Thursday, April 5, 2018

Finally Leaving Taipei

drinking from teapot fo guang shan buddha memorial kaohsiung taiwan


              My first two weeks in Taiwan having been spent in the capital of Taipei, it was time to leave the big city and start our tour of the country.  Spoiler Alert: This ended up being a huge scheduling mess due to fixed dates for interviews and festivals we had to meet and a tentative date for leaving that we came no where close to meeting.  Our tour of Taiwan was great though and had its highlights, like the largest temple in Taiwan, the most popular festival in the world, and me getting the worst rash ever and having to go to the hospital.


houdongkeng waterfall yilan taiwan
Houdongkeng Waterfall


              Preparing to leave Taipei, we had planned to circle around the east coast of the country and back up the west; making an easy tour of Taiwan.  So, itinerary set, we headed out to Yilan for our first stop at the Houdongkeng Waterfall.  Having finished the hike and planning on how we would get to our next stop, we realized that we would actually be on Green Island, possibly with no internet, when we would need internet for an interview.  So, we decided to scrap our plan and do the west coast first and circle around to the east.


baguashan buddha temple tiachung taiwan
Large Buddha statue at the Baguashan Buddha Temple

rainbow village taichung taiwan
Rainbow Village


              After packing up our bags we backtracked through Taipei and down to Taichung where we visited a large Buddha statue and Rainbow village.  Rainbow Village was on both of our lists so we were really excited to go see it.  Both of our excursions were exactly what we were hoping for and did not disappoint.  The only semi-bad part of this part of our trip was that we managed to book a hotel in what seemed like the furniture district.  There seemed to be only furniture stores around us which meant we ended up walking 35 minutes just to find food.  


temple wall fo guang shan buddha memorial kaohsiung taiwan
A temple wall at the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Temple Complex


              Having finished Taichung, we boarded a train and headed further south to Kaohsiung.  Kaohsiung was a great city and we were located near an area lined with restaurants.  We ended up spending a few days here, both for the interview and because of my rash.  At some point I got a rash that overnight had spread across most of my body.  Had it been localized in only one location I might had been able to put lotion on and ignore it, but as it was, the itching was so intense I felt like I wanted to just skin myself.  Fortunately, the health care system in Taiwan is great and I was able to visit a doctor and get a shot and medication for under $8 (with no insurance).  This was not without its own hiccup though.  Not knowing my way around or able to speak Chinese I had to rely on Google Maps to get me to the doctor.  After searching for a hospital (assuming they would more likely have someone who spoke English) we walked to the nearest location that Google offered.  Though it was a hospital, it turned out to be a mental hospital and they were entirely surprised as to why I was there.  Luckily the doctor there spoke some English and drew us a map to a Dermatologist.


buddha statue fo guang shan buddha memorial kaohsiung taiwan
Buddha statue at the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Temple Memorial


                During our time in Kaohsiung, we toured the town to see some of the creative parks and the Dome of Light, the largest work of glass in the world.  The highlight of Kaohsiung, and possibly for my trip to Taiwan, was the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial.  This temple complex is the largest in Taiwan and contains the tallest Buddha statue in the world.  It was simply stunning and awe inspiring.  We spent the entire evening there, staying until after nightfall.  As the sun began to set the whole temple complex lit up with lights and was possibly even more beautiful than during the day.  Trying to return home though wasn’t such a charming experience.  I had looked up the bus route on Google Maps before leaving and saw that we had to take three different buses to get back to our hotel.  After getting on the first bus I decided to take one last photo of the Buddha memorial as we drove away only to find that Google Maps had closed my bus route.  Having no clue where to get off for the next bus or anything after that, we decided to get off and walk back towards the temple till we found wifi to find our way again.  Long story short, we had ridden a considerable way before getting off the bus, but finally found wifi and were able to make it home.


pingxi sky lantern festival taiwan
Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival



               The following day we boarded a train once again to head back north to Taipei.  There were two festivals going on in Taiwan at the same time; the Beehive Fireworks and the Sky Lantern Festival.  I had heard of the Sky Lantern Festival before, but the Beehive Festival is what really drew my attention.  It seemed like a festival of chaos, where fireworks were shot into the crowds themselves.  It was something unlike anything I have ever heard about and I wanted to experience it.  Unfortunately, protective gear is of course needed, which I did not have, so I decided  that it was best to put that off for another time.  The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival was a blast though.  Touted as one of the top must see festivals in the world, it was truly a sight to see.  


pingxi hike taiwan
A look at the second rock pinnacle from the top of the final one during the Pingxi hike


We started the day with a hike up three vertical rock pinnacles that were nothing but stairs.  Along the way we were able to see a few lanterns as they flew by on their way into the sky.  We then made our way to Shifen to see the festival and witness hundreds of lanterns as they are simultaneously lifted into the heavens.  After watching two sets of lanterns fly away, we made our way down the road to send our own lantern floating away.  This affectively finished our tour of the west coast and we prepare for our final week (so we thought) in Taiwan touring the east coast. 


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