Thursday, February 02, 2006
Chinese New Year 祝您狗年行大運 Wishing You Dog-Year Fortune!
From a laptop in Taichung, this is Strangelaowai. In this post, we'll do some spiritual touring to the Big Buddha statue in Changhua City and the Dajia Matsu Temple before heading up to Taipei to reconnect with a raftload of great people. As you might expect, I've been out and about enjoying my Chinese New Year holiday. I get a total of one week off. I'll be back to work on Monday the 6th, but don't remind me about that!
大佛 Big Buddha
Early in the week, my gf ann and I did some spiritual touring. First we went to see 大佛 the Big Buddha statue on 八卦山 Eight-Sided Mirror Mountain in 彰化市 Changhua City. Did my facial expression ruin that picture? Well okay fine, here's another picture of 大佛 the Big Buddha, together with somebody who has a little more sense than I do!
If you find my facial expression distracting, fear not! There are plenty of other creative ways to distract you from what would otherwise be a boring yet unadulterated picture of a Taiwanese icon.
The whole area around 大佛 Big Buddha statue is circus-like. In fact, in may be the only "Buddha circus" you'll find on the entire planet. There were lions, elephants, dragons, dogs, little children, balloon vendors, and the strangest demon-god statues I've ever seen (one, two, and three).
ann and I (well okay fine, ann on my behalf) made a prayer card and hung it on a tree. She definitely made sure to give the card some badass Year-of-the-Dog stylings, presumably for good luck. It's always about the good luck.
I think those pictures can give you a clear enough idea of just how much of a circus that place was, especially around Chinese New Year, when everybody is on a good luck binge, or wishes they were. Never mind about the grammar of the previous sentence. A sentence like "everybody wishes that they have good luck" suits me just fine, thank you very much.
大甲媽祖鎮灡宮 Dajia Matsu Temple
The next temple was called 大甲媽祖鎮灡宮 the Dajia Matsu Temple, a huge, busy Taoist Temple replete with all the crazy you'd expect from the Taoists. For one thing, it was very ornate inside and everybody was burning incense and there was fire. For another thing, there was bizarre modern Japanese influence to be found even in something as integral to the temple as the lanterns. Tell me that's not modern Japanese influence in that picture...
In case you weren't sure about the modern influence in that picture, I'm sure the modern influence in this picture will cast your doubts aside. That picture was taken just opposite to the front of the temple itself. The rooftop creatures are also quite nuts.
台北旅遊 Taipei Travels
The next day, Fob and I went up to 台北 Taipei, mostly for a change of pace. Upon arrival in the metropolic, we exited the bus and proceeded to do what any fool with a camera would do: take distracting pictures of Taipei icons, like this one here. Then we went for a dip in a hot springs, free and easy style. No bathing suits. No pictures either. In any case, Fob's a little newer to Taiwan than I, so I took it upon myself to introduce the Taiwan hot springs experience to him. The hot springs was rustic to say the least, but for about $3.25 CAD a pop, you can't really go wrong.
After the hot springs, it was a non-stop parade of friends from my last trip here. First we have L. She's from back in the National Taiwan University Exchange Student Crew days, when we were exchange students trying to get used to The Way Things Are Done Here. Here are L and Fob, giving Taiwan Rover the universal sign of camera culture in Asia. We continued to shoot the breeze and gorge on Thai food. Good times, good times...
Then, as we were walking down the street, L found a $500 bill ($22 CAD) drifting down the street. Yes, there is so much money in Taipei that it literally drifts down the street. Not knowing whether it was real or not, we took it into a convenience store, bought beer and received real change, which we split. I'm still waiting for L to send me a picture of our miraculous free Taiwan beer, which suitably sits randomly on a sidewalk, as if we had just found it by accident.
After checking into the last two available rooms in all of Taipei, we went to meet up with J, an affable, stately gent who happens to be the first homestay student my family ever hosted back in early 1993. On the way to meet him, we took the cursed Yellow MRT Line instead of the Green Line we wanted to take, taking us out to Chungho or Yonghe. In any case, we were stuck in the burbs after taking The Last MRT Train of the Day so we had to spend our hard-earned free street money on a taxi back to where we wanted to go in the first place, but the taxi driver was so daft he took us to 金山南路 Jinshan South Road instead of 新生南路 Xinsheng South Road, a mistake he shouldn't have made considering that I specified 台大對面 across from National Taiwan University, a location that you can't find on 金山南路 Jinshan South Road. His mistake shows that he doesn't know his universities and doesn't listen carefully to his customers.
I've discovered I have enough Mandarin to berate taxi drivers.
Here is the affable gent J upon finally meeting up with him. He is such the gent that he even gave me a red envelope! He's got enough years on me that I suppose he can get away with it, and it's true that I'm not married, so I had to accept. Anyways, it was great to finally shoot the breeze with him after a couple of years of only sporadic communication.
Fob (the guy who bested Taipei 101 in a Who's Taller Contest) gets along with everybody. He's quite the people person despite the fact he barely knows any Mandarin, so here we all are hangin' out at a bar that has a huge selection of quality European beers.
The next day we decided to distract you from everybody's favorite founding father of Modern China's gigantic statue, but not before recording an image of an interesting hedge-beast onto Taiwan Rover, an image that, with this blog entry, has been entered into the annals of internet lore. What the heck IS that thing? Did the grammar of the first sentence in this paragraph mess with you? No worries. Just click for the picture!
Oh man, and that's not all. After gorging on more Thai food with another friend P from back in the NTU days and after being confronted by a gigantic puppet who walked into the Thai restaurant asking patrons for money, the crowd I found myself in expanded to include S and his gf, but the whole shindig was so unexpected that we just ended up, well, shooting the breeze and drinking coffee. There was definitely a lot to catch up on, and it was nice to meet the latest characters, pictured here.
Don't know if you can tell, but that last picture was taken on S's camera, a swanky Canon, but saved on the SD memory card from my camera. I'm pretty sure that Blogger reduces the quality, so maybe the quality difference is not that noticeable here, but the jpgs from the Canon were twice as big as any picture I've ever taken on my Nikon.
I don't know if there's anything more iconic of modern-day Taiwan than a gigantic, red 春 chun character meaning spring, in a shopping mall, under the Taipei 101 building, with the Dior brand name in the background, Christmas lights up and a Canadian English teacher standing around taking in the scene. Seems that 春 chun character is quite popular around the Chinese New Year.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to 台北 Taipei in the first place was because I wanted to visit a friend Q who has been teaching in Hong Kong these last few months and decided to go to Taipei for Chinese New Year. As Fob, Q, and I were chatting in an Irish Pub, another friend G showed up by coincidence, and that's when I really started to feel like I had a damn lot of friends floating around the capital of the Republic. At some point I may move there, but although there is a lot of money to be made there, there is also a lot of money to be spent.
One reason I like Taipei is because in that city, I can understand everybody around me. One reason I like Taichung is because in that city, I can't. Anyways, there may be a Big Scooter Trip tomorrow, and if that happens, there will be more pictures.