Last Saturday we went on a bus tour to some interesting places on west coast of Taiwan. That part of Taiwan has more signs of traditional rural life. Indeed, we visited old sugar factory, the Rice Castle in which Museum of rice is situated, and a historical town of Lukang which was a major seaport a long time ago.
We gathered at 7AM near ITRIтАЩs main office and went on 3 buses. It is so nice that ITRI sponsors many trips throughout the year, it makes it possible to see the real life on Taiwan for a small pay (around 10USD). As it was still early in the morning people were chewing their breakfast as the bus got out of ITRIтАЩs gate. The organizers gave us sandwiches and drinks, which was a nice surprise.
After some time we arrived to the sugar factory. Its main attraction is the narrow gauge railroad used to carry sugar from fields to the factory. We enjoyed our half and hour ride on this railroad. I got a chance to try local seafood called Mantis shrimp (pictured above) which is neither shrimp nor mantis. So it is indeed something special and it tastes so good!
Then we went to a lunch even though it was still pretty early. Lunches in Taiwan are known for their longevity and abundance. During the lunch people are divided into groups of 8-10 people which sit at a round table. They share meals which are served one after another. We probably had around 10 meals. After that we went to the Rice Castle to try out some rice products as if we were still hungry!
At the Rice Castle we had an amazing DIY activity. We had to cook our own rice snack. This video shows the process. After we cooked the snack we ate it. So tasty! Then we proceeded to the museum and the guide explained how the rice was grown in Taiwan (from rural methods to industrial-scale process). Of course, there are many ways in which you can grow, clean, and store the rice, and this is why there are so many varieties of it. Obviously, rice is an essential part of Chinese culture, pretty much as important as green tea.
Then we went to Lukang. It has some historical streets but when we arrived there it was already getting dark, which means this is night market time. There were so many things to buy! Local foods, ice creams, breads, seafood, but we have spent the whole day eating! So I did not eat anything except delicious ice cream!
The town is known for its temple which is also pretty old. On the streets it was possible to buy many interesting souvenirs, for example old Chinese coins. I bought a few coins from 18th and 19th centuries, as well as one coin which age is estimated as 800 years old. Modern people cannot read the characters written on it, because they belong to some dialect of Chinese, maybe Mongolian language.
I also bought a few massage combs, Chinese bells, and a vase in the shape of lantern. Also, earlier during the day I bought rice tea in the Rice castle. It is such an wonderful drink (I tried it before buying). It reminds me of hot cocoa drink because of its taste. I guess it is made of milk and rice, so it is not exactly a tea. But maybe there are some green tea components in it as well, I could not detect them, though.
At around 6PM we left Lukang and headed back to Hsinchu. What a wonderful trip it was! Every county in Taiwan has its own taste, despite the fact that Taiwan is not a big country. It is interesting how it was possible to preserve different local cultures in such a global village as our world is nowadays. To a certain extent, this reminds me of Europe before it became Eurozone, when it was just like this тАУ each county was a different place. So after visiting this part of Taiwan I can firmly tell that globalization has not destroyed traditions of Taiwan. It is still a society with its roots in its history, which makes their lives so much fun.