Sunday, 15 January 2012

More details about exploring Taiwan's oldest city

Oh dear, it's raining again.  I've already made peace with the fact that my hair is going to be one huge frizz-ball during the duration of my stay.  However, the shampoo they provided has a picture of the Virgin Mary and Jesus on it so maybe by some miracle, divine intervention will keep it under control.  At least today should be mostly indoor activities.
Shrine to the God of education
Anyway, I promised a more in-depth description of some of yesterday's fun so here we go.  As I mentioned, after we got some special tea (which is actually juice even though everyone calls it tea), the first stop was the Chihkan Tower and Kaijilingyou Temple.  The tower was first built by the Dutch to safeguard the city, evolving under the various dynasties to now include a shrine to the God of education (since they used to prepare students to take the Civil Service Examination here) and to the God of the Sea.  Originally, the city was much more island-like and surrounded by water, making it a very strategic location back in the day.  It was surprising to see how dramatically the waters have receded over the decades.  There were gorgeous fish ponds and landscaping and some very-permanent looking granite blocks were used to train military men... I tried to see how I matched up but those granite blocks weren't budging so I don't think I would have made it very far!
In transit, we passed the first to serve bubble tea, which was invented in Taiwan.  I was way too full to stop and buy a beverage but I'm certainly going to have my share of exotic beverages before I leave here!  There's such a wide assortment of delicious liquid treats everywhere you look.

The next stop was Zeeland Fort.  Once again, it was built by the Dutch but today's version retained much of its Japanese character.  They had a nice new museum about the various occupiers of the area (and actual English captions unlike the last place which was a treat!).  I enjoyed a free concert from a band based in Thailand which was comprised of mostly Englishmen but an American drummer.  They were the first white people I saw all day and their jams had a really groovy South Pacific feel.  Outside the fort was a major tourist, market area.  Professor Lee said today's amount of visitors was about a quarter of the typical amount which was pretty amazing- I don't think I'd want to be there on an average day!  I told you these Taiwanese people eat a lot and they were trying to feed me here too (after they ate ice cream at the Fort).  This meal was a tofu oyster pancake- the English description that my buddy googled for me said it was supposed to be a dessert but it wasn't.  I tried it but found it pretty strange.

After the snack, we went to the Rabbit and Bunny Japanese garden which I discussed a bit in the previous entry and then to the harbor.  They were just wrapping up some Sean Lion festival and I was excited to see some of the sweet rice wrapped in bamboo that I made with Ling on one of our Chinese cooking classes back in the day.  Supposedly they used to throw some overseas to appease the dragons or whatever lurked beneath.

I'm going to hunt down some 咖啡 kāfēi (coffee) and investigate the chanting outside.  (Turns out it was martial arts- various students practicing). Talk to you soon- hope all of you Americans are enjoying the three-day weekend!