The Moon Festival (also called the Mid-Autumn Festival) is all about, well, the moon. Typically, people get together with their families and have a barbeque. They also eat lots of moon cakes and pomelos and set of lots and LOTS of fireworks (as on any day of any importance whatsoever). Sometimes they go out into a scenic spot to gaze at the moon. Since we don't have a barbeque, don't like mooncakes and had the day off, Tom and I opted to spend the day driving to the mountains on our scooter!
We had been really aching to get out of the city and into nature and had been feeling quite claustrophobic. So, even though our map only extends so far toward the mountains, we were determined to make it to them. Before we left, I got on google maps and just pieced together a bunch of very loose directions. And that's all we had!
I remember feeling quite euphoric when we started out our drive. We'd stopped in at Mcdonalds and I was sitting on the back of the scooter with my ipod playing and was feeling quite adventurous as I managed to balance my chicken nuggets on my bouncing lap and dip them in the sauce without any disaster.
We saw all kinds of fascinating things along the way. Crazy food on the roadside, locals carrying all manner of things on their scooters, interesting buildings, beautiful landscapes and much much more. One of the first interesting things we came across was this guy:
And his friend, this guy:
And their friend, this guy:
These giant gold statues were either guarding or about to charge this random building. It was just on a regular road, which made it seem all the more out of place. We never know what's going on here and it might be more fun that way.
|Tom with his favorite giant gold statue.|
Another cool thing we came across was this HUGE temple complex:
|The picture don't nearly do justice to how large it was. You don't come anywhere close to seeing all of it and how far back it goes, or how large that building in the middle is.|
There are temples ALL over Taiwan. Especially in Tainan. But, this was probably the largest we've seen. The ones in Tainan are all much much smaller.
|This is incense that is burned at the temple.|
|A building to the left of the main building.|
|Food brought for the ancestors (or Gods?).|
|Temples tend to have beautiful, intricate sculptures, like this.|
|Inside the main building. This is where the idols are and where people bring the food.|
|This rock/plant formation has mini steps and things on it. So cool.|
|The mini steps.|
The next photo was taken much later on in the drive. It is just a nice view from the road.
In the following photo and the one after it we are nearing our destination. From here to our destination was the most beautiful part of the trip.
|This was taken from the same spot as above. It is what Tom would be seeing if he were looking straight ahead instead of at me.|
Our intended destination was a mountain town called, Maolin. Which, surprisingly, we made it to! There were roads close and detours we had to take, which made much of the drive total guesswork. We had to ask for directions from a few people who didn't speak any English, which is always fun. It also took us about four hours instead of the 1.5 that google maps predicted, which is a looooong time to be on a scooter - especially if you're on the back. It was also VERY hot. We are grateful that convenience are very, very prevalent in Taiwan.
Our tentative plan, upon setting out, was to try to stay for the night in Maolin and head back the next morning before work. However, an earthquake last year, combined with last years very large Typhoon Morokat and this years Typhoon Fanapi has changed things in this area a lot. For starters, the bridge that leads to where our intended guesthouse was is compleeeetely gone. We're not talking about some little footbridge either. We drove all the way to it to see for ourselves and it's a rather large cement highway type bridge. You can walk all the way to the edge and look down at the concrete that is in pieces on the side of the mountain and in the river.
Once we realized we would have to drive all the way back before the end of the night and since it was already 4pm or so, we realized we couldn't spend too much time in the area. This was a big shame, because it was breathtaking and even just glimpsing the town (which as an aboriginal town) was an interesting cultural experience. During our few minutes there, we happened upon this hillside cemetery:
|We were wondering why they used crosses on the graves, since more of Taiwan in Buddhist.|
The ride home wasn't as bad as we thought it would be, even though it was dark most of the time and we did have one incident where we got lots and had to drive onto a random, dark, provincial street and ask some people who were barbecuing how to get home. They even ended up leading us the wrong way, which we recognized. So we just said "thanks so much!" and waited for them to drive off before we kept driving around and eventually found our way.
Overall, it was a fabulous adventure. It was exhausting driving on a scooter for 8 hours in one day, but we were so glad we did it.
Next post: Tom's birthday and our trip to a riverside park.