cultural confusion in Kaohsiung

the Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung contains some of the more unique [and confusing] temple sites I've visited in Taiwan. the Spring and Autumn pavilions are no exception - winding pathways over water, almost cartoon-like statues, towering pavilions, a dragon you can walk through, and bright yellow lanterns.

traveling through Asia can give you access to many ancient and beautiful temples. some sites, however, are a little more modern. Taiwan has experienced a huge amount of growth in the last century, and most of that in the last 30 years. many of the main "attractions" in the Lotus Pond area were built in the 1950s and 60s. Lonely Planet calls them "fairly garish" - and I can't exactly disagree.

I'm not well enough informed to know if this is simply what the style of art was at that point in time, if these sites have legitimate cultural or religious significance, or if they are merely here to entertain the tourists. but they're bright and colorful, and at the least make for interesting photos. [even if they make me feel a bit culturally ignorant.]

and here I am awkwardly standing in the jaws of a dragon. the Spring and Autumn Pavilions are located just north of the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas [another unique site where you walk through both a dragon and a tiger.] but this dragon was quite long - its body made up a twisting tunnel, innards painted with murals. we walked a few steps in and then I realized I was a bit too claustrophobic to make it all the way.

further to the north, we encountered... this.

you enter through what looks like a temple gate. walk down the pier which is lined with stone carvings in a more traditional style. and then in front of the 24 meter tall statue of Xuantian Shang-di [Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven and guardian of the north] there was A CHICKEN.

one of those machines where you put change in and receive a golden egg filled with - a fortune? a prize? I don't know, but now I wish we would have found out. off to the sides were pavilions filled with kiddie rides. [you know - the kind that usually sit at the front of grocery stores in the US.] which makes it so convenient when you want ride a mechanical pony or train or racecar for 2 minutes while overlooking the koi pond.

I don't want to come off as being disrespectful, but this was just a confusing experience for me. was this a temple of religious significance? or an amusement park? or maybe it's acceptable to blend both of these things in one place.

one of the struggles of expat life is learning the culture. after almost 3 years, I'm still working on figuring it out and it's hard not to feel like I should know more than I do. Taiwan is so opposite of everything I grew up with that I experience some level of cultural confusion almost every day. I'm sure there are some things I just won't ever get. but even if I can't fully understand a place, I still try to appreciate it.

have you ever visited a place that was so culturally different it just baffled you?

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