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April, 2015

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On a day trip from Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan, we visited the town of Lukang known as a ‘living museum’. Whilst our guide told us it was world famous for making glass perfume bottles and car lights, there was no reference to this in our guide book. However, it did mention a Glass Matsu Temple built from 70,000 pieces of glass, but unfortunately it wasn’t on our itinerary.

The city was a port 200 years ago. Now the only sign of water now is a canal running between the two lanes of the highway on the approach to the city.

First stop was the Lukang Visitor Centre where we picked up an excellent English language leaflet listing the various sites. Next door was Wenchang Shrine and Martial Temple sporting a multi-coloured awning along the front which was a temporary tax office to alleviate the pressure on the main building. As an ex-employee of H M Revenue and Customs, I couldn’t quite imagine an awning on Westminster Abbey at the end of the tax year! Also closed, but this time for renovation work, was the Wenkai Academy.

It was then on to the Lukang Folk Arts Museum where unusually, half the building was in the European late renaissance style and half was Chinese. It was donated by the family to the government in 1973 and contained a number of interesting exhibits on family life which were well labelled in English in a font large enough to read without my specs.

We then set off on a walking tour of the other sites. Unfortunately during this tour we realised Gordon, our guide, lacked a basic sense of direction. He kept stopping to look at the tourist information boards, and as we completed an unintentional full circle, muttered ‘there are many lanes’.

However we eventually found the twisted and appropriately named, Nine Turns Lane (Jiu Qu Lane), Ding Mansion (the home of Ding Shou-quan a famous academic) and the Shiyi Building once the place where poets and calligraphers gathered to enjoy 10 amusements including drinking, smoking, tea tasting and flower appreciation!

Once again, Gordon appeared lost and Roy took control and navigated us past the appropriately named, and very narrow, Breast Touching Lane (Mo Lu lane) to Longshan temple. This temple was built in the 18th century and covered 10,000 square meters.

Having found the car again, we drove past the Wu Tun-Hou lantern shop to our final destination the Matsu Temple where we saw lots of Mr Tun-Hou’s work: long strings of lucky orange circular Chinese lanterns plus noisy high school students having their photographs taken in front of the temple.

On leaving the temple, we decided to try the local delicacy from one of the food stalls immediately – oyster omelette. We went inside a small cafe whilst it was fried in a huge oil filled wok before being drizzled with some sort of brown sauce – it was very good for the equivalent of £1and rounded our day in Lukang off perfectly.

Helen Jackson

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