Thursday, March 6, 2014

Taiwan Travelogue: Streets around Longshan Temple

Located in the Wanhua district of Taipei, Longshan Temple draws the attention of crowds to the religious grounds for worship and shutterbugs, but the life on the streets right outside the temple is just as interesting as the temple itself. These scenes of the locals bustling about on the streets captured my attention when I exited the Longshan MRT station and was making my way towards the temple (the temple is always the first attraction when one is in this district).
After visiting the temple, we took to exploring the streets to experience for ourselves the seemingly lively atmosphere taking place on the streets.

There are a few streets located near the temple; Xiyuan Road, which is the hub for the religious supplies and paraphernalia; where most of the visitors to the Longshan temple obtain their offerings . In fact Xiyuan Road is also known as the Buddha Handicraft Street with shops lasting for generations selling religious statues, sculptures and artifacts. However, today the street is left with only an estimated of about 20 shops due to the fading art of the craft stemming from the disinterest among the younger generation.
Guangzhou Street, on where the temple is located is a long street as well; intersecting with Guilin street where these streets flank the temple with the busy scenes of a morning market lined with stalls and shops selling fresh produce and baked goods, not to mention second hand goods in the Second Hand Goods Market.

Second Hand Goods Market (Wanhua Ershou Shichang) is located on Guilin Road; Lane 65, dates back to the early days during the Japanese occupation and it was only after the Vietnam war where the market thrived with the goods put up for sale by the American soldiers here.
Today, there are still many stalls attracting the locals with the second hand goods on sale here.

Take a walk along these streets and the market, where you can spend time to observe the local goods on sale here; including the locally baked items at the food stalls. Try a cup of herbal tea, or sugarcane juice which costs only TWD20-30 per cup on sale by the middle-aged women running the stalls, who would present you with options of less sugar/ice to sugarless, just like the regular beverages chain out there. People watching can be interesting too; as the crowds found on these streets come from the more conservative and traditional part of Taiwan and can be quite good with their price haggling skills at some of the second hand goods stalls.

If you keep walking, you will see more shops as there are many intersecting streets and if you are not sure where you are going, you could get lost in the rows of shophouses, not to mention the hordes of motorcycles perched in neat queues along the streets and outside the shops. The similar description of the scenes is typical of the local streets in Taiwan, making every street looking almost hauntingly alike yet unfamiliar when it comes to tourists. I would turn on that GPS, or turn to the map reading, just to be safe. Of course, you could also walk up to a local to ask for directions, as long as you know where you are heading to, and you have the name of the place written down on a piece of paper or your phone (if you don't speak Chinese).

Traffic on one of the intersecting street

Spotted an interesting stall selling noodles, soup and handmade fish balls which seemed to have a good crowd sitting on the stools and queueing to place their orders.

A bowl of handmade fish balls (really chewy and springy textured fish balls) served in hot soup for TWD25, perfect for the cool wind and as a quick snack after all that walking.
It was piping hot too. Seats were limited, so we ate this while standing at a corridor.
While it seemed easy to finish three fish balls, believe me when I say it is not as easy as it looks; with the steaming hot soup and the large size of the fish balls which I had to take several bites (avoiding the heat) before being able to actually chew and swallow them, and at the same time, taking special care not to spill the hot soup over me.

Cakes on display in a bakery

A unique shop on the street

The streets, bustling with life and traffic is like a moving postcard flashing before me, and I would highly recommend taking a walk along these streets from Longshan Temple and exploring the area as there is much to take in and enjoy besides the temple.
Set aside a couple of hours in this district, from the Longshan Temple to the streets and to the next destination which I will be covering in my next post, as I did, start early in the morning for that is when the market comes to life and it is a plus that the temple starts as early as 6.00am too, where you will have plenty of time to spend around the area after visiting the temple, not to mention avoiding the crowds too.

To be continued to the next destination in the same district...

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