The first 24 hours in Taiwan

After a shower and coming down a bit in the hostel, I went out to have dinner at the night-market. These markets are very common in Taiwan. You get fresh food on the streets and all shops are open till after midnight. Everything has this Chinese touch but still a little bit more developed and more European. The shops do not sell copied stuff and nobody is shouting after you and trying to force you to buy something.

Back in the hostel I got known to some guys from the Netherlands, Germany and the USA. It did not take long and we arranged to go out this night. After a short taxi ride I found myself in the “Twiice Club”. The entry of NT$ 700 and everything free seemed to be a good offer, but the drinks were really bad (no alcohol) and even the beer has just 2.5% in this country!

Back in bed at 4am after a long talk with Hanno about his internship at VW in China I got up at 11am and went again with him for breakfast to Starbucks. Afterwards we headed over to Taipei 101 to get up. As I already got wet the day before the black clouds at the sky were coming closer and closer. I should find out later that at the time it is raining each day starting at about at 1-2pm.

Taipei 101 | 臺北101

The skyscraper was opened in 2004 and was the first building in the world to break the half-kilometer mark in height with 509,2 meters. The tower has 101 floors and is structured in eight segments. The number 8 is associated with prosperity and good fortune in the Chinese-speaking cultures.
In the 89th floor the observatory is located. You can get up with the fastest lift in the world (1001m/s) in 35 seconds for NT$ 400 (students: NT$ 370). The visitors have a 360° view over Taipei and if the weather is good you can get up on the roof. Unfortunately as  above already mentioned, the clouds were coming closer very fast and finally on the top it started raining.
In the middle of the tower the main tune mass damper is located. With its 660 tons out of 41 steal layers the damper reduces vibrations of about 40%. It is the only one in he world which is accessible by public.
Beside the tower a shopping mall with 6 floors is located. All big and expensive brands can be found here. Austria is a small country with a very traditional coffee culture, and this is what makes actually the mall a little special. The famous “Kaffee Amadeus” (Innsbruck, Salzburg, Vienna) expanded and opened one in the Taipei 101, too.

After packing my stuff I went to the main train station and got a ticket for the HSR (high speed train) to Tainan. NT$ 1350 is not really cheap, but 250 kilometers in less than 2hours is fast and the train is convenient.

The arrival

The start of my journey this year was more stress than I every thought. Michael was so nice to bring me with his car to the airport of Vienna. Unfortunately nobody thought about the several construction areas  in the city and to top this off the highway was completely blocked. Lucky me one hour before departure I could check in and “easily” got my flight to Frankfurt.

Changing in Frankfurt to Air China was something interesting. A Boing 747 without board entertainment system and about 29°C inside was more Asian style than I needed. After 16 hours and a stopover in Beijing I finally arrived in Taipei, Taiwan.

You feel immediately the openness of the people. Taiwan is definitely NOT China! At the airport nearly everybody speaks a little bit English and the people really want to help you to get along in this new environment. After a bus ride of about one hour I arrived in the center, beside the highest building of Taiwan, the Taipei 101. Starting from there on English was not existent. The taxi-driver at least got more less the direction I wanted to go and dropped me off somewhere at a night-market.

Finding the hostel wasn’t that easy cause the JV’s Hostel has no sign at the entrance what made me pass by 3 times till some western looking people told me where to go. The travelers and the staff in the hostel where really nice and easygoing. The seven bed dorm was clean and sheets are provided. In the whole house it is forbidden to wear your shoes but slippers are provided by them.

New Year – New Journey

One year already passed by and I am nearly finished with my first Masters degree. This year is not just fun and travel, the first six weeks I am studying and researching for my thesis at the National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan. At the end of August, after a hopefully intense and productive time I will meet up with Michael (who will study Chinese this year in Taipei)  and head over to China mainland where Clemens will wait for us in Hong Kong. The route for this year is at the moment just defined via our visa and our flight back home from Singapore via Dubai in the middle of October. Stay tuned for great stories from southeast Asia!

This year: Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai…

Transsiberian Ulaanbaatar – Beijing

At 6 o’clock in the morning it was time to go back to the train. This time we had to go with a Chinese train. There was no difference to the others, just one: a fan
This was one of the most important things during this trip. In the dessert Gobi we reached a maximum temperature of more than 41°C in the train and about 48°C outside. I was just lying on my bench and tried not to move.

At about 20pm we reached the Chinese border train station. The change of the boogies took about 2 hours. After this procedure we where able to leave the train and buy food and drinks for the rest of the journey. At the platform I met Daniel, the guy from Rome again and he told me that Andi is here too. The rest of the trip we went back to our normal habit, drinking beer and talking.

At 10am we reached the Beijing central station and went directly to buy SIM-Cards and water. We finally reached the last country and we do not have to go back on the Transsiberian railway, what a strange feeling…

13th Century Park

After a very short night we went with to the 13th Century Park, about 100km away from Ulaanbaatar in the countryside. In this park several yurt camps are reconstructed and give a feeling for the life of the Mongolian long time ago. The entry fee of about €60 is very high and in my mind it is really to high.

With our driver we went from camp to camp. Based on the rest alcohol of the last night in our bodies and a temperature of about 37°C we did not have that much fun.

After about 5 hours we went further to the Dschinghis Khan monument. In the middle of nowhere a enormous silver statue of this man on his horse was built a few years ago. The plan is to open a kind of a entertainment park around this sight.

Back in UB we had a shower and Michael and me went with Sergelen to cafe Amsterdam. I was already upstairs on the terrace when I heard Michael shouting. I ran downstairs and saw a men holding Michael’s pocket. A lot of men where standing on the pavement and shouting at each other. One men was holding another one who tried to run away and Sergelen was discussing with a policeman. I got an update that a guy tried to steal Michael’s purse, but another Mongolian had seen this and tried to help. After Michael got back his values a few policeman came over and asked what had happened. The helper handed over the thief and wanted to live. During the police was talking to us, two other gang members of the robber smacked our new friend. After a long time at the police department we finally got our coffee, a new experience with the police and the never ending feel.

Улаанбаатар (Ulaanbaatar)

Sergelen, a Mongolian friend of us, living normally in Vienna picked is up from the train station at 06:00 o’clock in the morning and we directly started our sight seeing trip through Ulaanbaatar, the about 100 years old capital of Mongolia with about 1 Million habitants.

It is fascinating how the city has been growing in the last few years. The city centre is completely new. Around the main square which includes the parliament are all the new skyscrapers located. You find shops of all international brands like Luis Vuitton, Zegna, Hugo Boss etc. The country is rising up right now really fast. On the streets you just see expensive SUVs or really old cars. Just to get a feeling: UB has the highest number of Hummers on the world!

After the regular sights we went up to the hills which surround the city. Here you find the old yurt camps and the houses of the poor habitants. It is on the one hand fascinating to see the two different worlds of Mongolia, but on the other hand it is just sad.

After a long day of sightseeing and having a shower in our new hotel we went to a typical Mongolian restaurant called Modern Nomads with our new friends from Mongolia and the French girls, Sophie and Valerie we met in the train from Irkutsk to the capital. The night life of Ulaanbaatar is just great. A lot of beautiful women, great clubs and good music.

Transsiberian Иркутck (Irkutsk) – Улаанбаатар (Ulaanbaatar)

After a car ride of about 5 hours back to the city, we had a last shower in the hostel and we directly went to the train station. Andi from San Francisco, USA and Daniel from Rome, Italy we got known to in Baikaler joined us. Before getting in the train again we organized enough water and beer as well as food. After getting known to all people in our wagon I mentioned, that there are just trampers from all over the world in it. This is going to be a completely different trip than the one from Moscow! – Everybody understands English and you can communicate not just with hands!

Crossing the boarder from Russia to Mongolia takes ages. It was very hot outside and we were not allowed to stay in the train (what would have made no difference concerning the temperature). After more than five hours of waiting in the sun, the passport control started and 2 hours later we finally left Russia. The control in Mongolia did not take that much time and was finished after about 2 hours. During this time it was able to exchange money and buy some stuff. At the train station of “Suche Baatar” you won’t find exchange counters, you have to bargain for your rate with the local people! – Normally you loose about 50 Tugrik on one US$ or Euro what is about 2,8 EuroCent.

With our new friends and two girls from France we were drinking and making party nearly the whole trip what helped to pass the time faster.

Olchon Island

This is really the highlight of our trip right now. The biggest island of the lake Baikal has got about 732 km² and is located 300 km away from Irkutsk. The city has got no pipe water and electricity has been provided since 2007. The only connection to the rest of the world is the new mobile network which works pretty well.

We are staying at Nikita’s Place. This is a kind of summer camp where you get your own room in one of the wooden houses or in a yurt. The accommodation is located in the biggest village of the island named Chuschir with about 1200 habitants. There are no bituminised streets and all houses made out of wood. The village looks like a favela in Latin America but the people are really friendly and some how it has got a flair.

The island is perfect for hiking and camping. There are about 300 days of sun a year and nearly no rainy days. Mostly everything is green and you can find some really beautiful beaches. I recommend always to have a jacket with you cause it can get really windy and cold from the one minute to the other. during the night the temperature normally is going down under 10 degrees Celcius! The lake it self is just beautiful! It is the biggest sweat water reservoir of the world and has got an area of 31.500km². The water is normally very cold, the average temperature is about 12 to 14°C.

Irkutsk

In Irkutsk we are just staying for one night and get directly to Olchon Island at the Lake Baikal afterwards.
We are staying in the Baikaler Hostel which is located in the so called centre of the city. It is like a huge shared flat with  4 rooms, a bathroom and a small kitchen. The personal is very nice and helps you with all your problems and belongings. Costs per night: 540 Rubel

The city itself is just a crap. After a walk of about one hour you have seen everything what could be important. On the one hand it is cool to see the different buildings of the city because there are really old wooden block houses between new, derelict houses but there are really no sights. In a parks you can find two churches which were occupied by marriages and that’s it. The streets really need a refurbishment and the tram is from the last century. I really wondered that this bunch of metal is still working.

Actually we are really happy that we decided not just to stay 2 nights in Ikrutsk and get back on the train again! Everybody tells us, that Olchon Island is one of the most beautiful places they have every been to. – I am looking forward to it!

Transsiberian Moscow – Irkutsk

On Monday the 12th of July we met with the two Russian girls who showed us Moscow’s day and night life at the trains station Jaroslaver which is directly located at the really beautiful metro station Komsomólskaja.

After finding the right wagon it we could get our stuff into our new “home” for the next 4 days.
We left Moscow and tried to make the cabin as comfortable as possible.
Shortly after the start of the journey we got known to a Fin couple who are doing the same trip. Meanwhile Martin became friend with a few Russians guys who invited us for vodka and dinner. This was one of the most intensive experiences with the Russian culture I every had. Vodka mixed with water (a liquid with 96% of alcohol is not drinkable) and dried fish were served.

The next days have been more chilled. I was enjoying the landscape and was reading a lot but the trip should not end in peace.
Because the trip was ending and a few Swedish travellers I have met where already sitting in the dining wagon, we joined them. During the two hours someone checked our cabin and took away my camera! – Fucking hell!
I told the head of the wagon what had happened and she immediately informed the police who came on the train at the next station. Luckily I found a Russian girl who was fluent in English and German on the train who acted as a translator. After half an hour discussion that I have to come back for a certification of the burglary, I received a handwritten one by the policeman. The interesting part on this story is, that nothing else was stolen! Neither a notebook or another camera, just my camera bag with my Canon EOS 30D and all the photo equipment I was having with me.

Never the less, the journey is going on and I already bought a new one…

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