The second half of day one encompassed so much. From Chiang Kai-shek we checked out Longshan Temple.
Hamish had missed seeing a temple on his first trip to Taiwan, and I am addicted to exploring temples and shrines when traveling. I shall expand that to say, I enjoy seeing where the people worship, it typically tends to be the most lavish buildings with the most sordid history, not to mention the pinnacle of that countries architectural styling. Keep this in mind, see that mosque, shrine or cathedral; you won’t be disappointed.
The temple was built in Qianlong 5th year in Qing Dynasty. Due to natural disaster and damages caused by men, the temple was restored several times. The doors, beams, and poles are beautifully decorated. There are a pair of bronze dragon poles in the front hall, four pairs of dragon poles in the middle hall. The sculptures are delicate. There are also exquisite wood sculptures. Among them, the well and Budda setting in the main hall are highly appreciated.
Stepping into the place, I felt that I was undeniably in Asia and that is not a feeling I commonly feel in Japan. Even outside of the temple the street is so stereotypically and cinematically Asian. One thing that was fun about the temple is that people were there in droves buying food products to offer to Buddha and the other divine spirits. They would buy the food from the monks, place it on the offering tables and when the tables became full, the monks would take some stuff from the table and move it to be sold all over again. I don’t want to compare a temple to a business but if it was one, they are cleaning up. They literally sell the exact same product countless times in a day. However, I could see how that would feel like a secondary concern, the atmosphere was intoxicating. The air was so strong with incense and heat if heat had a smell.
After the Longshan temple we went on the hunt for food, which was much harder than you would expect. But along the way we ran into a massage place. All of the masseurs were blind, and we sat down for a little relaxation. My massage therapist spoke some English and attempted to keep a conversation going throughout the whole massage. This was made infinitely harder by the fact that I was gritting my teeth through the entire experience as he dug his thumbs and elbows so deep into my muscles that I was sure I would bruise. This was relaxing in the same way an overdone chemical peel is comfortable. With all that being said, when I stood up my muscles were like jelly, but in a good way. All the weight and tension had been worked out. Though it felt more like it had been beat out of me. From there we passed a shoe store. Earlier in that day I had been remarking on how cute the women’s shoes were. Well I stopped and bought my first pair of shoes there. This is the thing that ruined everything else for me.
I bought a pair of shoes for Taiwan Dollar 190. That is roughly USD$6.50. Now the quality leaves a bit to be desired, but that is a steal. From that point, everything I ate, every admission price was judged based on how many shoes I could buy for that price. For instance, when dinner rolled around, I am sitting there thinking that I could buy three pairs of shoes for the price of these soup dumplings.
That only limited me so much, what can I say, I just have a spending problem. After shoe shopping and dinner we made our way around the night market in Ximen. Night markets are something that you really shouldn’t miss in Taipei. The sun goes down, the weather barely cools off and people show out for good deals and better food. The Ximen night market is not huge compared to other markets, but was a great warm up, and more importantly, it was close to the hotel, and at 11:30, all I wanted to do was crash.
Yet, crash we did not. Our weary bodies were made less weary by the neck, arm and back massage we had gotten earlier. So we decided to chase that high all the way to another massage shop. This time we went in for a foot and leg massage. I now had a woman massaging me, I thought for sure this would be a great thing, surely her hands wouldn’t be as strong. It turns out that she administered her own type of torture. Her little fingers were smaller, like tiny daggers digging into my calves. She raked her fingers down my legs and I realized that it was possible for someone to scratch you using only the pads of their fingers. Then she asked me to turn around and started to punish my back. I was all relaxed from the earlier massage, but that didn’t mean that my muscles and skin weren’t super sensitive. So when she started digging in, my face fixed into a pained grimace, and when she caught sight of my expression she looked honestly bewildered like she didn’t realize that carving into someones muscles could be uncomfortable.
I walked away feeling like I was floating on light clouds, trying to put the pain of the massage out of my mind and just enjoy the aftermath. And finally, after all of this, after the airplanes, sightseeing, two massages, and two ice creams for each of us in one day, we finally made it to bed.