Day 228: Sun Moon Lake & Puli, Taiwan. We packed up again this morning and headed across to the bus stand, to catch a bus to Puli.
The day got off to bit of a amusing start. Our bus driver popped across the street to chat to a mate, forgot the time and came running back (nearly getting run over in the process), then zoomed off while an English guy on the bus was desperately trying to tell him his mate was still in the bathroom.
An English-speaking Chinese girl on the bus told the bus driver what was happening. We skidded to a halt and sat in the middle of the main street waiting for the bloke to emerge from the loo, causing total chaos as buses and cars piled up in the narrow street. When the guy finally appeared and ran up the steps of the bus, his mate started sulking and refused to talk to him or sit with him (giggle).
Puli is only 15km from Sun Moon Lake, so less than half an hour later, we were climbing off the bus again. We walked to our hotel, and were happy to receive a free upgrade (Lil now messages everyone in advance asking for ‘a nice room’ and at least half the time, it works). The girl behind the desk said “free upgrade for you today, please give me 10 star rating, thank you, goodbye”. Alrighty.
We somehow managed to walk straight past the main lifts in the hotel, and found ourselves trying to squish into a small goods lift at the back of the hotel, with staff running across the lobby trying to stop us. Nothing like making a entrance.
Once we’d settled in, we headed out for a coffee, then popped into the Puli Winery (which is actually a distillery), where the famous local Shaoxing wine is made. After we’d tasted a couple of the wines (they were ok, but not really our style), and said no thanks to soap and shampoo made from the stuff, we had a wander through the wine cultural centre upstairs. Which turned out to be a lot of fun.
There were lots of exhibits on the history of Shaoxing wine and the distillery itself, but the really fun bit was the information panels outlining the ‘Ten Commandments of Drinking’ which include the sage advice “Do not drink after midnight to prevent from hangover”. If only it were that simple.
And even better, there’s a panel entitled ‘Drunk State’ which allows you to check your drinking buddies for the type of animal they represent when they’re drunk. Which could be a Monkey (sing loudly, jumping around and improvement of reaction); a Pig (tongue tied and yelling for another round; a Wolf (sexually aggressive) or any of the others on the list below (though it’s worth pointing out the last two aren’t actually animals). Even better, they appeared to have slapped the poster across a light switch, making it difficult to read the last few lines.
There was also a ‘House of drunk experiencing’ room which you can enter to experience what it feels like to be drunk. A sign warned ‘Do not enter if you have heart disease or anything serious that might damage your tour’. Assuming it would have a moving floor and perhaps moving walls, Jim carefully tucked away his phone and loose change, expecting to be doing some kind of balancing act. The room had only two features – a fixed sloping floor, and a wall with some geometric optical illusion patterns. If you stared at the patterns long enough, you could imagine they were moving. Sort of.
Next we popped into a very large temple, where there was an impressive shrine and lots of offerings, including a six pack of Coke and a bag of Snickers.
Then we walked across town to visit a paper factory that came highly recommended on Trip Advisor. We thought it would probably be rubbish and more suited to kids, but we were very very pleasantly surprised. A young local guy with excellent English gave us a guided tour of the factory. He started by chatting us through the raw materials, tree barks and gum used for paper making, including onion or garlic skins, tea, coffee and hemp for the fibres.
The fibres are blended and fluffed up before being mixed up with the gum, then a master paper maker uses a bamboo tray to make a thin film of the wet mix, and carefully stacks up sheets of the soaking wet paper. This is then left overnight, pressed, and then passed on to the next step which is drying the sheets on a hot table – also an incredibly skilled task.
Some of the masters have been working at the factory for over 30 years. We asked our young guide what will happen when they all retire, and he replied that they would probably just end up showing the tourists a video. Very honest, but also very realistic and saddening.
We also got to try some edible paper, made with fruit and vegetables, which was suprisingly good.
Lil bought a bookmark with a beautifully hand-painted 2020 Chinese year of the rat design, and a small paper purse, both made and decorated on the site.
On the way home we walked to Carrefour to pick up a couple of things (including some craft beers to go in our hotel room fridge). As we were walking out of the store, we spotted a ‘Quick haircuts’ store. Jim scurried in and put 100 Taiwan dollars in the pay machine (equivalent to less than 5 Australian dollars). A hairdresser called him over straight away (the system seems to work like tickets at the deli counter).
After a couple of remodels (the guy seemed determined to give him one of the locally popular hairstyles which are like long quiffs on top), followed by a quick clean off with what looked like a vacuum cleaner, he emerged happy with his new supermarket hairdo.
We wandered through the night market, which only opens at weekends. They were still setting up, so we decided to head on and we’ll visit again tomorrow evening.
We had superb brisket beef noodle soup for dinner, then headed home through the centre of town, where a giant Christmas tree is still standing on a roundabout, made of lots of colourful plastic toys. We’ll have to get a better picture in daylight tomorrow.
Tomorrow we’re planning a long walk round a lake on the outskirts of town, a small mountain and then a distillery (which is actually a winery) to try out some local fruit wines. And maybe we’ll aim to avoid “Drunk State: Monkey”.