Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan

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Okay, so a note about transportation services in Asia. The subways are clean and efficient. A train appears approximately every 37 seconds, always. The bullet trains are pristine, orderly, quiet, and punctual. That is an understatement. But now, I’d just like to share a little tidbit about a short international flight from Hong Kong to Taipei. You know how when you take a domestic flight in the states that is less than an hour, you get a lame excuse from the flight crew that they “don’t have time for a beverage service - sorry!?” Well, the flight to Taipei was one hour and fifteen minutes. We were served an entire meal of incredibly good food, complete with cocktails and wine. What’s the word? Service. This is Asia.

Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan

ubiquitous sight in Taiwan: motor scooters. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
ubiquitous sight in Taiwan: motor scooters

A Taoist Temple and Ceramic Heaven

The very best thing about visiting Taiwan was learning about what is involved in the production of tea. Sharing a cup of tea is one of my most beloved rituals. Tea time is reserved for special visitors, with whom one wishes to linger. Because Robert was involved in a trade show, I selected two semi-private tours in Taiwan, both having to do with tea. 

small temple in heart of Taiwanese village. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
small temple in heart of Taiwanese village

The first tour involved quite a bit of travel via car into the Sanxia district, and began with a visit to Zushi Temple, a colorful Taoist temple full of ornate carvings. This provided an incredible experience and lesson in history. According to our guide, this “poor man’s temple”, was created with pieces of glass and ceramics. I could feel the measured and creative work of the builders, and their glittering rendition reminded me of Barcelona mosaics. Dragons, lions, and Phoenix all stand guard, and create the energy and guidance needed. The doors are sculpted bronze, and stone pillars have intricate carvings of animals: fish on the bottom, then turtles, then shorebirds, mammals, ultimately capped with owls and eagles. Our guide explains that this carving appears to depict the evolutionary ladder. It was constructed in the mid 1700’s, so Darwin was decades away from his life on the planet. Interesting. 

Zushi Temple. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
Zushi Temple

pillar detail. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
pillar detail

ornate entry. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
ornate entry

I noticed a ritual occurring as people pray, where two red wooden blocks, each in the shape of a crescent moon, are dropped on the floor, picked up, and then dropped again. This is a form of guidance when one has a “yes or no” question, and the reading of the moons falling is complex. In order for the answer to the question to be an unequivocal “yes”, the moons have to fall in a certain way three times in a row. Otherwise, the answer is basically no, although there might be some hope, as there are some combinations that seem to indicate “maybe”! 

Gargoyle. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
Gargoyle

Moon Goddess. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
Moon Goddess

Next, our guide took us to see fine art at a ceramics factory and showroom, where he is friends with someone who works there. This person allows us to view the “behind the scenes” areas. Tai Hwa is a place where exquisite tea sets are crafted, painted, and fired. We saw delicate brushes upon great vases, kilns that hold thousands of plates…we even observed how the name is placed on the bottom of each piece. We then sat for a cuppa, and relished the artistry that surrounded us. Each display in the showroom was a masterpiece of design. I cannot find the words to describe how masterful it was. Did I just say “master” twice? 

Ceramics artist at Tai Hwa. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
Ceramics artist at Tai Hwa

display inside Tai Hwa factory. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
display inside Tai Hwa factory

tea set, complete with Gawain. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
tea set, complete with Gawain

kiln. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
kiln

Design showroom mastery. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
Design showroom mastery

Please stay tuned for the next piece, which continues with my second tour in Taiwan where a visit to a tea plantation and a tea museum continue to teach me lessons rich with vital information, not only about tea, but about life. Thank you! 

early cherry blossoms in the tea mountains. From Travel to Asia: A New Understanding–Taipei, Taiwan
early cherry blossoms in the tea mountains

The Travel to Asia: A new understanding Series

Travel to Asia: A new understanding–Hong Kong

Travel to Asia: A new understanding–Taiwan Tea

Becky Burns, our Soulful Travel Guide, is a retired educator living in Sarasota, Florida. Her travel stories provide an interpretation of her trips around the globe on a soulful level, where she muses about coincidences, connections, and life lessons. You may follow her here at wandering educators, where she posts periodically. 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Becky Burns

 

 

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