Chung Tai Chan Monastery

Monday, March 4, 2013

We squeezed in our last sightseeing of Taiwan before returning home and visited Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Puli, Nantou County in Central Taiwan. My dad and I hopped on the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) from Zuoying Station to Taichung Station where we met with my dad’s friend and his family. The same fun family that took us sightseeing in Taipei – A Day in Taipei. The bullet train ride from Kaohsiung to Taichung was about one hour each way and the cost was about $50 USD per person round trip. Nantou County was about 40 minutes away from Taichung and it was a beautiful drive. There was barely any traffic, there were clean spacious highways, surrounded by mountains from both sides. Everything was very green and the sky was clear and blue. Temperature was a bit cooler than Kaohsiung but comfortable and refreshing.

Chung Tai Chan Monastery is a fairly new temple and was completed in September 2001 but construction took a decade long. It is considered the tallest Buddhist temple at almost 450 feet (or 135 meters) and second largest monastery in the world. The largest monastery is Fo Guang Shan. The construction of this monastery took so long because they were very meticulous about every material used and craftsmanship. For example, they collected marble from 15 different countries and imported pure teak for their seven story indoor pagoda. The pagoda was built in the traditional way, without metal nails and screws. We arrived too late so I didn’t get to see the famous indoor pagoda. (Remember what pagodas are? Lotus Pond Pagodas)

This temple is very different compared to Fo Guang ShanChun Tai Chan has a huge building with seven floors! The very entrance to the temple has these ginormous doors and inside, there are four gigantic statues at nearly 40 feet high (or 12 meters)! As tall as the doors! Everything inside is very big!

Chung Tai Chan Monastery

The entrance is called the Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings surrounding the future Buddha.

Chung Tai Chan Monastery Chung Tai Chan Monastery Chung Tai Chan Monastery

Then, as you walk up the stairs, you enter The Great Majestic Hall, which is one of three Buddha halls. It is a red granite statue of the transformation of Buddha.

Chung Tai Chan Monastery

Chung Tai Chan has a modern feel and the outside design reminds of a temple from the movie, Aladdin. The gardens are breathtaking – beautifully decorated, quiet, relaxing, and solitary.

Chung Tai Chan Monastery Chung Tai Chan Monastery Chung Tai Chan Monastery Chung Tai Chan Monastery Chung Tai Chan Monastery Chung Tai Chan Monastery

I caught a couple of pictures of a nun while she was exercising/meditating? She saw me and walked away. Sorry! I couldn’t help myself, she seemed so in the moment and she was right below the elephant statue from my view…

Chung Tai Chan Monastery Chung Tai Chan Monastery

There is also a bell you can ring. Unlike Xiqiao Mountain in China, they don’t charge you here or at Fo Guang Shan to ring the bell. We all rang it three times. We did it totally wrong though. I remember at Fo Guang Shan, everyone would first vow, close their eyes, chant something, and ring the bell. Hello, tourists! Yes, that would be us. Even locals can be part of the tourists haha

Chung Tai Chan Monastery Chung Tai Chan Monastery

Chung Tai Chan also has an amazing view of the mountains and there is a GIGANTIC Buddha statue that is clearly visible. The view is seriously unbelievable.

Chung Tai Chan Monastery

While we were there we met a couple of nuns and they were super duper friendly. They went out of their way to give us information on their California branch in Pomona: Middle Land Chan Monastery. I would love to go to their weekly classes but it’s over an hour away!

If interested or curious, this website explains Chung Tai Chan Monastery practices thoroughly: Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale.

After the monastery, we stopped by a delicious vegetarian restaurant that curves down the street. One of the people from the restaurant was passing out menu flyers at the parking lot and was very nice. The place didn’t disappoint, I fell in love with Taiwanese vegetarian food! So gooooood!

Well, I’ve been back to LA for a while now and I’m still eating meat. That’s a hard lifestyle change lol But I have the thoughts in my head… One day maybe?

Photo Nostalgia

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The day after we came back to Taiwan, we went shopping and spent quality time with everyone. I went through tons of old photos and I created a few collages. These photos are so precious. They are truly priceless.

I found a picture of my mom and dad when they were in about 18-20 years old. And here is me, a bit older than them but I thought it was interesting to see the resemblance.

mom dad me

Then, here is a black and white photo collage of my dad and his friends back in the day enjoying a picnic. Who would have thought? My dad never seemed the picnic sort of guy. He seems to be around 20-22 years old…

dad picnic

Then, my dad in his early 30’s. Already a daddy to three beautiful children, my three oldest siblings. This is around the time he met my mom. What a handsome couple they made : )

dad

I found photos of my siblings as babies. Sooo cute!!

First, there were two munchkins.

Love between sisters, priceless.

sisters

Angry oldest sister hahahaha My dad said she was annoyed and didn’t want to take a picture. Then my second oldest sister couldn’t see because of the glare and didn’t want to take a picture. So then, oldest sister is giving her the stink eye hahahahahaha

angry sisters

Then, there were three munchkins.

park siblings

Their innocence was lost and the three of them became a scary neighborhood gang, spear-headed by none-other-than my second oldest sister. She drove around the neighborhood showing who’s the boss. She also hauled all three of them in one bike with training wheels with her brute strength. But the real boss, was the oldest sister. She shows off her position in the clan by crossing her arms over.

siblings biking

The littlest of the three munchkins, grew up cuter and cuter. And now as an adult, he looks exactly the same with that mischievous look on his face. He’s a pacifist so he retired from the gang and he enjoys long strolls at the park while he picks flowers.

brother

This is also another priceless picture in my collection. Grandparents when they were younger and a more recent photo in the middle.

ama akon

If all I did in this trip was look at family pictures, then I would have been equally happy. I’m so thankful for having gone on this trip. I’ve waited so long to see the other part of my genes.

Better late than never :’)

PS: I only have three days of Taiwan posts left. Wow.

Last Day in China: Xiqiao Mountain

Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2

On our last day in China, we went to Xiqiao Mountain, which sits on a dormant volcano in Nanhai District, Foshan City, Guangdong Province. That’s a mouthful… Xiqiao Mountain has over 200 springs, nearly 30 waterfalls, nearly 50  caves, and over 70 peaks! I wonder why there were barely any visitors. There is so much to see here and it’s a very beautiful place.

We started our tour with issues at the very entrance. Apparently they check the driver’s license and it has to be a Chinese national. Otherwise, you cannot go in. Then they charge a fee per person and they take a quick picture of the car before entering. Once we passed the entrance, we began our drive up the mountain to our first stop: Nanhai Guanyin Culture Park.

Nanhai Guanyin Culture Park

Yet another gigantic Buddha statue – this one is over 200 feet (60 meters) high! It is of the Guanyin goddess as I explained back in my post on Self-Guided Tour of Lotus Pond. But this statue is the South China Sea Kwan Yin goddess. Even though I saw many temples while in Taiwan, I’m still amazed by them. I love the spectacular views from the bottom and from the top. They are both such different views. I love the tradition of burning incense, the ringing of the gong, the walk up the stairs as you get closer to the statue, and the small shrines inside the giant statue.

This park reminded of the Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Kaohsiung but a lot more compact.

nanhai guanyin xiqiao mountain nanhai guanyin xiqiao mountain nanhai guanyin xiqiao mountain nanhai guanyin xiqiao mountain nanhai guanyin xiqiao mountain

nanhai guanyin xiqiao mountain nanhai guanyin xiqiao mountain nanhai guanyin xiqiao mountain nanhai guanyin xiqiao mountain

After walking around the Nanhai Guayin Culture Park, we made quick stops here and there before heading back to Dongguang. It’s too bad we weren’t able to see the caves and cliffs though!

Small Stops in Xiqiao Mountain

We made a quick stop to see the Leafless Well. It’s called leafless because although a tree is over the well, there is never a leaf inside it. But I beg to differ. There was a leaf in there… I have a terrible quality picture to prove it haha Also, there is a belief that if you drop a coin, it will hover on the top of the well before sinking slowly moving back and forth like a leaf. We tested it a few times, and nope. The coins all dropped immediately and sank straight down. My dad’s friends said that maybe it worked with the older coins but the new ones are too heavy. Hmmh… Possibly…

xiqiao mountain

Then, we walked around a small neighborhood with no living person. Everything was either closed off with chains or it was abandoned and overgrown with trees and weeds. We made a final stop at the Sifang Bamboo Garden to see the famous square bamboo. Supposedly it only grows in that area of China. But I did my googling around and it appears there are other places where this peculiar square bamboo grows! ] And if you are wondering, the scientific name for the square bamboo is: Chimonobambusa Quadrangularis. You’re welcome ; P

sifang bamboo garden xiqiao sifang bamboo garden xiqiao sifang bamboo garden xiqiao

I’m very sad I didn’t see more of China. There is so much to see there but it’s so intimidating because it’s so big, not a lot of people speak English, and it can be dangerous if you are not with someone who knows their way around. But I’m optimistic I’ll come back eventually to see more!

Last Few Days in Taiwan

We returned to Taiwan the next day and we were all feeling down in anticipation of our departure back to our lives. My third aunt came by to see us and sadly, this is the only day we took pictures with her. She always brought us fruits and she is very sweet, quiet, and polite. All my aunts and uncle and dad look similar. My grandma has very strong genes! Now all my siblings and I look alike my dad, which means, we look like my grandma.

family in taiwan

I only have four more days left of my trip to Taiwan. I can’t believe I came back a month and a half ago. Life moves too fast.

A Little Sightseeing in China

Wednesday, February 27 and Thursday, February 28

Shang Village, Shunde District

Bruce Lee’s Grandparents Hometown

Bruce Lee Paradose

We did a little bit of sightseeing and visited Bruce Lee’s grandparents hometown. The Bruce Lee Paradise park was closed by the time we got there but I got to see the big sculpture of Bruce Lee from the entrance. They even have a website for the park with moving birds: Bruce Lee Paradise in Shunde District

Bruce Lee Paradose Bruce Lee Paradose

We also went to Shang Village to see Bruce Lee’s Ancestor’s House. It was closed too but if you go in, they have some sort of small museum of Bruce Lee. I visited his grave in Seattle, WA, and now I’ve visited his grandparent’s hometown. I should have visited his hometown while in Hong Kong too! LOL

bruce lee ancestor house bruce lee ancestor house

After our little Bruce Lee tour, we stopped by a small restaurant that looked like it was in the middle of a small town with tiny unpaved roads. Surprisingly, this restaurant is very popular and has won many awards. The chef is very popular and even with his fame, he continues to stick to his roots and works for his small restaurant. Food was again, yummy yummy.

Foot Massage Should be Called Something Else

The next day we stopped by a nice hotel to get a “foot” massage. It was a dark room with three big lounge chairs facing a TV in the middle. Each of us was paired up with a girl masseuse. We had a fruit platter with tea brought to us. The massage wasn’t just for the feet, it was pretty much every part of the body for like an hour or more!

Biking Trail in a Tiny Farming Island

biking in dongguan

After the “foot” massage, we headed to a tiny farming island riding a boat towed by a little boat. The boat ride to the island is free but there is a small fee to come back from the island. It’s just a 15 minute slow ride across a huge river. The air was extremely polluted this day. Something I really hated about Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China was the air quality. It’s always hazy and the air is heavy on the lungs. I wore my handy face mask, not like it helped much but I’d like to think it purified something.

biking in dongguan biking in dongguan

You can rent bikes at this little island and they have a very nice and clean paved road that circles around the island. I recall it was only a 45 minute bike ride around the entire island.

biking in dongguan

I love seeing my dad riding the bike. He seems to really enjoy himself.

biking in dongguan

While riding, there were doggies everywhere! With lots of bald spots and I could see them scratching a lot. There were also lots of fish farms and produce gardens. A lot of people come to have fresh seafood in these little boat restaurants located around the island.

biking in dongguan biking in dongguan biking in dongguan biking in dongguan

Back to Eating

When we headed back, we met with my dad’s friends to have hotpot. I miss hotpot… Must do one, one of these days…

hotpot dongguan

Dongguan, Guangdong Province, China

Continuing the last few days of my trip to Taiwan and a couple of stops to Hong Kong and China. We are almost done with the trip to Asia posts…

Monday, February 25 and Tuesday, February 26

Crossing the Border from Hong Kong to China – No Powdered Milk?

So backing up over a month ago, we arrived to Dongguan in Guangdong Province, China. We took a short bus ride from Hong Kong to Shenzen to cross the border. I was nervous to arrive to China because of the perception I had but it’s just like any other border crossing. Funny thing is, the border line is not even definitive. It’s just a guesstimated yellow line.

I found it interesting to see so many children in uniforms crossing back and forth. I was told that many Chinese parents send their kids to private boarding schools in Hong Kong. There were dozens of children in different uniforms huddled in line one after the other when we left back to Hong Kong on Saturday. Another peculiarity I saw was that powdered milk is a big deal in China. There are strict restrictions of how many cans (2) can be brought in to China at the border crossing in Shenzen supposedly due to a shortage of powdered milk for infants in Hong Kong. Sounds like something more to me… But anyway, so Chinese parents prefer other brands of powdered milk for their infants because the milk manufactured in China has a bunch of crap in it that is making infants sick and sometimes even causing death… Scary… Is it all propaganda? Is it more of a political issue of import/export? Who knows…

As soon as we were out of customs, my dad is already freaking out that someone is going to kidnap me. I felt safe at the border crossing and Shenzen seemed like a very developed and clean city with lots of buildings.

Dongguang

After crossing the border, my dad’s friend’s brother-in-law picked us up and we drove for a couple hours to Dongguang. China is so huge. I mean you knew that, but China is so HUGE. We stayed in this little dusty town at a very nice hotel that had karaoke every single night. I could hear it until 2 am. People like to party and karaoke. Or maybe is a bunch of men looking for hostess’ company? The hotel we stayed at was very beautifully decorated (on the inside). It was very classic, reminded of a 1980’s hotel. As if I was globe-trotting at the age 0-5? Right? But you know what I mean… It was just very 80’s. I should have taken pictures… Sadly, I don’t remember the name…

The small town in Dongguang is the hometown of my dad’s compadre. It’s a dusty little town next to tons of factories. Apparently everyone knows each other there. Lots of money-making factories, few people reaping the benefits, lots of hard working people getting paid a tiny fraction of the profits these factories are making. At first I thought, how unfair! But sounds like any other place in the world (replacing factories with corporations), if I put it into perspective.

Karaoke in Dongguang

dongguang karaoke

The next day we had amazing, delicious authentic Chinese food. Food in China is something else… It is so good!!! Especially the goose… It’s like duck but more tasty because of more fat. And the veggies tasted so fresh. And the seafood is to die for.

At night we headed over to the karaoke adjacent to the hotel which is also part of the hotel (3rd floor). There is also a spa and massage place. Hmmh… What a combo, you got the fancy hotel, karaoke with hostesses, and spa/massage with more hostesses… I smell something more than just innocent singing and massages. This article in wired.com describes the karaoke scene nicely and it’s pretty much accurately described: The Hot Zone.

Just like the article describes, I saw beautiful women with their hair up in high heels and short skirts. We were in a group of wives and husbands, and dad and me, so we just had one attentive hostess. I would imagine that typically it would be one hostess per man. Our young hostess was pretty and very flirtatious. I felt terrible that she had to stand around serving everyone in these high heels and short skirt that kept on moving up. She looked exhausted by the end of the night.

dongguang karaoke dongguang karaoke dongguang karaoke dongguang karaoke dongguang karaoke

Besides feeling sympathy for our hardworking hostess, I had a great time with my dad and his friends. And it was fun watching dad relax and have fun. I asked him to sing a song with me but I realized at the end it was a stupid song to sing there hahahah Hotel California. His voice is way too deep for this song so it was just me singing and him waiting to see if there was a low note coming up.

On top of that, I’m a very shy singer… So I was sitting down the whole time. YAWN. Sorry dad’s friends, no fun to watch and hear me sing : P