Tuesday, January 1

Taiwan Trip 2011 Day 5 Tzu Chi on the way to Taroko Gorge

[ continued from Taiwan Trip 2011 Day 4 Hualien Ho! ]

Before I start, a very Happy New Year to everyone! My new year's resolution is probably to complete posting all my Taiwan travel stuff for last last year and last year as well. So have fun and read on :D

Hualien Train Station
It was a cloudy day in Hualien on Day 5 of our trip. This was the view from our level 3 hotel room @ 6.45am looking towards Hualien Train Station. Even when you are in the city itself, Hualien looks so picturesque with the mountains and clouds in the background.

Just outside the hotel are many scooter rental shops where you can pick up a scooter for the day. Got ours for NT350, a standard 125cc version. You can probably get cheaper for those cute little 50cc scooters girls ride around town, but we were heading up the Taroko Gorge so this was the minimum spec I thought we should get.

Must not forget to have a good breakfast before heading off. The seven eleven stores here stock a lot of pre-made food. We had some tuna and smoked chicken onigiri with yam soymilk and chocolate milk tea before heading off.

Finally I get to scooter in Taiwan! Twice as fun as cycling and only half as tiring. heh. Taroko Gorge is about an hours journey from Hualien city as you have to travel north to another town then sort of east/northeast before reaching the entrance to the Gorge. 

Plum Garden Self-Service Meals

A quarter of the way through that journey we chanced upon this shop and quickly stopped to get some lunch, in case we couldn't find any nice food in the Gorge.

This is one of those typical self-service shops you commonly see in Taiwan. There is an array of pre-cooked dishes where you can choose any sort of combination and they get packed into a nice little paper lunch box, sort of like the Japanese bento sets. This is the boss man busy packing up lunch boxes.

Or you can just get a premade set from the menu with how much each set costs.

These are pre-made chicken drumstick sets which you can pick up for NT70. Seems like they were getting ready for lunch hour.

Train crossing in Hualien
Now halfway through the journey and I decided to quickly stop by the headquaters of the famous Tzu Chi organization which was started literally from the ground up by a nun. Just following my Garmin GPS we turned into one of the back lanes and we had to stop for a train!

Bet you can't guess what this place was. The brown bag with a green plastic flap actually says 'stool samples for testing in here'  It was a local clinic but apparently the doctor was not in that day. heh..

Lemongrass farm before and after planting

After that we passed by some fields where they were cultivating lemongrass.  :D Taiwanese agriculture sure is organized. They even lay out weed mats and mulch the plant beds, unlike the malaysian farms where they just stick the lemongrass in the soil without and let them grow.
A couple minutes from the railway crossing we came upon this signboard. It shows 2 directions to Tzu Chi?? and a lot of others to many different minsus. Anyways just follow our GPS.

We finally came to what looked like the entrance to the Tzu Chi HQ. So happened there was a guard there and this signpost. Signpost says - Welcome to our buddhist holy place, please do not wear clothing which exposes too much, no smoking and no chewing of betel nuts(this is a very popular Taiwanese addiction). Guard says - guys you have to park your scooter at our other compound across the road.

Well apparently Tzu Chi HQ has a big annex compound that has a big car park and a big store selling buddhist books and other items. I thought the side garden feature here was really nicely landscaped.

Tzu Chi HQ

This was the Tzu Chi entrance area. With their nicely manicured logo in front and lovely cloudy mountains in the back. Unfortunately this main entrance was still under renovations so we had to enter from a side entrance.

On the walkway to the side entrance you will pass by a nice lawn with some very interesting sculptures.

Baby monk lying on wooden fish.

Some very old  banyan trees lining the walkway supported by bamboo.

Some sort of building, not sure what it was for but like the nice architecture and design.

Tzu Chi Dorms

The side entrance goes to a big building which we were told housed the dormitories for Tzu Chi members/volunteers and nuns who live here. We met a local family who had brought their children for an outing for their pre-university holiday and struck up a conversation.

As it was lunch time,  our group was told to go to the dining area for a free vegetarian lunch. As you can see the dishes were quite simple with most of the vegetables grown by the nuns themselves.

We were quite lucky that day as a young nun for some reason decided to be our tour guide after lunch and did a guided tour of the Tzu Chi HQ for our group. Those whitish plants you see are used as a dye for the robes the Tzu Chi Nuns wear.

A warehouse of left-over construction wood likely to be recycled.

Plot of Chilli plants.

Brinjal, Aubergine or eggplant

Taiwanese version of scarecrows.

Field of probably ginger.

Different varieties of potatoes?

This was some sort of compost making facility.

Lots of nice lily plants lining the walk around the farming area.

Bananas which we had for lunch came from this small area.

They also have a pottery section making buddhist themed items for sale.

We came to a small museum showcasing the history of Tzu Chi HQ and its future plans.

Goddess of mercy jade statue...

Some old implements used for farming in the early days.

Our last stop was a candle making factory. This is where candles for the many branches of Tzu Chi around the world are made and packed for shipping.

Stacks of base stands and wicks, waiting to be inserted into the red wax candles.

Well if you are a buddhist I guess the Tzu Chi HQ would be a good place to spend some time when you are in Hualien and heading up to the Taroko Gorge.

This 'small' detour to Tzu Chi HQ took the better half a day for us and it was late afternoon when we finally arrived at the Taroko Gorge.

Bento lunch boxes with drinks.
Well looked like it was gonna rain soon so we stopped at a small rest stop near to the Taroko Gorge entrance and had our second lunch.

We will be ascending the Taroko Gorge proper in my next post.
[ continue reading Taiwan Trip 2011 Day 5 Taroko Gorge Scootering ]

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