An afternoon at the hospital, following medical instructions in Chinese, and fish and peanuts are an evil mix.

Day 246: Hsinchu, Taiwan. We spent a large chunk of today sitting in a waiting area at a local hospital, with face masks tightly fastened.

Lil’s sight has been a bit blurry in one eye since yesterday, and we needed to get her checked out, to make sure it was nothing serious.

We visited a couple of opticians in the city, but they’re not qualified to look at eye problems (they only measure eyes and issue glasses prescriptions), and the ophthalmologists that we could find were still shut for the Chinese New Year holidays.

So there was only one thing for it – brave a visit to a local hospital, and see if someone there could take a look at Lil’s eye.

We tightened our face masks before walking through the entrance to the hospital, and wandered over to the desk for first time visitors. The lovely girl behind the desk only spoke two words of English (name, phone), and the rest of our communication was via Google Translate.

After a lot of tapping on her keyboard, staring at her screen, and giggling with her colleagues, the girl eventually handed us a piece of paper and waved us around the corner.

The piece of paper indicated Clinic No.8, and our number was 42. It took us a bit of time to interpret the Chinese text on the information screens in the waiting area (Jim had to walk to the front of the room to photograph the screen, so we could run it through Google Translate), but we eventually worked out which numbers were which, and sat and waited our turn.

Jim commented that if you’re worried about the Coronavirus, sitting in a hospital is probably not a great place to be.

Eventually our number came up on the screen, and we had to join another (shorter) queue for Lil to have an initial eye examination. After shifting her around between various machines, a guy got her to sit next to a little boy and stare at some shapes on a screen. She had no idea what she was supposed to be doing, but thankfully the guy calling spoke a few words of English, and told her to ‘point where there is opening in letter C!’ So she sat looking like she was trying to land planes at the airport, with her arms waving about everywhere, and trying not to knock the little kid next to her off his seat. Eventually the guy was satisfied and waved her back outside.

Next we got to see the ophthalmologist who spoke excellent English; she took some notes and put dilating drops into Lil’s eyes. We sat for another 30 minutes while the drops did their magic, then the doctor examined Lil’s eyes, and long story short – there’s nothing that needs to be treated right now, but she needs to keep a close eye on the symptoms (there has to be a joke there somewhere), and if they get worse, visit a hospital again. All in all, a pretty good experience, with lovely friendly people.

Afterwards we headed home, with Lil hanging onto Jim while we crossed streets, as the dilation drops caused car and street lights to be super bright and super huge.

We caught the train back to our suburb, and had excellent pork noodle soup in a local eatery along with a couple of side dishes from the fridge – small fish mixed with peanuts, and kimchi. Everything was really good, though Lil refused to touch the fish and peanuts, declaring them an evil mix.

Then we bought some seriously stodgy cakes from a cake stall and headed home for tea, cake and TV, happy that the medical stuff was over and done with.

Tomorrow we pack up and catch the train north to Taipei. Which means we’ll be right back where we started when we arrived in Taiwan two months ago.

More then.

Visiting a new zoo where animals rule, Jim poses with a giant toothbrush, and the best beef noodles ever.

Day 246: Hsinchu, Taiwan. We headed into town today to check out the newly re-opened Hsinchu Zoo.

As we were leaving our room, Lil threw away the tickets from our visit to the Glass Museum the other day, and was intrigued to see that amongst the list of ‘not allowed’ activities in the museum is rollerblading. Who would have thought?

Neither of us are big fans of zoos, but the reopened Hsinchu Zoo claims to be an environment in which ‘the animals rule, not the humans’, and we were curious to see what it was all about.

Side note: the bag that was sitting on a seat at the station yesterday morning and evening was gone today – presumably whoever owns it just collected it on their way to the office.

The underpass beneath Hsinchu station is a bit of a labyrinth but after going around in circles for a bit, we eventually got spat out close to the entrance to the Zoo.

It was busy but not too crazy, considering a lot of people are still on their Chinese New Year break. The re-opening campaign is titled ‘Reborn’ and it’s difficult to miss the content – it’s everywhere. From posters to stations to buses and trains, it’s a vibrant campaign that’s cute and friendly.

The zoo was originally built in 1936, and closed for refurbishment two years ago. It’s undergone a complete overhaul to upgrade its old facilities, and provide better space management. There are no cages in the new zoo, with animals housed in big open spaces, providing an environment much closer to their natural habitats. The number of species has been reduced from 70 to 44 (with the surplus animals and birds released into the wild or moved to other animal centres). Visitors can also observe the animals at a closer distance, as we discovered when we went for a walk about.

It’s a pretty small zoo, and it didn’t take long to walk around, but it was still a lot of fun. We spent ages watching gibbons, tigers and sun bears, and even enjoyed a bit of time messing about in the kids area with sheep, rabbits and guinea pigs. The animals all looked happy and relaxed, and seem to be looked after extremely well.

Our last stop was the insect house, where there are all sorts of insects from stag beetles to giant stick insects, with a Burmese python and a couple of crocodiles thrown in for good measure.

The souvenir shop had a graphic of a raccoon cleaning a hippo’s teeth (can’t imagine that happens every day). Visitors can pose for pics with a giant cardboard toothbrush, and of course, Jim couldn’t resist the opportunity. Big kid that he is.

On the way out, we stopped for a couple of minutes to listen to a very cute and very tiny little girl, singing and playing guitar with her dad.

We had an early dinner in town – Hsinchu is renowned for beef noodle soup, amongst other dishes, and we found a restaurant which served up a seriously good version. Melt in the mouth beef, with thick home made noodles and a spicy rich flavoured broth. Just what the doctor ordered on a cold evening.

Then we headed home on the train to do some planning, and have another earlyish night.

Tomorrow we’ll likely explore some more of the town, and hopefully get a better look inside the City God Temple, if it’s not as crazy busy as it was earlier in the week. And who knows what photo opportunities Jim will find along the way.

More then.

An upside down thank you, a blustery 22km walk along the coast, and a bag that’s taken up residence at the station.

Day 245: Hsinchu, Taiwan. Today we were keen to go for a long walk along the coast of Hsinchu. It was another bitey cold morning, so we bundled up in tops and fleeces and headed out into the chilly day.

While we filled our bottles at the water filter in the lobby, Lil commented on a wall hanging suggesting there’s beauty in simplicity. Given we’re managing to haul ourselves around Asia with just one simple backpack each, we’re must be pretty beautiful right now.

We’ve got a similar hanging in our room except in a fit of madness, someone has managed to hang it upside down. On a plus note, there’s a string of fairy lights draped across the material, though Lil refuses to live them lit for long, as she reckons they’re a fire hazard.

We walked across to the train station to catch a train into town, and then a bus over to Nanliao fishing port.

On the station platform, Lil recognised a pair of super bright sports shoes – it was the same guy that had been posing for pictures at the Old Gate yesterday in traditional costume and fluorescent trainers. Maybe she should have been a detective.

We also spotted a bag sitting on a seat on the platform opposite, which someone had left behind. With such low crime rates here, Lil joked that it would probably still be there when we returned to the station this evening.

The fishing port was fun to walk around – there’s a huge seafood market selling all sorts of fish and seafood, with a few cuddly toys thrown in for good measure. We were offered lots of samples of raw squid but Lil just wrinkled her nose and said no thanks.

There’s also a restaurant upstairs, where hundreds of people were enjoying New Year lunches with huge plates of seafood.

When we’d had our fill of fish (or at least the sight and smell of it), we started our trot along the coast – a cold and windy walk, with waves crashing against the sea wall.

There were lots of boardwalks and tree lined paths, and we had to dodge rather a lot of bikes, both the usual two-wheeled kind and the four-wheeled kind with electric motors often driven by overexcited giggling teenage girls.

A chunk of the coast has been turned over to wetland reserves. Mangroves have grown up on the mud and sand dunes, and there are lots of herons, ibis and little waders digging around for their dinners.

When we reached the end of the path, we walked around some roads to Qiding station, passing a poor ginger cat that had been hit by a car. There was little we could do – we flagged down a passing car and pointed to the cat, and they indicated they would call someone. We really hope they did, or that someone else helped it out. A bit of a sombre end to a lovely walk.

We arrived back in Hinschu early evening, where the streets were still heaving with New Year visitors. We had lots of fabulous steamed dumplings at a street side restaurant (piling on more layers of clothes as we had to sit outside), then headed back home.

As we walked through our train station, we glanced across to the far platform and the bag that was left on a seat this morning was still there.

Tomorrow we’ll have a less active day after our 22km walk today; we might visit the newly opened zoo which has been redeveloped and transformed into an ‘animal first’ experience. And we’ll be interested to see if the bag is still sitting on a seat at the station.

More then.

A town that sounds like a big sneeze, Jim tops up his peanut butter supply, and towels that double up as dishcloths.

Day 244: Taichung & Hsinchu, Taiwan. This morning we packed up, said our goodbyes to our lovely airbnb hosts, and headed to Taichung station to catch a train to Hsinchu, which is pronouned Zhin-CHOOO! (it helps if you pretend you’re sneezing).

The journey to Hsinchu only took an hour and 40 minutes, but we discovered it’s noticeably colder (at least 5C cooler) than Taichung when we got off the train. Locals were bundled up in jackets, hats and scarves, which meant Jim got lots of quizzical stares as he wandered about in his shorts.

Our accommodation check-in time was 5pm (and they don’t release the self-check in code until just before then) so we needed to store our backpacks somewhere. The lockers at the station were full, so the lovely girl at the visitor information desk took off at jogging pace across the car park to show us where the station baggage storage area is. And we quickly discovered that jogging with full backpacks ain’t an easy thing to do.

Then we set off on a walk around town – there’s a lovely moat along by the river and some impressive old buildings mixed in with the new.

One of the major local landmarks is the Old Gate, which is the only relic leftover from the Japanese occupation. There was a guy standing on the steps being photographed, wearing some sort of old world costume; however he either forgot, or couldn’t be bothered, to change his luminous sports shoes.

We’d read about a famous peanut butter factory and shop in the town. Given Jim is one of the world’s largest consumers of peanut butter, we decided to go and search it out. The store sells lots of dried fruit and nuts, cookies and sweets – all piled on the floor and shelves in a fairly haphazard arrangement. Lil had a snoop around while Jim queued to buy one of their jars of home made peanut butter, which should keep him going for a day or two.

Afterwards we headed to the City God Temple, a famous temple which is the highest ranking City God Temple in the country. It was absolutely heaving with people visiting, lighting piles of incense sticks (we had to keep ducking to avoid being singed), and placing offerings on the shrine.

There’s a bustling food market right next to the temple, which was also thick with people. It was fun pushing through the crowds to eye up the different food stalls selling all kinds of interesting foods, but way too busy to try any of them. We’ll have to go back another day.

Our last visit for the afternoon was to the Glass Museum, which has had mixed reviews online. It turned out to be really good – there was a temporary exhibition downstairs where 52 Taiwanese artists have contributed one piece each, and a standard exhibition and information section upstairs. A lovely elderly staff member who spoke good English explained the background to a few of the pieces.

We were impressed to read that Taiwan has the world’s second largest glass re-use and recycle rate (92%) – the highest being Sweden (100%).

Afterwards we walked back to the station, collected our bags and caught the train to our accommodation, a short 13 minute journey.

We unpacked and got settled in, once again thankful that we carry travel towels, as the accommodation (like some other places we’ve stayed) provided small disposable cotton towels that are like dishcloths. How you’re supposed to dry yourself with a 32 x 60cm piece of see through fabric continues to baffle us (and they can’t be good for the environment).

The lady who manages the accommodation came knocking at our door to collect payment in cash (the preferred and sometimes only payment option for accommodation). She also wanted to present a Chinese New Year’s gift to us, but Lil had already spotted the red envelope on the table and ripped it open to shake out its contents (two cheese biscuits and four candies). We thanked her profusely – perhaps a little too profusely as she kept offering to go and get us a second envelope of goodies. She also wanted to show us which of the giant bottles in the bathroom contains shampoo, and which is shower cream (the difference is marked in English on the bottles, but we said nowt).

Then we headed out to a local craft beer bar, which has a great selection of beers from around the world. We had four Taiwanese beers – one we’d had before and were keen to try again, and three that were new to us. They were all excellent, and it was fun watching some locals chatting and getting trollied together.

Then after a quick dinner, we headed home for a good night’s sleep and a shower with our own towels.

Tomorrow we’re planning a long walk along the coast. And Jim has decided it’s time to wear long pants, to avoid lots more stares from the locals.

More then.

Scoffing new year’s cakes for breakfast, a comical kerfuffle at the museum, and Jim scores a perfect 10 on a kids’ game.

Day 243: Taichung, Taiwan. The rain that appeared yesterday evening returned overnight, and we woke to a very soggy day.

We sat drinking coffee and chatting to Sharon, our airbnb host (admittedly the conversation was mostly conducted using Google Translate), while she plied us with some awesome New Year’s Cakes.

Our original plan was to head to Fengyuan on the train and hire bikes to cycle the Houfeng trail, but the rain made that a no-go. So instead we headed to the National Museum of Natural Science for a look around the exhibits.

Our museum visit was short lived, as we quickly discovered the exhibits had no English information, so we had little idea of what they were all about. Jim played a game where (he managed to deduce) you have to listen to wildlife sounds and press a corresponding picture. When he got them all right, he jumped up and down, punching the air like a little kid. Easily amused.

We found a section with some self-play musical instruments behind glass (sadly half of them were broken) and had a bit of fun creating some tunes.

Then there was a comical kerfuffle when Lil stopped to put a puzzle together involving wooden blocks. A Chinese lady beside her said “no”, then reached over and undid the few blocks Lil had assembled. The Chinese lady pointed to some instructions saying “wrong!”. Lil pointed to another set of instructions, which were the ones she was in fact following, for a different brick puzzle. There was an awkward moment where the lady had to apologise and then tried putting Lil’s blocks back together again. Jim stood in the background sniggering.

Afterwards we walked across to the Botanical Gardens, which is fairly small. Lil managed to break in through a fire door, then realised we were supposed to pay, so had to walk through the exit to ask where we could buy entry tickets, completely baffling the security guard.

We had a walk around the gardens, a quick look at the store, then watched some huge fish for a while before heading back out again. The fish included a pair of huge pirarucu fish from the Amazon that are the largest fresh water fish in the world and grow to be the size of a man, along with some pretty awesome catfish. In another tank was a shoal of piranhas who miraculously had not eaten their much smaller tank mates.

By now it was nearly 3pm, so we headed for a coffee while deciding what to do next. Lil had a brainwave that we could still fit in a quick walk along an old railway trail, which involved a bus ride to the station, and a train ride to the start of the trail, some 17km away.

So we scurried and got to the trail entrance around 4.15pm, giving us just over an hour to walk as far as we could and back again, before dark. The walk was good and scenic, though it continued to rain as we went along.

We found some very random seats by a temple at the end of the walk, so sat down for a quick rest before heading off to the station.

Then we caught the train back to our suburb, had some dinner on the way home, and a chilled out evening with a glass of vino, catching up with admin and planning.

Tomorrow we pack up again, and travel to Hsinchu, a town about 100km north of Taichung. Hopefully the rain will have stopped by then or we may find ourselves swimming north.

More then.

Watching the world go by in the city, Lil tries a nutty new exercise, and new year cards that bring lots of wealth.

Day 242: Taichung, Taiwan. We shifted accommodation today, and with a 4 hour gap between check-out and check-in times (they’re typically pretty strict on these things here), we found ourselves kicking about in the city for a bit.

We sat for a couple of hours at a local cafe, drinking coffee, reading and watching the world go by. Then sat in the park for a bit, doing more reading and watching more world go by.

It was New Year’s Day today, and after spending New Year’s Eve with family and welcoming in another year, lots of people were out and about socialising and having fun in the park.

Lil got a little bored and decided to see if she could lift her body from a seated position, using her two arms; she can, and she was so pleased that she did it over and over again, so likely won’t be able to lift anything at all tomorrow.

Mid afternoon we caught a bus across town to the airbnb we’re staying at for the next two nights. The accommodation is on the 14th floor of an apartment block, so let’s hope the lifts doesn’t break down.

Our airbnb hosts, Sharon and Sam, are lovely and really welcoming. They showed us our room, introduced us to their son Willis (we’re not sure about the spelling), and gave us a set of keys. They also gifted us two Chinese New Year envelopes with cards inside. The cards have Taiwanese coins stuck to them – the thinking being that the receiver will receive good luck and build wealth over the coming year. Sounds good to us.

Then we headed out for a walk around the neighbourhood, and caught a bus to the airport. We weren’t planning to fly anywhere, but the three international airports in Taiwan are the only places that foreigners can get 30 day pre-paid SIM cards with unlimited usage. Baffling, but that’s just how it is.

With new SIM cards safely in our paws, we caught the bus back to town and had dinner at a local eatery. Delicious pork chop and rice (the Taiwanese version of pork chop at least – definitely from a different part of the pig to the usual pork loin).

While we sat eating, Lil spotted it was raining outside – only the second lot of rain we’ve seen in the two months we’ve been in Taiwan. The umbrella stall across the street from the restaurant was doing a roaring trade.

Then we had a quick beer and headed back to our accommodation for a good long night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we haven’t quite worked out what we’re doing, but whatever it is, it will likely involve lots of walking after a day spent mostly sitting on our bums. And let’s see if Lil’s arms are still working after today’s nutty exercise in the park.

More then.

Enduring the painful effects of walking, Jim’s washed sock goes AWOL, and a cat dressed up for Chinese new year.

Day 241: Taichung, Taiwan. Having read all the warning signs before the hike yesterday, including the one about King Kong insects, they failed to add one further warning: the likelihood of waking up in pain the following day.

The hours spent walking over logs exercised and stretched muscles in our legs that don’t usually get exercised or stretched. We hobbled around our hotel room in agony, and decided today wasn’t a good day for another hike.

Instead we started the day with an overdue trip to the laundromat, which thankfully was open, given it’s Chinese New Year’s Eve. A nice old guy was managing the place, and came over and pointed to various instructions in Chinese (which didn’t really help us, but it was lovely of him to try).

We had to pop back to the laundromat later when Jim discovered he had one sock less than he started with. Despite a bunch of people jumping in to help with the sock search, it didn’t show up, so he’ll just have to hop around on certain days.

Afterwards we had a ramble around town to see what was happening on Chinese New Year’s Eve, which in conclusion was ‘not much’. Apart from people out doing last minute shopping in the larger streets where stores were open, and the noisy chaotic aisles of Carrefour, the town was pretty much closed for the holidays.

The good news is we managed to find some fab pineapple cakes – a traditional New Year treat we were keen to try. They’re like a rich pineapple jam encased in a crumbly buttery pastry shell – awesome and way too moreish.

We also walked through Painted Animation Lane, a small alley that’s lined with street art featuring nostalgic anime and cartoon characters. It’s pretty cool, even if we didn’t recognise lots of the characters.

And Jim got to sit alongside Totoro at a mocked up bus-stop shelter.

We also wandered past a stall where people were busily snapping up red decorated envelopes, called hong bao, which are used to gift money to people at New Year. Every year there’s an annual scramble to get ‘new bank notes’ to put in the envelopes. People can either pre-register with their banks, listen for announcements of when new notes will be loaded into existing ATMs, or visit ‘pop up’ ATMs which are installed solely for the purpose (and we’ve seen the lengthy queues forming).

We had an early evening walk around the night market close to our hotel – it’s pretty big, but has lots of the same food items that we’ve seen at other markets. Still it was fun to walk around, and we got to see a cat dressed up for New Year in a red and gold tutu (perhaps the cat just dresses like that all the time, who knows).

Tomorrow we’re switching accommodation to an airbnb across the other side of town. And we may even pack in another walk, assuming we can walk without hobbling.

More then – and Happy Chinese New Year. 🙂

L&J

Let the new year holidays begin, being very wary of king kong, and a stunning hike over logs.

Day 240: Taichung, Taiwan. This morning we headed out to walk some trails, just outside the city in Dakeng.

The streets seemed eerily quiet, compared to usual weekday mornings. Then it dawned on us – the Chinese New Year holidays have already begun, and today was a public holiday.

New Year here seems to revolve around a lot of eating with friends and family. There are heaps of different foods consumed, but the one that we’re both really keen to try out are pineapple cakes. Hopefully there will be some left by the time we get to a shop tomorrow (assuming some shops are open).

After topping up our travel passes, we waited at the bus stop and Lil commented that someone must have been legless after a big night out.

We caught the bus to start of trail, and when we tapped off with our EasyPass, we were puzzled by the fact we didn’t seem to have been charged for the trip. It turns out that if you use your EasyPass, all bus journeys under 10km are free in Taichung – how good is that?

When we reached the trail entrance, there were groups of people hanging about, but thankfully it still wasn’t too busy.

We read all the usual warnings, which today included King Kong insects, a tiny 1mm long biting midge native to Taiwan. We’d checked them out online beforehand, and apparently they deliver a nasty bite that itches for over a week. We slathered ourselves in 80% DEET which is saved for special occasions just like this one.

We had a lovely chat with a guy and two girls who had already completed their hiking for the day, then we started our own walk.

The walk is pretty unique as it’s a floating path constructed using logs, with large gaps in between the rungs and a space underneath. Four parallel trails head up the hill on top of the ridges created by earthquakes.

We did three of the 10 trails (of the five at this end of the valley only three are open just now anyway, the others are closed for repairs). Continuing earthquakes and landslides mean the trails are constantly under repair.

There are lots of rest pavilions where people were stopping to eat and brew up pots of tea and just sit and enjoy the view. It’s a very social trail with lots of ‘ni hao’s and little chats with the other trekkers.

The weather was crystal clear today and there were superb views across the town, almost to the sea, and the nearby hills.

The maple trees were also out in force, creating splashes of red and orange alongside the trails.

With our jelly legs and sore feet, we headed down the valley to catch the bus back home, passing stalls in the nearby village selling New Year goodies.

Tomorrow is Lunar New Year’s Eve, so it will be fun to see what’s happening around the town. And hopefully we’ll manage to get our paws on some pineapple cakes before they’re all sold out.

More then.

Jim pretends to be a train driver, walking inside an extremely big Buddha, and buzzard antics at the visitor centre.

Day 239: Taichung, Taiwan. Today we decided to have a look around Changhua, a town about 25km away from Taichung.

On the way to the train station, a lovely elderly couple wished us Happy New Year. Then the man said “but it’s not just happy new year, we must be happy every day of course”. Wise words indeed.

There are lots of trains that go to Changhua and the journey takes less than 25 minutes. So before we knew it we were walking through the streets of the town, in search of some well known landmarks.

Our first visit was to the Changhua Roundhouse or Fan Shaped Train Garage. The curved maintenance sheds surround a turntable and allow lots of train engines to come and go as needed. Built in 1922, there are only three of these curved sheds remaining in the world, the other two being in Mexico. There are a couple of old steam engines in the sheds, both of which still run from time to time.

Nearby there’s a small train-themed park with some wooden trains. Jim sat in an engine and pretended to be the train driver, while Lil stood nearby, groaning.

Then we walked to the other end of town and up to the Mount Bagua Buddha temple, which is four stories high. On the second floor is a statue of Confucius – one of only three in the whole world.

Next was the Great Buddha of Mt. Bagua, which is the top sight in Changhua. It’s one of the biggest Buddhas in Asia (it used to be the largest), and it’s quite a spectacle. We’ve seen lots of Buddha statues on our travels, but this is the first with a visitor centre inside. We were able to walk up several floors, where there were displays depicting various Buddhist origin scenes.

There were heaps of lanterns strung up for Chinese New Year, and an awesome dragon made largely of small glass bottles.

Afterwards we went for a walk on the Sky Trail, a raised walkway about 1.5km long, with extensive views over the town beyond.

Then we walked up a hill to the Ecosystems Visitor Centre, praying that we wouldn’t be pounced on and asked to help promote local events and wear local costumes, as happened in Songboling last week. The visitor centre had an exhibition on grey faced buzzards and Jim had a go at an augmented reality game, controlling a buzzard as it flew across an impressive 3D map of Taiwan. The lady at the welcome desk fell about laughing, as she watched him flailing his arms like a bird.

Back down in the town, we visited the Confucius Temple, another key Taiwan historic site which was originally built in 1726, and has been repaired at various times over the years. It’s very impressive.

Changhua, like other towns here, is really revving up for Chinese New Year later this week. All around town there were fabulous characters made from wire and thin velour fabric, many featuring rats (2020 being the year of the rat).

Late afternoon we popped into a cafe for a much needed caffeine hit, then caught a train back to Taichung. As we were making our way down to the concourse, Lil commented that the scene ahead of us was like something from a Lowry painting (he of ‘matchstick men, and matchstick cats and dogs’ fame).

Tomorrow we’re hoping to pack in a long walk somewhere, depending on transport options. And doubtless we’ll see lots more Chinese New Year decorations being strung up along the way.

More then.

A walk down chest touching lane, Jim returns to weird food heaven, and a visit to a very famous old temple.

Day 238: Taichung, Taiwan. This morning we caught up on some admin and planning, then walked to the bus station to catch a local bus to Lukang.

Lukang is one of Taiwan’s oldest towns, and the Old Street was the main business area of Lukang back in the early days. Lukang literally means ‘Deer Harbour’. We read online that the name was given to the town as it was the main harbour for exporting deerskin during the Dutch colonial period. When we arrived in the town we headed straight for the Old Street, which is famous for its old buildings some dating from 1600.

The Old Street is filled with traditional Taiwanese style houses, many of which are now used as restaurants and shops. There’s a huge array of local foods on offer, and Jim had a field day trying some of them. It’s also full of tiny little alleyways which are fun to walk around.

One of the little alleyways is call Molu Lane, which is also known as ‘Chest Touching Lane’. It’s such a narrow laneway that only one person can walk through at a time. If two try, then chest touching becomes a thing.

Lukang is also known for having some of the most lovely temples in Taiwan. We started our visit to a small temple with a water pump and a small well.

Then we decided to hit the food stalls (let’s face it, it was going to difficult to hold Jim back much longer). He started with a weird concoction called Noodle Tea, which was nothing like tea or noodles. It was some sort of floury substance mixed with water that turns into a sludge (as Lil called it). It was surprisingly good, but very filling.

Next were Taro Cakes, strips of taro and pork mince steamed like dumplings (despite one website saying they were vegetarian). They looked decidedly odd, but tasted pretty good.

Lil tried Cow Tongues flaky pastries that come in a range of flavours – sweet potato, taro, sugar and plain. They were excellent, if a little rich.

There were lots of Chinese New Year pastries, too many to try them all. Jim nearly bought a big bag to take home, but decided at the last minute that might be a bit extreme.

Some very cute cats were curled up outside a shop (presumably not for sale, but who knows).

Next Jim tried a flat cake bun, with curried meat and more pastry. His verdict was ‘delicious!’.

We also popped into a shop that had a huge variety of dried and candied fruits – we tried candied olives, dried dragonfruit, and lots of other treats.

Jim’s final tasting for our visit was an egg yolk and red bean pastry. Which sounds a little weird, but it actually tasted really good.

At this point, Lil decided it was time to drag Jim away from the food area, so we walked to Longshan Temple. It’s a very famous temple in Taiwan that was constructed during the Qing dynasty (c.1690) and has been named a Class 1 historical site of Taiwan. We felt privileged to be there, and able to wander around the ancient space which is still in daily use. The temple is also referred to as ‘The Forbidden City of Taiwan’ – however we don’t know why.

Then we caught the bus home, had dinner and an early night. It was a pretty big day.

Tomorrow we’re undecided what to do – some more sightseeing, or perhaps a long walk. Jim’s already hoping that wherever we end up, there will be more weird stuff to eat.

More then.