Tag Archive: Chinese New Year

Taipei Lantern Festival

After the crowds during CNY I just didn’t have the heart to deal with going to the PingXi Lantern Festival. And as the linked account shows I didn’t miss much. Or maybe I should say I missed too much but being trampled to death is something I can live without.

Instead, I went to the Taipei Lantern show which probably wasn’t as impressive, but was certainly fun, and had tons of great statues all lit up in the dark. They had an impressive dragon display along with a light and water show that was pretty cool.

It was crowded but that’s to be expected. The metro was very busy and the city had cops directing traffic both inside the metro station itself and out on the streets.  That was a little amusing. I  can’t say as I’ve ever seen a cop, complete with whistle and baton, directing traffic inside the metro before.

The festival was full of  long displays including one showcasing the local school competition for best statue and the results were truly impressive. So impressive, in fact, that there were many people  commenting that it couldn’t possibly have been elementary school aged kids that put these statues together.  What can I say? I guess teachers are competitive too.

The main event consisted of a light show near a fountain in front of a very big dragon. That happened every half hour and the funniest part was standing in the back and watching the thousands of lights from everyone’s digital cameras. My friend was the one that pointed it out to me and after he did, I have to admit it was pretty funny seeing several thousand cameras all reflecting the same thing.  In the old days we used lighters at concerts, but now its cameras everywhere. Funny how things change.

The pictures are posted below, along with some additional ones I took wandering around the city that night with a friend showing some weekend street performers and a very nice bird’s-eye view of the city.

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Trip to Tainan (Part Two)

The second day of our trip to Tainan started out very promising. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and you know… etc. etc. Our innkeeper offered to get us breakfast while we got ready for the day. Awesome.

Then, unfortunately, about an hour after we ate we both started to develop stomach cramps. While neither of us were vomiting, we had some pretty uncomfortable moments. I can’t speak for Zona, but my stomach was a mess for the next few hours. This did nothing to put me in the best frame of mind for sight-seeing, nevertheless there was no way I was gonna waste any time on being sick.

So we walked around for a bit and then made our way to Chihkan Tower, one of the more famous sights in  Tainan. The grounds around the tower were quite nice. The tower itself wasn’t bad either but it reminded me of nothing more than another temple. At this point I’ve seen quite a few temples, and while I do enjoy them, they are so numerous that they no longer seem all that exotic.

I didn’t realize this while we were there  but my friend Zona later told me that while I was wandering around snapping pictures, Taiwanese parents everywhere were trying to encourage their kids to practice their English on me. I often regret my complete lack of observational skills and this was certainly one of those times. How I missed it I have no idea.  But apparently, while I was wandering around taking pictures and just generally minding my own business, parents were nudging and pushing their kids toward me telling them to say hello to me. And the kids, being shy and embarrassed, would creep up to me look at the ground and mumble something to themselves. I would walk by totally unaware and their parents would hiss at them “Louder, louder, she can’t hear you!”  Apparently this was happening the entire hour or two that we were there and not once did I notice.

After visiting the tower, we hit the streets again and this is where my mood really started to deteriorate. It was crowded everywhere. The line for the bus was longer than what any bus can hold, the noise was awful and people were homing in on the tower and market area from all directions. It seemed like every time we  got away from the crowds, somehow we kept ending up in the same obnoxious areas.

Since our stomach cramps had passed, we ended up diving back in to get some food at a little local place. We were able to actually take a brief rest from the crowds there but as soon as we were done, back in we went. We couldn’t get a ride on the bus  because the line was too long and the bus was so crowded it wasn’t taking any passengers. The roads were parking lots glutted with scooters, beeping taxis, whistle blowing cops trying to direct traffic, and people. People, people everywhere.  The noise and the confusion, the heat, and the press of people from all directions were simply driving me bat shit insane. I was two seconds away from throwing a temper tantrum and it bothered me that the idea of shoving someone in front of a moving car was starting to sound really appealing.

I wouldn’t say I have social anxiety or anxiety of any kind but I find that the older I get the less tolerance I have for massive crowds and chaos of this magnitude.  It is detestable.  Especially since we had seen what there was to see and there was no reason to stick around at all. And yet there we were. I can’t think of a worse way to waste my time. On the verge of a major meltdown I dragged my friend away from the market we were roaming in and we walked for some minutes into a quieter (but by no means quiet) part of town. There, a 7/11 clerk helped us call a taxi. We decided earlier to check out the Sihcao Wetlands and since we couldn’t get a bus we hired a taxi to take us there instead.

The trip of maybe six or seven kilometers took 45 minutes. And cost us some 360NT which is pretty steep for a taxi here especially considering the distance.

Along the way the taxi driver warned us we might not even get to see anything because of the  crowds. I wasn’t willing to believe it, so off we went.  Our driver, after ascertaining that I don’t speak Chinese, then began a long conversation with my friend about where I’m from, what I’m doing here, how old am I,  and would I be interested in his divorced 50-year-old Russian friend?  God. I just have to laugh. I’m sure he was giving himself a pat on the shoulders for looking out for his good old pal.

Well we finally pulled up to the ecology area, and sure enough, it was overrun with people. Ecology area my butt. Not after Chinese New Year it wasn’t.  It turned out the boat tour which was the only way to see most of the area wasn’t going to happen. It was late afternoon already and based on the massive line there was no way we’d get to see anything before night fall. We opted to just walk around and managed to see some dirt paths, a dirty canal, and a bunch of dried grass. Oh, and a massive temple, of course. It wouldn’t count as a trip to anywhere if there wasn’t a temple to see.

At one point in our walk around we stopped to look at a map of the grounds which was highly detailed and helpfully pointed out all other historic areas we could visit while we were there. After studying the map for about a minute or two, it slowly dawned on me that according to the “you are here” sign, I could view all three other areas of historic note simply by turning around in the rather small back garden we were in. They were right in front of us. We busted out laughing. The whole situation was so ludicrous. After struggling for a good two hours to get here, this place turned out to be such a joke.

Along the way we also saw probably the only truly scenic nature shot, some crabs in their natural environment (that was cool for me since I’ve never seen that in real life), some not so very impressive mangrove trees (which are supposed to be really special and here is why) a stray dog or two and some water pond like thing that did not in any way look attractive, naturey or peaceful.

After that, we made our way to the bus stop and finally, finally managed to catch a bus. At least our ride back was cheap.

By then it was dusk. We returned to the train station and  bought tickets on the regular train home and walked around until we found another (crowded) place to eat. Here I had some incredibly unhealthy and not at all tasty fried chicken, and where I managed to once again sail right by people who were excitedly waving hello at me without seeing them at all. This time Zona stopped me and pointed them out. How she managed to see them I have no idea since they were across a crowded series of tables, but sure enough, when I turned around, there they were waving and smiling away.

I think  by the end of the day we were both completely done with this trip. We sat around the train station and were both probably a bit too happy to be heading back to gloomy and dreary Taipei than we should have been.

I suppose I owe it to Tainan to come back and visit sometime when it’s not CNY and the city isn’t overrun with tourists. But given my experiences, I probably won’t.

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Trip to Tainan (Part One)

I have to break this trip up into two separate posts because I had two such wildly different experiences the two days I was there.  Also, it gives me a chance to blog ad nauseam about my trip and nattering on about the same thing endlessly is an opportunity I simply can’t pass up.

I went with my friend Zona over CNY on a fairly spur of the moment trip.  For weeks we had been trying to make various different plans but they all fell through. Finally we decided to  buy a train ticket and just go somewhere, anywhere.  And anywhere was fine with me, so long as we could get out of dreary rainy Taipei for a while. It’s difficult to plan for a CNY trip at the last moment as everything is booked weeks and weeks in advance. Going abroad became out of the question as flights were either all booked or insanely expensive. I had initially wanted to bike down the coast of Taiwan, but somehow that idea kept getting squashed like a bug every time I brought it up and finally I gave up.

We finally managed to get our act together and bought a high-speed rail ticket to Tainan. Since all the comfortable times were booked our tickets were for seven a.m. on Wednesday morning. Fine by me. I figured it would give us more time to check things out.

As usual, since I had to get up very early, I had a hard time falling asleep the night before. So difficult was it that I didn’t actually fall asleep at any point. Instead I spent the hours laying in the dark thinking all the typically weird thoughts that creep out of our psyche at that time of day.

We got to Tainan around nine thirty in the morning, caught the bus to the Confucius Temple and aimlessly roamed around there for a while. I think we were both too  groggy to think straight.  We didn’t go inside because they were charging, and frankly, we didn’t really feel like it. I popped in my contacts in the bathroom, which earned me a few weird stares, and then we headed off to check out the nearby streets.

We hadn’t managed to find any openings on-line but I felt certain that if we asked around we would be sure to find one. Eventually we did at a cute brand new B & B near the regular train station for only a price of 2,000 NT( 67 USD). Four times what they charged normally (20 USD)  but I suppose they’d be fools to pass up an opportunity to rake in the extra cash. At that,  it was still the cheapest place we could find, with some extremely shady looking hotels selling rooms for upwards of 4,000 NT (134 USD) for the night.

Having secured our lodgings, we set off on the bus to see the famous Anping Old Fort which was initially constructed by the Dutch. The bus ride took forever and we were stuck in traffic for so long we decided to get off the bus to take a bathroom break at a nearby temple and decided to walk the rest of the way. As we walked we could see our  bus a few meters ahead creeping along in traffic. We never quite caught up with it, but we never really lost sight of it either as we walked to Yanping Old Street near the fort. It was pleasant to walk though, and as the sun burned off the rest of the  clouds the day became warm and sunny. Very warm and sunny and I suddenly found myself in a better mood than I had been in months.

Yanping Old Street was very crowded, with tons and tons of different restaurants, street vendors selling various different things, and of course,  the requisite megaphones. It just wouldn’t be the same charming experience if my eardrums weren’t bleeding. We strolled through some of the back alleys but finally the crowds got to me and I had to get out of there before I lost my temper.

We made our way down to the Tainan canal and checked out some cool statues on the far side as well as a Chinese cemetary on ours. It was interesting to see, vaguely reminiscent of the graveyards in Poland with above ground stones or maybe mausoleum would be the right word. Next to each crypt there was a tiny stone house with a deity inside watching over the departed.

We finally made our way  to the Anping Fort. It was nice, with the  back view of the old fort walls by far the prettiest part of the entire fort area. There were tons of people all over the place and one Taiwanese couple asked me to take a photo with them. This happens sometimes because I’m a blonde Westerner. I never knew I was such a star until I came to Taiwan. I guess that’s what it feels like to be famous.

After the fort we made our way to the Anping Tree House which, in my opinion, was the single coolest thing I saw in Tainan. Along the way we stopped for some beer and tea. I had the beer, Zona had the tea. I was so incredibly tired all day I  could barely see straight and felt like I was walking through a foggy haze that gently swayed and shifted everywhere I glanced. Since I already felt buzzed and vaguely drugged, it only made sense to have a beer to justify the feeling. One awesome thing I gotta say about Taiwan is that walking around with a beer in hand is perfectly legal everywhere.

We went to the tree house at dusk and as a result my pictures came out pretty badly. You can still take a look at them below, but feel free to also follow this link  for daylight pictures and history of the warehouse.

After the tree house, we took the  bus to the night market to get some food. It was insanely crowded in the food area and at times we couldn’t move at all due to the press of bodies around us. I thought it was dangerous and unsafe, and the only redeeming thing about that night market was the fact there were no megaphones and, in fact, the entire market was surprisingly muffled and quiet. Here I finally broke down and tried stinky tofu which smells like dead rotting animals that have broiled in the hot sun for a few days. I’ve been avoiding it for months, but its such a famous example of Taiwanese food that I had to give in. I’m happy to report it tasted nothing like the way it smelled. Actually, it tasted like regular deep-fried tofu. Then my friend insisted it wasn’t the  greatest stinky tofu so now I’m obliged to try it again here in Taipei. Oh joy.

There isn’t much else I can tell you about that day. All in all it was a good day. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and went to bed eager to experience more of Tainan….

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Miniatures Museum of Taiwan

Well it’s that time of the week again and where I get to thrill you with my wild and woolly Taiwanese adventures.

Last week saw the start of our winter semester break at school. Basically, the kids get three weeks off from their regular school for Chinese New Year, and since their parents don’t have anything else to do with them they get put into winter break school. Poor kids.

Anyway, we went on a field trip to the Miniatures Museum which I initially thought would be  quite boring but actually it was pretty interesting.

They had every scene you could imagine from Barbie’s family tree to traditional Chinese dolls, to robots, cars and even a mini TV smaller than a stamp that actually worked. I could kick myself for missing that part too. Somehow that was the one part of the museum I didn’t pay any attention to and didn’t even realize what I had missed until I read the brochure after we had left.

The pictures are posted  below. Some are of my students fooling around for my camera, and you’ll notice that some of them are somewhat blurry. Unfortunately my camera takes horrible pictures in dim lighting and we weren’t allowed to use  flash.

I hope you enjoy and I’ll update again fairly soon. I’ve been busy running around doing all sorts of things this week so that’s why this post is so late. On the upside that means within the next few weeks I’ll probably be posting a little more than normal.

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