Lukang and Lung Disease

Okay, so the bus wasn’t so bad. I had my own little green vinyl-covered EZ chair as a seat on the bus and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind lulled me to sleep on the screen at the front of the bus. It didn’t even take as long as I had expected.

Lugang is just as the guidebook described: 90 per cent of it is relatively unremarkable, but the other 10 per cent is lovely.

After checking into my hotel, I started exploring that other 10 per cent. I started with the Old Market Street – a narrow, winding lane where artisans, craftspeople and antique dealers crowd their shops into any available space. Along the way, I chatted (as best as two people with no common language can chat) with a local artist whose specialty was drawing and painting on traditional folding fans. As far as I understood him, people would come in with a photograph and they would commission him to draw a custom design on a fan with the photo as inspiration.

He then fed me some, well, mush. It was a powder that he put into a little paper cup with warm water and it all turned into a runny paste. I tried a couple different kinds, one of which was nice enough. The other had me washing it down with water as soon as decorum allowed. Each of the tastes defied description (by me, at least – I have both a ignorant palate and a narrow vocabulary for tastes).

After the Old Market Street, I wandered to the Nine Turns Lane, another narrow, winding alleyway running through the centre of the old town. This twisting path was formerly used as a defense system, but now seems to only serve as an inconvenient alleyway. I watched a vendor attempt to navigate his cart through the bends only to scrape its top along the walls beside him.

Next, I unwittingly stumbled on the Folk Arts Museum. Housed in a huge mansion, the collection of the museum was interesting enough on its own, but didn’t fare as well when compared to my previous day’s visit to the Royal Palace Museum. I guess I’ve been spoiled by all the emperor’s jade.

My next destination was Lungshan Temple, but my aim was not true. I think I managed to run more than one circle before finding another ornate temple and I stopped there, thinking perhaps that I had found my target. Upon further review, I’m now sure I missed Lungshan temple completely and mistook this smaller temple for the larger one I was seeking. I’m pretty sure I must have passed within metres of Lungshan’s entrance, but somehow missed the mark. However, the keepers of the temple I did find were nice enough to switch on some extra lighting for me as photographed the golden carvings lining every inch of the walls.

Feet throbbing and stomach rumbling, I headed back to a place where I had been greeted earlier in English. The restaurant turned out to be a burrito place run by a Taiwanese man who had lived most of his life in Texas. The affable gent was ever so pleased to offer me an extra large vegetarian burrito and I was even more pleased to eat it. Finding vegetarian fare in Taiwan is proving to be possibly even more challenging than in Japan. At least in Japan, I had a hope of making myself understood in Japanese that I didn’t eat meat. Here, I can’t even find the phrases in the guidebook.

Last stop for the day was Matsu temple. A lot more Spartan than the temple I had previously visited, the Matsu temple still made for a good wander in the evening.

But with my feet already preparing to explode, I ambled the block back to my hotel where I’m now willing my feet to skip the blister stage and go straight to callous. I mean, I’m only a couple days into my trip and already my feet want to fall off? I’m hoping that’s not a trend that keeps up or four months from now, I’ll but crawling on my hands dragging stumps behind me where legs should be.

Though, in Taiwan, I suspect, someone would loan me a wheelchair if that were the case. The people here have been genuinely friendly for the most part. And if they’re not friendly, they’re not rude – they just tend not to notice you. Well, there is the guy next door right now with a serious phlegm problem who’s attempting to shatter a record for loudest hack possible. But I don’t know if that’s really rude here. Just seems to be par for the course in some parts of Asia. This guy has nothing on the folks in Hong Kong though. Those guys can cough up a loogie like the stuff was valuable. Hooray for rampant overpopulation resulting in ever-present contagion of respiratory illness!

I just hope he’s going to cough himself to sleep soon.

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