How Did I Attend The Mazu Festival
You would probably know that I am jumping on every opportunity which comes my way for traveling.
After Antarctica, I got a message from Shin-Ba if I would like to join him for Mazu Festival. I volunteered in their hostel in February 2017 in Taichung. Not even looking up any information, I just agreed with him to come back to Taiwan just before the festival would start.
Therefore I booked after my Moroccan trip my flight ticket from Europe to Taipei. As you know I have a deep connection with Taiwan and its people. In May I arrived at the airport in Taipei and it was my third time visiting this tiny and beautiful country.
I wrote in my blog about my travels in Taiwan before. How I did volunteering in Taichung, Dulan and Taipei . And I wrote articles of Taiwan being my second home, hitchhiking in Taiwan, Jiufen and Shifen and Southern Taiwan . Therefore I would come back and visit all of my friends and ‘families’ in Taiwan.
The 8 Days Pilgrimage- Mazu Festival
Basically I didn’t do any research about the Mazu Festival. Until I got to know from my friends it is not a real festival, but a pilgrimage in which more than 30000 people will join. I was nervous and excited to do this walking challenge of walking at least 30 kilometers per day.
As lucky as I am, I caught the year where Mazu is walking faster than ever before. To make it short and based on my own knowledge, in Taiwan, Mazu is the Goddess of the sea and would protect not only sailors and seamen, but also families. She is maybe the most important Goddess in Taiwan, where many temples were built to worship her.
History About Mazu Festival
So the pilgrimage I attended called Mazu Festival or Baishatun Mazu is a Taoist event which is held since back in the 19th century.
So after every Chinese Lunar New Year, the Mazu statue of Gongtian Temple at Baishatun will be carried in a palanquin to visit another Mazu Temple- a temple in Beigang of Yunlin County. At the end Mazu will return to Gongtian Temple to end the pilgrimage. In total, the pilgrims are suppose to walk a distance of approximately 400 KM.
Mazu might be the most popular religious event in Taiwan. But there are two Mazu Festivals. One is called Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage in which the pilgrims are walking a strict itinerary. Whereas the Beishatun Mazu Festival has different and unpredictable routes in advance. I didn’t understand at the beginning how it worked. But according to Mazu’s palanquin carriers, they would feel Mazu’s will, her indication where the next direction or stop would be while they walking. Therefore, all the pilgrims know the location of origin and destination. But not Mazu’s will where to go.
My Feelings And What I Have Learned
I regard the Baishatun Mazu Pilgrimage as one of my most difficult challenges during my travels. The hardest one was climbing the Himalayas, then Torres del Paine and now the third place is going to Mazu Festival. Without Jie yi, Shin Ba and Shui Ming Ge (obviously my 3 walking partners) I could have never made it until the end.
The first 3 days we were supposed to walk more than 140 KM. But even with walking 35 KM everyday we couldn’t keep up with Mazu. She walked faster than anyone and I didn’t meet anyone who could keep up with her the first 3 days. Actually, the most traditional way is following by walking, but many of the pilgrims would transport themselves by scooters, cars or bicycles.
I swear, I felt just most of the time walking in the humidity and sweating endlessly disgusted by myself. When people would accidentally touched my arms, I just wanted to escape. The feeling of being sticky rice was more or less unbearable for me. On top of everything, we would sleep on the street the first few nights. One night I got attacked by a mosquito swarm and got a swollen mouth, eye, nose and ear (just imagine that and how blood thirsty they were!!).
I lost many times my patience by all the crowds, the noises of fireworks, the stifling heat and the humid weather conditions. And I am sure if I wouldn’t have my travel mates I would definitely throw in the towel and quit after a few days. I have to admit that while I was walking this festival (which at some points I hated to be honest) I felt so much compassion and love from people. By tradition, many residents offer free supplies to pilgrims. So we got endless food and beverage supplies everywhere we went.
On the 4th day until the end we would only walk, which was basically everyday more than 30 KM. But I was surprisingly happy how fast my body was adapting to those conditions besides all the painful blisters I received during Mazu Festival.
Not Giving Up
Two things I can assure you, after a pilgrimage you will explode of adrenaline and endorphin once you arrive at the destination. My pride in myself and the capacity of our bodies astonishes me every time I would finish a big challenge in my life, whether physically or psychologically. It leaves me thinking I have the strength to move mountains and everything I want in my life I can achieve, no matter how hard it is.
It is definitely one of the best feelings in the world.
Also what I was never aware of is that walking a pilgrimage is an immense strain for your body and mental health. Many times you have to stand up again and motivate yourself to continue. Many times I was literally thinking about just giving up. But here comes the second issue I clearly learned after this trip (which I knew before but the pilgrimage opened my eyes again).
There’s an old African proverb that says “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This proverb was proved during my whole trip to be well-founded and more than true. Incidentally, I am very thankful for the 3 people who went with me through another life-time adventure.
Goodbye Taiwan, Hello Bali Again!
After spending an unforgettable month in Taiwan with friends, families and the Mazu Festival I was crying at the airport while boarding to Bali.
Bali is for me another home I can withdraw myself whenever I feel drained from my travels. Therefore, I came back for a week to see all of my friends. And for the first time I could watch all my favourite surfers from WSL (I am following since 3 years) surfing in the competitions in Bali. How exciting it was! I felt pretty much like a fan girl. I thought life couldn’t get sweeter by all the massages I treated myself to everyday (seriously one of the few things which motivated me during the pilgrimage). As sweet as it was, I got a high fever, a dog bite and bad diarrhea within one week. But it doesn’t stop my love for Bali and seeing my friends all the time.
And all the sunsets at the beach are worth my one week visit in Bali!
Bali is for sure besides Taiwan a place I am considering to settle down later.
I will share some pictures of Bali I took with my iPhone 8 with you guys.
Also some random pictures of my friends and I in Taiwan will be displayed in this blog post.
Next Big Destination
Some of you might know it already, some might not.
But I am right now (June 2018) settling down in New Zealand.
Living, working and traveling in New Zealand for 4 months I guess.
I feel New Zealand will surprise me in an exceptionally wonderful way and I might find here some answers for my life quest. And I have a strong feeling for this, but who knows. I learned during the past year to let life lead me instead of forcing anything to happen. I guess “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”.