Saturday, March 7, 2009

Day 7 - Tainan City - march 7th 2009

Today i spent the day in Tainan city.  It is the most ancient city in Taiwan and was the capitol for many years.  These ancient cities tend to have ALOT of temples.  Our first stop was at a confuscious temple.  Confuscious means it is related to or dedicated to education.  So there was also a school on the grounds that was the first school in Taiwan.  So at the temple and around the temple there are various gates/arches to walk thru that are supposed to mean good luck or they hold ceremonies around them.  For example there is a teaches gate.  so one time per year teachers come here and walk thru the gate.  IT is considered good luck and is very symbolic. Also at the confuscious temple, people pray to the gods or worship  for educational wishes.  So students would come and worship to do better in school...etc   

The temples are typically elaborately decorated with lots of hand painted very detailed woodwork.  You can always tell a temple because the roof line always looks like the one above.  So they have this intricate design with dragons or other symbols. 
Outside of the temple was a prayer wall where you could pray to the gods for something you wanted. So i wrote down a prayer and placed it on the you cant find it!  There also seems to
 be a stamp with a symbol representing that temple or building, so the red marks on the yellow paper are the stamps..

After visiting the temple our next stop was to find lunch.  We were headed to the most famous noodle place in Taiwan.  This place has been around since the early 1900's.
This was my lunch...I am not exactly sure what is in it, but i do know there were super thin rice noodles which i love....this tasted very good.
I think there was some pork also....i cant really compare but it was definatly better than most. dishes i have had and it didnt have the typical taste that i find in so much food here.  Ill talk
 more about the taste of food later....

This next image is of the man that makes the bowl of noodles and stuff.  He hand pulls the
 noodles and throws em in boiling water, then adds a little this and a little that...and BAM you have a great little bowl of noodles...highly recommeded!  Allthe dishes in front of him are the ingredients he adds. Align Left

 I dont think you can see it, but directly in front of him is a bowl of hot stuff with a massive piece of sledge on the top...or course it comes to mind? what is this sludge?  well it is 20 + years of residue from whatever is being cooked in that dish..i think its pork.  Yeah so 20 years ???? i inquired.  The answer i got was that as all great foods in asia, the flavor is in the residue so the longer you can keep it, the better your flavors become.  For example, sometimes for deep fried foods they dont change the grease often, because it contains the flavor....I would consider that the flavor that i find in alot of foods here, that i do not like....its almost impossible to avoid.To be clear these noodles as shown above, did not have that taste, despite the sludge on the cooking dish.  I find myself not being surprised by these kinds of things anymore.  I am always ready to hear it and am usually hungry enough to try it.  I trust my taste buds and instincts to tell me not to eat it.  I run into something daily that i get the warning not to eat and dont eat it. I have been able to tune this instinct during my many trips here to asia. 
Our next stop was to some type of market/temple and war museum.  They all happen to be with in the same block.  This is typical.  So almost all over the place, including outside temples you will find street vendors.  On every street just about everywhere, you will also find these
 street vendors.  Sometimes they are not clean and its obvious.
other times like the image to the right, they are clean and you can just tell it will be ok to eat.  you might not like the taste, but it wont make you sick....
so in this image they are making something like an onion pancake. dough, onions and deep frying it.  90% of food here is deep fried.  They say americans eat bad, but in
 comparison, in my opinion, the food here has SO SO SO much more grease.  everything is deep fried and if it is not, then it is cooked in a pan with many tablespoons of oil. even fresh vegetables.  
the onion pancake was good, reminded me of an onion flavored dough boy....Thats IT!  most of the food here is like we would see at a fair or carnival...all these little vendors cooking whatever.

Here is another street vendor....He is selling these "sea shells".  Despite my absolute disbelief that people bought these and air them, i did see people eating them.  
They would take the shell and suck our the inside...DISGUSTING!  i did not try them nor was able to watch for too long....

Right beside the shell street vendor, was my favorite street vendor!  "Ah yes Dragon Beard Sugar". a sweet delicious treat.  So basically they take sugar that i think has been mixed with butter and allowed to harden back up into a yellowish harder blob.  They take a handful of the blob and start to stretch it with their hands(wearing gloves! yes!).  they make it into a snake (like play dough) and then keep stretching it while dipping it into flour.  so it makes this super
 thin (like angel hair spaghetti, even thinner),
 strands of sugar, butter and flour.....after they
 stretch it enough for all of it to be in little strands they cut it into small sections and stuff it with sesame or peanut powder and make it into a little ball.  Sounds a little strange, but it is great!!!!
In the image you can see she has pulled the dragon beard candy and is filling it with peanut powder before rolling it up and placing it in the little white container.

So i liked this so much when i tried it, i bought one when we were leaving to take back to the hotel in Taichung and enjoy during my week.  Unfortunately, after i returned to Taichung and when i attempted to open it and have a taste, the candies had gotten too hot and melted back into a single blob, so no more angel hair sugar.  I was a little disappointed.  Hopefully i find it again before i leave. 

Another stop was outside of the temple/war museum/street vendors....This is a photo of a burial ground.  This is only 1 type of burial ground that is here.  
As you can see in the picture there are tombs as far as the eye can see.  some are smaller which contain urns.  others are larger because they
 contain caskets.  it seems very surreal. almost creepy.  What is odd is that they are absolutely packed in like sardines.  There is only maybe 6 inches to a foot in only a few areas of space.  They are literally side by side and in all directions.  It looks as though there is no organization and very unlike the typical rows that you would see in a grave yard in the states.
This type of burial ground is typically that of the rich here in Taiwan, simply because this type of  tomb costs so much.

The other type of burial ground here consists of a building with small little sections and doors where an urn is stored.  they have rows and rows with many floors.  this is the less expensive type of burial.

Burials, honoring the dead, temples and worship are all a very common practice in the religion here.  For example on the 1st and 15th of every month, everyone worships the land god.  They sacrifice fruits and vegetables, burn incense and worship.  There are temples in every area and town.  So the people of that area will visit the land temple every 1st and 15th, sacrifice fruit and other foods....they will also burn paper money, it is fake money but it is symbolic.  The burning happens near the streets.  So if it is the 1st or 15th, you will see people doing this all over the keep in mind it is the 1st and 15th according to the lunar it is close to the same dates in our calendar but not quite the same days.  Sometimes the dates fall on the same days, but not always.

This last image is of me at the war museum.  Standing on the balcony with the temple in the background.

As you can see it was a busy long day!

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