Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gold, Jifun, Lanterns (program's first day out of Taipei)

Our first day outside of NTU! Packing 2 weeks worth of stuff in only 2 backpacks was a real challenge. Both backpacks were stuffed to the brim, and zipping them up was a hassle. But eventually it all fit, and I was ready for the bus the next morning.

The first stop on our trip was at the Gold Ecological Park, which was an area that was famous for all of the mining practices back in the day. It kind of reminded me of the gold mining touristy parks in California, but there was none of the ‘old west’ vibe. We took a walk through the old mining tunnel, and had to first wear these funny looking blue paper hats, which eventually made sense: lining for the helmets. But the tunnel was short, but the temperature was so cool, it was a nice break from the heat. The panning for gold was a little kid-ish, but we got to take home a small souvenir, of gold sand, which is always a plus!

It was getting closer to lunch time so we jumped back onto the bus and drove a little ways up higher in the mountains to a famous village named Jiufen. This place is known for all of the food stalls and long steep staircases that have shops still going up on either side. The roads go up and down and up and down, also being very narrow, made walking through this market very unique (and tiresome).  I tried so many different types of food here! One of my favorite was this crepe that had ice-cream (again) with fresh peanut shavings (you could see the huge block of peanut brittle on the tables where they shaved it!) finally with some herbs inside the wrap. Also we hunted down the oldest and most famous restaurant in Jiufen, which served this cup with different taro balls over shaved ice. Delicious! Our eating area had a 180 degree view of the mountain side and valley, which was enjoyed as we quickly ate this refreshing dish. I absolutely loved the different stalls here! My favorite was this calligraphy brush one! Me and Jessica wanted desperately a brush and ink/paper to bring back (ever since our first calligraphy class this past week!). So the lady was so helpful pointing out which brush was good quality and such. We both picked the same one, and what was even cooler was that the lady wrote our Chinese names on the side! Can't wait to show everyone back home! I think this was my favorite purchase of the whole trip, so unique and resembles a lot of my experiences here. In addition, she put in recyclable paper that you can use water on the brush instead of ink, and it turns your stokes dark blue (and eventually evaporates so you can use the paper over and over again!). I loved this!! I thought it was appropriate to have the recyclable paper because of our environmental sci background :) hehe! Our group ended our time in Jiufen by going to a traditional tea house! I've never been in one before, and I haven't seen one in the States, so I was pumped. We all sat around a circle table and our waitress brought out two different types of teas and performed specific steps to create the tea. So unique and special!

At the end of the day, as dusk was approaching, our bus pulled at the base of a hill, which led to our home for the night. Lugging all our luggage to the top was, again, a good workout! Haha. But at the top was a wooden open area hostel! I’ve never been in a hostel before, and it was so unique! At the first floor, there were many tables (where we have dinner/breakfast) and then you head up the stairs to a “living room.” You place your shoes in this room before heading to a banister which wrapped around the walls, which lead to various rooms. It was cool to look down onto the main entrance. Many of the girls (including me) got to stay in a large Japanese influenced room, equipped with the sliding doors, wooden floor, and white beds that were placed on the ground. Dinner was served, and then free time in Shifen! Shifen is a town that was known to have started the floating lanterns, and sure enough when pulling up to the hostel, we saw a couple of these big lanterns floating up in the sky. So of course I wanted to try it!!! It was on my bucket list to do this, and it so happened to be right outside of where we were staying! So four of us shared one lantern, so each of us got to decorate a side; calligraphy brushes and ink were provided. The thing is to write your wish and then send the lantern up into the air. I wrote “to see the world…” on one of the sides, and later on Kylee added to it and wrote some adjectives of what we would like to see the world one day... So it then read like this: "to see the world... united, safe, sustainable..." I loved our collaboration on this, it made it even more memorable.

that's one big block of gold!

getting ready to pan for some gold sand!

into the mining tunnel...
cultural street of Jiufen

calligraphy brush shop
Taro Balls on top of shaved ice! YUMMY!
at the tea house!
the girls room!

the perfect shot to finish the night!

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