The Reeds Walking Tour in Taipei
Day 946 – 947
We've now returned to Taipei for a few days. We struggled to find our accommodation, said farewell to friends, then enjoyed a free walking tour in Taipei created by yours truly.
We eventually found our accommodation after walking in circles. In the end, we called the host, and she came out to find us. There is no way we would have found the place – the address was incorrect, and there was no "Iconic Inn", as per Booking.com. Does it really exist? What we are staying in seems like someone's sub-let. I wish hosts put themselves in their customers' shoes and check out what the experience would be like.
We dumped our bags and dashed onto the metro as we were meeting Marco and Melinda for lunch. They are the delightful young couple who we met in Hengchun. They were flying back to Switzerland this evening, so it was the only opportunity to reconnect with them.
Our conversation flowed effortlessly, and we had such an enriching discussion. Melinda gave a metaphor whereby you see life or a relationship like the mirror-room in X-Men. What you see is how you are. Absolutely – Love it.
We’ve had such thought-provoking conversations while we've been travelling. Is it because when we click with people, and we know we may never see them again, we bypass formalities and surface-level "stuff" and be ourselves? These people are strangers a short window of time ago, yet we can delve into deep and intimate levels quickly. As the relationship is fluid, do we let our invisible guard down?
We have kept in touch with quite a few lovely people we have met in the last 947 days, who are now good friends. I reckon Marko and Melinda are part of this group. Argh! And we didn't take a photo of us together.
Walking Tour in Taipei
The next day, I found a walking tour online that was no longer taking place, but fathomed out the route and replicated this. Our direction was to Longshan Temple, through an undercover market, giving us some respite from the steaming heat outside. After a cheap and wholesome lunch, we visited the Grade Two Historic Temple. It was built in 1738 by Fujian immigrants from SE China and is now the spiritual heart of Taipei.
After glancing around the forecourt, admiring the waterfall, the plants and architecture, the next thing we noticed were young and old throwing Moon blocks or Jiaobei divination tools. We remembered seeing these when we were in a Taoist temple in Penang, Malaysia, way back on Day 69.
The ritual of throwing the moon blocks is called Bwa Bwei in Taiwan. A follower asks a question to their god who answers via how the Jiaobeis have landed. Each has a round side and a flat side, hence four possible answers:
Divine answer: If one block is flat and the other is round, the answer is 'yes'.
Angry answer: Both blocks round is a 'no' answer. The gods are displeased by the question.
Laughing answer: Both blocks flat means that either the gods are laughing at the question, or that the person should know the answer.
Standing answer: One or both blocks fall but stand erect on the floor indicate that the deities do not understand the question, the procedure must be repeated.
We did notice that many people were throwing the blocks repeatedly. Was this to eventually receive the answer they wanted or did they have a multitude of questions? We didn't like to ask.
We walked around the perimeter first, to see the many Taoist gods, but our lack of knowledge meant that we didn't know what each god represented. We then went up the stairs to the central Buddhist Temple dedicated to Bodhisattva of Mercy, Guanyin. The statue is beautifully carved from camphor wood. Yes, there are Buddha statues here as well as Taoist Gods.
As I waited to take a photo, a young man came up to me and started to explain about the statue. He then insisted on taking us around the other temples to enlighten us about each Taoist god and goddess. We didn't like to tell him we'd already looked around as he seemed to be enjoying himself.
The young man, Howard, pointed out which was the god of education, the god of war, and the god of the land amongst others. We remembered Matsu, the goddess of the sea, from when we were in Penghu. When Howard took us to the Matchmaker God, he gave me a piece of red string to wear. I returned it, stating that I had already found my sweetheart.
Howard is a local student studying computer science. I did try to get him to smile for the camera, but he refused; a shame as he had a lovely smile. He seemed pleased that he's be included in our blog.
Parallel to the Temple walls is Xichang Street, better known as "Herb Lane”. This narrow market is packed with dried and fresh herbs waiting to be made into herbal remedies. Years ago, I was suffering from menopausal hot sweats and got so desperate that I visited a Chinese herbalist. After a few questions, he mixed a whole load of herbs into seven packets. I had to make tea each day. It was revolting to taste, but it did work - my hot sweats reduced significantly!
Across the road was the Bopilliao area which at its peak in the late 1800s, was a bustling and prosperous commercial area.
Over time, the place deteriorated. However, twenty years ago, the Taipei City government decided to restore the area to preserve the various historic architecture and culture from the Chinese Fujian and Qing Dynasty, Japanese, 1960s brutalist and subsequent modern Western influences.
We liked the red brick arches, but it all seemed too neat and tidy and we felt it had lost the soul of the place.
As we were wandering around the museum, we started chatting to a lovely Taiwanese lady with her young son. Jia-Ying Lin studied linguistics at Essex University. She and Tim talked about learning languages, and it transpired that she knew Dr John Truscott. Tim heard about him on a YouTube video he watched recently about acquiring languages rather than learning them.
As they chatted away about languages, home-schooling, education amongst other subjects, I played with her son, Yusheng, and his transformer. We made a road and tunnel for it; he was such fun to be with. Usually, it's Tim playing with the kids and me chatting with the adults. I am sure we are morphing into one another since being together 24/7 for over 2.5 years!
The family hadn't long come back from living in San Diego. Yusheng spoke English with me immediately. He sensed that I couldn't speak Chinese. Jia-Ying Lin said that he rarely speaks English to her now. Eventually, we said farewell. What lovely people we meet here in Taiwan.
We also met her co-worker, Stephanie, who also owns MoonLab, making her own vegan cheese and yoghurt. It was pancake Thursday, so we had to try her vegan pancake with mango. Oh my, it was scrumptious. I think we'll have to return for some of her cheese another time. A great end to the Reeds Walking Tour in Taipei.