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13 June - It was a wonder that I hadn't thrown up yet.

We were in a minivan, going up a very windy road up Alishan (阿里山) in Taiwan. With me were complete strangers: A mother and her young son and daughter, three college-aged girls on an outing, and the driver, who seemed to have a death wish. I actually screamed in my head, "HOLY SHIT YOU IDIOT WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE" more than once.. it was probably about four times. We were winding and overtaking every vehicle we came across.. not slowing down at all on blind turns.. About 3/8ths into the trip, the daughter started not feeling well. Her mother asked to switch places with one of the college girls to tend to her daughter. I dutifully passed the carsickness bags and tissues. 5/8ths into the trip, she started throwing up, with her mother comforting her. Felt sorry for the kid.

Thought that was it, but then, at about 7/8ths into the ride, her younger brother also started throwing up.. by now, I was used to the routine. Wait for the vomit to fill about half the bag, and then hand the mother another.

Thankfully, that was the end of the vomit escapades. The three college girls were conked out in the back, so they didn't partake in the festivities.

For me, this side excursion was a scouting mission. I knew I wouldn't have enough time, nor the walking ability (see: excruiciating pain, Day 6), to enjoy Alishan to the fullest, so I was determined to make the best of the minivan ride up the mountain (STUNNING views), and the train ride down on the Alishan Forest Railway (very soothing and green). What I missed out on, and will be doing the next time: awesome hikes, and staying overnight in order to catch the sunrise.

Some other highlights:

  • Hiroshima and my first Japan taxi ride! On the way to the hotel, we saw some food stalls set up on the streets with banners, and the driver informed me that I got to Hiroshima just in time for the Yukata Festival!

  • Tokyo, round 2: DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland with shadowfaxrider! Next time, we will find Duffy and make him ours!!!! Muahahahaha!!! Electric Light Parade!!

  • Taipei 101: Expensive but interesting stores, and a spectacular view (go at night to guarantee spectacularness, or pick a clear day)... also, the ELEVATOR!!!

  • Staying at my mom's family's abandoned townhouse-ish thing in Shanghai was good, up to a point. Nearby, couple of ex-pat restaurants, to satisfy my western food cravings.

  • Xitang, a historic old village - HOTTTT.. too hot to really appreciate the place. Also, no thank you to friends of my mom's friend's husband, who thought it was ok to smoke 6 cigarettes each over the course of a meal, in an enclosed room, leading to a completely b0rked A/C, leading to tears.

  • I FLEE to the Portman Ritz-Carlton, a hotel I'd noted on my previous Shanghai trip - very close, same neighborhood as where my mom's family's place is. Spend 4 luxurious nights.

  • Train ride to Qingdao - 18 hours. Get interrogated by an older couple.

  • Qingdao/Huangdao - Beautiful! Awesome! MUCH better weather than Shanghai. Better air does not even need to be said. Stayed with krazykased and his girlfriend Jenny. We had lots of adventures, including up to Beijiushui (北九水), a scenic mountain area.