue what it stands for) is pretty much like $4.

I don’t think giving the 410 bus driver 4$ is going to have him drop me off where-ever I want.

Taiwan is cheap.

While I’m on the topic, and before I forget this topic, food is ridiculously cheap as well. Lunch (although it was a quickie) for 4 was 500 NT. That’s less than 20$. Could I even feed 4 people decently with 20$ at McDonalds? I’m not even sure. Before I arrived, I exchanged like $70~ for 2000 NT. I really didn’t know if that was enough to do some gift/clothing shopping, but it probably will be.

Anyways. Back to the train.

Or more like, going back on the train (it’s more like an over-glorified bus).

The tour guide tells me that if you sit near the back of the train, you can see the whole train when it turns. Apparently it looks nice.

And apparently he thinks I should try to take a good picture (apparently he’s missing one like that, can never get it right or something).

So I did.

It's a train. Turning.

It’s a train. Turning.

I like to think it turned out above average. Apparently the tour guide thinks so (at least a bit) since he wants a copy.

Also there’s this random elementary school 2800m high on the mountain.

There's a reason why plants are everywhere around the school.

The highest elementary school ever.

So we went back down the mountain.

On the way down, we met some more clouds, albeit in a less than beautiful way.

Driving down the mountain at 6pm (that means it’s quite dark out) through clouds on a narrow lane that turns 180 degrees is god damn scary. At its worst (which it basically was like all the way down), I couldn’t see 1 meter around the car. Heaven knows how we drove down that path unscathed, but that post I made about my driving experience in dark & heavy-rain couldn’t hold a candle to this. In the rain I was scared of driving into the wrong lane by accident. In the cloud I was scared of what was happening 1 meter in front of me – and I wasn’t even driving.

IMG_0503

“Hello, Pretty. Nice to see you. If I could see you.”

Oh, there were some ‘cloud waterfalls’ (more loose translations!) on the way down. Sadly I don’t have any pictures of them as it was when we were in the car, trying to make it to the hotel before 9 (aka: in a rush). Also it’s hard to just stop on that single curvy road down the mountain. It exactly what it sounds like, a waterfall with gas instead of liquid. It was quite neat. Have some more clouds as compensation.

The layering of the clouds looks pleasing.

The layering of the clouds looks pleasing.

Now I’m in some weird traditional-home styled hotel, where the room feels like a large living room. There’s a lot of empty space, and this really feels like two rooms mashed into one. The shower/bath is some weird all stone Japanese-like bath where you have to sit and wash yourself. I would take picture of that but washroom pictures aren’t very savory.

Here’s the room. Don’t ask about the weird bed.

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Seriously, don't ask.

Maybe I should sleep.

Breakfast isn’t at 7 tomorrow.

It’s at 6.

3 – Cancer

It is day 3.

Today is the journey to Capitol Hill. With an O.

Wake up later than planned, at 7:55. Rush, rush, rush to go eat.

Got separated from the suite/roommates when eating.

Felt… uneasy.

For (almost) 2 days, I’ve been being close to them, then today, I’m just sitting no where.

Well, not nowhere, but somewhere different.

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