Lukang: the Old City
November 2nd, 2014
After rescheduling a couple times with a friend from training I was finally able to visit one of the oldest cities in Taiwan: Lukang. My co-worker, Kristen, and I took the train to Changhua. After a call to Oliver to figure out where the bus station was we soon boarded a bus to Lukang.
Lukang was one of the first cities founded in Taiwan. It is famous for being a harbor city where ships would settle in the harbor, unload and reload, and then be on their way. When the Taiwanese government started building the train system throughout the country the city of Lukang refused, feeling that the train would change their city. Well as technology improved so did the transferring of goods and Lukang was no longer needed as a harbor city. Since then its’ main economy is tourism. Much of the city has been preserved for tourist reasons, and is famous for having several temples, good, cheap food, and historical Taiwanese culture spread around the city.
Arriving in Lukang my friend Oliver, who lives there, was there to greet us and be our tour guide for the day. Oliver has done a lot of running around the city and research about the history of Lukang so it was fun to hear about the city from his perspective.
Oliver first took us to an old street that is home to a day market. Since it was a Sunday there were several people out and about. Within a few blocks I had already spotted two temples, which were first of the many I was going to see the whole day. We stopped by a cart that sold taro cakes Oliver’s co-worker suggested he try. They were good!
We then walked to one of the larger temples in Lukang: Longshan Temple. There all three of us attempted to throw coins into bins that had characters that represented things such as: money, education, health, relationships, etc. All of us missed, unfortunately.
Next we ventured into the Old Streets of Lukang. There we saw several different food stands, jewelry, and antique shops. Overall, if you are a trinket person Lukang is perfect for you because there are little things you can purchase everywhere. Two notable things from the Old Streets: there is a well (that I didn’t get a picture of) that was built in between a courtyard wall of a wealthy family’s home and the street. The well was built this way so that the family could share their good fortune and water with the whole community. I also had the best pork bun that I have had in all of Taiwan.
Located within the Old Streets is another famous temple in Lukang: Matsu Temple. This one was rather large and had several elaborate decorations throughout it.
One of the things I really wanted to see in Lukang was Breast-Touching Lane. I had heard about it from a couple of people and wanted to see for myself. According to Lonely Planet this lane was also referred to as Gentleman’s Lane because if you were a true gentleman you would let the woman pass through the lane before you entered it so you wouldn’t risk brushing her breasts. Now I am a rather busty person so I wanted to see first hand if this lane was actually a real thing. After looking at a map and Oliver pointing us in the general direction we found Mo Lu Lane. We passed by the Folk Arts Museum on our way there. The entrance was not that narrow, but as we walked into the lane it got narrower and narrower. (Warning: do not go down this lane if you are claustrophobic.) On our way back from the lane we passed by a blacksmith’s shop that has been there for almost 100 years. It even had a very small temple located next to it to honor the blacksmith who worked there for so many years.
Looking at the time we realized we had plenty of spare time to keep sightseeing before dinner. We were standing at the tourist bus stop waiting for the next bus when Oliver saw one of his co-workers across the street. After introductions we invited Ben to come along with us to the Ribbon King Museum. After 30 minutes of waiting and watching buses drive by we became impatient and found a taxi cab and took that out to the museum instead.
The Ribbon King Museum was this large building with machines that were creating different kinds of ribbon, but it also had a section that was portioned off for visitors. There we could do the ribbon activities they provided. You could tie ribbons, create a bow, weave ribbon, and even dye our own ribbon there. Ben joked around that this was the most wholesome thing he had done since arriving in Taiwan almost a year ago. It was a bit overwhelming to see so much ribbon in one place!
Once we finished touring the ribbon museum we decided to look for a glass temple that Ben had mentioned he had been to before. With a little help from a map we walked to the Glass Matsu Temple. This temple is made of almost all glass and is very open. Even the rocks leading up to the temple were also glass. I pondered at the sheer fact that this temple was made of glass and barely had a ceiling even though there are typhoons in Taiwan. The temple is located a little bit outside of Lukang, but nonetheless there were still tourists there too.
Now by this time we were getting hungry so we got onto a tourist shuttle bus (I can’t believe one was actually there) and went back into Lukang. There Oliver took us to a dumpling place that his co-worker had suggested. Through the help of pictures and slowly matching similar Chinese characters we were able to order noodles and soup dumplings. It was all very good and also very cheap. I believe my meal cost 120NT ( $4USD).
Oliver insisted that we get dessert at a famous shaved ice place in Lukang called Ludingji Three-color Rice Balls. There I ordered the Tri-colored Rice Balls with shaved ice. While good the rice balls were not sweet enough for my taste. If I eat there again I will definitely need a bigger appetite for the large portions that they give you.
Now with extremely full bellies we went to the bus station and bought tickets back to Chunghua. We thanked Oliver for being such a great tour guide and boarded the bus. It was such a nice, sunny day in Lukang. Overall, this city is very unique with all of it’s little quirks and it is also very cheap to visit there. I spent less than $30USD the entire day! My happy stomach, wallet, and sunburned face proved that Lukang is definitely a must to visit in Taiwan.