Heat, a Monastery and a fair bit of island hopping.

We have now been in Taiwan for 2 weeks! Which as it turns out…. is not a lot of time at all… it’s gone so Damn quickly. But also, we have been to SO many cities. So many that I actually have to keep asking Sam where each site was; where we’ve been and where we’re going next. I can’t keep track of it all!
BUT that’s what this is all for! To order my thoughts and memories. To help me remember.
So I need to spit week 2 out onto page..

So .. after my semi-dramatic hospitalisation in Tainan we spent only one more day in this city, and re-visited the banyan tree tree house for attempt 2 (so that I could actually see the inside..) before leaving for our next destination: Kaohsiung.
And here, instead of staying in the city centre, we actually found a cute place to stay on a small island which was only a 10 minute ferry ride from the Kaosiung mainland – called Qidu Island. 

Qidu itself is a pretty tiny wee island (as you would expect of any island that is so much smaller than Taiwan), and thus doesn’t host a huge number of tourist activities.. but it was very green, it had a laid back vibe and it had an amazing horizon to watch the sun go down over, which was filled with big boats and container ships docked just off shore (we aren’t really sure why there were SO many ships stopped around this part of Taiwan… but there must have been a MAJOR port near by) giving the sea an eerie war-like appareance.

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And from Qidu we could day-trip into Kaohsiung with great ease. So it really was a nice spot to stay in.
And our day trips to Kaohsiung lead us to probably my 2 favourite sites so far.. (we visited 2 major locations in 2 days)  A massive Buddha Monastery and a beautiful Lotus Pond.

First, The Monastery. This was a huge complex comprised of several temples/shrines and thousands if not tens of thousands of Buddha and Bodhisattva monuments and paintings. We walked through here for an entire day looking at tombs

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Golden statues

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Impressive shrines (this one is actually sitting on a unicorn)

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And all kinds of beautifully shaped pagodas, temples and rooftops.

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And this was even home to Taiwan’s tallest standing Buddha

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As well as a beautiful, giant sitting Buddha – who we watched the sun set behind as evening fell.
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And the quiet contemplation, the dedication and the soft friendliness of the monks and worshipers at this location was evident in everything we saw and everything we did.  We were always pointed in the right direction, we were welcomed into every room and we were even taught how to make a wish to the Bodhisattva by offering small pots of artificial flowers and brightly coloured stones.
And we were allowed to dong a giant bell at one shrine – which is believed, when rung 3 times, to ease the suffering of all people on earth and in hell for the few minutes of its chime.. it did make a beautiful sound.
All in all it was a very peaceful day.

And the Lotus Pond. This too was beautiful in its serenity.
We visited the Lotus Pond at another sun set and walked around it, admiring it’s tall pagodas and God and creature shaped temples and tunnels as the skies grew dark around us.
In the light the architecture of it all was so bright and colourful, so cartoonistic and so… Asian. It was like nothing you would find at home, in New Zealand.
And even still, as darkness fell, everything lit up in multicoloured lights and reflected off the pond water to maintain a bright and even amplified effect.
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And after 2 days exploring Kaohsiung, and 3 nights on the island of Qidu it was time to hop to the next island spot – Liuqiu.

Liuqiu.. was awesome.
We spent 2 nights on this one. And spent the days on a scooter that we hired at a ridiculously cheap price, cutting laps around the island and seeking out caves and snorkeling spots.
And…. we got to swim with a giant sea turtle!
Just me, and Sam, and the turtle.
And when Sam started calling out to me from across the coral reef to tell me that he had found a sea turtle… I was expecting something quite small and regular… I guess like the ones you see in the pet stores.. but this one. Was huge. And beautiful.
It just floated there. In space. With its drowsy expression and dangling flippers. And we got to hang out with it.
…And on a much less exciting note… we also discovered the best food yet on this island! Something which the Taiwanese call “Snow Ice Milk”.
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It’s essentially frozen milk… covered in fruit and sauces. And its delicious.
And even if finding milk in Taiwan wasn’t essentially a delicacy (It’s really a treat here… I don’t think cows can survive in this climate so it all has to be imported from great distances…) this stuff… would still be good.

But now…. I write as we depart our 3rd and final island habitat.
This one was called Green Island. And honestly… it was exactly what the name suggests… thick green bush all over. But also, with beautiful white sand and coral beaches spread around the coastline.
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And just like we did on Liuqiu, we hired a scooter and traveled around the whole island finding caves, lookouts and swimming spots again, and also a deserted prison on this one!
And I saw the biggest spider of my life in one of the caves here – which was without a hint of exaggeration the size of my face.
And we also found a wonderful little swimming hole on a beach that almost no one else was visiting. And we spent hours paddling in the warm water.
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Unfortunately we couldn’t snorkel on this one without a tour group… which was mildly annoying… because apparently the Taiwanese are not very out-doorsy kind of people, and few know how to swim well… therefore when they go out snorkeling they go in groups… they float on life buoys… they wear full body water suits..and they’re all tied together.. Which wasn’t really how we envisioned snorkeling.. so we forfeited the idea for lazy paddling in our semi-private lagoon instead.
And we ate lots more Snow Ice Milk.

And we’ve still one more week to go!

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