Welcome to Taiwan! Officially a part of the Republic of China, Taiwan is considered to be a country of it’s very own. And honestly, it appears to be quite different from China with it’s unique structures and strong traditions. We were fortunate to visit the surrounding areas of Taipei and Koa-Hsiung and found the people to be extremely welcoming to Americans and other visitors. This is definitely a country that I’d feel very comfortable and honored to visit again.
More facts and history about Taiwan can be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan
Exploring Taipei, Keelung, and the Koa-Hsiung region is very safe and easy to do on your own. You will need good maps and some sort of dependable transportation. Public transportation such as hop-on-hop-off buses, city shuttles, and even taxi cabs are not expensive. We took an excursion which took the pressure of “getting there” off of us, allowing us to enjoy the sights mostly at our own pace.
TAIPEI and KEELUNG : We traveled to Pao-An Temple, a place honoring the God of medicine in local folk religion. The temple is over 230 years old and is one of the island’s oldest structures. Parts of the temple contain carvings of dragons, lions, and other figures that are taken from ancient Chinese mythology. We also visited the Confucius Temple, built for the famous Chinese philosopher. There are many photo opportunities here and the familiar smells of strong incense, often used in the Buddhist and Hindu religions, will greet you as soon as you arrive. Wear a facemask if you are bothered by the incense.
Our next stop (The Lin An Tai Old House) is probably not an attraction that I would recommend. It seemed a bit too “touristy” and was very crowded: The Lin An Tai Old House is more than 160 years old and is a monument to the Lin family. Unless one has an interest in this particular family or the ancient ways of procreation and large families with multiple wives, it seemed like a waste of time to me. The most interesting part of this place was a live audition going on where young girls performed by singing songs to prepare for a future concert in the park area of the Lin An Tai.
After this stop, we went to Dihua street which was great fun. We enjoyed watching street venders serve up unusual foods and browsed local shops stocked with many strange snacks and candies made from exotic mushrooms, sea creatures, and plants. The treats are advertised as being medicinal, however we learned that there are no greater health benefits to these products than are American snacks or candies. There was an old-fashioned flavor to this particular street, as we discovered several pay and working rotary-dial wall telephones as well as a couple of cool antique shops displaying television sets from the 1950’s era. Dihua street is crowded with motorcycles, cars, and loads of people, but the chaos actually added to the excitement and fun at this particular spot.
After our trip through Dihua street we decided to take a side street that lead to a small beach and we walked over a lovely arched bridge. This lead us to an outdoor Karaoke bar. We stopped to listen to the locals laughing and singing, and we decided to snap a few photos. They soon spotted us and invited us to join them inside. We were welcomed with a cup of delicious Oolong tea and encouraged to sing along with the group. Singing would be a huge challenge since all of the lyrics were written in Chinese characters, so we politely declined and opted to visit with these friendly locals instead. There were some language barriers, but a sweet teenaged girl who sat next to me did a wonderful job of playing “interpreter”. All in all, it was a really fun day in Taipei and the surrounding areas. I can’t wait to go back!
KAO-HSIUNG: This area of Taiwan was breathtakingly beautiful and there were so many photo opportunities that I was overwhelmed by it all. The temples were almost like playgrounds and I would have loved to have stayed another day to see everything that this wonderful area has to offer.
First, we visited the Fokuangshan Monastery. Many of the students studying the Buddhist religion here are women who have completely shaved their heads and dress in plain robe-like garments. The grounds of this very large 247 acre monastery are beautiful with gardens, shrines, meditation halls, and the big Buddha surrounded by thousands of mini Buddha’s at the center of the monastery. Next door is the Buddha Memorial center which boasts yet another very large Buddha and even has a shrine for one of Buddha’s ancient teeth! All of the grounds are extremely walkable and if you keep a bottle of water handy, wear a good hat, or carry an umbrella, the heat won’t get you down. It’s a humid place with temperatures in the 90’s on most days. But, the scenery and culture is so much fun that the hot weather will not be a problem at all.
While at the Memorial center, we enjoyed a very good vegetarian lunch. I don’t usually talk much about the meals on our adventures, but this one stood out to be memorable. Everything—including the dessert—was made from tofu and vegetables and was delicious and exotic. Chopsticks are required, but that only made the meal more fun to enjoy. If you visit this area, take the time to enjoy the special vegetarian lunch offered here. It is worth the extra time and money and will leave a lasting impression. There is also a Starbucks near the restaurant for coffee after lunch and for checking WIFI. But, beware: This Starbucks location is extremely popular so the speed of the Internet can be slow at times.
Next we headed to Lotus Lake and explored the Spring and Autumn Pavilions that are dedicated to the God of War. For good luck, we entered the dragon’s mouth and exited through the tiger’s mouth of these very cool water pavilions. As we walked and climbed through the pavilions (and please be sure to climb to the very top of both pavilions for the best views), we were also entertained by acrobatic water-skiers on Lotus Lake. The Tzu-Chi Temple is so magnificent and the interior is filled with phantasmagorical images of the pantheon of Taoist deities and Gods. Some of the images on the walls are pretty scary and the white and red stairs will make you feel as if you have entered a carnival fun-house. This is an amazing place in Taiwan, and if you go, plan to spend at least three hours there and try to visit as many of the pavilions on the water as possible.
This particular are of Taiwan just might rank as high as Japan, in my opinion. It’s a fantastic place in Asia!
For more information, visit: http://www.myseveralworlds.com/2013/08/04/fo-guang-shan-buddhist-monastery-in-kaohsiung-southern-taiwan/
I hope you have enjoyed this little trip through beautiful Taiwan! 拜拜啦! (bài bài la): Bye bye for now! Or, better yet, 再见 (zài jiàn): See you again!!