Taipei was a massive surprise. My BF wanted to go here as it was off the beaten path, and sometimes it is fun to explore the path less travelled. I am immensely glad we did, as it was a real gem, and has actually become my favourite place that I have been to in Asia!
Taipei blends the intrepid nature of Asia (night markets, great food, beautiful temples) with elements that are sometimes missing (road discipline eg lines marked on the street, no spitting, friendly locals who don’t hassle you at all). It also has a good mix of old and new; temples and small alleys filled with shops and markets, and then trendy neon shops and cafes, and the towering Taipei 101. All in all, it was a dream, and my favourite destination on this trip.
What better place to start in Taipei than Confucius’ temple? Outside there was a statue of 3 monkeys demonstrating his most famous saying: “See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil”. The temple itself was beautiful and had a pool inside the courtyard with turtles in! There were also little pieces of paper with prayers on them by number. We selected the number for our birthdays, but we later found out how you are supposed to select a number to answer your prayer question!
Nearby is the Dalongdong Temple – also very beautiful, with a park across the road containing statues of birds. As I waited outside the temple, a tourist asked a policeman to take a photo of him in front of the temple. There was a taxi parked outside, and the policeman asked the taxi driver to reverse his car out of the frame to get the best shot for the photo! Obviously the best person to ask to take your photo as he will use the full weight of the law to get the best photo possible! 🙂
Inside the temple, an enthusiastic female guide came up to us and insisted on showing us around. I was a little suspicious, as in some countries people often do this as a way to extort money from you. But no – she was just a lovely volunteer guide at the temple! She explained all about the temple and their traditions – including how you get 2 moon-shaped stones which are flat on one side, and curved on the reverse. You face the temple and ask the gods a question, then throw them down on the ground – how they land determines your answer (although i can’t rememeber if it was up for yes, down for no, etc – or the other way around! There was also a “throw again” outcome, so it could be a long process to get an answer. After this you then select 2 sticks from a pot, which will both display numbers. You add the numbers together and ask the gods “is this my number?” and again use the 2 stones to determine if it is or isn’t. If it is, you can then select the prayer answer numbered accordingly on the little strips of paper they have in the temple. If it wasn’t your number, you try picking another one and then ask the gods again. When you take into account all the “try again” outcomes, this could be a long process! The guide encouraged us to try this, but i didn’t want to – I’m obv not gonna use this as my decision-making process in life, but if it told me an answer i may be superstitious about the answer! So better not to ask!
Another day we visited Longshan Temple.
There was an event ongoing where people were bringing food offerings. One kind lady came and gave my BF and I a parcel of rice wrapped in a banana leaf. We thanked her kindly, and when she had gone we left it on the table as an offering – we don’t need it!
We visited night markets and saw the rather impressive national theatre.
Overall Taipei did not disappoint. See my next blog for modern Taipei, including Taipei 101, and food in Taipei.
next blog: Modern Taipei, including Taipei 101.
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