The End of Korea. But also…Vacation!
After about three days of endless packing, shipping things home, saying goodbye and cleaning, we finally embarked on our six week vacation throughout Southeast Asia to countries we haven’t seen yet. This post was initially going to be dedicated solely to our one week in Taiwan, and as I’ve written things out, it seems like I’ll be posting many more with more posts and with more detail.
We started the trip with less than 10 hours of sleep over three nights, landed in Kaohsiung (“Cow-shung”) at 9:30am and had a full day of walking and exploring ahead of us! One of my favorite things to do when traveling now is seeing the different things at each country’s convenient stores. It’s all cheap and gives you a good idea of what the locals eat and drink on the go - perfect for busy budget travelers! I popped into a 7-11 at the airport for a can of cold “Mr. Brown’s” coffee and some raisin bread for 51 TWD ($1.66).
Lotus Pond, Dragon and Tiger Pagodas
After checking into our hotel right next to Love River, we headed to Lotus Pond. We took the MRT a couple stops and walked the rest of the way and through the Botanical Gardens nearby. The weather was perfect - about 78 and sunny and Lotus Pond was gorgeous! There were some small boats on the water, a nice walking path around the whole thing, and some temples and pagodas that sat right on the edge of the water every so often around the pond. We sat near one edge of the water and took some pictures, then went to find food before starting around the big loop.
A little ways down a nearby street, we found a popular local restaurant that served Taiwan’s famous Beef Noodle dish. We were given the go to walk in, and immediately saw a few shelves of food that people were grabbing to put on their trays. It was like a very tiny school cafeteria. We were given a menu with pictures and a laminate menu to mark what we wanted. Every bit was in Mandarin so we used our noggins and were actually able to figure out what to mark down! The beef noodle dishes were soooo good, but sooooo filling. We probably had enough noodles leftover for another 2 meals each, haha!
After we filled our bellies, we walked around about half the pond, stopping at each of the major sights - the big one being the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. We started this walk around 3:30 in the afternoon and got to see everything we hoped for. Being as tired as we were, we had to take a few breaks and I eventually needed a coffee. Right after our coffee break (at the cutest little cafe might I add), some sort of show had started right in front of one of the temples just a stone’s throw away. It started like it was a small parade with music, drums, and a few people in costumes and masks. There were two men helping each other walk and shake some sort of huge drum on sticks, a small firepit, and then a small “explosion” of firecrackers! It was super cool and great timing!
We walked around some more and were able to see the the whole pond and temples at sunset too! With the lights on, it made it even more special. Once we were finished, we walked back to the MRT station and headed to Kaohsiung’s biggest night market, Ruifeng Night Market. It was so crowded! There were people everywhere and it was pretty much shoulder to shoulder down every aisle. We almost gave up on food before we found fried sweet potato balls, a huge fried chicken leg on a stick with loads of salt and pepper, and some sort of amazing mystery sandwich! It was like a special pocket panini with beef, egg, cheese, onions and some sort of addicting sauce. Yumm! (If anyone happens to know what it is based on the pictures below, please let me know!!) Shortly after we got our fill, our bodies were so sore and tired that we finally headed back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep. My feet felt like they had already fallen off so I gave them a good wash and massage and passed out!
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum
The next day, we took our time in the morning before catching the bus to the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum. After a long wait, we boarded the bus and thirty minutes later, stepped off into a wonderland of the most gorgeous religious site either of us had ever seen! The weather was beautiful, the grass and entire area were very well maintained, and the views were astounding! Luke recently got an Insta360 camera so we’ve been having a lot of fun coming up with new ideas for it and I’m excited to see how it turns out!
While we were at Fo Guang Shan, we got to meet and greet the Taiwanese Princess! Okay...maybe that was an exaggeration, but when at the top of the main attraction, we saw a woman walking down the hall inside in a big, gorgeous, yellow dress and out with what looked to be her fiance to take (or so we think) wedding pictures! They were flawless and we deemed her the Princess of Taiwan. She also nodded and smiled at me so I assume that means we’re best friends. :)
After walking down the main path to the huge Buddha and museum, we ventured off to the Main Shrine, which unfortunately, not as many people go to see. There were beautiful pathways lit up and with healthy greenery all over the place. We walked into the most beautiful temple I’ve ever seen - not exaggerating. It was special, with super a super tall ceiling, hundreds of small buddha’s placed along the entirety of the walls and the whole temple clean and sleek!
The grounds was massive so for the second day in a row, we spent all day and evening at one attraction...and wouldn’t have had it any other way. The sun was setting, the lights were turning on and the golden Buddha’s were reflecting even more beautifully than we thought they could. It was easily one of the top five attractions we would each recommend someone seeing if visiting Southeast Asia!
That night we hit up Liuhe Night Market where we got some different street food. We each got a sausage inside of another sausage (made with sticky rice), and topped with cucumbers, ginger and garlic. Sooo good! I tried some stinky tofu fries because it was one of the things every blog says you have to try. I say, pass. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve tasted, but...it wasn’t good lol. Luke got some grilled squid. He normally likes squid so this wasn’t too different for him but the seasoning on it was a dry rub that he says was good but a bit salty. Overall, we loved this night market! The perfect amount of people and open space. Plenty of tables to choose from and just the right size. I’d say we’ve had a successful first two days in Taiwan.