Our first Moon Festival ( and more…)
Festivals are a great way to get to know a country and its culture. Here in Taiwan we just had the moon festival – a harvest festival which takes place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The idea is that family and friends get together (bbq!), give thanks for the harvest and pray for good fortune.
In the weeks leading up to this holiday, we were given many moon cakes: small round cakes symbolizing completeness and reunion. The first one I tasted was not to my liking – the flavor was durian and egg. Moon cake flavours vary, however, and I found other moon cakes to be really tasty! As a side note, Egg or Egg yoke is a prominent ingredient in Taiwanese cooking (including deserts) but unlike in Canada, it’s been cooked first. So the food will have more of an “eggy” feel and texture to it. I find this quite odd but surprisingly okay-tasting and sometimes delicious! Duck and quail eggs are also very common here for cooking!
Our Community Celebrations
One of the things I love most about where we live is its sense of community. We didn’t have to venture out to celebrate the Moon Festival as there were celebrations happening in our very own community – literally within our set of buildings. On this particular evening, I set out with the children, Theo on his bike and Daphne on me, to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere. We were unaware, unfortunately, that we needed to register in order to receive a free bbq kit complete with the bbq and food.
This is our oh-so-common-reality of not being able to read Mandarin. We were lucky however, that a couple with children we had recently met, invited us to join them. The children and I enjoyed an evening of visiting with friends, meeting new people, and watching the entertainment on the stage. This included karaoke, some organised singing, lotteries and more (that I could not understand).
The “Additional Day/ Make-Up-Day” Thing… #onlyintaiwan
So Taiwan has few national holidays, the Moon Festival being one of them. This year, with the moon festival being on Thursday September 15th, the government also gave Friday as an “additional day.” This addition day, however, is not a freebie. Employees and students must make it up on a Saturday. The actual day is declared by the government. So Saturday September 10th, preceding the Moon Festival, Loren went to work for a sixth day in a row. All of his students were present except for one student who had recently moved here from BC. I chose to keep Theo home with me, although I also had the option of sending him to kindergarten. I wonder what the rationale around the make-up work day is?
Travelling During Holidays
I have the impression that Taiwan is similar to China in that most people’s vacation fall on holiday time. That is to say that most people do not take extra days off. Holidays are therefore extremely busy times of the year with Taiwanese people heading out of town. Suffice it to say, that if you can avoid travelling in Taiwan during the holidays that would be best. For us, considering that Loren’s off days fall on holiday times, we are kinda out-of-luck. I might have to do some small trips on my own with the kids!
Hui-lai Hot Springs
For our first long weekend, we opted to stay home and fit in a day trip to the Hui-lai hot springs with a pit stop in Neiwan for dinner on the way back. Some of Loren’s colleagues organised the trip for Friday and we were getting a ride. It was so nice to get out of Hsinchu. Somewhat ashamedly, after almost two months in Taiwan, we had not yet left the city.
The spa we went to is nestled in beautiful lush greenery. With our teacher discount, we paid $300 NTD each (Theo & baby were free) for the entire day. There are many different small pools you can go into which serve different purposes: salt pool, tea tree pool, soak-your-feet-and-have-small-fish-eat-your-dead-skin pool, children’s pool,etc. Most pools have cold water so it’s super refreshing. There are also two hot tubs, a steam room and a sauna. Around the pools there are plenty of chairs and tables, however, these get taken up quickly. Also on site is a rather limited restaurant and free potable water.
I’m glad we brought our own food and drinks. It was a really relaxing day for us and super fun for the kids to do! Theo could not get enough of the slides! The family who took us up come up here every month. I can see why! I plan to start a similar monthly trip with our little family. It’s just such a great way to escape the Taiwanese heat.
A Glimpse of Neiwan
On our way home from the Hot Springs, we stopped in Neiwan, a quaint little town. We didn’t have the chance to explore much as we were starving and wanted to eat dinner before the restaurant closed. The restaurant we went to used to be a cinema. They show old black and white movies in the background as you are eating your dinner. The restaurant serves typical Hakka dishes. It’s best to go in a group, order a bunch of meals and share them with rice. Yummy!
Overall, we had a good Moon festival weekend. I really look forward to heading back to Neiwan to better explore the town and its beautiful surroundings!