Taipei City is a huge metropolitan of more than 2.6 million people. There always seems to be hustle and bustle. And heat. On the weekends, many city dwellers like to go a little outside of town to get away from it all, cool off from the ocean breeze, eat some snacks, and play a few games. Recently I had a chance to visit Danshui, where the Tamsui River meets the Pacific Ocean. It was a perfect respite from constantly being in the city center.
The mountains were beautiful!
Is this not the tallest ice cream you’ve ever seen?!
There were even a few temples there
My time was ending in Japan. I had spent almost 2 full weeks in Tokyo, and experienced so many new things. And I had just a few more things to see and experience before I left…
I took a few last field trips with my students. We went to Tokyo Tower, a tv tower that looks just like an orange Eiffel Tower. It is painted orange as an air safety regulation. The observation deck we went to is about 500 feet up, and we got a nice view of the city. Tokyo Tower is Tokyo’s major landmark and is used to set the scene in movies and tv shows. And apparently Godzilla has destroyed it a time or two. That Godzilla is elusive. I didn’t see him even once while in Tokyo!
We also go to go to the Asakusa area of Tokyo, which has a really famous temple called the Senso-ji Temple. The main gate to the temple is known for the HUGE lantern hanging there, which is a popular photo-op. I couldn’t even get a picture that didn’t have 20 or 30 people in it. After going through the gate, but before getting to the actual temple, there is a huge shopping street! This is where I bought a few souvenirs and also my sesame ice cream. The most interesting thing about the temple itself was the incense area. People would get as close as they could and waft the smoke onto them so they could receive purification.
I had an excellent time in Japan. I got to see a lot of exciting sights, meet a ton of great people, have some new teaching experiences, and learn about Japan and its culture. It has definitely peaked my interest to learn more about the country’s history, its people, its music, and so many other things about Japan. I hope I have the chance to go back and spend time in some other cities as well. 2 weeks is too short of a time to spend in a new-to-you country! But, knowing that I still had South Korea on my itinerary made me somewhat eager to leave. Also, the 12 hour work days, the high humidity, and those eerie crows that seemed to follow me around the city pushed me out the door as well. Well, Sayonara Japan. Thanks for having me, and I hope to see you again soon!
Today I met with my small classes, and we had our field trip to two different places. First, we went to the Imperial Palace. To get there, we took the subway to the main Tokyo station. It has really beautiful architecture and has some signs around it explaining the history of it. One sign was talking about how the station was 100 years old but had to be restored after a fire. I went on to read aloud to my students that the fire had been caused by a bomb that America had dropped on it. Ohhhh…….That was actually a really awkward moment. I mean, I know I had nothing to do with it, and I know that they weren’t alive when it happened, but it is strange to have lingering. I never really thought about that aspect before coming to Japan. Our countries have done some terrible things to each other in the past. However, I think while the older generation may hang on to some past afflictions like that, we, in the younger generation, don’t.
As we continued walking to the palace, I asked my students the name of the emperor. In Japan, the emperor has no real power and is more of a figure-head. The prime minister is the one that makes all the political decisions for the country, like in England I guess. Well, when I asked the name of the emperor, they all looked at each other with confusion. “We just call him emperor. We don’t know his name.” I couldn’t believe it! “You don’t know the name of the emperor of Japan?” I asked amazed. Well, the question was answered quickly with a little help from an iphone- Akihito. After doing a little reasearch myself, I discovered that the emperor is never referred to by name; he is only referred to as “His Imperial Majesty the Emperor” or Tennō Heika. So, I guess they had a good reason for not knowing!
The imperial palace is mostly just old castle walls and gardens. You can’t actually go into the “palace”, and we never saw the actual building in which the emperor lives. Lame! I did see my first bonsai trees though. They were the pine trees surrounding the moat. I was told by my students that doing bonsai trees is an old person hobby. Haha.
On my way back to my hotel, I stopped by a shrine that I have passed by everyday and have been curious about. The fox shrine. There were 100’s of fox statues at this shrine. Foxes are important in the Shinto religion in Japan. Inari, the protector of the rice harvest, is guarded by foxes. Foxes, or kitsune, are thought to have supernatural powers, such as being able to morph into a human and also hearing and seeing all human secrets. It was definitely different than any shrine I have ever been to, and I have been to 100’s of them!
Travel writing attempt number 2….this time in Cambodia! Enjoy!
I learned a great lesson while in Cambodia-you just never know when your eyebrows need a good blessing or two.
Danny and I arrived in Phonm Phen, Cambodia and decided we wanted to roam around and explore the city. We stumbled on this place that looked like a temple, so we started wandering around. We saw some statues and some small buildings, but we didn’t really know what anything was.
Then we noticed an ancient gentleman who looked like he was guarding a door. We thought that he might be able to tell us a thing or two, but, as it turns out, this guy didn’t speak a lick of English. He motioned us through the door into a shadowy room with an altar at the front decorated with flowers, tiny bowls of liquid, incense, and other small relics. He told us in Khmer to sit down (I think?) as he gestured towards the floor and took a seat beside us on the stone ground. He began sweeping his arms in front of the altar in apparent attempt to make his explanation of this room understandable as he babbled away in a language that was completely incomprehensible to both me and Danny. We just nodded and giggled under our breath.
The next thing we know, our guy turns into a priest! He picks up some incense sticks and dips them in the water and starts muttering some incantations. Danny and I look at each other in confusion. The man starts tapping the incense on our hands and then directs us to touch our hands to our foreheads. We do as we’re told. He begins muttering again, “dadadadadadadada eyebrow dadadadadadadada”. Really? Did he just say eyebrow? The one word I can catch out of all of that is eyebrow? He runs his finger across his eyebrow. Yep. That’s what he said. “Dadaddada eyebrow dadadadada” he chants again. He slaps our hands with the sticks yet again then nudges us to touch the water to our eyebrows. Are eyebrows sacred and revered in Cambodia and someone forgot to tell me? Is this the Eyebrow Temple, and we didn’t see the sign on the way in? I decide that my eyebrows must be being blessed by Buddha at this very moment!
Soon, the ceremony ends as our makeshift blesser stands up and we leave the dark room and go back out into the sunshine with confused looks on our faces. Am I supposed to pay this guy? Leave him a tip? I walk away with no idea of what just happened, but I leave with my eyebrows feeling especially lush and gorgeous.