Moon Festival Weekend
September 5-8, 2014
As I mentioned in a previous post we do not have Labor Day here in Taiwan, but we do have Moon Festival Weekend. Moon Festival originated from an old folklore tale that became a traditional holiday celebrated in the 8th lunar month. (Taiwan has two calendars: national and lunar) While many of the original traditions have faded away Taiwanese still use the holiday as a way to get together with family and friends to barbecue and eat moon cakes. Here is a fairly decent version of the Moon Festival Legend. I dare you to find a better excuse to eat multiple, calorie induced, moon cakes!
Since Moon Festival is the Taiwanese version of Labor Day I did not have to work on Monday (yeahhh!). As much as I really do enjoy my classes and my kids it is nice to have a break every now and then.
With a day off this led to me searching the Internet for fun things to do over the weekend. After trying to plan a trip down to Kenting (southern tip of Taiwan) with some people I finally threw my hands in the air and said f-it. Instead I chatted with my friend Rachael and Oliver about spending the weekend up in the Keelung area. I have already been in Keelung so I wanted to go do different things and make the most out of my second visit. I started sending my friends links to different activities located in the area. Thank goodness they were such good sports about it. With a trip decided I needed to book my train tickets. For some reason there wasn’t any trains available during the times I wanted to leave Fengyuan. Noticing my frustration my co-worker, Alice, suggested I should take the High Speed Railway (HSR). Knowing that it was a little bit more expensive I had to plan my budget accordingly. The HSR is really convenient; with a different train arriving every 15-20 minutes. I decided to risk it and just buy my ticket upon arrival to the station. I did however book my regular train ticket online for my return to Fengyuan on Monday evening. I do not know why I hadn’t been doing this all along! I booked it, chose a seat, and paid for it within 15 minutes. The next day I took my ID to the train station and picked up my ticket. It was so easy! I guess it took me having to pay an extra 600NT for my screw up to finally learn my lesson.
Alright with such a long weekend I am going to take this trip day-by-day.
After I finished my last class of the week at 6:30pm I literally dumped all of my teaching materials into my basket, threw homework books into my cupboard, and walked out the door. I was ready for the weekend to begin! I went home to grab my things and then proceeded to catch the next local train to Xinwuri Station. It took about 30 minutes by local train to get to Xinwuri. At that train station you walk the path to the HSR station. It was so easy I couldn’t believe it. There I purchased a non-reserved seat for 740NT (25USD). With 15 minutes to spare I grabbed something from the bakery and then headed to the platform. The train pulled up and I realized that I misunderstood the signs. I was standing at Car 1 and I needed to be at Car 10 because I had a non-reserved seat ticket. I started running, but it looked more like shuffling, down the platform weighted down by my things. Out of breathe I stepped into Car 10 and immediately sat down in the first empty seat that was available. If you ever have the chance take the HSR, do it. It is so fast, and you have a little table to set your things on, and it is actually air conditioned, and you have more room to spread your legs. My train trip was so fast I did not have time to take a nap. I arrived in Taipei within one hour. Quickly, I shuffled to the TRA (regular train) platform so I could catch the local train that was going to Keelung in less than 4 minutes. I have decided to now coin myself the ‘train master’ because I managed to make it onto all the trains I wanted to be on throughout the weekend.
The 3-hour trip was finally over and I was in Keelung with Rachael and Jerry (her foster dog) to welcome me! We immediately walked to Peter’s Bar to enjoy some Taiwanese beers and chat with Nick (one of Rachael’s co-workers). We ended the night in good spirits and I crashed on Rachael’s bed after a long week.
Rachael and I woke-up on Saturday morning with plans to meet Alex at the Keelung Harbor. Running a little late (as we always do when we get together) we finally arrived at the harbor bearing gifts of breakfast sandwiches and smiles. At the harbor we bought a Starbucks drink and caught the bus for Peace Island. Peace Island is north of Keelung and is the home of Peace Park, which is right next to the water and has beautiful scenery. Absolutely gorgeous! I would have stayed there all day if I had brought my swimsuit and a book.
Once we were done walking around Peace Park we went back to Rachael’s apartment to rinse off the acquired sweat of our walk. All three of us headed into Taipei by local train to venture our way to IKEA, with a quick stop at Krispy Kreme, and then to greet our friend Oliver upon his arrival in Taipei.
Dinner was spent at a place called Juanita’s, which I equate to the Taiwanese version of Chipotle. It was strange because my stomach was a little shocked afterwards; as if being away from Chipotle for two months had made it weak or something. The Juanita workers also took our picture so they could post it to their Facebook page (checkout the famous foreigners right here!).
Finishing up dinner with time to spare before the last train to Keelung we headed to the Maokong Gondola. Now Oliver, Alex, and I had already made a trip on the Gondola, but we were looking forward to a nighttime view of Taipei. With the whole hour on the Gondola only being 3USD it was totally worth it, and the view was awesome. We ended the evening back in Keelung at Rachael’s apartment.
Waking up a little later then we wanted to our group left the apartment, ate some great breakfast, and then took the bus out to Wanli. Alex lives in Wanli, but arriving at his apartment he realized that he had left his apartment keys back at Rachael’s apartment. Debating on what to do we finally decided we should just go paragliding right then instead of making Alex go all the way back to Keelung to get his keys. Nearly an hour of phone calls and waiting for our driver went by before we found ourselves on top of a mountain. I think maybe 15 minutes passed between the time we stepped out of the van and me running off a cliff. Gear was tossed at me and ordered to be put on. After that I was strapped onto the paragliding driver and was given one simple instruction: “keep running”. There was no time to be scared of heights because before I knew it I was running off a cliff and sitting back to enjoy the ride. I wish I had been told how to land because I literally landed on my feet and then immediately fell on my ass (I am sure it was hilarious for everyone, but me). Oh, and the view was amazing!
The paragliding owner felt so bad for his poor English and the confusion created between him and our group that he gave us a free Taiwanese beer and offered us a van ride down the mountain. The paragliding experience cost 1,200NT (40USD). Next time, I want to float down to the beach.
The beach was our next destination. Nothing feels better after a hot day than walking into the cool and refreshing ocean.
After awhile we got back onto the bus to go back to Keelung and eat at the night market. There was a lot of people there, but it was even more hectic since Moon Festival festivities were taking place. A mini parade was literally walking down the middle of the night market to get to the temple that is inconveniently placed in the middle of the night market. I had a taste of various foods that our group bought throughout the market: tofu (we thought it was going to be stinky tofu, but it ended up not being it), candied fruit, crab, and beans.
The rest of the evening was spent at Rachael’s apartment where Oliver and Alex attempted to teach Rachael (with much frustration) how to play Euchre (a card game), and then listening to music and drinking beer.
Alex, Oliver, and I seem to be on this continuous search to find cheap English books in Taiwan. It happened in Taipei and then we did it again in Keelung. Earlier in the week both Rachael and Alex had taken their kids on a field trip to the Logos Hope, a boat that has a book fair on-board. We made our morning plans to go to the Logos Hope; the entrance fee only being 20NT. Inside the ship I was a tad disappointed because the book fair was Christian based and really did not have the book selection I was looking for. (Don’t even get me started on what they considered the “Women’s” section) While waiting for Alex to purchase a coffee before we left the ship a ship worker approached Oliver and said something to him about his mustache. Of all the things that things Nate, the ship worker, could of said! This small encounter evolved into Nate inviting us to a free tour of the ship. On this tour we learned that the book fair was a small portion of what the almost 300 people housed on the Logos Hope do. Their main mission is to live on the ship after they feel called from God, and to do mission work in each country they harbor in. They had previously been in South Korea, and were headed to Singapore next. I now know more about ships then I ever thought I would.
Conversation that took place later in the day:
Me: “We literally got invited onto a tour of the ship because of Oliver’s mustache.”
Oliver: “It opens doors.”
Me: shakes my head, sure.
Upon leaving Logos Hope we met up with Rachael and went back to Wanli to hangout in Alex’s apartment. After eating some snacks we said goodbye to Oliver as he boarded the bus to make his way back to Lukang. I still had time before my 8:10pm train so we went back to the beach and swam in the ocean. We then ate a chill 711 dinner. This is how tired we were at this point. Rachael and I then said goodbye to Alex and went back to Keelung so I could shower and pack up my things for my train back.
It was a great trip overall with lots of great pictures, food, and laughs. I really am enjoying the country that I am living in and very appreciative of the new friends I have made here thus far.
On a random side-note. Since I am being heavily taxed for my first few months of working, and I also am on a budget, I took the exact amount of money I wanted to spend and nothing extra. I literally arrived back home in Fengyuan with 1NT (3 cents) on my person; my father would be so proud.