Life is good and livin’ is easy when the weekend begins on a Thursday!

I have to say Taiwan is so incredibly different from living in the US, sometimes I wonder why anyone would want to stay here. But then, life can be so easily refreshing, the scents can be so familiar, and the people can be so nice that it can seem like the only place to be! What would I be doing if I were home right now? What kind of difference would I be making?? Yeah, some days, many days, I’m simply making myself a better resource but it is certainly more than I would be doing at home!

So what happened on Thursday? I joined some new friends I met on a blog and was able to do some wonderful traveling! We drove to a village in Kaoihsoing county where Sandy and Michael used to live and work. I was able to see stuff I would not see on my own and get an understanding on things that I would not have had if I were with someone with a more limited grasp of English (because I have a limited grasp of Chinese as well!). I learned about how religious traditions unfold and combine here, how and where Chinese and Hakka people settled here in the south and other regional history.

Our travel from Pingtung County to Kaoihsoung County was marked by our journey over what was once the longest single suspension bridge in the world.

As we crossed the bridge, we saw a buddist seminary with a 90 ft. Buddha. Meinong is in the heartland of Hakka culture. Hakka people emigrated from China to various countries in Asia hundreds of years ago. They maintain their own language and culture here in Taiwan. Meinong is home to more PhDs than anywhere in the world! Meinong is also where handcrafted bamboo umbrellas are made.

We first stopped at a Hakka village which is really a sales area for many traditional items. Old fashioned toys were set about and the young children there on a school trip seemed to have a lot of good old fashioned fun!

We visited a three tiered shrine. The first area of worship was created in the taoist tradition and was complete with moonstones, spirit money, and candles for the sky god in a darkened worship area.

We even saw a young couple burning spirit money so that they could buy someone into a lesser area of suffering in the afterlife. Next, was an area that reflected confuciounism and the third area was a buddhist temple. Although it was closed, it is a temple where many buddhist monks travel for important religious debates. We had a delicious lunch at a artsy restaurant where many cooks in training in Kaoihsoung come to practice their skills. Dinner was at a Hakka restaurant where we had Hakka pound soup. A bowl is brought to the table with this stuff in it that resembles bird food. I can’t remember what all it was other than red beans, sesame seeds and green tea. The items are finely ground (or pounded!) with a mortar and pestle and hot water is eventually added to make a soup that has gotten many a family through what is considered a cold winter. I enjoyed the soup, finding it tasty, filling and probably quite nutritious!

We saw beautiful natural scenes, important historic sites, talked with locals and really enjoyed each others company. One of the neatest, and o so simple things we did was to stop in a field of cosmos and take photos. In order to get more tourist dollars, the city decided to have the farmers plant fields of flower for fallow. They make beautiful scenery for photos and have generated millions of dollars in revenue!