Taiwan Day 4: Exploring Pingtung and Formosa Boulevard

Sorry I didn’t post last night but I got home late and had to pack. But I’ve got 3 and a half hours left of this 5 hour train ride to Taipei, so I figured I’d have plenty of time to write. 🙂

Yesterday was by far the most interesting day I’ve had in Taiwan. If I didn’t mention it before, my friend, who I’ve been staying with, lives in Pingtung, which is a more rural city that sits beside Kaohsiung. We slept in, had breakfast, and then spent the morning zipping around town on my friend’s scooter.

First, we went to the post office, which also functions as a bank in Taiwan. They have a lot of additional services that just aren’t available at American post offices, like life insurance, online shopping, and they also sell things like children’s books and farming supplies (so random lol).

Next to the post office was a traditional market where we went to buy some mochi. This mochi is different from what you’ll find in Japan, which is often meticulously and artfully made and packaged. However, the woman making it had a different method. She had a large blob of the rice dough and a tin with different kinds of sugar, grains, and nut powders at the ready. You tell her how many pieces you want and she makes them on the spot. She tears off a small piece of dough from the blob, flattens it a bit and tosses a bunch of powder inside before pinching it closed. Then she rolls it around in a different powder and puts it in a plastic bag. Done! I got to taste one and it was pretty good. Nothing like Japanese mochi, but good in its own right.

Then we stopped at two different food shops, one for avocado milk, and another for cold noodles, before filling up the scooter’s gas tank at a gas station. Gas here is not self service–gas station attendants will pump the gas for you.

On the way home, we stopped at the temple that my friend’s family usually goes to. She explained a lot about how to worship in the temple, so hopefully I can remember all of this correctly. That particular temple hosts two religions, Buddhism and Daoism (Taoism) but she said that most people in Taiwan aren’t too picky when it comes to who worships what where. Her grandparents and dad are Daoist, and her grandparents follow a vegetarian diet, while her dad is vegetarian just in the morning.

Anyways! In the first floor of the temple, there is a booth where you make a donation/purchase a packet of symbolic paper money and a snack. She paid about 100 NTD for the package. The first floor of the temple represents hell, so you leave the package there at the altar and after praying, you come back to retrieve it. Then you go all the way up to the top floor. This temple had 3 or 4 floors (I can’t remember). Then you go into each room, which are all designated for a different god with different purposes (wisdom, riches, health, etc.) and do the same ritual every time: first you get some incense and light it, and blow it out of course. Traditionally, each person would take two or 3 sticks of insence, but out of concern for the environment, you are now only meant to take one. Then you go in front of the alter, bow once with your hands together, say some prayer or make your request, bow again, go outside to the outer terrace and stick your insence in a giant stone pot, go back in, and bow one last time. There are three doors leading outside to the stone pot. The middle one is for the gods to use so you should not go through that one. We did this ritual in pretty much every single room of the temple until we reached the bottom floor and could retrieve the package. Then you go outside and untie the package. They have a large furnace burning where you throw the paper money in as an offering to the gods. If the papers are loose enough, you can put the papers right on the ledge and the furnace fire will suck them in! It looks really cool. And you keep the snack for yourself! 😛

After visiting the temple, we dropped off the cold noodles at home and then headed out to the farmlands. She pointed out different crops and animals along the way and I also saw lots of shrines and some cemetery plots. We finally reached her dad’s lands and her grandparents lived there on the land in a beautiful home built by one of her uncles. Her dad grows a few different crops and I got to see his rice fields and banana trees. I ate one of his bananas at home and it was so sweet and soft it honestly tasted like vanilla cake. In her grandparents home, they had a shrine for her ancestors, so we greeted the sky first (because gods might be passing by) before greeting her ancestors at the shrine. Then we sat for a while with her grandparents who fed us fruit and tea while we watched a Taiwanese sitcom. They were really friendly even though we couldn’t communicate.

We went home and ate the cold noodles for lunch, and then we went into Kaohsiung for some fun in the evening! Our destination was Formosa Boulevard Station, which has a stained glass art fixture called the Dome of Light, a shopping mall, and a lively night market. We started by checking out some of the shops. They had a San-X store and I am a huge Summiko Gurashi fan, so I bought some little character sticky notes. Then we went upstairs for our main event: the ESCAPE ROOM CHALLENGE!!! If you don’t know what an escape room is, it’s a kind of obstacle course where you are locked into a room for one hour and have to solve a series of clues that will help you unlock the door so you can escape. We chose a restaurant-themed challenge, but I won’t say anymore about what it entails!! We were sworn to secrecy. Lol. It was hard because I couldn’t read Chinese, but it was still really fun and my friend did a great job translating things on the spot. We failed our challenge but I would totally do it again! Maybe not in Chinese though…You can check this one out at www.doorsss.com

After the escape room challenge, we went outside to the Liuhe Night Market (out of Exit 11) and just absolutely stuffed our faces. I saw all kinds of terrifying foods like duck tongues and pupae (and more which probably don’t terrify other people but I’m weirdly afraid of all crustaceous animals i.e. crabs and shrimps and lobsters) but so much more delicious-looking food! We tried yakitori, stinky tofu fries, fried mushrooms, oysters, sugar cane juice, coconut juice, tea, toffee, pork paper and potato cheese buns. We were sooo stuffed! We brought home our leftovers and my friend’s dad gladly ate them for us haha.

We went to bed totally tired but satisfied.

Tonight I will write about my day today but I expect it will be rather short as I’m spending most of my time on a train. See you in a while 🙂

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