Ancient Chinese Custom: The Ghost Bride

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Temple in Taiwan. Lana Rodlie photo

To celebrate Chinese New Year – why not read a really great tale involving Chinese customs?

While in Taiwan last year, we were intrigued by the Chinese ritual of burning “money” as an offering for long dead ancestors.

Imagine. How your spirit fares in the afterworld depends entirely on how those in the living world pay homage to you. Are they bringing you enough food to eat (chicken, rice, fruits); or are they providing cash (paper ‘money’) so you can buy what you need? Such is an ancient Chinese custom. Continue reading

Red China Blues

Tiananmen Mao

Bordering Tiananmen Square is the giant picture of Chairman Mao. Lana Rodlie photo

Tiananmen Square security

Just getting to the square is an ordeal. You have to walk under the multi-laned roadway through a subway tunnel. Of course, there are guards to make sure no one gets lost. Lana Rodlie photo

This is a book review of Jan Wong’s Red China Blues, but I’ve added my own photos and some insights of when we attended the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

From the book: “Tiananmen is gargantuan, the biggest square in the world. Moscow’s Red Square was intimate in comparison. Tiananen could simultaneously accommodate the entire 28 teams of the National Football League plus 192 other teams, each playing separate games. It could stage an entire Summer Olympics, with all events taking place at the same time. Tiananmen, which means Gate of Heavenly Peace is also one of the least hospitable squares in the world. There is no bench or place to rest, nowhere to get a drink, no leafy tree to offer respite from the sun. Only the one-hundred-foot high Monument to the People’s Heroes punctuates it, and after 1977, Mao’s white and gold mausoleum. Its huge lampposts are equipped with giant speakers for crowd control and swiveling video cameras’. The commercial photographers  with white pushcarts and colorful shade umbrellas are actually plainclothes police. For a modest fee, they snap photos of Chinese tourists posing in the square and mail you the pictures a week later. That way, they have your name and address, too.” Continue reading

Highlights of Hong Kong

By Lana Rodlie

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The city and Victoria Harbour. Photo by Lana Rodlie

Hong Kong is a great stop-over if traveling to China, Southeast Asia, or Down Under. You can get direct flights from Vancouver, B.C. (13 hours in the air) or from likely anywhere on the west coast. We chose Hong Kong (over Beijing, Toyko) last year while on our way to Taiwan.

Of course, googling will find you all sorts of hotels. We hadn’t been to Hong Kong before so depended a lot on Trip Advisor and other such sites. We couldn’t decide whether to stay on the Hong Kong side of the harbour or in Kowloon. There are advantages to both but we chose the Hong Kong side for this, our first trip; and have since made the decision to choose Kowloon next time we go there. Continue reading

Finding China in a Taipei market

 

Asia-bound? Try Taiwan. It’s off the beaten path (from North America) and provides a unique mix of ancient China, cosmopolitan cities, Polynesian influences, and a hint of Japan.

Different from, say, Beijing, where hutongs (old residential alleyway neighborhoods) are being replaced with high-rise apartment buildings; Taiwan is preserving its past and building an ultra-modern state right around it. You’ll see colorful temples dwarfed by residential and commercial towers.

The street markets provide everyday shopping but there is no shortage of big name houses: Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent and more.

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Entrance to the Huaxi Street Market (Snake Alley). Photo by Lana Rodlie

The Huaxi Street Night Market, otherwise known as Snake Alley, is in the Wanhua District, the oldest district in Taipei. The entrance is a welcome traditional Chinese gate with red lanterns leading to a roofed mall. The two-block long market is a great place to see local culture. This is where you can try snake or turtle blood, snake penis or deer penis wine (I believe this is the only place in the world that sells it – such a shame!)

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Heading into the Snake Market. Lana Rodlie photo

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People browse through the snake cages (live snakes). But the sales are actually quite private as they would not let us photograph anyone drinking blood. Lana Rodlie photo

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They didn’t like us photographing the snakes, either. Lana Rodlie photo

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Turtles. Lana Rodlie photo

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Lana Rodlie photo

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Lana Rodlie photo

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Had to try and sneak a photo of the snakes. We found Taipei people a little camera shy. Lana Rodlie photo

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Lana Rodlie photo

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Look for the Chinese character that looks like a snake – that indicates a shop that sells them. Lana Rodlie photo

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Lana Rodlie photo

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Of course, you should have some veggies with your protein. Lana Rodlie photo

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Inside Snake Alley. Lana Rodlie photo

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Lana Rodlie photo

Continue reading