Three weeks ago, Steve and I set sail (I mean, flew over) for the island of Java, also known to the rest of the world as the most populated island in the nation of Indonesia. While we’ve been pretty active in visiting places in East Asia, Indonesia’s actually the first new country in Southeast Asia that we’ve been able to go to. I had been pushing for this for a while, so it was with a lot of excitement that we made our way onto the flight. In the days prior to our flight, there was a lot of wrestling with baggage (stupid 7 KG in-cabin allowance) and trying to pin down last minute details for each of our four destinations. Stella watched us pack with trepidation, and then we packed her off before we went to the airport, dropping her off at our preferred dog hotel near Taipei Main! Despite swearing them off, we took Air Asia on Saturday afternoon from Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport (TPE) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL)’s low-cost airline terminal, KLIA2.
Our first stop was actually KL! We didn’t leave the airport, but after landing in the evening around 9 pm, we headed to another exciting first: a capsule hotel! Capsule Transit is the name of the container-based capsule hotel that is situated in the airport here. It was a fairly cheap way to spend the night (~$50 USD), and as we found, fairly roomy too. We booked a queen-bed two-person capsule, and the entire space was subdivided into different male only or female only or mixed sections. Our capsule was on the ground, but some were on a second level that needed a short climb up the ladder. We spent so much time exploring the airport to find an ATM and a decent place to have dinner that we just collapsed into our capsule and fell asleep for six hours. Continue reading Travels in Java.
A few weeks ago, I became much more excited about going to Taipei for two weeks during my internship and being separated from Steve during that whole time, mostly thanks to the fact that I had read a Lonely Planet article about all the cat cafés in Taipei. It’s actually pretty awesome how many cat cafés I’ve been to in Asia now: the first two we visited were in Tokyo and Bangkok, respectively, both during our original circumnavacation. I’ve now added three more to the list, all in Taipei, and a more detailed report is due! Friends and family will know that I adore dogs, and our corgi-mix Stella is pretty much the thing I love most in the world. But I was first and foremost a cat person, pretty much from the cradle. My family had cats when we were in China, and had more after we came to the States. It’s thus fitting to get crazy about cats again when I come back to Asia!
Cat cafés are a relatively recent phenomenon. The very first cat café, called Cat Garden, opened in Taipei in 1998 and has since been renamed Cats and Café 1998. Thus, cat cafés are actually a Taiwanese invention! However, they’re most popular today in Japan, which people theorize is because there’s very limited space and it’s hard to have pets. Oh, and also that the Japanese are crazy about cats. Hello? Other than having cats, these venues also differ from regular cafés in that they often have an entry requirement or a minimum spending requirement. In Japan, the cat cafés we visited stipulated that you had to spend a certain amount of money (like 500 yen) for a cover charge to stay for a certain amount of time, but it did usually come with a beverage. In Taiwan and the cat café we visited in Bangkok, there is usually a minimum spending requirement, ranging from 120 to 200 NT. That’s usually the price of a drink, which is astronomical compared to what they can usually cost – 20-30 NT! It’s to deter people from coming in just to gawk and take pictures of cats, without spending a penny. I used the Lonely Planet article and another article from City543 to plan for a list of cat cafés…
Continue reading Cats + cafés = happy Connie.
Written on the 506 train
Saturday, June 6, 10:03 am
For the next two and a half hours, Steve and I are going on a scenic, slow tour of the landscape between Taichung and Taipei, thanks to Taiwan Rail (台鐵). We are taking a not-so-express train that goes through many smaller towns, though still not the local train, which doesn’t even have seat reservations. So far, we have seen some lovely fields, rivers that are running fuller than they used to be because of the recent rains (but still not at full capacity), and some mountains and hills in the distance. It is not the kind of scenery we would expect to see in the US, because these aren’t a part of long-running ranges like the Rockies and the Appalachians. The mountains here are steeper, younger, and you come up on them very suddenly.
For the rest of the train ride, I think I will take the time to record my impressions and thoughts about my internship so far. There are two sorts of different experiences I’m going through simultaneously, which I will write about separately. The first is the fact that working (and living) overseas in Asia is a very different experience from the US, and I’m growing to understand more about the non-profit sector here. The second is that I am putting into practice what I’ve learned in my first year of public policy grad school about policy analysis, program evaluation, and statistics in order to run this program evaluation of their youth capacity building program.
The few days before I started at my internship, Steve and I were running around Taichung trying to set up our household. Even though we were crazy tired and busy, I still found time to worry about starting this internship. Plunging into full-time work, even just for ten weeks, is a considerable mental strain. What if my boss was hard to deal with? What if I couldn’t actually understand what they were telling me, since I knew nearly no professional Chinese? Even though I had talked on Skype to my prospective supervisor and found her very kind and the project for the summer quite promising, I was still on the verge of telling Steve that we had made a bad mistake, and couldn’t we just chill in Taiwan for ten weeks instead? Continue reading The 9-to-5 in Taiwan.