Our second day at Taiwan was Sabrina and Aaron's wedding ceremony, so I was grateful for a day to really check out the country. Steve had some obligations to attend to so I grabbed my camera and headed out to explore. I had only been walking for a few blocks when I heard loud clanging, chanting, and firecrackers. I followed the sound and found myself standing in front of a folk religion temple that was celebrating the birthday of their Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin. Back home, everyone was celebrating Easter Sunday and the irony was not lost on me. 

Locals walked casually in and out to pay their respects while I stood--admittedly pretty scared--at the outskirts of the temple in fear of crossing any type of etiquette boundaries when a local man saw me and gave me a pretty thorough tour of the temple--completely in Mandarin. He pointed at my camera and then he gestured towards the camera, so I knew it was game on. I barely had time to compose anything because I wanted to keep seeing everything. My eyes needed to see more. It was loud, incense was burning and smelled amazing, there were huge backlit columns full of mini god figurines that were spinning, there were firecrackers... My senses were stimulated to the point that it was nearly disorienting. It was total culture shock. My tour guide served me tea and gestured towards the kitchen where I was seated with locals and was served rice, broccoli, and chicken with the head still intact. It was amazing. I checked the time and knew I needed to make sure Steve got to experience this too. 

We showed up and observed their celebration, noting that everyone was very friendly to curious foreigners and even invited them to join in their celebration service. At the end of the service, everyone lined up to receive a blessing--including Steve and I.