Monday, January 29, 2007

Going back to Christmas eve...

On Christmas eve, I took a road trip to Tainan and then to the western part of Tainan which is Anping. I was only there for a few hours and thought it was much smaller than it turned out to be, so I didn't get to see everything I had hoped to see. As a matter of fact, I barely saw a fraction of what I had planned. Being a Sunday, Anping was very crowded making it slow moving through the old streets. I visited a Matsu temple there which has the oldest Matsu statue in Taiwan. I believe the photo here of the female goddess with the black face is the statue, but since I went alone, and still have a pathetically sub-basic Chinese vocabulary, I had no one to ask without the use of extensive mime and dramatics. There are at least two statues of Matsu in the temple and I may have chosen the wrong one to post. Ah well, such is life. There were some very interesting paintings on one room of the temple there, and without a doubt, the temple was worth the visit. As with all temples here so far, each is different and unique in one way or another. Anping was an interesting area to visit and there is much history. Fort Zeelandia is there, although I didn't go inside. Fort Zeelandia was built by the Dutch in 1634. As with many historical structures in Taiwan, the original fort does not really exist except for a portion of the wall around the structure. What exists now is a reconstruction of the fort which was made during the occupation of Taiwan by Japan. Although there is a folk museum inside, I didn't investigate. Maybe next time. The atmosphere seemed to be created for tourists with almost a carnival feel to it. I looked around for the cotton candy once or twice. But I did end up being a good tourist and buying a few things while there. I found a calligraphy brush and some very cool calligraphy paper which allows one to use water to draw on the "paper" and after a few moments the water evaporates. So, I shelled out 100 NT dollars (about $3.10 US) and got 5 sheets of the paper. Another $200 NT and I had myself a beautiful calligraphy brush. Merry Christmas, eh? I found a handmade leather, jade, and bead bracelet for a friend, and a fragile shell mobile and figured my duty as a buying tourist was complete. Anping Tainan, Taiwan was not a bad place to spend Christmas eve. I would be lying if I said I didn't miss America and my home, but it was good to see a part of the country here where I had never been before. On Christmas morning, I drove my scooter to the morning market in Chiayi and bought several traditional Chinese articles of clothing. I now have a small collection of traditional handmade jackets and shirts. For the most part, they can be had for very few dollars. I have a feeling the cost of dry cleaning will outweigh the savings in purchase.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Early one morning in January

from my bedroom balcony. Rather surreal.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Another side

I've been feeling a little dishonest by posting photographs which show only a certain side of Taiwan and hide another. There is much beauty in Taiwan culturally, as well as with the natural landscape. Many of the people here are the kindest, most selfless and helpful I have know. I don't "buy into" the rumor that their kindness is based entirely in honor and gaining "face" -- any more than with any other society. I have seen their actions come from the heart. There is great beauty here that goes beyond what one can see with the eyes. But it would be deceptive to show only one side and not the other... almost as if I showed you the clean hand and hid the dirty one behind my back. Most cities, and countries have a mix. Taiwan is no different. I want to remember it all. I want to remember more than just the majestic mountains, breath taking bamboo forests, incredible sunsets and awe inspiring views. I also want to remember the beggars on the streets, crumbling shacks and the relics of a not so distant oppressive past. Forgive the blurry photo taken from the window of a train speeding past a typical street in one of the towns along the north bound route of the railroad from Chiayi. I posted it here because it speaks volumes.....
Among other things you will see here are a bus schedule, billboards for upcoming movies, a woman beggar on the edge of the street in downtown Chiayi, two old men at Lantan Lake engrossed in physical labor and a building in Chiayi. And I have just added 3 more photos from the old Chiayi Prison which I visited in autumn.