January 17, 2014 Back in Taipei, Taiwan

Happy Chinese New Year! I am back in Taiwan, so it is time to start blogging again!

Chinese New Year Wall Hanging

The first thing that I noticed when I returned was that the Christmas decorations are gone from the entrance and lobby of our apartment building. In their place are Chinese New Year decorations.

The entrance to our apartment building, with Chinese New Year decorations around the door and on the pillars.

A close up of the Chinese New Year decorations on the pillars

This is the biggest holiday of the year in Taiwan and China. It is a time when everyone travels to visit family, kids are off from school, and businesses close. It is very similar to the week between Christmas and New Year in the US. Jeff has the week of Jan. 29-Feb. 4 off from work, and Harmony also has that week off from school. So it is a good time to travel somewhere, as most everything in Taipei will be closed. I know this from past experience, as I have spent three of the past five Chinese New Years in Taipei. For three days, the only businesses open in the city are 7Elevens, and their shelves are pretty bare by the third day, when a few other restaurants and businesses will reopen.

Chinese New Year Decorations in the center of our apartment lobby, with miniature kumquat trees and red flowers

So we, Jeff, Harmony, and I are going to be traveling to Sumatra, Indonesia, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6! You are probably wondering-why Sumatra? Here are the reasons.

1. We were planning on going to Thailand, but there is a travel advisory against visiting Thailand right now due to the unrest there.
2. Bali, Indonesia, is the big resort area, and has lots of 4 and 5 star hotels, etc. It is also expensive, and will be filled with hordes of Chinese tourists, as they are all off on vacation that week, and Bali is a very popular destination for them.
3. Sumatra, on the other hand, has very few resorts. We will mostly be staying in guest houses, and tents. Guest houses are not fancy, but they will have fans, mosquito nets and indoor plumbing.
4. And Sumatra has orangutans! elephants! jungles! volcanos! More of Harmony and my kind of place, although Jeff is still hoping to go to Bali someday. Still, he is appreciating that three of us can spend a week in Sumatra for less than a week for two people in Bali.

Another Chinese New Year wall hanging

I am sure that I will have many interesting blog entries when I return!

Chinese New Year Decorations often feature cute animals from the Chinese Zodiac, or a “happy man.” The decorations on the doors to the mailbox area of our building are of the happy man type. In case you are wondering, 2014 will be the Year of the Horse in the Chinese zodiac.

Happy Man Chinese New Year Decorations

People also like to use certain plants when they decorate for the New Year. In the US, we use evergreens and poinsettias for our holiday decorations. Here, they often use miniature kumquat and mandarin orange trees, orchids, and plants with red flowers. They are all very pretty!

An orchid in our apartment lobby with Chinese New Year decorations

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