TT and I try to go on a walking tour in most cities we visit. I credit my parents for instilling a love for the ease and vast knowledge that walking tours provide. While I grew up with self guided tours, TT and I have found that most major cities have multiple walking tour companies and the best part is…most of them are completely free!
Run by volunteers, the tours take off once or twice daily and usually last 2-3 hours. The guides take you around on foot explaining the history behind the sites and also fun stories that you probably wouldn’t hear anywhere else! We always have a great time and leave with a great, albeit brief, understanding of the city. Plus you can make friends!
In Taipei we signed up for the Tour Me Away walking tour bound for the Longshan Temple and showed up on a rainy Friday evening with about 20 other Taiwan visitors.
We had a great time winding through the streets of Taipei and stopping at everything interesting!
As the tour was dedicated to Longshan Temple we made our way to the oldest, most well known temple in Taiwan.
Built in 1738 by Chinese settlers, it served as a gathering place for the early population of Taipei and has continued, drawing in locals and visitors alike to take in the incredible architecture and worship Buddhist, Taoist and Mazu (goddess of the sea) deities.
Our guides showed us every inch of the temple, explaining the different reasons you might go to pray to one god or another, and even taking the time to demonstrate the proper way to pray in the temple and inviting us all to try!
^ Using Jiaobei to ask the Gods a question and see if they will answer it. Jiaobei are also called moon blocks and are Chinese wooden divination tools to help you communicate with the gods. You drop the blocks and depending on the position the blocks land, you are either granted permission to proceed and ask your question or not. I was allowed to ask my question 🙂
This is the God of Education.
Students and parents with their children come to pray to this god for good grades and good acceptance letters in school. See that red box? If you come to pray and ask for good grades, and then you get them, you are supposed to show your appreciation by dropping a copy of your report card in the red box!
See all those gold circles? They are actually engraved with the names of families and students. You can make an offering to the god and the temple and have your name engraved on one of the gold panels to further your plea to the gods. The more money you offer, the closer your name is to the statue, and the more likely it is that your prayers will be answered!
We spent a while meandering around the temple, trying the different ways of praying, and admiring how beautiful it all was. My prayer was for it to stop raining and be warmer – my wish was NOT granted -__-
Ending as all good Taipei days do….at the night market!!!
LOOK AT THOSE CARROTS !!!!! I don’t understand.
Huaxi Street Night Market boasts ownership of “Snake Alley.” Snake has long been a staple in Chinese medicine and the Chinese believe strongly that snake is a great promoter of vitality and health.
Snake Alley has one famous Snake Restaurant that boasts the Snake Challenge where you eat snake soup and take three shots to go with your meal: one filled with snake blood, one with snake bile, and one with snake semen.
This area of Taipei actually used to be a thriving red light district (it still has a few scantily clad massage parlors operating and apparently some “hush hush tea shops” where you can go in to do a bit more than drink tea…) and it’s said that men would come to drink the snake blood before going off to meet those laydeez of the night!
Tour Me Away was a superb walking tour. Even though it was cold and quite rainy, the guides had so much excitement over their city. It was such a pleasure to hear them speak and learn so much about Taipei.
Do you take walking tours when you go on vacation? Self guided or city provided? Definitely check one out the next time you are away from home!! Or maybe you should try one in your own city and learn a little bit more about the history and cool past of your home!!