Famous in Chunghua
January 1st, 2014
The first day of the new year and the first day of my three day trips. I was excited to get out of Fengyuan and do some traveling. I hadn’t really gone to see anything since Rachael had come to visit me, so I was ready to go. Before the four-day weekend started I had proposed my day trip idea to my friend, Alex, so she joined me on my adventures.
Alex and I met at the train station around 11:00am and got on an express train to Chunghua. We almost didn’t make it there together. The train was packed with people, both sitting and standing. I narrowly squeezed myself onto the train and turned around to grab Alex. I held onto her until the door closed and she was able to lean back and everyone in the door portion of the train could shift around. The train was so full that I had been accidentally leaning on a woman’s hand and didn’t even know it until she said something (opps!). We arrived in Chunghua and started walking towards the direction of the Big Buddha. I knew which direction it was in, but I wasn’t one hundred percent positive how to get there, so we just kept walking in the general direction. We first arrived upon a building which seemed to be a university, but once we walked onto the grounds to explore and look at the track we quickly discovered it was just a really nice elementary school. I am kind of jealous of those kids. We continued walking until we stopped at a corner so I could check the map that I have on my Kindle in my Lonely Planet book. Before I could even say, “We need to go this way”, a woman who was biking stopped and asked, “Can I help you?”. We asked where the Big Buddha was and she pointed us down a main road. Whenever these little moments happen it always reinforces the positive thoughts I have about Taiwan. We started going up a road that we figured would get us to the Big Buddha and came upon a temple. Quick pictures and then we continued up the mountain. The first thing we came upon was an old airplane. We have no idea why it is there, but Alex took a picture with it anyways. This is where our famous picture day began. A group of Vietnamese guys approached and asked if they could take a picture with us. We agreed and as we walked away they were quietly whistling and saying “you are beautiful”. While I was not impressed I also just assumed that those are the very few words they probably know in English.
Finishing our walk up to the top of the mountain we reached Baguashan and the Great Buddha Scenic Area. In this area is a temple, more Buddhas, the Great Buddha Statue, and Nine Dragons Pond. This area was great because we got to read small stories about the Buddha and get a view of the city. In just that area we were stopped twice by people asking to take pictures.
I quite enjoyed the lookout view. It was a great time to just talk and also sit in silent reflection. I realized then that while I may have had a rough month I was in a much better place now. I was in beautiful Taiwan, and I was in a place in my life that I had no idea was even fathomable one year ago. This time a year ago I had just started applying for jobs in Asia, and now here I am. It seems crazy and fantastic when I look at my life through a big picture.
Alex and I proceeded on, but before we could even get to the bottom of the mountain we were approached by another group of guys who wanted a picture with us. At one point their other friends saw what they were doing and started running towards us to take a picture. It was crazy! After we walked away from the craziness Alex and I agreed that we needed to start taking pictures of this crazy amount of attention we were getting. We walked along a path that was full of flowers and reached a large Flower Clock with a brown sign pointing us in the direction of a waterfall. We walked up the stairs to a human-made waterfall (I was a little disappointed, but what do you expect in the middle of the city), and a Poetry Wall. Here we were also stopped for pictures, but this time we got a few snapshots of the group of people we were taking pictures with.
Once all of the picture taking was done Alex and I made our way down the mountain, and while we were walking down we passed some guys walking down the stairs as well. They were taking pictures so Alex started to photo bomb their picture and I followed along. I think by this point we were so used to taking pictures that we were getting silly about it. We kept walking around because we didn’t now what we were going to do next. We saw a sign that said “Living Art Museum” and followed the signs until we reached a building that unfortunately had just art in it. A little disappointed we looked around quickly and then made a phone call. Our mutual friend, Anthony, had just announced that his mother passed away. I had made plans with him earlier for him to come up to Fengyuan once I got home. Since both Alex and I were tired and ready to eat we decided it was time to go back home. I Googled how far away from the train station we were and found out it was a 30 minute walk. I was totally down to take a cab, but of course we didn’t actually start seeing cabs until we were practically to the train station.
At the train station we went up to the machines to buy our tickets only to discover that it wouldn’t take our tens that we had to buy our tickets. We looked like absolute fools feeding the machine with one dollar coins because that is all we had left in our wallets, and that still wasn’t enough to buy Alex’s ticket. Finally, a Taiwanese man came up behind us and put a ten in the machine so that Alex can get her ticket. We thank him profusely and then head to our train platform. Our train arrived and we get on. At this point our only hope was that someone would not come and sit down in the seats we were standing by. No one did so we got to sit all the way home, which was so nice. Both train tickets we bought that day were under 100NT (3USD), and we didn’t have to pay for anything once we were in Chunghua.
Back in Fengyuan we met up with Anthony and talked, and then took him out to eat at Creme Pasta and talked some more over pumpkin soup and pasta. It was a big hit of reality talking to Anthony about his mother dying while he is in Taiwan. He was saying some of my biggest fears out loud. He has a lot of grieving and thinking to do about when he is going to go back to America to visit, and I wish him all the best in this process. It also made me very grateful for the emergency fund money that I have. That way if something were to happen I would be able to go back home.
We spent the rest of the night walking around the market area and just hanging out.
It was great, and annoying, being famous for a day, and it was also great knowing how lucky I am that my mother is still alive and well.