Taipei - 10 Must Dos

I love this city, the people, the vibes and all the amazing things you can visit. I'm not a big fan of Taiwanese food but if you like it, Taipei is a real paradise for this as well!

What are the 10 must dos in this beautiful city?

I would say...

  1. Stroll around Ximending district
  2. Walk along Dihua St
  3. Visit Bao An temple and Confucius temple
  4. Get amazed in the big square in Zhongshan district where you find four incredible buildings, one on each side: the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the National Concert Hall, the National Central Library and the Evergreen Maritime Museum
  5. Rent UBike and ride along Keelung river
  6. Visit Wufenpu market: a maze of lanes and alleys full of racks of clothing, a gigantic outlet that carries literally everything, mainly women's apparel and accessories
  7. Go on top on the 101 tower, the highest in Asia: 360-degree view of the city
  8. Hike on top of Elephant Mountain to see the sunset on the city (easy hike)
  9. Visit one of the many night markets! I would suggest to avoid Shilin since it's too commercial and touristic... Go for either Raohe or Linjiang St! :) Make sure you try some typical food like the stinky tofu or, if you eat meat, you'll find plenty of options!
  10. Get lost in Daan Forest park

Some shots taken walking around the city...

Yangmingshan - Hiking in the green

Yangmingshan National Park is less than 1 hour bus ride from Taipei and it's great for some hiking and nature-watching. You can also combine the hot springs in Beitou and do an amazing full day trip!

One of the easiest way to reach the park is taking the red line of the MRT until Jiantan and then the S15 bus. The last stop is Qingtiangang that is exactly where the trails start. There are various options and you need to go further into the wild in order to be immerse in nature without having people around. 

I climbed up to Mt. Qixing (2100mt) that is the highest peak and it takes around 1.5 hour of stairs up to the main peak and then went down to Xiaoyoukeng passing through the volcano. A part from this trail there are really tons of different options if you want some hint shorter or less steep! Once you reach Qingtiangang you can decide which one to do and spend one day lost in the green :)

If you're doing my same itinerary then you can take the bus 108 from Xiaoyoukeng until Yangmingshan Bus Station and then one of the many buses to Taipei centre.

Here's what's left of my map! :) 

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Enjoy getting lost! :) 

Sun Moon Lake - Cycling and Hiking in Taiwan

From Taipei I took the HSR (high speed train) to Taichung and then the bus to Sun Moon Lake. I bought the ticket for the train in advance online and it costs TWD 700 while for the bus there's no need to book in advance and there is one every hour.


In SML I took a basic hotel, convenient to what I had in mind to do, that is renting the bike to go explore the lake and then to climb Mt. Shuishe. My hotel was in fact in front of the Giant shop that rents bicycles and next to the bus station of Shuishe.


My recommendation is to spend at least 1.5/2 days in Sun Moon Lake. One day you can rent the bike (really nice Giant shop on B1 of the Visitor Center building) and either do the full loop (around 30km) or just a few parts of that. In any case you have to stop and visit all the amazing temples along the way.


I did the full loop starting from Shuishe Visitor Center going clockwise and stopped at Wenwu Temple, Xuanzang Temple (Xuanguang is a smaller one next to it but it's nothing special) and the amazing Cien Pagoda with a breathtaking view!!!!
You'll also find many view points where to enjoy the peaceful and beautiful scenery. 

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Some more shots to show you how wonderful it is!


The other day you can do some hiking!

Mt. Maolan is a short (around 2km) and easy one, it starts behind Shuishe Visitor Center, while Mt. Shuisheda it's way more challenging and starts from Ita Thao. 

This last one takes around 6 hours and it has around 800mt elevation. Make sure you have enough water and snacks with you because there's nothing along the way! The surrounding is amazing and very very wild but from the top there's not a great view since it's mainly covered by he trees!

ENJOY! :) 

Jiufen - Little Gem

 "wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow"

"wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow"


I really fell in love with this little village nestled against the mountains and overlooking the ocean! Kinda Asian version of the Italian Cinque Terre ;) 

I went there for a one-day trip from Taipei but if you have time I suggest to spend one night there in order to explore more! You can either hike the mountains around there or rent a motorbike and visit the coast. 

To get there you can take the 1062 bus from Taipei straight to Jiufen Old Street (about 1 hour).
Once there, as first thing, just get lost walking along the super crowded Old Street!

A few things you could and should try:

  • drink the Taiwanese bubble tea
  • try the taro and sweet potatoes balls, apparently super typical
  • stop in one of the traditional and super cute tea houses overlooking the sea
  • try the stinky tofu or any other "strange" (for me!) food you find there
  • visit the temples along the way and get lost in the small alleys

After having visited the Old Street you have many options specially if you like hiking!
One of the best spot where to see the sunset is Mt. Keelung that you reach walking from Jiufen itself. Once you enter the path you will soon find a junction, at that point keep left: it's the longest route but the one with the best scenery!!
Have a look at my pics during the sunset and I'll let you judge :) 

Another option is to go to Teapot Mountain but you need to take a bus from Jiufen and then start the hike!
If you don't wanna hike then you can take a bus to Jinguashi, another small village, less crowded than Jiufen and really near.

Dambulla & Sigiriya

The first stop of my trip to Sri Lanka is in the North of Kandy, an area called The Cultural Triangle, famous for its ruined palaces, temples and caves. Here I've visited Dambulla's cave temples and Sigiriya's Lion Rock! A great start that foretaste the wonderful nature and sceneries of this simply amazing country.

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Dambulla is famous for its five cave temples decorated with amazing murals. They're open from 7.30am to 7pm and it will take you around 45mins / 1 hour to visit them all. The best murals are in cave 3, cave 2 is the biggest and most spectacular and cave 1 hosts a 14-meter long sleeping Buddha. At the bottom of the steps up to the cave temples stands a Golden Temple of Buddha that claims to be the biggest in Asia but actually is not even the biggest in Sri Lanka :)

15km from Dambulla there is Sigiriya, famous for the Lion Rock! I highly recommend you to but the ticket (around 30USD) and climb it till the top! It will take you around 1.5/2 hours to visit the area, climb the Rock and enjoy the breathtaking view! The best times to visit the Rock is either early morning or late afternoon, less tourists and better light! I've done it around 5pm and was perfect. On the summit there once was the Royal Palace, but now only remain the foundations, a square brick platforms overlooking the green hills.

ELLA-HATTON: Wonderful Train Experience

Guys, A DREAM CAME TRUE!! This train was on my travel bucket list and I still can't believe I finally took it! :) 

Ella is one of my favorite villages in Sri Lanka and I highly recommend you to spend at least one night there! A few options of simple hotels but with an amazing view are the followings: Golden view guesthouse, Nine Arch view and Mountain Miracle cottage. The last two are located on a hill facing the famous Nine Arch bridge where you can go to see the old trains passing and take nice photos among a super green nature. 

Once in Ella, try to wake up early to see one of the best sunrise you could have. I'd love it and the view there gave me a sense of peace and calm that filled my heart fully.

Then, after a yummy breakfast overlooking the mountains you can stop at the Nine Arch bridge before heading to the station to take the train. I took the one from Ella to Hatton.

4.30 hours that went really fast, I was completely absorbed by the landscape and everything that was happening at every stop! This experience is a Must-Do... Tickets should be booked in advance because the trains are usually quite full. The "first class" ticket costs 1000 rupiahs that is around 10 USD. 

xxx

Giulia

TOP 15 Things To Do in Sri Lanka

I've recently come back from an AMAZING trip to Sri Lanka! I'm still speechless if I think about all the wonderful things that this country has to offer. In a certain sense it reminded me of Kerala and overall it was a unique experience!
Below you'll find a list of the main things you should do while visiting Sri Lanka and I'm already writing specific posts to go deeper in details and share with you my experience :) 
By the way, the only point listed below that I didn't do is "whale watching"... it's quite common over there but I was afraid it would have been a waste of time and I preferred to do other activities since the time I had was quite limited!
In case you do it, let me know!! :) 

  1. Take the famous train to/from Ella!!!
  2. Do a safari (Uda Walawe or Yala, the first one is less crowded and touristic)
  3. Eat rice and curry
  4. Climb Adam's Peak (NOT during weekends)
  5. Visit the Cultural Triangle
  6. Visit a tea plantation in Kandy or Nuwara Eliya area 
  7. Climb Lion's Rock in Sigiriya
  8. Go in one of the Bawa hotels 
  9. Visit Galle, beautiful old Dutch colony
  10. Enjoy the nature and look for wildlife
  11. Do an Ayurvedic massage 
  12. Surf and relax by the beach on the South of the island (Arugam Bay, Tangalla or Mirissa)
  13. Attend a Kandyan dancing show
  14. Visit the 5 cave temples in Dambulla
  15. Go whale watching

Now you can start planning your next trip! ;)
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xxx

Giulia

How-To: Side Plank Pose

Side Plank Pose, VasisthasanaSide Plank Pose, Vasisthasana, is a powerful arm balance yoga pose. 
In this post I'll give you detailed instructions on how to perform it correctly, the common mistakes to avoid and a few variations you can experiment!

Side-plank-pose

I usually incorporate this pose to my practice because it’s great to strengthen your shoulders, arms and oblique muscles. It's known as one of the best core-strengthening pose and if you have ever come to one of my power or core classes you know that's true πŸ™‚

Among its benefits... 

  • It strengthens the arms, abs and legs 
  • It stretches and strengthens the wrists 
  • t stretches the backs of the legs  
  • It improves the sense of balance 

Dos and don'ts:  

  • Keep your hips lifted and don’t sink them towards the mat! 
  • Keep your top arm long and straight, fingers spread and activated  
  • Stack your feet together
  • Keep your shoulders far from the ears
  • Align your entire body into one long diagonal line from the heels to the crown and don't look down 

A couple of variations... 

  • Forearm Side Plank: people with wrist pain often have a hard time doing side plank since it puts a lot of weight on one arm. Take the pressure out of your wrist by placing your forearm on the mat! 
  • Supported Side Plank: great for beginners or if you have trouble stacking the legs. Bend your upper leg and step the foot in front to support you and help you balancing. 

Caution: if you have serious wrist, elbow, or shoulder injuries you should avoid this pose! 
If not...enjoy, resist, have fun and try to hold it for 5 breaths!

Namaste, 
Giulia 

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    Happy Things

    What makes you happy?
    I've decided to list down a few simple things that sometimes we take for granted or we don't give the proper importance to...and that are actually a real source of daily happiness and make us smile inside!

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    Those are mine...

    The smell of the sea.
    Walking barefoot on the sand. 
    Clean and fresh sheets. 
    Cafes that have all-day breakfast.
    Great ideas that come to you in the middle of the night.
    Old movies, old songs.
    Sunflowers. 
    Cooking for someone you love.
    Feel the sun burning on your skin. 
    Passports and the conversations around "how terrible you look in the photo" and "how many stamps you are collecting".
    Sunsets.
    Sunrises.
    The smell of the rain.
    Baking cookies for Christmas.
    Swimming naked in the ocean (at midnight even better).
    Watching old videos of when you were a kid.
    Finding something that you hid ages ago and forgot about it.
    Running in the nature.
    Listening to my brother's songs.
    Airports.
    Coconuts.
    Playing with the curly hair of my best friend.
    Singing loudly under the shower.
    Girls moment.
    Taking millions of reportage pictures while visiting a new country.
    Sauna.
    Frozen cheeks and nose during the winter. 
    Savasana.
    Getting dirty and muddy while hiking in the jungle.
    The sound of the waves.
    The reflection of the moon on the sea.
    Asia.
    Dark chocolate with salt grains.
    Laughing until you can't breathe anymore.
    Eating fresh fruit straight from the tree. 
    Horse-riding.
    Tight hugs from my loved ones.  

    What are yours?? Does any of the above make you happy too?
    Try to make your list and see what's coming up for you.
    I'm curious to know...comment below!

    xxx
    Giulia