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.

An early morning goose alarm clock, taking the very long road to Taichung, and celebration beers in a trendy taproom.

Day 237: Nantou & Taichung, Taiwan. We were woken this morning by a guy cycling past shouting at the top of his voice (we assume he was selling something), which caused a gaggle of local geese to start honking their heads off. No alarm clock needed here.

After a long and leisurely breakfast, we checked out of the hotel at 11am, then still had an hour and a half to wait for a direct bus to Taichung. The hotel is being renovated and the communal area is upside down, so we walked down to a local cafe and sat drinking more coffee to pass the time.

Getting a direct bus to Taichung meant we didn’t have to shuffle on and off buses with our backpacks at Nantou, however the downside was the bus took rather a long time to get to where it were going. It stopped at dozens of stops and wounded around lots of neighbourhoods – good sightseeing out the window though.

The bus driver was curious to know why we were on a slow all-stops local bus, and sent a passenger who speaks English along to chat to us, to make sure we were on the right bus. Lucky there was someone who spoke English, as the bus wasn’t exactly full.

We arrived in Taichung mid-afternoon. It’s the second largest city in Taiwan, and a large iron footbridge spanning a main road displayed the words ‘The Dazzling City’. We’re all set to be dazzled.

After of a bit of a kerfuffle getting access to our hotel (our fault for not reading the Chinese instructions), we eventually made it to our room and got settled in.

Today marks 5 years since we started dating, and of course memorable dates mean more great opportunities to celebrate. So we headed to a craft beer bar called ChangeX, which the brewer from Pro Beer recommended. We had two great draft German weissbiers.

Afterwards we walked across to Taihu, the very trendy taproom of a Taipei brewery set up by two Americans and three Taiwanese. It was really busy on Monday evening with an eclectic mix of locals, expats and visitors. We had a great IPA and a Double IPA, both really good beers.

Tai is short for Taiwan, and Hu means tiger, and the brewery’s smart logo revolves around a tiger surrounded by hops.

Afterwards we walked back across town, passing a huge teddy bear enjoying a glass of vino. He looked very happy with this lot.

We also passed another Xmas tree so Jim hopped up to have his pic taken – we’re loving that Christmas is STILL a thing on 20 January.

Then we headed back towards our hotel, stopping for dinner on the way, and had a quick wander through the local night market.

At 9.30pm on Monday, the night market was absolutely heaving, with people out eating and drinking and socialising. We’ll have to have a proper look around another evening.

Tomorrow we’ve a choice of things to do, from exploring the town to museums to long walks. Whatever we do, we’re hoping we find ourselves dazzled.

More then.

Spotting pineapples in sun hats, visiting the highest point that’s not very high, and a different way to get your daily fibre.

Day 236: Nantou, Taiwan. Another gorgeous sunny day, another long walk – and this time no need for any buses or trains.

Just behind our accommodation, a small road leads to a bigger road, which leads to a smaller road, which winds all the way up the hill to Henshan, the highest point in the local area.

The walk was glorious – through fields and fields of pineapples and tea, with hardly any traffic and just a few people out tending their crops. Pineapples are a traditional gift for Chinese New Year (as are pineapple tarts and cake), so we expect a lot of the fruit will be picked over the next week. Pineapples signify good luck as the word for pineapple – ong lai in Hokkien and wong lai in Cantonese – sounds like ‘Wang Lie’, meaning imminent luck.

Some of the pineapples even wore circular sunhats, to stop them getting too much sun. Perhaps someone should invent pineapple sunscreen too.

We passed a chicken farm, where an unbelievable amount of white chickens were squawking in a long pen, alongside a whole barn full of the fluffy things.

We walked to the highest point at Henshan Peak (not overly high, but still a local landmark). There were great views across the valley and hills beyond, though sadly it was a little smoggy.

Then we retraced our steps a little and walked to the Hawk Watching Terrace. In another couple of months this will be an awesome spot to see eagles but today, a little earlier in the year, we didn’t spot any. There were more great views though.

Then we walked back to town, past a cafe and playground which had a giant Santa Claus sitting in the garden. Every day is Christmas, it seems.

The walk back down the hill was even more spectacular, as the sun started dropping across the fields. Such glorious countryside.

Lil stopped at a local store to pick up some diet coke, and came out clutching something called Coca-Cola Fibre+, which was the only diet coke they had in the shop. It’s diet coke with added fibre, and claims to be the healthiest variant of Coke on the market. How bizarre.

Tomorrow we’re packing up again to catch a bus to Taichung, the second largest city in Taiwan. And hopefully it will still be Christmas there too.

More then.

A long walk to drink craft beer, it’s still Christmas around here, and bears, bears everywhere.

Day 235: Nantou, Taiwan. After a huge happening day yesterday, we were happy to have a much easier one today.

We kicked about the hotel this morning, then set out to walk to a craft brewery called Tsai’s Actual Brewery early afternoon. It’s 11km away from our hotel, so still a decent walk.

Most of the route was along busy roads, but towards the end we found ourselves on the edge of town walking through rice fields, with motorways and flyovers in the background. All a little bizarre.

We spent a couple of hours at the brewery, and it was a lot of fun. The brewery was set up by a guy called Cai, who trained in Berlin and has ten years of brewing experience. A few year ago he said up Tsai’s, which is currently the only brewery in Taiwan producing authentic British beer.

The brewery mascot is a rotund bear which features prominently across everything through the whole complex.

We shared two flights of beer so got to taste everything that was on tap. Our favourites were the amber ale, and mountain pepper wheat beer (which wasn’t an English style beer, but really good regardless).

It’s apparently still Christmas at the brewery – the place was decorated with heaps of Christmas trees and decorations.

The upper floors at the brewery contain a restaurant, another bar and conference rooms, as well as some faux shop fronts that make for excellent selfies.

When we’d finished drinking beers, we walked 3.5km to Caotun to catch a bus home. It’s a lively town and the Saturday night market was just kicking off.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to do some more hiking, which is dependent on finding public transport to the trails. And if all else fails, we can always have a lazy day drinking beer again.

More then.

Jim has a chat with a cockatoo, crazy dress-up time at the visitor centre, and enjoying afternoon tea for two.

Day 234: Nantou, Taiwan. This morning we mapped out a long walk through a forest, up a large hill and across some tea plantations.

To reach the start of the trail, we caught a bus to Zhuoshui train station, then a train to Ershui station – the same popular tourist train that we took last week on the way to Sun Moon Lake.

At Ershui we had a quick look at some old steam trains and a fighter jet, then walked to Fengbo Plaza, where the trail started and wound through a forest and up the side of a hill.

In the town, we passed a cockatoo and a macaw tied to posts outside a shop; Jim stopped and had a good chat with the cockatoo.

As we started the trail, there were signs everywhere warning of monkeys, and not to feed or interact with them (as always, little chance of that happening).

We’d only gone about 500m when Jim said “Oh look, monkeys”, and right up ahead of us was a pack of about 20 monkeys sitting on the track. We took a deep breath and braved walking past them – some ran into the bushes, while others just sat and watched us go past (which to be honest, is a little unnerving). The pic below are the ones that were left after we went past.

The track wound through thick bamboo forests and acacia trees. After a while we reached a steep stairway, which climbed up the side of the mountain to a village and temple.

As we made our way up the steps, we passed a couple who were helping a very elderly gentleman up the steps. He looked like he must have been in his 90s, but was determined to get there, however slowly.

The village that we arrived in is called Songbolin – it’s famous for tea plantations and production, and the street was lined both sides with tea shops.

We had a quick look around the Shoutian temple where they were revving up for New Year celebrations. Most of the noise seemed to be coming from this stall, which was the local equivalent of a Punch and Judy show.

As we walked through the town, we spotted a sign for a visitor centre and wandered along to take a look. And that’s where the fun really began.

We’re guessing the two ladies in the visitor centre don’t get many visitors, and not many, if any, foreigners. They were super excited when we appeared through the door, pointing out exhibitions and brochure stands – and then they swung into action, realising they had an even bigger opportunity.

First, they got us to take off our shoes and sit on a platform where a traditional tea ceremony was set up, so they could take photos. Giggling, we parked ourselves on the floor and waited while they took a number of pics. We got back up again, and started to look around the centre, and then they pushed us towards a sack of tea for photo opportunity number two.

They also had a big box of world flags, and after asking us where we’re from, dug through and pulled out an Australian and a British flag (because we speak English, they thought a British flag was appropriate). And we had to stand and pose with the flags, feeling quite silly.

Then they dug out a sign promoting the Taiwan Lantern Festival, and asked if we would like ‘photo inside or photo outside’ (no photo at all, clearly wasn’t an option). We sighed and said ‘outside’, and they got us to sit on the ground in front of two cartoon characters, holding up the sign. Goodness knows where our pics are going to appear.

We went back inside and they asked us to scan a QR code and tag them on Facebook, and in return we got two black Taiwan caps and a cute ‘Oh Bear’ wrist sweatband.

Thinking we were done, we started to say our goodbyes, but then they started chatting even more animatedly to each other. They said something about ‘wedding dress’ and shoved us over towards a rack of flowery fabric cardigans. They got us to choose which ones we’d like to wear and insisted we should wear our new Taiwan hats too.

There was no way any of the cardigans were going to fit Jim, so he slung one around his shoulders, looking absolutely daft. Then they got us to stand on a stage and lift some sort of sedan chair – we assume it must relate to a wedding ceremony, but really we have no idea. By now, we were laughing so hard, we were starting to look like loons. And starting to wonder if we were part of a Taiwanese equivalent of Candid Camera.

At that point we really had had enough, so we hung our cardigans back up, said goodbye again and headed for the door. One of the ladies squeezed through the door ahead of us and pointed out a display with leaflets on the importance of insect repellent, and invited us to try the repellent for free. We quickly slapped some on – and then we quickly left.

We badly needed to hit the reset button, so went and got a coffee (yes, in a town full of tea) and sat in quiet for a while, then headed off to find a tea plantation called Two Finger Tea that we were keen to visit.

The tea plantation and associated shop were really quiet, being a weekday. The young manager, called Chang, and his sister invited us to sit down and they went through a fairly complex process of brewing us some local black tea. When the tea was ready, it was poured into a cup called an aroma cup, so we could sniff it – then we had to pour it into small bowls to drink it.

We had a good chat with Chang and his sister while we were sipping our tea (which was excellent), then went out to have a look around the grounds.

Then we started the long walk back to the closest town – which turned out to be glorious. We wound our way through some awesome countryside filled with tea plantations, pineapple fields, and areca palms, as far as the eye could see.

When we reached Mingjian, we caught a bus to Nantou, had noodles for dinner, picked up a few things in Carrefour, then headed back to our hotel, tired out from the day.

Tomorrow we’ll likely have an easier day, exploring Nantou town. And hopefully it will be a day free of dressing up and posing for pics.

More then.

A very slow day from A to B, taking Pop Bear Mummy’s sound advice, and a very light continental breakfast.

Day 233: Puli & Nantou, Taiwan. Today was one of those days where we spent all day getting from A to B – even though A and B (in this case Puli and Nantou) are only 50km apart.

We packed our bags this morning, which is something we’ve become pretty nifty at – perhaps not surprising given today marks 8 months since we set off from Sydney on our Asian Rambles.

Our checkout was 11am which left us with over 4 hours before our bus to Nantou at 3.30pm. The hotel said they were more than happy for us to perch ourselves in their lobby for a few hours, and even served us some of their ‘special soup’ for lunch (and Lil gave the unidentifiable meat bits to Jim).

At 1.30pm we decided we needed a change of scenery so slung our backpacks on and walked to a local cafe. There was a gorgeous dog in a pushchair next to his owner which tugged at our heartstrings – the poor thing was obviously really old, and we’re guessing being pushed to the cafe in a cart is the only way it’s going to get to go out at all. Simply adorable.

An elderly monk next to us made a couple of attempts to strike up conversation. We’d no idea what he was saying as it was all in Chinese, and his efforts to speak more slowly and more clearly and more loudly did nothing to help. We think he said something about Canada and Lil thought he mentioned Mexico but really, we have no idea. Eventually he bowed and waved and headed off carrying several large bags of fresh fruit.

We walked around to the bus station just after 3pm and plonked ourselves on a couple of hard plastic seats. Jim went to one of the counters to check our bus schedule, and the lady confirmed it was 3.30pm, and to queue at gate 5. So at 3.20pm, we queued at gate 5. One of the staff members came over and asked where we were going – we said Nantou at 3.30pm and he said “no one here knows that bus”. We pointed out the lady behind the counter seemed to know about it, so he went and checked with her and came back to announce “your bus will be here soon!”. Good job.

The bus took nearly 2 hours to cover the 50km to Nantou – it was slowed down by late afternoon traffic and gaggles of school kids piling on at a couple of stops. We arrived in Nantou just before 5.30pm, found an eatery nearby and had some seriously good beef brisket noodles for dinner.

Nantou is a decent sized town, with lots of restaurants and shops – including one we passed which has a bizarre name of Why and 1/2. Lil looked it up later on, and the brand seems to be based around a bear called Pop Bear. The web site explains that ‘Pop Bear’s dad and mommy like the colorful and pop pop art, that’s why he named his darling baby Pop Bear’.

And according to the web site, Pop Bear Mummy always says: “This world, we see only half, the other half is a surprise! Just a little bit different angle, you can see the other half of the world’s better! So Pop Bear is always super happy, because there will always be 1/2 of love and surprise!’

So there we go then. Another brand mystery solved.

And Jim of course couldn’t miss the opportunity to pose with a giant inflatable character. With Chinese New Year just over a week away, lots of decorations are starting to appear around towns. We’re not sure if this guy is the God of Good Fortune, or if he’s just trying to get us to play the lottery (which of course could be linked).

Afterwards we caught another bus to our accommodation – this time just a 10 minute ride. We checked in and asked about breakfast (when we booked the hotel, it mentioned a continental breakfast). We tried not to giggle as we were given a pile of 7-Eleven vouchers to go and buy our own breakfast up the street. The vouchers add up to about 1.75 AUD each per day, which just about buys a small coffee. That’s a pretty light continental breakfast right there.

Lil popped out to fill her water bottle from the water dispenser in the corridor and came back giggling. Our neighbours clearly don’t believe in packing lightly – along with some huge suitcases outside their door, there’s a kid’s flash go-cart. Though sadly it looks like the kid must have been driving a little recklessly, as one of the wheels has come off.

Tomorrow we’re planning to go for a much needed long walk, after sitting around for hours today. And perhaps we’ll take Pop Bear Mummy’s advice and try to look at the world ‘from a little bit different angle’.

More then.

Touring the tallest Buddhist temple, information overload at the museum, and a Chinese New Year gift.

Day 232: Puli, Taiwan. After a quick breakfast we headed out into another hot sunny day.

Today we were keen to visit a large Buddhist temple and monastery we’d read about online, and perhaps visit the neighbouring museum too, time permittng. The temple is 6km north of Puli – a scenic walk past huge fields of sugar cane and other crops, albeit on a pretty busy road.

When we reached Chung Tai Chan temple, we were met by a young Buddhist nun, who kindly offered us a tour of the monastery including a visit to some levels that general visitors can’t access.

Chung Tai Chan is absolutely huge. It’s the tallest Buddhist temple in the world, with 37 storeys, and was completed in 2001 at a cost of US$650 million. It was near impossible to get a photo that shows its sprawling mass without scaling a nearby tree, so we photographed the picture in the guide book instead.

There were five people in our little tour group – besides us, there was a Chinese couple and an Italian guy who spoke very good English but clearly didn’t understand the word ‘silence’ – he chattered away happily in areas where we were supposed to remain quiet. One of the visiting rules is that photos are only allowed on the two lower floors.

The first floor has a central Buddha with enormous statues in the four corners of room. Jim standing next to one in the pic below for scale, shows just how tall they were. These multi-headed figures are there to protect the entrance to the temple.

Then we took the lift to level 5 where there were Buddhas arrayed with gold and a 500 person prayer hall.

After that, we had a quick visit to level 9 where the floors, walls, ceilings and three very plain Buddhas were all in white, making it feel very peaceful.

Our final visit was to level 16, where there’s a full size 6 storey wooden pagoda constructed inside, and a 30m high picture window, where the individual window panes are cleverly designed to withstand earthquakes and strong winds – they have the capability to oscillate 43.9 centimetres. Each floor has amazing sweeping views across the mountains and those from level 16 were to die for. It’s such a shame we couldn’t take any pics.

When we’d finished we returned to the ground level and said our goodbyes. The nun gave us little cards with morals on them, and a poster that says something like ‘Life is evergreen’ – apparently it’s for hanging up at Chinese New Year, which we’ll make sure to do.

Afterwards we walked 10 minutes to the Chung Tai World Museum, part of the same organisation. Again, the museum is absolutely vast – the three huge levels depict different periods of Buddhism, mostly dating from 300CE and later. Level 1 has mostly replicas of Buddha statues from China, level 2 bronze statues and copies of Tripitaka (Buddhist bible) and other prayers, and level 3 displays even more statues. After about 90 minutes we were experiencing severe information overload, so decided to wrap up our visit.

We wandered around in the grounds of the museum for a bit, enjoying the late afternoon sun and yet more magnificent views across the mountains.

We were hoping to visit a giant Buddha statue across the other side of the valley (which is completely separate to Chung Tai), but it was another 4km away, and the 8km round trip would have meant walking home in the dark.

So we walked straight back to town, had dinner at a local eatery, and went home to finalise our plans for the next few days.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to Nantou, a town about 30km west of Puli. And somehow we’ll have to pack our newly acquired Chinese New Year poster without mangling it.

More then.

Delivering chocolate cake to a brewery, visiting a huge temple on a hill, and a very grumpy cat in a backpack.

Day 231: Puli, Taiwan. After another breakfast of toast and weird stuff, Lil headed out to buy a cake for the guys at Pro Brewery, to say thanks for their hospitality yesterday.

She came back with a chocolate and coffee roulade from a cake shop called Honey O, in a flash box and a very smart carrier bag. Everything comes beautifully packaged here, even if sometimes a little over-packaged.

The brewery invited us back today to meet Ray, their head brewer, who has spent time in Australia. Early afternoon we set off and walked across town, this time down quiet country lanes to avoid the crazy main road.

The walk was stunning and thankfully, even though lots of people seem to keep dogs for security, the less friendly ones were all tied up. We reached the brewery and while we waited for Ray to join us, we said hello to Pulo the dog again, who was happily lolling about in the shade.

Ray’s a really lovely, friendly guy. He trained in brewing at Little Creatures in Perth, Australia and is clearly making some great strides with his beers here in Taiwan. He also gave us some great tips on craft breweries and outlets in other Taiwan cities on our list to visit.

We gave the cake to Lu Hua (our spelling may be a bit ropey), the girl who took good care of us yesterday when we turned up to find the brewery under construction.

We said our goodbyes to the team and headed off to visit a huge temple nearby, called Ling Yan. It’s a very impressive new building which can clearly hold thousands of worshippers. It’s still undergoing a final fit out but it looks like enough of it will be ready for Chinese New Year in 10 days’ time. Interestingly, there are three Ling Yan temples; a second one in California and a third at Shellharbour in Australia.

There were more wonderful views across the local villages and countryside from the temple courtyard.

Then we walked back to town, down some different quiet roads, watching people working in the rice paddies, and enjoying the great views back to the temple on the hill.

We passed a huge bamboo tray of orange slices drying in the sun – a great way to preserve the fruit, which is in full season now.

When we got back to town we stopped for a coffee at a local cafe. While we were sipping our lattes we heard loud miaows coming from somewhere. We tracked down the miaows to the doorway, where a customer had parked their cat in a backpack with a plastic capsule front. The cat looked very cute, but it was pretty grumpy.

Tomorrow we’re planning to visit a Buddhist monastery about 6km away, called Chung Tai Chan, along with its neighbouring museum. And hopefully we can enjoy another snarly-dog-free walk.

More then.

Drinking cold beers on a construction site, giving Google Translate a good workout, and flamed duck noodles for dinner.

Day 230: Puli, Taiwan. Our morning started with another hearty breakfast at the hotel, comprising more plates of weird stuff for Jim.

Late morning we headed out to visit Pro Brewing, a craft brewery about 3km south from our hotel. Their Facebook page indicates they’re open Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm, however we turned up to find ourselves staring at what appeared to be a construction site.

We decided to take a wander around the back of the building, and it’s a really good thing we did. One of the staff spotted us, explained the bar and visitor centre is still being built, then asked if we’d like to taste their beers (a resounding yes from both of us).

We sat at one of the wooden tables, and played with the gorgeous brewery dog called Pulo (presumably some sort of play on the town name, but who knows). Apparently he had some sort of ‘event with traffic’ and as a result limps badly. Part of his ear is also missing.

Two bottles of beer arrived on our table with glasses – a tea beer, and a lager style beer. Closely followed by a passion fruit beer, then two more bottles of the lager beer (because we mentioned it was our favourite).

Everyone who works at the brewery came out to chat to us (Google Translate got a solid workout), and they even phoned the ‘boss’s son’ Neil, who drove over specially to meet us. He speaks very good English and was interested to find out more about our lives and our travels in Taiwan. His dad was a business man in China and after retiring returned back to Taiwan to set up the brewery in Puli, however he spends most of him time in Taipei, so sadly we didn’t get to meet him.

Neil gave us a quick tour of the brewery room. They can manage a 1000 litres or so, and have a mini bottling line, where they package their 8 different beers.

They’re also building a small hotel in the brewery complex, and Neil took us into the site to show us some of the rooms-in-progress, and up to the roof terrace where they are stunning views across the town and mountains.

Their head brewer wasn’t working today, but will be at the brewery tomorrow, so Neil invited us to return then to meet him and learn more about the brewing process. The brewer (whose name we didn’t catch) has spent time in Australia, so it will be interesting to chat to him.

We said our goodbyes and thanks (and no thanks to the offer of more beers) and walked back to town. Another glorious late winter afternoon, with the sun starting to set across the hills and rice fields.

We had a quick coffee on the way home, admiring a large black labrador and a small cute brown dachshund who came into the cafe with their owner. After a while the owner and labrador left, but the sliding glass doors closed before the dachshund could go through, and he wasn’t big enough to operate the doors on his own. So Lil had to go to its rescue, and we watched laughing as his little legs went at cartoon speed up the road after the rest of his family.

This evening we wandered over to one of the local night markets, and found a stall selling duck dishes. We ordered two bowls of duck noodles and they were sensational, though the flames that were erupting when they were being cooked were mildly alarming.

Tomorrow we’ll go for a long walk, and pop by the brewery again to have a chat with the brewer. And doubtless Google Translate will get another good workout too.

More then.