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Excellent Adventure
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Date:2004-07-16 14:14
Subject:photos
Security:Public

http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?c=10qerpm6.bg00lda&x=0&y=-4vrjrw

I think that should work for viewing the photos. They might make you register or sign in or something. Some of them don't have labels yet because I can't remember where I took them at the moment.

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Date:2004-07-16 01:18
Subject:Home!
Security:Public

We're home! Pictures to follow soon (like tomorrow or something).

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Date:2004-07-14 18:44
Subject:Last day abroad!
Security:Public

Well, as expected we spent today lazing at the beach. I got a Thai massage (for about $7) at the beach, and T got a henna tattoo (lasts for two weeks). Not much else to report, because we basically sat under an umbrella for six hours or so.

There's this pack of dogs that shows up at the beach right around when everyone is leaving (like 5pm). It was really interesting to watch them. They're like a pack of domesticated dogs, so they'll wag their tails and want you to pet them, but at the same time you can watch their pack behaviors towards each other. I thought it was really fascinating!

Anyway, tomorrow is our big day of flying. We'll be arriving at LAX at 9:40pm Thursday. Mom & Dad, I guess I'll meet you at the curb or wherever the international arrivals meeting area is. It will probably take some time to pick up baggage and go through customs or whatever we have to do -- I bookmarked the Cathay Pacific website so you can check if my flight is on time. See you then!

--Jessica

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Date:2004-07-13 16:51
Subject:kata beach
Security:Public

Well, we spent today lazing at the beach. After spending quite a while last night watching TV, we slept in (until 9, not too late) this morning. We had breakfast at the restaurant on the beach where we had dinner last night, then went to sit at the beach itself. They have all these beach chairs with umbrellas out on the beach, and we paid 100 baht (about $2.50) for two chairs for the day.

On the way to the beach I had picked up a beach towel, which came in pretty handy for laying on on the chair (the covering was like plastic or something and so it was sticky). After we got ourselves set up, the first order of the day was spending money, of course. T went parasailing (I wussed out, but I got pictures of her!), and then we both rented jetskis (lots of fun -- may be repeated tomorrow). Each of those was 1000 baht (about $25, for 30 minutes on the jetski). I then rented a boogie board for the day for 100 baht (refreshingly cheap after the jetski), and we proceeded to loaf.

Some things I will miss when getting home: fresh pineapple juice most of all, meals for $2.50, beaches that are not covered with a million people and a ton of trash, and how cheap everything is (hotel rooms for $15 a night).

I thought I had avoided getting burned, but somehow in the span of when I got up from under the umbrella until I had rolled my towel up and put it away, I seem to have burned my arms. I guess I should have reapplied sunblock. Oops! I think it will probably be gone by tomorrow.

Right now we're wasting time in an internet cafe because it's air conditioned and it suddenly got really hot outside. When we're done here, it will probably be dinner time, then more movies on HBO.

See you in a couple days!

--Jessica

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Date:2004-07-12 19:17
Subject:made it to Phuket
Security:Public

Just a quick note to let you know we made it safely to Phuket (pronounced poo-KET). It turns out the hotel we had made reservations at went out of business! We managed to find a different place at the same price though. We're staying at a place at Kata Beach, which is one of the three popular beaches of Phuket island (Patong is the most popular, and the most developed).

So far all we've done is walk down to the beach (which is REALLY pretty) and have dinner (at the beach). The plan for the next two days is basically to sit at the beach and "unwind" (as T put it). They have rentals of boogie boards, surf boards, and snorkelling equipment, so I think we'll have stuff to do. We're also considering a canoe trip, depending on how much it costs.

Unfortunately, our hotel isn't one of these right-on-the-beach resorts. Instead, it's up on this steep hill, and our room has a balcony overlooking the parking lot and dumpster. Well, at least it's air conditioned, and it has HBO! (Though that's the only English channel it has . . . ) It's less than 5 minutes walk from the beach, though. I'm curious how much the beach resorts cost.

Hopefully it won't rain much while we're here -- last night in Chiang Mai there was some sort of tropical storm, and after we got drenched getting back to our hotel from dinner, we could hear the rain really loudly (it sounded like a plane taking off or something). Pretty crazy! It had stopped by this morning.

Our plan for right now is to wander around the town a little and try to find the other beach (Kata beach is apparently actually two beaches). And after our two full days here, a really really really really long day of traveling to get home: Phuket->Bangkok->Hong Kong->Los Angeles! I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and having a really nice shower at home.

--Jessica

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Date:2004-07-11 15:11
Subject:Chiang Mai, day 2
Security:Public

Yesterday afternoon, we spent a while sitting in a restaurant. Basically, it was around 3:30 and we hadn't had lunch yet, but we didn't want to eat and spoil dinner, so we decided to look around for a coffee shop or something. We found a place that advertised "Italian and Mexican Food" and popped in for nachos. Not as good as California Mexican food, but better than nothing! We hung out at that place for a while, and eventually ordered dinner. T got quesedillas and I got ravioli -- yum! I'm wondering if the people running the restaurant used to live in the US or something. After that we went to check out the "night bazaar", which was basically just like the shopping in Bangkok but at night. It's sort of like the valley indoor swap meet, but outdoors.

This morning we went to the Chiang Mai Zoo. It was okay -- kind of dirty, and they let cars drive through the whole zoo. However, they had some interesting animals, and a pair of giant pandas! We got some exercise walking up and down the hills there, and saw more of the fuzzy caterpillars that I saw in Hong Kong (I took a picture of one this time).

After that we went to the Chiang Mai National Museum, which is pretty tiny. As expected, they had a lot of Buddha images, and not much else.

Back at the hotel, we had another mid-afternoon snack (missed lunch again, didn't want to spoil dinner again) -- this time fruit salad and french fries, instead of nachos. After that we wandered over here to check our email and such.

We rode in a tuk tuk last night (they're these three-wheeled motorized taxis, sort of like a motorcycle with a seat hooked up behind it), which we designated as a "real Thai experience." Today we rode in the "minibuses" that serve as taxis in this city (rather than regular metered taxis). Basically it's like a pickup truck, but in the truck bed they put this covered thing with bench seats on the sides, so you climb in the back and sit there hoping you don't fall out. We got covered with nasty soot and stuff from all the exhaust fumes -- just like being back in Beijing! :P

Anyway, we've run out of things to do in Chiang Mai, with prety good timing since we're off to Phuket tomorrow. The only things we really want to do for sure in Phuket are get a Thai massage and go on a canoe trip. The canoe trips go around these islands, and you get to go into caves and stuff while the tide is out. It looked pretty neat! T still needs to buy a swimsuit though.

Hopefully there will also be an internet cafe near our hotel in Phuket, but if not we'll be back on the 15th!

--Jessica

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Date:2004-07-10 14:26
Subject:Chiang Mai
Security:Public

Well, I had typed almost everything up when I hit a wrong button and deleted the entire entry. :P Anyway, our last day in Bangkok was spent shopping for souvenirs, then we successfully made it to the airport for our flight to Chiang Mai. Last night we walked around and looked at some of the wats (there are 300 in Chiang Mai even though it's a very small city).

Today we booked a car (and driver, of course) from the hotel travel agency. They took us first to an orchid and butterfly farm, which was pretty neat. We got to see the butterfly cocoons, which were twitching around while the butterflies tried to get out.

After that we went to the elephant camp! We got there just in time to watch the elephants bathing in the river, and then the elephant show. The most impressive part of the show was the elephants painting pictures! (The elephant soccer was pretty impressive too.) They trained the elephants to paint pictures of flowers. Pretty neat!

Next we got to go on an elephant ride (using a special elephant saddle!) through the surrounding jungle (in the mountains). It was pretty awesome, and a great value for the money (about $7 for a half hour ride).

After that we stopped at a monkey center where we got to play with a little monkey and we watched a monkey show. Apparently monkeys are used in Thailand for harvesting coconuts, because they can pick twice as many per day as people can!

Finally, they took us around to some factories, where basically they talk to us for two minutes and then we shop for overpriced goods. We didn't buy anything, and they took us back ot the hotel. It was a little interesting to see how lacquerware is made though.

Now we're back, and I guess we'll have to figure out what we're going to be doing tomorrow. Only a few more days!

--Jessica

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Date:2004-07-08 09:51
Subject:Bangkok, day two
Security:Public

Yesterday we made our goal to visit the National Museum. We didn't get as lost this time, so it was a pretty quick walk! We stopped at the National Gallery on the way to check out traditional and contemporary Thai art. It was pretty cool! Unfortunately, like nothing is air conditioned, so we were baking the whole time.

After that, we made it to the National Museum, which is pretty big! Unfortunately, all the really cool stuff was photography prohibited. They had a hall about Thailand's history, then artifacts from all over Thailand and other parts of Asia. Particularly cool were the royal burial chariots and the Buddha images. We stopped for lunch at the museum's kind of sketchy restaurant.

There was a pretty big variety of stuff, from prehistoric ceramics to Thai clothing from the 1920s. There were so many Buddhas we were starting to get sick of them! They had an entire room full of fancy elephant seats (for the royal family to ride comfortably on elephants) and stuff like that.

We spent pretty much the whole day at the gallery and the museum, then headed back to the hotel. We stopped for dinner at a nearby restaurant (pretty tasty), then went up to our room to while away the evening watching TV and reading.

Our plan for today is shopping for souvenires. I bought some postcards at the museum shop yesterday, so hopefully I'll get around to sending them tonight. Our first challenge is to figure out how much to bargain down a taxi driver to take us to the shopping area!

Also, in case you were wondering, we're watching the news about bird flu and such.

--Jessica

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Date:2004-07-07 09:56
Subject:Bangkok, Day 1
Security:Public

We slept for about 12 hours (after having gotten up at 4am the previous day). Our hotel is nice and the beds are comfy! We also have a real shower, with real hot water and real water pressure. So nice!

We went down to the buffet breakfast, which is included with our room. It was pretty good -- they have both Western and Thai dishes. We checked our email (didn't post because we had nothing to say yet) -- there's an internet cafe across from our hotel, luckily. After that we hung around the hotel for a little while, had lunch at the hotel restaurant (another buffet, very tasty), and got ready to go out.

We went to the Palace and its attached wat (a Buddhist temple). The Palace was built in the 1700s by a King who decided the last palace wasn't good enough. We got pretty lost on the way there, and were broiling in the heat, so we stopped in 7-11 a couple times to cool down in the air conditioning. Finally, we made it! The Palace/wat has a pretty specific dress code (long pants or skirts, closed toe/heel shoes, shirts that cover your shoulders), but we had prepared in advance.

The place itself was really awesome. It has these huge buildings and spires and such that are covered with gold and colored stuff. There were some really awesome murals all over the place, as well as sculptures of lions and Buddhist images. Inside the wat is the "Emerald Buddha," which is actually made out of jade (a really really big piece of jade!). The Buddha is at the top of a very complicated golden altar, and the rest of the room is covered with murals depicting Buddhist legends.

We didn't linger too long, because we were baking in the heat and about to die of heat exhaustion, but I took a lot of pictures! We grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and paid way too much (think of it as a lesson in bargaining -- next time someone tells us it will be 150, we should respond with "10" instead of "75"), but at least it was air conditioned.

We stopped by 7-11 (there are like a million 7-11s here -- sometimes there will be two across the street from each other!) for some soda and ice cream, then went back to the hotel.

After our brief foray into the heat of Thailand, we decided to stay in the rest of the day (it was around 4pm). Luckily, we have a choice of about 3 TV stations in English (as opposed to 1 in Beijing), so we watched TV and sat around. In our extreme laziness (and feeling like we were in the lap of luxury with a nice shower, soft beds, and air conditioning), we ordered room service for dinner (which was actually cheap, like less than $2 per dish). Unable to stay awake, we went to sleep around 10, and slept until 8 this morning.

Our plan for today is to make it to the National Museum, which is supposed to be the biggest museum in SE Asia. Here's hoping we don't get lost on the way to this one!

--Jessica

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Date:2004-07-05 19:54
Subject:Bangkok
Security:Public

We made it safely to Bangkok! Obviously we haven't seen much more than our (nice) hotel yet, but so far it's far less nasty than Beijing, but a lot hotter. Tomorrow we're going to try to buy plane tickets to our other Thailand destinations (Chiang Mai and Phuket), and maybe see a wat or a museum or something. We're planning to mostly just take it easy in Thailand.

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Date:2004-07-04 16:33
Subject:more Beijing
Security:Public

Yesterday the internet was being flaky so we couldn't post, but here is an overview.

We got up at the crack of dawn (5:30am) so that we would be able to have breakfast and be ready at 7 to leave on our guided tour to the Ming Tombs and the Badaling (Badabing!) Great Wall. The tour bus drove around picking people up from other hotels for like an hour and a half, before we finally headed out. The "English-speaking" tourguide had a really thick accent so we could hardly understand him. We were kind of disgruntled because in addition to foreign tourists, the bus picked up this load of Chinese tourists, who in typical middle-aged person Beijing fashion had no sense of personal space. These two women sat down behind us and leaned all over our seats, and even though I kept shoving this woman's elbows off my head, she kept putting them back. Argh! These guys had cell phones that were constantly going off really loudly, and for some reason they all have to shout into their phones instead of just speaking normally. Another guy was picking his nose and flicking boogers all over. Gross! We're trying to be culturally accepting, but it's still kind of nast (in T's words). Throughout the rest of the day we kept moving seats around because the people who got stuck sitting in front of the two women once we moved didn't want to sit there again either.

The first stop on the tour bus was a jade factory (read: tourist trap), where we got to peek at people making jade carvings for a couple seconds, then got a while to browse their overpriced jade store. I couldn't resist buying a little jade turtle though.

After that, we headed to the Great Wall at Badaling. This stretch of the wall is the most accessible, which means it's the most crowded (blah!). It was pretty impressive to see the wall and stand on top of it, but we decided not to go all the way to the top of this mountain peak. Also, after squishing through the crowd at the first tower, we didn't want to think about what the other towers would be like! The strange thing is that near the Great Wall they had these like zoo enclosures with bears in them. Strange! Also, people were constantly trying to sell us stuff, but the only English they know is "hello" and the name of what they're selling, so people kept yelling "Hello T-Shirt! Hello! Hello! Hello post card! Hello!" It got pretty irritating after a while.

The next stop was lunch (thankfully, as we were totally starving) at a "tourist restaurant." I thought it was pretty tasty, T thought it was "unauthentic."

After that we went to the Ming Tombs. We got to see this tower and a little museum place with a big statue of Emperor Yongle (pronounced Yong Le, not like 'dongle'), and the mountain that the underground palace is inside of, but we didn't actually get to go into the excavated sites or anything.

The last stop (once we were all falling asleep on the bus) was a Chinese medicine academy. Here, someone talked about how Chinese traditional doctors determine your balance of yin and yang by taking your pulse with three fingers on each wrist, then they got to take our pulses and tell us what was wrong with us and why we should waste our tourist money on their medicines. They told me I'm too fat and so my liver function must be bad, and they told T she's too skinny so she must have chronic gastritis.

Finally we got to go home after that. The bus breathed a sigh of relief when we stopped to let off the Chinese tourists. I was saying that it seems like everyone over 35 here is really rude and nasty, and T says it's because they lived through the Cultural Revolution (I'm still not totally clear on what that was).

We got back to the hotel at like 7, where we had for dinner: a mini-muffin with strawberry filling, a banana, one corn puff (I bought a bag of "sweet corn puffs" but they were more MSG than sweet), and chocolate milk for me, and a bag of Chips Ahoy, one corn puff, and water for T. We were exhausted so we just went to sleep.

This morning T's cousin came to pick us up, and we went to his apartment. He and his girlfriend took us out to lunch, which T claims was "pretty authentic." (I don't see what's more authentic than eating at a restaurant *in* China, but whatever.) The scary part was getting to the restaurant -- T's cousin drove us on the back of his motorcycle! If I haven't mentioned already, traffic in Beijing is really, REALLY scary. It's scarier on a motorcycle (which scares me even at home). At least we were only going like two blocks and we were going about 10mph, if that. Anyway, lunch was HUGE and very tasty. T is always making fun of "unauthentic" foods like mushu pork, but we had Peking Duck, which was basically like mushu duck (I'm failing to see how changing duck to pork makes something less authentic).

[T: Let me clarify my beef with "unauthentic": I just don't like it when people's only conception of Chinese food is Panda Express.]

[J: Of course the "unauthentic" food at the tourist restaurant was nothing like what they serve at Panda Express, especially the whole fish.]

We had a "true Chinese experience" (T's term) paying for lunch, where we threw money back and forth across the table until her cousin relented and took it.

T's cousin is a medical student, and since T was curious, he took us to the hospital to look around. It was really depressing. The hospital is in this beat up old building, and it's really dirty, and all the equipment looks like it's at least 20 years old. There were also surprisingly few people there.

After that we went back to the subway and made our way back to the hotel. T laughed at people on the subway who were trying to understand what we were saying, because they assumed she didn't speak Chinese. We grabbed some ice cream at the store downstairs, and headed up to relax. I sent 10 more postcards today, hopefully they will get to their destinations before I get home. I know I still owe a couple people postcards, but they will probably arrive after me.

Tomorrow we have to wake up REALLY at the crack of dawn (like 4am) to get to the airport for our flight to Bangkok. Our main plan for Thailand is to relax in our hotel, and avoid being broiled alive outside or choking on polluted air (according to T's guidebook, Bangkok is really polluted like Beijing).

I've been in Asia over a month now, which is kind of scary. Happy Independence Day, by the way! Anyway, I think we'll be ready to go home ten days from now. [T: I concur.] (and she's only been in Asia for two weeks!)

--Jessica

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Date:2004-07-02 21:32
Subject:Beijing, Day One
Security:Public

We made it safely to Beijing! We were so pooped last night that we decided to wait to post, and this morning we wanted to get moving. But here we are!

hotelCollapse )

Beijing is nastyCollapse )

today's activities!Collapse )

I have postcards and stamps, so I'll try to send some tomorrow. I still haven't sent the postcards from Taipei! Oops. At least Beijing is cheap!

For reference -- only 13 days until we come home. [Valley-ism: Dude.] Actually, speaking of the Valley, while we were at the Forbidden city, this guy heard us talking and asked what part of the US we were from, and we said Los Angeles, and he asked where in LA, and we said the Valley, and he said, "Dude! We're from the Valley too! Where do you live, Northridge?" T told him she used to live there. Pretty weird, running into Valley people in Beijing! Or, as one might say, duuuuuuude.

--Jessica

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Date:2004-06-30 19:45
Subject:Tokyo, last day
Security:Public

Today we went first to Tokyo station to buy tickets for the airport express train (and to see how long it would take us to get there). We're hoping that the subways start running at 6am, or else we won't make it to the 6:30 am airport train. Of course, we had breakfast first -- baked goods and Starbucks.

After that, we went to the Bridgestone art museum, which has a surprising collection. First, they have all these strange random really old things, like part of a statue from Mesopotamia in the 24th century BC, and pieces of an Egyptian sarcophagos and such. After that, they have an impressive collection of impressionist and modern art (Monet, Rousseau, Picasso, and many others we can't think of right now). They had "The Thinker", which we were surprised to see because for some reason we thought it was in Europe somewhere or something! We sat around in the museum (it was raining outside so we didn't want to spend much time outside) for a while chatting, then it stopped raining and we went to go find the Kite Museum (supposedly has lots of kites and such). On the way, we exchanged our Taiwan money to yen, so we would be able to have dinner. To celebrate, we had lunch (bento boxes from a department store basement, and Starbucks in the subway station).

After much searching, we couldn't find the kite museum! We have no idea where it went, because I swear we walked past its marked spot on the map like five times. Eventually we gave up because it was 4:30 and it supposedly closes at 5. We found a nice courtyard where we sat and chatted some more (like all the museums and gardens and everything close at 4 or 5), then headed back to the hostel.

Our flight to Beijing (via Hong Kong :P) is at 10 tomorrow morning, so unfortunately we need to get up majorly early. We'll be in Beijing for three full days, so our plans are to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Emperor's Summer Palace. Not sure if we'll have internet, but we probably will.

Goodnight!

--Jessica

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Date:2004-06-29 18:34
Subject:Tokyo, day 2
Security:Public

We actually got up before 10 today and had a cheap, artery-clogging breakfast at McDonalds before heading out to the Imperial Palace Gardens, where we wandered around for a while ("wandered around" means "walked for five-minute intervals stopping at air-conditioned rest houses along the way"). But it was still pretty.

Then we made our way to the Ueno Park area, where there was a bakery. Bread was consumed in the Tokyo National Museum, which has lots of Asian art and artifacts, along with an Egyptian mummy. We spent most of the afternoon at the museum though we only saw half of it.

We had dinner at a conveyor-belt/monorail restaurant and came back here with a quick stop for juice (for J) and ice cream (for me). The discerning reader will note that our daily diet consists mainly of bread, ice cream, and water.

I have about 6 bug bites. And a centipede fell on me yesterday. Also yesterday while eating dinner we saw a ghetto-chic store called "Da Clothing."

-- Tiffany

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Date:2004-06-28 21:44
Subject:Tokyo, day 1
Security:Public

After sleeping far too long, we finally got up this morning and had breakfast at Starbucks (which was overpriced, and the hot chocolate, like the hot chocolate in Taipei, was not really chocolate but some other thing that was not doing a very good job as a substitute).

Tokyo is not nearly as hot as Taipei, Hong Kong, and Singapore were, so we're wallowing in the coolness. We tried to go to the Imperial Palace, but apparently like everything is closed on Mondays in Japan, so our attempt was thwarted!

Instead, we took the subway to Shibuya (a downtown-ish area), where we wandered around and walked to Meiji-jinguu, which is a Shinto shrine built to honor Emperor Meiji in like 1920 or something. It had a nice garden, and was (like all the Shinto shrines) a nice building.

After that we walked to Harajuku, where we sat around people-watching for a while. Harajuku is the prime people-watching spot in Tokyo, because young people go there to parade around in their unique fashions. We saw some pretty interesting stuff, along with quite a bit of Engrish. There were some people going for the Rastafarian look, which was interesting, as well as some Gothic Lolita girls (search google) and lots of random other stuff. After that, we wandered around the shops in Harajuku, which was kind of funny because there were a lot of "ghetto chic" stores. Once again, they had hired black people to stand outside their stores and say "Yo, whassup? Yo, Yo." I heard one of them speaking Japanese, and his Japanese had a pretty strong non-English accent, so I think they must be from like Africa or somewhere instead of the US. There were also a lot of Japanese pseudo-gangstas, wearing hugely oversized basketball jerseys and such.

We had dinner at a little cafe (spaghetti, Japanese style), then headed back. After a quick stop at Ministop (convenience store) for ice cream (for me) and candy bars (for T), we came back to the hostel, and here we are.

Tomorrow: Imperial Palace, attempt number two, and hopefully Ueno park.

--Jessica

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Date:2004-06-27 21:10
Subject:Made it to Tokyo
Security:Public

Well, we made it to Tokyo. It was a pain to find all the trains to get to the guest house we're staying at, but here we are. Tiffany says, get me out of this city! The trains were pretty wacky and confusing, and the guest house is what she terms a "hippie den." We're in a dorm with 6 other girls, and they like live here full time because it's cheaper than renting an apartment.

Anyway, it certainly is budget. Compared to the place Ben and I stayed at in Kyoto, it's pretty depressing. Well, hopefully we can just sleep here and stay out the rest of the time.

The point of the entry is we made it here safe. Hopefully seeing cool stuff in the city will make up for the poor accomodations.

--Jessica

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Date:2004-06-26 21:41
Subject:taipei, last day
Security:Public

T's one interjection before J writes the entry (because people don't like my writing, tear): last night we went to cashbox in taipei, which was mad expensive but WORTH IT BECAUSE THEY ACTUALLY HAD LEON LAI'S 'ZHONG AI QING YOU' which I have been absolutely unable to locate in any U.S. karaoke place. and MC Hotdog! (Mark, are you reading this?!?!)

Okay, my turn now (I tried to make T write the whole entry but she refuses!). Today we bummed around for a little while, then went to lunch with T's relatives at Din Tai Fung (apparently a famous dim sum place) - yum! Of course, when I bit into a juicy dumpling, it squirted juice down the front of my shirt. At least today I had the sense to wear a black shirt! After that, we went to Ice Monster (another well-known place I had never heard of) and had this dessert which consists of shaved ice topped with mango and mango ice cream. Pretty tasty!

We made a stop at T's grandparents' place and had some sliced fruit, then headed to the Taipei Municipal Art Museum. The art museum was all modern art, and had some interesting stuff (all by Asian artists, which was interesting considering how little of the art in the US is). I bought some postcards, so if I can find a mailbox and a stamp vending machine tomorrow I might send them (otherwise they'll get sent from Tokyo).

After that, T's aunt drove us up this crazy mountain to a hot springs, where I got to take pictures of scenery! It was incredibly stinky though. I don't understand how people can bathe in something when the smell from quite a ways away makes me sick. Anyway, it was pretty and interesting, if smelly.

We drove from there to this area up in this mountain where they have all these flower gardens (Mom, I bet you would have liked it). We had dinner at a little place under a covered thingy (pseudo-outside) [T's interjection: you know you're eating authentic food when there are ants in the noodles and aphids in the sauce], which was pretty tasty. T's relatives ordered three desserts (sweet potato soup, sweet potato on shaved ice, and some sort of jelly boba tapioca ice thing)! I am so a fan of sweet potatoes. Yum.

After getting lost driving down the mountain, we finally made it back, and here we are. Tomorrow we're off to Tokyo! Not sure what the internet situation will be, but it's a hostel so it will probably have internet there.

I've been in Asia for over 3 weeks! :-O [T: O.O @.@] [J: o_O;] [T: now I am le tired.]

--Jessica

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Date:2004-06-25 19:35
Subject:Taipei, another day
Security:Public

Today we slept in way too late (we were up late doing laundry last night), then putted around T's aunt's apartment for a while eating baked goods and watching music videos. It was raining so we didn't really want to go out. Eventually it appeared to be dying down, and we though maybe we'd go browse some stores and hit up a museum (so that we wouldn't be outdoors too much).

After browsing the Sogo department store and a stop at Starbucks for salad and people watching, we headed toward the subway. Another quick stop was made at a music store, where I bought Japanese CDs at reasonable prices for once (like $20 for an album, instead of like $40). After that, we made it to the subway. The rain had stopped! So we decided to go to Danshui, which T said was a more scenic area. Good choice! There was some nice scenery around the harbor, and we wandered around a bunch of shops at a night-market like place (though it wasn't quite night yet, but whatever). I bought a bunch of souvenirs for people, finally! We also saw such interesting things as squid on a stick (it looked really gross, but I guess it must taste good), and I managed to order ice cream at McDonald's by pointing at it on the menu and smiling and nodding a lot.

After coming back, we had dinner at the food court under Sogo, then made our way over here to check our email.

We're thinking of maybe karaoke for tonight, and then no idea what we're doing tomorrow.

This internet cafe is kind of funny because it's full of all these guys playing like warcraft or whatever, and then like all the girls in the place are checking their email or livejournal or something. My only goal for tomorrow: find postcards somewhere. I still owe like 10 people postcards.

--Jessica

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Date:2004-06-24 20:56
Subject:Taipei day one
Security:Public

Today we woke up at like ten. After dragging ourselves out of bed, we had some baked goods for breakfast and then found an Internet cafe (hence previous post). We headed over to the National Palace museum after that, which included several stressful conversations in Mandarin between taxi driver, random museum guy, and yours truly. The museum itself is being renovated and has a lot of soothing Chinese paintings and a lot of ancient pottery from like 4000 BC. And a jade cabbage! Unfortunately, they do not sell umbrellas, which we desperately needed upon looking outside at the pouring rain. Oh yeah, for lunch I had a Haagen-Dazs ice cream bar, and J had meat and rice and a Haagen-Dazs ice cream bar. Anyway, we ended up getting soaked to the bone trying to get back to the taxi stand, and I nearly slipped and fell on my ass like 10 times (damned frictionless flip-flops). J bought a cheery blue umbrella at the Shilin subway station. (But she hasn't used it yet, and if it doesn't rain tomorrow she's going to be kind of annoyed).

Then we made our way to the Taipei 101 mall, which is located by the tallest building in the world (that is still under construction, as we found out by getting into an elevator and discovering that the buttons were impotent). J bought some lemony handmade soap (with sand in it) from Lush -- awesome British soap store. Then we swung by the Japanese bakery and consumed more baked goods. Then I tried on some shoes from Benneton's new Formula One line, which were very cute on the stands but not so cute on my feet (J is not a fan of pink polka dots -- which look like bubble gum stuck to the shoe -- or green polka dots -- which look like a frog got sick).

Then we went home. Food tally up to now: baked goods + ice cream (and some meat and rice).

We just had dinner and are now suffering from food coma and Starbucks withdrawal. Next stop: Starbucks.

-- creator of pretentious drivel, Tiffany

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Date:2004-06-24 11:28
Subject:made it to Taiwan
Security:Public

We made it to Taipei last night, and had dinner (yum!) with T's grandparents.

Not much else to report yet -- we slept a whole lot, and then came out to an internet cafe to check email and such. Plans for today are to visit the National Palace Museum and check out the Taipei 101 tower (currently the tallest building in the world).

More later!

--Jessica

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