Day 4 in Taiwan began with rain and ended with rain. With ponchos and more new umbrellas, we set out for Tamsui to see the Taiwanese coast and visit the Tien Yuan temple. Upon arriving in Tamsui, we grabbed some coffee and started up a Venice Beach-like boardwalk in search of lunch. There were countless vendors selling fruit, meat-on-stick, and sausages the size of my forearm.
Wanting a more substantial meal, we decided to forgo these stalls and we eventually found the most random restaurant option that either of us have ever experienced. Being in Taiwan, we found it funny to come across a Norwegian restaurant and knew that we had found the correct establishment in which to eat and avoid rain. We ordered curry that came with kimchi on the side. Strangest meal and restaurant we could have imagined.
After lunch we went to the correct bus-bay in order to make our way to the Tien Yuan Temple. A kind Taiwanese woman informed us that the bus would not be arriving for another 40-50 minutes. Not willing to wait, we jumped in a taxi and showed the driver a picture of the temple. He nodded and sped off in a direction that we hoped would lead to the correct location. This driver knew exactly what he was doing and showed us one hell of a ride. Cutting into oncoming traffic to pass slower cars, accelerating wildly around hairpin turns, and only slightly avoiding pedestrians, we raced to the temple in ten minutes and departed our Gran Turismo-esque experience.
Standing at the base of Tien Yuan’s upper staircase, we were immediately rendered speechless by the building’s sheer size.With 5 levels of 20-foot ceilings, its round shape is a truly beautiful sight. Even more stunning is the detail work inside this temple. Every inch of this place is intricately painted and adorned with statues and pictures of deities. It was truly beautiful.
After exploring the first level we went up a staircase that followed the curve of the exterior walls and came upon another beautiful alter and shrine. Then we went up another level to find a new room. And again, and again. Every floor had a new and interesting set of statues and every level provided increasingly astounding views of the temple grounds and mountainous landscape. The wind rattled through the 360-degree windows to create an eerily beautiful auditory effect as we marched up and down the stairs, making sure that we had seen it all.