Giggly study days

DSC_7881Somewhere in the midst of exam preparations, tea drinking and deep life conversations.

June 2015, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan.





Yangmingshan – Hiking up the Yangming Mountain

DSC_6671There are a couple of one day get-away from Taipei to recommend. One of them is Yangmingshan, just north of Taipei. It is a National Park and easy accessible by bus.

We started of from Taipei at a Saturday morning, squeezing ourselves onto a bus and joining the big crowd leaving the Taiwanese capital. The weather was good, almost too good, and everyone wanted to enjoy a nice day away from the city.

As soon as we got of the bus we found this volcanic area. The smell of sulfur was really strong and not too nice, but I loved the view. I am not sure if I have seen volcanic activity live before.

DSC_6663I realized that there was an excellent walking path starting from where we were standing, and I got excited for climbing up the mountain. That was when I realized that my travel mates never planned we would actually go hiking. After some discussion we decided to give the mountain a try, and after buying a couple liters of water and applying sun lotion we started the hike.

DSC_6690Hiking in Taiwan always means “walking up stairs”. I do not know who was energetic enough to bring all these stones up, but no matter where you hike you won’t get away from them.

It was warm, just as warm as Taiwan can be on a sunny April day. The sunshine came right from over our heads and the low bushes around us did not provide any shade. One of the friend immediately opened his sun-umbrella, and I could not keep myself from laughing and making jokes.

DSC_6683DSC_6704As we kept on walking my skin became more and more burnt. Maybe it was stupid to only buy a cream with sun factor 15, but in Sweden I think that is enough for me. In Taiwan? I guess at least a 30 would be needed for me here!

The intense of the sunshine, the lack of protection for my sore skin and the very heat of the day – soon we were all hiding under the same umbrella. He who laughs last, laughs best – so much for my umbrella jokes! 

DSC_6687We met two old ladies who were looking for herbs along the trail. They had easier taken a course in Chinese Medicine, and a guide had taken them here to find different medicinal plants. Now they came back trying to see how much they could remember. They talked happily to us and showed us some of the leaves next to where we were standing.

DSC_6696An Indian Forest Skink was enjoying some sunshine. As long as we only say skinks and not poisonous snakes, I was very happy.

DSC_6705DSC_6713The top of the Yangming Mountain was very busy. There was people everywhere, and the air was full of huge butterflies. We were trying to sit all of us under the umbrella and wondering how we could decide to go for such a long hike without bringing anything to eat.

DSC_6731This old man was cheered on by everyone who saw him. He alone carried a little baby girl up the mountain, and he looked more happy than tired.

DSC_6721On the way down we found a small hen-like bird. I had seen birds similar to this one for a couple of times already in Taiwan, but this is the first time I got a close look. Isn’t she beautiful?


Funny things in Taiwan: the Hostels

Did you ever see a hostel in Taiwan?

No, I guess you didn’t. Because they are impossible to find! (Or because most of my readers are living overseas, haha)

DSC_6641Just as an example: look at this small place. At a street somewhere in Taipei our friends found this impossibly small door. The door lead up to a private staircase all the way to the second floor (or third if you count floors in Taiwanese way) where the small hostel was placed.

When trying to find the hostel I booked I mostly find myself walking around the streets , with a gp in hand, and still not finding the right place. Once I found that I passed right outside the door a couple of times already.  Another time we came to a door with no name or number at all. Someone on the street told us to knock at it, and voila, it swung open and we found our place to stay. Why are the hostels in Taiwan always hidden in such a subtle way?

Yehliu Geopark and confusions on names in Taiwan

DSC_6512April 2015, Taiwan

This spring we went to Keelung. Or Geelung, as I thought it was to be pronounced. Taiwan is so confusing: most of the cities have names that doesn’t help you to know how to actually say the name. Taipei is to be read as “Taibei”, Kaohsiung becomes “Gaoxiong”, and Hsinchu is actually Xinzhu. Now when reading Wikipedia I realize that the name of Keelung is actually to be read “Jīlóng“. Even though older written names like Chi-lung still seems to be around. Conclusion: Does writing Chinese with Latin alphabet really has to be this complex? 

Keelung is a city on the north tip on Taiwan, a small distance from the city you can find Yehliu Geopark.

DSC_6522The Geopark of Yehliu is famous for stone formations. The geological conditions made the soft stones shaped by weather and wind, and looking like all kinds of funny figures. Above you can see the “tofu” stones, and below one of the higher structures.

The most famous (and crowded are) was at “the queens head”. Once upon the time the stone might have looked like a proud females head. But today the surface of the stone has lost so much the head is almost unrecognizable. Nature is creating it’s own live art, under constant reconstruction.

DSC_6600As always I feel an urge to get out from the tourist crowds, so we directly headed over to the more distant park of the Geopark.

DSC_6531The peninsula of the park was high and pointy, and offered a beautiful view of the sea around us.

DSC_6525A beautiful bird with a very distinct song was in charge of the soundtrack.

DSC_6519We did not really know where the path was taking us, we just kept walking higher and more far away. But when we reached the end point it was like someone had planned it perfectly for us: we got to a small pavilion just to enjoy a dramatic sunset. Can you see the man finishing on (the second picture) below?

DSC_6580DSC_6561DSC_6589When it started to get dark we walked back down to sea level. We found the previous crowded parts of the park almost deserted, and could take our time looking at the previous-queen of stone.


Back to Sweden (Another Far Country)

DSC_8117Landing in Sweden felt like entering into a memory or a dream. Is this real, is it really happening? Was this here all this time when I was away? Everything looks the same, nothing here is unexpected or hard for me to grasp. I make my way through my life here within the safe path of habits and I’ve done this before. And yet my eyes are so sensitive to everything I see, and my skin shivers at the slightest touch of cold wind.

I was away from Sweden for a long time before. It was two years ago, and coming back to Europe again was a disastrous feeling of confusion and hopelessness.

This time coming home was easier. No life-changing moments. No feeling of turning myself inside out or upside down. I was even mentally prepared for moving from a tiny dorm room – into the lifestyle of plenty that I grew up in.

DSC_8120DSC_8123I was in Sweden for less than 24 hours, enough time to get a good nights sleep and some great Swedish meals, before my parents announced it was time to go travelling. The weather was finally becoming warm. And during summer in Sweden we have a golden rule: never waste good weather! You never know when it will get cold again.

One of the most famous songs of this country goes something like “Summer is short, most of the time it is raining. But now when it’s here: enjoy. Fall will be here soon. Maybe it’s only sunny today.” Encouraging, isn’t it?

So instead of sitting home waiting for the jet lag to pass, I was taken to sit on a boat, and wait for my body to get used to the new conditions.

DSC_8124DSC_8192DSC_8130I must say that Sweden is amazing. What kind of place is this, really? The air is so clean, the towns so quiet. If you wanted you could drink the water even in the muddy lake of my hometown. (Some other parts of lake Mälaren is quite clear, but right outside Västerås the water is really brown)

But one unexpected thing got me annoyed: the daylight. Hey, it’s ten pm, I have a jet lag, and I desperately want to sleep. How come the sun is still up? And how is it even possible to walk in a forest at 11 pm without any need for artificial light? (The two pictures below)

My body got used to the regular early sunsets in Taiwan. That’s the issue here in Sweden. The summer nights are impossibly long and fantastic, and winter nights are impossibly dark and … less mind-blowing. We have a”uneven distribution of sunlight” as an engineering friend so beautifully described it.

DSC_8214DSC_8224The small towns. The overly cute and petite little towns of Sweden. Like miniature worlds, complete with pizzerias and stone churches. This is taken in the town of Strängnäs. But after the hustle and bustle of Taiwanese cities even my town Västerås feels very small.

DSC_8132DSC_8137DSC_8134DSC_8138DSC_8203Would you have imagined staying in Taiwan is the question my mother kept repeating to me. Would I?

Yes, I guess to. I could fancy living almost anywhere.

In the end of the day: Sweden is not really home. I love Sweden. If anywhere is home, it would be here. But I am not thinking we are supposed to get overly attached to our lives.

I imagine life as a long journey towards the real heavenly home waiting for us. What is around is now, is just for now. It is all just passing by. Only the final destination will remain constant.

DSC_8183But I loved living in Taiwan, I really did.