Saturday, April 18, 2009
I've been short on free time these past few weeks - lots of work - so please forgive me for not putting these through GIMP for color and contrast before posting.
A few weeks ago a group of us went to check out Sanxia. The only other time I've been there was as a side trip from Yingge (which was fun, but heavy on shopping and I didn't have a lot of spare cash at the time), it was getting late and the Old Street had really not been developed yet.
It's amazing what two years can do; when the guy who wrote Taipei Day Trips went it was mostly dusty store fronts and a few coffin makers. When I went in 2006 (or was it 2007?) it was three or four gift shops and closed store fronts.
This time around, almost every shop front was open. The stores themselves were nothing special - the usual teacup shop, porcelain shop, glass shop, traditional wooden toy shop, "Everything for 100 Kuai" shop, local delicacy shop...you know, the usual. It was nice, however, to see the place looking spiffy and well-kept, and to see money flowing in.
One lovely tea shop was in a half-collapsed building; only the walls remained so it felt quite reminiscent. I don't recommend them though; the menu says that individual tea is 50NT each; after you finish they charge you 100 NT (50 for "hot water").
The temple in Sanyi is also very well known and I personally feel it's one of the most beautiful temples in Taiwan. It's small, but every inch of it is carved, twirled, decorated, engraved or embossed into a hurricane of styles and patterns.
On rainy days - all too common in Taiwan - the inside exudes a warmth that, while not actually warm, makes you feel a little less chilly. Metaphorically speaking.
And of course, the day we went was a rainy day.
Sanyi is also famous for its fantastic food; tiny shops selling all sorts of delicious things line the streets (even the regular streets, which are the usual gray-ugly of small Asian towns). Besides the ubiquitous bull's horn croissants, which taste of sesame and remind me of my great-grandmothers Armenian cheorog (don't ask how that's pronounced). Like bagels, they're slightly crispy on the outside - just a little - and chewy and thick on the inside.
It's also famous for traditional medicines and herbs, including ginger root. Ginger root tea, dou hua (a dessert made with silken tofu) and other foods are almost as common as the bullhorn croissants.
Many food stalls have been visited by famous people.
...and this one has been visited by more than one famous person:
(The owner's brother told me the autographs are fake. He says the one on the right is "Ma Ying Ba", older brother of Ma Ying Jiu).
And, of course, the many bullhorn croissant shops need to stay competitive in attracting customers, so they employ traditional Taiwanese imagery in order to advertise themselves and their delicacies. You know, traditional Taiwanese imagery like Santa Claus in a Viking hat.
You thought I was kidding, didn't you?