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.