This day started early for me. My colleagues and I had to meet each other on Zi-you Road at 9:00am. Our plan was to go to Ciaotou Sugar Refinery (R22A), then to the Dragon Boat Festival in the afternoon near the Love River. Although the day was humid, I was looking forward to the long ride to the country via MRT, and then to return to the city for the Dragon Boat Festival, which I was hearing about during the week.

The trip to and the walk through the Sugar Refinery was not only relaxing but educational. The time went quickly and we were unaware of it. We immediately made our way back into the city to first have lunch at a shopping mall, then to go to the festival. Arriving at the Love River, we saw a lot of people at the river’s bank, cheering their teams as they took their positions at the starting point. They were all enjoying themselves despite the rain.

Partially drenched, we tried to squeeze ourselves through them so we can see the beautiful dragon boats, and paddles from the starting point of the race. The Dragon boats caught my attention. They were unique, beautiful, colourful, with a dragon head figure at the front. I had never seen this type of boat before. One of my friends told me that they were unique to China and Taiwan. Each boat had at-least seven team members on board responsible for paddling. I also noticed that there were two members who were without paddles. On in the front who faced the paddlers with a drum. His job was to beat the drum as loudly as he could to encourage the team members to paddle faster and stronger. The man in the back, held on to a long stick. He held that stick firmly. He served as the anchor man, allowing the boat to go as straight forward as possible, and not stray away from its route. This of course prevented the boats from bumping into each other.

I looked away from the boats and saw a lot of booths or tents placed around the river. There was a main booth where a lady was announcing over the microphone the teams participating, the winning teams and the time taken to reach the finish line.  The other tents had a lot of other interesting things selling. Some sold food and beverages.  Everyone seemed to have been interested in buying a rice wrap with meat and beans. This rice wrap was specially made and sold at the Dragon Boat Festival. I knew about this so called “Chi Zhong Zi” or rice wrap since our mandarin teachers had told us about it and the story behind this festival. I really thought that I would have seen someone acting like the famous poet Qu Yuan, a doctor throwing rice into the water and people dumping rice also, but this was asking for too much.

We circled around the river, stopping off at some of the booths to see what they were selling. I even saw a hairdressing booth. We sampled some free beer-malt that was being handed out to passers-by, stopped to see the booths that were advertising for some countries, and others which were very much like the ones at the regular night markets.

Amidst all the rain we certainly met some old friends and made some new friends. We also had the opportunity to practice our mandarin. Once again we saw how necessary the tones were in this language, and a wrongly stressed tone meant another word with a totally different meaning. We were so busy arguing amongst ourselves about the pinyin that we were unaware that people were staring at us.

As it is said” all good things must come to an end”, we headed back to the MRT station and then to the school. It did not matter how tired and wet we all were, because we had good memories of Taiwan’s Dragon Boat Festival.

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