|From:||that frolicsome kid|
|To:||Whom this may concern|
|Date:||23 January 2007, 09:15|
|Subject:||Pilgrimage to Taiwan - Part Two|
Before I begin, I want to thank katelyn for using this word in her comment below. *big grin*
I don't know whether it can be accurately described by that word though.
Anyway, I was sort of happy that our third day was our last day for the whole Buddhist ceremony. We had lunch together with a few thousand "specially invited" people and the Grandmaster Lu Sheng-Yen, of course. Throughout the lunch, performances were held which I did not really spectate as I was too busy pigging down on my food. I know, I'm sorry, I should have watched it. =P
The food - I must say Taiwanese food has a very unique taste. I wasn't used to eating such food, so even though some of them were hailed by our newly-made Taiwanese friends as delicious, I thought it was quite the contrary. It wasn't downright disgusting, but they have definitely played with my taste buds! But it's okay, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience anyway! =D
Nearing the end of the lunch, Grandmaster treated everyone a show of his martial art skills (dang, I forgot the name again!) which received everyone's loud and tremendous applause. He was really good you know, it was in sync with the Chinese "kung-fu style" music played and his every movement was in a word, awesome!
And that sums up my family's pilgrimage to Taiwan to attend a very revered Buddhist ceremony which worships the Buddha called Kalachakra. According to some of my mom's friends who came along with us, they were told that the ceremony was broadcast live in a Chinese channel. I looked it up online and it was indeed true. Click for the news. It's too bad it is past the 20th of January. You couldn't watch the telecast anymore. =(
You'll never believe what happened after that. Later in the evening, my family was up at Taipei 101! Can you believe it? We had left footprints at the tallest building in the world!
Actually, my mother had gotten someone to drive us to Taipei from Taichung when we found out that many of her friends are heading there to spend a day there as well. And the airport was a stone's throw away too, so there is no need for us to wake up at wee hours of the morning and try to rush the 2 hours plus trip to the airport. It promised so many benefits, why not take advantage of it? ;)
I was the one who suggested a visit to Taipei 101, since it's one of the most prominent landmarks of Taiwan (and the only one I know, hehe!). So we took a 37 seconds ride up the elevator (yes, the world's fastest elevator is located there as well) and we admired the magnificent views the metropolis has to offer for us! It was really amazing to see how forward Taipei already is; it's like Tokyo (somehow, the views remind me of Tokyo, even though I have never been to Japan).
I remember seeing many buildings and skyscrapers clustering nearby, with beautiful apartments rising up from the ground. I also won't forget the old shophouses located near there, and the night lights! Oh, they were immensely beautiful!
When the car drove along the streets of Taipei, I was trying to absorb in what I was seeing. I cannot believe what I saw. Elevated freeways running atop streets below, buildings facing the freeways, the people, the vibrant city life, the curvature of the roads, criss-crossing here and there, the cars and did I forget to mention motorcycles, the road bullies? =P
Whenever the traffic lights turn red (and they'll stay red for quite a long time!), motorcycles can be seen overtaking cars and they all move forward to stop just in front of the intersection box. So whenever the light turns green, you can see the big group of motorcyclists roaring their way before the cars actually do! And I was really fascinated by the fact that females, yes, ladies, do ride motorcycles there. It was really a new sight for me (I always have this notion that motorcyclists are mostly men). But visiting Taiwan has proven me wrong. I remember seeing a mother sending her child back home using a motorcycle. It was so cool!
The cities of Taiwan are definitely modern and way developed than I expected! =O
I also would like to give a mention to the freeways at the island. Whoa! Freeways upon freeways. Amazing! I really have never seen such good infrastructure before. You could actually get lost in the freeways! It really is exciting to see roads built like that. Here's a tip though in case you're planning to rent a car in Taiwan when you go there next time. Please have some spare change in your car when you are driving on freeways, because there are many toll booths that need your money before passing through. This also applies when you are entering into Taipei as well.
And what do I learn from this trip? I should have continued learning Chinese. Why?
Because I was bombarded by Traditional Chinese writings all over Taiwan (and Simplified Chinese in Mainland China). Adverts, brochures, flyers, shop signs, and even road signs are all writing in pure Chinese with very little, or no English translations (freeway road signs are kinder though, they have at least provided straightforward, short and crisp English words). It's that bad, and I struggled badly trying to read the Chinese wordings.
If you're lucky, some places and hotels do provide English translations but even then, don't expect much. The English is horrible! There are spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and wrong phrasing of sentences! It can really drive an English purist mad, but then it's really better than nothing.
It's still alright though as I don't need to read much. There's already spoken Chinese which had kept me on my feet at all times. Oh my gosh, I was really embarrassed when I do not know how to express a word in Chinese and I have to actually add English words to my already broken Chinese. It would be considered normal in Singapore (phew!) though. So far, that has yet to happen to me. Thank goodness I could think up of simpler Chinese words as substitution.
My Chinese accent sounds very out of place in Taiwan. A few people who I conversed with have asked me where I come from. And I said out my country's name, and to my dismay, they gave me blank looks. I have expected it anyway, and I say it's close to my neighbouring countries. And they were, "Oh! Oh! Okay...", although I doubt they still know it. *sigh*
I really dig their Chinese accent though, especially Taiwanese Hokkien. It sounds more melodic and softer compared to the Hokkien spoken here, which to a foreigner's ears sounds very rude and loud. =P Thank goodness my parents can speak a it a little, as my mom likes to watch a Taiwanese drama where the actors speak completely in Taiwanese. Phew~
I think I picked up a little of their accent though, because I remember I sounded so different when speaking to Singaporean hawkers. Too bad it was temporary. I have lost it already! =(
It was really a relief to overhear a Caucasian speaking English in the airport prior to me leaving for Singapore. I cannot tell you how wonderful it sounded to my ears!
Bottom-line is if you intend to travel to China or Taiwan, learn a little bit of Mandarin Chinese before you go. Bring along your phrasebook as well, it helps a lot (Lonely Planet or Berlitz are good). To be safe, stick to more tourist-friendly places. ;) The Chinese people appreciate it much more if you do try to converse in Chinese, and they will treat you much more friendlier.
My mom asked a taxi driver how on earth do they communicate with foreign tourists who do not know how to speak Chinese. He said that they will show him a business card to wherever they wanted to go, and he will send them there. He and his customers will communicate with sign languages. I wanted to laugh at the humour, but I restrained myself. Language barriers are not funny, and my so-so Chinese (I studied it from Years 1 -6, and forgot a lot of them =( )could only get me so far. =P
And believe it or not, this is my first time wearing winter clothes, albeit only 3 layers (underwear, clothes and winter jacket plus scarf). Cool! =D
There you have it, a first-person account on his trip to exotic Taiwan (even though it was only a 4 day pilgrimage). I hope you enjoyed reading it!
P.S. After that, we went to Singapore for a few more days. There is nothing much to describe as my trip was filled with shopping, shopping and more shopping. For books, of course! English books! I freaked out when I saw a section dedicated to Chinese books, I quickly retraced my steps back to Literature/Fiction section. I have experienced enough Chinese for now. =P