A surprisingly good one spent on a temple and a plaza – 02.20.16
Couldn’t remember exactly why but this was a city I wanted to revisit. My revisit February from last year was a discovery on what is interesting with the city and other places accessible via trains and buses.
This is about the trip kick-off – a surprisingly calming moment at a temple despite not being a spiritual person followed by fascination at vastness in a plaza.
A trip that started with rush and drags
With my flight scheduled late at night, my plan was to leave right after work that Friday night. My failure to anticipate an extra heavy traffic as weekend was approaching made me almost miss my flight – or at least that is what I was thinking while on panic on the way there. Flight was delayed, as it most of the time is.
Ahem! Your flight’s delayed again, Cebu Pacific!!
I arrived at Taipei Airport at wee morning hours that even with the line at the immigration, I ended up having more than enough time to do nothing at the airport before again waiting for the bus to come.
It was great help though that the airport had reliable wifi so I had something to keep me busy. (I didn’t know it then but I would discover more things to love about this airport a few months later as I stopped over here on my way to Okinawa).
Just like this guy, I had time to figure out which bus to take
(and it was a lot at 02:02AM)
I reached town when it was still sleeping and while the drop-off was at the center, at that time of day it looked otherwise. I was starting to again panic, not literally knowing which way to go because what I had planned was to take the train to my hostel which I obviously cannot do as the train station gates were shut.
The only choice was then to walk – a choice I would have loved if not that it was too cold for me – too cold that even if it was weird, I was my blanket all over me. I had to take extra effort though to remember where I was going because I needed to be able to come back when the trains open.
I kept on walking – remembering how happy I was feeling whenever I would pass by fellow seemingly lost tourists (as obvious with their luggage and their huddling whenever they pause from walking) and in contrast, how happy when I would see people who are zombie-walking from having too much drink the previous night.
Saved by a McDonalds!
While I was walking, I learned that there are cafes in the city that offers cubicles for sleeping – catering I suppose to travelers like me who take budget airlines with arrival times at odd hours. While my eyes lit up when I saw one, it was brief after being told that it was fully booked.
Then this ‘it-makes-me-so-happy-you-are-open for 24 hours’ fastfood happened. I did not feel like eating then – thinking I should reserve my stomach for local food later that day. But then I had to be fair, right?
Mustering all efforts then, I had to consume my meal slowest that I can. The fast eater that I am, of course I failed. And since it was still early then, okay I took a nap.
Minutes later, I would be napping on this spot
Once I got on the train, that day was starting to be on its right pace. I had instructions to my hostel which was just to go straight from a certain exit. It turned out farther than I thought so at some point, I thought I was getting lost. (Hay, Teng :p)
Luckily, there was not much waiting at the hostel. Since it was prior to check in time, I just could not get into my space yet but they were prepared for it so I was told I can just leave my backpack at a certain storage room.
Let’s maximize you, day pass
But those are not butts
Not as seen from here but those pieces of paper posted on the wall are destination suggestions – with brief description and details on nearest train station
Quite a staple in hostels are these guest polaroids
Once my stuff safely settled, I started walking. Having read of a nearby temple in one of the hostel suggestions, I thought of paying that a visit.
On my way to the temple is this realization how beautiful Taipei is! Even on ordinary mornings
Longshan Temple ( 艋舺龍山寺 )
In trips where temples are tourist must-sees, I visit one or two. It’s just that I was not as interested in the history nor in the ‘religious’ aspects of it. Most of the time, I just appreciate the structures and sometimes, gets curious with the rituals.
My visit to this temple was in many ways also that. I only learned now when I researched that it is one of the oldest temples in Taiwan and is part of a Big 3 group of temples in that district. That morning though, it was to me merely a place where I found temporary peace while I witness others celebrate.
Outside the temple was already bustling even though it was relatively early that for a few seconds there, I thought that was the temple already.
Those yellow lanterns are screaming though and are hard to miss.
Upon entering, there was more life as locals and tourists roam the compound in front of the temple. With all those monkey installations too, it was impossible to forget what Chinese year it was.
Near the gate, I was curious why I have been hearing this sound of wooden pieces hitting the ground. I then saw these people throwing two pieces of half moon-shaped wood and stooping downward. I checked it out and learned that one can ask something, throw those wooden pieces and result corresponds to either a Yes or a No. As each had a flat and a round surface, a YES happens when one turns up flat and the other round. [I have read now that these are called jiaobei or moon blocks (in Mandarin 筊杯, jiǎo bēi, lit. “bamboo cups”) and apparently a NO can either be angry /crying or a ‘laughing’ NO – both round and both flat, respectively.]
I was at first hesitant to try it because I was scared I might throw some so off that I would lose or hit other people (yes, I am that bad a thrower). I first went in, happy to discover that there was an ongoing service, and being all touristy, trying to discreetly capture what was happening.
These half moons
It amused me how they can concentrate on their prayers while the rest of the world behind them were all moving.
Feast for the gods
As I was about to exit, I could not not try those half moon blocks.
Nope, this isn’t me. But I was observing her :p prior to doing my ‘stunt’
And I got two flats! NOOOOO.
And since I was pushy, after few tries, I got a YES
Because I had to take this souvenir photo with one of the monkeys
On this same area where the monkeys are is this man-made waterfalls
Just as I was about to leave were surprises of a bunch of cute kids on tour and well, a rat.
I walked to nearby streets and when hunger called, ended up with some bun with some mysterious green filling.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall / Liberty Square
After the temple is another touristy destination so my expectations were not as high. It was another surprise as I was greeted by this wide space in a compound, with what to me was striking is quite oddly, its flooring. To me, it was both just pretty and in moments, hypnotizing.
And okay, this immediate selfie says it all that it was love at first sight
What followed were all attempts to capture the place as I was seeing it.
Plaza in perspective
(Gate of Integrity, National Concert Hall and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall)
At that time, a tent featuring Frozen blocks the memorial hall
Gate sandwiched by the National Theater and National Concert Hall
A lot bigger when this close
Its ceiling has these lovely details
From the memorial hall with the plaza ahead – including the Frozen tent
Moment of pride as I saw this ad of the Philippines at the station
* From TAOYUAN AIRPORT, take buses bound to the city. Travel time at 45-60 minutes.
Buses supposedly run for 24 hours, in 15- to 20 minute intervals. Cost is at NT 30
* If you are considering staying in a hostel, check our MEANDER TAIPEI HOSTEL
It is located in Wanhua District. From Exit 6 of Ximen Station, walk straight along Chengdu Road. Walk for about 10 to 15 minutes until you see a bridge. Hostel is on the right side.
* To get to LONGSHAN TEMPLE is within walking distance from (well) Longshan Temple Station.
(I was not able to go but) there is a nearby night market where they also sell the popular snake soup.
* To get to CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL, take the MRT and from Ximen Station, go down at (well, again) Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Station.
As it is a public plaza, there is no entrance fee – even to the memorial hall. I am just not sure with the concert and theater halls.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Correa (or more known to almost all people in her life as Teng) is based on the city of Manila in the Philippines and whenever she can, cools off with routine and gets her doses of happy someplace else. She doesn’t mean to inform and help plan (as obvious with her laziness with details) but hopes her stories and photos can inspire you to create your own.