The in-laws’ visit went well, and now we’ve gotten to see a bit more of the things we’ve been missing. We took them to most of the local sights, for day trips to the cool rock formations at Yehliu Geological Park (where the hiking turns out to be much easier when it isn’t 90 degrees F!) and the sweeping views from Jiufen (for Arizona people, this is Taiwan’s equivalent of Jerome, only ten times more crowded) and for longer trips to Taroko Gorge and Thailand.
Taroko Gorge is an absolutely spectacular marble canyon. It’s a bit difficult to photograph because it’s so narrow, but some of our attempts came out well. (Posting photos is on my to-do list.) The views are incredible. The park has steep cliffs overhanging chasms, a Buddhist monastery, hiking trails, suspension bridges, and enormously old sacred tree, lots and lots of fairly nerve-wracking one-lane mountain roads and more tunnels than my father-in-law really wanted to see in his entire life. The hotel we stayed at was at least a four star, with a rooftop pool that had Ted’s mother lamenting the bathing suit she didn’t bring. It did have some design oddities, like a giant window in the wall between the bathtub and the bedroom. This makes going to the bathroom at night hazardous, if you don’t want to wake your partner: either you stumble in the dark or you forget about the window and turn on the light. This was my approach, only the switch made it even worse by deciding to turn on *all* room lights. Ted wasn’t too pleased with me. We decided to drive home over the mountains instead of back up the west coast of Taiwan; unfortunately the obvious road to take was closed, and even more unfortunately we didn’t learn this until we’d driven on it for an hour and a half. The more southerly route finally got us home, after we’d gotten to see a little snow (!) and some fairly nerve-wracking one-lane mountain roads (they have those in the park too, not to mention more tunnels than my father-in-law really wanted to see in his entire life.
In Thailand we had our own private guide, Chob, and a van with driver. This turned out to be a very good way to see the country, giving us far more access and information than going on our own and being far less annoying than a group tour. It could have been pretty awful if we hadn’t liked the guide, but we did, and each for different reasons. One odd problem with traveling in Asia is that people can be so very friendly and helpful that it can make Americans feel awkward (me, anyway); having a guide who was clearly a high-level professional who enjoyed his job and loved his country made that not a problem. We spent one day seeing the National Palace, several temples, the Emerald Buddha, and the canals in Bangkok. On the second day we went up north to the bridge over the river Kwai and the JEATH POW camp museum, then got to cheer up by riding elephants (really riding: the driver slipped down and had me take his spot on the elephant’s head for a bit) then going to the Tiger Temple to pet sleeping tigers. On our third day we went to see the ruins of the old capital Ayutthaya, then for a boat ride around it. I’ve concluded that, much as I love Thai food, having it for lunch and dinner every day is a bit much. We also got to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar and the more touristy Patpong Night Market, and Ted’s mom and I went for a Thai/Swedish massage that was under $20 US for an hour. (The traditional Thai massage is even cheaper, but I was afraid it would be like Shiatsu, which I don’t like as much.)
At home in Taipei, we took Ted’s parents to the usual local stuff: the phenomenal National Palace Museum, to the National Revolutionary martyr’s Shrine (and saw the changing of the guard), the Longshan Temple (though it was too early for Snake Alley to be really open), all around our neighborhood (little things can be the most interesting in a place that’s very foreign) and up to the top of Taipei 101. We fed them well too: Christmas dinner, of course, dim sum dumplings, Ruth’s Chris for Ted’s birthday, Diamond Tony’s Panorama resturant on the 85th floor of the 101. (Technically, they took us for that one.)
I think they enjoyed it, and I don’t think we ran them too ragged. We relaxed enough that while I’m not thrilled to be back to work, at least I’m not feeling like I need another vacation to recover – which is a good thing since the next vacation is an Ice Hotel for Chinese New Year in a few weeks. I will try to get photos from this vacation posted before we take the next one!