A Travellerspoint blog

January 2019

On To Raja Ampat


13 January 2019

Time to clean up the apartment, get packed and head to the airport. Mr Blue (our driver) picked us up at 1pm for the ride to Denpasar. An hour and a half with Mr Blue is too short. We had a chance to catch up and he had a chance to try out all his new bad jokes on us.

Regarding our apartment – I didn't really explain why we stayed where we did in Ubud. Originally, we had booked a cottage at one of the guesthouses closer to the city center.. One day on FB(Facebook), I noticed a posting from a woman we met in Karimunjawa last year -a lovely Australian woman who is a travel writer. We were there on holiday and she was there for work but staying in the same guesthouse. We got a chance to chat, share meals and I'm sure a beer or two. - but I digress. She is currently back in Australia taking care of her Mom and needed someone to take care of her cat, with the offer of free accommodations in exchange. We texted back and forth and decided it would work for both of us. Her great little apartment over Made's Warung was perfect for five days. No need to cook and we got to spend time with her tiny, honey colored cat – Madu (which in Indonesian means honey). It seems we might have been in need of kitty fix. Madu hung around quite a bit and took to sleeping at the bottom of the bed at night. Staying at Sally's gave us the true feeling of “living” in Bali...which for us – is dangerous... as we have talked for years about moving there. But...right now...it's not to be, so this was a great alternative.


But it was time for us to leave ….????

We're off to the eastern end of Indonesia for a 12 day cruise on a traditional Indonesian sailing pinisi – the Ombak Putih. The ship holds 24 passengers and a staff of about 15 – we had no idea how many passengers there would be, though we knew there is a group coming from Australia with “ASA – Australians Studying Abroad”– similar to our Roads Scholar program.

Flight there was an adventure unto itself. The flight for Sorong, West Papua leaves at 5pm via Makassar, Sulawesi. The problem was that there is an 8 ½ hour layover in Makassar. With a little research, we found an IBIS hotel right at the airport and for $30 it was money well spent.

Waiting in Denpasar was also bit of an adventure. A strong storm blew in (we found out later, associated with this storm, there was a tornado in West Java that destroyed 300 homes). We got the weak end it, which was still pretty intimidating. Waiting at the gate, I started hearing water running. Looking behind us, we noticed a deluge coming from a light fixture and a hatch in the ceiling. Must not be new to them as they got the yellow “wet floor” signs set up and proceeded to mop up...all in a days work.

We arrived in Makassar at 8pm, got settled in the hotel with a 2am wake up call and headed back for our 0330 flight to Sorong. The airport was pretty busy for such an early hour and after discussion later in our trip, we concluded maybe it has to do with the hot weather and condition of the tarmac on the runway later in the day. Just a thought!!

Arriving into the small Sorong Airport, we grabbed a taxi for the quick 2km ride to our hotel (favehotel). After a slight date faux pas (on my part) which got settled, we got settled in our lovely little room. Really nothing to do in Sorong. If there is a next time, we would probably stay in Makassar for a few days. Our big adventure for the day was turning left out of our hotel and finding a grocery. I was on the hunt for a very light rain poncho...found...13950 Rp = about 1 USD. Fortunately, the hotel had a couple of US TV channels (though I think the shows were a few years old).


Can anyone tell me what the last photo indicates????


14 January 2019

Up early, breakfast. Our transport to the ship arrived at 0900. We were greeted by the smiling face of Nita, one of our tour guides on the trip. She filled us in on the days events. After dropping us off in the capable hands of the crew at the harbor, she was off to pick up the last of the guests. We were transported by zodiac out to the boat. Passing boat after boat in the harbour, the Ombak Putik appeared at the outer edge of the moorings – a sight to behold.

Most of the guests had arrived earlier from either Makassar or Jakarta. We were soon to get acquainted with our shipmates for the next twelve days. Besides us, the two lone Americans, there were two Canadians (Toronto), two from the Netherlands and the remaining fifteen were Australasian (some with the ASA trip and others on their own).

First things....find our cabin....#9 – mid ship but right at the bottom of the stairs. There are only twelve cabins – I don't think there can be a bad one.


We met our other tour guide...the lovely Anastasia. Both Nita and Anas are Indonesian – Anas from Ambon and Nita...from (as she would say) all over!!

First things first – safety briefing and then lunch. It appears that customs here in Sorong works at it's own pace. The crew were anticipating a quick departure...which didn't happen. While we waited for customs clearance. Option #2 – a quick dingy trip to the island of Doom. Anas had arranged pedi rickshaws for us all and it was a quick trip around the small island. I'm not sure how many Westerners come to this island but we were greeted with smiles and waves.


Returning to the boat, we found that we were clear to leave....anchor up and “Adventure is out there!!!”

Enjoying a little libation and the sunset, it set in that we were really here...


Before dinner, we would get the first of our talks from Jeffrey Mellefont. Honorary Research Associate, Australian National Maritime Museum. Over the next twelve days, Jeffrey will educate us on the maritime history of Indonesia, it's culture and also the journey of Alfred Russel Wallace (who traveled in these same waters and was discovering the theory of evolution at the same time as Darwin.)

Dinner was a feast, as we would find each day to be. A collection of Indonesian dishes that satisfied both the carnivores and vegetarians alike.


Food always brings people together and over these luscious flavors we started to get know those on the ship who were also up for this adventure.

Posted by pjburke 22:15 Archived in Indonesia Comments (2)

Adventures in Bali - continued

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9, 10, 11 January 2019


Our last days in Bali on this end of the trip were relatively quiet. I finished up the blog posting from our wonderful cooking class and then Jim and I headed out for a really nice dinner at Hujan Locale. Dining in Ubud ranges from the simple to the sublime. I hesitate to use the word “nice” to describe this lovely city center eatery, as all the cafes and warungs we've dined in have been “nice” in their own way. Hujan is a bit more elegant, but in a casual sort of way.

The building itself is located off Ubud's main thoroughfare Jalan Raya Ubud on Jalan Sri Wedari. The decor is tastefully simple, accented by bustling staff dressed in sharply pressed black and white. In the off season, I don't think that a reservation is needed but I think it is appreciated. We did make a reservation. Even though we were a bit early, we were promptly seated on the second floor, next to an open window, off to the side with a view of serene temple grounds just adjacent. First impressions gave us great hope for a lovely evening – our culinary adventure in Ubud.


Hujan has a special drink menu and we both started with drinks that were tropical with fresh mint and ginger (a Mule and a Mojito). It was hard to pick from the appetizer menu but we decided on “Sate buntel” minced lamb wrapped in caul and served with a goat bone tengkleng". Subtle spices in the lamb mixed well with the tengkleng, which was a type of soup.


On to our mains...we chose North Sumatran Octopus Rendang with star anise, fennel and chopped turmeric leaf and the Bebek Gorang – which is a Balinese style crispy duck leg. Both portions were not huge but definitely filling. (Note: Not knowing the portion sizes we asked our waiter and she told us that two mains would be enough....why??? because there is always dessert!!)


….and then dessert!! We shared the Salted Caramel Ice Cream with toasted marshmallow popcorn (which was heavenly, by the way) and Mango Mousse Cheesecake with Mango and Strawberry Sorbet.


From the lovely surroundings, the friendly and professional staff and incredible range of flavors, this will be a dinner that we will remember for quite a while.



It's a "to do" day!! Starting to think about the next leg of our trip. Time to do a little laundry and confirm reservations. It occurred to us that Madu (our feline ward) would need food before we left. With info from her Mom in Australia we headed to the Vets. Yes, this is starting to feel like home.

On the way back, we stopped for a light lunch at Yellow Flower Cafe – one of our favorites. It's located along a pathway (gang) in the hill above the bustling main street. As we enjoyed our spring rolls and Bintang (beer), we noticed a woman sitting by herself. “Do you live here?”, we asked. “No, just traveling but I just took a yoga class close by.” We were shortly joined by one of the yoga instructors, who does live here. Our question to her was simple. "If one lives here – what does one “do”? She smiled and replied...”Anything you like. Some people write, others are artists, volunteers, yoga and some....JUST BE!”

These two simple words ....JUST BE... seem to take on a new meaning every day.

Our dinner that night was back to an oldy but goody. Bubu's Warung was close to the first villa we stayed here in Ubud a few years ago. As life goes on and things change, so had Bubu's. It's been remodeled and although the food was still good, it lacked a bit of the comfortable Balinese charm we so enjoyed.


We settled in after dinner to “just be” and read a little. Thank goodness for Kindles, as the power went out in our area and with the moonless night, it was dark....very dark and as the blackness enveloped us, we had time to breath and listen to the sounds of the jungle outside our windows. Truly just being!!

Friday – our last day in Bali..well at least for a couple of weeks!!!

Did you ever had one of “those” days?? When you think that things are going along swimmingly and then...What the!!!!....Yes, theses days do happen even when you are traveling. But...truth be told, I'm being a bit of a drama queen. It wasn't really that bad. I had just spent two hours working on a blog entry (the one above I just recreated). I was excited because I would have been on schedule...up to date....only to inadvertently delete the whole thing. Aghhh.

I know!!!! You ask, “why don't you write on a word document, save and copy???” Because I'm cheap. The Word program subscription on this netbook expired and I didn't want to buy another one.

When you have lemons, the saying goes...make lemonade!!! This situation inspired me to do just that and to look for a program (free, of course) that will work for me. And for those looking for this this type of program – it's called Apache Open Office. It works really well and also has a spreadsheet (Excel type) program. Onward!!

Our farewell dinner in Bali would be a local dish.....Spicy Smoked Balinese Duck served right downstairs at Made's Warung. When we arrived, the table was set for a feast...table cloth, veggies, rice and then in came the duck ..in all it's glory....head and all. It was quite delicious and more food than the two of us could eat but the only part of the duck remaining was the bones!!


Posted by pjburke 19:42 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Indonesian Cooking

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08 January 2019

Starting a day with the beautiful fresh, tropical fruit of Bali is a definite treat. Exactly what we did today.

Never a dull day when the Burkes are traveling... a little change in plans. Last night Jim and I talked....after our trip to Raja Ampat we are returning to Bali and we were supposed to go north for more beach time BUT we love it here in Ubud so much and after Raja Ampat it will be difficult to compare SO....we've cancelled those reservations and will be coming back here. We contacted Sally to see if she would still need help with Madu but it looks like there is a possibility that a friend will be here...Plan B - we rented a small villa (with a pool) that is about a five minute walk from our current location. We can still feed (and maybe cuddle just a little bit) Madu, if needed. And...we splurged - $50 per night with breakfast included!!

With those plans taken care of, we got ready to be picked up for our cooking class. Thank you Wiwik for making those reservations for us.

We were picked up by Wayan (the owner of the cooking school) at about 230pm and started the drive outside town. We really know nothing more than...it's a cooking class.


Arriving at Wayan's home compound in the small village of Laplapan (just outside Ubud), we were met by another couple - Ruth and Ollie ..from Ireland. Back into the van and off to the rice fields. Wayan explained the growing and harvesting process of rice. From where we stood, there were still open rice terraces but construction is infringing on much of the rice fields in Bali. Still Wayan's family had their swatch of land used for their family's rice consumption. Thought it may be small, many families do still have their own land.


Now back to the family compound and we are greeted with a welcome drink - cool tea with ginger and lemongrass???? - tasty on a hot day.


Wayan explained the family compound, who lived there and why. Toward the back of the compound the ground fell away and we were taken down a flight of stairs to the "cooking school" and greeted by Wayan's niece - in -law Made (Ma-day). Big smile and a bit sassy - we knew this would be a good afternoon.


We started by making a traditional offerings. We've taken cooking classes in Indonesia before and though we've been on the receiving end of the offerings - we've never made one. These were made the traditional way, securing the corners of the base with small bamboo sticks - no staplers in this class.


Now..it was food time. Made explained all the food we would be cooking with, the different spices, different methods we would be using - this would be an adventure.

Taking the longest to cook and having three different steps - the Balinese way to cook rice would be our first lesson. Wash the rice, cook in a woven, conical basket with a terracotta cover for about 30 mins, then take off the heat, put in bowl with a little hot water (just to cover), let sit for 15 minutes and then back into the cooker for another 30 minutes ....and the Balinese eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's not Uncle Ben's!!!!


Then on to our other dishes. We made curry chicken, chicken sate, steamed fish in banana leaves, fried tempeh with sweet soy sauce ,Balinese vegetable salad, chicken soup and for dessert (my favorite ..Kue Dadar Guling...saying rolled pancake just doesn't do it justice). We also made a spice mixture and two different sauces...from scratch. "Scratch" meaning pounding the peppers to make sambal, mincing garlic, chilies and shallots until they were a paste. We worked as couples, cooking, stirring, pounding - following the instructions of our fearless leader....


..... when all was done...and the sun was setting over the brilliant green forest - we ate our delicious creations. Enjoying our dinner, we got to know a little about each other - where we were from, what we did and of course, where we had and they had traveled and where we would be going next. And of course, it is a small world...Ruth's name???? Ruth Burke!!! I guess it was meant to be ????



Ruthie....thanks for pics!!!

Posted by pjburke 19:31 Archived in Indonesia Comments (2)

Chillin' in Bali

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07 January 2019

This is our second of 28 days in Indonesia. We had to do a little planning around our cruise (more about that later in the week), since we are only allowed to be in country for 30 days with a Visitor's Visa. We'll be here in Ubud (actually Penestanan - right outside Ubud city center) until this Saturday (12 January ) when we take off for Raja Ampat for a couple of weeks. But we'll be back.

Today was all about getting settled. After a yummy breakfast at Made's. The fruit here is awesome!!!!


Telecom store was first on our list - we've opted for local SIM cards instead of the expensive Verizon International plan and fortunately on our Australian trip last spring we found out that my Samsung 8+ phone is unlocked. Our Taiwan SIM was $10USD for three days coverage and our stop at the kiosk at Bintang Market got us a 7.5G/4G coverage card ..cost: $9USD. It's good for 30 days and we can upload extra data if needed.

While I got the phone set up, Jim shopped. A few essentials: beer, tonic, limes and our favorite peanuts with hot peppers. Food is so inexpensive here (and convenient with Made's downstairs) that I don't think we'll be doing any cooking.

After cell phone and shopping, on to the important stuff - spa treatments. YES!!! Our favorite place in Ubud is Putra Bali and a quick phone call setup a 2pm appointment with a 145pm pick up time (yes, they will transport as long as you are getting more than a massage).
Jim's choice : 90 minute massage, mani and pedi (No, I'm not kidding) and for me: 90 minute massage and facial - just what we need after all this traveling...and all for about $100 including tip.????

We arrived at the spa and were greeted by familiar smiling faces. The owner approached us and said "I remember you - thank you for coming back." After a refreshing glass of lime water and cool towels we were lead to the same room. OK.... It was a beautiful large room with two tables. We'd be getting our massages together and then off on our own for the rest of our treatments.


The 90 minute massages were wonderful. So soothing and relaxing. My facial was nice but Jim won the prize with pretty hands and feet. ????

We stopped for a beer and apps at a small cafe on the way back to our apartment. Life is good!!


Quiet evening at home (Sally's apartment). It's taken us no time to feel comfortable in her lovely home. Sally is a writer for an Australian travel blog and her home is microcosm of travel. If feels like we're living in a travel adventure - like heaven to us.????


Tomorrow?? Another favorite of ours - a cooking class!!! People ask us how we find out about things to do. Talk to the locals. On our way to Ubud from the airport we asked Wiwik if she knew of a good cooking class ??. Of course, she did. What day?? She took care of the rest. Guesthouse owners can also be really helpful. Don't be afraid to ask, if they don't know someone, they will know someone who knows someone... Guaranteed!!

Posted by pjburke 23:05 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

On the road to.......BALI !!!

Our first 24 hours......

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06 January 2019

Our time in Taipei has come to an end but I think we'll be back. Taipei may end up being one of our "stop and get over jet lag spots like SIngapore and Bangkok". It's an easy city to get around and of course it has Dumplings....lolol.

Up early and we were off to the train station. The trains to the airport start running at 0600 and with a 10am flight to Bali, we wanted to be there three hours early. We actually didn't need that much time but IMHO it's better to be early than racing for the plane.

No Eva or Aly to check us out at 0530 but we left our key cards on the desk and we were off. The station is an easy ten minute walk from the Amanda Inn and we ended up waiting with a small group...the doors were still locked. 0555 and a station worker unlocked the door and we made our way to the lower level and on to the train. Being the first stop, we were able to get seats for the 39 minute Express train (which doesn't mean NO stops only fewer stops). The aisles and seats filled up as we got closer to the airport.

Terminal 2 was our stop and it was up through the gates, grab a luggage cart (which BTW are free everywhere but the US) and on to the luggage cart accommodating escalators and up three levels to the departure terminal. EVA kiosks were right as we got off and we were directed down the corridor. Since we had checked in online, we proceeded to the Bag Drop and were greeted by a nice young man who brought us down to an open desk, checked in our bags and gave our cute little Hello Kitty boarding passes. Easy peasy!!!

Now, on to the document check point, TSA (or whatever they call it here) and Immigration - the lines there took us back to LAX. At the scan station and with my knee as I went through the scanner (no full body scanners here) it beeped like crazy. I pointed to my knee and the man bowed, grinned and let me pass....all righty then!!

Taipei Terminal 2 is the new terminal as of 2000, open to avoid congestion. Big but not huge - it took little time to find our gate. And... with a few Taiwanese $$ left to spend, Jim settled in and I took a stroll towards Duty Free.

Walking past the next gate, I found a little girls dream gate -it was decked out with Hello Kitty - apparently the mascot for EVA Airlines. Very Pink!!


On to Duty Free - $10USD for Absolute - good deal. After I had paid, the clerk asked me to wait and went into the back and came out with a small bag - a free gift - Taro Cakes. It seems they were being made fresh right there.


Back at the gate, I shared one of my two taro cakes with Jim - they were quite good. I'm not sure how to explain the taste. Baked, they look like a purple turnip but have a subtle sweet taste.


By 10am, we were on the plane and taking off. I do like a prompt airline. The flight was what any good flight should be - uneventful!! No premium economy this time but the seats were relatively comfortable and six hours later we arrived on time.

Immigration in Bali was just the opposite of Taiwan - lines were long but they moved along at a steady clip, bags came out quickly and out we went to meet our wonderful driver Mr Blue.

I'll try to make this story short. We met Blue on our very first trip to Bali. If you've been following along from the beginning of my blog - you'll know that I spent a night in the hospital in Denpasar due to an infected cyst on my back in 2012. We'd gotten Blue's name from an American couple we met while traveling in Myanmar, who live/lived in Ubud. Well, I needed a ride to the hospital. Blue wasn't available but he sent his nephew and that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Blue has been our airport and tour driver ever since and this is our fourth time in Bali. He has the best smile and a kind heart and today he was there with his daughter - the next generation Bali Blue Driver - Wiwik. Today, Blue had another passenger and our driver would be Wikiw - a beautiful young woman with her father's smile and a great sense of humor. She had us laughing the whole 90 minute ride up to Ubud.

Before heading to our accommodations - we needed money...where??? ATM of course!! But first, why are we staying where we are staying.

Again, another long story. Initially we were staying at a guesthouse closer to the city center BUT we were in touch with a woman we met last year in Karimunjawa. Sally needed to go back to Australia to care for her Mom and needed someone to stay at her apartment and take care of her cat. Sounded like an ideal job for us. I got in touch and it was a go. But before getting settled at Sally's, we needed to get Rupiah - Indonesian currency. Jim had tried the ATM at the airport but no luck so we stopped at the ATMs at Bintang Market. There are three - again no luck. Wiwik drove us into town (about a mile), one more ATM - no luck but there was a money changer and since he had US dollars, he was able to get Indonesian cash. NOTE....always, always carry some US dollars with you. We learned later that evening, when we were finally able to get ahold of B of A, and even though we had given them a Travel Notice, they still put a restriction on our card when Jim attempted to use it at the airport. Taiwan was ok but Bali wasn't...?????

Finally, we arrived at Sally's and were met by her friend who walked us around, filled us in on the idiosyncrasies and introduced us to Madu (the cat) our ward for the week. Cute apartment but we were tired. After dinner (Jim enjoyed his favorite Nasi Campur) at the Warung downstairs, it was an early night....BUT ...we were back in Bali ????.


Posted by pjburke 22:08 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Taipei 101, Longshan Temple and National Palace Museum

Day 2 and 3

04 January 2019

...and the sun is out, well not when we woke up at 0330...but it's up now. Breakfast again at Sunflower and we're off to the Taipei 101 World Trade Center.

The 101 is the tallest building in Taipei and can been seen from most places when it's sunny. It was the world's tallest building until 2010 when it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai but is still the world's "greenest" building with the highest LEED rating. For more on this building see below:


The Metro drops you off right at the base of the tour. Walking out of the tunnel and you look up...and there it is. Glad I wasn't the only one saying "Whooaa!!" It's really tall.

To get to the ticket office, it's up five flights and then a walk through a very high end mall. There was a line for tickets but then we saw the kiosks with a short line - no brainer. Tickets are $350NT ( abt $12USD). We weren't really sure how it worked but it was just after 11am so we picked the 1130 time thinking that we'd missed the 11 o'clock elevator. No....the line started around the corner and winded through about a dozen shopping opportunities.
Going through the obligatory "photo shoot" it was then another 10-15 minutes to the elevator which was much smaller than I thought it would be.
Once inside it was 37 seconds to the 89th floor - not great for the ears. But the views...from the 89th floor there is a 360 degree view of Taipei and we did luck out - blue sky. There is an observation deck a few floors higher but it was closed. This building also has a tuned mass damper which stabilizes the building during typhoons and earthquakes - which the area is prone to both.


Tower "done" ....it was for lunch and .... more dumplings


Back to the room for a nap....and off to the Ximen area for dinner. Ximen Red House Thai Food got good ratings on line and in Lonely Planet. It was good...not great but good.

05 January 2019

So glad that we decided to see Taipei 101 yesterday - today the clouds have settled in and it's grey.

Two places that have been recommended are the Longshan Temple (built in 1738) and the National Palace Museum (museums are always good for a rainy day)

The rain held off for us to see the Longshan Temple. It was actually quite close - only one Metro stop and a short walk. Being a Saturday it was quite busy with worshipers. It is a beautiful temple in a very understated way.


Now it was on to the National Palace Museum...a museum housed the former Palace. This was a little more of an adventure. We took the Metro in the other direction and got off at Shilin Station and then walked around the corner. Again, follow the crowds!!! to the bus station. Not to worry, there were also signs in English. The 815 or 30 bus drops you off right at the Museum.

This museum covers 8,000 years of Chinese history with over 700,000 pieces over three floors. Quite interesting and quite busy but an enjoyable afternoon..even though I must admit ...my feet were getting tired.


Looking forward to nap time...and it was a quiet evening for us. We were going to take in another night market but sightseeing and jet lag were taking it's toll....dinner close by.....BUT.....YES....DUMPLINGS!!!!


Tomorrow up really early to catch the 0600 Metro to the airport ....next stop BALI!!!

Posted by pjburke 21:36 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Ximen and Shilin Night Markets

semi-overcast 65 °F

03 January 2019....yes it's still the 3rd

Sleep is definitely underrated...We both felt really good after just a couple of hours of sleep so it was off to the Ximen Night Market and the Shilin Market.

Note: We did buy a 3 day Unlimited Metro pass ($380NT =$12). It's a good deal and very convenient. For a couple of dollars more, there is a pass that includes unlimited bus rides also but we'd looked into where we were going and didn't really needed the bus portion.

But..I digress!! We walked to the Ximen Market - only about ten minutes from our hotel. Bright lights, shopping and tons of arcade games - which seem to be very popular in Taiwan.

From there we grabbed the Metro to the Shilin station with a short walk to the Market - just follow the crowds. Again, there were games, food and shopping - we were in it for the food.

Our first night in Taiwan and I wanted dumplings...it might just be a recurring theme while we're here in Taipei. Confession time - I have a bit of an obsession with dumplings and noodles and truth be told - can't really get good ones in Tucson. So here is my chance to indulge - plus I'm definitely getting my 10K steps in.

We ended up in the lower level at the food court and were lured in by the friends face who told us "You sit here!!"....OK. Beer was cold. Jim had the fried squid and me....well...dumplings!!!

Also : warning - Adult content below- Cake in Taipei means just that cake ...nothing more!!


Our first day in Taipei was quite nice. We decided it, like Singapore, it is "Asia Light" which means it's a good place to get your feet wet if you've never traveled in Asia - good food, really safe and many people speak English.

We made our way back to the hotel in the rain. It's supposed to clear up tomorrow - here's hoping it does!!!

Posted by pjburke 19:55 Archived in Taiwan Comments (2)

New Adventures in Asia

Quick stop in Taipei

all seasons in one day 68 °F

01 January 2019

Leaving USA

03 January 2019

Arriving Taipei

So here we go again. As the saying goes - for us, staying home is just not an option.

I've been asked where we get inspiration for our trips. Some locations have been on those wish lists we've had since we were young, others are places we've learned about from fellow travelers but this one was from Jim reading an article in one of those airline magazines. You know the ones in the pocket in back of the seat. This time we have Garuda Airlines to blame.

We were flying, to or from, Kalimantan (our Orangutan trip). It really doesn't matter - he read the article, absconded with the magazine and brought it home. The article was about Raja Ampat - an area of eastern Indonesia.

With this idea planted, he also talked with a couple fellow travelers who happen to be in the "industry" and both spoke highly about how absolutely beautiful this area is. That was all it took. It would be hard to get to, it would be sailing to and through islands which have few or no inhabitants and hardly anyone we knew had ever heard of it. Just Jim's type of place.

So here we are on New Year's Day 2019, we've rented our house for two months and we're on our way back to Indonesia. But...why Taipei you might ask??? We'd never been there - seemed like a good reason to us. We also found a good airfare on EVA Air and for just a little extra we could stay up to a three days on a layover.

Flights were Tucson to LAX on Southwest and then on to Taipei on EVA. We'd never flown EVA before but it got good reviews for safety and travel. Might as well give it a try. On the flight from LAX we booked in Premium Economy class. With Jim's long legs, for long flights we've decided to try and do that as much as we can. EVA's Premium Economy is very nice - good sized, comfortable seats, plenty of legroom and good service. Those 14 hours just flew by...well, at least it didn't seem quite so long.

We arrived at 0600 feeling fairly rested. Leaving the plane and heading towards Immigration we came upon a VERY long line of people. Ok, we thought, this will be quite the wait. Wrong!! The long line was for those who were transiting to other flights (they don't have to go through Immigration). Staying left, we continued to walk past this long line, being thankful that we weren't in it. Once we were past the line, we thought - this can't be....there are almost no people. Seemed a bit lonely. For Immigration, we were the 2nd in line, our bags were there when we got to the carousel. This never happens!! Now, off to the Metro. We took the train into town. ($150NT = abt $5USD). We got off at the Main Station and made our way to our hotel - Amando Inn. We arrived about 0800 - a quick trip, almost seemed too easy.

The Amando Inn had really good reviews and the price was good for Taipei. (abt $80USD). Aly greeted us with a big smile and got us signed in. We were prepared for our room not to be ready and it wasn't.. but we were given tickets for breakfast. The hotel works with a small cafe down the street. Breakfast was good - not really what we would call breakfast but good just the same. Jim had the "Chinese" breakfast (kind of hard to describe - think omelet wrapped in a tortilla chopped into slices, sliced pork and a tarot cake smothered in a bbq sauce) and I had the "American" breakfast (hamburger on a roll with a fried egg, lettuce, cucumbers and tomato)??? But they were pretty tasty and we just needed a little sustenance for the next few hours. After breakfast, off to find a SIM card for our cell and by 10am our room should be ready.


The telcom store we were looking for was closed but Taipei was just starting to wake up. It was about 0900 and many stores were still closed. We'd learn that opposed to many Asian cities that rise very early - not Taipei. It seems to slowly open it's eyes about 10 ....or maybe 11...ish!

Passing a tea shop that was open and we wandered in and after attempts to ask questions of an older man and then a younger woman we were introduced to a young man who spoke English. We were able to taste a couple of different teas and chat with Chin (the owners son who, of course, learned English at Carnegie Mellon). He also let us know where there was a telcom store that should be open and again out wandering the streets of Taipei. With our brick of tea in hand, we headed past the President's Office Building where there was one lone protester standing in front of the entrance in front of the machine gun armed soldier silently holding his banner.


On to the next corner and there it was - the telecom store and yes, it was open.

I have to say that so far Taipei has been an "easy" city. People have been incredibly helpful - from the young lady who got us going in the right direction in the train station, Aly behind the desk at our hotel, Chin at the tea store and now we were to meet Mickey - the young lady that made sure I had the best SIM for what we needed and that it worked correctly and that I could make calls to the USA if I needed......and all this before 11am. And her name English name was Mickey...because she likes Mickey Mouse.

SIM in phone and yes, working great (72 hours of service - $100NT for voice calls, unlimited internet for about $10USD)...and just as we're leaving I received a message (Whatsapp is big over here) that our room was ready, it was time to make our way back to the hotel.

We got settle in our very nice room and CRASHED!!!! Jet lag had caught up with us. Just a couple of hours of sleep to push through!!

Tonight the Shilin Night Market!!!!

Posted by pjburke 18:51 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

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