Xuanzang, the Chinese monk who made a 17-year trek to India to bring Buddhist texts back to China in the mid-600s A.D. and the inspiration for Tang Seng, the main character of the classic Journey to the West.
I’ve always wanted to light a floating lantern, and I got my wish in Pingxi, Taiwan. The little town is known for floating lanterns, though for no other reason that I could discover besides the fact that the government permits them there.
A railroad track runs down the center of the town, and both sides are lined with shops selling lanterns. I learned that each color is reserved for a certain category of wishes, so I picked the one that the shop recommended for young people (pink for happiness, blue for work, yellow for wealth, and red for health) and decorated each side.
It helped that there was a placard of some the most common wishes to copy, especially since I’m not as comfortable with Chinese. And I had a whole extended family behind me judging what I was writing. So I threw in a couple of wishes for them: “find true love (to make my grandma happy!)”
When I finished, they lit it for us and we sent it into the sky…where it floated for about 3 minutes before crash landing on a nearby hill. But hopefully to be retrieved and recycled later, as they assured us. Totally touristy, but still lots of fun!
Taipei’s National Palace Museum has perhaps the best collection of Chinese Imperial artifacts, better even than collections in mainland China. This is because the Nationalist party took some of the best pieces with them when they escaped from the mainland to Taiwan in 1949. Which turned out to be fortunate, since the Communist party later purposefully destroyed most ancient artifacts that they could find.
There are many beautiful pieces in the collection, but none are as impressive as this: a ball with 17 individual, free-moving layers, all carved from the same piece of ivory.
If anything ever seems impossible, I’ll just remember this incredible ivory ball!
What it’s like to go to Taipei 101 with an architect and a physicist: you get a detailed breakdown of how the building is built, from the damper to the elevator and everything in between. And you draw a small crowd that thinks you have an expert guide, since none of the information is written!
With all the massages that I got in Thailand, it didn’t take long for me to become curious about the art of massaging. I looked up some massage classes in Chiang Mai and managed to squeeze myself into a shortened half day version of a multi-day Thai full body massage course.
We went over the basic pressure points and massage techniques for the feet, head, face, and back. 4 hours of class was only a brief introduction to massaging, but I think I learned enough to make my friends and family happy!
I saw an opportunity to get a massage every day for the entire week I was in Thailand… And I took it. 😊
By far the best massage was the last one, by a woman who had a knack for finding the knots in my back and the masterful ability to knead them out without excruciating pain. After more than a year carrying 25kgs, I had a lot of knots. And apparently pretty hard ones too, since my magical masseuse exclaimed “Woooow” no less than 5 times during the session.
I might need another 3 months of massages to get rid of all of the knots, but off to a pretty good start.