Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Taiwan Day 4 - Dan Shui

I woke up at 6:30am on day 4, I guess that was somewhat of an improvement.  I got up and got ready for the day.  Today my grandma planned on taking me to Dan Shui (where she lives).  Dan Shui is NW of Taipei city where there's an inlet and port.
By the time I was dressed and talked with Luke, we were ready to leave.  Now, my grandma just celebrated her 90th birthday on Sunday, and I'm telling you, this woman can move!  We went down to the street and she starts hauling down the road.  Two blocks later she stops at the food stand where she got breakfast for Ron and I the previous day and told me to get my breakfast.  She must frequent this place a lot because the people there all knew her.  Anyway, I got all my food to go - more rice milk, potstickers and buns, and as soon as I paid for the food we were off again.  I didn't really know the streets at all so I just followed my grandma.  Then all of a sudden, while we were mid-way crossing a main street, we hopped on a bus!  Some bus stations are apparently in the middle of busy streets.  I was told that there is no eating or drinking allowed on the bus, but my grandma told me to eat my breakfast on the bus, but to do it neatly.  So, I complied.  Grandmas/elders are tops in this world, and if anyone gave me trouble, I knew they'd honor her wishes.  We took the bus to an MRT station next to the Tai Da Hospital where my grandma volunteers twice a week.  We then hopped on the MRT and headed to Dan Shui. 
Dan Shui is about a 40 min MRT ride.  When we first got there she said that I should really go take a look at the port.  Ron and Misty apparently never made it to the port because the old streets of Dan Shui was too much fun and they spent all their time there.  Anyway, so we went to the port and took in the sights.  It was a beautiful day.  We walked around a bit, but unfortunately nothing was really open at the time.  I learned that in Taiwan, everyone stays up really late - the night markets are open until 2am, and there's quite the night scene.  However, nothing is open in the mornings till about 12pm.  It's kind-of like Vegas. So, we headed into the old streets. 
The old streets of Dan Shui... AMAZING!  Its streets are line with street food and little eateries combined with the most fun/cheap little shops for tourists.  There were also little arcade places and kid games everywhere, even an aquarium!  I could have spent all day eating and shopping and eating some more at Dan Shui.  I can understand why Ron and Misty never made it to the port. 
So we browsed and I bought little things for the kids - fans, key chains, sky lanterns, etc.  Now, because my grandma is 90, she didn't quite have the stamina she use to have, and I felt bad shopping everywhere and browsing everywhere especially since she wasn't exactly interested.  So, I didn't exactly get to just eat and shop all day.  I couldn't exactly eat things that I wanted to either.  Because I was in Dan Shui, my grandma told me I had to have certain things - fish ball soup, other things similar to fish balls, etc., because it's one of the things that Dan Shui is famous for.  So I filled up on a lot of these things and couldn't eat some of the things I really wanted to.  However, I did get fresh squeezed sugar cane juice (one of my all-time favorites), and I helped my grandma eat her sweet potatoes that had carmelized sugar over it and some deep fried mushrooms covered in spices.  All very tasty.  There was so much more, but I was about to explode at that point in time, and I was gaining weight like crazy!  Next time!
We left the old streets around 3-ish because my grandma was just too tired.  We then went back to her place.  I have never been to this "house" of hers.  It's something that my dad bought a few years ago and he really wanted me to go see it.  I understood why when we got there.  So, most everyone in Taipei live in tall apartment buildings.  Gina and her husband are fairly wealthy (surgeon and lawyer) and they own like 4 floors on one side of the building on the top of her building.  My grandma lives in a place similar to Lincoln Square in Bellevue.  Her home was just like a hotel - NOT kidding. There's a restaurant down in the lobby, with reading rooms, exercise rooms, pool, spas, gardens, etc.  Her own home is a beautiful and posh 1 bedroom apartment.
We were there for a couple hours while she packed up more clothes for the next couple of days.  She decided at that point in time that I need to eat more food and gave me an orange, some other fruits that I don't even know the name in english, and told me to eat.  So, I complied. 
After she got everything together, we headed back to Taipei to my little aunt's house to pick up the rest of my luggage.  Originally my little aunt's was suppose to be my home base since she had a spare bed for me, etc., but since all the books we bought were at Gina's and her house was more conveniently located, we decided to switch my home base.  Once we got to my little aunt's, we visited a little bit more and they were going to take me to a buffet that night (next post, because yes, it really deserves its own posting). 
At my aunts I had the opportunity to have a nice little chat with my uncle.  All growing up, my uncle wasn't someone that I talked to.  He was a high ranking military man - never around much, and appeared quite stern.  He's now retired. I found that he is actually quite an entertaining man and a man full of wisdom.  He really wanted to pass on two advice to me.  He had already passed on some words of wisdom to Ron when he was there with his family, one of which was to spend more time with is family and children.  My uncle mentioned that when he was a young father, he was pretty much gone all the time, and now that he's old and retired, he can't exactly ask his girls (all in their 30's) to get back on a swing and let him push them. 
The words of wisdom he shared with me are these: 1) Don't think that being a mother is a waste of time or that I'm not living up to my potential, because one of the most important and honorable things to do in life is to be a mother and raise good children.  People, he is not LDS.  2) Find a hobby that you enjoy and become really good at it.  Having a hobby will #1 keep you busy and happy when you are old, #2 help you find a good group of friends that share the same interest.  At this point in time I told him that I had way too many hobbies that I enjoy and have no idea how to narrow it down.  However, he stressed that perfecting 1-2 hobbies is extremely important and that I should choose. 
I pondered his words that day and have continued to do so.  I am grateful that he shared his wisdom with me and grateful that I had that experience with him.  It made me love him so much more, and appreciate him so much more.  I never knew him growing up, and now, I really wish I could spend more time with him.
Port at Dan Shui

I thought this was cool.  It's a famous song about Dan Shui carved into marble.  It's about a homeless traveler who went from city to city and when he arrived in Dan Shui he knew he found his home.

I had totally forgotten about these trees until I saw these at the port.  This is like Taiwan's national tree.  It has these red root-like whiskers that hang/grow from the branches.  We use to call them the beards of the trees.  They are so fun and so beautiful.
A temple at Dan Shui old street.  It's the first Buddhist temple that I visited on this trip and it's not a large temple but it was still beautiful.

The ritual burning of "spirit money."  You take real money and buy "spirit money" and you burn it to send it to your ancestors.  Quite genius.  My uncle mentioned that one of the more lucrative businesses in Taiwan is religion.
Ok, so this was the entrance to the aquarium at Dan Shui.  I had to laugh and take a picture because I thought it was really funny that there was a shark on top of a random terra cotta soldier. 

This I thought was really neat!  It was a little stand that sold art work made from plastic straws.  I really liked it.  Not that I'm about to bust into plastic-straw art, but still, very fun. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you are blogging about your trip. It's been fun to read.