Noilly Prattle: February 2019

Monday, February 4, 2019

the Sacred and the Profane

     The Chuan Du Spring Resort in Beitou Hot Spring in Taiwan doesn't look like much from the outside. But every room is equipped with a stone hot spring bath. The hotel is a bit dated but convenient to the Metro—a two- or three-minute walk—which is very good for getting around Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. The flight is about two and a half hours from Okayama Airport in Japan.

       This is our second getaway to Taiwan from the chilly January winter in Japan. The weather was a balmy 20 C. when we arrived at the Chuan Du the evening of the January 7, 2019 at around 8pm. It was rather late so we just had a bite at the Burger King next door to the hotel and soaked and relaxed in the hot tub.

       We hopped on the Metro to go into Taipei to pick up some tickets for the high-speed train to Tainan City next week and do some sightseeing and lunch in Taipei. The LongShan 龙山 [Dragon Mountain] Temple is one of the oldest temples in Taiwan. Built in the 18th Century it is also one of the largest ones. Unfortunately, urban development has surrounded the temple and spoiled the view from outside. But what you can see of it is spectacular. It has one of the most ornate roofs I have seen thus far in “China”.
front main gate of LongShan Temple in Taipei City
       (I don't want to get too political but I should mention that the Taiwanese do not consider themselves a part of Mainland China. This has to do with their history of the Civil War between Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Tse Tung in the 1940s after Japan was defeated and driven out of China and Taiwan. The Mainland Government, however, considers Taiwan a part of China. As a result, of course, this causes political tension in the region.)


midrange detail of the fantastically
carved roof ornamentation
dragons, dragons everywhere
       So, back to the LongShan Temple. The details in the carvings (lots of dragons as the name implies) can't be described in words. It must be seen to be appreciated in full although photos can give you a good idea. Inside, the temple precinct is very spacious and it was crowded with people, even on a week day. Unlike austere churches the temple is a lively and upbeat place. Worshipers burn incense sticks and bow and make wishes for good luck and prosperity. There is no atonement for “sins” here, just hopefulness for a better life in this world. People also bring gifts and offerings to the temple—beautiful flowers abound as well as more humble gifts [the Taiwanese equivalent of a bag of Doritos isn't out of place]. We saw a young couple offering a large freshly picked (or bought) white radish. We committed a faux pas by sitting on a stone railing (apparently it's disrespectful) and an angry guard came and shooed us away from the railing. Embarrassing!

roof ornamentation is especially effective
against the open sky
this is where I got shooed
and embarrassed

inside the temple precinct
after the shooing

gifts and offerings from worshipers 

young couple offering a "daikon" a large white radish


       From the LongShan we walked a couple of kilometers to a shopping district where we had lunch at what has to be the most unusual restaurant in the history of eating out. I had read about it some time back on the web and there was a full page ad for it in the aircraft travel magazine. The name of the restaurant is the Modern Toilet and its theme is scatological [toilet] humor. I had the Vomit Spaghetti and Turd ice cream. One sits on toilet seats and the food is served in various toilet themed plates and cups, etc. A.'s sweet and sour fish came in a toilet bowl shaped dish. It's all great fun and the food is neither “crappy” nor the service “shitty” as a sign says—quite tasty in fact.

turd ice cream

Vomit Spaghetti

Sweet and Sour Fish
"I wondered what that smell was."

the band played The Diarrhea Blues and the toilets flushed on . . . .