14 June 2015
We left New Caledonia on Saturday morning. I really liked the Aircailin decorations on their planes. Lovely red hibiscus on the tail and engines! Even more outstanding on the planes with the back half in bright cobalt blue - that red and yellow hibiscus really pops!
We flew to Sydney, Australia. This is a three hour flight, not too long. But it arrives in the mid afternoon, so it doesn't make for easy connections for outbound flights. This meant another night in Australia.
So we spent the night at the Shakespeare Hotel in Surrey Hills, our favorite little hotel in Sydney. The place is an old pub and hotel, built about 1890, and the hotel rooms have been re-decorated to reflect the decor of that period. Last time we have the brass bed and coordinating chaise. This time we had the room with a fireplace. How can you not love a hotel room with a fireplace? Yes, the bathrooms and shower are down the hall, and shared with the five other hotel rooms. But I'd rather have charm and personality than worry about a private en suite bathroom.
The Shakespeare also has great pub food at the restaurant, and a small "lounge" with friendly pokies - what Australians call slot machines. We had changed our Caledonian money for Australian money, and had a bit of Aussie cash left over from our trip to NC. So we figured, with only one night, we'd play a bit on the pokies. Well, I had one of those nights. The machines were just very friendly to me. Put it this way. I left Australia with more cash than I had when I arrived! Made me happy! And of course I bought our dinner and then brekkie the next morning while we waited at the airport.
The flight was Sydney to Hong Kong, change planes, then on to Taipei. This is a loooong day of flying, some 13 or 14 hours in the air. Plus some confusion with what gate for our flight out - apparently the airline has several flights each evening from Hong Kong to Taipei, one left just as the other started boarding, we did a little running back and forth due to getting wrong information from various gate agents. Oh well, burned off the mediocre airplane food.
We finally made it to our little apartment by about 11 PM (booked through AirBnB.com - great way to get reasonably priced lodgings not at hotels!).
There's a lovely little park across the street from the apartment, all green and grassy and shady, with a little gazebo in the center, and benches placed for relaxation. There's also one of those reflexology paths, where the stones are placed on edge, sticking up, so people can walk along and stimulate the pressure points on the soles of their feet.
These reflexology paths always really hurt my feet - I don't know if that means I need the points stimulated, or if I just have tender little feet.
But the sign showing the pressure points on the feet, and the corresponding body areas, was just gorgeous! Incised black marble or granite, with the drawings and letters then painted gold - just a work of art! One of the most beautiful of these signs that I've seen yet!
Our first day in most locations is usually spent recouping after the travel - maybe sleeping a little later, unpacking what's needed for this climate, and of course getting to know the new neighborhood. We headed out about lunchtime, but couldn't really find a café or restaurant. Our neighborhood is full of bakeries (uh oh!), and we finally found a Starbucks. But couldn't seem to find a place with cooked food. Well, the skies were looking ready to let loose with tropical rains, so lunch at Starbucks was the best option.
Turned out to be okay food, but the thunder and lightening started while we were inside, so we waited out the downpour and left during a lull in the rain. The staff told us to take umbrellas and just return them tomorrow - they had a stand full of umbrellas outside, so we helped ourselves!
Then off to Seven-Eleven. I know, in many parts of the world the 7-11s are just junk food - slurpees and chips and such. But we found in Asia, the 7-11s often carry chilled meals that just need to be microwaved, and are an easy way to get food when you can't find a restaurant. In Japan I had sushi from the 7-11 - it was delivered daily! So we had our choice of various chicken or pork or fish or egg items with either rice or noodles, and various sauces. Also cut fruit, different green salads, fried rice, even vegetarian options. All at 7-11!!! And of course yogurt for breakfast (with cranberries! When did you ever see cranberry yogurt???).
I also found a bodhi tree, complete with a sign. The bodhi tree is a kind of fig tree, the ficus religiosa. Yes, this is a religious tree. The bodhi tree is the kind of tree that Buddha sat under and meditated, and where he achieved enlightenment. This occurred in the town of Bodhi, India. The trees now represent Buddha, the path to enlightenment, and are often (or usually) planted around Buddhist temples and monasteries. With heart-shaped leaves, so there must be some symbolism there some kind of way. (Side note - the tree also has pharmacological properties - the bark is an antibacterial, the leaves supposedly have anti-venom properties, the list goes on and on. An important tree!)
It was exciting to find the sign and finally see a real bodhi tree, especially after reading about them and seeing all the various Buddhist temples and pagodas in our travels!
Now that we're rested up, we'll start exploring Taipei and the rest of Tawain!