Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Taichung Lantern Festival with Amanda's Mom!

Before I gush about my Mom’s visit to Taiwan, I want to fill everyone in on our floor - It’s finished! It exploded on January 5, and then construction began to replace all the tiles in the apartment on February 13. We spent every weekday from the 13th until the 21st getting up for our 8 am Chinese class, then not being able to re-enter the apartment until we got home from work around 10 each night. One night we came home and were told we couldn’t enter because of wet cement, so could we please go find a hotel to stay at! It’s all paid off though, as we now have our living room (almost) back to normal.

Anyways, now the fun stuff! On Saturday, February 4, my mom came to visit! She’d spent the day before hanging out in Taipei checking out the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and 101, and then arrived in Taichung around lunchtime by HSR! I somehow managed not to cry like a big baby and we got her home to see our apartment. She came bearing tons of Canadian snacks and gifts from our loved ones and it felt like a little bit of everyone had come along with her! We took her to our favourite dim sum restaurant for lunch, and then to the jade market! 

Shopping with my mother is always a drawn-out affair, and the jade market was no different. We could now speak enough Chinese to help her negotiate on prices a bit, and I won’t go into details too much on what was procured as I would hate to spoil any surprises for the recipients! We tried some Taiwanese tea, looked at beautiful jade bracelets and pendants, checked out antiques, and admired traditional calligraphy and paintings. We were all tired when we left, but it was nice to see Mom so excited about her great finds! 

We rested a while, then after dark headed back out to see the lights at the nearby park for Taichung’s Lantern Festival celebrations. The Year of the Dragon made for an amazing spectacle, and we were not disappointed! One of my favourites was a giant vase-shaped piece that was made up of thousands and thousands of tiny glass bottles filled with coloured liquid. At first they looked like light bulbs, but when you got close you realized it was little corked bottles that had been painstakingly wired together... holy smokes. There was also a lantern made to look like the famous Jade Cabbage in Taipei, complete with grasshoppers! It was made up of what looked like green and white glass plates. Amazing! 

While at the festival, we also took the opportunity to introduce my mom to a few local foods. She tried some gigantic pieces of fried squid, some fried yams, and savoury slices of whole roast pig washed down with watermelon and papaya milk. A successful first day!

Lantern at 臺中圓滿戶外劇場. According to Google Translate, the name of the park is Taichung Satisfactory Outdoor Theater Park. I can confirm that there is in fact an outdoor theater there, but I would be a little more generous than to say it was only satisfactory.
Pagoda Lantern Display
The Dragon is a very auspicious creature in Chinese culture. To enter the mouth of a Dragon is said to bring you good luck, and so there were many displays whereby people could enter the mouth of a lantern dragon's head and walk along its body until finally exiting a less detailed depiction of its rear end.
In the National Palace Museum, in Taipei, there is a famous carving of a jade cabbage that includes a carving of a grasshopper.
Amanda and her mom
One of the more impressive lanterns
The park is apparently the main location in Taichung where the lantern festival is celebrated.
There were very large crowds on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday - this picture does not do the crowds justice! Best to visit on a weekday night, if possible.
Crowds 'exiting' the dragon, after having walked along its body.

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