The Best of Taichung: Visiting Rainbow Village & Sun and Moon Lake (Part 1)

 

Wanting experience life outside of Taipei, I researched other cities in Taiwan that would fit my adventurous spirit.  Taichung, Taiwan’s 2nd most populous city, caught my interest right away because of its Rainbow Village and picturesque Sun and Moon Lake which are both accessible by bus from the central station.

Rainbow Village

The bright and beautiful colors of this village immediately caught my eye–plus I was curious to know the origin of how it became so psychedelic–so I wanted this place to be my first destination in Taichung.  I took the MRT from Taipei to reach Taichung Station within 2 hours, then I took a local bus to reach Rainbow Village within 15 minutes.  I was greeted by these crazy-colored murals painted on a neighborhood of cozy houses.  The village was a bit smaller than what I had expected, but there were literally so many things to see here!

This village was designated as a home for refugees that fled to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War, but was sadly planned to be demolished after the war ended.  Not wanting to see his home destroyed, Huang Yong-Fu (who was drafted for the war but still resided in the village), started painting the entire village in rainbow colors in hopes that it would be preserved.  Though not many other refugees were living there at the time, his artwork was noticed by nearby university students and they formed a petition to keep the 11 houses intact.  Fortunately it was successful, and the village has become a popular tourist attraction for everyone to enjoy and learn about the history of the war.  Yong-Fu is nicknamed the “Rainbow Grandpa” of the village, and his murals will always be an important part of Taichung’s history.

This village is literally a photographer’s paradise!  I was really happy to capture a lot of quality footage on my GoPro even though there were a lot of people around.  The murals seem to have cultural influences from all around the world.  There are a number of animals and humans depicted in them with interesting symbols so your interpretation of them completely depends on you.

After spending a good hour here, I decided to take a taxi back to Loosha Hotel where I was staying for the night (I chose it because it was cheap and centrally located).  Taichung can be done as a day trip, but I would recommend staying here 2-3 days if you can see everything.  I will be covering the famous Sun and Moon Lake in my next article this week!  Thank you for reading.

Exploring the Rocky Coast of Yehliu Geopark (Taiwan)

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The coast of Yehliu Geopark (captured with GoPro).

Located on the north coast of Taiwan, Yehliu Geopark contains uniquely-shaped rock formations such as the Queen’s Head and Fairy’s Shoe making it a popular hiking and sightseeing destination.  Besides the famous Taroko Gorge, this is one of my most favorite parks in Taiwan.  Since this park is a bit remote from Taipei City, I decided to book a cheap bus tour through GetYourGuide that stopped here and the famous lantern towns of this area (Jiufen and Shifen).  The tour was extremely laid back and you could freely wander around all the areas, so I would recommend it to people who are trying to make the most of their day.  I came here on the 2nd day of January, but the weather was sunny and I managed to take some decent photos despite the crowds:

Though I have been to a number of parks similar to this in Asia, the architecture here really amazed me!  The surface of the rocks reminded me of craters on the moon so I felt as if I was in my own sci-fi adventure.  Definitely be sure to follow the guideposts to the elegantly-shaped Queen’s Head rock (fortunately most of the signs are written in English).  The hike around the cape was very pleasant and it was awesome to see the ocean.  The entire park is walkable within 2 hours so you can definitely fit in other activities if you plan your day out.  The signs below indicate the major points of interest in the park (as you can see, there’s quite a lot):

I asked my guide on how these rock formations were formed because I was curious, and apparently it was due to seawater erosion.  Each layer of contains a different level of hardness (I recall learning this long ago in primary school), so the unique shape of the rocks is caused by the ocean waves weathering them over time.  It’s amazing how flat some of the surfaces are, yet others look like they have circular shapes in them like coral.  You can get a great view of the entire park if you follow the trail to the lighthouse:

Located next to the park is Yehliu Ocean World if you’re interested in seeing dolphin and sea lion performances among other aquatic lifeforms.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to see them, but I’ve had the chance to see them before in Thailand and Japan.

This was a fantastic 2nd day in Taiwan, and I will be covering the lantern towns in my next post!  Yehliu Geopark was the first outdoor area where I used my GoPro, so it will always have a special place in my heart!

Exploring 3 Iconic Places from Seoul: Petite France, Nami Island, and Garden of the Morning Calm

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Garden of the Morning Calm (vaporwave remix).

Since I was working full time in Tokyo last year and only had a limited amount of time to travel, I wanted to see as much of Korea as possible in the 7 days that I had for Golden Week.  I found a great tour package deal on GetYourGuide that included visits to Petite France, Nami Island, and Garden of the Morning Calm for $72 USD, which is not bad a bad deal at all.  You can go to all of these places individually by yourself, but trying to hit all of them in a single day would be very difficult without a tour bus.  I found that this package was the most cost and time-efficient way of getting around so I would recommend it to fellow backpackers.  The entrance fee to each place was included with the total tour price.

I will be writing my impressions of the three places I visited so you can decide if you want to check them out too!

Petite France

“I slept on the tour bus and woke up in Paris!” is what I initially thought, but as its name implies Petite France is a miniature version of the city based on the book “The Petite Prince”.  Adorned with bright buildings, small art galleries, shops, and a nice forest path you can walk through to see a beautiful view of the mountains, this city definitely has a French flare.  There is an Eiffel Tower statue at the entrance of the park for those looking for the perfect photo op.  Though the park is small, it’s a nice day trip outside the city of Seoul.  I mostly listened to music and did photography here which I found to be quite relaxing.  Walking through the forest and finding a statue of the Prince that said “Love You” was my favorite part.  I would really like to read the novel that this theme park is based on in the future to see what it’s about!

Nami Island

Nami Island is known as one of the most romantic places in Korea, but as a solo traveler, I found it to be an even better place to get drunk and explore the unique scenery by the beach.  The island is crescent-shaped and can be easily accessed on foot or by bike.  You can even zipline from the ferry port to the island if you’re feeling adventurous enough!  Many people admire this island because it was featured in the Korean drama “Eternal Sonata” (which I have never watched, but will assume it’s amazing).  You can find romantic statues placed all around the island, but you can also find really strange works of art too.  I loved the naked statue of the woman by the beach, the troll fighting the snowman, and the tribal carvings in the forest.  While I was venturing around, I befriended an ostrich and also tried a delicious Korean red bean pancake from one of the food stalls here.  The lights, gardens, and trees on this island really make it one of the most beautiful places in Korea.  Whether you come here with someone or by yourself, there’s really something for everyone to enjoy.

Garden of the Morning Calm

The Garden of the Morning Calm is by far one of the most expansive nature parks in Korea.  There are 5,000 species of plants and beautiful architecture to see.  There is even a small cathedral built with in the park and many little streams where you can see fish swimming.  The garden is so big it’s quite easy to get lost!  Fortunately I made a friend from the Philippines while I was on this tour and we helped one another get around and take pictures.  I came here during April, but during the winter they have beautiful illuminations.  You can check their official tourism website to see what flowers are in bloom and what events are occurring.

Final Remarks

I am extremely happy that I booked this tour package and had the chance to see all of these beautiful places.  The time given at each place was more than adequate, and most of the people on the bus were my age (in their 20s).  Though these places are a bit touristy, they each have their own charm and are worth checking out if you are an adventurer or someone with a creative mind.  Please go see them if you have the chance!

Day After Day: A Trip to the Dad Fresh Market (ADERerror)

Korea will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s the first country I ever felt truly “lost” in.  When I first visited Japan during my study abroad trip, I already had a basic grasp on the language and had the ability to ask for help and directions if needed.  Other Asian countries I’ve been to like Hong Kong and Thailand attract a great amount of foreign business and tourism, so there’s always some English guidance even if you don’t speak the native tongue.  Korea also attracts a number of foreigners, but it’s not really a place known for its beaches or resorts so outside of Seoul (and even within the city) there is limited English support.

Korean people are very educated and usually have a basic understanding of the English language, but those who do not go on to higher education usually don’t have much of a reason to study it (much like Japanese people).  Knowing absolutely no Hangul before coming to Korea made me experience an initial language barrier for the first time in my life, so I had to learn to think quickly on my feet and also always have my translation app at hand.  It was a bit frustrating at first and I regret not taking more time to learn basic Hangul, but not comprehending any of the language also made my trip a fun challenge while learning about a new culture.  I am very fortunate that people here were extremely kind to me.  An example: When I was too jetlagged to figure out how to get back the deposit on my subway card, a kind Korean man helped me work the machine so I could receive my change.  After he suggested we exchange contact information in case I needed help.  I sensed now ill will from his actions so I did so.  I am happy that I can feel safe at all times in this country.

Getting back to the story, I have visited Korea a total of three times: Once during the new year of 2018 visiting Seoul and Busan, again during 2018 for Golden Week exploring Jeju Island, and once again in 2019 for eye surgery (I will talk more about my operation next year).

In this article I would like to talk about one of my favorite glitches in the human paradigm fashion/avant-garde galleries: Adererror.  I stumbled upon this place while hunting for aesthetic things near Hongik University, and boy was I in paradise!  From cassette tapes to “Dad fresh markets”–this place had it all!

Dad fresh market!

Dad fresh market?! you ask, wondering if they are selling actual paternal figures at this display.  Fear not, because “Dad” actually stands for Day After Day which is popular designer soap brand sold on the first floor of this store.  I am sure the English-speaking visitors get a kick out of this when they first see it (I sure did).

Here are more fantastic sights of the latest 2019 display:

The neon blue “THE BLUEST BLUE” sign immediately made me think of in the blue shirt.  I opened a closet to find 3 TVs flickering with images of owls.  One room was filled with a broken popcorn machine.  Another room was completely upside down.  Was that an iPhone glued to the bathroom door?  And who put the plant in the bathtub!?  All these sights made the Dad fresh market seem like a normality.

The 2018 display also raised some questions:

FLOWRS.  IN.  URINALS.  SOAPINTOILET.  Using tissue boxes as wallpaper?  Plants climbing ladders.  Mattresses chilling with speakers.  More neon signs and pressed pink rocks.  What is the true meaning of “Day After Day” anyway?  Add all of these questions with my inability to comprehend Hangul, and you have complete sensory overload.  The best part was that I was enjoying every second of this.  Being in a foreign country without having any idea how to speak the language, and stumbling upon a place as unique as this–it was like a fantasy come true.

Clothing aside (which I was almost too memorized to look at, but I did do some browsing), Adererror is a masterpiece.  And to think this was just the beginning of my wild adventures in Korea.  TO BE CONTINUED…

Visiting Shirakawago: A Traditional Japanese Village (Real-life Hinamizawa)

On my trip back home from Kaga Onsen Festival, I decided to stop at a traditional Japanese village called Shirakawago (白川郷) located in the mountainous Gifu Prefecture.  This village is extremely historic because it consists of traditional farmhouses that are over 250 years with the handwork of Japanese architecture that has been honed for many generations.  Visitors are free to explore and enter some of the houses for a small entrance fee, and there are several restaurants as well.  Remote from any major metropolis, this village is also the location of the fictional mystery/horror series Higurashi no naku koro ni called Hinamizawa.

“A flower raised in a greenhouse is still beautiful, even though it knows no adversity. But a flower growing in the field that has braved wind, rain, cold, and heat possesses something more than just beauty.” – Rena Ryuugu, Higurashi no naku koro ni

Since I was close to Kanazawa Station, I was fortunate to take only a two hour bus ride directly here.  From Tokyo, this village can take around 4-5 hours to reach depending on the train schedule (some trains only run once per hour).  The village gets dark at night, so most places close around 6pm-7pm for safety.  There is lodging available for those who wish to stay overnight, though I only stayed for around 3 hours which was plenty for me.

My biggest recommendation in Shirakawago is the Gasshozukuri Minkaen Outdoor Museum.  When you first get off the bus stop, the majority of shops you see are all aimed at tourists and only have souvenirs.  However, the outdoor museum is about a 15 minute walk away from this area and contains all preserved houses and a beautiful creek.  There are a total of 26 buildings you can see here, and the Jin Homura Art Museum is nearby so stop by for an inside look at some of his hand-painted works!

For lunch, I stopped by the Soba Dojo and had some delicious handmade buckwheat noodles–probably the best I had ever tasted!  I also tried some pumpkin bread from a bakery nearby, which wasn’t very sweet but was very wholesome made with all natural ingredients grown on the farm.  There are a number of places that serve traditional Japanese food in addition to soba.

Another place of interest is the nearby shrine, better known as Furude Shrine in Higurashi.  You can see the school and bridge from the anime as well.  The resemblance of the building structures is truly uncanny so those who have enjoyed the series, though the overall atmosphere of the village is very pleasant and welcoming!

On my way back, I decided to enter the Kanda and Wada houses, because they are two of the most famous.  Inside of the houses, you can climb all the way to the top, see the tools that they used in the past (you may see the inspiration for Rena’s hatchet design), and also enjoy some complimentary tea.

The last place I recommend is the Shirakawago Observatory, which is just a short hike up the hill next to the bus stop.  You can see the most amazing view of the village from this point (captured in the first image).

Unlike the eerie sensation the village gives off in the series, the actual Shirakawago is not haunted or fearsome.  It’s actually a great place to relax and take a great from the city, and the people are very friendly too.  All of the tourists that make the journey here are usually interested in history, so I’d rate this as a very good tourist attraction overall.