Carrie on the Cover of DT (Discover Taipe)
1. Who are you?
My name is Carrie Marshall and I’m a Canadian expat living in Asia. I’ve been bouncing around Asia for the past six years and currently call Planet Taiwan my home.
Wow. For such a simple question, you would think it would be easier for me to answer. I wear a lot of hats. I’m an avid travel junkie and culture vulture. I’m a photography aficionado. I love the arts, and I express myself creatively through my writing, photography, music, jewelry design and painting. Currently, I’m working as a writer, editor, and voice talent for an international multimedia magazine company. I am also an ESL teacher. I have been teaching English conversation, grammar and creative writing courses to junior and senior high school students in Taiwan for the past three years.
I caught the travel bug in 1991 while traveling through South America shortly after graduating from high school. After a few short jaunts here and there during my university years, I decided to make the plunge and move abroad. In 2003, I moved to Changchun in Northern China to teach English as a Second Language. By night, I moonlighted as a lead singer with a Filipino rock band.
Carrie and Alter Ego
In 2004, I fell in love with an American from Iowa, and we started traveling the world together. We moved to the beautiful island of Taiwan in 2006. You can read about our world travels and our adventures in the glittering metropolis of Taipei at My Several Worlds.
2. What do you like about what you do?
I love challenges. When it comes to me, there will always be something to work on, something to fix, something to improve on, and something to change. I am constantly pushing boundaries and moving forward. I believe a person’s greatest challenge lies in their ability to adapt. If you can do that, then you can do anything.
Asia allows me a great amount of freedom. I have time to pursue things here and explore interests that I didn’t have time for back home. For example, I study Chinese and for my first three years in Asia, I lived in a culture that virtually forced me to learn the language. I’ve taken lessons in kung fu, tai chi, belly dancing and traditional Chinese painting. I’ve also had professional opportunities here that arenn’t as easily available back home. Over the past six years in Asia, I’ve sung professionally, acted in television programs and commercials, done radio work, book editing, and modeled.
3. What don’t you like about what you do?
Like anyone who’s been away from their home for a long time, I miss my family and friends. Every once in awhile, I wish I were back in my own culture, where I understand everything that is going on. In general though, we’re pretty happy with how we’re living and what we’re doing.
I also worry that my experiences abroad may not be viewed by others back home in a positive light. I hope my language studies can be put to good use in North America. I hope my experience abroad will be considered an asset, but realistically, unless I remain in education, publishing or the travel business, my experience probably won’t count for much.
4. Please tell us all about your blogs and your aims with them?
My Several Worlds was created in January 2007 as a personal blog with feature articles on culture, English as a Second Language (ESL), and travel and living in Asia. Since then, it’s developed into a travel, culture and photography site.
I created Taiwan Photographers in August 2007 in the hopes of creating a network of photographers in Taiwan who might be willing to exchange ideas and information about photography. Since then, it’s become an award-winner, recently winning Best Photography Site in Taiwan.
5. Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
Nothing beats Japan for out-of-time and out-of-space adventure. You really do feel like you’re on a different planet at times.
Laos is incredible for eco-trekking. Traveling is a pure pleasure in this friendly and vibrant country.
I like China for its diversity, for its ancient history and for the people. I also like it for the fish-out-of-water experience that I’m sure all travelers who have been there can relate to. I lived in China for three years and I like to think that I came of age there. Every day was an adventure, and I loved it, but at the same time, it was one of the most disorienting and difficult times of my life. Try to imagine a normal day in your life back home and change every little thing about it and you might get an idea of what life was like in China for me during my first year. I wasn’t expecting to be on parade all the time. People were constantly coming up and touching me. I learned to hate living on the first floor. People would stand at my window and watch me inside my home. They dug through my grocery cart while I was shopping. Every little thing was a challenge, from riding the bus and mailing a letter, to ordering food and making phone calls.
The language and culture barriers were the biggest challenges to overcome while living in China. However, I made significant efforts to learn about my new environment and those efforts have paid off. Those years in China stay close to my heart, and I truly believe that you havenâ€™t seen Asia if you haven’t been to China.
6. Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
Only two places pop into my head. In terms of quality, personal service, and an all-around positive experience, I would say that both of these places went above and beyond normal expectations.
Nefatari Villas in Ubud, Bali was, by far, the nicest and most accommodating place we’ve ever stayed at. The staff spoiled us completely and catered to our every whim. They really went out of their way to make our stay extra special. When they learned that John was going to propose to me during our stay there, they bent over backwards to help us celebrate our engagement in a traditional Balinese style. It didn’t hurt that our villa was gorgeous. We stepped out of time into our own private yard with a plunge pool and a huge outdoor bathroom and jacuzzi bath.
The Peace of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a private villa owned and operated by photographer Dave Perkes. In addition to the friendly service, we were taken on a personal guided tour around the floating village of Kompong Khleang, Dave was also happy to help us arrange further travel accommodations, ensuring that the rest of our stay in Cambodia was safe and comfortable.
7. Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?
Japan is a paradise for people with big appetites who are passionate about Japanese cooking. We are both huge admirers of this cuisine, so we weren’t afraid to try new things and thoroughly enjoyed eating everywhere we went. Eating is just as delightful as exploring in Japan.
While John and I were staying at Nefatari Villas, the staff prepared a traditional Balinese meal for our engagement and served it in the center of a Balinese water garden by candlelight. They had constructed a billowing white canopy and garnished it with wild orchids to add some romance. The atmosphere and the sumptuous food went straight to our heads. It was the most romantic night we’ve ever had.
A company dinner in Northern China remains firmly ensconced in my memory for helping me get over my fear of eating strange and weird foods. That dinner was one of the most interesting dinners I’ve ever eaten. Fried silkworms, deer embryo, crispy baby quail and turtle soup were a few things on the menu that night.
8. Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
We stayed at a terrible hotel on Khao San Road in Bangkok one night. Our bus arrived in the wee hours of the morning, and it was the only place we could find that still had vacancies. It was dirty, hot, and infested with cockroaches. At least it was cheap. It’s gone now.
We were married in December at the Moon Palace Spa and Golf Resort in Cancun, Mexico. Thankfully, our wedding day went off without a hitch. It was beautiful and I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. However, we were quite disappointed with Moon Palace. The staff was rude and impatient. The service was slow and no one seemed to know what was going on. We were bombarded for two days with phone calls and notes on our door about time shares. We booked tours and spa appointments at one desk and arrived at the destination only to find out there was no record of our booking. Our room bill was charged for steaming my wedding dress when the service had already been paid for. It took three days to have the charge removed from our account. Moon Palace is supposed to be the Number #1 resort for destination weddings and golf packages. It ended up being a big waste of money. I would not recommend staying there.
The bus we took from Thailand to Siem Reap goes down in our travel annals for all-time horrible experiences. In addition to being on a bus on the dry, dusty backroads of Cambodia with no air conditioning and broken seats for fourteen hours, we also had to deal with numerous breakdowns and barely anything to eat. The bus stopped once at some crappy restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. We were fed stringy, dry, hard mystery meat. That’s all we had to eat for over 24 hours. On the other hand, these kinds of experiences make the best travel stories, so I’m not going to complain too much.
9. Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
Taipei Temple Logo
Taipei is a dynamic mix of ancient culture and tradition wrapped up in modern lifestyle. We’ve been here for three years and we’re still finding things to do. I especially like the modern arts movement here. There is some kind of music concert, play, ballet, opera, or art exhibit going on somewhere in the city at all times. I also consider this to be a city of festivals. People seem to be celebrating something every month.
Where to find food: The train station, night markets, and department stores are usually cheap, clean and delicious.
Where to go: Don’t miss a Taiwanese night market. They’re loud, pulsing areas full of shoppers and adventurous gastronomes. This is where you should go if you want to try eating some truly unique dishes.
I also recommend heading to a local temple. You can find one tucked away on every block. Longshan Temple is an excellent choice if it’s your first time in the city. You’ll be astounded by the riot of colors and textures, and intrigued by the stories these mythical characters tell.
There are plenty of hiking trails in and around the city. Yang Ming Mountain is just outside the city and provides a beautiful respite from the concrete jungle. The hot springs and spas in Beitou are famous for their healing qualities and for adding a little romance to the air. Taipei 101 will give you an unprecedented view of the city.
Where to stay: If I had my choice of accommodation in Taipei, I’d definitely stay at the majestic and opulent Grand Hotel. Perched atop Yuan shan Mountain, it lends a magnificent view across the Taipei Basin and city of Taipei. The Grand Hotel is one of Taiwan’s best-loved and most recognizable landmarks, and is a symbol of ancient Chinese history and culture. It’s impossible to miss on the skyline with its palatial dimensions soaring high in the sky. In fact, everything about the Grand Hotel, both inside and out, is brilliantly blown out of proportion and designed to make your stay there a memorable one.
10. Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
Thank you Carrie! The part of the world you live in is almost terra incognita for me. Love to learn a bit about it. BTW I Love your WP theme…might copy it:-)