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Kona, Hawaii and Tribes

Posted by on Oct 26, 2013 in Hawaii, Travel | 0 comments

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My wife and I have been living in Hawaii now for just a little over a month and still hadn’t been to the ocean. We needed to go to Costco, so we thought we would make a short visit to the beaches of Kona before going shopping.

It’s about an hour and forty minute drive each way, so I also listened to Tribes on audio book. Tribes was a great book focused on how to be a leader in today’s world. By Seth Godin, the author of Linchpin,  Tribes is an exciting and motivational read.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.

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New home, new diet, new life!

Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in Hawaii, Health, Travel | 0 comments

Photo by Matt McGee

Photo by Matt McGee

It’s been quite a while since I have written here on Simplistic Thoughts. There are a number of reasons for the hiatus. There have been many things that I wanted to blog about, but never was able  to do so because of the big changes in my life.

For the last 5 years I have been living in Miyakojima (a small island of Okinawa). My wife and I moved there after we had enough of the busy life in Tokyo. It’s an absolute beautiful place with some of the best beaches in the world and a very unique culture (the video in the top right corner of the page is of pictures I took in the first year). We loved it!

We were also able to do amazing things and have incredible experiences while we were there. My wife worked as an English trainer for the teachers and learned hula and lei making. I taught English, did internet marketing, learned the sanshin (an Okinawan banjo) and the ukulele, and tried a number of diets and exercise routines. We also ran a half-marathon, went diving and snorkeling, cave exploring, and volunteered at various events. Most importantly, we made great friends. Sounds like paradise right?

Unfortunately, Miyakojima is a small island and doesn’t provide a lot of opportunity. Jobs are few and the types of jobs available are even more limited. While there we also began to start eating more healthy. We switched to a more vegetable rich diet and since then have switched again to a complete whole foods plant based diet. For those of you who have been in Japan, you know how expensive (and difficult to get) a lot of vegetables and fruits are.

However, it was really the plans to start a family that finally made us decide to move back to the US. I moved back to California in May to look for a job with a university while my wife waited for her green card.

It was  a difficult transition for me. I left most of my friends, and being back in California was a bit of culture shock. The area had grown so much in the eight years I was gone. I realized that to live in the area I had planned, I would have about an hour and a half commute to work everyday. I also missed the subtropical weather of Miyakojima.

I looked at moving to the surrounding states, but none of them really seemed like a good place for me. It was actually my father who first suggested Hawaii. We had planned to move to Hawaii for a short span of a couple years in the future, but I never really considered it as a main home….until then. The more I researched, the more it seemed perfect to meet our needs. It is in the US, but we can still get a lot of the Japanese products and foods we are used to. The weather is warm year round and it is located in between our two families. Could a place really work out for us this well?

After waiting four more months for my wife’s green card, we met (her coming from Tokyo and me from California) at Hilo airport just a few weeks ago. I will save the slightly crazy story of the first week of our arrival for another time, but we our now settled.

We have a very small apartment, our car has Hawaii plates, we are getting used to the area, and hopefully will have locked down jobs in the close future! So far, we love it here! Now that things are a little more settled, I will be writing more often. There are so many things I have learned and experienced that I can’t wait to share!

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9 Days in Taiwan: Day 8-9

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 in Enjoying Life, Travel | 0 comments

This is actually going to be a short post, because for the most part, it was just travelling.

The last day in Taiwan we took a bullet train from Kaohsiung back to Taiwan. And then a bus from the train station to the airport. I was really bummed to be leaving Taiwan and I was already missing it. I decided to get one last tapioca tea, which wasn’t near as good cost double the price. I would miss Taiwan!

Our flight was delayed by a couple hours and so we didn’t get back to Okinawa until about 9-10pm and it was nearly 11pm by the the time we got to our hotel. The next day the weather was great though (all the pictures are from Okinawa). We enjoyed a little bit of shopping before we headed back to Miyakojima.

Luckily, my friend from Taiwan is getting married this coming January so hopefully we will be able to go back. I’m already thinking about all the great food and tapioca!

 

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9 Days in Taiwan: Day 6-7

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in Enjoying Life, Travel | 0 comments

View from the Restaurant

On the sixth day of our trip, we woke up early to catch the train to Kenting. Kenting is the ocean, touristy part of Taiwan where everyone goes for their summer vacation. After several hours on the train and an hour long bus ride, we finally arrived.

Kenting Hotel

We figured that this would be the part of the trip where we would just relax at the hotel and the beach, and take it easy. We opted for a 4 star hotel that had it’s own restaurants, three pools, a water slide, and a view of the ocean. It also had an activity room that included an arcade, ping pong, pool, and bowling.

Hard to look cool with a swimming cap, but apparently it is Taiwanese law!

The hotel was nice, but neither I nor my wife were impressed with the service. On several occasions we felt that there was a lack of professionalism.

Hotel Restaurant

We spent the first day in the pool and enjoying the hotel. The second day we rented an electric scooter for about $30 and drove around the coast town. I think my favorite part was the go-karts, but we went to several beaches, a park, some restaurants, and then came back to town to enjoy the night market.

Go Karts in Kenting

Kenting park

I had fun in Kenting, but to be honest, it really wasn’t my favorite part of the trip. The beaches were pretty crowded, even though a typhoon had recently passed and swimming was not really an option. Things were more expensive and the shops seemed to be more pushy than they had been in the last two areas.

Kenting beach

The next morning we took the hotel shuttle to Kaohsiung. This was our last destination in Taiwan, but there was a lot to do. First we checked into our hotel and were given a complimentary upgrade to the executive suite. That put our room on the 44 floor and gave us an incredible view. Lunch the next morning would be served on the 45th floor. How cool is that?

Kaohsiung night market

We had lunch at a small food court inside the building and then went to explore the city.

Formosa Boulevard Station

Our first stop was the market. This was mostly just food stands, which we weren’t too interested in since we had just eaten. We did come across a really cool stage with a pretty good singer soon after though. I don’t know what she was singing, or what the event was for, but I was impressed.

Traditional Taiwanese Singing

Our next stop was the train station. Yes, that’s right, the train station. The main hall of the station has been fitted with a skylight of colored glass and is absolutely beautiful. Add to this the live piano performance and singing, and it was moment to remember. We sat there for some time just listening and taking in the view.

Pool on the 13th floor of the hotel

Arriving back at the closest station to our hotel, there was a traditional Taiwanese dance concert in in full motion. Once again we pulled up a chair and took it all in. I was very impressed with all of the performers and it was a great last night to spend in Taiwan.

Our Final Day in Taiwan from the hotel room

 

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9 Days in Taiwan: Day 5

Posted by on Oct 2, 2012 in Enjoying Life, Travel | 0 comments

Hualien is famous for it’s ocean view and it’s mountains. There are beautiful mountain landscapes with steep cliffs and rivers running through them. The best part is that a ticket to a day pass on the bus was less than $5. We purchased our tickets and waited for the first bus.

The first place we got off was Buluowan. Buluowan has a few nice shops, and some great views of the mountains towering over you. They also had some very friendly staff who were excited to speak Japanese with us. There was a large field and tables that would have been great for a picnic had we brought lunch. The next spot was  only a kilometer away so we decided to walk. We had to go down a lot of stairs and then wait for the road to open up (it was only open 10 minutes every hour due to construction), but we eventually got to Swallow Grotto.

Swallow Grotto is a tunnel that has been cut right through the mountain. It was very mystical and beautiful, but also very scary. There were signs all over saying that a rock slide might occur and to walk fast. The view was amazing though. Since the road doesn’t really connect to much I was surprised they would have gone through the work to make the tunnel, but it was quite impressive none the less. After walking through the Swallow Grotto we caught the next bus to Tiansiang.

Tiangsiang is a small tourist area with a hotel and some restaurants near the top of the mountains. We had lunch, and then headed across the bridge to see the temple that was even higher up the mountain.

The temple was pretty interesting and had two sets of stairs that spiraled up to the top. It didn’t have much support underneath, which made me a bit nervous. We climbed to the top anyways and looked out over the river and valley. At this point we were pretty beat and took the bus back to the station. We slept most of the way.

Since we had so much fun the night before, and because we didn’t have anything else to do, we went back to the night market to play some games and do archery. Shortly after leaving the night market it started pouring rain. Luckily we still had our rain jackets. Riding a bike down a street with heavy traffic in pouring rain was a bit scary and on top of that we really didn’t know where we were going. After riding several kilometers we stopped at a grocery store to get out of the rain and see what it was like.

When we came back out the rain had let up, so headed back to our hotel to find a place to eat. We couldn’t decide, so we walked around and looked at what other people  were eating. Finally deciding on a small shop that sold dumplings and fried rice. We could only read some of the characters so we mostly guessed at what we were ordering. It turned out pretty good though.

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9 Days in Taiwan: Day 4

Posted by on Sep 4, 2012 in Enjoying Life, Travel | 0 comments

Day 4 started off with plans to travel to Haulien. However, since we had a couple of hours before we needed to catch the train, we explored the neighborhood around the hotel.

About a block away there was a street with several shops selling various types of herbs, dry good, and bulk foods. Apparently it was an area where shops and restaurants go to get their supplies. There were some pretty exotic things like dried sea cucumbers and various types of roots, bark, and twigs. To be honest, there was also a lot that I just couldn’t identify.

Eventually we made our way back to the hotel to pick up our bags and headed to the train station. When we tried to buy our ticket we found out that there were no open seats available. The ticket is the same price to stand, and you can sit when seats open up. I only had to stand for about the first 15-20 minutes and was able to get a seat after that. Once we got away from Taipei there were actually very few people on the train.

About three hours later we finally arrived in Hualien. Hualien is a small town located in between the ocean and a mountain range and is especially known for those two things.

We had about a 15 minute walk to our hotel, which was actually pretty nice. At this point we were pretty hungry so we walked to a shop we had passed and had some meat and shrimp dumplings and soup. We were completely full and had only spent about $3.

After lunch/dinner we took the free rental bikes that were available from the hotel and headed for the main strip. At first, riding in traffic was a little difficult, but we got a hold of it quickly. The strip was really busy and it was hard to look at everything and not get run over at the same time. So we left the strip and headed for the night market.

Along the way we came across this temple. It was surrounded by ponds with lots of flying bugs. Luckily, there were also lots of bats eating them.

The night market wasn’t very big compared to the ones in Taipei, but it was the funnest of them all. There were a bunch of games and and they were all very cheap. Including the mango juice we had, I think we spent about $10. We also did archery. Everyone was really nice and all the games were pretty fair. We seemed to win something just about every time we played.

After the night market, we headed to the rock crafters village to see traditional taiwanese dancing. I loved their dancing and even got to participate. The music and the dancing are very happy and upbeat.

At this point we were pretty tired, and decided to go back to the hotel. Tomorrow we head up into the mountains to see the amazing swallow tunnels and beautiful scenery.

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