Taiwan thoughts.

if I had to pick one word for Taiwan, it might be juxtaposition.

bright temples and billboards add contrast to the cement buildings that don't stand a chance of looking new for long in this climate. modern high-rises and Starbucks spring up next to ancient moats and abandoned lots. crumbling brick structures in a lush green rice field, scooters zipping down a road that winds through mist-shrouded mountains...

Taiwan can be dirty and dingy, blindingly colorful, or peaceful and refreshing. sometimes all at once.

and as much as some days I don't love it, I do love it.

and those are your Taiwan thoughts for today.

now: meet Christina of Route Bliss. photographer and road-tripper extroidinare, she also shares a little bit of everything on her blog. if you're looking for wanderlust inspiration - check out her dream destinations series. she's also got you covered for the holiday - with everything from budget-friendly last-minute gift ideas and holiday travel tips, to an adorable and festive way to turn your souvenirs into ornaments! this lady has been hanging out on my sidebar for a while now, but today you'll get a chance to know her a little better. check out her interview below, then head to her blog to say hello!

I'm Christina, the girl behind the scenes here at Route Bliss. I'm a 30-something single wannabe vagabond whose practicality and realist side keeps her planted in East Texas. By weekday I write lots of reports at my job as well as daydream frequently where I want to travel to next, ways to motivate myself to getting fit for health and happiness's sake, and experimenting in the kitchen to make my favorite not so healthy foods healthier. I also like to take lots of photos of pretty things, furry critters (aka canines and felines), and beautiful destinations.

two of your favorite posts: The post that 'launched' Route Bliss in August 2013. One of the handful of posts where its my heart instead of my brain, pouring words out on the screen.

And this post from 11.12.13 -- while its a mini night photography tutorial, its also the first astrophotography image I shot.

any travel plans or goals you have for next year? Right now I'm in the process of mapping out a huge summer roadtrip in the western US for Summer 2015. I've had the time off approved by my supervisor, but due to some major work changes in the near future, I am not revealing too much in case it has to be shortened/altered between now and then.

what is your favorite trip/vacation you've ever taken? Oh geez, that's a tough one. As a youth, both trips my family took to Disneyland and the Grand Canyon. I love the Disney parks and the stops at the natural wonders along the way, especially the Grand Canyon, are what started my love of the national parks as well as photographing our natural wonders. As an adult ... I can't choose. There's things about Vienna, Austria I loved even though it was a bittersweet trip. I loved the 2009 roadtrip I took as well as my 2013 one ... and I can't forget the parts of Route 66 I've covered so far either!

share one of your favorite travel moments from 2014. The only traveling I've done this year was to Little Rock, Arkansas to visit my best friend ... so spending time with her and capturing her engagement and bridal portraits as well as experiencing every moment of her wedding day with her.

any special plans for the holidays? Other than sleeping in for 10 straight days, absolutely nothing beyond the norm with my parents and brother on Christmas Day!

where would you dream trip take you? Either to Iceland or New Zealand.

describe yourself in 3 words: Determined. Loyal. Overachieving.

learn more about Christina on her blog: Route Bliss
and follow along with:


best search terms of 2014

from time to time, I like to take a peek at the search terms people are using to find this blog. while I appreciate all and any traffic that comes my way, some of these terms are a little unexpected. I've compiled a list of the best [and most hilarious] terms I've spotted over the past year.

if you are someone who has discovered this blog through a search engine and have stuck around long enough to be reading this post, then awesome. I don't mean you any offense by listing your search term below, and hope I was able to help you find what you were looking for. those of you who arrived here by other means and are just here to be entertained... well, enjoy!

since I fall under the umbrella of "travel blog" you can probably guess I receive a lot of traffic from travel-related searches. many of them have been standard: things to eat in Taiwan, travel essentials, Bali packing list, etc. the entertaining ones are more specific, and sometimes a little strange... though I feel I've answered most of these questions:

dress code for Wat Arun
giant spider
do most hotels provide hairdryers in Bali? [not the one I stayed at!]
where to spot monkeys in Railay
buddha in tree
sound system of lotus temple
cycling Ubud calligraphy [huh?]
Taiwan strange things
Tokyo Disneyland popcorn bucket
a golden giant in Thailand
hidden lagoon Railay
why don't Taiwanese people use soap [um, most I know DO use soap!]

another big category for terms was cats. not what I was expecting. but... it's no secret that I love cats. leaving my fuzzballs behind was one of the hardest things about becoming an expat. one said fuzzball is pictured above, on the night I adopted him in 2008. I haven't shared much about my cats on this blog since they are back in Michigan, but I've obviously posted enough about other cats to draw several feline-related searches. most notably: temple cats and Thailand, cat crazy tours Ayutthaya, cat looks like zebra, and are there a lot of cats in Thailand?  [in case you are wondering... the answer is yes.]

this may or may not be due to series of posts I titled: cats of Thailand + parts twothree. and maybe also a post on the cats of Bali. and um, and a cat cafe in Taipei.

there have also been some slightly scandalous search terms. I have no idea how they led here, I just know that they did. unlike the travel and cat-related inquiries, I'm pretty sure I did not answer any of these questions. but somehow they still led here. some of the best [?] of these terms have been:

fantasy image dusk when his lonely shore alone
how to find a husband while teaching overseas
bras to wear while swimming
my teacher's wife hot scene
how to make love like newlyweds
making out on country road

and then, we have a collection of completely random terms. these are the ones that made me giggle [or just scratch my head.] I'm sure if I dug deep enough I could find where these led to, but perhaps it's better to just enjoy these phrases completely out of context:

god of the internet
all the oreo flavors ever made
how to decorate a roof with an unnecessary thing
hot doritos
sword in lions hand stamps
oozing brick walls
I don't care because I love myself
pavilion half shirts
stinky feet in face
boiled egg wrapped in pork wrapped dumpling
thing you put in your headphone socket
how do you say do you mind if i take my tablet down stairs
reclining chair and a half
keep out room signs
love sitting on balloons

have you ever looked at the search terms leading people to your blog? what has the craziest one been?


Tokyo // Asakusa + the Sanja Matsuri festival

when we booked our stay in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo, we had no idea we would be arriving in the middle of a festival. but when we emerged from the subway system, we were greeted by packed streets and the banging of drums.

since we only spent one night in actual Tokyo [the rest we were at Tokyo Disneyland] we decided to splurge stayed at The Gate Hotel. it wasn't cheap. but the views were stunning, the food was to die for, and it was right in the middle of everything. the Sensoji temple [which is the center of the Sanja Matsuri festival] was only a few short blocks away. we dropped our bags and went out to explore the nearby temple and market. and of course, gawk at the festival activities.

the Sensoji temple and surrounding buildings were gorgeous - I loved the sweeping roofs and the bold red. I did not take near as many photos as I normally would, because the area was extremely crowded. the Sanja festival is one of the largest religious celebrations in Japan, and draws up to 2 million people each year. and we unknowingly walked into the middle of it.

throughout the course of the weekend-long celebration, the streets are crowded with people both participating in and viewing the carrying of various mikoshi [or small shrines] to and from the main temple for blessings. it seemed that every street we turned down had a procession going through. even though it was unplanned [on our part] it was incredible to see this kind of cultural event in action.

the market area surrounding the temple was - if possible - even more crowded. but I'm glad we took the time to explore. one of my favorite things about traveling in Asia is going through the markets and seeing what is different or the same as other countries and cultures.

after a while, the noise and crowds started making me a bit claustrophobic. so we went a few blocks away and discovered a lovely riverside park with a great view of the Skytree and Asahi Beer buildings. [note: the Skytree is actually much taller than it looks here.] we crossed over and found a bar to have a drink in, then headed back to the hotel for dinner with a view.

though I'd love to spend more time exploring Tokyo, our experience walking into the festival unaware will be tough to beat. it really was amazing to see, planned or unplanned. if you'd like to experience the Sanja Matsuri on purpose, it is held the third weekend in May every year.
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