Archive for October 11th, 2009

Okinawa (Japan) and Keelung (Taiwan)

Taipei City
Image via Wikipedia

October 10 – Okinawa

Our next stop was Okinawa, part of the Ryuku Island group located at the southernmost part of Japan. Invaded by the Americans in 1945, it was the last island taken before the final assault on the Japanese home islands. It still has a very strong American influence here. Famous for it’s pottery, colourful fabrics and numerous types of Awamori (health tonic) alcohol (some containing a large habu snake coiled in the bottle). Its also boasts the highest longevity numbers in the world especially for females. Diet, lifestyle and community support all contribute to this. Okinawa, as a city was quite underwhelming. As our time there was quite short (3 hours), we took a stroll downtown and took in some of the markets. Lots of public markets, undercover, that stretch for many blocks, with everything you can imagine for sale. We also found very good pottery shops, all products made in Okinawa and quite striking. But, since Japan is a first world country, it has prices to match and therfore bought nothing.

Oct 11 – Keelung, Taiwan

We wanted to avoid another big city (Taipei) therefore decided to plan our schedule around the port of Keelung which had enough venues to keep us busy for a day. Unbeknown to us it rains in Keelung 230 days a year and guess what……it was pissing down with rain when our ship docked (look out Michael, I’m coming after you when I get back!). Anyway, we made the most of the day trying to run between rain drops.

Our day started with a brisk walk uphill with Alan & Cecilia from Texas (who lent us a much needed umbrella), via a narrow alleyway and steep stairs which took us to the Hall of Zhong Yuan Ceremony. A beautiful building which exhibits historical artifacts and relics. Seeing that we were already drenched we decided to keep on trucking but Alan & Cecelia decided to call it quits and headed back to the ship. We headed down another narrow pathway to Martyr’s Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to the heroes of the Republic of China and the War of Resistance against Japan. Then down some more steep stairs which took us back down to the town area where we came across the Jile Temple (“Jile” meaning “welcome”). Another beautiful temple with 8 Buddhas surrounding the interior. It was our lucky day as a Chinese guide (with help from a female monk) volunteered to show us around and explain the various features and significance of each Buddha She also showed us various parts of the temple e.g. Tea garden, meditation room, music room, etc. The monk gave each one of us a scroll depicting family and wealth. Our guide was a gift from the gods on such a blustery day. The next point of interest was way up on a hill, so she put us in a cab and sent us on our way to the Jhongjheng Temple. This temple is situated at the highest point in Keelung. A huge, white Buddha sits facing the port with a light on it’s forehead to light the way for all sea vessels. Behind the Buddha is another huge, ornate temple. As luck would have it we managed to get another cab ride down to the city centre and came across a ceremony of some sort with lots of music and floats. Stopped for some noodle soup in an alleyway, then walked down the Miaokou Night Market shopping area taking in the different varieties of food for sale. Tucked in another alley way was another ornate temple called the Dianji Temple. After checking out a few other shops we called it quits and headed back to the ship. Our original plan was to go to Yeliou and Jiufen which was nixed by weather conditions but all in all we did enjoy Keelung.