Monday, February 24, 2014


While booking our flights for our Chinese New Year (hereafter known as CNY) trip, Michelle and I noticed that flights in and out of Cambodia were pretty expensive. We ended up finding a cheap flight to Bangkok, Thailand and then a cheap flight out of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In order to save some money, and see another country in the process, we booked our tickets. 

 Michelle and I had approximately 18 hours in Bangkok. Due to the increased political tension in the city because of the impending elections, we decided that we should avoid the central parts of the city. We decided to spend our one day at a place, on the outskirts of town, called The Ancient City. The "city" consists of a massive park with replicas of all of the important and famous buildings in Thailand. If we couldn't see the entirety of Thailand in our day, then we were going to at least see the highlights...or replicas of the highlights. 

We rented bikes and spent the day biking around the park, having random dance parties on boats, eating delicious food overlooking a river, drinking beers, and buying "Thailand pants". The weather was sunny and warm, a very welcome change to the cloudy and cold crap we had been getting in Taiwan. 

After spending a most of the day at the park we hopped into a taxi and headed across town to the airport. We had a delicious Thai meal at a restaurant in the airport before going through security to wait for our flight to Siem Reap. 

It was the perfect start to an incredible CNY trip. My time in Thailand was just enough to leave me wanting more, a lot more. I definitely want to go back next year and spend some quality time in the country. 18 hours was not nearly enough.  

Our biking adventure starts!

Some carvings on one of the temples

A statue next to a pond

Found these hanging in a grove of bamboo trees

Rainbow bridge! 

On a boat, cruising through the park

Decorations on one of the other boats

This guy scared the crap out of us because we didn't know he was there and then he started making a lot of noise in a very short amount of time. 

Dinner in Bangkok: Pad Thai, Spring Rolls and Singha beer

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fantastic Freaks

The Freaks decided that it was time to take a second road trip. This one was planned in honor of Michelle's birthday. The boys planned our itinerary and the girls just went along for the ride. Tim and Ria came up to Taichung on Friday night, arriving well past 2am. We woke up relatively early and went off to pick up the van that we thought we had reserved the night before. Turns out, the owner of the rental company did not want to rent to us because we were foreign. After much Googling and a few phone calls we found a company that would rent us a van. We hopped back on the scooters and headed across town. 

A few hours past schedule we were on the road and headed to Puli to pick up Karlis and his friend Chip. 
Finally on the road!

After picking up the last two Freaks we started our journey up the mountains. It was then that we found out that our road trip would take us across the Central Cross Highway, the tallest road in Taiwan, (read more about it here: to Hualien, on the East Coast. This highway is very famous in Taiwan because it took a massive feat of engineering to construct it. It is also a highway that closes down quite a bit due to landslides. It is also absolutely beautiful. We made many stops on our trip across the mountains. 

Cingjing Farm: We stopped here because Tim wanted to see if he could get a paragliding flight in (which he did, a very short one though). We also stopped because the scenery is absolutely stunning
This was at a random stop we made on the side of the road. You can see a little bit of a lake in the valley of the mountains, as well as lots of little farms and the road that we drove up on. 

The food market at Cingjing Farm

Climbing higher and higher into the mountains. At this point we were driving in the clouds. 

Taroko National Park: We stopped at the entrance to Taroko National Park and had ourselves a dance party to the soundtrack of The Beatles, much to the surprise and entertainment of the Taiwanese people parked in the lot.

Hehuanshan Mountain: After we tired ourselves out with dancing we decided to continue up the road a bit further and stop at Hehuanshan Mountain to watch the sunset. The mountain was not too terribly high so we ran up it and found ourselves in a sea of clouds. Words can do no justice to how beautiful it was on top of the mountain. It felt like heaven. 
Literally in the clouds

The stragglers hiking up

My friends are so weird and awesome.

I mean come on...

Dinner: We continued driving through the mountains until we came to the only restaurant we could find that was open. The food was amazing and the tea was some of the best I have had in Taiwan. Dinner was filled with lots of laughter, loud conversations and more stares from local Taiwanese people. 
Spicy pork with cabbage and rice, peach tea and an apple

The Night: Our original plan was to camp somewhere inside of Taroko, but we didn't really plan that through because no one thought to bring any food with us and there is no place to buy food inside of the park after dark. So we created an alternative plan, which was to camp on the beach outside of Hualien. We searched for the perfect camping spot for upwards of an hour, but it was absolutely worth it. We found a deserted beach and pitched up our tent. It was the perfect end to a fantastic day.
Tim building our campfire 

The view from the tent looking out onto the ocean

How can you have not have an amazing day when you wake up to this?

Off to explore Taroko: After packing up our campsite and eating breakfast we headed back into Taroko. We made a quick stop on the way to frolic through a field of flowers and take a few pictures.

Failed jumping picture

Taroko National Park: This is one of my favorite places I have been to in Taiwan. The grandeur of this place simply cannot be beat. We spent most of the day driving around from place to place all the while blasting Beatles music. Read more about Taroko here:
The river inside of the park. The water was unnaturally, beautifully blue

This Freak decided to go for a swim

Absolutely beautiful 

After leaving Hualien it was decided that the easiest way to get everyone home was to drive through southern Taiwan, through Taitung, across the tip of Taiwan, up through Kaohsiung and finally to Taichung. We rolled back into Taichung around 3 am on Monday morning. Angela and I had to be at work at 8am. We spent Monday being completely exhausted but very, very happy. It was the road trip to beat all other road far.  
*A big thanks and shout out to Ria-Leen for letting me use some of her pictures!

November-December Teaching Pictures

November and December were very busy months at school. We celebrated two major American holidays, had a massive all kindergarten preschool and kept trucking along with our curriculum. My students are learning so much and their English has improved substantially since the beginning of the year. It has been such a joy and honor to watch them develop these past few months. I can't wait to see how much more they grow in these next few months we have left together. 

Making ladybugs after reading the book "The Grouchy Ladybug"

Making rocket ship names

Making rainbow letter "R"s

Decorating donuts

Making Christmas stockings

Making hand print turkeys for Thanksgiving

Waiting to take our picture with the turkey

Our class picture with the turkey

Eating turkey on Thanksgiving

Making turkeys

Showing off his turkey

Painting on newspaper

Decorating gingerbread men

This conversation went like this: 
Student: "My gingerbread man is T.Cassie" 
Me: "Your gingerbread man has a beard. Does T.Cassie have a beard?"
Student: "Yes. T.Cassie has a beard"
Entire class bursts into laughter. I love my kiddos.

Reading Christmas stories

Ice skating

Acting out the story "The Three Little Pigs"

Having a snowball fight