Changhua – Taiwan Pt. 2

22nd – 26th August 2017

You'd be nuts to miss this photoThe drive back to Rob’s apartment is straightforward and as we get close, we recognise some of the buildings and landmarks. The apartment itself is familiar, though we had forgotten how hard the beds are – is this a plank of wood? As things turned out, this was a taster of what was to come. Still, many thanks to Ceilin for giving up her room (and some cupboard and drawer space). Sorry that it was such a squeeze for you all.

It would be hard work if you had to pedal it!Although there is much discussion as to what we should do for our first full day back, in the end there is a consensus that we should go cycling along a converted disused railway track in Taichung (the next door city). It turns out that Sian & Ceilin’s idea of cycling doesn’t actually involved pedalling as they both want e-bikes. Rob’s & my determination to have ‘proper’ bikes lasts until we see that the 4-seat monstrosities have an electric motor and a large set of car batteries. Well, we’d better have one of these then and we pressure Janet & Sian to join us.

Dragon fruit trees (we think)So, not really cycling, especially as we soon tire of pedalling to help the motor. It was however, a pleasant ride up the greenway for about 14km to the nearest town where the plan is to get some lunch. On the way, there are some food stalls (which we ignore); some street art (which we can’t resist); a bridge over the river and a few other sights some of which we stop at and some we admire as we pass by. I’m always (but wrongly) surprised to see farm land in Taiwan and we have to stop and have a nose at what is growing on the trees which seems to consist of green plastic bags. Rob isn’t entirely sure and a family debate ensues and a consensus that they are Dragon Fruit emerges.

Taichung opera house at nightFlush with success (if not exertion) from the cycling, we decide to go back to Taichung in the evening to visit the newly opened opera house. First though, we have to press Ceilin into service once again, to go online to see the details as to tonight’s concert. In particular, we want to avoid “bing bing ding” (Chinese) music. It turns out that it is Western chamber music and the programme consists of Beethoven and Mendelssohn trios along with some Taiwanese folk songs arranged for strings. The opera house building is as dramatic as Rob said it would be and the concert was enjoyed by all – with possibly the Taiwanese songs being the highlight of the programme. The only slight disappointment is that we were (right at the front of) the small theatre rather than in the main auditorium (which looks stunning in the pictures we have seen).

_DSF5138We had forgotten / not appreciated that there was a big earthquake in Taiwan in 1999. Rob says that it was very scary – not so much the initial quake as that happened in the middle of the night and was soon over. However, the aftershocks were frequent (over 1,000 the next day) and you never knew how bad they were going to be or how long they’d go on for. Near Changhua is a museum to commemorate the 1999 earthquake set up in the grounds of a school that sat astride the fault line and was badly damaged in the quake.

_DSF5136The museum is a mixture of a record of the damage that was done by the quake and equally of the lessons learned and the improvements made since the quake. The latter was mostly dull – far too many examples of right and wrong ways to put ties and braces in on the rebar in concrete pillars. The most impressive example of the former was the school itself with flattened buildings with the floors pancaked one on top of another and the running track sheared off – coming to an abrupt end and continuing to one side and at a higher level. There was also and ‘earthquake simulator’ room with a short video and a shaking floor. Rob’s verdict was that it was OK but didn’t convey the full scariness of being woken in the middle of the night with the room shaking and things crashing to the floor. We learnt from Ceilin that every Sept. 21st, on the anniversary of the quake, there is an earthquake drill held in every school on the island.

_DSF5146After that, a visit to the giant Buddha on nearby Bagua ‘mountain’ was rather pedestrian. Rob claims that this is Changhua’s only tourist attraction (according to TripAdvisor, the nearby High Speed Train (HST) station is also on the list!) We remember the Buddha from our last trip to Taiwan and so mostly ignore it this time in favour of the (new) elevated path that runs along the hillside. This gives us some good views out over the city and a chance for a bit of exercise to help get our step count up.

_DSC1490In the evening we went out to have a meal with the Hu family – Sian’s father, mother and brother. They seemed to be as delighted to see us, as we were them, though it was a slightly strange event with Sian having to do the translation. Still, family is family even if we are barely able to exchange two words directly.

As Changhua’s night market is only a short walk from the apartment, our final treat was for Ceilin and her friend Alice to give us a tour. It was everything that we’d hoped for (and set a high bar for future night market trips in China). It was absolutely packed with locals and contained stalls of all sorts – mostly food but also clothes, plastic toys, phone cover_DSC1494s. And as for the food – anything you could think of (and some things you’d never conceive of) was on offer. Some of it looked pretty good (though we were still full from our meal with the Hus) and some of it we just wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. And as for Stinky Tofu – why is that a thing? Why would anyone want to eat anything that smells like dog poo??

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye to everyone and catch the HST direct to the airport. We had a great time seeing more of the island of Taiwan and catching up with a part of the family we don’t get to see very often. Taiwan is definitely growing on us – though it would help if we could speak/read Mandarin. We’re intrigued as to how China will compare – what is going to be similar and what different??

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