Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In the Kitchen: Winter Vacation 2012

Considering the amount of vacationing the Harrington's did throughout January and February it seemed more sensible to combine the 'In the Kitchen' series.

Highlights of the Winter Vacation months were soups such as a fabulously delicious and rich Tomato, Spinach, Mushroom and Chickpea Pasta Soup which had a flavor boost of fresh basil thanks to Mike's aquaponic adventures and the work of Kimchi (the long-lasting goldfish of 519 Galma).  Another soup that turned out well (and abundant) was a traditional New Year's day soup in South Korea called ddeok-guk 떡국 (rice cake soup).

Ddeok-guk - Korean Rice Cake Soup
The vacation also saw a couple more dominations of the spent grains from Mike's brewing operations. This time, domination came in the form of Spent Grain Pancakes and Peanut Butter Spent Grain Cookies.  However, that wasn't the only sweet dish to grace the tastebuds of the Harrington duo and friends, this vacation also welcomed in a few pots of warm, thick, comforting Rice Pudding.

For additional expat kitchen (or non-expat kitchen) inspiration, head on over to 519 Kitchen...or for those in South Korea less inclined to do their own cooking and baking, be sure to check out Bit of Homemade!

Nameson Middle School Festival 2011

From the archives of long-lost photos and video footage The Harrington Times brings you a small, yet insightful glimpse of a Korean Middle School Talent Festival. Of particular highlight is the group of Harmonica playing young lads who will truly wow you, if you don't have time for the full video at least skip ahead to hear their impressive skills (6:18 with bonus footage at 8:50)!

The Korean Love Motel


If you live in South Korea you've surely heard about the glory of the Korean Love Motel. Often cheap. Often sketchy. Often a touch of 'sexy'. Often fitted with tinted windows. These motels serve to meet the needs of a) men and women conducting affairs, b) young lovers getting out of their parents homes to experiment and enjoy one another's company (many Koreans remain at home until married, and don't marry until, you can see the need for such a market) and c) foreigners looking for cheap and adequate accommodation.

The Harrington's stayed in such during their winter 2011 travels to the north east coast and again this past winter when road tripping to Gyeongju. Always hoping to pay the minimum, the Harrington's have payed between

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fine Dining in Daejeon: Dino Meats - All-You-Can-Eat


While 519 Kitchen boasts a fair share of veggies and vegetarian-friendly courses for a variety of reasons (Melissa's health-concious, dietetic soul and the couples mutual spirit of frugality being a couple) the truth is the man likes meat. Therefore, when driving around the city and spotting a sign for Dino-Meats - Meat Buffet, there is a clear and defined mission set before the couple. This being so,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gyeongju Road Trip 2012: Mountain Views and Shady Villages

Waking on Sunday morning was similar to the previous morning in that the main objectives were 1) get out of bed and 2) find breakfast and coffee. If you're new to Korea or don't live here you may be surprised to know that coffee shops aren't always open at the early morning hour of 9am and they rarely have their pastries fresh and ready at that god-awful early morning hour, but this crew wanted another bun with coffee and we're pleased to find the Papa Roti was able to provide just that.


With sugar and caffeine flowing in their veins the crew loaded the car and set out in search of a mountain location famous for some Buddhist stone carvings in an open air-cave. Much to the Harrington's delight, this destination is not number one for most in the Gyeongju area so after wandering down some narrow little streets in "redneck" Korea the Matiz was parked next to two other vehicles and a steep ascent began before they reached an impressive enclave of carved stones and group of snacking Koreans taking part in a lecture of sorts, possibly on the sacredness of the place where they all sat in their brightly colored North Face jackets, trekking poles leaning on the rock walls behind them. Regardless of being surprised by the presence of this rather large group for such a small place, the location once again reverberated with that feeling of importance and sacredness that the Harrington's and friends had enjoyed throughout the weekends sight-seeing.


Coming off the mountain, the group desired to pull into a town which claimed to have a street devoted to the sweetly marinated bul-go-gi beef for which Korea is famous for, however this delicacy was not to be found. Rather, the Matiz took the foursome down the two main streets and down the narrow roads criss-crossing the rice-paddies before dreams of bul-go-gi slowly faded as the crew left a town which a) did not provide what they claimed and b) had a creepiness vibe unlike other small villages according to Jon.

Fortunately, the Korean expressways are sure to provide a fine dining experience for the weary and hungry traveler so upon sighting such a location, the Harrington's and friends pulled in, ordered some Korean fare, played some arcade basketball and waited for their number to be called before getting their fill and finally returning home to Daejeon.

Gyeongju Road Trip 2012: Sacred Mornings and Ancient Tombs

Following a restful nights sleep, the Harrington's and friends pulled themselves out of bed with great effort and set out to explore the ancient capital of South Korea.  Beginning with a bun and a coffee and a quick stop at the information booth the crew was soon ready to load into the Matiz and make their way out toward Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto on the outskirts of the city.  The two locations, each set apart in worship and honor of the Buddha, offer a truly sacred atmosphere, especially during the cold and non-peak-travel time month of February.  Not being particularly inclined toward visiting temples, the Harrington's were nonetheless taken in by the beauty and peacefulness of Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram which are also UNESCO World Heritage sites. Additionally, the Harrington's continuously enjoy travelling to Korea's biggest hit destinations in an attempt to 'collect' National Treasure sightings.

Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju, South Korea

Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju, South Korea

Seokguran Grotto, Gyeongju, South Korea
Having soaked in the serenity and tranquility of these mountain top temples and holy places, the crew loaded into the Matiz and headed onward toward the east coast where they planned to grab lunch and spend the afternoon exploring various ancient tombs.

Before caring on too far with their afternoon however, the crew stopped in a small restaurant for 회국수 (huey guk su - raw fish noodle soup) which was more like 회냉면 (huey naeng myun - raw fish cold noodles) but served as a passable lunch and offered a sufficient fill for making way toward the tombs.

To begin, the crew headed to the underwater tomb of King Munmu.  Based on information available in English, King Munmu not only united the three Korean dynasties during his lifetime but committed himself to protecting the peninsula as a dragon...which is why he was buried in the sea, near the country he so cared for and where he could most effectively ward off the Japanese as his reincarnated dragon self.
The tomb itself is seen from the shores of the sea and appears to be little more than a rock islet.  However, while the four friends wandered the beach, they could not help but feel the importance of this place for the Korean people.   Whether it was a group of Koreans unloaded from tourist buses, a small family gathering or one devout worshipper the beach that day welcomed a number of reverent Koreans and Buddhists offering their prayers to the great wide open before them. Along with their prayers, eels were offered either to the sea, the dragon King or the seagulls, the visitors could not be entirely certain.

Having enjoyed the fresh sea air, the Matiz was again loaded down with passengers returning to the city where the travelers would meander the grounds of numerous Silla dynasty tombs which resemble well manicured hills with accompanying mood lighting by night, but are filled with much greater history and worth than their outsides would let on.


All the Fantastic Eats of Gyeongju Road Trip 2012

To cap off the day of Korean tourism at it's best and finest the crew of four headed to Ku-Ro as recommended by Frommer's guidebook for a fantastic meal of 쌈밥 (lettuce wraps of rice and an insanely wide variety of Korean side dishes) before returning to their hotel for a rolicking good game of Redneck Life accompanyed by wine and coke, a few beers and another restful nights sleep.
Redneck Life

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gyeongju Road Trip 2012: Lovin' It!

Unwilling to truly admit that another set of dear friends will take off come the end of the month yet going through certain motions regardless, the Harrington's planned and executed a weekend road trip to Gyeongju with Jon and Whitney.  Wanting to make the most of the weekend the crew loaded up the Matiz on Friday night, stopped at Daejeon's only drive-thru (a McDonald's of course) and made their way out of town...kind of. 

Since becoming a driving family in Korea, the Harrington's have been learning that street signs are not entirely helpful, especially within the city. Generally, signs are placed about two inches prior to the turn leaving the driver to watch their street go by and soon realize the next series of streets are more labyrinthal than grid-style and leave the hopeless driver mazing through the streets in a hunt for the ill-placed sign that caused the problem in the first place. The Harrington's (along with Jon and Whitney) hypothesize that once-upon-a-time Korea began putting up signs and were about to adjust various aspects to make them more amiable to the driver when they realized, everyone has a GPS, who needs signage? Needless to say, the most difficult part of any road trip is leaving the city.

Once on the expressway however, Gyeongju was only a short 2 hour drive away. Thrilled to be out and exploring the great peninsula of Kimchi-lovers in a city renowned for it's historical significance the crew stopped at Anapji Pond to take in the peaceful night scence where once existed part of the Silla dynasty palace complex. Complete with mood lighting and soft music in the background, the pond was truly glorious and did a wonder to calm any nerves on high alert from the maze-like streets of Daejeon.

Hearing what was assumed to be the 'last call' over the Pond's loudspeakers, the Harrington's and friends reloaded into the car and set out to find cheap accomodations and a nice place to share a pitcher of beer. As is generally the case, the cheapest (and most well 'lit') accomodations were near the Bus Terminal of the city. Here the crew debated between 'Happy Time Hotel', 'Liebe Hotel' and 'Dollar Hotel' among others, before settling on Seorim (?) Hotel for the meager amount of 25,000 Won ($25US). For those familiar with Korean Love Motels, this one was quite mild and provided a rather reasonable sleeping experience.  For those unfamiliar with Korean Love Motels, stay tuned to the Harrington Times for a more detailed report later.

With a place to sleep secured, the crew took a short walk before ducking into Loss Time bar to share a pitcher of beer and end the first night of the Road Trip in true road trip fashion!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Travel Tips: Taiwan Edition

While some of these tips may be specific to Taiwan, they are denoted as the 'Taiwan Edition' primarily because they are tips which got the Harrington's from plans to arrival and most of them would prove effective for travel to most locations, not just Taiwan. That being clarified, here are some tips for travelling Harrington-style to new and exotic locations.

  • Specific to those travelling from Korea and whom have a Korean bank account: Check out Kangsan Travel - the Harrington's had an absolutely amazing experience with this travel agency. Not only could they purchase tickets using Korean Won, which happened to more abundant due to poor conversion rates throughout the fall, but the tickets were well priced AND if that weren't enough...After sending in a notice of confirmation to Kangsan, the Harrington's received an email from Kangsan claiming another ticket was available for a slightly cheaper price, with more desirable departure/arrival times and with a better airline, and the couple could choose to change over to this ticket before depositing their money! FANTASTIC!
  • Specific to travel during Chinese New Year: Assume that everything will book up quick and make a decent plan, stick to it and book accommodations and transportation if you can. Consider staying in the capital cities of countries that celebrate the Chinese New Year and doing day trips from the city as most families return to ancestral homes which are rarely in the city. A helpful site the Harrington's have used for booking accommodations is
  • Specific to Packing - Clothes: Melissa's personal, slightly vain packing practice is to take clothing she feels comfortable and confident in. Once-upon-a-time it was old t-shirts and awkward fitting bottoms, but that all changed upon the realization that when travelling, pictures will be taken, lots and lots of pictures - you'll enjoy the memories more if you feel you were looking your best. For this trip, Melissa included a dress and a couple of long shirts, a couple pair of leggings, a long cardigan, a scarf, a pair of jeans and a pair of shorts. In this way, she was able to adequately layer and avoid wet pant bottoms (by opting for leggings and shorts) throughout the course of their trip. Mike generally takes one or two pairs of jeans and a selection of soccer jersey's since the jersey's are lightweight and quick to dry should he get soaked.
  • Specific to Packing - Accessories: This trip, Melissa wanted to take some bobby pins to tuck away unruly hair, not an uncommon item to take on a trip. However, wanting to prevent the pins from floating about all willy-nilly, Melissa opted to put the pins (as well as a few other hair accessories) onto an old gift card to keep them contained.

  • Specific to Keeping Records/Journaling: As is evident in the keeping of The Harrington Times and the perhaps overly detailed stories from past travels, Melissa has a particular love for writing. However, while in the midst of travel adventures and misadventures Melissa has no desire to keep a detailed record of the events unfolding around her. It has therefore become her custom, since the World Tour of 2010, to record the days events in a sort of short-hand or single words commentary in a small daily planner. Upon returning home, this can then easily guide Melissa in creating blog posts or recording an even more personal and detailed travel journal while allowing travel to be relaxing and rejuvenating. 


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Would you Rather? - Field Trips Edition

A) Go to Kumdori Land (think, slightly pathetic amusement park but still has rides including roller coasters and splash-mountain-style water rides) with Middle School Students, age 13 and be approached by Middle School Students from another town to have you photo taken while your own students semi-avoid you...OR

B) Go to the Southern Coast for an overnight field trip with the Middle School teachers where you can see a stunning ocean sunset and eat some delicious seafood. Not to mention, get sick on the bus returning home due to having eaten said seafood for breakfast and being loaded on to an infamous Korean bus which will likely be driven on windy roads in a stop-and-go manner, regardless of the road being the expressway.

Mike has done both.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Misadventures of Taiwan: One Up-ed

As their Taiwan vacation came to an end, the Harrington's knew that things could have been worse yet were still wishing they could have enjoyed a bit more sunshine, a little less rain, and a few more doses of peaceful settings rather than crowded trains and crowded streets. The couple waited in the check-out line anticipating a short flight and returning to the lovely and lively Lady Annyeong before starting back to work. While waiting, the couple spotted a set of gents (we shall call them Utah and Philly) they had met at the beginning of their trip in Seoul, also English teachers in South Korea. The four quickly engaged in conversation and discussed differences and similarities of vacations.

Rain and difficulty finding accommodations had plagued both sets of travelers. However, the gents had a few stories which highly rivaled that of the Harrington's. The first order of business was to discover exactly why Utah had his arm in a sling. The answer revolved around rented scooters, wet roads and adjusting shirt sleeves which lead to skidding, sliding and the most unfortunate breaking of a collar bone. The Harrington's had just been "one up-ed" (or a few hundred up-ed!) Utah continued to explain that he opted out of seeking medical attention since medical coverage in Korea would be preferable, he therefore slinged his arm with a pair of pants until earlier that day when he spoke (or mimed) to a train station nurse to receive an official sling.

Aside from this major mishap, Utah and Philly also spent two or three nights lacking accommodation and rather opting for all-night clubs, beach parties and an abandoned tent, truly the tales of the more adventurous traveler than the Harrington's can ever claim to me, especially Melissa. Feeling grateful for their seemingly small 'woes' and 'misadventures' the Harrington's wandered the airport, stopped at the eLibrary (where they would receive news of having sold good ole Navajo Durango - misadventure trip paid for!) and grabbed a couple Cokes before boarding their 2.5 hour flight to Incheon and eventually walking in the door to their 519 Galma home. A vacation well spent, albeit wet and crowded.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Misadventures of Taiwan: Beyond Maximum Occupancy

Saturday the 28th of January, 2012 will always standout as one of the Harrington's most memorable travel moments. Soon the date will be forgotten. Soon the taste of morning donuts and milk tea will fade. Soon the peace amongst chaos which was found on the grounds of the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and 2-28 Peace Park will be replaced by the peace of a new solitary moment. Soon the day of January 28th will fade into conversations of piecing things together in an unorganized fashion, whereas the evening of January 28th will hold together tightly and remain real and vivid.




Following a rather peaceful day, as mentioned above, wandering and lounging about the grounds of two significant Memorial Parks in Taipei the Harrington's began a trek to nearby land which would prove magical and majestic, if not slightly overpopulated.

Walking to the Taipei Main Station and then looking for signage to point them in the direction of the slow/local train the duo were soon boarding a train toward Ruifang where they would then change trains and head to Pingxi where they anticipated seeing an extravagant display of sky lanterns. What the Harrington's couldn't have anticipated fully however, was the sheer amount of people whom they would join in this adventure. Shoulder to shoulder the Harrington's kept their footing on the platform and pondered the possibility that all those desiring to board the train would in fact be able to do so.


After waiting longer than should have been allowable, the couple miraculous made their way into an over occupied train car, which was no small feat! Being some of the last on the train, Melissa found herself being grabbed by a small Taiwanese woman and pulled onto the car while Mike found himself being pushed and commanded to push to ensure the doors could close behind him. With an hour or so of daylight left the Harrington's made their way to Pingxi attempting to look out the windows between the hundreds of faces, bodies, bags, arms, etc that were likely to block their view.

Finally, the train arrived at it's destination however, rather than feeling as if the crowd were able to fully disperse into the small city streets the Harrington's simply found themselves hemmed in on all sides. No matter, within minutes the Harrington's and other festival goers were greeted by the magical rising and floating of orange lit sky lanterns, each carrying it's own set of hopes, dreams and wishes. The evening was spent weaving in and out of crowds, making way to main staging ground and eventually backtracking so that the Harrington's could wait 2-3 hours before boarding a train (luckily they had a chance to snack on some ox tongue) and another 1-2 hours before arriving in Taipei and in their warm beds. was worth it!




Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Misadventures of Taiwan: Lost and Not Found

While vacations always hold the goal of offering plentiful rest and relaxation, there is also a certain expectation that vacationers will explore and make the most of the opportunities before them to see and do new things. This morning, the couple, rather unintentionally, took to the rest and relaxation aspect of travel and remained in bed longer than planned, but without regret.

Once they had successfully dragged themselves out of bed it was off to grab a late breakfast of Taiwan style green onion pancakes before hopping on the red line toward Tanshui. Located on the northeastern coast of Taiwan, Tanshui is easily accessible by the Taipei metro and offered the Harrington's their first glimpse of blue skies amongst the hordes of vacationing Taiwanese.


A day in Tanshui for the Harrington's began by sitting at the Pier, sipping milk tea and people watching. Taiwan conitnued to be a place of great diversity and in that way, completely refreshing from what seems to be the conformist ways of South Korea. Along with people watching, the couple was thrilled to point out the variety dogs and the unique outfits (or hairstyles) each showcased. In general, in the experience of the Harrington's, many Koreans are a bit timid/frightened of dogs especially anything bigger than a Maltese, therefore seeing golden retrievers, large poodles and all variety of medium and small breed dogs was absolutely refreshing and fantastic. People watching also revealed one of Tanshui's more popular tourist activities, biking along the pier and harbor up to the wharf, having spotted a tandem bike, it didn't take long for the Harrington's to decide that their first tandem bike experience should be only minutes away.


With that, the couple set off to find a bike rental and begin an hour of pedaling and exploring, parting waves of people and enjoying the blue skies of the day. If you've always sat around thinking about what it might be like to ride back seat on a tandem through a small, yet touristy, northern city of Taiwan, you've lucked out as we at THT have exclusive footage of just that experience!

Safely and successfully making their way back to the rental center the couple was soon facing yet another misadventure...Mike's raincoat (which was holding the hotel key) were no longer in the basket and had likely fallen out at some point during the bike ride. So, although the couple had just biked the pier to the wharf they took to back-tracking their path in search of these personal affects to no avail. Throwing in the towel the couple grabbed a snack from the blocks most popular bread (with cheese stuffed inside) and milk tea shop. Wanting just a bit more of a snack the couple made their way through crowded side streets and enjoyed an Indian Lamb Curry wrap before finally boarding the subway and returning to their hotel in Taipei.


Worn out from a day of sun, biking and losing raincoats and hotel keys (which cost about $15US to replace as the hotel needed to replace the entire lock) the couple settled in for a healthy dose of reading and TV watching before motivating themselves to head out for a dinner of all you can eat Chinese hot pot. After two hours of filling themselves with an assortment of meats and vegetables boiled in one of two (lemongrass and chicken) soup broths, the couple made their way back to paradise for a good nights rest.


Monday, February 6, 2012

The Misadventures of Taiwan: Still Raining

Desperate for a sense of security in the form of hotel accomodation, Mike Harrington awoke on the morning of Thursday, January 26th and made his way to a cyber cafe to book 3 nights accomodation through Agoda. With only a few roadblocks, the Harrington's soon had accomodations at Paradise Hotel in the Ximending district of Taipei, near where they began their trip five days ago.

Since the rain had yet to cease pouring from the sky and hotel check-in was not until 3:00 pm, the couple opted to meander the impressive series of three underground shopping areas linking the central stations of Taipei's metro system.  The duo was impressed by the variety of shops and styles available to the Taiwanese customers and compared the claw machine shops, anime shops, rubix cube shops, hippie-style cloth shops, shoes, gadgets, cutesy clothes, etc. shops of Taiwan to the sock shops, cell phone and clothing shops that most often and abundantly compose the Korean underground shopping experience.


Additionally, the couple enjoyed spotting an area devoted to the practice and perfection of pop dance cheoreography as well as the infamous b-boying hip-hop moves, an area lined with mirrors and slowly filling with dancers of all types.  Fortunately, the dancers were not to be confined to this mirrored wonderland and the couple soon stumbled upon two Taiwanese rockin' out to a non-controller based video game of fashionable dance moves.

Finally, the hour came and the couple could relocate to the Paradise Hotel.  As for the name of the hotel, the only thing that was similar to paradise was the moisture and lack of ventelation lead to an impressive amount of mold which is likely to occur in, say, a Rainforest or Tropical Paradise.  Not to mention the exotic view of crumbling buildings set next to the scaffolding of new life, Paradise was perhaps a far cry.  Regardless, having a place to sleep indeed instilled a sense of paradise for the couple and so their arrival coincided with a bit of reading, rest and relaxation.

After a bit of a snooze the couple once again considered the rain factor and decided it'd be a great night to grab some quick grub from the street food vendors and head to the "Living Mall" in hopes of seeing Sherlock Holmes 2.  While out on the streets the duo snacked on a sad (but tasty) fried pork cutlet, sausage on a stick, Taiwanese green onion pancak and grilled green onions wrapped in thin slices of chicken or pork.
Satisfied, the couple made their way to the giant globe of a building described as the "Living Mall".  En route, they spotted a foreigner bar named 'Hell's Kitchen' which was advertising their Happy Hour specials.  Drawn by a good deal and cold beer the couple entered the Irish pub for a Carlsberg and live tennis on the tele.  Drinks finished the couple continued on their way to the 'Living Mall' where they took a few photos, watched a family set off some fireworks and eventually sat down to an action packed Sherlock Holmes.  In this way, another rainy day came to an end, leaving the Harrington's refreshed and geared up for the nexts days adventures (or misadventures as it were).

The Misadventures of Taiwan: No Vacancy

Rain unabating, the Harrington's opted to board a train and ride along the eastern coast of Taiwan. Initially, the couple planned to stop in a small sea-side town for a night before continuing a little farther south to the town of Hualien which serves as the primary jumping off point for the infamous Toroko Gorge National Park. However, as the ride continued and the rain persisted, the couple decided to go straight on to Hualien so as to get into the Gorge sooner and/or adjust plans as necessary.

Adjusting their ticket fare and being lead to open seats a few cars down by a caring Taiwanese train employee the Harrington's arrived in Hualien in the early afternoon of Wednesday, January 25. Promptly, the couple entered the visitor's center where they were greeted by a crew of friendly and English-proficient employees who set to work helping the duo find reasonably priced accommodation and offer suggestions as to what to do in town. With what seemed to be a decent room option at 1200 TWD (~$40US) the couple made their way to the Catholic Church/hotel. Unfortunately during the ten minute taxi ride and the Catholic Church's recognition that foreigners were in need of a room the room miraculously went up to 1800 TWD (~$60US). A bit peeved and increasingly aware of the sheer amount of people who would also be attempting to visit Toroko Gorge in the coming days the Harrington's left the Catholic Church in search of any other options available in the city.

A dozen and a half hotels later with one offer of a room for 3500 TWD (~$120US) in an all too shady looking hotel building the couple made the executive decision to grab a bowl of beef noodles before re-boarding a train and returning to Taipei, which was rumored to be 'empty' due to the Chinese New Year.

The train ride provided adequate time to continue on with their reading so the couple set to work reading their Kindles while sitting on the floor. As the train began to pull out however, the couple was encouraged to take some unoccupied seats (their original tickets were standing room only) in a train car filled with Koreans. Back in the city of Taipei the couple expected to find a hotel at a reasonable rate without too much hassle. A dozen hotels later they waited 20 minutes for a hotel room to be properly cleaned and were finally dozing off to sleep in a room with no windows but lovely white sheets and towels, warmth and a roof over their heads, and for that, they were grateful.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Misadventures of Taiwan: Wrong Train

Having slept through fireworks and the constant patter of rain the Harrington's woke up in Pete's studio and lazily prepared for yet another day in the rain.  Seeing as Pete was also enjoying a break from work he agreed to join the Harrington couple on their exploration of a town a few miles north on the coast of Taiwan.  Little did Pete know that the Harrington's were carving out a trip of misadventures and today would be no exception.

En route to the train station, which had been determined as the best bet for getting to the desired destination of Chiufen, Taiwan, the crew grabbed some breakfast pastries and morning drinks before conquering the train ticketing machine, asking for guidance as to which platform the train would depart from and promptly boarding the train which was ready and waiting.

Not more than 30 minutes later the trio heard that the upcoming station was in fact Taipei, which unfortunately was not to be one of the cities through which the Harrington's should pass from Keelung to Chiufen.  So, realizing they had somehow boarded the wrong train (with the help of a train station employee) they disembarked, asked for help by showing their ticket and were soon back on the train with a carton of milk tea and a few more minutes of shelter from the rain.

Train debacle conquered, the trio heard the appropriate station being called over the intercom and prepared to disembark.  With empty milk tea containers in hand, Mike decided it would be more comfortable to hang on to these disposable items if they were to be crushed. So, like a man, he crushed the milk tea containers just in time to discover that a small amount of milk tea was waiting for such a time as this to escape from the straws and fly into the face of an unknowing, sleeping, Taiwanese passenger.  Horrified by his actions and lack of tissue to help the now, woman in distress, Mike kindly offered candies and apologies for this unfortunate blunder.  Meanwhile, Melissa stood by laughing through clenched teeth realizing that each outburst just cast her in an ever darkening light as an unsympathetic jerk of a foreigner.

Reigning in laughter and double checking the station name the crew disembarked and began trekking through the crowded rainy streets of Chiufen.  Lined with food vendors and shops specializing in tea, ocarinas, artwork, soap and other speciality items the streets provided an abundance of visual and olfactory stimuli. Wanting to get out of the rain and enjoy another aspect of the small town the trio ducked into a coffee/tea shop, sat down at a table offering a seaside and mountain view before ordering a tea service to enjoy together.  The next few hours we spent enjoying a total of 7 rounds of oolong tea before it became apparent that the rains were not letting up and since dark was settling in it was high time to head back toward Keelung for another round of street food fare and watching a bit of Godzilla before drifting off to sleep.



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Misadventures of Taiwan: Zero Visibility

One thing the Harrington's did not fail to engage in while gallivanting around Taiwan was sleeping in. So upon finally dragging themselves out of bed the couple made their way to their recently (obviously) discovered breakfast joint which served up some amazing concoction that resembled a ham and cheese filled crepe with delectable, salty and spicy dipping sauces and served alongside a cup of hot milk tea, all for under 5US$. Bellies filled and time ticking away the couple headed down the line to Taipei Main Station where they were set to meet up with their CS host for the next two nights, Pete.


Pete had recently set foot in Taiwan as an English teacher and although he was living in a small studio apartment, the Harrington's were excited to meet this California lad who exposed on his CS profile a love for World of Warcraft and more importantly, for country music. Additionally, Pete resides in a small town just north of Taipei that boasts the most famous of all street food markets which is impossible to pass up if you go by the name of Melissa Harrington.

From subway station to bus station, the Harrington's and Pete made their way to Keelung, deposited their luggage in Pete's studio and hit the rainy streets in search of foods and things to do. Initially overwhelmed by the volume of people and dining choices the Harrington's were soon snacking on candy coated strawberries and making note of other dishes to be sampled at a later time. However, owing to the rain the trio opted to step into Sushi Express for 30NTD (~1US$) a plate sushi. Once inside the group was thrilled to see a fully stocked conveyor belt of a wide variety of sushi, sashimi, beers, sakes, cheesecakes and some veggies making their way past each booth and seat waiting to be chosen by the diners. With a deep seaded love for sushi, it didn't take Mike long to polish off a good stack of plates, but at a dollar a pop it was of no consequence.


Recognizing that the rain was not about to let up and the city of Taipei may provide a slightly dryer night-time location the crew reboarded a bus and found themselves in the city 30 minutes later. Quickly, they made their way to Taipei 101, the world's 2nd largest building and took the world's fastest elevator (88 floors in just over or under 30 seconds!) to take in the city views. Prior to entering the elevator, the trio was warned that visibility from the top was unimpressive to say the least, regardless, they made the trek and enjoyed the foggy view nonetheless. Aside from the view, the Harrington's enjoyed meeting the Damper Babies and learning about and seeing Taipei 101's 660 metric ton wind damper (really, a lot more awesome than it may sound, just click on that Damper Babies link to see CUTENESS and Awesomeness! Highly recommend the 'Wind Damper Functioning Film' ^.^)



From city views above, the trio made their way back to ground level and enjoyed an evening of meandering the streets amongst the hip and trendy of Ximen district before grabbing a quick drink and making their way back to Keelung for a restful nights sleep, filled yet again with the sound of fireworks and the constant drizzle of rain, Taiwan winter 2012, a rainy one to be sure!

The Misadventures of Taiwan: Drizzle and Tinkle

Waking up on the morning of Chinese New Year's Eve the Harrington's phoned a previous CS guest who resides in Taipei and made plans to meet up for coffee and a history lesson followed by a walk in the...graveyard.  The Harrington's friend Mark has lived in Taiwan for nearly 20 years and is a wealth of knowledge regarding numerous subjects but especially the history and politics of Taiwan which he broke down into an hours worth of dialogue before leading the Harrington duo to the outskirts of Taipei where the trio and Mark's pup took a four hour rainy, Sunday stroll through what is best described as 'The City of the Dead'.




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