INT. TRAVEL ARCHIVE:
677: The Little Island
Escape the late-winter blues with a tropical blast from the past
675: Scenic Spirituality
Commune with religion and nature in an ancient land
673: Aoni Onsen
Return to a forgotten time at one of Honshu’s most remote getaways
671: The Golden Rock
One of Burma’s many splendid attractions hangs by a hair
669: Hida Takayama
For personal trips gentle to the soul, seek out the old-time charm of Hida Takayama
A serene stroll through history awaits at this seaside retreat
663: Cruising the Bay
Ha Long Bay offers a breath of calm away from Vietnam’s urban rush
Fox fires and bar codes help a rural Niigata town reinvent itself
535: Hotel California
Mark Parren Taylor kicks up the desert dust in Palm Springs, the perennial
Hollywood star retreat.
531: Race through time
The Xterra Saipan triathlon journeys through tropical jungle, up steep mountain
paths and across the sands of history. Tama M. Lung joins the chase.
527: Bohemian rhapsody
No visit to Paris would be complete without taking in the Montmartre district.
Bon vivant Simon Rowe dusts off his French to go exploring.
523: Slow Motion
Mark Parren Taylor touches down in the timeless former seaport of Lukang, Taiwan.
519: Rock of ages
From ancient times to the present, Gibraltar has always been an island of
legends. Stephen Mansfield sifts through its history.
515: Go west, young man
Simon Rowe takes in the big skies and dust trails of Western Australia's
East Kimberley region.
511: All mixed up
Mark Parren Taylor makes land on Macau and finds an enigmatic blend of cultures,
cuisine and heated competition.
505: Earth, wind and fire
A historically imperiled town in Papua New Guinea holds the keys to a magical
getaway. Carlo Niederberger splashes ashore.
501: Off the rails
Braving the 2,010 kilometers of Vietnam's Reunification Express from Ho
Chi Minh City to Hanoi is quite the adventure. Simon Rowe goes along for the
493: Rites of passage
From firecrackers and cheek piercing to divinations and buffalo races, Thailand's
most colorful customs come alive at two annual festivals. Mark Parren Taylor
joins the crowds.
489: Paradise found
Beaches, battlefields and a colossal casino provide tropical pleasures on
the Pacific isle of Tinian. Carlo Niederberger touches down.
485: Through the grapevine
Stephen Mansfield drinks up the delights of the Château Monbazillac
in southwest France.
481: Pleasure island
Saipan awaits the young and young at heart with its pristine beaches, pointy
peaks, and perfect amount of entertainment. Carlo Niederberger checks in.
477: Reservoir of dogs
Simon Rowe visits the Kingdom of Tonga, where storms burst without warning
and wild canines rule the night.
473: Into the bat cave
Sarawaks Niah Caves are home to hairless bats, birds on the brink
of extinction, and lots of bugs, according to Simon Rowe.
469: A fork in the river
Laos ethnic minorities battle the forces of time. Stephen Mansfield
goes upriver in search of them.
465: Action scene
Sick of the short, humid Japanese summer? Tired of the winter? In NZ its
summertime and the living is easy, the food and drink inexpensive, and the evenings
long and lazy. Mark Devlin heads south to explore and party.
457/458: In living color
Simon Rowe soaks in the glow of Samoa's kaleidoscopic streets.
454: From Jamaica with love
Michael McDonagh soaks up the atmosphere in James Bond's balmy birthplace
449: See worthy
Dan Grunebaum drops oar in the stunning caves of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay
445: Great heights
Simon Rowe packs his hiking boots and sets out for Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu
441: Split personality
There are few cities with such an exacting dividing line between past and present
as Lijiang in China's southwestern province of Yunnan
438: Fierce creatures
Simon Rowe introduces us to the untamed charms of Australia's Kangaroo Island
434: Leap of Faith
Simon Rowe dives into a tropical island paradise of waterfalls, reefs and bush
rugby on the Fijian archipelago
430: A week in Provence
Stephen Mansfield explores the historic festival city of Avignon, a medieval
diamond in the south of France
426: Outer space
Surreal sites, lunar landscapes and UFO sightings go with the territory in Chile
422: The Big Easy
The Moorish streets of Granada, Spain are alive with a new Bohemian rhapsody
418: Small awakening
414: Fowl play
The animal kingdom comes alive in the Galapagos
410: The river of spirits
Wading through soulful waters in Varanasi, India
406: Heading north
Marching to the beat of a modern drum in North Korea
Santa's lap - enjoy saunas, Santa and sightseeing in Finland’s Lapland
Seeking the past in China's megacity
Rising from the ashes
Mary King explores the rich history, culture and art of Croatias phoenix
The betels and the stones
Simon Rowe rolls with the tropical exotica on the obscure island of Yap
World heritage site
Land of hope
Salt of the earth
Tour the Uyuni Salt Pan
Suzhou and Hangzhou
The river mild
Top of the world
Memo from the Lower Mekong
Call of the wild
Mad about Madurai
Mark Parren Taylor touches down in the timeless former
seaport of Lukang, Taiwan.
Of the reasons to visit Taiwan, few would choose the islands
architectural heritage. Despite its rich and textured history,
many of Taiwans streets have little to show for it.
Put it down to earthquake, civil strife, or fire and flood,
but most of its historic buildings and neighborhoods have
passed to dust much quicker than their age or structure would
normally suggest. Unfortunately, once gone, they were replaced
with concrete identikit housing that, though stable and quick
to erect, is gray and square.
But halfway down Taiwans west coast, one city has been
spared such ravages.
Lukang was once a bustling port, ideally positioned for trade
with China. But silt choked the harbor and eventually stranded
the seafaring town on a dry, flat plain. At first sight, this
once-wealthy gateway to Taiwan is as nondescript as the surrounding
farmland. After a walk along the main drag, Chungshan Road,
however, it looks far from being disappointingly ordinarythe
shuffle of early 20th-century shop houses are in fact home
to a wealth of craftsmen, artisans and furniture makers that
draw interest from across the island.
Further delights reward the stroller, because behind this
street of busy little stores are narrow winding lanes, aged
temples and a couple of worthwhile museums. In many ways,
these lanes are reminiscent of Beijings hutongs, those
wonderful but fast-disappearing alleys and backstreets that
once encircled the Forbidden City, and which in some districts
still offer warren-like escapes from the huge highways that
plow through the increasingly faceless heart of the Chinese
In little Lukang there is no rush to demolish the attractive
lanes. For decades interest in revitalizing the town has ebbed
and flowed like the long-gone tides, yet Lukang is now enjoying
a serious push to regenerate its inheritance.
bundles of incense, and a renovated merchants
house on Old Market Street
Nine-turns Lane (Chinsheng Lane) will probably remain untouched,
as it has been long cherished by residents and visitors alike.
The alley bends and winds past a jostle of dwellingsold
and new, small and tallthat in turn crouch next to or
loom over the alley. Halfway along, the lane stumbles across
the melee of Mintsu Road Market and then all becomes quiet
again, except for a snooty dog sniffing the air or an old
woman who cannot rid her doorstep of dust. At the north end,
a bridge crosses the lane connecting two houses reputedly
constructed to allow artists and writers to meet quickly,
with their creative thoughts uninterrupted, and a few steps
away the Half-sided Well attests to a generous gentlemans
gift to the local poor of water from his own supply. One story
goes that this and other lanes were constructed along tortuous
routes so as to discourage the wind from picking up speed
as it whistled in off the sea, and which still seems to blow
a gale on straight and open Sanmin Road.
A time of prayer
Most Taiwanese come to pay their respects at Lukangs
many temples. Longshan Temple, which nestles just behind Sanmin
Road, boasts an intricate ceiling and fragile decoration,
some of which is 350 years old. Other impressive examples,
along with Longshan, are Chenghuang and Matsu Temples on Chungshan
Road. Matsu, the Goddess of the Sea, is the most dearly loved
deity in Taiwan, and here (as throughout the island) her birthday
celebrations on the 23rd day of the third month are spectacularly
popular. (For calendar conversions, see link at the end of
A street or two beyond the Longshan Temple, Moju Lane cannot
decide if it is a passage or the gap between two buildings
grown apartin places it is not much wider than a ribcage
as pedestrians turn sideways to squeeze along. It is this
inbetweenness that draws countless teenagers to
shuffle along the lane and spray graffiti on now increasingly
rare bare patches of wall.
Around the temples, a busy market sets up most days. At its
southern end, it pampers to tourists with a selection of snacks
and knickknacks. But as the market heads into the dusty outskirts,
it supplies locals with fruit, vegetables, meats andmost
importantlyseafood. Throughout Lukang, hawkers and pastry
shops sell a variety of local specialities. One of the most
popular is cow tongue cake (niu she bing) which is a satisfying,
flat pastry filled with one of two varieties of sweetmeat
and topped with sesame seeds (hence its resemblance to a cows
licking equipment). Other local treats include an oyster omelette
that is sold at stalls close to Matsu Temple or at a handful
of restaurants throughout the older half of town.
Old Market Street also offers a couple of eateries and is
the focus of much rebuilding and expansion. Though squarely
aimed at the tourist, it is not overly brash and makes for
a pleasant stroll in the early evening with lamplight offering
tantalizing glimpses inside small shops, cafés and
courtyard homes. As money returns to Lukang, more is spent
on the refurbishment of the siheyuan (courtyard homes) and
other buildings: delicately chiseled fretwork is copied, patterned
glass is retraced, joists and gables are repainted with the
motifs and colors that impress today as they did 100 years
ago when visitors and cash flooded across from Fujian and
|Lungshan Temple, one
of Lukangs foremost places of worship
Chungshan Road quietens down about 9pm. Sometimes, outside
a hole-in-the-wall temple close to Remembrance Hall, an old
16mm projector is cranked up and a screen tied to the building
on the opposite side of the street. A handful of people slowly
gather to watch a dusty movie as the shadows of passing traffic
cross the screen and the tinny boom from the speakers echoes
from shop house to shop house. The popular A-Chen steamed
bun store, just a few doors away, has long closedits
peak hours are 3 to 5pmbut other shops are still open.
The lantern maker looks up to his handiwork, gently swaying
with the breeze; the fan seller turns on the TV and wafts
his face with his hand; a home-shrine painter touches up the
moustache on the face of a glowering god; a cyclist turns
into a narrow alley and is gone.
Air Nippon, Northwest, United, EVA Air, China Airlines and
Japan Asia Airways all make scheduled flights between Narita
and Taipei. Changhua is reached by train from Taipei in three
or four hours. Fares vary, depending on service, and are approx
¥1,300. The Changhua Bus Co. operates a service to Lukang,
which departs every 20-30 minutes. Its depot is opposite Changhua
Train Station (near McDonalds). The bus journey takes
about 35 minutes.
Where to stay
Few visitors stay overnight, meaning that rooms are not hard
to find. The exceptions are Matsus birthday (third month)
and Dragon Boat racing (fifth month). The best (and newest)
rooms in town are available at the Tienhou (Matsu) Temple
Hotel (tel: 04-775-2508), conveniently situated opposite the
temple and day market at the north end of Chungshan Road.
Doubles or twin rooms start at ¥2,250 per night. Three
other hotelsMeihua, Peace and Quanzhongare all
located on the same road, but are smaller and less well-maintained
despite a similar nightly charge. A motel is situated on the
northeastern outskirts of Lukang.
Dining options include A-Chen Steamed Buns (71 Chungshan Road)
and Yu Chen Chai Bakery (168 Mintsu Road), which serves superb
pastries and cakes and sells cow tongue cake along with many
traditional Chinese sweetmeats and closes at 10:30pm. Others
include Mintsu Road (Number One) Market, with food available
until around 11pm; Chungshan Road Market, a day market popular
for pastries; and Minchuan Road, where several restaurants
offer local dishes using oyster or mud shrimp.
The official Lukang website is www.lukang.gov.tw/index-english.htm,
and, though limited, is a useful introduction. The Sydney
Office of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau operates an excellent
org). The Tokyo office of the Taiwan Visitors Association
is at 3F, Kawate Bldg, 1-5-8 Nishi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku. Tel:
03-3501-3591. Email: email@example.com.
For conversions of the lunar/solar calendars, see http://
Mark Parren Taylor