For this trip, I kept a journal as I usually do while traveling, but unfortunately with the baby, I often found myself a few days behind. Therefore, I had little time to share all that many witty and insightful thoughts (not that I really had much time to think witty and insightful thoughts in the first place). The results... I'm not sure if I have enough material or skill to write a very interesting travel blog after the fact. But... I do have lots of photos that I'd like to share. Therein lies the dilemma. How do I post photos and tell a little about Taiwan without boring the pants off folks. Well... I can't really say that I'm off to a great start, but here is my attempt anyway:
In short, tricky but not impossible. Suwei and I did a lot of reading & planning to make sure everything went as smoothy as possible, and for the most part it did. However, we did manage to learn a few lessons along the way. Here is what we did...
Packing: Never in all my travels have I ever planned on bringing as much stuff as I did this trip! And, I hope never to have to bring this much stuff again (unless of course we decide to have a second child). The biggest debates between Suwei and I were mostly about cribs, car seats, strollers and high chairs. Suwei won most of the arguments and frankly, I'm glad she did, because it worked out.
|The Baby Bjorn Travel Crib|
The car seat, the car seat, the car seat: I grew to hate the car seat. And it was the one piece of luggage that we absolutely needed if we planned on riding in any sort of car (which we were). It was also the one item that never seemed to fit anywhere. When we had the rolling luggage, we could loop it over one of the handles (see photo above) and carry it pretty easily. When walking through security and out to the gate, however, it had to be carried. Not the end of the world, but when you are juggling a baby, a stroller and camera equipment (which I also had a lot of), well... it's not ideal.
The reason we didn't check the car seat was that we wanted to use it on the plane if there happened to be a spare seat available. We did not purchase a seat for Keira as the tickets for lap babies were 10% of the cost of a full seat. What we did wrong, after carrying the damn thing all the way to the gate (with the base attached, mind you), was to allow the gate attendant to put a luggage tag on it, "just in case there are not enough seats." Once we got to the plane they told us that we could not board with the seat, as it already had a luggage tag on it. They then told us that they would keep an eye on it to keep the baggage guys from taking it away and if there were any spare seats, they'd bring it back for us. Then they completely forgot about it. We ended up with two spare seats between us and no car seat. No big deal, we just held on to her during take off and then used the seat belt to minimize squirming during nap/bed time.
On our return trip, we did manage to board with the car seat and install it in a spare seat between us. However, I found it quite cramped and honestly I don't think Keira slept any better. I'm sure she was safer in there, but I'm not sure it was worth lugging the thing through the airport. Next time I think I'd like the check it. Suwei, I'm sure, disagrees with me.
The Stroller: This was another item that didn't seem to fit anywhere. At least it was lighter and smaller than the car seat. I also found that I could strap it to my duffel bad and eliminate one more item I had to carry. We debated a long time about taking a stroller. I was kind of anti-stroller, but then again Suwei was going to be the one carrying Keira most often (using the Ergo), so I really didn't have much say in the matter. As it was my mom found this small, light weight stroller at a garage sale for six bucks. For that amount we figured if we hated carrying it we could just give it away. It turns out that it was quite useful and we ended up bringing all the way back home. One factor was that Suwei's father loved pushing Keira around in it, which made it very easy for us. That said, the Ergo (baby carrier) was still very much an essential item. There was no way we were going to use the stroller in crowded subways, steep or rocky trails, or anywhere else really where a six dollar stroller wouldn't roll easily.
The Booster Seat: Although we were told that many of the better restaurants in Taiwan would have high chairs for small children, we knew were going to be visiting a lot of relatives and probably wouldn't always be eating out. We looked into a lot of options including the type that screw on to the table top (heavy and a problem if the table is not shaped just right). I was ready to chuck the whole idea due to the weight and the bulk, when our Pediatrician offered to lend us her First Years On-The-Go Booster Seat. I think Suwei was looking to get something with it's own tray, but I thought this worked just great and it was super light and compact. The only places it didn't work were in the restaurants with the small plastic stools. In those cases we either held her on our lap or kept her strapped in the stroller. Also the fact that the booster didn't have a tray meant Suwei and her mother we constantly sanitizing restaurant tables.
The Grandparents: Ok, so we didn't have to pack the grandparents, nor did we have to navigate any airports with them, but we did meet them in Taiwan and traveled with them for most of the trip. I'll be honest there were definitely up sides and down sides to traveling this way. On the up side, they are from Taiwan. They know the country, the language, and the customs. This of course helped immensely for obvious reasons. On the down side, I'd never been to Taiwan, Suwei hadn't been there in 13 years, and we had a baby who had never been out of the USA. So, they and some of the other relatives we visited were a wee bit over protective to the point of being stifling at times. On the up side, four extra capable and helpful hands sure didn't hurt when it came to wrangling the baby. Suwei's dad was the master stroller driver of the group. On the down side we didn't always see eye to eye on the wrangling methods. Overall, I think they were one of the main reasons why the trip was as easy as it was, but I'm not sure I'd want to go with them on a trip to India.
|Keira taking the grandparents for a walk near Love Pier, Kaohsiung, Taiwan|
Traveling in Taiwan During Lunar New Year
|Outside Taipei's Main Station with Auntie & Mr Yu|
|Auntie's Building where we stayed in Kaohsiun|
As we quickly learned it's also a time when the villagers themselves do a fair amount of consumption (although I am sure the children were quite safe). We were invited to a family dinner on New Year's Eve, family brunch on New Year's Day, another huge family dinner the night after New Years and another family lunch somewhere in those first few days. Add to that all the great dumplings, snacks, noodle shops, and stuff Auntie made and we were getting a little worried about bursting at the seams.
|New Year's Eve Dinner with Family in Kaohsiung|
The Sunset Market
My very first night in Kaohsuing, Suwei's Father took me out to the nearby Sunset Market. As the name implies, the Sunset Market, really gets going in the late afternoon and boy was it hopping when we got there! Stall to Stall people buying up loads of chickens, veggies, fish, fishy type things, dumplings, fruits, grains, noodles etc, etc, etc. It was lucky we visited when we did as the next day the market shut down for completely for Lunar New Year (probably explains why it was so crowded that night) and stayed quiet for almost a week.
|The Sunset Market, Kaohsiung, Taiwan|
|Chengcing Lake as seen from the Top of Jhungsing Pagoda.|
It's quite a peaceful place to wander, and wander we did. We walked around for quite a while trying to rid ourselves of the jet lag and work up a massive appetite for the upcoming family food fest.
|The Nine Cornered Bridge, Chengcing Lake, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.|
Playground / Jhongsing Pagoda / The Nine Cornered Bridge
Taking the Ferry to Cijin Island
|Cijin District, Kaohsiung, Taiwan|
The Ferry to Cijin Island, Kaohsiung Harbor
|Cijin Harbor, Cijin Island|
There is also a lighthouse up there, but it was closed for Lunar New Year.
|Cihou Fort, Cijin Island, Kaohsiung, Taiwan|
|Enjoying the view from Cihou Fort, Cijin Island, Taiwan|
|Waffle Maker on Cijin Island|
I really liked this area! The Pier 2 Art District is pretty much a perfect example of urban renewal. The district used to be a heavy industrial area full of warehouses. Now the old train line is a bike path and the warehouse are galleries. In between the buildings are walking paths and courtyards full of our door sculptures. It's a perfect place to wander and gawk at the creativity.
While we were there, many of the entrants to the 2011 Container Art Festival were on display. Artist from all over the world were asked to express their views on urban ecology by transforming massive shipping containers into amazing works of art.
|Taking an Afternoon Stroll Trough the Pier 2 Art District, Kaohsiung, Taiwan|
Container Art, Pier 2 Art District
And that's it for this entry. I better post this before it gets any larger. Stay tuned for much, much more from Taiwan. Check out the link to the slideshow below. There are 59 photos in there.
|Going to Taiwan - Celebrating the Lunar New Year in Kaohsiung|