Archive for the 'Jin Shan' Category

15
Apr
07

On the Gold Mountain (Jin Shan)

This morning around 9:30 AM, my cousin called me with his slightly low gravelled cigarette voice, waking me (partially) from a slumber that started around 6:30 AM (insomnia and procrastination are a bad combination). We chatted and agreed to meet this afternoon to go on a little road trip to Jin Shan so we could eat good duck.

I tumbled back into sleep and woke with a vague dreamlike sense that I was meeting my cousin today, half-wondering if our conversation was a dream. My cell phone told me that he had indeed called, though.

He’s a lovely guy who reminds me of my father with a certain impulsive enthusiastic charm. His wife drove through the mountain tunnels and along the coast past Keelung. It was beautiful to get out of Taipei for a bit, the sky was blue and the ocean was too– with its shifting light and fishing boats with strings of lights as big as my head dangling between the masts– glass globes instead of paper ones, swinging gently on the waves.

We went into what was like a traditional market with obasans offering us tastes of their wares– dried olives and plums, medicinal teas, etc. (Had some ginger tea that was so spicy my ears got hot.)

In front– dried mango slices, the rest are preserved olives.

We went to the stand with the famous delicious duck. There was a basin filled with duck heads as a woman chopped their bodies into chunks with precise clean abandon. People were milling about, hands filled with plates of noodles, duck meat, duck intestines with vegetables, fried eel, etc. The food was prepared in the courtyard of a shrine. We walked further down the street to a room filled with round tables which we shared with some other Taipei ren and stuffed ourselves silly. It was fantastic. There are probably at least four or five rooms of tables for the same duck outfit along the street there, next to shops selling fruit, ice cream, touristy pin-wheels, and wooden slippers.

I had passion fruit (bai shiang gwo), dried longan, and pineapple ice cream, which was the traditional Taiwanese sort of ice cream– the light kind that isn’t exactly creamy as ice cream, but slightly more like sorbet, but not as icy.

We walked through the park and passed the wen chuan bath houses, which varied from traditional to more contemporary.

The door to a more traditional bath house.

My cousin told me that they’re supposed to be special because the water from the hot springs is supposed to be scentless, as opposed to the slight sulfur scent there usually is. Many people in the town go routinely to the bath house for their baths, a more efficient use of water perhaps.

There are lots of old sorts of houses there with grasses growing in the tile roofs, flowers fountaining off of the balconies. The tiny houses on the top are actually graves that all sit on the mountain looking over the valley with good feng-shui (or really fong shwei as I would pronounce it– wind water) for the ancestors to look down with their blessings.

My cousins are such lovely mellow people to wander around with– they’re very laid-back and always encouraging me to take as much time as I need to shoot this or peer at that. My cousin was asking me about the usage of English idioms throughout our trip, sprinkling them liberally through our conversation, which I couldn’t help finding amusing.

We stopped by the temple of Matzu (the goddess of the sea that safely guided the first Taiwanese immigrants from Mainland China across the Taiwan Strait), and my cousin reassured me that if I asked the goddess’s permission, I could take her photograph.

A side door into the temple.

The main entrance.

The bodyguard or helper of Matzu on top of this pagoda is far-seeing to find those who need Matzu’s help, and therefore has intermittently glowing red eyes. The pagoda on the other side has the helper who can hear those who need assistance from very far away.

Apparently this wall was sponsored by a clock manufacturer.

Guarding the gate.

The incense urn. I think the sticks in the red canisters flanking the urn will tell your fortune.

Matzu. Apparently there are a lot of Matzus from different temples in different places that are currently visiting, so they’re all Matzu.

These are candles burned in thanks for wishes granted, or to request help.

We picked up a few things and popped into an antique shop, where we saw these natural little spheres that glow green in the dark, brush holders with inlaid painted bone covers, a Ming Dynasty brush with sort of cloisonné decoration, golden and white crystals (the golden makes you rich, the white makes you healthy apparently), old coins (silver bars, silver coins the diameter of my thumb bearing dragons and horses, and those with the funny shape of what look like hats to me), and rocks known as “chicken blood” which were smoothly pale with red pools through them engraved with characters.

With full bellies we headed down the mountain back to the harbor, where we walked through an empty dark parking lot of “Ocean World” to stand on the bluff and listen to the lick of the waves, smell the salt air, and watch the fishermen with their glowing bait floating on the water, the light houses flashing red and green, and the far off lights of fishing boats white on the dark horizon.

We wandered about on the edge of the closed park where you can walk along the beach and marvel at the rock formations, and one in particular that looks like Nefertiti. It was dark as it can only be dark outside of cities, where there is no orange echo that follows the night everywhere.

So, we didn’t see the beach, but we stumbled into the dark market hall where there was only one shop open with its lights on. The lady was sifting her hands through the pile of reddened spicy dried squid in a red basin on the floor, and encouraged us to try whatever we liked.

The wasabi dried squid was quite eye-opening, but we decided on the sweet dried squid instead.

It was a lovely outing, complete with spontaneous U-turns to just see the latest turn of conversation– the beach.

Okay, the sleep-deprivation headache has set in, and this week will be another long one, so I will curl up and think of bobbing lights in a darkness of shadows buffeted by the sea.

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