© 2006 Catherine. All rights reserved.

war gods, dog whispering, and getting lost

I was browsing around my new roster of Taiwan blogs and fell across a photoblog done by Andres (of “andres : in : taiwan” and “bloggers in taiwan” fame). On his photo blog he has some incredible pictures of a temple called “Shingshiou”. The temple is dedicated to the war god “Guan Gung” or “Guan Yu”. I could tell from his photos (1,2)that the temple was somewhere out of town and fell in love right away. Sure enough the temple is located on a small mountain named Baiji (literally white chicken in Mandarin) in the small town of Sanshia. There are quite a few ways to get to Sanshia, at the end of this entry I’ll post the various ways to get there.

The bad part is once you get into Sanshia it’s really difficult to find your way up Baiji mountain if you don’t speak any Mandarin. We got dropped off by our bus at the bus terminal and we had to take another bus up the mountain but the bus didn’t have a bus number or an english translation of the destination on it. It only had the chinese written on it.

The ride up the mountain was fairly short. We got dropped off just below the temple and had to walk up a steep road to get to the entrance. It is such a luxury to get fresh air. Unfortunately Taipei has poor air quality…. it’s one of those things that you get used to after awhile but then when you go somewhere that actually has clean air you almost feel faint from the increase of actual oxygen. Ok, I exaggerate but I can honestly say I find myself in a much better mood.

Han being born and raised in Taiwan has little interest in the temples but he endures my slow pace through them and endless photo taking… but at the same time we still go through them much more quickly than I’d like most of the time. I think it was the fresh air that made me feel a little restless too and we decided to brave the steep hiking trail behind the temple. There were signs pointing to another temple as well as some kind of private garden.

As we walked along the way the markers for the other temple changed erratically…. it was almost like a practical joke… the first marker we saw claimed we had a 90 minute walk to the next temple….. as we went further along the next one said 60 minutes….. then we went further along and the next one said 70 minutes…. then the next one said 40, and one after said 90 …after awhile we just gave up paying attention to them. We walked in the direction they pointed but we had no idea how far this other temple would be or if we’d ever find it. I almost expected to turn a corner and find that we had landed back at the original temple.

Along the way we met a dog. Now I like animals a lot. I like to acknowledge their existence and talk to them. Call me a freak, I can handle it. At home, if a dog and their owner zips by me with one of those running leashes for dogs, I’m in the habit of saying “Hi dog!”. Unfortunately I’ve carried this habit over to Taiwan but with stressful consequences….. because every time, and I SWEAR I am not exaggerating, every time I’ve said “hi” to a dog it has followed me like an obsessed stalker. The hiking trail was the third occurrence of said phenomena.

The very first time I had a dog follow me for hours was after tutoring a private near Nanjing. This dog was walking across the sidewalk so I said “hey dog”…. next thing I look back and he’s following me. “awww” I think, feeling all flattered and being smitten by his cuteness. I had a long walk back to the MRT. This was on purpose. I liked getting the exercise and was never in a hurry on Thursday nights. So I continued to walk, and pup continued to follow. As he followed he got bolder and bolder. When I’d stop to wait for a crosswalk he’d actually lean on my leg and look up at me lovingly. It didn’t take long for my feelings of “awww” to turn to “ok… how long is this going to last???”. I walked for a good 15 minutes and started to feel stressed out. People were starting to look at me as if this was my dog. What if he attacked someone’s dog, or kid, and someone starts yelling at me??? So I had a plan… I was thinking about hopping in a taxi but then I thought what if he jumps in quickly with me and the taxi driver starts yelling at me and the dog starts biting me??? So I jumped into a hilife (convenience store) hoping that the bright lights as well as the automatic door would scare the dog away. No such luck. He follows me right in the door and over to the fridge. I use body language and the one or two chinese words I knew at the time to explain to the guy that it was NOT my dog. He understood and with another worker shooed the dog out. Phew, I thought… and decided to wait in the store for awhile. Just to make sure I’d lost him. After awhile the dog wasn’t standing staring through the window. I thought it was safe. Maybe he was following someone else now. So I stepped out the door and guess who comes running around the corner???

I’m really far from amused now. I try unsuccessfully to shoo the dog away with people looking at me like I was nuts. After awhile I walked by these two big tall burly Russian guys. I pleaded for their assistance hoping they could scare the dog off or something. They said the MRT (subway) was close and I should just run up the escalator. There’s no way a dog would follow me up an escalator. Ha WRONG! Not only did he follow me up the escalator but right into the station. Once I got in I just dove into the crowd and quickly walked through the turnstile. Thankfully this was the end of the following. I think the MRT staff probably scared the dog away.

So you think such an experience would maybe be a good omen…. maybe because I was so focused on the dog it prevented me from getting hit by a scooter since I was being extra careful when I was diving through traffic… or maybe it just says something about my aura??? I don’t know but I found the whole experience really unsettling. Either way it would never happen again right? WRONG! Meg, Han and I went to see “the Omen” on 06/06/06 because I’m a cheesy cornball. Walking home I made the same mistake of saying “hey dog” to a dog passing by. Maybe I thought since I was with two other people that the new stray pooch wouldn’t have the nerve… but ohhhh no… here comes mr.fluffy paws following us down the road like he’s being taken out for a walk. He even followed us up the stairway to our apartment and sat outside for a long time.

It actually makes me sad. These dogs act NOTHING like stray dogs back home. No hint of nervousness or abuse and complete comfort around people. This says to me that these dogs were probably pets and were kicked out or driven to an unfamiliar location and booted out of a car. They interact like pets and the way they act is like they’re trying to fool me into believing they’re my dog and I’m the stupid one who doesn’t remember.

Anyway…. Han and I are walking and two really beautiful dogs come walking towards us… there was a group of people behind them so I logically assume that these well breed well behaved dogs must belong to them. No harm in saying “hello” to these dogs right????? WRONG! One of the dogs was too shy and just went on it’s way. The other followed us our whole excruciatingly long trip through the trail.

I have no idea how long it took us to get to the “temple” but I’m sure it was over an hour and a half… this dog was a fan of stepping on my heels as I walked…. when we got to the “temple” we found that our efforts were ridiculously in vain. The “temple” was little more than a tin shack with the usual incense burner and deity on a table. We were so exhausted and dehydrated that it was actually hilarious but I didn’t manage to laugh. I should’ve taken a picture but I didn’t feel like honouring the temple because I felt like it’d tricked us with it’s deceptive path signs, never ending trail, and dog with poor manners (it’s rude to walk on peoples’ heels!).

The good part of the temple was that there were three rowdy dogs who did not frighten us but frightened our hiking companion away. We got some directions from the lady at the temple and painfully marched on down the mountain to some other little township where we could get something to drink and maybe just maybe catch a bus that would take us to an MRT station. We managed to find a place to catch a bus and after a wait we were zoomed away from our hiking extravaganza. We somehow ended up entering a completely different part of Taipei from where we exited but overall it was my kind of adventure.

no idea what these were about… we saw them on the walk back. They looked like prisons

Here is what I found out about how to get to Sanshia. We opted for the orange mrt/908 bus method since I live the closest to this MRT stop:

By Bus: catch a big bus from Taipei Main

(1) Take the orange line to Zhonghe and transfer to bus 908 from the Jingan Station This is the one I did
(2) Take Bannan Line and transfer to bus 910, 702 or Blue 19 from Xinpu Station.

By Train
(1) Get off at Yingge Railway Station, and then transfer by the shuttle or buses to Sansia; or get off at Shulin Station or Shanchia Station, and then transfer to Sansia by Bus 802 or Shoudu (Capital) Bus Company.

By Car
(1) Take the Jhongshan Highway, get off at the Nankan Exit, and then drive past Taoyuan and Yingge to Sansia.
(2) Take the Second North Highway (North Highway No. 3), get off at the Sanying Exit, and then follow the road guideboard to Sansia.

There are additional methods here on the Sanshia tourism site.

Next week Changhua to check out the giant black buddha!

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