Feeling like a frog out of water at Sun Moon lake...
I've decided to start writing monthly review posts of our travels - mostly because I am too busy (lazy?) to journal regularly, although I do like it.

So, what did we do in November?

Leaving Japan
After nearly two months in Japan, including 5 weeks in Osaka, we had to say goodbye. We didn't want to, especially as the weather wasn't nearly as cold as I had expected for early November. Also, I finally managed to speak more Japanese and become a little bit more comfortable reading kanji (and studying my heart out).

Speaking of study, early November also marked the beginning of my last course with the Open University - it's a course on heritage, including UNESCO world heritage, what is heritage and what does it mean to different people, and how come the British stole all this stuff to put in the British Museum? It's very fun, especially if you have visited a lot of the sites. It makes me question and appreciate what I see and how I interact with places I travel to a lot more.

Feeling meh in Taiwan
We spent 3 weeks in Taiwan - 12 days in Taipei, 5 days in Tainan and 3 days at Sun Moon Like. While I love Taiwan and it was great to catch up with an old friend, it somehow felt anti-climatic to me, I guess mostly because it's not Japan. The hot, humid weather and countless mozzie bites also took their toll and we spent most of our time in Taipei working and studying, with some museum visits and a lot of eating out.

temple view from our Tainan apartment!
Tainan was much better - It's a bit like the Kyoto of Taiwan, but with a more colourful, colonial heritage and mind blowing food. It's my favourite place in Taiwan, not only because there is fantastic vegetarian food, too. I had my first Taiwanese onsen experience (very different from Japan, but I might even prefer it), and we went to the amazing Museum of Taiwanese history.

ancestral feast at the Taiwan History Museum
Our last three days were spent at Sun Moon Lake, which turned out a total tourist trap. It's quite built up and heavily polluted, it's hard to believe it's considered one of the most scenic sites. It didn't compare to Lake Chuzenji near Nikko which we visited in September, or any lake I've seen in Europe. Maybe like West Lake in Hanoi, which is a built up, polluted tourist strip in the city centre. Accommodation at Sun Moon Lake is super pricy, too, so I really don't think it's worth the money or hassle to go there. Luckily, I had used free hotels.com nights to book us into the cutest chalet style hotel right at the lake, which had amazing breakfast, a brand new sento (Japanese style public bath) and sauna, pool and gym. After a night at the amazing airport Novotel in Taipei (another fancy hotel which came at a surprisingly decent price - it might be the best hotel I've ever stayed at!), we were off to Vietnam.

Welcome to Vietnam!
After Japan, Vietnam is probably my second favourite Asian country. The boundless energy, pride and humour of people keep me coming returning again and again. We had to fly from Taipei to Saigon, which is not my favourity city, but we actually spent a fun three days there with cooking classes, going to the theatre and getting a massage (which inadvertently ended up being a Thai massage, ouch!). We also had a fantastic Italian meal one night - I'm not one to crave western food when in Asia, but the place came highly recommended and was fantastic - better than many Italian restaurants I've visited in Italy! Saigon also has plenty of Japanese and Japanese fusion restaurants due to heavy Japanese investment in the city... and of course, its own food! A foodie heaven.

Since leaving Saigon, we were not that lucky. We had booked a cute wooden house just outside Hoi An in central Vietnam ("the Kyoto of Vietnam"... what a travel writing cliche). Upon arrival, it was extremely cute, but also extremely infested by mice. Airbnb's service upon seeing the picture proof was fantastic, full refund with no hassle. Either way, we ended up spending a week in a homestay/guest house in Hoi An instead. Four years ago, this was my favourite place in Vietnam. Now, I was hardbroken by the heavy construction and coastal erosion, as well as the fact that the place seems to be turning into a Vietnamese Mallorca, where backpackers as well as middle aged Europeans come to drink, unaware of the town's amazing cultural heritage (which is rapidly decaying in spite of the Vietnamese goverment receiving lots of money for preservation).

Overall, November could have been better, although it surely could have been worse. Before, we were considering to spend a few more months in Asia, but our intolerance of hot weather especially made us decide to return to Europe in mid-January. 

view from out guest house in Hoi An... I can't decide if it's pretty or neocolonially wrong :(

temples in a sad state of affairs in "UNESCO world cultural heritage" city Hoi An

Leave a Reply

Powered by Blogger.

Blog Archive