Tag Archives: Taiwan

A Full Day of Sightseeing in Taipei

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 – Day 22

I think I mentioned in one of my posts that all of my photos from my trip to Taiwan were not Photoshopped because I couldn’t Photoshop while in Taiwan. But now that I’m back home, I have more time to play around with Photoshop and I thought that it would be interesting to post the before and after photos. Everyone has their own preferences when Photoshopping. I’m no expert, I just like touching buttons here and there. I have no idea what I’m doing but I like the transformation. Only thing is that it takes me forever to retouch photos, so to save time since I have a lot of days to go through, I just did a few photos.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

All the information you need related to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is in their website at National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

We took the MRT and got off the exit to CKS Memorial Hall Station and walked a short distance to the memorial hall. There is no entrance fee and if you are sending postcards, they even have a postal office inside. You can enjoy a stroll throughout all the property – highly recommend taking advantage of this beautiful groundsl. All types of people come to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall – joggers, young students, elderly taking a stroll, professional photographers bird watching, tourists, etc…! That’s one of the best features of this place. You are not surrounded completely by other tourists (like myself haha) so it feels like you are taking part of everyday life in Taipei.

First, I’ll include the before and after Photoshopped photos. Then, I’ll post the rest.

I recorded a quick minute of the honor guard shift change. The soldiers seem to be on the smaller side, I thought they would be bigger but they have perfect skin!

Honor Guard Changing Shift at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Bitan Scenic Area

After the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, we hopped back on the MRT and headed to the Bitan Scenic Area. You just have to exit at the Xindian Station. You can find out a lot more info about this really picturesque little lake here: Bitan Scenic Area Info. You can enjoy a cup of coffee at one the coffee shops while relaxing and taking in the scenery. Make sure to dress warmly, it gets a bit chilly later in the day.

Back to Kaohsiung

After checking out from our hotel and visiting the Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall and Bitan Scencic Area, we headed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and hopped back on the MRT to the Taipei Main Station to transfer to the High Speed Rail (HSR) back to Kaohsiung.

Back to Kaohsiung home, sweet home.

What Happened to the Taiwan Trip Posts?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 – Day 21

I’m back in the States and I can’t believe how behind I am with the pictures from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. But I’m going to try to do these quickly so I can resume to the 52 DIY projects!

Maokong Gondola in Taipei

My dad’s friend and his wife and daughter took us out the entire day to do sight seeing in Taipei. They first took us for lunch at Taipei 101 then to the Maokong Gondola located in the southern tip of Taipei then back to Taipei 101 for dinner. We rode the gondola from the bottom starting at the Maokong Station all the way to the top ending at the Taipei Zoo Station in about 25 minutes. Then, we came back down and made stops at the Taipei Zoo South Station and the Zhinan Temple Station. There is a lot to see at each station and everything is surrounded by mountains. The scenery is gorgeous even on a rainy day. I can only imagine how pretty the views on a clear day.

You can find everything you need to know before heading to the Maokong Gondola in their website right here: Maokong Gondola in Taipei. It has how to get there, cost of riding the gondola, operating hours, etc… I would recommend planning to spend at least 4 hours here if you want to stop at each station. I’m sure you could spend the whole day here!

Also, they have a clear floor in a few of the gondolas. These are called “Eyes of Maokong Gondola” and you pay a little more for riding these. You also wait A LOT longer for riding these “glass” gondolas. They have been scratched over time due to wear and tear from people walking on it but you can still see down relatively well. We rode the regular gondolas because the waiting time was ridiculous. Oh, yeah, and because my dad is afraid of heights hehe Another discovery – dad likes Asian pastries, dad likes Taiwanese shaved ice, and dad has a fear of heights.

Well, I don’t have any interesting background story to these pictures but it was cold. So when visiting, make sure you are dressed in layers since it gets windy AND cold at the top. Also, bring an umbrella because there is always a chance of rain in Taipei. And don’t wear heels. My new friend, Cherry, was wearing heels and I don’t think her feet were feeling comfortable.

Being back home is bittersweet. I was pretty homesick but now I miss dad.

That is life.

Getting from Kaoshiung to Taipei

Monday, February 18, 2013 – Day 20

Heading to Taipei

After three weeks of being in Southern Taiwan, we finally took the bullet train up north to Taipei. Taipei is so different compared to Kaohsiung. Kaohsiung still has an old town feel while Taipei is just like any other big urban city. Taipei is surrounded by buildings, wide streets, lots of expensive shopping areas, lots of expensive restaurants, and people who are all trendy and stylish.

HSR Taiwan

Dad in front of the HSR train.

HSR Taiwan

Me in front of the HSR train.

Our cousin helped us buy our High Speed Rail (HSR) round-trip tickets from Kaohsiung to Taipei. She got them online Taiwan High Speed Rail and received some confirmation text messages via her cell phone. The next day, we headed to the Zuoying HSR station in Kaohsiung, and when we got there, she entered the codes on the machines to print out our tickets.

Round-Trip Cost from Kaohsiung to Taipei – approximately $100 USD, or $3,000 NTD

One Way Travel Time– approximately 1.5 hours

The train ride was super fast and comfortable. This state of the art bullet train was clean and very spacious! I didn’t even feel the time go by – next thing I knew, we were in Taipei!

As soon as we arrived to the Taipei Station the culture changed from slow and relaxed in Kaohsiungto to fast-paced and stressful in Taipei. Made me remember what it’s like to be back in LA.

Your other option would be the regular train that would cost you a fraction of the HSR train price but it would take about 5 hours!

 

Hotel in Taipei

My cousin also booked us a room in United Hotel and it had the perfect location for us. It was really close to Taipei 101, lots of restaurants, Raohe Street Night Market, and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. The room was really modern and the bathroom was huge. I actually took a bath in there, and I never take baths in hotels cause it makes me feel gross. But at United Hotel, I couldn’t resist and the bath was very relaxing… You can see some of their room pictures in their website – United Hotel.

 

Quick Sight-Seeing for One Night

During the evening, another cousin who lives in Taipei came to take us out. We made a quick stop at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. You can get really good pictures of Taipei 101 from the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. I read that it is a beautiful place to visit during the daytime, I took a two hour nap instead of seeing the memorial hall during the day lol Lazy ass…

chiang kai-shek memorial hall

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Taipei 101

View of Taipei 101 from the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

Then we walked through the popular Raohe Street Night Market and enjoyed some finger foods like yakitori, drinks, and dessert. We also had a typical Taiwanese soup for dinner, which is lamb stewed in some very aromatic spices in one of the little restaurants nearby.

At the Raohe Street Night Market, we saw an older lady about to pass out because she was hyperventilating. Lots of people, including us, asked if they needed an ambulance but the family said no. I was so sad by the situation, it was really difficult to just be a bystander and watch somebody nearly die from asphyxiation. We just had to move along and leave since we couldn’t do anything…

 

I just kept on thinking, what if it was either one of my grandmas? Sad ending to our first night in Taipei.

Finding Fo Guang Shan Monastery

Sunday, February 17, 2013 – Day 19

Going back in time 10 days ago, after gaining some confidence from my solo trip to Lotus Pond, I got all wild. The goal was to visit Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Kaohsiung, which is the headquarters to one of the largest Buddhist organizations. I thought, if I get lost, I’ll haul my ass back home on a taxi using the address and drawing on a paper hand-written by my aunt.

 

Planning the Trip to Fo Guang Shan Monastery

Plan A: Leave home by 8:30 am and leisurely walk to the bus stop to catch the 9:00 am 8010 or 8011 Kaohsiung Bus.

Plan B: In the ‘unusual’ scenario that I miss the 9:00 am bus… Frantically, rush out of the house at 11:15 am to catch the 11:30 am 8010 or 8011 Kaohsiung Bus and pray that the bus stop is super easy to spot.

Plan C: If both buses are missed, wait outside the house like a sad, abandoned puppy. I am key-less so it’s basically balls to the wall.

I now have my solid plan A, B, and C. I checked the bus stop location on the trusty Google Maps site, and the bus stop appears to be just a block away from the house. The bus ride should  last an hour so I should be to Fo Guang Shan in no time.

 

NOTE: Kaohsiung Bus is known as “kbus” in the area. So if you find yourself asking where is the Kaohsiung bus stop, just say “kbus.” Also, here are some links that might be useful:

Kaohsiung Bus Website

8010 Kaohsiung Bus Map

8011 Kaohsiung Bus Map

8010 / 8011 Kaohsiung Bus Schedule

 

Don’t Trust Strangers, Unless…

If you know me well enough, you know that Punctuality is my middle name, NOT.

Plan B was in full force.

There I am frantically rushing out of the house, intentionally locking myself out, and trying to find that stupid bus stop that was supposed to be EASY to spot. I am stopping by every shop open asking where is the bus stop. Most people don’t know English but they know “bus” so I point at my paper that says 8010 bus. Some people point to the right, then to the left, others point across the street. I am like a lost dog wondering up the street.

At a cell phone shop I stopped by to ask for help, there was a man in his late 30’s with his 9-10 year old daughter. He knew more English than most and tried to help me when the girl behind the counter didn’t know what I was asking. I obediently followed his instructions to go back to the street I just came from. As I’m about to ask a mechanic working on a car for help, the man from the cell phone shop rides up to me on his motorcycle (not a moped) with his daughter riding in front of him.

I’m wondering what is he doing coming up to me.

He points to the back of his motorcycle, then points toward the street, and says something that sounded to me like, “Hi, you little lost girl. You need a ride to the bus stop? Hop on my black motorcycle. Look, I have my little cute smiling daughter as proof that I’m no pervert or a rapist. You can trust me because I am taking an effort to help you find your bus stop. Plus, you either take the ride, or you will miss your bus and will have to resort to Plan C.”

I trust my gut instinct, smile, say xie xie, and hop on the motorcycle.

I know not to trust strangers. But you have to experience Taiwanese culture to see how kind and genuinely helpful people are in here (at least from my experience in Kaohsiung). Also, my gut wasn’t blaring red sirens. You’re probably thinking, well something “could” have happened. Just like anything could happen any day. And on this day, nothing bad happened… *knock on wood*

The bus stop was half a mile down the street from where I was! The kind father dropped me to the bus stop and I felt so grateful for his help. Without his help, I would have never found this stupid bus stop.

 

Bus Ride to Fo Guang Shan Monastery

I got to the bus stop at exactly 11:30 am. A couple of nice girls said that the bus didn’t come yet. Shortly after the two girls left, an older lady is talking to me in Chinese. I body-language to her telling her I don’t speak Chinese, but she keeps talking to me nonetheless.

15 minutes pass by…

30 minutes pass by…

45 minutes pass by…

Now the adrenaline rush of thinking that I made it on time, wore off.

I’m now feeling sad that I missed the 11:30 am bus and the next bus won’t come until ANOTHER 45 minutes. So at this point I’m weighing my options: (1) hop on the MRT to Lotus Pond to see the other half of it; (2) haul a cab to Fo Guang Shan Monastery; (3) Plan C; (4) wait 45 minutes and see as much as I can of the monastery within 2 hours.

Then lo and behold, after five minutes of indecisiveness, I see this big ol’ bus hauling ass with 8010 flashing on top! WHOOPEE! I wanted to jump around in joy that it’s arrived! Mind you, 50 minutes LATE!

BUS RIDE TO FO GUANG SHAN MONASTERY: $65 NTD, or $2 USD
MAKING IT TO FO GUANG SHAN MONASTERY: PRICELESS

The bus ride from Fengshan to Fo Guang Shan was only 45 minutes long.

An honorary mention to another kind older man riding the same bus who helped me figure out where to get off to see the monastery. You can see a giant Buddha head statue on a hill from the bus.

If that wasn’t enough (i.e., motorcycle ride, girls at bus stop, man inside bus), an older lady that got off the same stop, locked arms with me and walked me into the monastery when I asked her if the entrance was on the left or on the right. Even though she knew I don’t know Chinese, she kept talking so I nodded and said the few phrases I know,  like, “how pretty!” and “so big!” and “I eat.” She understood I was hungry and dropped me off at a vegetarian restaurant she said was very good. This little restaurant has a view of a beautiful giant lotus pond inside the monastery.

 

Fo Guang Shan Monastery – The Buddhist Version of Disneyland

I started my amazing visit to Fo Guang Shan Monastery at 1:45 pm after a hearty and enjoyable vegetarian lunch with a nice serene view of a giant lotus pond.

TIPS: What to Wear and What to Bring

  • Wear comfortable shoes and be ready to do lots and lots and lots of walking (up the hill, down the hill, up the stairs, down the stairs)
  • Wear and bring sunscreen
  • Wear a cap or hat
  • Wear appropriate attire, meaning not revealing your tatas, not wearing booty shorts.
  • Bring a light jacket or long sleeve for night time
  • Bring a fully charged camera with lots of memory space
  • Can bring an umbrella for the sun
  • Can bring a camera tripod for family pictures or night shots

 

MISCELLANEOUS TIPS

  • You don’t need to bring water or food/snacks, they have tons there (free and available for purchase).
  • Don’t wear heels.
  • Bring some cash, they have lots of little kiosks and stores to buy souvenirs and books.
  • They have a complementary meal in one of the halls, but you have to ask where because I don’t remember where it’s located.
  • If planning on staying after the bus stops making its routes, take a cab.
  • Plan to spending 8-10 hours there to see everything. I was there from 1:45 pm until 9:00 pm, or about 7 hours, and still didn’t get to see everything!
  • Don’t enter or exit a temple through the center door. Always use the side doors.
  • Bow three times then place the incense in the big incense burner.
  • I would recommend visiting the left side of the monastery first. Then, visit the Buddha Memorial Center by going through the new “Boulevard” added through the back, which connects the two.

 

Start Your Monastery Tour!

As soon as you walk in, you are welcomed by people handing you a map that tells you where to stop by. You get a stamp at each place that you stop by. You have to participate in order to get the stamp though… For example, you have to practice calligraphy at the Calligraphy Hall to get your stamp.

At the beginning is a statue with a bell. If you toss a coin and hit the bell then your wish will come true.

Fo Guang Shan Monastery Taiwan

Toss a coin and hit the bell for your wish to come true.

The monastery has a lot of osmanthus trees and it fills the air with a sweet and clean floral smell throughout the corridors! Smells so good…

Fo Guang Shan Monastery Taiwan

I never knew osmanthus could be so aromatic.

Photos of the main entrance:

I first visited the temple located furthest from the main area… I’m glad I did because if I had to walk this far after walking around so much, I’d have probably skipped it.

From the outside, this building looked like a large store. But once you walk in, you are greeted by a sweet lady who ushers you inside. I never knew the Buddhist swastika was so similar to the Nazi swastika. Apparently, the word swastika is Sanskrit for “good charm” or “good fortune.” You can see a close-up shot of the symbol, which is found throughout the monastery.

Then, I walked over to the main hall. Absolutely stunning. The side halls are lined up with beautiful bonsai trees of all ages. There is a giant bell in front of the temple where visitors can ring three times with a giant piece of wood. Then, there is a monk chanting on a microphone that can be heard through out the garden. Once you enter the temple, you are welcomed by three enormous Buddhas. Remember – don’t enter or exit through the middle door. The walls inside the temple are ALL lined up with mini-Buddhas. This is probably the most stunning temple in the monastery.

DO NOT MISS the Calligraphy Hall! The Calligraphy Hall experience was one of my favorites because it was so peaceful and relaxing. There was a mantra chanting softly through the speakers. Everyone must take their shoes off. Then,  you pick a number like a lottery ticket and get assigned a scroll to trace. Once you have your scroll on hand, you walk in to a large breezy room with a classroom setting. Then you sit anywhere and trace your scroll.

There was a museum with incredible artwork of all types of Buddhas. No photography is allowed inside but I have a picture of the outside. Somebody told me that this museum is open only during Chinese New Year!

Fo Guang Shan Monastery Taiwan

The museum only open during Chinese New Year!

One of the many highlights of visiting the Fo Guang Shan Monastery is seeing the Amitabha Buddha and the Great Hero Hall! You can see this giant 36-meter, or 118 feet, statue from down the highway! It is on the highest point of the monastery and you can get a 270 degree view of the area. The Buddha is lined up with smaller statues, each one is different! Then there is the Great Hero Hall which all identical statues lining up the garden in front of the Buddha statue.

DO NOT MISS going inside the temple under the Amitabha Buddha statue! You will see four Buddhas, facing West, East, North, and South. Each Buddha focuses on a different aspect so you pray to the one that fits you most and ask a question. Then, you place your hand inside the wooden box in front of the statue and it should be the answer to your question! Mine was so accurate… So strange… I asked for Buddha to help me find my passion in life to fulfill the career aspect of my life. My answer was: Work hard and I will get what I’m asking for. Whhatt? I mean, really, out of all things, right? You have to try it and make sure to donate : )

The grandaddy of Fo Guang Shan Monastery is the Buddha Memorial Center. I got there close to sunset and didn’t get a chance to visit all of the towers lining up the hall to the Buddha statue at the very end. However, I did get to eat a crazy-good waffle (or maybe I was starving) that I dropped while taking a picture! I was so sad… I went back in line to get a second one! But going back to the memorial center… It’s sooooo beautiful! It’s soooo big. When I first saw the size of this place, I wanted to get on a bike or something. But walking through the front garden, getting closer and closer to the giant Buddha, made me forget how tired my feet were…

I was originally planning on leaving by 4:30 pm so I can be back home before sunset. I kept postponing my departure time until finally leaving the monastery until 9:30 pm! I ended up staying that late because I didn’t know until later during the day that the monastery was having a Lantern Festival for Chinese New Year. I was expecting lanterns to be lit up and fly into the sky like hot air balloons. Little did I know, it was fireworks instead!

 

Chinese New Year Lantern Festival

I wasn’t sure where the big event was going to take place so I started asking workers. A nice bystander overheard I was looking for the “lantern fire” and she started walking me to the spot. I felt so bad because it was such a long walk…  And I didn’t know how to tell her that I don’t want her to go out of her way so she and her friend ended up walking me all the way.

The process leading up to the fireworks is a highly organized ritual. It all took almost an hour to lead up to the grand finale of five minutes of fireworks.

It was the one of the most beautiful display of fireworks I’ve ever experienced. Not so much because of the fireworks but rather because of the setting. I don’t know why I can’t upload videos from my cell phone to the laptop so I’m going to post a video of the fireworks later on when I have wifi…

 

Where is the Bus?

After an emotional and overwhelming lantern festival experience, everyone started heading back home. It was 9 pm. I had some hope that the bus was still en route so I walked all the way to the dark and scary bus stop and noticed that the last bus left at 7:40 pm.

I went to the closest shop and asked the cashier for a taxi. The cashier smiled and immediately called a taxi. Then all six lady workers joined forces to help decipher my address! After 15 minutes of debating my address, my soon-to-be taxi driver bursted out laughing when he read that my aunt had written her phone number next to “kuku” (in Chinese – Auntie). He immediately called my aunt and everyone was relieved.

TAXI CAB RIDE FROM FO GUANG SHAN TO FENGSHAN: $500 NTD, or $17 USD
GRATITUDE TO TAXI DRIVER FOR GETTING ME BACK HOME: $200 NTD, OR $7 USD
EXPERIENCING THE LANTERN FESTIVAL AT FO GUANG SHAN MONASTERY: PRICELESS

The ride back home was only 30 minutes. The driver was so talkative, again, knowing I don’t understand Chinese. He was such a gregarious man, it was hard not to like him. Except for his incessant belching.

 

Moral of the Day

I’m not kidding when I say that Taiwanese hospitality is second to none.

I am so thankful to so many people who helped me and made this day an unforgettable experience.

 

PS: Here is the Fo Guang Shan Monastery’s website for more information:

PPS: Sorry, no timely updates. I am writing this post from Guangdong, China. I’m going to be in China until March 1st. I’ll update about my trip to Taipei, trip to Hong Kong, and trip to Guangdong hopefully by March 1st!

PPPS: This post is super long, took me three days to complete it! And there are 40 pictures for your enjoyment. Hope you enjoyed it and almost feel as if you were there with me : )

Self-Guided Tour of Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung

Saturday, February 18, 2013 – Day 18

I can’t believe that it took me three weeks to finally venture out on my own while in Taiwan. Taiwan is a very safe place to travel for either gender. The public transportation system is very easy to follow and taxi fares are fair. My first solo visit was to Lotus Pond in Zuoying District, Kaohsiung.

How to Get to Lotus Pond Using the MRT

There are several  ways to get to get to Lotus Pond. To get to Lotus Pond using the MRT, get off in R15 Ecological District (red line) and follow Exit 2. The MRT fare may vary depending on where you are coming from, but it’s very cheap regardless.

Once you are out of the MRT station, walk toward the bus stop on your right-hand side. You can either take bus 51 (the one I took) or bus 35. Bus fare is only $12 NTD, or $0.50 USD. The bus ride takes about 15 minutes and you will see the Lotus Pond from the bus. As soon as you get off the bus, you will see the Shoushan National Nature Park sign.

Shoushan Natural Nature Park in Lotus Pond, Zouying District, Kaohsiung.

Shoushan National Nature Park in Lotus Pond, Zouying District, Kaohsiung.

To get back to the MRT station, walk back to the beginning of your tour where the Shoushan National Nature Park sign. Head over to the bus stop right across the street in front of the Shoushan National Nature Park sign. Take bus 35 and get off in front of the MRT Ecological District station. Bus fare is again, only $12 NTD, or $0.50 USD, and ride is about 15 minutes.

Before You Go to Lotus Pond

Have your camera battery fully charged and wear comfortable shoes because there is a lot of walking involved. I got there at 12 pm and left at 5:30 pm. I think I only saw half of Lotus Pond. So make sure you arrive early to give yourself plenty of time to see all of the beautiful places to visit at Lotus Pond. I would say, if you take your sweet time, then it would take 8-10 hours to see it all.

Wear sunblock, light clothing because it’s HOT, and carry a light jacket or long sleeve for when the sun sets. Also, if you are really concerned about sun spots and wrinkles, consider bringing an umbrella. There is no shame in protecting your skin from UV rays, even if that means carrying an umbrella.

And just for safety, carry directions or a map or your address. Taiwanese people are so nice and helpful. The only obstacle is the language barrier, so carrying your address and intersection streets in Chinese would be useful when asking for directions, in case you get lost.

General Background of Lotus Pond

Lotus Pond

View of Lotus Pond from the Dragon Pagoda

Lotus Pond is located in the Zuoying District in Kaoshiung. It is a popular scenic spot for visitors and locals. I think Lotus Pond is so popular because of the several photogenic pagodas and temples surrounding this man-made lake. You are probably wondering what is a pagoda? A pagoda is a tiered temple or sacred building, generally with an odd number of tiers. You could even say that Taipei 101 resembles the shape of a pagoda.

Lotus Pond

View of Lotus Pond

Keep in mind that Lotus Pond opened in 1952, so it is a fairly modern place to visit. Some even say that it’s “too” touristy and gimmicky and not “historic” enough, but who cares? If it’s a place worth visiting, it doesn’t matter whether it’s crowded with tourists. As long as you are interested in exploring it, that’s all it matters.

Lotus Pond

View of Lotus Pond from Spring and Autumn Pavilion

During the 5.5 hours I was at Lotus Pond, I visited the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, Ciji Palace, Spring and Autumn Pavilions, Wuli Pavilion (which is connected to the Spring and Autumn Pavilions), Chi Minh Palace, and Pei Chi Pavilion.  I highly recommend planning on staying until sunset. The colors were even more vibrant and the reflection of the pagodas on the lake was so beautiful!

I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to visit the largest Confucious Temple in Taiwan and the historic Fengshan County walls and gates nearby. But if you are reading this before you visit Lotus Pond, then make sure you stop by those two places!

Stop #1: Dragon and Tiger Pagodas

Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Entrance to the Dragon Tiger Pagodas

The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas were built as an extension to the Ciji Palace, located right in front of the pagodas. These pagodas are connected and both have seven floors and are 36 feet tall, or 11 meters. You can walk inside both pagodas and explore up the stairs, except you can’t access the top floor because it’s closed to the public. Each pagoda has a shrine on the very top floors, which might be the reason for being unavailable to the public.

Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Nine Bend Entrance to the Dragon Tiger Pagodas.

First thing you will notice is the zigzag entrance to the mouths of the dragon and tiger. You should know there are nine bends to enter the pagoda but all I could find online is that odd numbers are considered to be a good number and since 9 is the highest odd number there is, it is of significant importance commonly found in temples and palaces. Also, the seven levels at each pagoda might have to do with the Seven Factors of Enlightenment: Mindfulness, Investigation, Energy, Joy, Tranquility, Concentration, and Equanimity. Seems like everything in a pagoda, or temple, or palace, has some sort of obscure or obvious symbolism.

Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Walk through the Dragon Pagoda first for good luck!

Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Exit through the Tiger Pagoda to get rid of bad luck!

When visiting the pagodas, start at the Dragon Pagoda and exit through the Tiger Pagoda for good luck. If you enter through the tiger’s mouth first, your good luck will be taken away from you.

Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Dragon Pagoda

Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Tiger Pagoda

Inside the Dragon Pagoda, there are paintings of 24 examples of the filial and the guilty judged by the 10 Kings of Hell. Inside the Tiger Pagoda, there are paintings of the 72 Virtuous Men and 36 officers of the Jade Emperor of the Heaven. The paintings in the pagodas encourage people to perform good deeds during their lifetime and avoid retribution for wrongdoing.

Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Me inside one of the pagodas.

Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Dragon Tiger Pagodas at Sunset

Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Dragon Tiger Pagodas at Sunset.

Stop #2: Ciji Palace or Bao Sheng Da Di Temple

Ciji Palace

View of Ciji Palace from the Tiger Pagoda

Interestingly the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas are related to the Ciji Palace. The Ciji Palace or Bao Sheng Da Di Temple is a temple to worship the Life-Protecting Emperor or also known as, The God of Medicine. Bao Sheng Da Di was a revered medical doctor who saved many lives. The saying or folktale goes something along the lines of the emperor “cures the eyes for the dragon, rids of the throat problems of the tiger.” Thus, you enter first through the dragon and exit through the tiger.

Ciji Palace

Main entrance to Ciji Palace

Ciji Palace

Inside Ciji Palace

Stop #3: Spring and Autumn Pavilions AND Wuli Pavilion

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

View of Spring and Autumn Pavilion from Wuli Pavilion

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Spring and Autumn Pavilion at Sunset

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

View of Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Me with Wuli Pavilion in the background

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Wuli Pavilion

These pavilions are dedicated to the God of War, Kuan Kong, and the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, whose statue stands on top of a dragon. The walkway inside the dragon has paintings depicting the story of Guan Yin. Towards the end of the walkway, there is the Wuli Pavilion.

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Spring and Autumn Pavilion with Guan Yin statue on top of the dragon.

Background on Guan Yin

Guanyin is a beautiful woman wearing white robes as a symbol of purity. She holds the Sacred Vase containing pure water with her left hand, which is a symbol of good fortune. She holds a willow branch with her right hand to bless people with physical and spiritual peace. She represents compassion and kindness, a mother-goddess and patron of mothers and seamen.

Guan Yin is often depicted either alone, standing atop a dragon, accompanied by a bird, flanked by two children, or flanked by two warriors. The dragon symbolizes high spirituality, wisdom, strength, and divine powers of transformation.

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Turtle pond at Spring and Autumn Pavilion

As you exit and stop by the half-moon pond in front of the Guan Yin statue, you will notice dozens of turtles. Why are the turtles there? I think it’s connected with the folktale of the God of War. See more on that folktale in the Pei Chi Pavilion section below.

Spring and Autumn Pavilion

Fortune Teller machine at Spring and Autumn Pavilion

At the Spring and Autumn Pavilion, they had this fortune teller little machine. So cute! I haven’t opened my little fortune scroll because I need a translator LOL

Stop #4: Chi Ming Palace or Temple of Enlightenment

Chi Ming Palace

Outside of Chi Ming Palace

Directly facing the Spring and Autumn Pavilion, there is the Chi Ming Palace, or the Temple of Enlightenment. It was decorated with red lanterns and lots of red ribbons for Chinese New Year. And I was lucky enough to arrive on a day where an orchestra was playing right in front of the temple. The orchestra was playing non-stop for the entire 5.5 hours I was there!

I can’t upload the short video clip I recorded. But I’ll upload it in another post! Along with the picture of the $3.50 “Prada” purse!

Stop #5: Pei Chi Pavilion

Pei Chi Pavilion

Pei Chi Pavilion

There is no way of missing this ginormous 74 feet, or 24 meter, statue of Xuantian Shan Di, the Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven, or the God of War. Xuantian Shan Di  is one of the higher-ranking Taoist deities. He is revered as a powerful god, able to control the elements and capable of great magic.

Pei Chi Pavilion

Close up of Xuantian Shan Di

Background on Xuantian Shan Di

Xuantian Shan Di was a butcher who killed animals without any remorse. As time passed by, he felt remorse for butchering animals and repented. He gave up butchery and retired to a remote mountain. One day, while washing blood-stained clothes along a river after assisting a woman in labor, he had a vision. The woman in labor was a manifestation of the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin. To redeem his sins, he cut his own stomach and intestines and washed it in the river. At first, the river turned into dark and murky water. After a while, the river water turned into pure water.

The Jade Emperor was moved by his sincerity and determination to clear his sins and made Xuantian Shan Di immortal. After absorbing the essences of the earth, his stomach and intestines transformed into an evil turtle and snake, consequently harming people. No one could subdue the turtle and snake. Xuantian Shan Di returned to earth to subdue them and ended up using them as his means for transportation. Thus, he is usually seated on a throne stepping on the turtle and snake. He also holds The Seven Star sword with his right hand, known as the first sword in the world.

Pei Chi Pavilion

Little island with chickens at Pei Chi Pavilion

There was also a little, tiny, island full of chickens at the base of the Pavilion. I think the chickens are some sort symbol for Xuantian Shan Di’s past butcherings. Kind of as a peace offering to the butchered animals. Also, worth noting, Guan Yi, is associated with vegetarianism, which might be have a connection with Xuantian Shan Di, the butcherer.

So What Do You Think of Lotus Pond?

I really enjoyed strolling around the Lotus Pond. Everything is somehow connected and it’s so interesting to know the background stories behind each pagoda and temple. I think it is definitely worth a visit to unwind and relax. It’s too bad I got there until noon because I wanted to keep going around the entire lake. Maybe I’ll have time to come back before I leave Taiwan…

PS: I didn’t get a chance to see this big temple from across the lake. I don’t know what it’s called…

Lotus Pond

Across Lotus Pond.

PPS: Later that day, I met a new cousin and her family.

family

Cousin and her family with dad, aunt, and grandma. Oh! And Money (not Manny)!