Even though the Lantern Festival was the absolute highlight of the day, I am going to relate in this post what we did in the morning. First, we have carried on our tradition of going out for Saturday breakfast. Considering McDonald’s is the only place in town that we trust for American breakfast food, that is where we went. The girls at the counter have gotten familiar with us and try to use any English they know. They get very shy and humble when we compliment them on their skill with the language. They are very sweet.
After breakfast, we set out to make our weekly run to the Giraffe Supermarket. As we were approaching the corner to turn into the market, we noticed a line of tour buses joining us on the main road. There were about 8 buses in all. We ended up at the stoplight next to them and read their name, “Hosanna Buses.” They had a cross and dove for a logo and a flame for decoration. We decided that we had no schedule to keep so why not follow them. Maybe they would lead us to some kind of Christian “convention” going on somewhere nearby.
We followed them to Dongshih, and then we continued on to a small town we were not familiar with. We ended up going through a little village downtown area until we saw the buses all turning off the road into a driveway where there were policemen directing traffic. They pointed for the buses to turn in, but they pointed their traffic stick at us and directed us to move on. As we passed the driveway, we discovered that it was not a Christian convention they were going to at all. We drove around the block to get a look at what was going on. They had been dropped off at a Buddhist garden that was being used as a gathering place for these busloads of “worshippers” to parade to the local temple. They all received incense sticks as they disembarked the bus. Then the processional firecrackers were lit and the pop, pop, pop of them went on for several minutes. I got out of the car and took some pictures of the gardens, but I could not get close enough to see the people.
I got back in the car and we headed back towards the main road to go back to Putzu. When we turned the car around we discovered that we were in a community that processes salt from the sea…remember that Dongshih is the oyster town and we were not far from there. We had read that there were salt flats and mounds in the area. Well, we found one of them by accident on Saturday. There were “mountains” of salt, taller and wider than the buildings next to them.
As we finally were allowed to creep past the crowd, we saw what has become a familiar sight to us…the people were filing up the right hand staircase into the temple, flowing through the temple and descending down the left hand staircase, all the while carrying their burning incense sticks. The smell of the incense was very strong in the car just from driving past the crowd.