Showing posts with label Taichung. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Taichung. Show all posts

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Taiwan: A few hours in historic Lukang

I had been planning to go to Lukang for the longest time after finding out that this heritage town was very near Taichung. But for some reason or another, we always had something to do. It was our last day so it was now or never. After our group heard Mass (it was like we were in the Philippines since the priest and churchgoers were all Filipinos) and had lunch at this Filipino restaurant in front, there were proposals to do some last-minute shopping. Since I had no intention of doing that, I made my move and asked permission to make my own plans.

So as soon as it was given a go, I took a cab to the Taichung Train Station, which itself was an important heritage structure. It's sad that we no longer have our grand old train stations in the Philippines. Tutuban Station, our central train station at the time it was still in use, although the facade had been preserved, the interiors and the surrounding environment had been altered beyond recognition.

Some quarters say it should have been preserved as a train station since in most parts of the world, even in countries close to home, they still have their grand old train stations to be proud of. Other noteworthy stations in the Philippines include the Paco Train Station which is close to 100 percent demolished again under Mayor Atienza's watch, to be converted as always, into another shopping mall; and the major provincial stations in the cities of Malolos, San Fernando, Tarlac and Dagupan which, if Northrail does things right, will be restored and integrated into the newer terminals they will be building.

Talk about communication gap since no one in the station knew how to speak English and purchasing a ticket was close to impossible! It was a good thing one of the staff was helpful enough and asked among passengers entering the station who understood English. We finally found a kind soul to whom I explained that I wanted to purchase a ticket to Changhua since there was no direct train to Lukang. When the station staff finally understood, he even accompanied me to the ticket booth and pointed me to the train which I had to board.

I read in Wikipedia that the train did not pass by Lukang because of "the city's refusal to allow railroads to pass through the city led to losses in trade in commerce, which, in turn led to Lukang's decline. This same decline, however, averted the modernization processes that demolished historical buildings in Tainan and Taipei, leaving Lukang preserved as it was in its heyday."

The train trip was less than an hour. In Changhua City, I proceeded to the bus station conveniently located in front of the train station. I boarded a bus to Lukang which was 45 minutes away. I don't remember how much I spent since in both rides, they got the tickets from me (I usually keep the tickets in my albums). But I know it was very affordable.

Taiwan's three largest cities today are Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung. But in the 19th century, it was Tainan (the former capital), Lukang and Bangka (now a district of Taipei). During the Qing Dynasty, Lukang was an major trading port owing to its close proximity to Fujian Province as well as the depth of its harbour. The subsequent silting of the harbour and bypass of the railway system led to the city's decline, but as a result, left behind a well-preserved heritage town.

Anyway, I arrived in Lukang at about 3 p.m. which gave me about two hours to walk around before I went back to Taichung. My first stop was the Wenkai Academy, Civil Shrine and Martial Temple. Wenkai Academy nurtured many of Lukang's cultural elite before the establishment of a school system. The Civil Shrine served as home to Lukang's first literary group. In fact, two of its walls contain works of prominent calligraphers.

The Martial Temple's main deity is Kuan Kung, the God of War. He is a symbol of uprightness and bravery, but was also good at accounting and the management of finances. This is why his followers among business people worship him as the God of Commerce too.

My next stop was Lungshan Temple, said to be the best-preserved and most beautiful Ching Dynasty building in Taiwan. Transferred to its present site in 1786, it is the foremost of all Taiwan temples because of its excellent construction and exquisite carvings.

I stopped by many more sites along the way. One peculiar structure was called the half-side well. During the olden days, it was only the wealthy who could afford to own wells. But the kind-hearted owner of this well, placed half of it outside the walls of his home so that the less-fortunate could partake of his water supply. Although no longer in use, the well reminds us of the magnanimous spirit of Lukang and its people.

At the end of the road, actually its the first stop if you followed the prescribed walking tour, is Tienhou Temple, dedicated to Matsu, Goddess of the Sea, who was believed to have protected early immigrants to Taiwan. The temple was buzzing with so much activity since there was some sort of festival. I was in fact, treated to the acrobatic antics of a lion dance troupe when I arrived. The performance was very entertaining!

Anyway, it was about to get dark and I had to rush back to Taichung for the festival. At the bus station, while I was trying to find the right bus back to Changhua, I chanced upon a group speaking in Filipino. So I approached them and asked which was the most convenient way to get to Taichung. They pointed me to a coaster which went direct to the city. Perfect! So I was back in time for our booth duty and to pack my stuff for our departure the next day. Hehe!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Taiwan: Taichung, culture city of Taiwan

How can one forget the date we left for Taiwan. It was February 14, 2003. The City Government of San Fernando was being sent by the Department of Tourism to represent the country in the 2003 Taiwan Lantern Festival which was held in Taichung. I had previously been to Taiwan when I was five but we only went around Taipei. So this was my first time to get out of the capital city. But time was limited since although we were there for almost two weeks, most of our time was at the festival and meeting with local officials.

It was a late night Philippine Airlines flight since I remember, our passports were stamped in Taipei on the 15th. We were met by the Tourism Attache who accompanied us on the two-hour bus to Taichung, Taiwan's culture city. The bus ride was very comfortable since the chairs were really big. It was like sleeping in your own living room. When we arrived in Taichung we all went straight to bed.

Most of our time that day was spent at the Taichung branch of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), our de facto embassy in Taiwan. That night was the opening of the festival. We had passes but didn't get to use them since we were busy preparing the San Fernando giant lantern.

Anyway, when our work was done, I checked if I could still catch the program. But when I got close to the stage, President Chen Shui-bian was about to leave. I was just about a meter or two away but because of tight security, I wasn't able to have a photo taken with him like I usually do when I get the chance to meet heads of state . Who wouldn't? Oh well!

On the right is the main lantern that was lit by President Chen. I remember that the NT$10 million (US$287,356) spent by Chunghua Telecom to produce this 20-meter lantern was the talk of the town during the festival.

We only got to go around Taichung on the 17th and 18th. I remember walking around Taichung Park, also known as Zhong Shan Park. Its main attraction is Jih-Yueh Lake which was originally a natural pond. After years of human modifications, it now covers an area of about 13,500 square meters. In the middle of the lake is a pavillion built in 1908 to commemorate the completion of the north-south railway when the island was still under Japanese occupation. This pavilion has become an important symbol of the city.

It was while reading on the Japanese rule in Taiwan that I found out that the Republica Filipina was not the first Asian republic as some would claim, but was predated by the Republic of Formosa (May 24, 1895) and the Republic of Ezo in Japan (December 25, 1868) among others. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the first republics in Asia are Vaishali, Licchavi and Vajji all established in India circa 600 B.C.

The next day, we visited the Confucius Temple. According to the Taichung website "Taichung's peaceful Confucius Temple features impressive, rectangular Sung Dynasty-style structures, surrounded by spacious courtyards and a garden. The buildings and grounds are usually quiet and near-deserted, giving the temple a relaxing, meditative air. Once a year, during Confucius' birthday (Teachers' Day), the temple comes to life for a dawn ceremony featuring processions of marchers and musicians clad in traditional Chinese imperial court costumes, government officials and hundreds of spectators." Beside it is the Martyrs Shrine. But we weren't able to go inside since it's closed on weekdays.

We also got to visit the Paochueh Temple, a Buddhist temple in the northern edge of the city which is known for its big Buddha statue. The 88-foot gold statue is a big-bellied, happy Buddha known as Maitreya. Below it is an inscription which translates "Happiness to All."

The temple complex is a quiet and secluded place where one can reflect and meditate. The main shrine hall, with a striking blue glazed roof, was built in 1928 and houses three Buddha images protected by a row of fierce guardians.

That afternoon, we also made a courtesy call to Mr. Chen Tien-Wen, the Vice Speaker of the Taichung City Council at the historic Taichung City Hall. It was commissioned in 1912 as the Taichung State Building by the Japanese colonial government. This wood and re-inforced brick structure was completed in 1924 and is considered one of the most elaborate and ornate buildings of the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan.

That's it for Taichung. Up next is the day trip to the mountains in Nantou County we did the day after.

Heritage watch
Chinese boat loaded with stuffed sea turtles released
Legal eagles to help prosecute Tubbataha reef poachers
Legal team formed to help prosecute Chinese poachers
Chinese envoy’s letter led to suspected poachers’ release
Chinese gov’t pressed RP to free Tubbataha poachers
This is a very sad issue for the Philippines. It just shows how weak our government is in protecting our natural heritage. It also shows how other nations condone the illegal acts of their citizens.
Lost but not forgotten lighthouse
Pila townsfolk preserve heritage town
Here is some good news for everyone. I hope other localities follow Pila's example.
Historic church, houses fill Laguna town’s coffers
Restoring Dagupan’s most treasured heritage

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