Saturday, January 19, 2013

One day in Taipei


Two years ago, while on my way from New Delhi to San Francisco, I had just one day in Taipei so thought of making a best use of it.
First thing about Taipei’s Taoyuan airport:
It is huge and make in a square rim shape. One can make a several kilometers circle in the terminal building. Building itself is like a museum; decorated with many artifacts and hundreds of feet long painting showing a continuous city life or river scenes.
A train takes the passengers to and from Airport.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei


Taipei is a huge city and my hotel was in between the airport and city. I asked the hotel manage about how to get to the Taipei downtown. He told me to take a bus from the main road and then get down at the Taipei Rapid Transit’s train station.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
So all worked out well and I reached Taipei downtown. Taiwan is a developed country and everyone in the train was using ultra modern cell phone or listening to the music through earphones. Everybody was in his or her own world. If you asked someone a question they were only distracted and disturbed just like when you ask a question to a man in India who is chewing tobacco or gutka.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
I found downtown was just like any other downtown in the USA. There was no taste of any oriental culture. Tall buildings and McDonalds and Burger kings were everywhere. It took me a while to get oriented and I entered in Old Town area.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
Many restaurants here were serving snake soup or curries. The snakes are in cages, and they cut it up in front of you and put the pieces into a broth. But, that’s not the weird part. The weird part is drinking the 50% alcohol, 50% snake blood mix that is served with the soup. Snake is killed in such a way so it wriggles for long time and its blood comes out in a cup. Not to mention a small green pill that contains the sexual organs.
They say it does the stamina good. I spent some time to witness the killing of several snakes. They took out snake from the cage with a metal fork and then killed it and butchered the poor animal. Well, I won’t go in more details about this whole grueling thing.
Restaurant patrons persisted that I must try some snake soup or the blood mix. A waiter brought me a little bit of both as a sample but I declined.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
My next stop was the Buddhist Temples of Taipei. Taipei has many magnificent Buddhist temples. Main one is Lungshan Temple, also known as Dragon Mountain. It was built in 1738 and has long been devoted to Kuanyin- the Goddess of Mercy.
Scenes of Taipei
A garden near temple
The temple was destroyed by an earthquake in 1815, but its statue of Kuanyin survived to be rehoused in a new temple, which was itself destroyed by a Typhoon in 1867. A new temple was built only to be again demolished by American bombers on a raid against the Japanese in 1945. It is an example of remarkable perseverance of the faith by followers.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
This bright and colorful temple is one of the most popular places to worship in Taipei. It is a huge and colorful temple and as one enters in it and finds people engaged in religious activities. Buddhists come here and worship the Buddha statues and light incense sticks or candles here. Whole complex was serene and peaceful.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
Temple is so lavishly decorated with colors that it is just overwhelming to the eyes. It is like something out of a movie, crowds of people chanting and bowing in a smoky temple. I spent more than an hour, but no one made me feel self-conscious or proselytized to us, it was very comfortable.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
As I understand it, it’s kind of a non-denominational temple, so it’s less about preaching a particular doctrine than about giving people a place to gather and express their faith. I think that’s really good, we could use some lessons in that sort of mellow tolerance. I am not a Buddhist, but I felt very welcome here. They hand you incense stick for free here in the Taiwan temples and it is up to you to donate money or not. Some family was serving tea and snacks in the temple and it was joy to have tea in that religious atmosphere.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
Then I visited Paoan Temple, this is also overwhelmingly decorated and very colorful. It is the Taiwan’s most beloved and oldest temple. The temple complex enshrines 39 deities spanning the whole range of Taiwanese folk religions. The temple’s main deity is Paoshen Taiti, the god of medicine, said to have been given human form by a skilled medical practitioner in China’s Fujian province in 979.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
Worship of the deity was first introduced to Taiwan by large numbers of Tungan immigrants from Fujian. This place is full of music and floats.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
From this temple I again walked in the old town streets. As usual in all oriental markets, this market also had a number of shops selling Chinese medicines. There were several very lavishly colorful jewelry shops.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
Restaurants were serving the meat dishes of many animals. Many live animals (including dogs, cats, rabbits, frogs, rats, snakes, pigs, piglets, guinea pigs, live fishes, live eels and many more) were there to be slaughtered and cooked on demand.
Scenes of Taipei
Scenes of Taipei
Sun was setting and I had to return to my hotel because my flight was at midnight so I begin my return walk towards bus station. This time I took the bus to the same train station. Bus journey was very scenic because road went over a lush green mountains.

1 comment:

  1. Taipei is one of those faceless modern cities. It is important for cities to reflect their heritage. Glad to note that the old city has not been demolished to make way for modern skyscrapers.

    The less said about their cuisine,the better. The sheer brutality and insensitivity towards other forms of life is horrifying.

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