Taipei in 7 Days: Your Guide to Making the Most of Your Time + Culture Shock

So you only have seven days to take a vacation. While some people would tell you that you couldn't see much in seven days, and that you'd pretty much just be wasting your time and money, I say: "No problem"

You really can do a lot in seven days, but you can't do everything. So you are going to have to be realistic with your expectations. You're going to need to maximize your time. In short, you'll need a plan.


That's where this guide comes into play. Between these two covers(unless you're reading the ebook version!) you'll find a carefully thought out itinerary for your week long adventure in Taiwan. While each day will consist of its main destinations, dining and entertainment recommendations, I have also allowed you "free-time" to explore on your own(as well as some suggestions for how to spend that time), so I've really taken out a lot, if not all, of the guess work, whereas other travel guides tend to leave you feeling swamped down with there plethora of suggestions. Don't get me wrong, it's good to have options, but sometimes enough is enough!


I've also included some suggestions on how to save some of your hard earned cash, since I know many backpackers are on a budget. But if you do,have a little extra money to spend, there are some options for you too! These will be distinguished with the labels: "Cheapskate" and "Big Spender" respectively.


This guide is the product of my own experiences living in Taiwan, and what I have included in here are what I feel to be the best uses of your limited time. It is my hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and that you will have an amazing adventure here in Taiwan.


Now, let's get started!

Day 1

Okay, slow and steady is the name of the game today. After all, you've likely just flown in from the other side of the world, depending on where you're coming from, and you are probably feeling at least a little off due to jet lag. So we're going to take it easy. This day is going to be about recouping, and enjoying you're first exposure to a new culture and language.


And Taiwanese culture is very colorful and mysterious to us Westerners, no doubt about it. What, with the esoteric practices of Qigong and Gungfu(traditional Chinese martial arts), acupuncture and other forms of traditional medicine, the mix of modern structures and several-hundred year-old Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist temples strewn about through the streets, lavishly decorated and very foreign to us, the difference in culinary tastes, and just the way of life on the densely populated island; rest assured that it is all going to feel very novel at first(unless you choose to live there for five years like I did, then it's all going to feel pretty ordinary after a while!). Expect to feel excited, and most likely overwhelmed by all of the new sights and sounds. It's okay, it happens. It's called culture shock, and it hits everyone differently. While culture shock is definitely going to impact expats much more deeply than it will their vacationing counterparts, it's still something that you are going to want to be aware of, just so you will know what you're experiencing is a normal reaction to your new surroundings. In general, there will be a period of excitement or possibly euphoric elation as you experience new and novel situations. These initial "positive" symptoms of culture shock are often followed up by more " negative" symptoms. Below is a list of common "negative" symptoms of culture shock that you should watch out for.


Some symptoms of culture shock to be aware of are:

-Extreme homesickness- You may not experience this if you are merely visiting a country for a week, but if you choose to stay or an extended period, like I did, then you are going to feel this way sometimes, especially if you have family back home. I myself have experienced this to a degree.


-Feelings of helplessness/dependency- It is common for people to rely on a guide, or a native friend or significant other when they are in a foreign country. While this is natural, especially if your grasp of the local language is poor, though it can be crippling and severely limit what you are able yo do, and when you're able to do it. I for one, in my early days in Taiwan, was very dependent on my boss, and other co-workers, and later my girlfriend at the time (now wife), Ruby. There is nothing wrong with relying on others to a certain extent, but you need to be willing and able to learn to handle things on your own.


-Disorientation and isolation- You may feel out of place, you won't know your way around, and you most likely won't know anyone in your host country. And believe me, it can be a very daunting task making new friends in a foreign land, though it is easier for some than others. As such, you may feel like you're on your own. When I first arrived I. Taiwan, I was only really comfortable going to and from work, along with a handful of other places, and I spent most of my free time after work home alone, watching TV or reading. It didn't take me long to branch-out, but unfortunately, some people never get over this.


-Depression and sadness- You may feel depressed, or helpless. Like you have no control over what happens, which may lead you to question your choice of moving/traveling abroad. I felt a little bit like I didn't know what I'd gotten myself into for a while, but I got over it.

-Anger- Some people may be come angry, and hostile to others as a way of coping with the changes in their life. I never really experienced anger, though everyone will be frustrated from time-to-time.


-Sleep and eating disturbances (too little or too much)- If you weren't a night owl before, you may become one. If you've never been a binge eater, you may become one. Inversely, you may oversleep, and under eat. I was young, and had always been somewhat of a night owl, but due to my work schedule, my sleeping habits became much worse. This lasted for a few years. I also gained a lot of weight my first year in Taiwan, as I discovered tons of new foods and drinks that I loved. Some people I know list a lot of weight though, because they just couldn't acquire a taste for authentic Chinese food.


-Excessive critical reactions to host culture/stereotyping- Things like "they eat with sticks, they're animals" may be some criticisms that people express. Thus is extremely inappropriate, as you are a guest in their country, and as such, should be behaving with  respect and dignity. Remember, you may be their first impression of your own homeland. I am proud to say that I never experienced this symptom. In fact, I have grown to deeply live and respect Chinese people and their cultural traditions. This is the one thing that you MUST be open to if you are going to be spending time in a foreign country. So please, be a good representative of your country. First impressions are BIG.


These are just some of the ways symptoms of culture shock may manifest, and keep in mind that everyone is different. Some of the things I experienced might not bother you at all, but rest assured you will have your own struggles if you stay in a foreign land for long. So ease into the water, don't overload your system. What's the rush? You've got plenty of time!



Anyway, I've kind of run on a little longer than I intended to. In our next installment, we'll be covering your plan for your first day in Taiwan. So stay tuned!

8 things that I never saw until I went to Taiwan

Hey everyone! Today's post is short and sweet. I just wanted to share with you all some of the more unique and interesting things that I have seen durring my stay in Taiwan. Enjoy and share your experiences below!!!


1. People washing clothes in a stream











2. A person go into a trance as they were possessed by a god





















3. 3 people on the same scooter, or a woman with 3 dogs on a scooter(okay, so that's two things!)























4. Parks full of elderly people performing choreographed dancing to music, or subway terminals equally full of breakdancing youths.















5. Two cars trying to fit through the same alley(approximately 1 car width wide), but different directions, oh and a scooter or two as well.

















6. A cab driver hit a pedestrian and then blow her off when she complained(both my wife and I have been hit by cars too)









7. A whole roast pig(think Hawaiian style, minus the apple in the mouth)











8. This!



10 differences between Chinese and Western culture

Today I'm going to share with you several of the insights that I have had into the differences between Chinese and Western culture. These points are based on my own personal experience living in Taiwan and being married into a Taiwanese family. Enjoy and share your experiences below!


1. Children live with their parents for much longer…even after they're married!

2. Western people are more "in touch" with their feelings and talk about them, Chinese people keep them bottled up inside.

3. Food is eaten family style, with everyone sharing dishes.

4. Activities are often dictated by religious belief and the lunar calendar, such as, "when is a good time to open a business?"

5. Families will have an altar in their home for them to make offerings and pray at.

6. Grocery shopping is still commonly done in outdoor markets, with different people selling meat, vegetables, etc. if you want something, you often need to go to a store that sells that thing specifically(but not always).

7. People are warm with family and friends, but somewhat cold to strangers. People often bump into you In a crowd and move along like it never happened, and they don't hold the door for people.

8. Whereas people in America(especially women) want to have nice, tan skin, Chinese people would rather have pale, white skin.

9. Alcohol is sold 24 hours a day, and people can drink in public as much as they like as long as they behave themselves.

10. When someone gives you a red envelope at your wedding, you will count the money out and write it down(often in front of them!) so you know how thankful to be(someone will have this specific job delegated to them).


P.S. I wanted to remind you guys about the group Chinese webinars that I alluded to recently, stay tuned for a BIG update on this over the next week!

5 things you should expect from your language exchange partner

In a perfect world, you wouldn't have to waste time thinking about things like how your language exchange partner should behave, because they'd be perfect! If that's the case, then good or you! If, however, you're stuck down here on Earth like the rest of us, then pay attention. This article may save you some headaches, and heartbreaks, lol!

1. Patience

This is super important, because when you first begin speaking a new language, it's very difficult to make yourself coherent, and chances are you are going to have to repeat yourself A LOT in order to get your meaning through. Don't let this discourage you, is part of the learning process! If you have a language exchange partner that is immediately or reacting you, not trying to understand what you are trying to say, or sort of all, laughs at your attempts to peak their language(unless they explain a joke of some sort, maybe a lingual mishap on your part, I've had some!), then you should kick them to the curb, they aren't helping you learn!

2. Equality

This might seem like a no brainer, but make sure that the time spent speaking Chinese is equal to that spent on English. Don't be surprised if your LE partner tries to monopolize on the time, especially if their English is more advanced than your Chinese. It may not be intentional, they may not really know what to teach you if you just started learning and everything is new, but that's no excuse, your time is valuable too!

3. Reliability

Nobody likes arranging to meet with a friend, going out of your way to accommodate them by meeting in a place that's convenient for both of you, just to have them call and say they can't make it, or worse, just not show up! Everyone should have a chance to explain themselves, and life does happen. But if your LE partner makes a habit of it, then you need to let them know that it's not going to work. You need someone to actually show up in order I practice your Chinese with them!

4. Honesty

If you can't trust someone, then how are you going to trust them to teach you? Your LE partner should be a man/woman of his/her word. And so should you! If they say that they will do something(like meet you to practice) then they had better do it, though as I previously mentioned, life can get in the way. If you find them lying to you to protect themselves after ditching you, or constantly making excuses, or even cutting out after you just spent an hour on English, because something "came up", then you should find someone else to practice Chinese with!

5. Passion

Your LE partner should be just as passionate about learning English as you are about learning Chinese. They need to be committed to showing up, week after week, and talking with you until they're blue in the face. That's the only way either of you are really going to learn. If they don't really even like learning English, but just see it as a necessity for furthering their career(the two aren't mutually exclusive, by the way), then they won't keep up with it in the long run, and sooner or later you'll be stuck without a LE partner!

So how does your LE partner stack-up? Tell us in the comments below, let's get a discussion going!




Hitchhiking to Dog Temple


(Bark at the moon!)

I have had so many amazing experiences living and traveling in Taiwan, and I'd love to tell them all! So today I'm going to share a hitchhiking dā biàn chē 搭便車 experience I had in my early years here in Taiwan.

It was mid-October, 2009 and the weather in Keelung was cold and wet…it's always wet there though. The port town of Keelung jī lóng 基隆 in the North of the island has an infamous reputation for raining on people's parades(literally). It rains practically all 365 days of the year, and locals nick name it the "Rainy Port". The humidity there is ridiculous, and if you forget to turn on your dehumidifier, mildew will cover your walls in a heart beat(I myself had a horrible experience with this). Despite the weather, Keelung is a great place to get a feel for Taiwan. The local people are extremely friendly, and the beautiful coast and mountains surrounding the area are filled with beautiful locales waiting to be explored.
(Some pics of the beautiful harbor-town Keelung)
My Taiwanese fiancé Ruby and I had been dating for around a month, and we weren't going to let the weather win, so we decided to do what many Taiwanese locals love to do in the cold seasons and take a trip to the nearest hot-springs to soak. Hot-springs, or wēn quán 溫泉 as they are called in Chinese, are prized for their restorative properties, and they have been since the Japanese occupation of Taiwan and before. In fact, many of the islands' hot-springs are historically tied to the Japanese colonization of Taiwan.
The closest place to Keelung is Jinshan, a town that exists only around the hotspring industry. Jinshan jīn shān 金山 in Chinese means "gold mountain" and the amount of capital that the place generates with its hot-springs ensures that it is aptly named, though, unfortunately there is no mountain made of gold. Like many hot spring-towns in Taiwan, there are resorts of varying prices and quality lining the streets of Jin Shan.
Ready to pamper ourselves, Ruby and I got an early start. We headed downstairs and took a bus from my apartment complex to the train station.    There are buses to practically anywhere you could want to go (within reason, none to Kending, or Penghu, sorry!) around the train station. We stocked up on some snacks, ordered a couple of teas, then found a bus headed for the resort town. It's fairly easy to get there from Keelung by bus, though you lose a lot of time waiting, and the ride itself is probably going to be around half-an-hour or longer, so it's best to drive if that's an option.
(A few photos of the community I lived in at the time)
When we got there, it was a simple matter of checking in at the various hot-springs and asking around about the best prices in town, as some of the fancier places can be quite pricey. If you have the money, it's worth it for the experience, but we were on a budget so we went the cheap-route. After looking around we found a decent place for around 250NT for fifty minutes. That was incredibly cheap, and I doubt it's possible to find a deal like that now. Though it wasn't the most beautiful place in town, it worked for us!
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(Left: a picture of Jinshan. Just walk around until you find a place that suits your fancy. Right: a beautiful hot-spring resort in Jinshan…not where we went though!)
Quick Tip: For anyone planning to go to a hot-spring in Taiwan, remember to bring your own towel as you will have to buy one from the resort if you need one, and they generally overcharge much more than is reasonable. Also bring water or sports drinks, you'll need them!
Two things happen every time I visit a hot-spring. 1. I pay for around an hour of soaking time, but usually only use 20-30 minutes of that time. 2. I am completely dead-tired despite doing nothing but sit in water, and I usually sleep like a baby on the bus ride home. This time was no exception, but it took a considerable amount of effort to get there, so we decided to check out a famous temple in the area
The Eighteen Kings Temple shí bā wáng gōng 十八王公 is not far from Jinshan, so we decided to take a bus over and check it out. The temple is situated along the coast, and the waves can be big and scary on a windy day. The temple is famous due to the story of a fisherman and his dog. The fisherman drowned at sea, but his dog survived. Being the loyal animal it is, the dog jumped down into the grave the local people dug for the fisherman, not wanting to be separated from its master. Now people come there and make offerings to the dog and pray. It's a really cool place to visit, and just goes to show how awesome dogs are!
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(People come here from all over to pray and make offerings)
(The dog that made this place famous!)
After leaving the temple, we once again got on a bus and headed back to Keelung…only after a while we realized that I had left my camera and we got off and tried to walk back to get it. We were a long way off at this point, but no buses were coming, so we just started walking, and the creepiest ting happened. After a while we looked back and we noticed that as we walked under the street lamps they were turning off, one-by-one, but all of the ones ahead of us were still lit. It was super creepy, just like something out of a scary movie!
About half-way back to the temple we came across a middle aged man parked on the side of the road. He had been fishing and was putting his catch in his trunk. We asked him how much further up the road the temple was, and he told us it was still pretty far, and offered to drop us off there. We took him up on his offer and got in the car. While driving, I remember him constantly muttering to himself, and given the setting and the lights from before, it was quite a strange encounter.
He dropped us off at the temple and we asked around if anyone had found a camera..,but no one had. After taking one last look around we headed back to the bus stop to wait for the next bus back to Keelung. I  might have lost my camera, but I gained an interesting story to tell along the way. Too bad about all of the pictures I took though!
So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this story, and I'd love to hear you share your own interesting stories or experiences in the comments below. See you next time!


Chinese phrases of the day:

搭便車= hitch-hiking

基隆= Keelung

溫泉= hot-spring

金山= Jinshan

十八王公= The Eighteen Kings Temple




Wedding Crashers!


(Ruby and I preparing for the wedding…not ours, at least not yet!)

Not too long ago, Ruby and I were invited to her friend's wedding hūn lĭ 婚禮. This was the third wedding I'd been invited to since I've been in Taiwan, so I knew more or less what to expect. There are lots of interesting traditions that accompany wedding ceremonies in Taiwan, though in recent years do to Western influences, many of these have changed. For example, long ago, one of the things that was expected of the bride was for her to hand-sew her own wedding gown, wear a traditional head-dress fèng guàn 鳳冠. Nowadays people just don't do that, who has the time? But some traditional observances have survived.

For example, rather than giving presents to the bride and groom as we do in the west, friends and family give the couple red envelopes hóng bāo 紅包 when they sign in the guest book, and don't be offended or shocked when the family records how much you gave, it's part of the traditional culture so the bride and groom will know how to appropriately show their gratitude. Of course, close friends and family are expected to give more, and the minimum acceptable amount is typically 1200NT or about 36USD.


(This is a picture of one of the red envelopes you give/receive at a Chinese wedding. The picture was taken from here.)

Before we even get as far as the wedding, it is still commonly expected of the groom to ask the bride's family for permission to marry her, and often pay a dowry. The bride's parents use this money to buy furniture and other necessities for the newly-wed couple, so the dowry is mostly a symbol that the groom will be financially able to provide for their daughter.

Once the parents have agreed to the marriage, the family then consults the traditional lunar calendar to choose an auspicious date for the wedding. Then they have an engagement party , which is paid for by the bride's family, but when it comes time for the big day, the groom has to foot the whole bill! This is a little different from the way we do things back home!

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(A few shots of the venue, it was pretty darn fancy!)

At the wedding, which is usually held at a hotel or a restaurant rather than a church, there are lots of activities and games. One of the activities at this past wedding we attended was a guessing game. When we first entered we selected one of several colors of paper to write our name on then stuff them into their respective jar, and hopefully guess the bride's second gown color correctly(the bride typically changes twice during the ceremony). The bride and the groom pull out slips of paper and lucky winners get to go to the front of the banquet room and offer words of congratulations, pose for a picture and claim a prize! We didn't win, but I won't hold it against those who did.


(Ruby, at the entrance to the hotel. She makes those flowers look bad!)


(the table where we guessed the bride's dress color, and the guest book)

Another one of the activities was played later on. Everyone had a box of candy at their spot at their table, and those who had a sticker on the bottom we the lucky winners of a memorial pin of the couple's wedding…Ruby was a winner this time, and I'm still jealous! These are just a few examples, but there are tons of possible activities. There is also usually a slide-show showing the couple's story and their pictures over the years.


(Ruby's prize-winning bear)

If you have been to a lot of Western weddings, one thing you may notice missing is a wedding cake, but don't worry, you will have your choice of traditional dishes, and at the end of the ceremony the newlywed couple will present you with a box of gourmet cookies xĭ bĭng 囍餅! The character is made by joining two of the character  , which means happiness, which makes sense, because your wedding should be the happiest day of your life, right? It's not uncommon for newlywed couples to be given lots of gifts with on them, like napkins or coffee mugs for example.


(The happy newlywed couple)

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Taiwanese wedding, take it, it will be an interesting memory that you will cherish for the rest of your life.


(That was fun. Not long before It's our turn too!)


Chinese phrases of the day:

婚禮= wedding

鳳冠= a traditional wedding headdress

紅包=red envelope(s)


囍餅=the cookies that are given to friends and family of the bride at a wedding

囍=a combination of two of the character 喜, which means happiness (used for weddings)


The Man in the Moon, BBQ and a Typhoon!

I apologize for posting this so late, but the past few days have been somewhat of an adventure. Yesterday, my fiancé and I tagged along with a friend to volunteer at an animal shelter in sān zhī 三芝, near dàn shuĭ 淡水 in Taipei county(or xīn bĕi shì 新北市 if you prefer). Expect a detailed write-up on that tomorrow. The day before yesterday, however, was one of the major holidays in Taiwan, Moon Festival.

Moon Festival, or more accurately Mid-Autumn Festival Zhōng qiū jié 中秋節 in Mandarin, is an important national holiday that, much as Halloween or Thanksgiving, finds its roots in ancient harvest-time traditions. 中秋節 is celebrated during the full moon of the fifteenth day of the eight month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar nóng lì 農曆. As a harvest festival, there must be a food that is in abundance, and in Taiwan there is no lack of pomelos yòu zi 柚子 at this time, and chances are if you are in Taiwan during 中秋節, you will be given enough of these citrus fruits to feed a family, so eat up and enjoy!


(A pair of pomelos)


(We didn't have anyone do it this year, but one thing that kids often do is wear the cut-off pomelo skin as a hat! This picture is from a few years ago)

As with most traditional festivals, there are many interesting stories that accompany 中秋節, and the moon in general. For example, where Western people see a man in the moon, Taiwanese people see a rabbit!

As amusing as that is, there is a much cooler story associated with the moon. In the story of cháng é 嫦娥 and hòu yì 后羿, rather than the one sun we have, the sky was filled with ten suns! Don't forget your sunscreen! 后羿 was a renowned archer and shot down nine of the suns with his bow(beat that Robbin Hood!), and having seen this an immortal sent him an elixir of immortality(a fancy way to say "live-forever juice"). He chose not to drink it so that he could stay with his wife on Earth, but as the story unfolds 嫦娥 ends up drinking the elixir and flies into the sky to live on the moon. So 后羿 started to place the things she liked in their garden so she could see them and not feel lonely. His neighbors started doing it too, and that's how the Moon Festival began!

Every year during Moon Festival, Taiwanese families gather together and have a good old fashioned BBQ. We go to Keelung jī lóng 基隆 to return to my fiancé's great-grandmother's céng zŭ mŭ 曾祖母 home, where we meet every year. It is always nice to return to Keelung, as that was the first place I lived in Taiwan. It was a little bittersweet this time, however, as a recent heavy rain caused a building to collapse, and a near-catastrophic accident when a huge boulder fell out of the mountains and crashed into the street, nearly smashing a passing car. It really hit me close to home, as I used to live just a few minutes down the road from there, and Ruby still has a lot of relatives in the area. Luckily everyone was safe, but the families that lived in the collapsed building have lost their homes, and several businesses, including the local McDonalds have shut-down. But life goes on.

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(Ruby trying to calm the dogs down…they may look innocent, but they barked the whole train ride to Keelung!)

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(The patio in front of Ruby's great-grandmother's house is a great place to catch some fresh air…family gatherings are fun, but it's nice to take a breather for a minute and check your emails.)

With a typhoon forecast to arrive, we had expected our BBQ to be ruined, but we lucked out. The rain wasn't bad(rare for Keelung!) and it stopped by the time we started to barbecue and didn't return until we were on our way back to Taoyuan County. We spent the afternoon chatting, watching TV, playing cards and eating moon-cakes yuè bing 月餅 and other snacks. Then in the evening we had our BBQ!

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(月餅 were created in the moon's image by a general during the Tang Dynasty so that his soldiers would be able to carry them easily, and because they could last for a longer time. Now we eat them as a delicious snack, but they were originally created as military rations! Above are a few pictures of the ones we had this year. The first one has an egg-yolk and red bean paste filling, and the other has a green bean paste filling.)


(Did I mention that I really like moon-cakes? And apparently my dog does too!)

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(First, we have to get the coals nice and hot. Using a paper plate it a nice way…)


(But this hair-dryer works faster!)

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(Now let's get cooking!)

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(L: Ruby with her family, grilling the night away R: The best thing about being on grill-duty is you get easy access to all the food!)

中秋節 is one of my favorite traditional festivals, it's a great time to relax, forget your worries and enjoy good food and good company. Thank for reading and Happy Moon Festival!


Chinese phrases of the day:

中秋節= Moon Festival/Mid-Autumn Festival

農曆= traditional Chinese lunar calendar

柚子= pomelo(s)

月餅= moon-cake(s)

This Little Piggy Went to Market


(Recently I saw a procession of decorated, God pig trucks drive by. Too bad I was on a bus at the time so I couldn't take better pictures)

Okay, so yesterday I wrote about the pet industry in Taiwan and how much people care for their animals. I want you to keep that in mind while you read today's article.

The God Pig Festival is a cultural tradition that's roots stem from Hakka origins.  A "God pig" called a shén zhū 神豬 in Mandarin, is a pig that has been raised to be a sacrificial offering. In the past the pigs were slaughtered in public and the meat was used to 拜拜, and then later shared with friends and family. The pigs are shaved but for a thin strip of fur, much like a mohawk, that runs the length of their back.

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(My new hair style. My fiance shaved it for me!)

After they are slaughtered, their skin is cut opened and stretched out to make them look larger and rounder and a pineapple is put in their mouth. The reason for this is that it is thought to bring wealth, as the word "pineapple", fèng lí 鳳梨 which is pronounced o'ng lai in Taiwanese sounds similar to wàng lái 旺來 "bring  wealth and prosperity". The character wàng 旺 means prosperous and many stores will have a sticker with this word written on it placed somewhere in them.


(look at the pineapple stuffed in his mouth…that's right, a pineapple, not an apple)

But nowadays this practice is seen to be cruel to animals, the days of public-pork executions are over.


(The picture says it all…)

神豬 are force-fed to the point where they cannot stand, much less walk on their own feet. Families compete against each other in a contest with the goal of raising the fattest pig. It is not uncommon for a 神豬 to weigh over 1000 kg! And the title-holder (or former title-holder, seeing as he's no longer among us) weighed in at a grand total of 1054 kg! That's a big pig!


(a contest where only the fattest prevail)

There has been a lot of controversy about the inhumane treatment of the 神豬, but it is an old religious tradition that is important to the Kè jiā rén 客家人, Hakka people. I am an animal lover, but I also respect other cultures and their practices, so I will stay neutral on the subject. The point of this article is to let you hear about a unique cultural practice that you might not have heard of otherwise.


Chinese phrases of the day:

shén zhū 神豬= God pig (sacrificial offering)

fèng lí 鳳梨= pineapple

wàng lái 旺來= bring  wealth and prosperity

Kè jiā rén 客家人= Hakka people


The second two images of the God pigs were found at and the picture of Porky Pig was taken from

拜拜! Zhen Qing Temple

Today I went with my fiance's family to a temple in Bali on guī mă shān 龜馬山(Turtle-Horse Mountain) called zhēn qìng gōng 真慶宮. My fiancé's brother will be joining the military for his obligatory  year at the end of the month, so the family went to the temple to bài bài 拜拜, or pray. It is not uncommon for people to go to temples seeking guidance or to ask for help with their business or to look after their wellbeing.Taiwan is a peaceful country, and generally serving in the military is not very dangerous, but with political tension between Taiwan and the mainland being what it is, you never know what could happen, so we asked for her brother's year in the service to pass safely.

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(Outside the temple from the bottom of the mountain, and up close and personal views)

This temple has been in construction for a long time, and besides the giant plot of land it is on, many Taiwanese families have donated millions of dollars in local currency to see it completed. It is also the largest temple in Taiwan to the God xuán tiān shàng dì 玄天上帝.


(The money for each of these pillars was donated by devout families…they weren't cheap either!)

The first thing we did upon arriving was to place incense sticks into the three giant incense holders. There are three at this particular temple. At each incense holder, we say a silent prayer, bow three times and place the incense stick with the others already burning to ashes. This is called shāo xiāng 燒香, burn incense, in Mandarin Chinese.
When you enter the shén diàn 神殿, the innermost portion of the temple, it is customary to use a branch with leaves to sprinkle blessed water on your head and two shoulders to keep you safe and protect you from bad spirits. The reason you put water on these three points, is because in Chinese Taoism/Buddhism these three points are believed to hold fires on them that protect you from evil.
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(Me cleansing myself to enter the inner temple)
In the inner sanctum of the temple, which is decorated heavily in gold ornamentation (gold is a lucky color in Chinese culture) lies a large table in front of giant statues depicting various Gods. here you can donate money and take a píng ān fú 平安符, an amulet, for luck and protection. The 平安符 are separated by color and animal of the 12 year cycle. I was born in the year of the rat.
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(We all got a new 平安符. Take a closer look at mine.)
After taking an amulet, you can make wishes or ask questions to the Gods with the jiăo bēi筊杯. Kneel on the knee-rest, hold the two wooden halves together in your hands, tell the Gods your name and address (so they can find you) and make your request. Then bow three times and throw the two halves to the ground. If the two pieces are showing opposite sides, then the answer is yes, if they are the same, it is no, so ask again!
Before going, we revisited one of the incense pots and "super-charged" our 平安符. It is customary to hold your amulet and circle it clock-wise three times over the incense smoke, and then to cup your hands and place the smoke over your head (again, because of the protective fires).
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(Bathing my 平安符 in the incense smoke, and a little on myself for good measure)             
I love the feeling inside temples here in Taiwan. The smell of the incense and being surrounded by the beautiful carvings and architecture fill me with a sense of peace and contentment. I can't wait to see what this place looks like when it's finished!
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(Some cool carvings from the temple walls, and an image of what the temple will eventually look like when it is finished)
How To Get There:
The temple is located near Dansui in Bali. If you don't have a car, the best way to get there would be by bus or taxi. You can take the MRT to Luzhou station on the orange line and then either find a taxi to take you there or you could take bus number 928. Here is the address in Chinese, so you can just show a cab driver, as well as the contact information. The temple is open from 6am-9pm.
Address: 新北市八里區中華路二段165巷33號

Phone: 02 2610 4373


Chinese phrases of the day:

拜拜= pray

燒香= burn incense

神殿= the inner sanctum of a temple

平安符= a safety talisman

筊杯(pronounced ba-bwei in Taiwanese, and this is how it is usually called in Taiwan)= a pair of crescent shaped wooden tools, rounded on one side and flat on the other which are used for divination



How To Use Chopsticks

One of the many interesting cultural aspects of dining in Taiwan, or many other Asian countries for that matter, is that people use chopsticks to eat. Everyone has seen chopsticks and knows what they are, but not everyone can use them. I remember many years ago when I first saw chopsticks(years before even moving to Taiwan) my initial thought was "How the heck do I eat with these!" So today, I will show you in 5 easy steps.

Step 1: Pick up a pair of chopsticks. In Mandarin, chopsticks are called kuàizi(筷子).


Step 2: Place the end of one of the chopsticks on the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger, and support the other end with your pinky and ring finger. While you are eating, this chopstick will not be moving.

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Step 3: Now take the other chopstick and grip it with your thumb on one side and your pointer and middle finger on the other. This is the chopstick you will be actively controlling to eat with.

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Step 4: Now that you know how to hold them, it's time to make those chopsticks work for you! It's very simple and you should get the hang of it pretty quickly. Keep the first chopstick stable resting against your pinky and ring finger and across the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger, and use the other chopstick to pick up food by moving your middle and index finger. Think of it as a tiny lever and fulcrum.

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(The way I usually eat with chopsticks is to hold the two sticks parallel to each other)

Step 5: Now that you've got it down, all you need to do is keep practicing. Now go eat some Chinese food. Forks are forbidden!


(Another way to use chopsticks, and the one favored by my fiance, is to hold them with the sticks crossing. The grip and controlling chopstick are the same, you are just picking up the food in a different way. Think scissors.)


Chinese phrases of the day:

kuàizi(筷子)= chopsticks