Episode 7 - Life Update (Okinawa, Taiwan, and Reverse Culture Shock)
In this long overdue episode, Matt and I update you all on what we've been doing since our last podcast. We've been incredibly busy traveling, being sick, and re-adjusting to life back home. We discussed:
- Exploring Kobe, Japan with my brother, who came to Japan to visit us
- Then, exploring Okinawa with my brother and discovering it's a gorgeous and totally underrated place!
- Why Okinawa is Japan's "Hawaii"
- Eating some seriously unbelievable conveyor belt sushi
- The weather in Okinawa
- Backpacking through Taiwan and the best route to do that
- Hitting some amazing must-see spots there, like Taipei, Hualien, Taroko National Park, Kaohsiung, and Taichung
- Elephant Mountain in Taipei, the best view of the city both day and night
- Climbing to the top of Taipei 101
- Some of the best food in Taiwan
- After an amazing two weeks in Taiwan, we flew back home to NYC for the first time in over a year
- Reverse culture shock and how much of a struggle it has been for us.
Scroll down for the blog post to see tons of pictures and more information.
Thank you for listening! Cheers and happy travels!
Wine: Bolla - Pinot Noir (Italy)
We had an apartment in Osaka, Japan for three months and stayed there until late October. During the month of October, we were incredibly busy! My brother (Marilyn's brother) came to Japan for a visit! He stayed with us for about a week and hopped around Kyoto, Osaka, and other areas nearby while Matt and I worked. All three of us did explore a bit together, such as Kobe and even Nara with friends we made in Korea who were also visiting Japan at the time!
After that initial week, the three of us headed to Okinawa. We stayed in a gorgeous house Matt had found on AirBNB. The house was on the top of a high hill that had an amazing view of the ocean and sunrise. It was owned by an extremely friendly and hospitable Japanese fellow, who also had another AirBNB guest staying with him who was practicing karate. Fun fact: Karate originated from the indigenous people of Okinawa. So, that was quite the perfect place for him to be studying karate!
We stayed in Okinawa for only three days (too short!). We ate a ton of life-changing conveyor belt sushi, went to a surprisingly gorgeous beach, and even visited the American Village!
After Okinawa, Matt and I returned to our apartment in Osaka, while my brother continued on his journey solo to discovering Japan! After another week or so, Matt and I packed up our stuff, received our deposit money (hallelujah!), and jetted off to Taiwan.
Matt and I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan on October 29th. We instantly noticed what an astoundingly modern and beautiful city it was! The first things I noticed about the city was how clean, modern, and open it was and Matt noticed that it reminded him a lot of Manhattan!
On that same night, we headed to a popular club called Myst in Xinyi District, Taipei to celebrate Halloween. It was such a great experience! We dressed up a bit and waited on line to get into the club for about 30 minutes or so with tons of other people. Since we were wearing costumes, we got in for free! Everyone (the hundreds of people on the street and in the club) were wearing extravagant costumes. One guy was dressed up like Darth Maul from Star Wars and he was totally rockin' it, intense make-up and all! Obviously, I had to take a picture with him.
During our clubbing hours, the club was raided by police! Apparently, someone had drugs on them and the cops were heavily interrogating people to find out where they were (they're pretty intolerant when it comes to drugs in Taiwan). Not to worry-- we weren't the ones with drugs! We made friends during this "down-time" with some very friendly folks at the club!
The following day, we went inside Taipei 101, the eighth tallest building in the world (in the podcast, Matt said it was the seventh tallest building, but he was wrong!). It has 101 floors, so the view from the top was spectacular. Naturally, it cost a bit of dough to get into the observatory-- somewhere around $18 each!-- but it was well-worth it.
Matt and I both thought, however, that the greatest view was of the building from the outside. Whether it was from the street, or from Elephant Mountain, it was a sensational sight to see, night and day.
We also ate at the popular chain restaurant called Din Tai Fung, which was conveniently located in the Taipei 101 complex! Their dumplings, dim sum, and water spinach were scrumptious! It was a little pricey, but then again we overdid it a bit as usual and ordered far too much food! The best part of the restaurant though was being able to watch the workers there make the dumplings and dim sum by hand behind observation windows.
I can't believe that we forgot to mention this in the podcast, but Matt and I also went to the Modern Toilet restaurant, where the theme is poop and toilets! I'll let the pictures elaborate:
After Taipei, we headed to Hualien city. From there, we took an hour bus ride to see the Taroko National Park, which was absolutely gorgeous! You gotta check out the pictures:
In Hualien, Matt and I both got a nasty cold, so we didn't do much here except for Taroko. While being sick, we hopped on a train to our next destination: Kaohsiung.
My favorite train ride of all time, by the way, was between Hualien and Kaohsiung. Can you see why?
In Kaohsiung, Matt and I were still sick, so we didn't do very much for the couple of days we were there. We did make time, however, to eat some yummy beef noodles at Gang Yuan Beef Noodles! We also went to Hsitzuwan Beach and watched the sun set.
After Kaohsiung, we hopped on another train to Taichung City. We mainly went to Taichung to see Sun Moon Lake, but it turned out to be much farther from the city than we anticipated! It would've been a two hour trip and we'd have to transfer buses. Since we'd been traveling so much on all the kinds of transportation then and were still sick, we decided not to go to the lake and just experience the city. In Taichung, we mainly relaxed and walked around the area we were staying in, which was in Situn district. There was a night market right outside our AirBNB, so we walked around there and ate tons of great street food there for the few days!
After that, we headed back to Taipei for another night and hopped on our flight to JFK Airport the following day. Twenty or so hours later, we landed at JFK, returning home for the first time in a year and three months.
New York & Reverse Culture Shock
The first thing that Matt and I both noticed when we landed was just how impossibly rude and mean the people working at JFK were. They were yelling at people to go here and there, even people who clearly didn't speak any English. We compared them to people working in other airports, like in Taiwan and Japan, where the people were far nicer to us than in JFK.
Even our Uber driver was rude. Since I didn't have any service on my phone, he was unable to call me to tell me where he was, which only delayed him a couple of minutes because we were able to find him relatively quickly. Once we found him, he yelled at me for not picking up my phone.
So, what's it like traveling in Asia for over a year, then returning back home to New York?
Difficult. Very difficult. We both feel as if we don't belong here anymore. We feel like total outsiders. Everyone here is consumed in their same lives that haven't changed since we left and don't ever ask us questions or show any interest in our travels. I mean, we understand that, since they haven't really traveled themselves, but it's hard for us to hold any long, meaningful conversations with anyone because all we have to talk about is traveling (since that's what our lives have consisted of for the last year and three months) and they only have work or other generic things to talk about. We can't exactly relate to anyone and don't have much in common anymore-- with both family and friends.
It's been difficult readjusting. But, we've been staying positive and not letting everyone else's negatively and disinterest deter us. We are looking forward to our next traveling experience-- Europe! Where in Europe exactly?
...Well, you'll just have to wait and see!
Wine of choice: Bolla - Pinot Noir (Italy)