Last weekend, we made a trip up to Chia Yi
and Alishan. F. and I took the train up
on Saturday morning and met up with the rest of her family, who drove up that morning.
The first thing we did was head out
through the rain to the big Matsu temple
(built in 1694) in Yun Lin.
were so many people, we parked about 1/2 mile away, and walked across a bridge
to get to the road that brings you to the temple Being Matsu’s birthday (29 again?), there
were many groups of celebrants on that road, too. We had a conversation about whether these
groups were essentially religious or cultural. Our end decision, like often happens in Taiwan, is that
it is a bit of both.
township may have a Matsu temple. If so, you should go to the nearest really
BIG Matsu temple (where all the gods gather on that day) and gather some good
luck for your village by marching in a procession or parade (there were even a
few marching bands) to the temple, where you perform outside, blow off a enormous
string of fireworks, and then go in to join the THRONG of people inside.
Literally, pushing room only. It was amazing. Gongs, bells, cymbals, chants, suonas (that
shrill trumpet thing)—it really is 好熱鬧 (re4 nao4)! If you have a
chance, do it. One of the most
interesting things I have seen inTaiwan in 3+ years.
After that wonderful and exhausting ordeal, we went to a friend’s restaurant for smoked chicken and various other dishes. It was in a way a test weekend for F.’s sister’s boyfriend A-Shang, who wants to build some trust with the parents. Basically, he wants earn some points, if you know what I mean. He was very nervous about the timing, so we tried to help him out the best we could. This was his friend’s restaurant, so he wanted to treat us.
Next, we went into Chia Yi and
checked out a new building, the Ri __ Tower (called the Chiayi Tower
in English). It is about 12 stories
high, and the artwork is dedicated to the old Taiwanese (I think it is
aboriginal, but everyone seems to know it here…) story about when there used to
be 9 suns in the sky and all the crops were burning and people dying, so some
guy went to shoot a few of the suns from the sky. The tower is relatively uninteresting, but
offers a nice view of Chia Yi, as well as one of the more frightening views in Taiwan. The center of the tower is open, so when you
go to the 11th floor, you can stand on the glass panels in the floor
and stare straight down some 11 floors. It’s
unnerving to say the least. I took a
picture, but it really isn’t worth putting up here, as it isn’t all that clear.
On Sunday, we went in search of King Wasabi in the forests of Alishan.
Alishan can be a fun place, but I certainly recommend going on the weekdays. The weekends, especially in nice summer weather, finds many tour buses climbing the mountain road up to Alishan. Once you are there, the beautiful tall cedar forests are filled with the sounds of Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese tourists yelling to each other to the forest, oblivious to the other walkers who may prefer a quieter experience. I don’t know why—education that didn’t emphasize the joyful experience of solitude, or maybe most have just never been in the forest before. At any rate, winter is usually not too busy even on the weekends, but weekdays are a must other times of the year.
We walked through lots of beautiful scenery
and tall trees and had a grand old time. I bought some山粉圓 to put in drinks, and ate some wasabi. But the elusive King Wasabi was not to be found.
We found some of his little minions lying
about. Sometimes I thought I saw shadows
lurking in the woods, and smelled a pungent odor, but it wasn’t until we exited
the woods near a temple that I found the great King Wasabi. Majestic, standing a
full 8 feet tall, radiating his tongue-tickling glow. Made entirely of plastic. Ok, so it is just a big touristy thing like all
the giant Mister Chef restaurants and like in Pocahontas, Iowa.
After exchanging ceremonial gifts, we
headed back down to Fen Chi Hu for dinner, then back down to Chia Yi to catch
the train back to Kaohsiung.
I've added a photo album of the whole experience!