It's also loaded with traditional craftsmen, friendly locals, old temples, living tradition, great food and a lot of cats.
I classify "carrying around adorable dogs in bags" as a great Taiwanese cultural tradition, a piece of heritage to be protected. We call this breed a 'teddy bear dog'. I think you can see why.
One of the highlights of a trip to Lugang is the food - here, grilled giant mushrooms in a tangy, spicy marinade. Other local specialties are pressed powder 'phoenix eye' cakes, 'cow tongue' cakes, all manner of chewy, nutty sweets, and oysters. Zhanghua, the next city over, is famous for being the birthplace of mba wan (肉圓).
Longshan Temple through the gate - this is my favorite temple in town because it's quiet, a lot less fussy and blingy than other temples, very romantically quaint, and an easy place to sit and relax on the wooden or rattan chairs strewn under the gates and awnings.
One of the best parts about our day in Lugang was hanging out with locals - whether chatting with Wu Dunhou's assistant, the people who ran the restaurant where we ate loads of fried oysters, day trippers with toy dogs, or the folks in this neighborhood to the west of Longshan Temple - every evening around 6pm they feed the local cats, who wait in that area and meow until a specific door (they know which one) is opened and a man comes out with a bag of food and several plastic bowls.
The southern end of Zhongshan Road is lined with woodcarvers - the guide book says it's furniture and coffinmakers, but we found it to be mostly made-to-order idol carvers and makers of wood products (such as screens and altar tables) for temples and home shrines. Their work, as well as items in for repair, can be seen on the sidewalk.
On display at the Ding Family Mansion (丁家大宅） which is a lovely place to wander around along the far end of Zhongshan Road not far from Longshan Temple, not mentioned in the guidebook. It's free and open until 5pm, and sometimes Lao Ding (who was born and raised there) will leave his retirement community to come by and hang out in his house. They rent out one side to Makeni Coffee and set up tables in the courtyard, so this is a good place to recharge after a long walk in the hot sun.
Zhongshan Road is lined with early 20th century shophouses, including this one above, and the one below. Most are in good condition and still inhabited.
We stopped in Wu Dunhou's lantern shop - Old Wu was asleep, or resting, or busy, but his assistant was quite personable. He asked me if A-bian should be released ("I don't know - that's up to the courts. But he deserves a trial even though he probably did steal that money"), and then to rank the presidents of Taiwan first by corruption, then by how good they have been for Taiwan. That's hard to do, but let's say that Chiang Kai-Shek topped the list for most corrupt, and bottomed out the list as worst for Taiwan (though he did develop the economy, that doesn't excuse the White Terror). I actually named Lee Tung-hui as the best for Taiwan.
Then he had me write some English with Chinese under it so he could study - he wanted "台灣真好“， ”台灣比大陸好“ and “台灣加油" for reference.
Then he painted two small lanterns for us to celebrate our upcoming wedding - one says "Eternal Union of Hearts" (aww) and the other says "Double Happiness Something Something" (I can't read the characters) in Chinese. We'll use them to decorate our wedding venue, wherever that ends up being.
We then went to Tianhou Temple, near our hotel (the Mazu Believers Hotel, which is more affordable than it looks). We threw money into this pond with other locals, and I got a coin in the fish mouth to the side but none in the dragon.
Double Happiness papers on the Old Street - after that, we went to the Old Street and wandered around, buying sweets and a pair of huge mugs for drinking copious amounts of coffee.