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Taiwan Road Trip 2024 Part 2(b)

Route: Changhua - Guanxi

sunny 25 °C

21 March - 23 March 2024

Now on the move again and in a northernly direction. Although our destination was Changhua, we would first take a detour to Sun Moon Lake. The day started sunny, which revealed some great scenery for our drive down the mountain.

Mountain scenery

Mountain scenery

Two hours of driving got us to Sun Moon Lake. The road then hugged the edge of the lake as we made our way to the cable car station. From there we boarded a cable car pod and ascended the mountain. Sun Moon Lake sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains, so gaining elevation gives you the best view. Each pod takes up to eight people, but it was just the two of us in ours. This made photography much easier. The cable car journey covers just under 2km and takes about 10 minutes. By the time you arrive at the top you are at an elevation of 875 meters. At the top there is a cultural village dedicated to the local indigenous people, the Thao. However, in reality it is a theme park with rides, etc. This not being our scene we didn’t stay long before taking a pod back down.

Sun Moon Lake Rope Car (that's how it was translated in English for cable car)

Sun Moon Lake Rope Car (that's how it was translated in English for cable car)

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Theme Park above Sun Moon Lake

Theme Park above Sun Moon Lake

Lunch in the lake side canteen was followed by a walk along the boardwalk. Walk and cycle ways stretch around most of the lake’s 37km perimeter, but we only covered a short stretch.

Boardwalk along Sun Moon Lake

Boardwalk along Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake

Our day was completed by the drive to our overnight location, Changhua.

Around 20 minutes drive west of Changhua is the town of Lukang. Lukang is one of Taiwan’s oldest port towns and has preserved much of its architectural and cultural heritage. This sounded interesting, so we thought it was worth a look.
The old part of the town is now condensed into one narrow street with a few alleyways coming of it. It felt like a different world. Old wooden fronted buildings, some as 300 years old, lined the street. Colourful decoration adorned most of them. Inside was like a time capsule with original architecture preserved and period artefacts displayed everywhere. Many of the original trades are still performed, such as fan making, flour figurines, etc. These original trades now mix with more modern consumable goods, a necessity to allow the area to survive.
We slowly strolled along the street going in and out of shops. More to see the architecture than to buy anything, even though some had very nice pottery and carvings.

Lukang Old Street door which some are up to 300 years old

Lukang Old Street door which some are up to 300 years old

Lukang Old Street

Lukang Old Street

Fan shop in Lukang Old Street

Fan shop in Lukang Old Street

Shop in Lukang Old Street

Shop in Lukang Old Street

We still don't know what type of food this is. Any suggestion?

We still don't know what type of food this is. Any suggestion?

Street amusement that can be seen everywhere

Street amusement that can be seen everywhere

Ornate manhole cover in Lukang

Ornate manhole cover in Lukang

Lukang narrow alleyway of the Old Street

Lukang narrow alleyway of the Old Street

It was a hot day and we soon built up a thirst. An interesting cafe caught our eye so we went in. This was a stroke of luck. Whilst quenching our thirst we got into conversation with a guy, using the phone translation facility, who was lecturer and a master craftsman of Floor Figurines. He was very engaging and interesting and one of the highlights of the day.

Happy Chap who is a renowned for his traditional dough making figurine

Happy Chap who is a renowned for his traditional dough making figurine

Cafe in Old Lukang

Cafe in Old Lukang

A little further down the street was a shop selling scrolls of Chinese writing, an item we had been interested in buying. Most of the one’s we really liked were too big to transport home and cost more than we were willing to pay. However, we did purchase a small one for a reasonable price. What was a bonus though, Anne was able to try her hand at painting Chinese script. And did a pretty good job.

Chinese Script Shop

Chinese Script Shop

That's Anne's writing Chinese style

That's Anne's writing Chinese style

Almost just across the street another cafe caught our interest. They were serving food and we were a bit hungry, so we combined a nose around with a bite to eat. Another amazing building which the owner was keen to show off, so we took advantage and even went upstairs. This was a day to be adventurous with our food. We had already tried some strange tasting soft drinks and a sausage on a stick with a sweet coating. Now it was time to try bubble tea and risotto Taiwan style. Our first two encounters of the day were drinkable and edible but not to our liking. Unfortunately with our latest choice we fared no better.

Inside restaurant in Old Street Lukang

Inside restaurant in Old Street Lukang

Top floor of restaurant

Top floor of restaurant

Bubble tea, weird milky and slimy texture ball. You guessed it, it wasn't our cup of tea <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />)

Bubble tea, weird milky and slimy texture ball. You guessed it, it wasn't our cup of tea :))

Street food, sweet sausage

Street food, sweet sausage

More interesting buildings and quant alleyways followed, before we bumped into a couple of minor celebs. Thats what we guessed they were. The guy was posing on a bench whilst being filmed. Then joined by his side-kick they wanted to engage in conversation with us. They were very pleasant so we obliged, whilst the camera man filmed the four of us.
It's not an exaggeration to say, at times we feel like the only non-Asians in Taiwan. Today we saw no Europeans or Americans and even at the most popular tourist attractions there were hardly any. Consequently, we are a bit of a novelty and people want to engage with is, which is great and a bonus for us.
The final part of the walk was through the artist area. A row of original styled workshops where you can see the artists at work. Workshops creating masks, scrolls, figurines, paintings, etc were all open for viewing and we went into most of them. Even buying a flour figurine from one.

Artist workshop

Artist workshop

Chinese script workshop

Chinese script workshop

artist quarter in Lukang

artist quarter in Lukang

Figurines made of flour dough

Figurines made of flour dough

As with everywhere in Taiwan, there were many temples to see. But this time we didn’t get distracted and spent our time immersed in the architecture, culture and the people.
That was the day done, except for one last encounter. Paying for the parking in the pay booth was going well until we had no more english instructions. To our rescue, and not for the first time, was a very helpful local. She pushed the appropriate buttons for us and we were able to get the car out of the carpark.

On the move again and continuing to head north. A long stretch of freeway got us close to the day’s first stop. Then a short stint on minor roads and we were at the Lions Head Mountain Scenic Area. Set in the foot hills of the Central Mountain Range, Lions Head provides a green oasis away from the busy towns that stretch away towards the west coast. Our visit consisted of a short circular hike through the lush forest.

Lions Head Forest, as usual in Taiwan Forest trails, lots of steps.

Lions Head Forest, as usual in Taiwan Forest trails, lots of steps.

Mail left under a rock in the Lion's Head recreational area. There is nothing around but trees and nature.

Mail left under a rock in the Lion's Head recreational area. There is nothing around but trees and nature.

Our second stop was in the same area, just a 9km drive away. Emei Lake our destination, a reservoir created from the Emei River. It wasn’t the reservoir that we were here to see, but a giant Buddha. Which became visible long before we arrived at the car-park. The 72 meter high bronze Maitreya Buddha Statue sits on a plinth and towers over its surroundings. Construction of the statue started in 2001 and it is said to be the largest of its kind in the world. There is also a massive monastery next to it, but we didn’t go in.

Biggest Maitreya Buddha Statue in Taiwan  (at Emei Lake)The pure bronze statue is 56.7 meters tall with a 15.3-meter-tall base, totalling 72 meters in all.

Biggest Maitreya Buddha Statue in Taiwan (at Emei Lake)The pure bronze statue is 56.7 meters tall with a 15.3-meter-tall base, totalling 72 meters in all.

The Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

It now wasn’t far to our accommodation in the small rural town of Guanxi. Our guest house was surrounded by rice paddies and with views down in to a river valley. The large house is set in extensive grounds and our room was on the second floor. The first floor was a fascinating shop selling recycled items. Lots of books, all in Chinese, and an incredible array of other items. You could find old camera’s, radio’s, tennis rackets, pictures, toys even some good quality bottles of wine. Every time we walked through we saw something new, or old in this instance. Although the guest house had 6 rooms and 3 cabins we were the only ones staying that night so had a free run of the place.

Rice paddies outside our accommodation

Rice paddies outside our accommodation

Ground floor of our accommodation doubled up as a second hand shop and recycling place. It was empty of any customers but us

Ground floor of our accommodation doubled up as a second hand shop and recycling place. It was empty of any customers but us

One of the item on display were old bottle of French Wine. The owners didn't know what they had in value as they don't drink wine

One of the item on display were old bottle of French Wine. The owners didn't know what they had in value as they don't drink wine

We had now travelled as far north as we intended, about 50km south of Taipei. The following day we would cross the central mountains, bound for the east coast once more.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Robot Road-workers
On the road it wasn’t unusual to encounter road works. The normal coned off area protecting workers and machinery from the traffic. What was different though was the flag waver requesting vehicles to slow done. This was a robot dressed in a high-viz jacket and hard hat.

Toto Wash-let
An encounter we have had on a number of occasions has fascinated us. But on only a couple of occasions have we been able to sample its functions. The Toto Wash-let is a toilet with a difference and electronically controlled. When you sit on the seat it is cushions and heated, a bit weird at first. As soon as your weight bears down on the seat a deodorant mist is spread into the toilet bowl. You are now ready to do your business. Once complete you have several cleaning options, all warm water jets aimed at the bum, you choose which angle is best for you. There were a couple of other buttons, with the function written in Chinese, which we didn’t try. The whole experience was a bit unsettling at first, but became a bit of a novelty when we got used to it.

Sun Moon Lake Pink Cable Car
At the Sun Moon Lake cable car station, there was a long queue of people waiting to board the pods for the ride up the mountain. You can therefore imagine our surprise when we were immediately instructed to go to the front of the queue upon our arrival. We felt like VIP’s and bit embarrassed having passed all these people queuing patiently. Once at the front of the queue it also seemed strange that there were plenty of empty pods that no one was boarding. Perhaps it was only polite to let the VIP’s have the choice of pod first?
We latter realised that everyone in the queue wanted to ride in a pink pod and there were only limited numbers of them. Why they wanted to cram into a pink pod instead of have another colour all to themselves, as we did, seemed to be odd. We never did find out why. The only explanation we could come up with. As it was the cherry blossom period, riding in a pink pod would provide good luck for the year ahead. This is purely a guess without any basis.

The Pink Pod, worth waiting 1/2 hour for ?

The Pink Pod, worth waiting 1/2 hour for ?

Posted by MAd4travel 15:53 Archived in Taiwan

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