Taiwan – Lonely Planet's travel blog

Taiwan – Lonely Planet’s travel blog


Louise at the Longshan Temple in Taipei © Louise Bastock

Louise Bastock, Assistant Editor at Lonely Planet, recently returned from a trip to Taiwan.

Tell us more… When I used to think about Taiwan, the dominant images in my mind would be of its capital city Taipei, specifically the skyscraper-studded skyline against a blue or lilac sunset, or the twinkly Tokyo-esque lights of its streets and lanes. But, beyond this vast metropolis, there is so much more to discover. Blasted up from the ocean by volcanic activity, Taiwan is a fertile ground for breathtaking natural landscapes. With that in mind, I set off for northeastern Taiwan to explore the island’s capital as well as its wild wonders, and expand the image in my mind’s eye of what this tiny island nation has to offer – spoiler alert: a lot!

Taipei's skyline snapped from the top of Elephant Mountain Taipei’s skyline snapped from the top of Elephant Mountain © Louise Bastock

Good grub? The stand-out superstar of Taipei’s skyline is Taipei 101; formerly the world’s tallest building, it bursts through the high-rises like a futuristic bamboo shoot and was the perfect setting for dinner on our first night. Despite her humble origins, first operating from a Taipei back alley diner in 1977, the owner of Shin Yeh restaurant now commands the 85th floor of Taipei 101, serving up elegant, contemporary creations inspired by traditional Taiwanese home-style cooking.

Chefs making dumplings at Din Tai Fung, Taipei Delicate dumpling work at Din Tai Fung © Louise Bastock

Though seemingly a far cry from the glamour of Taipei 101, my second favourite meal was, surprisingly, at a shopping mall, beneath the tower itself. Prepare to battle wayward queues and huge crowds of hungry people if you want to eat at Din Tai Fung. This Michelin-starred restaurant (yes, you heard right, a Michelin-starred restaurant in a shopping mall) is famed for its xiǎolóng bāo (steamed pork dumplings), but, in all honesty, absolutely everything they brought to the table was insanely delicious. With windows looking into the kitchen, you can spend hours digesting your dumplings and watching the chefs meticulously craft these bite-sized beauties.

Northeastern Taiwan is a blanket of green forest Northeastern Taiwan is a blanket of green forest © Louise Bastock

Quintessential experience… With so much nature to see – from marble cliff faces to emerald oceans of forest – hiking is a quintessential experience in northeastern Taiwan. Our first taster was the 500-step slog up Elephant Mountain in Taipei – totally worth it to watch the sunset over the city and get my own snaps of the skyline. We also hit the hiking trails that lace through Taroko National Park (roughly a three-hour drive from Taipei). The scenery is wilder here and even though it can get blustery on the peaks, the strong wind does help disperse some of the eggy smell from the region’s sulphuric vents – a small price to pay for hiking around hot spring territory.

Louise's private hot pool at the Gaia Hotel Louise’s private hot pool at the Gaia Hotel © Louise Bastock

Any incredible accommodation? Speaking of hot springs: our last night was spent in the stunning Gaia Hotel, where each room came equipped with its own personal hot pool. After a long day of hiking and thigh-busting stair climbing (stairs are synonymous with hiking in Taiwan), it was a dream to be able to flop from bed to bath (grabbing a glass of wine en route) and recline in style in the comfort and privacy of my own room.

Louise jumping off a rock face into water Louise proving there is such a thing as TOO MUCH enthusiasm © Louise Bastock / Love Wilds Co., Ltd

If you do one thing… don a wetsuit and helmet and give river tracing a go. Known in other parts of the world as canyoning, this activity earns its more poetic moniker in Taiwan; without wishing to geek out too much, the landscapes here could easily have been plucked from the pages of Tolkein’s The Lord of The Rings (Rivendell, eat your heart out).

We spent a whole afternoon wading through the Sa Po Dang river in Hualien, jumping off huge boulders, squeezing through tight crevices and scaling small waterfalls before stopping for tea, snacks and snorkelling around a secluded turquoise pool. It’s a fantastic way to not just view the landscapes from afar, but to get in amongst them and experience them up-close.

Louise eating at huge portion of chocolate ice cream at the Modern Toilet Cafe Shocked and a little squeamish, Louise was ultimately delighted at her dinner © Louise Bastock

Bizarre encounter… From fine dining in spellbinding landmarks, soaking in my private hot spring and revelling in Mother Nature’s gifts, I leave you with Taipei’s epic toilet cafe! Enlisting every faucet – oops, I mean facet – of bathroom decor, the Modern Toilet Restaurant is a veritable playground for anyone with a sense of humour – and, at times, a strong stomach. After excusing myself from the table to use the actual bathroom, I was crying with laughter on my return to find on my delicately chosen chocolate ice cream piled in huge swirls, sprinkled with all manner of brown biscuits goodies, came served in a yellow porcelain squat toilet. If, like me, you think this might just be the best place in the whole world, bag yourself a souvenir from their shop which sells all manner of poop-themed paraphernalia.

Louise Bastock travelled to Taiwan with support from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and China Airlines. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.



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are the stars our destination? – Lonely Planet's travel blog

are the stars our destination? – Lonely Planet’s travel blog


Wonderings: rambles through and reflections on travel… this month, James Kay considers tourism’s final frontier: space © Joe Davis / Lonely Planet

Aside from a few forays to France, the furthest my maternal grandparents travelled was Pembrokeshire, Wales (repeat visits to a wind-buffeted static caravan in Croes-goch, if you must know). Just a generation later, my parents’ peregrinations had encompassed most of Western Europe.

As of writing, I’ve visited about 50 countries (I counted them up once, but have forgotten the total), most of them during two spells of backpacking – first across the US, then around the world – plus others as and when the opportunity arose.

My wife has been to twice that number of destinations, and I’d wager that a significant proportion of the people who comprise Lonely Planet’s extended community – staff and contributors, followers and fans – have led equally footloose lives.

The trend continues, too: my son, four, and daughter, one, have already visited many more places than my grandparents did in their entire lives. In fact, Harvey probably covered more miles in utero than they managed in total.

Our expanding horizons

You can visualise each generation’s expanding horizons as a series of concentric circles, like ripples spreading out from a stone dropped in a pond; assuming that trend doesn’t go into reverse (which is possible, of course, given variables like climate change), where will the edge of my children’s known universe lie? Just as I have explored the far side of this planet, might they explore the far side of another world?

It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. As it often does, the stuff of science fiction has become the stuff of science fact: the race for space is more competitive now than it has been at any time since Neil Armstrong took that famous first step on the surface of the Moon, an epoch-defining moment that happened 50 years ago this July.

An astronaut walking on the Moon with the Earth rising in the background Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon 50 years ago; what’s the next ‘giant leap for mankind’? © Caspar Benson / Getty Images

From moonshots to Mars

The US government recently vowed to revisit our lonesome natural satellite within five years, but the real action is arguably elsewhere as a trio of companies bankrolled by billionaires – Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX – compete to conquer the final frontier.

The obstacles are formidable; the progress is remarkable. Whether or not we witness commercial space travel take off in 2019 (in both senses of the phrase), the expert analysis of Stanford University’s Professor G. Scott Hubbard – a former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center – suggests that we stand on the threshold of a new era.

After the moonshot, the US wants to send astronauts to Mars. And then? Because we won’t stop there. Michael Collins, who piloted the Apollo 11 Command Module around the Moon as Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bounded across its sterile surface, expressed this ever so well: ‘It’s human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand,’ he said. ‘Exploration is not a choice, really; it’s an imperative.’

Or as another Buzz might say: to infinity and beyond.

The Grand Tour redux

So will my children ever enjoy a Grand Tour of the Solar System, as envisaged in NASA’s charming Visions of the Future posters? (Do check them out.) Will they stand in the shadow of Mars’ Olympus Mons, which rears to more than twice the height of Everest? Will they gape at the raging auroras of Jupiter, hundreds of times more powerful than our own Northern Lights? Will they sail the methane lakes of Titan, Saturn’s most enigmatic moon?

Alas, no. If it comes to pass, such a journey would be the preserve of a privileged few for many generations; just as the original Grand Tour of Europe was restricted to the aristocracy, so a round-trip of our galactic neighbours would remain beyond the reach of all but a coterie of plutocrats for the foreseeable future.

There’s a fair chance, however, that my children’s generation will see the curvature of the Earth from a sub-orbital flight, and some of them might, just might, leave a footprint on the Moon (thanks to Wallace and Gromit, Harvey already spends a lot of time speculating about this possibility).

A young boy looks at the surface of a planet from the window of a spaceship Will our children’s children evolve into a spacefaring species? © James Whitaker / Getty Images

A mote of dust

In his exquisite book Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan predicts we will eventually evolve into a spacefaring species, exploring the Milky Way in much the same way as we once sailed this planet’s uncharted seas. But there is nothing triumphalist about his vision; in fact, that dot – the Earth photographed from the Voyager 1 spacecraft; ‘a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam’ as Sagan describes it – proves to be a profoundly humbling sight.

It’s a stance shared by the UK’s current Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, who argues that we should avoid the term ‘space tourism’ altogether. According to Rees, that formula of words gives us an excuse to ignore the perilous predicament of our planet, misleadingly implying that we could start again elsewhere once this world has been utterly exploited and exhausted.

Space excites me; perhaps it excites you, too. I think that’s because, from Star Trek to Star Wars, our culture often depicts it in a way that fits neatly into a traveller’s conceptual model: it’s the realm of the new exotic, the absolute last word when it comes to getting off the beaten track we call… home.

You can no more suppress our species’ longing to reach the stars than prevent a curious child from exploring the boundaries of its world. Sooner or later, we will boldly go – and not just astronauts or the ultra-rich, but ordinary people like me and you. But when we do, amid all the excitement, let’s not forget our point of origin.

In the words of Sagan from 25 years ago, let’s remember that: ‘Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves … Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.’

A lonely planet indeed.



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Professor G. Scott Hubbard on space tourism – Lonely Planet's travel blog

Professor G. Scott Hubbard on space tourism – Lonely Planet’s travel blog


In this guest post, Stanford University’s Professor G. Scott Hubbard – former Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, founding editor-in-chief of the New Space journal, and author of Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery – looks at whether the travel industry is heading for the final frontier.

Having been active in the US space program for 45 years, both with NASA and now Stanford, I’ve seen many proposals suggesting that personal space travel is right around the corner. While this topic has been discussed in science fiction for more than 60 years, making such an experience a reality has been hampered by significant obstacles, both technical and financial. However, during the last decade or two, the world has seen the emergence of wealthy space entrepreneurs who have hired top-notch engineers. Those teams may well now be on the verge of creating space travel for the (well-heeled) extreme adventurer.

Will you ever see this view from a spaceship’s window? © Michael Hopkins / NASA

Where is outer space?

The usual definition is that space begins at 100 kilometres/60 miles above the surface of the Earth where air is almost non-existent, and the clutch of gravity can be escaped. As a practical matter, NASA awards astronaut wings for any pilot that exceeds 50 miles even if he/she does not orbit Earth. (This is called a sub-orbital flight). For comparison, the US Space Shuttle flew at about 300 kilometres/188 miles); the International Space Station (ISS) orbits Earth at 250 miles; from the Earth to the Moon averages about 238,000 miles, and Mars is nearly 140 million miles away! All of these distances and destinations represent some form of space travel, but as you might imagine, the degree of difficulty increases radically the further one goes. As of this writing, over 500 people have been to space as defined above; the vast majority (355) on the Shuttle. But only 18 people have flown to the Moon. And of those, only 12 have walked on the lunar surface. No human has ever travelled to Mars.

What is a space tourist?

All of the people cited above had extensive training and were a member of some nation’s space program. Currently, only the US, Russia and China have the independent ability to launch someone into space. The notion of a private citizen with little or no special training going to space went from science fiction to fact with the trip by billionaire Dennis Tito to the ISS in 2001, aboard a Russian vehicle. A total of seven people have made this journey for a reported cost of USD$20m to $40m per trip. Clearly, this expense is out of the reach of all but the ultra-wealthy. So what about some less ambitious (and less expensive) trip to space – the travel to 50 to 60 miles in a so-called sub-orbital trajectory?

Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo takes off for a suborbital test flight © GENE BLEVINS / Getty Images

Who’s in the game?

Space tourism as a trip to the edge of space (50 to 60 miles) with immediate return received a major boost with the Ansari X-Prize, which awarded $10m to any non-government group that could ‘build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, twice within two weeks’. The prize was won in 2004 by a team funded by billionaire Paul Allen (the co-founder of Microsoft) using a design by the iconoclastic engineer Burt Rutan. The team was joined by another billionaire – Richard Branson of Virgin Group fame. Shortly after winning, Branson announced that a new company, Virgin Galactic, using the Rutan design, would soon begin offering sub-orbital flights for six people (and two pilots), providing four minutes of weightlessness. Another company, XCOR Aerospace, formed during the same period, began to develop a smaller vehicle that would carry one pilot and passenger. Finally, the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon, quietly created the company Blue Origin with similar goals in 2000. In the sparse public reports from Blue Origin, their first market is sub-orbital tourism, followed by orbital flight and trips to the Moon. Bezos has said he is spending about $1bn a year on Blue Origin.

What’s the price point?

Virgin Galactic has given a price of about $200,000 per person. XCOR Aerospace (which has since suspended operations) planned to provide a similar flight for reportedly $50,000. (Independent surveys have indicated that extreme adventure with a price tag of $50,000 would begin to attract a great deal of interest.) Blue Origin’s price tag is said to be $250,000. It is worth noting that the other high-profile space entrepreneur, Elon Musk and his company SpaceX, has not entered the sub-orbital business. However, in a public speech in 2016 (which you can read in New Space for free), Musk predicted he would be able to send individuals to Mars for about $140,000.

People watch as a SpaceX rocket takes off from Canaveral National Seashore People watch as a SpaceX rocket takes off from Canaveral National Seashore © Paul Hennessy / Getty Images

What are the risks?

Travel to space is inherently risky, but then so is climbing Mt Everest. During the 135 flights of the Shuttle program, there were two major accidents with loss of crew and vehicle: Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. By that measure, the chance of dying in a trip to orbit is around 1 ½%. One would assume that a sub-orbital flight would be safer, but the initial flights of Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo have already produced one test pilot fatality. High-speed rocketry with propulsion of controlled chemical explosions is still a challenge. In addition, there are the biomedical risks of subjecting a ‘normal’ population to some of the rigours of space travel: high accelerations up to eight times Earth’s gravity, weightlessness where some experience debilitating space sickness and greater than average radiation exposure. Fortunately, experiments by Dr James Vanderploeg from the University of Texas indicate that individuals of ages 18 to 85 with a variety of common issues (artificial joints, controlled hypertension, pacemaker implants, etc) can easily withstand simulated trips using ground centrifuges and parabolic aeroplane flights. This can also be read in New Space.

When will this happen?

The sub-orbital space tourism community has collectively been surprised that it is now almost 15 years since the X-Prize was won, yet there are no regular flights of SpaceShipTwo or the New Shephard of Blue Origin. The answer mostly lies in the realm of technical issues; in a way, it is ‘rocket science’. Virgin Galactic has struggled to find a propulsion system that will operate smoothly to propel the six passengers to at least 50 miles. However, a very recent successful test in February of 2019 gives an indication that Virgin Galactic may be almost ready. Blue Origin has been very secretive about their progress, but it appears from test flights that the New Shephard is also nearing operational status.

Barring another accident, I think 2019 will see the first tourist flights to the edge of space and back. All it will take is $200,000 and the willingness to sign an ‘informed consent’ document!

To find out more about space entrepreneurship and innovation, check out the New Space journal. Professor Hubbard’s book, Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery, is available from the University of Arizona Press, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



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apofraxeis-athina

Leach fields: How they work & proper maintenance

Leach fields: How they work & proper maintenance

A leach field is a sewage system ( αποφραξεις αθηνα )that is attached to every drain in your home. These drains may get backed up with solid waste when they should drain out liquid waste. The reason it becomes solid is simply because over time all of the liquid soaps, detergents and actual waste builds up.  As a homeowner,  you want to prevent this from happening and keep it running smoothly to avoid destruction.

Maintaining your drainage system is very important. If not treated properly, it may abruptly malfunction. Foul odors, swampy lawns, and back-up in your tubs and toilets may occur. This is preventable with proper care and maintenance by using a granular product. This will help you avoid expensive repair costs on your leach field and possible lawn repair. Both can be very costly and you may even have to leave your home for a few days.

The fact that you have a leach field is not the issue. This system is just as good as any other type of drainage system. Nonetheless, you use your leach field system more than you realize. When you do laundry, when you use the shower, toilet, sink, etc. Without knowing it, you’re slowly building up solid waste while doing these day-to-day activities. By adding  treating your leach field to your routine, you can avoid any problems.

I would never literally go into my leach field and clean it out, nor would I want to pay thousands of dollars for a restoration or repair job. But I will do my research and find the proper product within the industry of septic treatments. And find the easiest most efficient product on the market.

Regardless of the price it has to be more cost effective then paying a professional.  I have not chosen a product yet, but I have realized that for my leach field a liquid treatment is probably a poor choice because liquid detergents, soaps and shampoos are what’s adding to the build up of solid waste. I may be wrong, but it sounds about right to me.

So my goal is for whomever has a leach field to hopefully follow me and research and add information about the products we end up finding to treat our leach field drain system. Because no matter how rich or poor you are, we all want to save money and protect our homes. So lets do the proper research and end up figuring out the leader in leach field treatment.

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ydravlikos

24 hours emergency plumbers in Athens, Greece

24 hours emergency plumbers in Athens, Greece

We are there around the clock when you need us.
Summers Too Hot? Winters Too Cold?

It is time to get a new 24 Texnikoi Athina ( ydravlikos )unit to regulate your homes temperature all year around.

Garbage Disposals

Help protect your pipes with a Garbage Disposal installed into your sink.

Water Heaters

Seem like your house can not keep your water hot? Maybe it is time for a new water heater.

Drain Cleaning

Drains need maintenance too! Give your pipes a good cleaning and extend their lifespan.

Faucets, Sinks, Toilets

Time for a plumbing upgrade? Improve your homes value by installing any of these new fixtures.

Bathroom Remodeling

Update your bathroom bringing it into the new age with a refreshing new look.

Welcome to 24 Texnikoi Athina

24 Texnikoi Athina has been serving the Athens area for over 25 years providing excellent full-service residential and commercial plumbing and HVAC. We pride ourself in providing elite, top quality service, all at an affordable price.

Why Hire a Professional Plumber?

Some people may lean towards DIY when it comes to plumbing. If you are not an experienced expert in plumbing you could be costing yourself tons of money in the long run. Installing or incorrectly fixing a plumbing problem can lead to leaks or a burst, which will double or triple your cost to get the problem solved. Having a professional handle the job will give you the ease of mind that it will be performed correctly at an affordable price. Enjoy your free time instead of wasting it on plumbing, let 24 Texnikoi Athina do all the hard work for you.

Summers Too Hot? Winters Too Cold? Time for a Change

Do you find yourself in unbearable conditions due to the extremes of weather. Your Summers are too hot, and Winters too cold? It may be time for you to get a HVAC unit. The benefits of having an HVAC unit are more then just keeping your house at a regulated temperature all year around. Upgrading or installing a new HVAC unit instantly increases the value you your home.

Before You Choose a Contractor, You Must Read ThisWith all of the contractor choices that you have, it can be hard to narrow down to the right one for you. We want to make your job easier in finding a contractor. It is vital that you get at least three quotes from three contractors. Let each contractor know that you are getting several different quotes. This will reduce the price of the job, while improving the service.

The 24 Texnikoi Athina Satisfaction Guarantee

From the time that you hire Acosta Plumbing and HVAC until your are satisfied with our service, we will provide you the best quality of service in the industry, period, every employee, every step of the way. We measure our success not in dollars and cents, not even the number of customers served, but in the number of fully satisfied, happy customers.

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Google-Places

The good effects of Google place optimisation

One of the best things that Google ever introduced was the Google places feature which has now replaced its local business center.

You can notice an obvious change in the name; look and even the results have come to control and lead the search results for all of its localized queries. It is highly essential for businesses of today to make use of Google places to avoid being missing out on all of the traffic and leads. There are so many reasons as to why Google place is advantageous for a business.

As a SEO Agency we have a Google Places account for the reasons of local SEO optimisation.

First of all, it is important to understand that this feature is absolutely free. When you’re Google places listing are optimized properly, it will enable your business listing to appear on the first page of Google. This has now replaced directory listings that would cost a thousand times more.

Google places have the liberty to let you offer discounts as well as coupons on a once a day, once a month, or even once a week basis. When you display your company’s information such as website links, physical mailing address, mobile or contact number, customers will be able to find you much more quickly and get all the information that they need. The best part of Google place is that it could be accessed by everyone who has a mobile phone and a computer is no longer necessary.

 

To have a good Google place listing mean more traffic and more customers. The next best thing is that you need not have a physical retail location to be accepted by Google places. Having good reviews and customer testimonials can help you move up in terms of rankings as well. When you have such high rankings, Google places will help you get more targeted customers within a short period of time in contrast to other traditional organic methods.

More importantly, you will be able to easily achieve your financial goals and it will become much easier for customers to find your business and contact you directly if there is a need for information. This means more money and more awareness spread in the shortest time frame possible. Google place is a very useful feature that was introduced a couple of years ago and Google plus is also another new feature that has been added to social media that is taking businesses by storm.

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