Why We May Pack Up Everything And Move to Oaxaca, Mexico

Why We May Pack Up Everything And Move to Oaxaca, Mexico

    Ok, so maybe we won’t be moving to Oaxaca, Mexico immediately, but from the first night we arrived in this charming town, we knew we were going to love it.     Oaxaca City was the first stop on our road trip through Oaxaca with Cantimplora Travel. Led by our awesome Mexican guides and professional photographer Sam and Bernie (founders of Cantimplora Travel) our small group met in Oaxaca City for a few days of off-the-beaten-track adventure before continuing on to discover one of the most diverse and artistically gifted states in all of Mexico. As we wandered down the cobblestone pedestrian street in Oaxaca our first night, we heard loud music and drumming coming from the church plaza. Surely it’s just a street band looking for some tips from passersby, we thought…until we noticed the giant dancing puppets.   Photo by Cantimplora Travel  These wedding puppets were about 15 feet tall and on long wooden poles, dressed in the form of a bride and groom. The music was pouring out of the church and a large group of friends and family were dancing in the courtyard. After a while, the party started to make its way down the main avenue through town as the bride and groom danced in the streets past cheering onlookers. This wedding parade, called a calenda, perfectly expressed the colorful, fun-loving and friendly community vibe of Oaxaca. And this ambience of celebration, arts and culture would set the tone for the rest of our journey with Cantimplora Travel.   Photo by Cantimplora Travel  Though you may not be as lucky to catch...

Spectacular Sand Sculptures: A Photo Essay from Fulong Beach

What was the best sand castle you created as a child? I’m willing to bet it didn’t look anything like these:   Every summer, international sand sculptors congregate to create stunning sand masterpieces on the northern coast of Taiwan for the International Sand Sculpture Festival.  Selective artists from around the world are invited to Fulong Beach, where they are given a heap of golden sand from which to create their masterpieces.   This year’s chosen theme was ‘Childhood Memories’. The creativity that goes into these works of art is truly astonishing, not to mention the detail, depth and feeling achieved from such a simple resource. When the sculptures are finished, they are sprayed with a biodegradable, non-toxic glue to keep the sand safe from the wind and rain so prevalent in Taiwan. At the end of the festival, the local sand used to create the masterpieces is leveled back down, returning to its natural state. Quite a sustainable way to boost tourism and promote the arts.   Two sculptures were easily our favorite, and they happened to be the judges’ picks as well. Casey’s favorite  (second place) was named Through the Eyes of Babes, portraying what all crazy adults must look like when they oogle and google at infants. Dan’s top choice (first prize) was named Dragon Reality and depicted a child sketching a dragon, vividly coming to life as the viewer revolves around the sculpture.   Technically, access to the sand sculptures is free; however, you must pay $100NT to enter Fulong Beach (the most popular beach in Northern Taiwan). The weekends are insanely crowded with Taiwanese tourists elbowing...
Shopping at Wufenpu in Taipei: What’s the Deal?

Shopping at Wufenpu in Taipei: What’s the Deal?

I get ridiculously proud of myself when I score a good deal shopping. I know I shouldn’t be telling everyone that my designer dress was actually on super-clearance due to a defect in the zipper, but I can’t help it. If I bought that $80 dress for a whopping ten bucks, you can bet I’m going to tell you about it. With probably more excitement than is socially acceptable. Shopping in Taiwan gives me similar thrills. Racks of extremely cheap clothing are everywhere, and it takes almost all my self-control to tell myself I don’t really need another sweatshirt with college logo I’ve never heard of—even if it is a super cute hoodie for only $4. Granted, a lot of the fashion here isn’t really me. I like to think I’m quite girly, but even I have to set up some barriers against all the lace and hearts and baby shades of pink that proliferate. It’s easy to shop in Taiwan. Markets are everywhere, and virtually all of them will have racks of clothes set out to tempt you while purchasing your bubble milk tea. Heck, there’s even a cheap jewelry/purse rack at my favorite dumpling shop! But still, there’s one place that rises above the rest. It’s the place all those other inexpensive street vendors buy their products from. It’s a place called Wufenpu.     Located in Taipei, Wufenpu consists of over 100 wholesale clothing shops. You can literally find anything here, including purses, belts, women’s clothing, men’s clothing, baby clothing, puppy clothing (seriously), jewelry and shoes. Wufenpu is as inexpensive as it gets in Taiwan, and...

Lantern Festival and the 20-Meter Serpent

Last year, you probably would have considered our experience at Lantern Festival to be a bit less than ideal.     Yeaaa. That’s Dan holding our blazing sky lantern, completely obliterating his dream of finally getting a pony.  He’s still waiting for Santa to write back on that one.     This year we decided to stay away from fire and stick to the main Lantern Festival event hosted by the Taiwan tourism bureau. It just so happened to be held in Jhubei, just over the river from home.   There are numerous stories to the origin of Lantern Festival, most dating from Taiwanese folklore. Some say thousands of years ago, the Chinese would see dancing deities under the first full moon of the month. On one cloudy night, the deities were no longer visible; all the people gathered their torches to try to illuminate the gods. Although the Chinese never could see their gods again, lighting up torches became a tradition. Today’s lantern festival is a way to promote tourism while carrying on Chinese heritage, including the art of lantern making. From master paper craftsmen to elementary school children, everyone is invited to participate in the creative lantern designs. There were many incredible lanterns, but the main attraction was a 20-meter tall serpent.  In honor of the Year of the Snake, the serpent-like dragon symbolized national prosperity, and of Taiwan flying into a flourishing future.     We would have enjoyed lantern festival much, much more if it weren’t for the constant pushing and shoving. It seems we went during prime time, which left little ability to stop and...
Ubud, Bali: More than just ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

Ubud, Bali: More than just ‘Eat, Pray, Love’

We were sitting at breakfast in the middle of who-knows-where-Java, drenched to the bone and devouring our glamorous breakfast of plain toast and Nescafe after a failed attempt at climbing Mt. Bromo.  (Well, in all fairness, we succeeded in waking up at 4am and climbing to the viewpoint to see the sunrise. It was the constant downpour—aka lack of seeing anything—that constituted as failure.) A couple of minutes into our breakfast of champions, a retro British gal (also returning from the not so epic Bromo quest) asked to join us as she awaited her next transport. Our conversation soon arrived at the generic, travelers meeting other travelers questionnaire, somewhat reminiscent of freshman year of college. After covering the basics of “Where are you from?”, “How long are you here?” and “Is this going to be a long term, clingy friendship kind-of thing? Cuz I can’t tell if you’re annoying quite yet.”, our chatting soon turned to Ubud. Our new friend had just spent a month practicing yoga there, and I was intrigued to find out if it lived up to all the hype it receives. After all, I kept hearing Ubud was supposedly the one place I just had to visit while in Bali. Like finding out your favorite male celebrity is actually only attracted to other men, her description more than turned me off: “Well, actually, it’s quite Eat, Pray, Love at the moment. A lot of middle aged American women soul searching and practicing bunny yoga. But I still loved it. Everyone does.” Ughhhhhhh. I inwardly groaned for about five minutes, thinking back to how much I...