Hong-Kong Punk and Pottery

School is tiring sometimes, right? Not really, but for me, it’s a good enough excuse to get out after that long and arduous first week of my last year at University. I designed my schedule so that I have Monday’s free to go on adventures. It means that my Thursday is pretty rough, but at least I have a three day weekend. I want to see Hong-Kong more before I start heading out internationally around Asia. I’ve been downtown around Mong Kok and the central part of Hong-Kong island. For those who haven’t seen too much of Hong-Kong, I’ve only seen the touristy bits so far. Even though I’ve seen it, I go back to Mong Kok to walk around a bit. There’s something about all of the shops that really makes my wallet heat up with anticipation in my pocket.


Today I hop off the bus and walk around lower Mong Kok.




My only real goal of the day is to buy some new headphones because my Apple headphones of three years violently tore in half. May they rest in peace, as they’ve been replaced by shitty knock-off Chinese clones of themselves. But hey, they were cheap.

Now that I’ve done the only thing I had to do, I get out and wander around Kowloon, the area of town at the tip of the Mainland Peninsula.

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There are plenty of markets and shops to wander around, as well as the pretty impressive Kowloon park to stroll through. Complete with an aviary and Chinese garden, it’s a good way to escape the city.


Ya, alright, this part of the day wasn’t so exciting to write about. So let me get to the fun part of the day:

I forget how I found it, but the internet told me that an Indie underground music festival was going on. It really looked underground, with only a Facebook page and around 100 people going. I figured “sure, I’ll go if I’m not too busy

All I had was free-time.

The sun has gone down, and I’ve missed half of the festival, so I figure I can get a ticket for half off. I hop on a bus going North to the Jao Tsung-I Academy, the festival venue.

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In the rain, I walk around looking at my Google maps. A Buddhist monk walks by in long grey robes, holding an umbrella in one hand and his free hand hidden in his sleeve. We awkwardly end up going the same direction, so I walk a comfortable distance behind him through the rain. Pitter patters of rain fall on our umbrellas and his flip-flops clop through the wet street. ‘Tranquility’ is the only word I can use to describe how the scene, the kind of weather one could probably reach Nirvana in. As I approach the Academy, a different kind of Nirvana gets dragged into my ears. In the distance, I hear the unrelenting sound of a heavy kick drum and some incoherent screaming. The monk has now disappeared and been replaced by a tattooed metalhead. I’m in the right place.

Smiling faces, long hair, black clothes, and tasty beers invite me as I walk through the threshold. I approach the woman at the ticket booth sitting outside, and try to convince her to give me a half-price ticket. I come up empty handed, but my ticket includes three drinks so I guess it’ll be enough. Since I’m supporting local underground music, I have no problem paying full price.

The plan is to only stay until midnight, maybe 1 am if it’s really good. Not knowing anyone, I walk into the hall to a pretty small crowd of around thirty people. But this small crowd felt huge, as people danced around in a circle mosh pit to the Nepali/Hong-Kong Trash Metal band, Bidroha


Yes, they were every bit as badass as Nepali Trash Metal sounds. Hong-Kong High Schoolers were having the best time, thrashing around in the tiny mosh pit. One thing I love about metalheads is how relentlessly they fling themselves into each other. It’s so violent, but as soon as someone falls down everything stops and the mosh-pitters make sure the fallen warrior is picked back up.

The next band is Self-Ox Randomness, some experimental techno/dark ambient stuff that is a bit harder for me to follow but pretty unique.


I pop out for a minute to grab a beer and check out the merchandise. There are a lot of expats here, maybe about half of the crowd. Jade, a locally born teacher of half-British and half-Rhodesian decent who’s lived literally everywhere on Earth picks up a conversation with me over the cool t-shirts. Neither of us can find Punk-buddies to go to concerts with, so we team up for the rest of the night and make a future music pact.

It’s amazing how completely at home I feel here. At my study abroad University, it’s been a bit more difficult to fit in. People are nice, but of course, it takes time to really connect with anyone. But there’s such a strange sense of family with metalheads and punks. I felt the same way walking around Kraków (check out my earlier post here) before an Iron Maiden concert when all the Metal Heads were out enjoying the city. Back in Denmark, I work at a punk bar and constantly surround myself with crazy, beautiful people who thrash out all of their aggression in a mosh pit before hanging out with you for a beer. Because of that, I feel like I can talk to anyone at an underground concert wherever it may be. I feel just at home in my bar at Denmark, or this festival in Hong-Kong, or a punk coffeeshop in Denver. At the end of the day, we all just want to hear good music.

And good music we received.

The next band 不平之鳴 The Squawk was spitting out some Cantonese Hardcore Punk (the good stuff). I never expected Cantonese to be such a great Punk language, but it turned out perfectly gritty and grungy.


At this point in the night, I started feeling artsy so I went black and white.

The bartender forgot to stamp my 3-beers-only card (a couple times) so I ended up getting a few more beers than I was allotted. I started getting really talkative, and took pictures and mingled with everyone in my new underground HK community.


I’m not at all an angry person, but there’s something so amazingly cathartic about thrashing on a beer-soaked dance floor, surrounded by screaming and loud drums with floor thumping bass. Honestly, all I want to do after a big concert is pet kittens.

Next up was a pretty weird band mixing some punk, ska, reggae, and funk into an eclectic mix. But it was pretty fun to watch.


Perhaps the best band of the night was an ambient noise band called Blackmass//Siren. This gig was their first time playing live, and they owned that stage. Candles were lit, lights were turned off, and in the near pitch black a man in a plague-mask came out and began playing the cello. Then a long-haired guitarist started chiming in, while a DJ mixed it all together and made it into a masterpiece of ambient experimentation. It was one of the most interesting new bands I’ve experienced.


Midnight has come, and I’m still enjoying myself. I’ve made friends with the organizer of the event, who brings around some free beers for us as we sit outside chatting. According to Jade and some Australian English teachers, this is one of the best underground shows they’ve seen in Hong-Kong. That’s high praise, but I can’t believe that a city of 7.6 million wouldn’t have more underground venues. Further exploration necessary…

I’m starting to get sleepy at this point, so I stay for one more band. Some good old fashion Rock n’ Roll played by Mocking Bullet was a perfectly relaxed way to end the night.


Jade and her colleague and I head out, we all want McDonald’s but we all have to go separate ways. I only get McDonald’s when it’s past 1 in the morning and I’ve had a few too many. So I’ll have 1 McChicken, please, extra sauce.

My ride home is an hour-ish bus ride, which is a long time but I’m happy it even exists. If I were in Taipei, I would have to ride a rental bike home at this hour (read about my time in Taipei here). That’s one of my favorite things about Hong-Kong so far, that just about every part of the country is reachable in under 2ish hours at nearly everytime of day. I make it home eventually, and pass out for a lovely night’s sleep.


Last night wore me out a bit, but my alarm gets me up at 8:30 so I can get out in time. I haven’t done pottery in three years, but I’ve constantly been telling myself I’d start taking classes. Now, I laid down my credit card and signed up for four classes in the month of September. I couldn’t bring my guitar from Denmark, so I’m viewing ceramics as my creative expression until I get back home. The studio is down near Aberdeen, on the Southern side of Hong-Kong island, so I’ve got quite a trek ahead of me.

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I feel so nostalgic as soon as I get off the bus. For some reason, it reminds me so much of neighborhoods in Sydney when I lived there as a kid. Beyond the fact that there are a ton of Aussie expats, the graffiti-covered buildings and humid summer heat make me feel like I’m out for slushies with friends on a hot Sunday.


Pottery class goes by too quickly. The sensation of moulding something in clay is so soothing, something I had missed in these years. I make two cups, from pinching and coiling. They’re pretty rustic but I like them so deal with it.


After class, I walk around a bit and find a packed hipster pho restaurant to eat at. It’s delicious and pretty filling. I head out next to Hong-Kong central area, the other side of the island I’m on. I don’t have anything in particular to see, but I stop at some other locations of Mee&Gee second hand for some cheap shirts. They always place them in cool market areas, so I spend a few hours just wandering.




I even pass a protest, which is a favorite Hong-Kong past time.


As an exchange student, I can’t really say I have a problem with housing (I live in a dorm) or finding a job (I’m not allowed to). But from what I’ve researched, the Hong-Kong housing market is nearly impossible to understand. Wages are low, and housing is nearly Manhattan (if not more) price for even less space. It’s absolutely a problem worth stopping traffic for.

I also take my first tram ride, which is my new favorite way to view Hong-Kong. It’s old and rickety, but the double-decker trams have rolled down windows to keep the cabin cool and allow tram-goers to people watch. One view I get is of locals making a weekend shanty town out of cardboard.


I guess when the apartment gets too tight and stuffy, locals get out and make their own apartment for the day. People have little picnics, play games, dance, whatever. It looks like fun but it increases the population on the street to a nearly uninhabitable amount of people.

I walk around a while more, going to a night market before last nights adventures catch up to me and I feel a good night sleep is all I desire.



Today I’m not in the best of moods. I’m not sure why, but I just sleep in and lounge around for a bit. It’s not the best way to spend a free day, so I get off my butt and head out East to the 10,000 Buddha Monastery.

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It’s a steady hike up a forested hill, and I drip through my shirt in the ridiculous humidity, but the views from the top are worth all the drenching.


On the way up, 10,000 golden Buddhas greet me on my sweaty ascent.


The monastery itself isn’t overwhelming, but being able to see so many golden Buddhas in one place is pretty special.


This is also my first walk through Hong-Kong’s nature, which proves to be much more spectacular than I could have imagined. I hope for many more hikes in the future.

The last thing I need for my room is a plant. Just something in my room to keep the air nice, and give me a little living thing to keep around. In Denmark, I go to IKEA for my plant needs. Not only is IKEA my favorite place on the entire planet, it also has pretty good plants for a good price. Since the universe always provides, there’s happens to be an IKEA right next to the monastery. That’s Hong-Kong for you.

I walk around and nearly begin to sob as I wander through the modern and tastefully decorated aisles. I don’t have a deal with IKEA, but if they ever asked me to sell my soul and do advertisements for a Billy bookshelf and a lifetime supply of meatballs, I’d do it in a meatball-filled heartbeat. Anyways, I almost sobbed because I felt so at home and happy. I complain about Denmark a lot, but I do adore that country and its people to bits. Walking through the halls of IKEA make me feel at home, back in my room in Aalborg where it’s cold and rainy outside but oh so cozy and hyggelig on the inside. I haven’t been in Denmark in more than two months, and I had no expectation over how much I would miss it. I sit with a good cup of coffee and a kladdkaka (Chocolate Cake) for a legitimately happy moment of Scandinavian bliss. I’ve decided whenever school gets to be too much or I’m ever feeling unhappy, IKEA is the first place I’ll go. It’s only a bus ride away.

I didn’t even end up buying a plant…


Restless in Hong-Kong

I stand, waiting in line at the Hong-Kong airport for my Metro card. A Chinese man steps up behind me, and his bowels decide I need a proper initiation with a long-winded, open-armed flatulent vibration as if to say “Welcome to Hong-Kong”.

I’ve just landed after an 8 day trip around Taiwan (read more here), which was filled with charming people and equally charming landscapes. Now, I find myself in one of the most densely populated areas of the world. This immediately sinks in on the bus ride to Lingnan University, where I’ll be staying for my second to last semester at university. The bus goes directly from the airport to Tuen Mun, a city close-by, and takes just over an hour through the coastal roads and mountainside. But in between the mountains, I see apartment skyscrapers that must house more people than the entirety of my Danish town. In the rain, they look run-down and overused, as I’m sure far too many people have been living under those roofs for too long.

After the hour is up, I get off in Tuen Mun where I stumble around trying to find the bus that goes to Lingnan. I completely forgot that they drive on the left side of the road here (because Mainland China drives on the right), but I guess it was a British colony so it makes sense. Eventually, I find the correct bus in the rain and make my way to my new University.

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I completely ditched the orientation week (Taiwan was calling me!) so I had no idea where anything was located, or where and how to get to my hostel. Google maps led me to an administration office, where a nice woman is surprised to see me arriving so late, but checks me in none the less. She sets me up and points me in the direction of my dorm.

Here, a portly and bald Hongkongese man with a huge booming voice checks me in and gives me the keys. I run upstairs, and see that my room is completely empty. There are cabinets that I suppose a mattress is supposed to go on, and my desk, and my roommate’s stuff with no roommate in sight. I run back down and ask “is there a bed?” to which the security guard laughs and looks around at all his papers before yelling,

“Oh! Yesss sorry sorry.” He gets up and goes to the back of his office, and comes back with a bag full of bedding, smiling “Welcome, to Hong-Kong!”

Now that I had my bed sorted out, I unpack and settle in.


My IKEA bag is still going strong!


I’ve found a Singapore coffee cup in the hallway and make it my own, and get everything squared away and ready. Then finally someone opens the door. Having a roommate was the part of this experience I was most dreading. Dorms aren’t a thing in Denmark, and everybody has to find accommodation on their own. So back home, I live in a large private room with a shared kitchen and bath. Here, I would have no kitchen and a large shared bathroom and a small room. So I was obviously worried, thinking I would get some freshman Hongkongese kid with no life experience who would be struggling the whole semester. To my delight, Johnson walks in, a local in his Junior year with a good social life, Johnson is the least Hongkongese person I’ve met so far. Most people from his country see life in a very definitive way. They follow all of the rules to the dot, and anything outside of those rules is unimaginable. But Johnson seems to be quite the opposite and is extremely talkative and friendly. So far so good.

Now it’s Wednesday, I’ve only been here for one night and I’m already restless. The canteen is closed, so all food has to be from restaurants since there’s no place to cook. Nobody is on campus since classes don’t start for a week, and in general, I’m already a bit ready to see new things. But first, I want to head into town to do some shopping. I’ve been living out of my IKEA backpack since the end of June, so there are some basic things I’d like that I really miss. Like a large towel, for example. I walk to the nearby train station and am reminded just how huge this place is. Keep in mind, I’m living in the ‘suburbs’


I head downtown, about 30 minutes to Mong Kok district, where you can buy anything and everything. I’m confident that if you wander around Mong Kok, you’d be able to find whatever your heart desires no matter how ridiculous or impossible. Ski boots? We have several ski stores. Parachutes? Right around the corner. Unicorn horn? Sure, what color would you prefer that in? It’s a jumbled up mess of stores and people and is an unforgettably eclectic experience for anyone that wants to do their shopping in a couple blocks.


There are some really touristy blocks, and some off the beaten path areas as well. I head to Mee & Gee second hand, Hong-Kong’s version of Goodwill, for some cheap goodies. I’ve pretty much been wearing the same white Hanes t-shirts from Target for the past two months and could use a spice up. I bought three pretty nice shirts for $10, and decided that when winter rolls around I’ll come back for sweaters and parkas. This place has everything, even things that fit my long proportions.


Finished with shopping, I head back out and down to Hong-Kong island to see the neighborhood my roommate recommended I go see. It’s an old market area, with a lot of traditional medicinal shops.


About now, the rain is beginning to pour while the weight of 7.6 million people stands on my shoulders. It’s raining, I’m struggling to find my way through all of the people, and I’m beginning to lose my composure. I’m usually great with big cities and stressful situations, but something about Hong-Kong’s downtown makes me irritated quickly. I hop back on the metro and head home before it gets too late and rush hour traffic sets in.

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I get back and relax a bit. I figure I have four months to explore the area better, and that it’s okay to do it in little bits. My biggest goal, now, is to find where to go next. I have until Tuesday before classes start, and I most certainly do not want to be in a quiet school for that. My entire Thursday was spent on my computer, looking at flights and prices and hostels deciding what to do, and where to go. I would stand up, walk around a bit, then come back and sit back down pondering where to go. Then all of the stars align perfectly, flight times and prices and hostel availabilities, and I decide:

Kuala Lumpur.

My only exposure with Malaysia comes from going to the only Malaysian restaurant around in Denver. We discovered it once when I was a teenager, going to the Pearl Street farmers market on Sunday’s. One time, we discovered a little restaurant freshly opened up called Makan. It was their first week open, and the owners treated us to a tasting of all of the goodies and drinks that they made. My tongue danced to Nasi Goreng, a delicious stir-fry, or perfect Malay curry. To wash it all down, I had a sweet and creamy glass of cold Teh Tarik, Malaysia’s answer to Chai tea. I grew interested in this country I had rarely thought about and decided I’d add it to my future backpacking trips when I was an ‘adult’. Now, I found myself on a four-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur.

My first impressions were great, simply from the kindness of the stewardess’. I hadn’t eaten anything and decided I’d just buy a muffin and a coffee on the plane. When she came around, she said cash only, so I held out a HK$10 note (about $1.25) and asked: “Is that enough?” She shook her head, poured me a coffee, and brought me some chicken pasta free of charge. I didn’t really know how to respond to such an act, but just said thank you and did my best to be a good passenger.

Soon, I’d be in Kuala Lumpur for only 3 days. A proper Weekend Rambling adventure.

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I arrive pretty late and take the train into town. Instantly, I don’t know how to take it all in. It’s certainly one of the most multicultural places I’ve experienced, just from sitting down on the train. Caucasians, Indians, Chinese, Buddhist monks, and women in burkas, all on my tiny train car. It’s an amazing group of people to hold under one city. Kuala Lumpur itself is pretty up and coming, with a lot of highrises popping up throughout.


My hotel is in Chinatown, which is conveniently just one stop away from Central Station. I walk about ten minutes to my place, the Space Hotel, which was much nicer than I had expected. I wanted a quiet place, in a decent location, and I only ended up spending $9 a night for this place. Oh, it was so nice. It’s like staying in a pod on a spaceship. But not those little pods you see Japanese businessmen stay in. This pod was huge, with its own air conditioning, TV, and lighting. It was honestly the most luxurious place I’ve stayed in for $9. I don’t really want to leave the pod, so I Facetime Ivana and share the moment for a bit.

Now, I’m getting a bit hungry so I put out a hangout on Couchsurfing that I want to grab some food. Some people are interested, but I’m way too hungry to wait so I head out to the street in search of goodies. I come upon a little stand serving Tandoori chicken with fresh baked naan and daal on the side. I sit and wait for some couchsurfers, enjoying my spicy and tender chicken. Soon enough, Saaiyed, an Omani engineering student with a big smile, shows up and we talk for a while. He’s incredibly curious about my life, and we end up having a great time just sharing our lives before Oregonian Hannah, who is also staying in my hotel, shows up. It’s so refreshing to talk to Americans when you’ve been on the road, just because you can make obscure cultural references that no one else understands. Hannah and I instantly hit it off, doing Scottish accents and making obscure jokes from The Big Lebowski or Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Saaiyed is pretty much in the dark here, but he keeps a smile on his face and enjoys our nonsense. Then later on a Somali bio-engineer, Mohamed, shows up and joins in. He’s just as confused as Saaiyed about our jokes, but they have a good attitude about it.

We head to the main bar street, where Saaiyed and Mohamed grab a juice while Hannah and I grab some beers. Fireworks start setting off in the building across from us, for unknown reasons, and we have a great time sharing stories underneath the explosions.


The space pod is so comfortable and luscious, it’s like sleeping in a little cave. I sleep in a bit too much, until about 11 am, and head out for some breakfast. I don’t have a direction, I just wander. Along the way, I walk past the China Town market which is full of little plastic trinkets.


The streets are relatively empty on a Saturday morning, and the sun is out and blaring which makes it unattractive to walk around. Luckily, a lot of the streets are covered like in Taiwan.


It’s not the cleanest of cities, but it does feel a lot cleaner and less populated than Bangkok or Hong-Kong. It’s a lot more relaxed, which makes me happy to be here.


Along the way, I pass by the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, which is the oldest Hindu Temple in Kuala Lumpur. The figures outside are sun bleached, but still beautiful.


Finally, I come upon a restaurant worthy of breakfast (more like lunch) dining. I find Ali, Muthu & Ah Hock Kopitiam, which seems like a pretty local place because only one other Caucasian guy is eating here today. The walls are coated in a patina of chipped blue paint, with posters and pictures of old Malaysian celebrities along the walls.


A long-haired waiter serves me one of the best pieces of fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life. Nasi Lemak, a chicken leg coated in shaved ginger breading and deep fried until perfectly tender, served on rice with a ginger chutney. On the side, a pulled and perfectly creamy Teh Tarik. I only wish to have breakfast this good for the rest of my life. Total cost: US$2.90.


It’s making my mouth water just to think about it. Yes, I licked the bones clean.

I consider getting one more but decide it’d be best to get out and see the city. A quick train ride back to central station gets me to Brickfields, the Indian neighborhood.


I had a big plan of wandering around temples and stopping in for flawless Indian food, but I didn’t find too much here. I began to wander, and was quite disappointed by everything. The neighborhood is run down and broken in many areas. A bit sad, I begin walking back to the train station. Then, I hear drums in the distance.


I follow them through broken concrete streets until I come upon a temple with a full-on party and feast going on out front.

I wish I could have stayed, but I didn’t have a good way in. Instead, I headed back and found a little shop to sit for another teh tarik.

Next to me, a blind man sits with a box of Malaysian flags he’s selling. The seats are different shades of bright greens and yellows, and the waiter is a little disappointed that all I want is tea. It’s a great people watching spot, so he’s going to have to get over it.


When I emerge from this photo, an Indian man is standing over me, smiling keenly. “Where are you from?” he says with a thick accent.

“The US.” I say, not quite trusting him yet.

“Oh ok.” His features soften and he steps back a bit. “I don’t have anyone in the US, but a lot of my family lives in the UK. I work for the schools, so I get sent all over the world for conferences a lot. UK, Kyrgyzstan, Denmark, everywhere.” His teeth aren’t quite straight but crooked in an endearing way. Fernandez, a Catholic from Karala, tells me of his story and how he’s just come here to scope out the office he has an interview at the next morning. Smart plan, Fernandez. We talk for a while, then he decides to leave and shakes my hand goodbye.

The blind man sitting next to me then reaches across the space dividing us, handing me a piece of paper, “Please, can you read these numbers please. I can’t see them well.”

“Of course,” I read the long list of numbers on the sheet he’s handed me while he holds an old Nokia directly up to his right eye, punching in the numbers as I read them off. There are a lot of blind people around here (there must be a doctor or a center), which I notice as a blind man quickly crosses a busy street. I can’t imagine how terrifying it is to navigate a city blind. It’s terrifying and difficult enough to get around a city with sight.

I pay for my tea and start heading towards the Islamic Art Museum. I love the geometry of Islamic Art, and I hear Kuala Lumpur has an amazing collection.


Near a big park, the Islamic Art Museum is in a sort of ‘Muslim Heritage’ park, with the National Mosque and some other important buildings.


The Museum itself is huge, encompassing a large amount of antiquities and models of Mosques from around the world. The architecture itself is amazing, with giant domes encompassing the complex.


I’m happy, and head out next to walk around the park near the Museum.


It’s a huge jungle, with one of the largest walk-in aviaries in the world. Had I had one more day, I would have gone to the Bird Park. But just then, I got a text from Hannah who had just woken up and was ready to go hit the town. We meet up in Brickfields with another girl from the hostel, Tatiana from Buenos Aires.

We have a plate of biryani served on a big banana leaf, eaten with our hands. This is my first major exposure to Indian culture, other than spending the weekends with my Indian friend’s large family growing up. It’s interesting to have that experience in Kuala Lumpur, but it’s so massively diverse here that I’m not surprised. I don’t feel out of place here. No one gives me a second look. There’s everything, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, from all countries and ethnicities. Nothing is weird or different in this city, which is beautiful.

This beauty extends to one of the greatest skyscrapers I’ve ever seen.


Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers offer one of the most pleasing geometric compositions on modern architecture (in my opinion). We walk around the park in the back, among the many cultures looking and enjoying the weather and the view. It’s the perfect time for one of my invisible selfies.


Nearby, there’s the Lot 10 Hutong, a food court in the basement of a department store. Here, the owners asked the city’s best food stalls to open up a shop.


It’s a collaboration of all of Kuala Lumpur’s best spots, everything from Indian to Chinese noodles to Malay Nasi Lemak or shaved ice. It’s everything in one spot, so we sit and enjoy for a bit. Saaiyed shows up eventually, and we decide to head out and go walk for a bit.


We go bowling for a while, but there’s no beer served so I can’t feel like The Dude from the Big Lebowski. Hannah’s a little white trash so she wins it all. Along the way back home, we stop at a little smokey bar for a game of pool and an expensive beer. I’m also a little white trash, so I clean up at pool. Bars are expensive everywhere I’ve been in Asia, I guess because there isn’t much of a bar culture here. In Denmark, bars feel like the only place to socialize in the winter time. You just show up in the dark for a few pints with some friends for a good time. But in a place with no winter, I guess you can meet your friends somewhere a bit more normal. So places like the bowling alley work for us, and it gives us a good memory for the night.

Hannah and I come back with a can of Tiger from the 7-11 and decide to drink it on the hostel porch. We make eye contact with a couple of blonde people, and decide to go over and talk. We meet Justin and Anna from The Netherlands, and talk for a while over their recent trip to Sri Lanka. They’re staying in the two-person space capsule, which sounds amazingly luxurious. A pact is made that we’ll meet up for breakfast at 10:30, so we all head to bed and get back into our spacey chambers.

I wake up and meet Justin and Anna promptly. I tell them about the restaurant I had for breakfast the day before, and they seem pretty interested. So we make our way, looking at food stalls and shops on the route.


Sunday is a much busier morning at the restaurant. I order the same thing and Justin follows suit, while Anna gets two boiled eggs with a side of toast.


I’m not sure if it was as religious for me as it was for them, but I’m just happy I got to eat some more of that Nasi Lemak I love oh so much. Anna’s eggs come out softer than soft boiled, so she asks for harder eggs and gets a couple cooked like a rock. Maybe I should stop giving recommendations for places. But they have a good attitude, and I hope they enjoyed.

We walk back, and by that time Hannah was finally awake. Justin and Anna want to go to the big shopping center to look for some electronics, and Hannah and I want to go see the tigers at the National Zoo. We hop on the metro and make our way there, stopping in a tiny town just off the metro that seems to have a large Chinese population. There are some festivities for the Hungry Ghost Festival, with fires being stoked for money burning and a puppet show warming up.

We stop for a bowl of noodles, and get a Grab car (Malaysia’s Über), for a ride to the zoo. We arrive around 15:00, excited to finally see the animals at this zoo, which is supposed to be amazing. I don’t know why, but I’ve really been wanting to go to a zoo for a while. I try not to anymore, just because it’s not the most pleasant place to be. But every now and then I just really want to see a bear or a tiger, and there aren’t many places to do that. We walk up to the ticket desk, and find out that it’s a steep $20 to enter. As well, it closes in an 1:30. The woman working behind the desk says “Don’t even bother today,” so we head back out. It’s a bit unfair, because Malaysians only pay a fraction of that price. We get another Grab, and tell the driver how expensive the zoo was.

“That shouldn’t be too much for you,”

It was enough, my friend. Our grab driver takes us a 20-minute ride to the Batu Caves, something I had had on my list but did not think I’d be able to make. It’s a Hindu temple complex made into a giant cave, with a large marketplace out front. We arrive at a hectic Indian market scene, of people selling beads and sarungs and blankets for low low prices. Out front is a large temple, certainly the largest I’ve seen, which has been freshly painted to look as crazy as the party that must have happened in here earlier today. The ground is littered with all sorts of little pieces of garbage, but it must have been fun.



Hannah’s been on the road traveling through South East Asia for the past few months, but this is the first Hindu temple she’s ever been to. Come to think of it, it’s probably my first as well.


Next, we go outside and gaze upon the rainbow stairs leading up to the caves.


The caves are guarded by the giant statue and a hoard of monkeys.



We climb the many stairs, weaving through the monkeys and tourists.


Finally, we make it to the top and come upon a scene out of Indiana Jones.


Prayer drums are beating through the cave walls, horns are blaring, and incense smoke wafts through the moist air as bats scurry overhead. It’s a serenely unique experience, and feels to be a truly holy place.


The souls of all of the people that have come here to pray can be felt in the cave atmosphere. It’s a ‘good energy’ kind of place, offering more positivity than I could have imagined. This was completely worth the trip, and I’m glad to have seen this over the zoo at this point.


Outside the prayer cave is a much longer, darker natural cave which gives tours on cave life. The line is a bit too long, but if I had more time a cave tour could be pretty interesting.



We descend back down, weaving again through monkeys and tourists back to the market.



The rain is beginning to fall, and as soon as salesman start covering their wares, people start heading to the metro to get on the train back into town. It was packed. So we took another Grab car! But it’s cheap, so we feel little shame in doing so. The driver tells us there were just 12-year celebrations at the temple, which explains why there was such a huge party. I wish we could have seen that, but it must have been the reason for the party at that first temple in Brickfields.

The Grab car drops us off at Heli Bar, a rooftop bar that a local couchsurfer told me to check out. I didn’t want to go to the top of the Petronas Towers because of the price ($20), so instead went to a bar and bought a cheap beer. Can’t beat this view.


Hannah and I sit for a few hours, waiting for the towers to light up in the dark night. A dress code is imposed at the bar after 21:00 so our flip flops won’t fly soon enough. We wait, just in time to catch a glimpse of a beautiful nighttime cityscape.


This is a great people watching the spot, seeing all of the characters from all walks of life showing up for a view and a drink. All to see this.


Magnificent, no? We’ve seen our view, and our bellies are full so we head back to Lot 10 Hutong, right around the block, and meet up with Saaiyed for some dinner. I’m starting to get pretty tired, so we head back and grab a 7-11 beer for the balcony along the way. We sit with our beers, talking about movies and shows until I decide I have to get some rest before getting up at 4:00 am to catch my flight.

People always ask me something along the lines of “Aren’t you lonely traveling alone?” but the truth is, you’re never alone when you travel solo. There’s always someone to meet, someone to talk to, and hundreds of beautiful souls to share a moment with. We’re all just social creatures looking for other people to spend time with, and traveling always reinstates that feeling in me. Whenever I do truly feel lonely, I force myself to travel. I believe the feeling of loneliness is the mind craving its own solitude. The mind wants to be alone for a second and to discover that there truly is no such thing as loneliness, just appreciating time on your own. I think about this, as I lay alone and happy in my little pod before drifting off to sleep.


Thank you for reading this long long post. I apologize for making it so large, but I just wanted to talk about my travels. Thank you for your support, and please leave comments if you liked it or feel I can improve! I won’t be traveling for at least a month, but I’ll be writing about my little trips around Hong-Kong, so please subscribe and stay updated with everywhere I end up!


Tying it Together in Taichung

Mist falls as I walk around a neon glow reflecting off the puddle surfaces in the street. A resounding feeling of calmness drifts over me as I can’t help but smile over the beauty of it all, the beauty of Taiwan.

Day 6

I wake up at around 5 am, to the neighbors of my room waking up to see the sunrise. I wish I had the energy and wherewithal to join them, but I can’t be dragged out of bed this early in this humidity. I do finally get up at around 8 am, and stumble into the kitchen to see the two neighbor girls awake and cheery. I say good morning, and decide to go out for a coffee. The gate to the hostel has a security door that can’t be opened from the outside, until the owners open it fully. I wasn’t expecting them to wake up until about noon, so when I left I kept the door just a crack open chanting the prayer “Please don’t  close the door, neighbor girls, please don’t close the door.” I run out for coffee for five minutes, and come back to find that the door is glued shut. The girls have left, and left me outside without my phone.


I try everything to get that door open. Reach broomsticks into unknown crevices, put umbrellas down random holes just to try to spring something lose. Nothing happens. I’m a bit mad, so I just sit down on the street and drink my coffee hoping that the owners open up the hostel. I sit for about an hour with no noise or movement, just sitting in the scorching sun progressing my sunburn before I realize I can run to Izone’s sister’s bakery downtown and ask her to call.


When I arrive after the fifteen minute walk, I’m greeted by Izone’s sister’s boyfriend from New Zealand. He calls up Drori, who is begrudgingly awoken, and when I head back, I find Izone and Martin wide awake having opened up the hostel. That timing never works out in my favor.

Regardless of that silly morning, we sit and drink coffee and enjoy each other’s company.


The people at this hostel have been absolutely amazing. I’ve felt so much love and kindness from strangers, which is one of the most precious things one can gain from travel. After many hugs and loving goodbyes, I walk with my backpack through the city and too the train. Today’s destination is Taichung, Taiwan’s third largest city and my final destination before flying to Hong-Kong. To get there, I sit on another train for about four hours, at the price of around $18. I don’t have to change trains at all, but the seats I’m in are booked in random places so I have to change seats three times before finally making it to Taichung.

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I arrive fairly late, around 17:00 and in the rain. I don’t have the space for an umbrella in my big back so I’m forced to take refuge going from coffee shop to coffee shop, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because watching the rain is one of my favorite chill things to do. Instantly, I can tell this city is a bit more rough than Taipei. There are many more immigrants here, which I learned as I’m heckled by a group of Indonesians followed by some Vietnamese while walking from the bus station. Aesthetically, Taichung doesn’t feel so different from Taipei. Maybe it’s a little less crowded, but other than that the buildings look pretty similar with the same restaurant lay out and basic city design. I’m staying with a couchsurfer tonight, and she won’t be ready for me until about 20:00, so I take my time in between noodle shops and coffee shops to watch the rain.

When we do finally meet up, I completely get the address wrong. I walk into a building, show the doorman the address and ask “Here?” he shakes his head from side to side, and says.


What is that supposed to mean? I call Su, the couchsurfer, and make sure. She says I’m all clear so I take the elevator up and knock on the door, to be greeted by a middle-aged lady in her pajamas who is outright horrified to see a 197 cm Caucasian on her doorstep. I say “Ni hao”, but she just looks at me and slowly closes the door, wondering why on Earth I knocked on her door.

I give Su another call, and she says she’ll come down to meet me. Turns out I was in the wrong alley. We walk across the street, to the correct alley, and go up to her apartment.

She’s an English teacher, but she wants to be a chef. Her two kids, 7 and 9, aren’t home tonight so we take some time just to talk. It’s interesting to finally stay with a Taiwanese person and see their home. She has a fairly decent apartment, but she sleeps on the couch because she gives the big ‘guest’ room out to Airbnb’ers and couchsurfers. I think it’s incredibly hospitable, even if she gives the excuse of it being because her kids are afraid to sleep far away from her. I sleep like a baby in the big guest bed.

Day 7

I wake up and meet Su in the kitchen. I sit drinking coffee, looking out on her view of the rainy city. She gives me some advice on things to see for the day, then all of a sudden she shouts ‘GO! What’re you still doing here?!” followed by uproarious laughter that fills the room. She’s the good kind of crazy.


Today’s first stop is Sun Moon Lakea photogenic and postcard perfect lake up in the mountains South-East of here. To get there, take bus 6670 from Shuangshi Road, just next to Taichung Park. Taiwan also uses the EasyCard, which is a little card you can buy at a subway stop for $3, charge up with money, and which you can use to pay for all transportation in the country, public bikes, food, convenience store purchases, and more. The ride was supposed to take about 1:30, but due to unforeseen reasons it took about 2:30.

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When I arrive, I realize I can only stay for about 1:30 hours so that I can make it back to the city in time to see everything else. I give the lake a little walk around, although it’s the second biggest in Taiwan so walking around the whole thing would take forever. But well worth it if you have time! It was raining the whole day, so my views weren’t as picturesque as they could have been.



While it may not be as picturesque, the weather certainly does provide a contemplative atmosphere.

I walk around a bit more, hearing monkeys howling in the distance and bikers pass by in the mist.

I hope you’ve liked these little videos, I find it calming to make them somehow. Let me know if they’re cool!

It’s pretty, no? I wish I had more time to spend here, but the next thing I want to see closes at 18:00, so I have to make the bus back just incase it takes 2:30 hours again. The rain has started to pour at this point, and I sit beneath the bus station waiting in line for the bus back to Taichung.

Luckily, this bus takes the promised 1:30. I arrive at the Taichung High Speed Rail Station and take a bus for 15 minutes to the Rainbow Village.


It’s a spot where a man started painting around in the buildings of his neighborhood, and he’s been doing it for decades. It’s become a bit of a tourist attraction, even in the rain.


I love walking around, seeing the vibrant paintings of people and text. It’s a great way to beautify a neighborhood.


A forty minute bus ride gets me the National Theatre, which is an effort to modernize the city’s architecture.


But I think the neighborhood it’s in, in the North District, is very modern and beautiful. It feels exactly like some neighborhoods of Tokyo, with shining high rises, little boutiques and bakeries. The added drizzly rain makes the atmosphere even more Japanese. I walk around in the rain, dropplets coming down from my umbrella and feel an unequivocal sense of calm.

I walk about twenty minutes, to slowly the awakening Fengjia Night Market. The first two night markets I went to in Taipei were smaller scale. Fengjia is a full blown Night Market, going on for blocks of neon glow and fried squid butts.



Today’s longest line was as close to the squid butts I may get. These are Osaka style octopus balls. Start out by frying some octopus bits. Then, add the pancake batter. Toss and turn and jingle them around their little hole until you’ve got a gold brown ball of molten octopus goo. Eat it lava hot, fresh off the griddle, because it gets pretty gross when it’s cold. When I went to Osaka with my family as a kid, I was afraid to eat it lava hot, so I made the mistake of waiting until they were room-temperature. I remember putting a cold ball of pancake into my mouth, feeling is smoosh into a liquid pancakey goop. It was disgusting. This time, I made sure to eat them straight off the griddle.

I really really wanted to like them. I love pancakes, I love octopus, I love Benito flakes and Kewpie mayonnaise. But I really hated these. They were just as gooey and gnarly as they were when I was a kid, the only difference was that they were giving my mouth a good third degree burn this time. At least I tried (and they’re probably better in Osaka).

But as in any night market in Taiwan, it doesn’t take long to find another food stop.


The neon glow is so enticing, I feel like a mosquito flying around these streets.


I love it, all of these people and colors and the smell of fried goodies floating through the air.


I want to make sure the last thing I eat in Taiwan is worth it. I wander the streets for an hour, looking relentlessly through stands of chicken feet and intestines and sautéed mushrooms. Then, I find them.


Delicate, elegant, freshly made and steamed right in front of me. Soup dumplings, oh how I’ll miss you so. I eat the little dumplings, savoring every last bite without caring how the other customers feel about my obvious looks of ecstasy. Oh how I want to be a vegetarian, but how can I ever when things so perfect as this exist in the universe. From now on, I just want to be a dumplingtarian. Vegetables only until I find soup dumplings. Seems smart.

I wander around the glow, filled with bliss and harmony from my soup dumpling experience. Taiwanese love the claw grabbing game, and make little arcades out of them. But I’ve run out of cash so I can’t play, which is a bummer, because here’s a fun condom one.


I’ll take my condoms claw-punch free, thank you very much. They’re tantalizingly close from falling though, I should have just shaken it. But that’s another weird thing I’ve noticed, there are so many different condom brands here! In Denmark, I’ve got one brand by the cash register, two if the shop is a little bit ‘risk-ay’. But every convenience store sells at least eight different kinds, Chinese, Japanese, American, all the brands, colors and flavors of the pre-lubricated latex spectrum. I’d never be able to make a decision, with all those options. But I digress…

I walk back to Su’s apartment in Central District. I’m filled with such a strange and amazing feeling of joy. I just walk around the quite streets, enjoying every little moment and thing about them.


I really enjoy Taiwan. Maybe it is the fact that it looks so Japanese to me. Maybe it’s the fact that soup dumplings and beef noodle soup are some of the tastiest additions to the culinary universe. More likely, though, it’s the outstanding nature and the people that inhabit it. I haven’t come across a single rude or unkind Taiwanese in my week here. I’ve only received smiles and welcoming arms from the people. At times, it can feel a bit like being an Alien to be in Asia as a Caucasian. I certainly felt that in Korea, when I would sit down on a metro and people next to me would stand up (maybe I just smelled bad). Here, I get the occasional glance, which I think is due to my relatively gigantic stature in this region. If anyone does stare at me for longer, it’s probably just to make sure I’m okay and feeling comfortable. I think it’s rare to find places that make you feel as welcome as Taiwan has made me feel.

It’s also rare for me to travel to a place and say, “Sure, I’d come back here again.” I would absolutely come back. I’ve been in Taiwan for a week, and I’ve only traveled through half of the sweet potato shaped island. I’ve only seen a few things, and there are so many things I had to cut for lack of time. I should go back and spend a few days doing day trips from Taipei. I should see more on the West coast. I should see Taroko Gorge and the East coast. I should see all of the South coast. There’s simply so much to do on this island that it makes traveling here kind of difficult to plan. But every moment I’ve spent has been a happy one, and I would come back anytime.


I get back to Su’s apartment to find her asleep on the couch. The kids are back, and she’s tired. We just talk for a bit, and I take a shower while she puts the kids to bed and falls asleep with them. It’s a loving household, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here. I fall asleep, thinking about my next stop.

Day 8

I wake up to the sound of children being little elephants. But they do make for good alarm clocks when waking up early. My flight to Hong-Kong is at 11:00 this morning, so I have to be on the bus to the airport by 7:30 at the latest. Su has made a bowl of congee (rice porridge) for me, with mushrooms and some chunks of leftover meat. It’s a great way to start the day. I play with the kids for a while, and Su as impulsive as ever says “We have to go to the bus it leaves soon!” So we rush out, saying goodbye and hugging and part ways. I wait at the bus stop for a while, and see Su and the kids across the street waving at me. They come over, and Su explains that the kids actually forgot that they’re still on vacation, and don’t have to go in for school today after all. So they wait with me, and we snap a picture. I should have put my backpack down because it makes me look like a turtle.


They’re such a sweet family, and they’ll be the first I call when I come back to Taichung. I hop on the bus, and make it to the airport for my next stop, the conclusion of my seemingly endless backpacking journey since the end of June when I first left Denmark. Now, I would finally be unpacking my bag for more than a week, at my new dorm room at Lingnan University in Hong-Kong. But that won’t be the end of my travels. While I still may have a thing called “school”, I’ll make the time to explore Hong-Kong and Asia. I am pretty excited to unpack my bag though. The plane is only about an 1:30, and I’ll be in my new home for the next four months.

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Thank you so much for joining me this far! It’s been so great to write, and to allow myself the time to talk about and internalize my travels. At the same time, it’s been so amazing to have people from all over the world read about it! Thank you for being a part of my journey, and I promise to keep up with a Hong-Kong journal. There are plenty of Weekend-Rambles to come!

Surf Town Toucheng

Burning money, ringing gongs, and hungry ghosts abound as I clean black sound out of my ears in the sea-side town of Toucheng.

Day 4

I take my time getting out of Airbnb. The airconditioning is oh so sweet, and there’s some drizzle coming down outside so I figure “Let’s lounge around a bit”

When I finally drag myself out after checkout, I find a little grill shop and get one of those delicious bacon-cheese-pancakes I adored so much from the day before.



This one’s not as tasty as the one from the day before, but who can complain when they’re eating a bacon-cheese-pancake?

No one.

I eat up and head out. I don’t have a real tight schedule today, but I’m planning on going to little surf town just south of Taipei. I sent a couchsurfing request to someone in this town, not knowing where it was or why people go there. She was too busy to take me, but I did find a surf hostel for $13 a night. You put those two words together and I’m all yours. Surf hostels are filled with the chillest of people, just looking to sit on the beach and catch a few waves. I’m horrible at surfing, but I think it’s so much fun. So I hop on the train and head about an hour South.

Trains are nice in Taiwan. Japanese train level nice. Fast, clean, and efficient. Since it’s Taiwan, I only spent about $6 for my ride as well. The ride goes up through the misty mountains past Jiufen, then right along the North coast for half of the ride.


I completely did not expect it to be as nice as it was, and when I arrived in Toucheng I wished I could have sat and stayed longer.

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There’s rice paddy’s, little old ladies walking their grandchildren, and those same misty mountains out of a Chinese painting. The town itself is stunningly adorable. All of the buildings are blocky and worn down, but the lifestyle here is so lovely. It feels a lot like Japan. It’s also impeccably clean everywhere I’ve been in Taiwan. Cars are relatively spotless, and the streets are devoid of litter. For a country where I hardly see public trashcans, the streets are remarkably clean. I constantly see shop owners hosing down their storefronts and chefs hosing down the street kitchen and giving it a scrub. From what everyone has told me, mainland China is very much the opposite. So for those that appreciate Chinese culture and a good clean atmosphere, Taiwan may be the place for you.


People are so friendly in this little town as well. I’ve received several ‘Hello!’s from passing scooters, and smiles from shop owners and passersby. I walk to the hostel, and see two Europeany guys pass by on bicycles. I figure they must be at the same hostel, I mean come on there can’t be that many white guys in a little town like this.

Lo and behold, when I do finally make it to the hostel I’m greeted by Martin, a Dane, and Drori from Israel. They were running into town to fix one of the hostel’s bicycles, so I sat and watched them while we introduced ourselves.

They’re still working, so I run and get some lunch. My trick of going to the busiest restaurant leads me to a Vietnamese pho shop, which makes an excellent beef pho that tastes like it’s straight out of Ho Chi Minh.

I wander back, having seen all of the cities 3 streets. The bike is finally fixed, so Martin and I hop on bikes and Drury takes his skateboard for a ride to the beach. We get lost twice along the way, but eventually come upon a huge black sand beach filled with surfers and lazy beachgoers.


Drori and I go for a swim, getting black sand everywhere and enjoying the perfectly warm waters. It’s an excellent beach, with pristine clear water and devoid of any jellyfish (as far as I can tell) or garbage. I don’t feel like surfing now, but the waves do look good enough to be able to catch one or two.

We hop back on our bikes and skateboard and head down the “scenic route”. That’s a long narrow bike path running along the ocean, and it’s every bit as perfect as it sounds.


There’s even a statue of this mysterious guy, posing in perfectly 70’s disco-ready tight shirt and bell bottom jeans. No clue who he is though.


On the way back,  we stop at a tea shop where you can tap and seal your own bubble tea. It’s delicious and cheap, and not at all sweet. Just tea and tapioca.


We sit in the park and enjoy our big sips of tea, enjoying the cute town. When we get back, it’s gotten pretty late and I feel it’s about time for dinner. I have a roommate in my two bed dorm, a Frenchman named Olivier. We just say hi, and decide to go for dinner. Olivier is gluten free, which takes a lot off the table for us. We ride bikes under the neon glow, strolling past shut down restaurants and gluten filled noodle stands. In the end, we go to a fruit stand and buy some grapes, a dragon fruit, and a mango. I buy a cup of noodles, just because I’m getting used to having soup at every meal.

We get back around 21:00 and share our fruits with our hostelmates while talking about all of the mind-bending trips we’ve all been on. Martin is dating the Taiwanese owner of this hostel, Izon, and they both met Drori because Drori’s girlfriend is Martin’s girlfriend’s best friend.

Make’s sense?

But they met in India, on one of the endless journey’s India seems to be. It’s on my list, absolutely, but I’ll need to take a few months off to go experience all of it. We talk, and Olivier and I decide it’s time for bed. There’s no air conditioning, and the fan makes a little squeak above my head every time it passes by. But without it, we’d probably sweat to death.

Day 5

I wake up, to a shirtless Olivier shaking the bed asking if I want some coffee. “Five more minutes”

“Okay, meet me on the beach then.”

I linger in bed a while, enjoying the fan slowly push moderately chilled air across my body. I get up, have a cup of tea, and ride the bike back to the beach.

Olivier said he would be by the first surf shop. But which one is the first? The one on the left or the one on the right? The beach is packed with little surf shops, renting boards out for the day. I wander with my bike back and forth, up and down the black sands looking at a sea filled with more surfers than water. Someone runs up to me, “Hey! Can I please take a picture of you?”

“Of course,”

I strike my exotic, tall long haired white guy with a bike pose. This causes attention, and a random pale guy out of nowhere shows up. His curly hair pushed up almost into an afro, speaking with an Irish accent glistening with hilly dew. He says he wanted to talk to me because he saw I was Western, and we talk a bit about our lives while the cameraman runs back in the ocean.

“Is there a surf hostel around?” He says, in his decadent brogue. “I want to find a place to live and work for free, so I can go to Chinese school.” I show him the way to the hostel I’m staying at, but warn him it’ll be a good 45 minute walk. He heads off, red afro waving in the wind while I stand and watch the sea for a floating Frenchman.

After about an hour of waiting, I decide to head back. The moment I pull my bike in, I see Olivier sitting outside on his phone, “Where were you?” he says.

I guess we just missed each other.

Olivier is heading to Taipei, so we go back to the tap your own tea shop and sit under a great old tree before his train departs. I wander back, and meet Drori outside. He says it’s time to surf, after he finishes the chapter in his book, so we sit in the heat and read for a while.

Even though it was cloudy on the beach, I’ve gotten a bit sunburnt. I run for some sunscreen and slather myself up before we head to the beach. We run up and down, asking everyone for the price of a board rental. The cheapest we can find is $11, so I open up my goody bag of stuff I brought only to realize I forgot my wallet in the hostel.


I cycle back as quick as possible, cycle back to the beach, and get my board. Drori and I head into the water, and quickly find out it is not a good day for surfing. The tide is really low, and the waves are breaking to fast and not carrying on. I’m not a good surfer, but I do know that those are not good waves. I try for an hour or so, getting pushed around in a rough tide before deciding to take a frisbee brake to see if the tide changes. A short Taiwanese guy with a giant marijuana leaf on his shirt joins in for a while, smiling as if this were his first time throwing a frisbee.

The tide stays the same.

So we go get noodles. As we sit, fire crackers go off all around us as a tiny procession of gong and horn players pass by, playing loud cranky music. People are also lighting little fires in front of their houses, and leaving little food offerings all over the place. Apparently, it’s the hungry ghost festival. I’m not 100% sure what it’s about, but apparently hungry ghosts are walking among us during the next month, and it’s our job to give them some fake money, which is burned so they can use it, and food offerings (please leave a comment to correct me if I’m wrong). Otherwise the hungry ghosts get hangry, and cause a mess for everyone. Part of the festival must be playing horns and gongs loudly too, shooting off firecrackers to scare away the hungry ghosts. I’m not sure how this started up, but I’m glad I got to see some festival culture while I was here.

Drori and I head back after our noodles, and find that Martin and his girlfriend Izon are out. The door is locked, so we sit on the porch and flick coins into a bucket for a while. Then Drury gets upset after losing so many times, and just decides to try crawling in through the high window. He opens up the window, balances on two chairs, and like a honeybadger crawling through a meerkat tunnel, squeezes his way down into the building to unlock the door. They teach you some crazy life skills in the Israeli military.

Drori cleans up the kitchen and I read for a while, and eventually Izon and Martin come back and start preparing some dinner. Drury and I head to get some beers and ice cream from the store, and when we return there’s a beautiful meal set and ready.

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I think Izon even impressed herself a bit with this one.

This meal feels very Japanese inspired, with a lot of the dishes being available in Japan as well. Izon says her grandmother grew up having to learn Japanese, as it was still under Japan’s rule back in the day. We eat and talk, and after dinner burn some money for the hungry ghosts and tell them we have some wine, rice, and junk food for them.



The combination of feeding hungry ghosts and surfing tired me out, and I have my final Taiwanese destination coming up tomorrow. So far I’ve seen the big city and the small town, and I’m sure whatever is next will be equally charming and rewarding.

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Thank you guys for reading! I hope you have been enjoying reading about my travels so far, and please feel free to comment or like if you feel. I’ve got a lot more coming, so remember to subscribe to stay updated!

Lanterns and Spirit Bathouses

Rain falls, and I feel like a Spirit walking to a bathhouse in Spirited Away.

Day 3

I decide the best way to start the day is to go to a local breakfast shop. There are little shops everywhere with a griddle, a few packets of eggs, and some raw bacon. I never know what to say when I walk in there, but I decided today “Screw it, I’ll point.” To my delight, the woman working there spoke pretty awesome English. She crafts something up for me, a crispy pancake filled with bacon and cheese and covered in a sauce similar to that put on my Hainan chicken the night before. It’s so much better than white bread buns from the baker.

I’m not entirely sure what to do today. The forecast is saying rain, and I have no particular plans. I try out couchsurfing hangouts and connect with a Spanish woman nearly turning 50. I just wanted someone to walk around with and talk to. The first thing she says is “Let’s hang out! Are you in a hotel? Can you host me?”

Never a good sign.

I check out her profile, and she’s very vegan. Vegenazi level vegan. Not only that but raw vegan. Apparently, her diet mainly consists of juice, and something called “breathetarian”. Some of her references from other couchsurfers were a bit iffy too. That’s fine, eat what you will, but I was getting some weird vibes from her so I decided against meeting up.

I decide just to stroll until I get a better idea. Then ‘Art’ calls my name, and I head to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Upon leaving the station, I realize I’m close to a large Confucian Temple. I can’t pass up that opportunity. So I wander over and look around the serene Confucian complex.



This temple’s much less crowded than Longshan Temple, allowing for more time to get up and personal with the statues or deities.


A stroll through another park leads me to the Art Museum, which is disappointingly empty. Perhaps they’re making restorations. But at least it’s a cool building.



One of the reasons I came to Taiwan was for the food. Specifically, my heart yearned for the soup dumpling. Tiny and delicate, yet filled with pure joy and ecstasy, Taiwanese soup dumplings are always a staple whenever I visit New York City. They send me into such an uncontrollable fit of glee and euphoria. It’s a holy experience.

Din Tai Fung is apparently the place for soup dumplings. I head to the nearest location and find out I have to wait over an hour to get my sweet fix. Too long for me, I’m hungry. Luckily there’s a ton of food options everywhere in Taipei, and it doesn’t take me long to find a restaurant serving amazing dumplings (although not of the soupy variety).


The other food I crave is Beef Noodle Soup. I’ve had some good ones so far, but apparently, YongKang Beef Noodle is where you go. I make my way, and get a table instantly and enjoy a bowl of perfectly tender, spicy beef soup.


But you’ll pay a steep $7 for this meal. That would be pretty normal in Europe or America, but since a good bowl of soup costs $2 here I felt a bit ripped off.

At least I went.

Another big reason for me coming to Taiwan was to see the village of Jiufen, which was apparently the inspiration of Miyazaki Hiyao’s Spirited Away. Only an hour by bus from the outskirts of Taipei, I make my way to please my inner thirteen-year-old.  Today’s a bit drizzly, which made the bus ride through the mountains pretty spectacular. The misty mountains make me feel as though I’m in a Chinese ink painting.

The hills ramble and ebb and I eventually make it to Jiufen, one of the most touristy places I’ve ever been in my life.

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It’s adorable, and in the day looks like a cute little mining town. After all, it was built by the Japanese as a gold mining town then refurbished to please tourists after the gold dried up.


With this rain, I have to duck and weave my way through thousands of umbrellas. It is pretty touristy, but it’s also really nice.


There are plenty of shops and food stalls, but I refrain from eating because if Spirited Away taught me anything, it’s to not eat the food lest I be turned into a pig and fed to Spirits. But that rooster looks oh so tantalizing.


There’s also a cute little temple outside the tourist track, which is one of the more extravagant I’ve seen.



There are some excellent views of the ocean as well. I’m mentally ticking Taiwan down as a future road trip destination as well.


I walk around some more and soak it all it.


^Future Spirit food



And I’m having way too much fun photographing these lanterns.


At this point, the rain really starts to pour. I feed my way off the tourist track and wander into a cute little bar for some beer and an excellent place to watch the storm.

I sit for about an hour, enjoying the storm and reading. Eventually, I finish my book, my first Ernest Hemingway book, In Our Time, and decide to wander back into town and view the lanterns.


In Spirited Away, nightfall is when the spirits come to party. I wouldn’t want to miss that. All I did see, was a billion Japanese tourists smacking me with their umbrellas. But it is pretty spectacular, I must admit.


All of these anonymous strangers make me feel like a spirit on the way to Yubaba’s bathhouse. Good job, Jiufen, for providing me with an awesome experience.


For a place to be this crowded, I was expecting the bus situation to be equally hectic. I wait a good thirty minutes before a bus with space comes by, and I hop on not even caring where it goes. To my delight, it drops me off right at a train station where I can hop on the train back to Taipei. I sit amongst tired Taiwanese hikers, listening to music and waiting for the slow train to come back into town.


The train drops me off right at Songshan station, next to the Raohe Night Market


I want to have one final stop at a night market, and this one just happened to be the most convenient.


There are your usual Taiwanese night market staples, but this time there are squid butts instead of chicken butts. Not sure what the butt thing is about.


I walk past a portable soup dumpling shop, and figure lo, the universe has provided my loss of soup dumplings from earlier in the day. I sit next to a white guy, and we both shared this exasperated glee to see another possible English speaker. Sully’s from England, stopping in Taiwan for about a month to do some work away time at a hostel to polish up his Mandarin. Good on him. We sit underneath the lanterns and talk a while, then decide it’s time for a drink.


One thing Taipei is lacking is a decent bar culture. We meet up with a friend he’s made earlier in the day at an expat bar. There’s an $8 entrance fee, which is god damn ridiculous, so we decide to keep looking. All we want is a smokey dive bar with cheap beer. It’s not really a thing here. We trot around, taking trains and renting bicycles before we finally find a place with a neon light out front showing the word “Pub”. That’s our spot.

We enter, brushing away a cloud of smoke and get greeted by long-haired locals. Whiskey bottles fill the bar, with tiny shot glasses wet from recent resuscitation. A scantily clad waitress shows us to the bar. We get two beers, which we pay way too much for, and decide it’s too expensive to get another. But we finally got our Taiwanese dive bar experience, which I absolutely don’t regret.

It’s 11:45, and I figure I can take the subway home. But no, Sully says, because public transport shuts down at midnight in Taipei. Excuse me? A capital shutting down its public transport at midnight? To my shock, it’s the truth. My phone gave me a 45 minute walking time back to my place, and I decided screw it, that’s not so far. Luckily, Taipei does feel like a very safe city to walk around, and I manage to find a bike rental place along the way before drifting back into sleep at my little Airbnb.

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