tidbits from taipei 九

Posted: February 27, 2015 in tidbits from taipei

Well, thank goodness for holiday weekends. This one is giving me time to finish up this post, which was begun several days ago. Tomorrow is the 2/28 holiday, so we’re given today off as well, and since Chinese New Year was late this year the government vacation days just ended this past Monday. Woot for three day workweeks!

As I locked my apartment this morning, I realized I’d forgotten to flip the chunlian I had hanging on my door. It was a simple one, a decorative red and gold paper diamond into which was cut a single Chinese character, “chun” (meaning spring). I’d plastered it up there a few weeks prior, upside down per tradition, and now I was six days late turning it around. Chunlian can be either single characters of luck and fortune or poetic couplets on longer strips of paper with themes of springtime and renewal. Those with auspicious meanings are generally hung upside down because the Chinese word 倒 (dào, upside down) sounds like 到 (dào, arrive). Turning the chunlian right side up in the New Year symbolizes the arrival of fortune and spring. In my defense, I’d just come home from four days biking the day before and welcoming spring wasn’t really on my mind so much as collapsing with my pillow, but I definitely flipped that character right side up before I left my house again.

painting calligraphy to create a chunlian at the new year's market.

painting calligraphy to create a chunlian at the new year’s market.

various chunlian on a wall in my neighborhood.

various chunlian on a wall in my neighborhood. black or gold painted on red paper is standard.

I find people back home don’t really grasp the magnitude and importance of Chinese New Year, both in public and private life. Many Westerners think CNY, like January 1st, is a single day of revelry. Most definitely not. The traditions and celebrations extend even past the weeklong government holiday, during which many businesses, shops, and restaurants close, and people travel about the country to visit family and friends. Each day of the Lunar New Year has a purpose that should be fulfilled, up until the fifteenth day when the holiday culminates with the Lantern Festival.

There are also dos and don’ts depending on how auspicious the given zodiac year is. I was born in the dragon year, and I remember how stoked locals were while celebrating back in 2012. Many people planned to marry, have a baby, buy a house or whatnot because of the fortune associated with the dragon. This is the year of the Goat (or Sheep or Ram, should you prefer), and it’s not regarded quite so highly among those who would stake their fortune on a zodiac animal. The confusion among English speakers over what to call this zodiac year was quite amusing, because there’s really no such worry among Chinese speakers over which animal should come out ahead. In Chinese, sheep is 绵羊 (miányáng), goat is 山羊 (shānyáng), and ram is 公羊(gōng yáng). And the animal for the New Year? Just 羊. Locals see no reason to distinguish between them, and so I see sheep and goat and ram decorations around the city.

weiya.

weiya.

The few days before Spring Festival were busy ones, what with finishing up pre-holiday work and getting my CNY spirit on. We had our company 尾牙 (wěi yá), or year-end banquet. As per tradition, there was a lot of food, drink, weird performances and boring speeches. Thank goodness my boss is so laid back – he laughed the following Monday when he told us we’d managed to sneak out during the company president’s speech. Whoops. I also went to the 年貨大街 (niánhuò dàjiē, new year’s market) twice with some friends, both to do some holiday shopping and to revel in the festive atmosphere there. This is where people go to buy all their new year essentials: snacks, red envelopes, chunlian, lucky candy, gifts, and more. I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a friend, eating dinner with his family and driving around to look at fireworks, and then hopped a train south on New Year’s Day to begin a four day cycling trip. More to come on that:)

New Year's decorations.

New Year’s decorations.

an old vendor hawks some kind of nut.

an old vendor hawks some kind of nut.

one of my favorite shots ever. decorations at nianhuo dajie.

one of my favorite shots ever. decorations at nianhuo dajie.

grandpas buy some snacks.

grandpas buy some snacks.

lucky candy!

lucky candy is always bountiful at this market.

and we had a four hour train ride coming up, so...

and we had a four hour train ride coming up, so…

a girl stirs 珍珠 (zhēnzhū), the pearls or tapioca balls that are often added to teas by popular demand.

a girl stirs 珍珠 (zhēnzhū), the pearls or tapioca balls that are often added to teas by popular demand.

a lot of people ate squid on a stick, it seems.

a lot of people ate squid on a stick, it seems.

just a couple of friendly bros.

just a couple of friendly bros.

nuts for sale.

nuts for sale.

decorations and lucky candy.

decorations and lucky candy.

overhead market decorations.

overhead market decorations.

年糕 (niángāo), or rice cake, is traditionally eaten at New Year's.

年糕 (niángāo), or rice cake, is traditionally eaten at New Year’s.

New Year's market.

New Year’s market.

Anyway, the sixth day is back to work for most people, and today was my first day teaching after a week of public holiday. It was good to get back to it and see my little hooligans again, though the mountains of work after a week off and now facing a new semester were less welcome. While driving to work I had to dodge firecrackers sparking along the street as businesses reopened after a six-day break during the new year holiday. When stores and restaurants open for the first time in the new year, it’s important to do away with any lurking ghosts, evil spirits, bad mojo or what have you, so they light firecrackers to scare them off and offer plenty of incense and gifts to ensure the gods’ benevolence.

Work continues to keep me plenty busy. My schedule’s changed a bit this semester, and I now have two kindergarten classes – my favorite 6-year olds in the morning, and a brand new class of youngsters in the afternoon. I also teach upper level English several nights a week. I’m still volunteering at the orphanage, too. I wish I could share some pictures of the kids – we have 8 infants now – but it would be a bit dangerous, I think. One of the little babies, about five months, has the longest black hair that sticks straight up in a natural mohawk. It looks awesome and hilarious at the same time. I’m also keeping on studying Mandarin – though I have no time to enroll in classes, I forge ahead in my reading, writing, and grammar texts; bother my local friends; and meet for language exchange every week. And, of course, I get plenty of speaking practice on a daily basis.

And the most exciting news of recent weeks – I’m going back to Beijing! A whole week in May to revisit my old home, see friends and favorite places. My biking buddy is going with me, and we’ll take our bikes with as luggage. We’ve just booked tickets on a great deal, but now comes the sticky bit – VISAS. I’ve never had to apply for a visa to China before, as my company applied for the working visa on which I entered the country, which was then converted to Z residency status. I was never one of the horde of expats running over the border for a visa renewal every couple months, a good thing indeed, though it means I gained precious little experience dealing with China immigration. And now, living in Taipei means the situation is much more complicated than it would be were I living in the states because Taiwan, of course, has no Chinese embassy. So where, you ask, am I supposed to procure this visa? Well, looks like a trip to Hong Kong is in the cards – guess I’ll turn into one of those border-crossing expat types after all, albeit as a third-country applicant. There’s a rush service that gets the deed done in a day, and I have zero qualms about chilling in Kowloon for a weekend. So I’ve booked a flight for late April, called up a friend to come over the border form Shenzhen for a meet up, and have started to contact China friends to let them know I’m coming. Preparation and prayers, people.

here's another lantern pictures, because I fell in love with this display:)

here’s another lantern pictures, because I fell in love with this display:)

It’s one of my favorite times of year – Chinese New Year! We’re approaching midnight here, having finished a huge meal just come in from a ride about Taipei to see some fireworks. I’m now fending off more food, while waiting for the fireworks to increase in number and noise. Not much longer until the Year of the Goat or Sheep or Ram… or whatever.

So Happy New Year to all you guys in Taiwan and across and around the world.

just back from a ride about Taipei to see some fireworks. now fending off more food while waiting for midnight.

just back from a ride about Taipei to see some fireworks.

gorgeous lanterns strung for New Year's.

gorgeous lanterns strung for New Year’s.

dang, I love this country

Posted: February 14, 2015 in life in taiwan

Shoot, has it already been a full month since I’ve returned from America? Rest assured, I’m still alive, though you wouldn’t know it if you’d been depending on blog updates. Oops. As today also marks a milestone of sorts, I thought I’d try to get back in the habit of regular posts and picture updates.

It’s been four years to the day since I moved abroad.

Four years. Is that crazy, incredible, strange, amazing, or what? I mean, four years ago I boarded a flight to Beijing expecting to return to the states after a year. I never expected to fall in love with Asia. I never expected to spend two and a half years in the Chinese capital before moving across the strait to Taiwan.

In honor of the 18 months I’ve now spent in Taipei, here are 18 things I love about this wonderful country.

1. The people. Taiwanese are hands down some of the friendliest and most generous people I’ve met in my life. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been touched by the kindness and hospitality of both friends and complete strangers who are willing to give me directions, recommend a dish, chat me up in Chinese, explain Taiwanese cultures and tradition, and just generally help me through life in a foreign country. I feel completely at home in Taiwan because of the earnest and kind people I run across every day.

2. City life. Taiwanese cities are generally bustling and have that perfect level of on-your-toes chaos. My city, Taipei, is a colorful blend of modernity and tradition, with Western comforts balancing out the lure of the East. Temples and lively food markets stand side-by-side with shopping malls and business districts, and a modern, forward-thinking people somehow hold onto traditional customs and beliefs. I’ve not been bored once over the past year and a half in Taipei because there’s always someone or something to see or do.

my city for the time being.

my city for the time being.

3. My neighborhood. Sure, Taipei is a modern world capital, but it’s got its rough and tumble side too, and my neighborhood in Sanchong District wonderfully represents what I like to think of as uniquely Taiwanese grit. Betelnut in abundance, five people on a scooter, weekly temple parades, gangsters, tiny shops where bargaining is accepted and expected, gambling dens. Sanchong ain’t called the ghetto of Taipei for nothing, and I love the frontier spirit I encounter every day when I walk out my door.

4. National parks and city parks. Taiwan makes excellent use of its natural beauty, and it’s easy to leave the urban hustle and bustle behind for a day biking in one of Taipei’s parks or riverside trails, or a hiking or riding trip into the surrounding mountains. And since Taiwan is a small island, venturing farther afoot to another city or scenic area for a weekend away is no big deal. I really enjoy getting outside to more rural and natural areas, and Taiwan’s small cities and villages are gold for adventurers bent on uncovering Taiwan’s rich cultural heritage and natural wonders.

5. North Coast. Taiwan is an island nation, and a small one, so I’m always within striking distance of the coast. I’ve biked the coast of Taiwan from Taipei down the east coast and all the way around the southern tip up to Kaohsiung, visiting various beaches along the way – all gorgeous. My favorite bit, though, remains the stretch of North Coast between Danshui and Fulong. I love going up for a ride, and I can see either sunrise or sunset depending on where I choose to ride. I’ll never tire of that coastline.

sometimes if I can't sleep I go up riding along the north coast. can't miss a beautiful sunrise:)

sometimes if I can’t sleep I go up riding along the north coast. can’t miss a beautiful sunrise:)

6. Temples. Temples everywhere. Taiwan is crammed with Buddhist and Taoist temples, and many that combine the two religions with other indigenous beliefs. There are the famed tourist temples, of course, and then smaller neighborhood temples, as well as tiny family altars and shrines. I can’t go two blocks without seeing a temple tucked away down an alley, and I love it. Temples in Taiwan are hives of activity, with people coming to baibai and offer gifts, and the surrounding air is heavy with fragrant incense. I can sit in a temple for hours and just watch the goings-on.

7. Miaohui. God parades come tearing through my ‘hood once a week on average. They’re loud, smoky, crowded and snarl up traffic – and I love them. The temples send out processions to celebrate gods’ birthdays, for pilgrimages to other temples, and to bless the homes and businesses around the neighborhood. The god parades include sedan chairs and trucks to transport the holy statuary, temple dancers, bands, fireworks, dragon and lion dances, and rituals that somehow manage to terrify and excite me.

temple dancer in my 'hood. can never get enough of these spectacles.

temple dancer in my ‘hood. can never get enough of these spectacles.

8. Ghost Month. Taiwan has a whole month dedicated to spirits on the prowl, and special care is taken of deceased ancestors and to placate any spare ghosts that may come around. The sidewalks become obstacle courses of burnt offerings, tables are laid out covered with food and gifts, the temples are way more crowded than usual, and my entire neighborhood smells like incense 24/7. There are more temple parades and ritual than normal, so… a lot. I love this time of year; it’s really easy to see traditional religion being peacefully blended with everyday life.

9. Cultural festivals and holidays. Days off are great, and they become even greater when filled with parades, costumes, traditional food, fireworks, and incredible rituals. Seems like there’s always something going on in Taiwan, from Chinese New Year to Lantern Festival to Tomb Sweeping Day to Dragon Boat Festival to Matzu’s Festival to Hungry Ghosts to Mid-Autumn Festival to National Day, and they’re all filled with entertainment and fun. I love seeing the fireworks during New Year and I plan to race dragon boats again this year. At some point I will make it down to the Beehive Festival to don a helmet and get bombed with fireworks. Let’s face it, Taiwan is a good time year-round.

10. My scooter. Apart from being one helluva good time, Suzi transports me back and forth to work and volunteering and church and friend meetings and jaunts out to the mountains and coast. Having my own wheels lets me explore areas not directly adjacent to MRT stations or major bus routes. I’ve come to know Taipei streets and places ridiculously well, to the point where I know five ways to get to a place, and I can credit that to zipping all over on my sweet ride.

I mean, look at this baby.

I mean, look at this baby.

11. Public transportation. Though I rarely use it, I truly love it. Asian MRT systems are clean, speedy and well-appointed in general, and Taipei’s is no exception. It’s expanded a good bit over the past year and a half and can take me within striking distance of anywhere in the city. Taipei also has an excellent bus system that’s pretty easy to figure out. Going farther afield in Taiwan, I have the option of normal TRA trains, the high-speed rail, or any number of long distance buses. It an easy country to get around quickly and comfortably.

12. 7-11. Where you can pay your bills, order a coffee from the cafe, buy concert tickets, do your banking, use the ATM, print photos and documents, purchase lottery tickets, ship packages and have packages delivered, buy booze, pay your traffic tickets, do some drugstore/junkstore-type shopping, and have a five-course meal. Did I mention this is all 24/7? Sevens (along with Family Marts and Hi-Lifes) are located at least three to a block. Score another for convenience.

13. Markets. Nightmarkets, whether large open-air bazaars out in a field or city blocks crammed with vendors, bustle with vendors and locals seeking dinner, and offer some of the best food and entertainment in Taiwan. Wet markets, where I buy my produce and odd sundries by haggling and fighting (I still haven’t worked up the courage to buy from my local butcher, though). Electronic markets stuffed with reasonably priced anything-with-a-cord. The jade and flower markets. I could go on.

14. The food. This could and should be a list all its own. Mango shaved ice alone justifies Taiwan’s standing as foodie heaven. Even I, who hate seafood and pig feet and innards and probably about half of what makes up the Taiwanese diet, am amazed by the many delicious meals at my disposal. Dumplings and wontons and buns, danbing, douhua, all kinds of noodles, Taiwanese biandang, hot soy milk with youtiao, douhua with my choice of toppings, luwei from street carts, nights out at re chao – hey, I even like stinky tofu. (ps – I realize you guys have no clue what I’m talking about now, so I promise a food post in the near future:)

the best danbing I've ever eaten.

the best danbing I’ve ever eaten.

15. Fresh fruit. Mangoes. Pomelos. Starfruit. Watermelon. Passionfruit. Buddha’s head. Coconutes. Persimmons. Dragonfruit. Chinese pears. Lychees. Pomegranates. Wax apples. Longans. Strawberries. Jujubes. Guavas. Tangerines. Papayas. Of course, we also have your standard apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, etc. Heck, you can even have durian if you really want it. The only fruits I’ve found difficult to find are fresh berries, aside from blueberries, but no matter since Costco stocks a bag of frozen raspberries, blackberries and blueberries! Taiwan is a fruit-lovers paradise.

couldn't wait to get home and eat this sucker.

couldn’t wait to get home and eat this sucker.

16. Freedom. Maybe I feel this one more, after those year in China, but I love Taiwan’s freedom of speech, press, expression, etc. People here actually speak their minds and challenge the status quo, rather than cluelessly believing what a government tells them. I witnessed the Taiwanese zeal for democracy firsthand during the student protests last year, and I’ve had many talks with my Taiwanese friends about their opinions on local and international politics. I also have been so blessed to worship freely in this country, and have found one of the greatest groups of like-minded friends of which I’ve ever been a part.

17. Affordability. Taiwan’s cost of living is a huge plus, both literally and figuratively. I’m paid a good salary with attendant raises and bonuses, and taxed 5%, most of which I get back in my yearly return. The cost of living is minimal to my pay grade; I’ve chosen to rent in a cheaper, more traditional area, food is cheap if I eat locally, and since I drive rather than use MRT I don’t spend much on transportation. I’m sure being a tightwad doesn’t hurt when I’m trying to take care of expenses, save, and travel. For paying into Taiwan’s tax system, I get access to the nation’s universal health care system, one of the best in the world.

18. My job. Sure, the hours are long and the extra work is killer, but that’s the life of a teacher, I take it. And when the tradeoff is seeing my little munchkins run up to me every day with smiles and “I love yous,” and watching them learn and grow, it all seems much easier. Thanks to my kiddos, I love almost every minute I’m in the classroom, and thanks to my coworkers, the time spent working outside of class is pretty good, too.

in which Caspar and Lucien visit the fire station.

in which Caspar and Lucien visit the fire station.

There are a million other things to enjoy about this country, but suffice it to say I’ve fallen in love with the lifestyle and culture.

gods, gangsters, and gunpowder

Posted: December 17, 2014 in life in taiwan

 

The biggest and best miaohui (god parade, as I like to call it) came roaring through my neighborhood a couple weeks ago. This one was a little different in that it lasted all. the. livelong. day. I accidentally drove through it on my way to church Sunday morning, and when I came back in the late afternoon the gods and ghosts and dancers and dragons were still circling the streets. Their last lap was some sort of grand finale involving lion and dragon dances, temple rituals, and a procession of the gods. Oh, and fireworks. So many fireworks.

dragon dancing in the morning.

dragon dancing in the morning.

I had a great vantage point. since I drove right through the procession and then stopped on its edge to watch for a while.

I had a great vantage point. since I drove right through the procession and then stopped on its edge to watch for a while.

yeah, I was late for church.

yeah, I was late for church.

temple tapestry.

temple tapestry.

...

drum corps.

drum corps – could you imagine banging away like this for hours on end?

lion dancers.

lion dancers.

...

...

I have no idea.

I have no idea.

yet another dragon dance team.

yet another dragon dance team.

arriving back later that afternoon, I saw my street looked like a warzone.

arriving back later that afternoon, I saw my street looked like a warzone.

a truck with poles was driving around, and dancers were up there doing their thing.

a truck with poles was driving around, and dancers were up there doing their thing.

I loved watching them jump around the flip through the air - on a moving vehicle.

I loved watching them jump around the flip through the air – on a moving vehicle.

of course, the gods made an appearance. as they walk, they swing their arms back and forth... don't get too close!

of course, the gods made an appearance. as they walk, they swing their arms back and forth… don’t get too close!

temple dancers.

temple dancers.

painted face.

painted face.

fireworks up and down my street.

fireworks up and down my street.

the road is strewn with garlands of firecrackers, and once their lit, a wave of fire breaks down the street. following closely behind come temple workers dancing a god in a sedan through the carnage.

the road is strewn with garlands of firecrackers, and once their lit, a wave of fire breaks down the street. following closely behind come temple workers dancing a god in a sedan through the carnage.

best way to watch a parade in Taiwan? just pull up on your wheels, and drive away when it's finished.

best way to watch a parade in Taiwan? just pull up on your wheels, and drive away when it’s finished.

pretty decent fireworks show.

pretty decent fireworks show.

love it!

love it!

what’s that smell?

Posted: December 16, 2014 in life in taiwan

“You know I’m always right about food,” said my Taiwanese friend as I sat next to him on the street outside a hole-in-the-wall shop down some Taipei alley. I was busy trying not to gag on the pungent smell filling the air around us, while steeling my stomach for what I was about to put in it and my mind for the reckoning to come. I nodded and granted that such was true, but I was sure this time around would have a completely different outcome, and I hoped it wouldn’t involve me throwing up on the side of the road.

After all, we were about to eat one of Taiwan’s most revolting dishes, 臭豆腐, literally translated as stinky tofu. I really like tofu, but not when it’s been left to ferment in brine for who knows how long before being fried. The ayi set a plate of exactly that on the table in front of us, Akai shoved a pair of chopsticks into my hand, and I ate my words along with my first-ever bite of stinky tofu. The squares of tofu were fried to a golden crispiness and quartered to reveal a soft and spongy inside that absorbed the vendor’s sauce. It was paired with sour pickled cabbage and spicy chili sauce, and there was almost no smell at all. The stuff was shockingly delicious.

My pengyou was smug. I heard, “I told you so,” at least ten times as I chased the cubes of tofu and cabbage around the plate with my chopsticks. Indeed he had. He’d also taken me to a place from his childhood that was tame in smell and taste compared to others I’ve passed, and I was grateful that I wasn’t eating at an establishment with a more overpowering atmosphere.

fried stinky tofu with pickled cabbage and chili sauce.

fried stinky tofu with pickled cabbage and chili sauce.

...

the guy who badgered me for months on end about trying stinky tofu. good call, dude.

Probably the first time I met Akai he asked whether I’d tried stinky tofu… uh yeah, that’d be a no. I first encountered stinky tofu in China where, upon smelling it, I took off in the opposite direction and didn’t slow down until I was safely out of range of the putrid smell. A friend explained to me that what I’d caught wind of was not, in fact, a decaying corpse, but an apparent delicacy made from fermented bean curd. I could never get past walking down a street and running into a wall of smell that practically incarnates rotting garbage, body odor and dirty socks. I didn’t even consider trying stinky tofu all the years I spent in China.

As it happens, stinky tofu is extremely common and quite popular in Taiwan, and vendors sell it everywhere and anywhere. They have a fermentation brine that’s plainly been around since the beginning of time, and they drop squares of tofu into the mixture for anywhere from several hours to a couple weeks. Once sufficiently aged, the tofu is plunked into the vendor’s wok and almost immediately a pungent stench pervades a twenty block radius. Stinky tofu devotees swarm around the crispy golden goodness and everyone else runs like hell.

There are different fermenting recipes in Taiwan, but they’re all variations on a theme: yields terrible-smelling tofu. The way I’ve most often seen it is the way I ended up eating it: fried, with cabbage and sauce. My friends assured me that it smells like hell but tastes like heaven, and I have to say I didn’t notice much of a stink when the ayi brought our plate to the table. Apparently that’s because the strongest smells come out while cooking, though I’m inclined to believe I was so saturated in the odor that I couldn’t tell any difference by the time I was ready to taste the tofu.

My experience with stinky tofu was going to be one of those ‘I ate it just so I could say I have’ things, but I really enjoyed it, and I’ll definitely eat it again.

Grading homework takes hours out of every week, but the painful tedium is shaken by hilarity now and again. Here are some of the gems my students have churned out.

however you want to live your life, kid.

however you wanna live your life, kid.

didn't actually know Sherlock had one of those.

didn’t actually know Sherlock had one of those.

yo-ting's contributed multiple entries, but this had got to be my all-time favorite.

yo-ting’s contributed multiple entries, but this had got to be my all-time favorite.

that time my five-year old kindy kid, jojo, made my day.

that time my five-year old kindy kid, jojo, made my day.

the what now?

the what now?

I'm glad for this child, really.

I’m glad for this child, really.

you sure about that?

you sure about that?

alex was way too confident about this oral test.

alex was way too confident about this oral test.

uh...

uh…

lots of sinners in my classes, apparently.

lots of sinners in my classes, apparently.

I mean, I guess some servants are tools...

I mean, I guess some servants act like tools…

another yo-ting masterpiece.

another yo-ting masterpiece.

trying to make me grade lightly?

trying to make me grade lightly?

technically correct.

technically correct.

it's the little things.

it’s the little things.

and the brilliant things.

and the brilliant things.

and the melt-your-heart things.

and the melt-your-heart things.

spirited away in jiufen

Posted: December 14, 2014 in taiwan travel

Last week Becca and I took a jaunt out to Jiufen, a gorgeous little hillside town located on the northeast coast of Taiwan. It’s only about an hour by bus from Taipei, but we’d both never been, so when the skies dawned beautifully blue and sunny we jumped at the chance for a day trip.

beautiful evening skies over jiufen.

beautiful evening skies over jiufen.

Jiufen used to be an old mining town with only nine families living there, hence the name, 九 (jiu – nine) 份 (fen – measure word, part). It is built up on the side of a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and almost any spot in the town offers stunning views of the mountainside and the blue water. A decade or so ago, “downtown” Jiufen was used as the setting for the famed Japanese anime movie Spirited Away. I have to say, the place did remind me a lot of Japan – maybe that’s because of leftover influence from the Japanese occupation, or maybe it was the many Japanese tourists swarming the old streets. I swear I heard more Japanese than Mandarin.

Today, the town is a cluster of narrow old, winding streets filled with food stalls and trinket sellers and red lanterns and teahouses. The little alleys are generally packed with people trying to find the best local eats and teas, and it gets a bit much after an hour or so. Becca and I decided to hike a bit further up the hillside, following winding alleys in search of a  clearer, better view. We walked up through a more residential neighborhood, stumbling across temples and homes and graveyards. We decided to wait up there for a time, and while peering over the rooftops and temple dragons I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever experienced in Taiwan or anywhere else in the world. I could spend hours watching the sun rise and set, and this sunset lasted almost a full hour. The night lights of Jiufen are also pretty incredible, set as they are against the blackened mountain and ocean. Can’t wait to get back.

iconic jiufen staircase.

iconic jiufen staircase.

lovely views looking down.

lovely views looking down.

and looking up. this bit of the hillside is being used as a burial ground.

and looking up. this bit of the hillside is being used as a burial ground.

a temple in jiufen town. and yes, chilling just about anywhere on one's scooter with friends is a common and awesome pasttime.

a temple in jiufen town. and yes, chilling just about anywhere on one’s scooter with friends is a common and awesome pastime.

here you can see more how jiufen is a mountainside town.

here you can see more how jiufen is a mountainside town.

climbing higher to see farther.

climbing higher to see farther.

stunning views as the sun sets.

stunning views as the sun sets.

from yellow to orange to red to pink to purple...

from yellow to orange to red to pink to purple…

jiufen's most famed teahouse.

jiufen’s most famed teahouse.

roomie:)

roomie:)

this is the bit that screams japan.

this is the bit that screams japan.

and one of my favorite shots:)

and one of my favorite shots:)