Moon Festival 2011

This weekend is considered a holiday to celebrate the harvest moon. I’m sure it’s an ancient tradition with its roots somewhere in the long Taiwanese history but these days, what it means is:

  • we get a day off work
  • the company execs give everyone a gift box of moon cakes (moon cake sales skyrocket during this time of year)
  • we also get a small bonus.

Moon cakes are small, tart-like creations wrapped in a shaped and decorated pastry crust, filled with – well all sorts of interesting fillings. Flavors include pineapple (a big favorite on the island), red bean, lotus. Lotus is my favorite! Moon cakes are perishable so their shelf life isn’t long; they must be eaten within a short time after being baked. I took an extra box to the temple downstairs and they seemed very happy to receive it.

Holiday flower market

A lot of Taiwan’s sights are located in spare spaces: hidden underground, beneath overpasses, in some really unlikely spots. You might easily drive, ride, or walk by them without notice. The Taipei “Holiday” flower and jade markets are no exception. I stumbled onto the flower market when I walked down the wrong side of Jianguo, trying to find the main Taipei Library.

Greenery Galore!

Inside the market, the first thing you notice is the fragrance of a million flowers and flowering plants. There are blossoms of every shape, size, and color. It’s like a wacky kalidiscope image, bursting at the seams. The market stretches farther than I can see and I wander along, simply amazed by it all.  The Taiwanese love their greenery and you can see why – so many options. Bonzai galore, one even taller than me (and that’s saying something!). Water plants (lilies, lotus) for dish gardens and outside fountains. Pots, saucers, rocks, gardening implements and garden furniture. Herbs, fruit and citrus trees, strange insect-eating plants, orchids galore all being misted from above to maintain their health (I guess the intense natural humidty isn’t enough, but I must say the mist feels good). Vendors pass out samples of their teas and various drinks made from herbs, and lots of, well,  I’m not really sure exactly what the ingredients were, but most of it was delish! So many choices but finally I settle on a bunch of sweetheart roses (20 stems for 50NT) for less then 2.00US. Of course the bouquet is beautifully wrapped, the stems inserted into water for the trip home, and then placed into a long plastic bag to protect it on its journey on public transportation.

Bougainvilleas

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…