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S: Taiwan Trip August 2010

FC: Taiwan | August 3-23, 2010

1: Off we go! Our flight left Salt Lake at 11:30 in the morning and we were rearranging our bags until we had to leave! Mom and Dad Stephens dropped us off at the airport. We had a 2 hour lay-over at LAX in Los Angeles and then we were on our way! It was a 12 and 1/2 hour flight to Taipei. | It was so incredibly nice of He Guo Bin (Ben) to let us stay at his apartment! Every morning we would leave his apartment and have dan bins for breakfast right below his building. We stayed there our first two nights and then for two more nights later in our trip.

2: Exploring Taipei | Taipei 101 | Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world from 2004 until the Burj Kahlifa officially opened in Dubai in 2010. | Tourists are not allowed up to the 101st floor, but we went as high as we could! It was a little unnerving to be that high up, but the view was amazing! | There were also really cool jewelry shops and gift shops inside Taipei 101. The two pictures of the orange coral show that they have miniature scenes carved all over them and the detail is just absolutely unreal!

3: We went to the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and watched the changing of the guards which is super choreographed. | We didn't have time to go to a session at the Taipei Temple, but we did make sure that we could go walk around outside. It was beautiful! (Of course:) | Our last stop for the day was the Chiang Kai Shek memorial in downtown Taipei. There were sooo many stairs and we were pooped from walking around all day and from major jet lag! But it was worth the hike.

4: We drove down the East coast to get to Taroko National Park which is near Hualian. The ride down the coast was beautiful! It was funny because it was about a three or four hour drive down the coast to Taroko gorge and everyone we were with kept saying it was such a long drive, but I'm used to 12 hour drives to California so it seemed like nothing to me! | For some reason we had to rent construction helmets to "protect" us from falling rocks. Let's be honest with ourselves - those helmets would do NOTHING to protect us from a falling boulder! But, they were fun to take pictures in! Taroko Gorge is truly amazing and pictures will never do it justice - you can't fit it all into one picture! | East Coast Trip

5: First Stop: Taroko Gorge | The entire group minus Fu Di Xiong because he was taking the picture.

6: Lunch stop in Hualian City | The church in Andrew's ward while serving on his mission. | Eating lunch FAMILY STYLE! I ate a LOT of plain rice on our trip; everyone kept taking us to seafood restaurants because those are the fancy ones and I'm allergic to seafood! It was ok though. - I ate what I could and it was yummy.

7: We went to an Aborigines festival and they convinced most of us to dance! Andrew did a great job! | The grandpa and the drunk man that let Andrew and Jesse borrow their sashes to dance. | THE OCEAN!!! "It's cold!" This was one of the first times Andrew played in the ocean. | Playing on the beach.

8: It was so much fun! We were rafting for about 4 hours. By the time we had been rafting for about 10 minutes we were completely soaked from head to toe - not by the river, but by all the people in the other boats; it was a giant water fight! I was starving by the time we were done! | River Rafting!!!

9: It really was an easy-going river (Andrew wanted more rapids!), but, Fu Di Xiong fell into the river at the most rapid-y part and had to try and get back in the boat while we kept floating down stream because of the current. | When we stopped to wait for all the other rafts to catch up we played in the river. Andrew and Fu Di Xiong decided to see if they could float down stream.

10: We sat on an ox! How many people can say they've done that?! AWESOME! | According to Fu Jie Mei's cousin it is good luck to see a cow poop (or anything similar). Lucky us, we were privileged to witness such an event!

11: It's so funny to see the cultural differences between people sometimes! We went to this giant hill to go "sledding". It was $8 for one ride! | We told them we would pass because we can go sledding on snow in the winter for free... but they loved it! | Even though we didn't go sledding we still enjoyed our time there taking pictures of the incredible view!

12: Picking coconuts and drinking the milk! It was an awesome first-time experience for Andrew!

13: Excursion to Green Island | It took about an hour and a half to get to Green Island on the ferry, and it was one of the worst experiences of our lives! First of all, the ocean was super choppy. Second, it was so choppy that the crew couldn't have the doors open for fresh air. Third, EVERYONE around us was throwing up!!! Andrew and I both had earplugs in and we were humming all of the primary songs we could think of so that we couldn't hear everyone throwing up! I was also smelling bug spray - I know you're not supposed to, but holy cow, it was SOOO much better than smelling all the nastiness! When we got to Green Island (FINALLY!) I told Andrew that we were just going to have to live there because I was not getting back on the ferry! | The first thing we did was rent our scooters! They came complete with Cold War era helmets! Then we had to fill up on gas and we headed to our hostel. After we checked in we all split up - Andrew and I went and got ice cream with Jesse and Rita. It came in a sea shell! How awesome is that?! | Really?! The deer is a PET?! | Just read the sign...

14: The Itinerary for our trip down the East Coast

15: When we were on Green Island we decided to join the club and stamp our postcards! | For some reason the Taiwanese are really into stamps - everywhere we went they had a paper or pamphlet or something to use any of a million stamps (or all of them) to cover the whole thing!

16: Snorkeling! | We went snorkeling our first afternoon on Green Island. It was the first time Andrew and I had ever been and we had bought a new under water capable camera basically just for this. Getting into our gear at the hostel was a little crazy - they were suiting up about 50 people all at once and all of the gear was wet from the last group to go out, so it was a little gross. Plus it was SOOO hot!!! After we were all geared up we had to drive to the beach on our scooters. It was so funny to me! We were like snorkeling ducks following our moms to the beach! We got to the beach in about five minutes and split up into groups of ten to go with each guide. We put on our masks, grabbed a floatation circle attached to a rope so we were all connected and headed out!

17: As we walked out over the coral reef I kept having to grab onto Andrew in order to stay standing until we got to a point where we could float. We probably ended up about 100 yards out to sea. There were so many awesome fish! Andrew even saw one that had tentacles on it's face and I saw one that was super long and skinny, but not an eel. Neither of us had ever been snorkeling and it was definitely not what I expected! It was sooo cool to see the reef and the fish, but I was shocked at how claustrophobic I felt! I could only have my head in the water for a few minutes at a time, but Andrew LOVED it! His air tube was really short so I ended up holding it out of the water for him while he took awesome pictures of the cool fish. It was a great experience and we would love to try it again!

18: It was so much fun to cruise around Green Island on the scooters! Even though it only takes about 45 minutes to drive around the entire island if you don't stop, there's way too much to see! It actually surprised me how many awesome things were on the island and I can see why Taiwanese people make it a tourist destination.

19: Cruisn' around the island!

20: Our last day on Green Island

22: Green Island was sort of like Alcatraz for the United States - they sent prisoners out to the island away from the rest of society. It was fun running around the prison - you could basically go anywhere you wanted and play around! The phones in the visitation center still work! | Can you believe people lived in these houses up until a few decades ago?! They are the oldest houses/structures on Green Island. The walls are about two feet thick to make sure they survive through tsunamis and tropical storms and obviously they have! | A step back in time!

24: Our last morning we went to breakfast at an outdoor cafe (well, a place that was as outdoor cafe-ish you can get in Asia). This was the view while we ate breakfast , which was a great good-bye to the island and the fun we had there. | Fu Di Xiong, Fu Di Mae, Betty, and Mei Mei

25: Nobody even threw up! Andrew even chanced it and went up to the deck to take pictures. | On our way to our next hostel we stopped at the Seven Dragon Bridge | Our ferry ride back to mainland was immeasurably better than the ride from mainland.

26: They were in caves all over the side of a super tall mountain! | we had an incredible view of the ocean, but man! I have honestly never been so sweaty in my life! It was at about 99% humidity! | On our way back up to Hualian we stopped at the The Caves of the Eight Immortals | Not only was it cool to see all of the different Buddhas it was also very interesting to see that the caretakers at each shrine live there and their families have probably lived there for decades! | Climbing up the millions of stairs to see some of the Buddhas was pretty cool and

27: The Fu family dropped us off in Hualian to spend a few days with Sister Wu and her family. | That night we went to a local market and played a lot of carnival games - it was a lot of fun! | Yes, that kid is "fishing" for live baby turtles like Americans "fish" for rubber ducks at county fairs... | It was funny to watch Andrew show up the boys because Taiwan is into air soft guns like American cowboys are into REAL guns. :) Seriously. They have entire stores dedicated to air soft guns and gear. | Hualian

28: Exploring Taroko National Park with the Wu family | We stayed with them for a few days and we played all over in and near Hualian. | We went back to Taroko National Park with the Wu family and explored where we didn't get to go on our way down the East coast.

29: There was so much to see and not enough time to see it in! But, these are some of the places we were able to get to. | Climbing up the tower was a lot of fun - there are actually two sets of stairs going around the inside of the tower and when you get to the top you can step out on the balcony and see a fantastic view of Taroko Gorge that other-wise we would not have seen. It was amazing!

30: This was our room at the Wu family's house - a Japanese Shinto-style ceremonial tea room! It was so cool, even though it was really hot! :) | One of my goals for our trip to Taiwan was to take a picture with a banana tree. So cool!!! | We took the train from Hualian back up to Taipei - it was not too long of a ride and the views were amazing! (Although very hard to take pictures of because we were going so fast.) | Fu Di Xiong picked us up from the train station with Betty and her cousin. We left our luggage with him and then headed to Xi Men Ding to do some shopping with the girls. | Our train tickets back to Taipei.

31: We spent the night at He Guo Bin's and spent the next two days with him exploring parts of Taiwan Andrew had never been to. This is on our way to Keelung in northern Taiwan.

32: Yeh Liu Geopark

33: North Coast of Taiwan with He Guo Bin and Rusty.

34: He Guo Bin and Rusty took us shopping in Jui Fen and it was awesome! It is comprised of tons of tiny streets and alleyways with tiny shops crammed all over the place! | PLUS it was on top of a mountain with spectacular views of the town below. It was beautiful.

35: We went to an Aborigines amusement park with Ben and Rusty. It was like a mini Lagoon and it took four hours to get there! It was cool to see an Asian take on an amusement park and we definitely had a lot of fun! | After Andrew and Ben went on the Taiwanese version of "The Rocket" Andrew said to me, "You know, riding rides in Taiwan is so much more scary because you know they weren't built in the United States!" So true!!! And I was a little apprehensive about taking the sky tram after that.

36: Waiting in line for a ride + funny Aborigenes masks + Andrew and Ashley =

38: We went to church in Xi Zhi with Elder Zeng. | This is a rest stop we ate dinner at one our way home from the Aborigenes theme park. It was HUGE!!! I thought it was a mall!

39: We went to a really awesome store a few days before we went home. We found a JADE GOLF CLUB! | Who gets their shoe stuck in the teeth of death at the bottom of an escalator?! Apparently me! I didn't think it was possible! And it almost ruined my sandal! | It was super fun to discover all of the random things in the subway stations! | Random awesomeness that is Taiwan!

40: We went to Longshan Temple in the middle of Tiapei somewhere. The picture on the left is a fertility shrine - there were A LOT of women praying there! | People leave real food and flowers as offerings to the gods. We were told that if you take some of the food and eat it you will have good luck. (Although it seemed like we should have had bad luck since we were taking someone else's offering...)

41: Inside the Longshan Temple was beautiful and ornate. Everything told a story and it was amazing to look at. | Longshan Temple Taipei

42: We went out to eat with Jim and his girlfriend, and their friends It was a lot of fun because they spoke a lot of English and it was really great. The food did make me super sick, but it was yummy! ;)

44: We went to the Chiang Kai-Shek tomb with Sister Lin. They, of course, had a changing of the guards ceremony every hour. Even though we had seen so many it was still cool to see how synchronized they are.

45: Andrew and I had fun posing with or as the various versions of Chiang Kai-Shek. The grounds were very pretty and well-kept, so we had a nice time exploring with Sister Lin.

46: We went to the zoo with Rusty and it was AWESOME! I LOVE the zoo! | We visited Zheng Xie Ba and his wife, he was the ward mission leader when Andrew was there on his mission.

48: I got to see pandas in real life!!! I was so happy that I couldn't stop smiling! Rusty even said that he had been to the zoo many times with previous missionaries and their families and the pandas had been ALWAYS sleeping. But, they were playing for ME!!! (And yes, I choose to believe that.) | Whoever said that Disneyland was the happiest place on earth was severely mistaken!!! The happiest place on earth is the Taipei Zoo with me in it!!!

49: Andrew found a HUGE spider. I was super grossed out by it, but then he told me about the spiders that were twice that size he saw all the time in the countryside on his mission. Yuck!

51: Our last day in Taiwan we spent with He Guo Bin and Rusty. We went to a carnival/market area up north and played games, had ice cream, and watched the sun set. | A. We went to a restaurant that had a MINI TOILET B. That mini toilet was ZEBRA STRIPED! AWESOME! | This bridge changes colors constantly. He Guo Bin made us stop and walk across it on our last night on our way to seeing the city from a high mountain top. | Our Last Day :(

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