"" Writer's Wanderings: From My Travel Journal - Taiwan

Monday, August 05, 2013

From My Travel Journal - Taiwan

Friday, November 9, 2007—Keelung, Taiwan

            We arrive in Keelung Harbor, Taiwan, at 7 a.m. and plan to have breakfast on our deck. It is not quite as nice as the one on our French Polynesian cruise. It would have been great had we not had another to compare it to and if it had not been raining. We are forced to eat inside.

            Our excursion is to Chiufen (pronounced Jo-Fen) a small mountain town which was known for gold mining in the 1800s. It strikes me that this is around the same time gold is discovered in Alaska and California and, I believe, a few other places around the world. It must have been the thing to hunt for during that century.


On our way up the mountain, we see what looks like little ornately decorated cottages. On closer examination, we discover they are mausoleums. Nestled among the trees, there are also beautiful pagoda style temples, one very large, with lots of detailed decorations. Our guide is obviously not from this area and confers with the driver for answers to some of our questions.


    It is raining as we arrive and are let off on a narrow winding street that passes through the town. This is where we will catch the bus back—in front of Starbucks! We try to keep up with our guide who hustles through a narrow alleyway full of shops. It is also a street for vehicle traffic. Scooters wind through the crowd and a small truck and car make their way to the top. We are forced to seek refuge inside a little shop as the truck and car squeeze through the alleyway. There is just enough room for them to pass.

            The shops are varied. Some are clothing, some food, some cheap souvenirs. A few craftsmen sell their wares. Many food stalls emit obnoxious smells. We pass one I believe was deep frying fatty pork in pork fat.

            At the top of the alley way, we stop in at a tea house. The view clears of rain and mist for a brief moment giving us the impression that it would be spectacular were the sun shining. The landscape leading to the sea is dramatic.

            After the tea, we wander back down and stop to examine more closely some of the shops. We pause at a shoe shop where they make sandals and take video of the lady as she makes shoes for our two granddaughters. The base of the shoe is wood—pre-shaped and sized. We have our choice of straps that are crisscrossed over the toes and secured with brads that are tapped into the sides of the base. I’m excited to show the girls the video of their shoes being made.

We also make a stop at Chuifen’s City God temple. Our guide is again off the mark as she says it is a Buddhist temple but there is no Buddha. When she inquires, she discovers that it is really Tao. (According to information I found, Taoism is basically indefinable. It has to be experienced. It "refers to a power which envelopes, surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living. The Tao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance in the Universe. It embodies the harmony of opposites—love/hate, etc. It is more prevalent in Taiwan since the Cultural Revolution in mainland China destroyed much of the Tao heritage.) I’m guessing the reason we saw so many temples on the way to Chiufen was because each town/city has its own city god.

            Our bus arrives as we finish our Starbucks coffee. The trip down the mountain is confused by our guide who knows she should be pointing out a waterfall but can’t seem to locate it. We decide it must have been the one where all the buses were parked. We make a stop at “significant rocks” and Bob braves the drizzle to take a picture. Perhaps we will figure out later the significance.

            After our return, we walk into Keelung from the ship to see the night market as it opens. The market is set up along streets closed to traffic. Scooters don’t seem to have any rules here so they pass among the crowd of shoppers. There are more of the same unusual food items, similar to what we found in Beijing. Some is more recognizable seafood such as octopus.

            Upon returning to the ship, we eat dinner and see a good show with impressionist Sean O’Shea. He is hilarious.

            The ship is delayed a bit in departing as we wait for two passengers. We watch them scurry down the dock as the ship is pulling out. Obviously they are handed their passports and after some formalities signing papers, we see them put aboard the pilot boat and they are transported to the ship as we are turning in the harbor.

            The city of Keelung is pretty at night. There are lots of lights and a KEELUNG sign on the hillside reminiscent of Hollywood. 

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