Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Taipei International Flora Exposition
April 2011 Taiwan Flower Show
Long before plants, long before animals, long before human beings, there was water.
Always the same water travels on the planet, from the ground to the sky, between earth and clouds, amongst oceans and lands. It runs through us just like through our ancestors. What it tells us patiently, like all the myths we have in mind about Nature, is nothing but our stories.
Video: Water Story
Thus, here in this park, each evening at the same time, a little piece of this water memory will be revealed out of the Grand Basin, a performance coming along with the water, a story drawn by itself.
A poet, a Lady in black and 29 young people will be waiting for you at dark by the mirror of lights, bringing you beyond the centuries with fishermen, peasants, workers and all kinds of people while the world keeps on moving. You will see water burning, pineapple island, aquatic bicycles, cannibal couch and a desperate baseball player.
Water Story is an incredible dream of life on water, which becomes possible if not by magic, a dream that we recognize as Taiwan.
This was the wierdest wackiest show I ever saw! I am not sure what the story means; I am not sure about the show but I just had to share it with you. I hope you enjoyed the video. Maybe you can explain the baseball player, hamburger to me!! Write to us on our new website: wesaidgotravel.com
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May 22, 2011 | 10:17 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
We arrived in Taipei April 17, 2011 and everyone we talked to said, “Go to the Flower Expo, it is about to close.” It ran from November 6, 2010 to April 25, 2011. Taipei Flower Expo was an enormous area filled with many pavilions for viewing all kinds of flowers.
On the sides of most buses in Taipei were advertisements for the Flower Expo. Many metro stops had signs, maps and explanations how to find the Expo from one station to the next. There were special buses to transfer passengers from rapid rail to the many entrances.
But all the media did not prepare us for how busy the Flower Expo would be. We arrived at nearly 5pm and were eligible for late day tickets. I had no idea that we would wait in line to stop and smell the flowers. George was shocked that there were so many people and called it, “Disneyland without the rides.” I could see the resemblance; the queues were very orderly and had red-taped stanchions.
I love the video of our time in the Flower Expo. There were so many types, colors and designs of flowers; it is truly impressive all the flowers that are available in Taiwan. The people-watching was spectacular!
The 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition will be the first international certified standard exposition that Taiwan has ever held. Taipei will also be the 7th AIPH certified exposition conducted within Asia. It is estimated that the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition will attract approximately 8,000,000 visitors both domestic and international, not only boosting the growth of Taiwan’s tourism industry and horticultural growth but also stimulating foreign affairs and promoting the image of Taiwan. In the eyes of those who take pleasure in the beauty of Mother Earths’ creations, these flora and horticultural expositions are carnivals of joy and delights. As we march into an industrialized society, green trees and natural habitats are diminishing in our living space. The foundation of floral exposition shows how people crave for a green space. This exhibition also shows how people in the new era care about the environment and eco-system.
News from Lisa and George:
More Taiwan videos are on the way: next up the Wacky Water Show!
Check out our new website: http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/
We would love to hear your comments and suggestions about our site.
Thanks for your ideas! For this summer: We are off to Tonga and Samoa.
Save the date: June 21, 2011 for our first Meet Plan Go Happy Hour! More details soon.
May 20, 2011 | 11:03 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Join the Jewish Journal and the Jewish Cruise Club for Ahoy Vay CHANUKAH Cruise.
Don’t miss the boat!
December 17th-24th, 2011 Chanukah Cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Magnificent Voyager of the Seas. Seniors, singles, couples and families are all welcome!! The ship will be filled with Chanukah revelers! Every night on the cruise at sunset join the group to light the Menorah. The camp will have special activities for the kids every day! For the adults, there will be slot tournaments, dance classes, spa appointments or just lounging by the pool! Whether you are traveling with a family or by yourself, you are not alone when the Jewish Cruise Club sails! Join in as we sail from New Orleans to the Western Caribbean!
Day Port ***
17-Dec New Orleans, Louisiana
20-Dec Falmouth, Jamaica
21-Dec George Town, Grand Cayman
22-Dec Cozumel, Mexico
24-Dec New Orleans, Louisiana
*** All itineraries are subject to change without notice.
There will be special shore excursions geared towards the Jewish experience! The Jamaican Jewish History walking tour in Falmouth will include the very historic Jewish Cemetery and is an experience not to be missed. The Caribbean is filled with fun! From water sports to shopping, Historical tours to beaches these seven days will surely give you a week to remember.
The SHIP! The Voyager of the Seas is the flagship of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager Class ships! It’s 138,000 tons of elegance! There is entertainment around every corner from Broadway showrooms to ice skating shows, rock climbing walls and basketball courts to a miniature golf course. This ship has Card rooms, Casinos, a Library, not to mention one of the best gyms at sea. Join the Jewish Cruise Club for Chanukah and make this ship your first present to each other!
There is limited space for this sailing and a varied amount of cabins and occupancy, singles, doubles, triples and quads.
So please click the link below and Jewish Cruise Club will get you a quote as soon as possible.
CLICK HERE TO RECEIVE A QUOTE
Please note that there is Kosher Food available if ordered at time of booking. For more information please contact the Jewish Cruise Club click here!
May 15, 2011 | 12:26 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Our two weeks in Taiwan were terrific.
We hope you enjoy our photo book. More videos to come about our trip in Taiwan.
See more travel stories at We Said Go Travel.
Have you been to Taiwan? Do you want to go? We would love to hear from you.
May 10, 2011 | 5:28 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Our two weeks in Taiwan started with some great outings around Taipei. At Mudan House, more of a hotel than a hostel, both Doris the owner and her dad, Stephen, gave us suggestions for day tours. Stephen teaches tourism at the University; during our homemade breakfast of egg pancakes with onion and cheese, created by Aunt Acco, he told us about Alishan, Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge. As is usual for us, we only had one night of accommodation planned and a rough sketch to guide our two-week visit.
Mudan House is in a great neighborhood; it does not feel like we are in a major city. Doris’s family lives on floors 5 and 6. Doris says in the summer they have many natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons in Taiwan. She says it is good we are here now in April. She was so helpful and friendly and we would soon realize that nearly everyone in Taiwan shared these same qualities.
Video: A day in Taipei
We met an Indonesian couple at breakfast who are from Sumatra and now live in Singapore. They can’t believe how many places we have been in Sumatra that they have yet to see in their own country, such as Lake Toba, and Pualau Wei! They are also shockingly impressed with our Chinese (I mean 5 words which is even less than I speak in Moroccan Arabic, but at least we try.) They were very impressed with George’s Indonesian. He can have a real conversation, not just mumble through “Thank you,” and “Where is the bathroom?”
Taipei was full of very friendly people, and a very clean city. It was incredibly simple to use the MRT rapid transit and everything was written and announced in Chinese and English. At 20NT (New Taiwan Dollar; 29NT is $1) for most rides, transport was also very economical.
Our first stop was Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and national theater. The grounds are beautiful but we heard there are discussions underway to change the name. So when you visit, the site may have a different name and no longer be that of the former leader, who used heavy governmental control and intervention to control the country. When you arrive and see the beautiful buildings, large garden area, red roofs and ornate gate structure, you will find the attraction well worth visiting.
We were confused about 2-28 Peace Park, and on our video we called it the War Memorial. This site is in memory of the massacre that began on February 28, 1947 and ushered in Taiwan’s era of martial law. The park is beautiful, and shares its grounds with the National Taiwan Museum.
Later in the day we traveled by metro to Taipei 101, at 508 meters the second tallest building in the world (after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa) but we chose not to go to the top. The exterior was completed in 2003; construction began in 1997. The world’s fastest elevator is in this building and travels at 1010 meters per minute, rocketing passengers on a 40 second ride from ground level to the 89th floor observation deck.
More videos to come about our trip in Taiwan. See more travel stories at We Said Go Travel.
May 5, 2011 | 8:48 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Two years ago, George and I meandered from Indonesia to Mongolia. We thought at the end of our eleven-month adventure we would return home from Beijing to Los Angeles. Then, while in Laos, we discovered a brochure about Taiwan and immediately this new island climbed to the top of our must-see list. Everything about the young country beckoned to us.
At the end of our big Asian trip, George found an amazing flight from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to Los Angeles and we missed out on Taiwan, which is why we headed there for the last two weeks of April on our Spring break.
Our American Airlines Frequent Flyer miles allowed us to take a Cathay Pacific flight (14+ hours) from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. We saw so many movies that I barely even remember what I watched. Our second flight was delayed more than an hour but our bags spat themselves from the luggage carousel, Mr. Yang picked us up (which the hostel had arranged for us for 900NT—Taiwan money about $30). We were so happy to see a sign with our name on it
When we got to the Mudan House, around midnight Sunday April 17, Doris the owner of the hostel had waited up for us with house slippers to wear and showed us the laundry room with filtered drinking water. Our map has the corner 7-11 on it, which is a staple in Asia. Doris is amazing and so is Mudan House.
Our room was great, clean with shelves, private bath, big shower and towels. For us, this constituted true luxury! There was cable for Internet in the room if you brought your own laptop and a shared laptop downstairs. They have breakfast from 8-9:30am cooked by Aunt Acco.
On our first day we explored Taipei using the Metro. As we entered the metro, we saw part of a parade. Our first stop was Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. And so for the first time, our day-to-day traveling life went straight to video!
May 1, 2011 | 12:11 pm
Posted George Rajna
Little Two-Star “Eriyadu Resort” vs. Heavyweight “Four Seasons Kuda Hura”
Does this Maldivian Hotel challenge seem completely unfair from the get go? Would the locally run Eriyadu have anything on the International Bellwether? To find out, I had to develop criteria with which to compare and contrast the two Maldivian resorts. However, before the battle, I need to set the stage: My wife Lisa and I spent six weeks of the Summer of 2010 in Sri Lanka and we deemed it prudent to spend ten beach days in the brilliantly beautiful Maldivian Islands to recharge our batteries before returning to Los Angeles.
Let it be known, you likely cannot go wrong in the Maldives and there are hundreds of resorts to choose from. I would recommend conducting a thorough investigation before selecting a resort but I would not necessarily simply rely on a resort brand name that you are comfortable with. That said, according to our Lonely Planet guide book, the only real way to get to know the Maldivian culture is to spend some time on the main island of Male, the only island that is dominated by the local people rather than Italians or Germans on holiday. Therefore, we spent the first two nights on Male at Candies, a local establishment that we highly recommend. This island is one of the most densely built places on Earth, and uses nearly all the available land to house the country’s predominant population of approximately 300,000, a mix of Sinhalese and Dravidian people who came from South India and Sri Lanka.
Male does not really have any “sights” to speak of but there are a variety of nice cafes and despite the dense population, the pace of general life is relaxed. We did find a tasty and authentic Thai restaurant and we window-shopped the island’s many clothing stores. Fishermen, naturally, sell the daily catch in the market; the size and variety of the fish was amazing. Still, to be truly honest with the reader, the best photo I took of Male is the one when we were on a boat heading towards the Eriyadu Resort; looking back toward the capitol, the boat’s wake seemed to separate from the city and its life.
Upon our arrival at the Eriyadu Resort, we realized immediately that we had found a special place. One could probably circle the isle on foot in 15-20 minutes if some sand erosion did not make this feat impractical. After a brief albeit friendly welcome, we were shown to our room, a nice habitation literally steps (okay maybe 40 steps) from the beach. Our accommodations were set under a group of swaying palm trees
that offered plenty of shade. The room had both an indoor shower and another outdoor one with a view of the stars at night. Our television had maybe two or three channels, all in incomprehensible languages (but who came here to watch TV). The room was spacious and fairly comfortable but nothing extraordinary. The open-air thatched roof that we ate under provided our three buffet style meals per day and was set away from the beach without a view to speak of. The food was decent to tasty, especially the fish or local curry dishes. The bar area was close to the ocean with good views but the atmosphere was ho-hum; the staff nice enough but not overly enthusiastic about our presence.
But then we stepped out on the beach. Think isolation, extreme beauty in the hues of the crystal clear waters and sheer whiteness to describe the sweet powdered and sugared sand. Looking out toward the sea, almost nothing was visible with the exception of two or three islets too far to really notice. We mostly had this area to ourselves as the beach was empty most of the day; only a few people were actually staying at the resort. This was a great place to relax, read a new novel, watch the stunning sunsets, or as we were soon to find out, drop into the warm clear waters to view the abundant coral and aquatic marine life.
Only a few feet under water, beautiful and healthy coral reefs surround the entire island. Swimming over the reef is a large variety of species and colors and shapes that traverse these waters. We saw schools of butterfly fish, multi-colored parrotfish, trumpet fish as well as rock cod. There were many angelfish, anemones with clown fish swimming in them. There were also groups of sweetlips, surgeonfish, triggerfish and unicorn fish as well as huge wrasse.
The sea bottom was only a few meters down so viewing marine life was easy and rewarding. About a five minute swim from the shore, the reef dropped away, and we floated in a blue abyss, over what appears to be a twenty-story drop. In this area larger fish such as grouper, turtles, and white-tipped reef sharks could be seen frequently. In fact, the snorkeling was so superb that we typically swam around the island three times per day as each time proved better than the last. When our heads were not underwater we spent time reading under the palms, lazing on the coastline with calm water lapping at our feet, or soaking up some sun with the pristine blue sky above us, and only a few spare, interestingly-shaped clouds to frame the scene.
After four days of this paradise, we were taken by boat to our upscale and final destination, the “Four Seasons Kuda Hura”. Immediately after we arrived we knew that we were in for a big change. First off, the staff was incredibly friendly, so nice that their effusiveness could have been faked, but in reality it was true friendliness. After days of tolerating the indifferent staff at the Eriyadu Resort, this change was refreshing. We had an excellent breakfast with fine views over the water while we waited for our upgraded over-the-water bungalow to be set up. The buffet breakfast was superior to Eriyadu’s fare in both quality and variety. The presentation was nicer as well, with an aura of class rather than simply that of function.
A wooden bridge led to our little stand-alone house. Arriving in a small golf cart type vehicle - and I’m not making this up - we passed a school of baby white-tipped reef sharks. Our quarters “over the sea” were luxurious. We had excellent ocean views from every room, even from the separate rooms of the shower and toilet. All of the room’s amenities were of extreme high quality, nicer than what we have at home. From the Bose sound system, to the large LCD television, with a plush bed and excellent decor, we were living in style. Even the robes and towels were ultra soft. The outdoor patio over the water was lovely and we saw a few stingrays swimming under our bungalow. So far, based on the quality of the room, the resorts amenities, and the extreme friendliness of the staff, Kuda Hura was kicking Eriyadu’s ass.
After checking in, we went to speak with the overtly kind water-sports employees who happily informed us precisely about the location for the best place to snorkel. We walked along the beach and I couldn’t help but notice that this island was not nearly as remote as where we stayed in Eriyadu. At least two other large islands surrounded the Kuda Hura, including an island with an indigenous population. In addition to not having that special remote feeling, the quality of the water and sand, despite being quite nice, did not possess the drop-dead beauty that of that we had just left behind. Somewhat disappointed, we entered the ocean to partake in yet another excellent day of snorkeling.
We swam and swam but it was difficult to find the reef. In fact, the most notable reef was growing on man-made metallic domes as part of a restore-the-reef project sponsored by the resort. I left the water feeling dejected. We approached the staff that had suggested the snorkeling area and they agreed that despite being the best available snorkeling, it was not up to par with other places, especially since we were scuba divers. They then suggested that we go on a boat tour to the “house reef” located near the island, but which was too far for swimming due to strong currents and powerful, windy weather. We agreed to go on the tour the next morning but when we arrived, the trip had been canceled due to the strong currents and a vast quantity of small sized stinging jellyfish. Because it was the Four Seasons and we insisted on going, they took us out in the boat. The house reef here was much deeper, the water far more volatile and difficult to navigate. Despite seeing maybe the largest octopus that I have ever seen, the aquatic life and reef diversity was somewhat disappointing.
At this point, I literally felt like leaving and heading to another island. I did not come to the Maldives to stay in a posh resort and I wanted to be able to enjoy the waters, take in some natural beauty, and swim in a real-to-life aquarium. Kuda Hura, despite the positives that the resort has to offer, definitely disappoints in the above qualities.
Finally, we had a tasty lunch, having given up on snorkeling. However, when we returned to the water-sports area later that day, the wind was plentiful. I watched a lady wind-surf easily back and forth, making me think back nostalgically when I was a G.O.
in Club Med years ago, and I was windsurfing daily. Both Lisa and I decided to try a board and we were immediately hooked. Our snorkel time became windsurfing time. We were out in the water at least three times per day, improving each time out. Sometimes lack of one thing leads to another surprising positive change, something we don’t necessarily expect.
So, which property wins the battle? For friendliness and quality of accommodations, amenities, water sports and food, the Kuda Hura wins hands down. For natural beauty
and great snorkeling, Eriyadu reigns victorious. Obviously, what is most important to you will dictate where you spend your holiday. For me, seeing the Maldives meant staying on a remote island with extreme beauty and excellent snorkeling. For this reason I choose the lowly two-star as victorious over the Four Seasons Resort. Still, to be fair, the Kuda Hura is a beautiful place with a great staff and excellent conditions for windsurfing.
April 25, 2011 | 3:34 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Before we left, it was under a million views but now it is nearing two million views. Enjoy this Passover story by current technology! The fact that I can upload these sentences from the Tainan teachers hostel in Tainan, Taiwan on the internet and you can see it instantly is truly 21st century. We spent the day at the An Ping Fort that was built in the 16th century by the Dutch and spoke with 5th graders who are learning English in their schools here.
Our first week in Taiwan has been full of adventures. We will share all the stories and videos after our return next week. I hope that your Passover celebrations are filled with family, friends and freedom from your personal enslavements.