Sorry for the delay since the last time I posted. I think this post is going to function as a combo pack mashing together two trips (to Ninh Binh, Vietnam, and Taipei, Taiwan) and some life updates.
Life updates: as you can imagine after my last post, it seemed like a good time to find a new apartment. After some searching, I found a brand new 1-bedroom apartment with a lovely rooftop terrace. Now I don’t need to use a fan to dry my clothes inside of my bedroom! My landlord built several units on their property, so they live in the compound with me and some other new tenants. I think they are recent empty-nesters, and they take great pleasure in inviting us all for tea, beer, mystery liquor, or dinner at every opportunity. They are wonderfully friendly.
In other news, I started taking Vietnamese classes after work, one day per week. It’s way more difficult than other languages I’ve tried before! I think this is attributable to the fact that Vietnamese is a tonal language, or perhaps I’m just at that point where language learning is becomes more difficult. In any case, I am hoping to strap together some basic phrases to enhance my communication abilities a bit.
Travels: Since the last time I posted, I left Hanoi for two nice trips – Ninh Binh and Taipei.
In Ninh Binh, I joined up with some friends from the program who were traveling through Vietnam. Together, the three of us caught a train from Hanoi on a Friday evening, and reached the town a couple of hours later. Ninh Binh is considered a “Ha Long Bay on land,” famous for its beautiful limestone formations that jut out of the ground. We rented some motorbikes, and had a great time driving around the area and exploring.
Last weekend, I took a trip to Taipei. My primary objective was to eat everything in sight. I succeeded. Photos included.
My secondary objective was to get out into the mountains for some fresh air, and a nice hike. I failed spectacularly. However, it wasn’t for lack of trying! I made it out to Yangmingshan National Park north of the city. It seemed like some rain was coming, but I met a nice guy from Australia on the bus who was determined to get out there, and he persuaded me to join. As we moved up the mountain, one of the rainstorms that I’ve read frequently bludgeon the island made its debut before us. Fully aware of this possibility as I left my hotel that morning, I somehow decided to leave all of my waterproof gear in the hotel room. With few options, I took up my new friend’s offer to stuff all of my valuables into his waterproof bag. I still have a cell phone and passport now thanks to him! Facing a deluge at the top of the mountain and soaked from head to toe, we had no choice but to continue down the other side of the mountain. Our visibility was probably around 25 meters, and the wind was pretty strong – I actually got blown over at one point. Sadly, no photos included.