erik lundegaard

Thursday May 18, 2023

A Birthday Celebration in Lukang

Part of the 18th century Longshan Temple in Lukang.

In planning our Taiwan trip, Patricia often relied upon the website Rome2Rio to figure out which place to go when, for easiest access to the next where, but there was a bit of a glitch with our Sun Moon Lake —> Lukang leg. Turns out it would've required four different trains taking more than four hours. Or maybe we'd already decided back in February to go the way we went—a 90-minute cabride, door to door for NT$3,000, or about US$100. It was so easy and cheap that I felt guilty handing over the money, though he cabbie seemed happy enough. 

I was nursing a constricted chest along the way, stifling coughs but not well, taking in the scenery, such as it was. After Puli, there wasn't much to see, and a few blocks from our hotel in Lukong, the streets looked busy and ordinary— the pell-mell of gray Taiwan traffic and faded vertical signage. I'd begun to feel off at the Grand Hotel, a kind of dry lump in my throat in the middle of the night that went away with the morning but then returned the following evening. Friday morning, on the way to Sun Moon Lake, I felt exhausted, and that night I felt tight-chested and constricted and began dry coughing, but again during the day it went away. Still not sure what it is. It's not COVID—I tested this morning in the bathroom in Ita Thao, and the C line was strong and the T line nothing. Is it simply a bad reaction to the humidity and pollution? The mountain air of Sun Moon Lake? Bronchitis? When we visited Copenhagen in 2017, I thought for a time I had bronchitis but that turned out to be a temporary reaction to diesel fumes. I'm hoping for the same here but I'm worried. My body feels like an ocean beach draining of water before the big wave hits. 

Even so, our day in Lukang was great. We had three must-sees—the Longshan Temple, the Lukang Old Street, and the Mazu Temple—and each turned out to be serendipitous. Longshan was just a block from our hotel, ancient and beautiful, and everyone there lovely as they helped us make an offering to our mothers; we stumbled into the Old Street, a winding, narrow, centuries-old commercial district, without even trying, and where we bought fun stuff we didn't need; and we never made it into the Mazu Temple. That was the serendipity. We happened to arrive in Lukang on the 23rd day of the third month of the lunar new year, which is Mazu's birthday, and there was an insane celebration outside his temple involving firecrackers, a parade, hulking men with painted Mazu faces, and three scantily clad, high-heeled women on floats. Representing temptation? Who knows? The Mazu Pilgrimmage makes the top 15 sites to see in the Lonely Planet guide, and we just stumbled upon it. 

Not knowing what the hell was going on, I asked some of the locals if this was an every weekend thing or something special. Shi mei yige zhoumo hishi tebiede? They told me it was tebie. Shi tade shengri,” one man told me. “It's his birthday!”

Anyway, talk about good luck. Shame it didn't last. 

Posted at 04:27 PM on Thursday May 18, 2023 in category Travels  
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