Showing posts with label danshui. Show all posts
Showing posts with label danshui. Show all posts

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sanzhi Day Trip II: Li Tianlu Puppetry Museum

Continued from this post

The Li Tian-lu Taiwanese Puppetry Museum (李天祿布袋戲文物館) in Sanzhi is worth a visit for anyone interested in Taiwanese culture, history, Japanese occupation, film or puppetry. Li was a famous puppet master who was also a principal character in the well-known Taiwanese movie "The City of Sadness", was involved in Japanese propaganda, was an international puppeteering champion (so says his museum) and remains internationally famous for those in the know. 

We happened to be in the area and while I'm more enthusiastic about Taiwanese opera than puppetry, it's still an item of cultural importance and a visit is very worthwhile - if only to look at the many finely crafted puppets and costumes on display.

This is a puppet portrayal of Dr. Mackay - seems fairly accurate to me. But...

C'mon, is this a caricature of a wealthy late 19th/early 20th century white guy or what?

Apparently this is what the master of puppet-making who created this thought white women looked like.

A "mosquito god" puppet

Li Tian-lu himself

Admission to the museum is NT70 (no student discount) and they're closed by 5pm. Li's actual residence is across the street. The museum itself is in a lovely old building that I personally found architecturally interesting. There is a small souvenir shop including a place where kids can DIY their own puppet for NT$80-100- or you can buy one to take home and DIY - and both high and low end puppets are on sale, ranging from NT$300 (for a kid who will just destroy it) to NT$4900 (for the connoisseur). There's also a small coffeeshop area. If you're OK with going uphill it's walkable from the more urban part of Sanzhi, but I'd recommend, if you don't have your own transport - which I rarely do! - to grab a cab up here and walk back down. Not far down the hill I spotted a bus stop but didn't have the opportunity to note which buses stopped here, when the service ran and how often.

The area around the museum is a hillside village with a very artsy feel and many small restaurants and coffeeshops. A lot of the small houses and apartments are for rent - you could totally chuck it all and become an artist if you were of a mind!

We got pizza at a "Mediterranean style" place called Pizza Olmo. I wouldn't call it "great" - not the best pizza I've had - but it wasn't bad at all, for boondocks-of-Taiwan pizza. The cheese passed muster and there was no weird mayonnaise, and only nominal corn. I recommend the wild mushroom basil or garlic bacon if you eat here. There are some good views down to the ocean and it's a nice place to hang out with friends. Closer to the museum is a pottery shop and classy coffeeshop with "French desserts" that I would like to check out sometime called Cypress29.

Dude, don't ask questions you don't want answers to.

This area has an artsy feel and is a lovely place to hang out and walk around for awhile

I call this very unfriendly cat "Cuddlemuffins".
It tried to bite my sister.

View from Pizzeria Olmo
We caught a bus back to Danshui at about 7pm, and were home by 9. All in all, a not-too-taxing day trip after a stressful time that allowed us to get out of the city, breathe some fresh air, spend minimal cash and enjoy the sunshine while seeing something new. Worth it for the expat who wants to go up to the coast but has grown tired of the usual spots and isn't interested in bumming around Danshui yet again.

Sanzhi Day Trip Part I: Dingshan Shell Temple and Lee Denghui's Birthplace

Not feeling like exerting ourselves too much (it's been a stressful few weeks) but wanting badly to get out of Taipei City on a sunny weekend day - those are rare enough as it is - we took a fun and relaxing day trip to Sanzhi (三芝) on the northeast coast. Until today I'd known it mainly as the place that my Taiwanese biking friends like to go (I don't bike but I have a few local friends and acquaintances who are really into it) for the countryside outside of town and the cherry blossoms that don't attract as many crowds as the ones closer to Yangmingshan.

It does, however, have plenty to entertain the non-biking day-tripper, and has some good places to bike if you're into that sort of thing. Unfortunately, you need your own transportation to get around most of the most interesting parts, or do what we did and go as a group of 4 and arrange a taxi (NT$500 for the shell temple and puppetry museum; pay the driver a bit more if you want to stroll around the lovely village where the puppetry museum is located and eat or have coffee there). With 4 people this is a pretty reasonable price for chartered transportation. I'll pay NT$200 to not have to drive! 

In this post I'll post a few pictures from Lee Denghui's (or Teng-hui if you wish) birthplace and the shell temple, and later on I'll post a few from the puppetry museum and surrounding artsy village.

Let's face it, the most developed/urbanized part of town is kind of bland and ugly, but most buses from Danshui - leaving every 20 minutes - will take you to the "visitor's center and gallery" from where you can arrange a taxi. The gallery isn't much but Lee Denghui's birthplace - an old three-sided farmhouse style brick building - is out back and worth a quick look.

My sister outside Lee Denghui's birthplace

The area around the old house is not as well-maintained and has some current residents, along with their dog (above) and pants (below).

The Shell Temple (頂山寺) is up a winding hairpin-laden mountain road and attracts scores of local daytrippers. The outside is gorgeous, the inside is tacky, but as temples go it's quite unique. I'd put it up there in the "Huh, Taiwan's full of temples but I ain't seen THIS before" category with the Keelung Fairy Cave Temple, Caotun's weird medicine gourd temple and the crazy gold gate at Donggang's Donglong Temple.

The road up is extremely steep and not really one I'd recommend trying on foot or on bike if you aren't very fit, but if you can get a ride up there it would be a perfectly fine walk down, with lovely farmland scenery and views out to the ocean on the way down. Bring water and a hat. Or, if you have your own transportation, make it a leisurely drive - you may want to stop and take short walks to enjoy the scenery. It's easy to get carsick - I did - so bring some Green Oil, White Flower Oil or Tiger Balm.

The best way to introduce it is to show you the best of my (iPhone) pictures - so here you go:

Basic provisions are available at the temple (some sold as offerings, some you can buy to eat or drink), and to enter the back corridor you have to pray (just grab some incense, light it and bow a few times in front of the altar before sticking the incense in the pot behind you - no biggie). There are stores on either side, one selling religious items and the other selling super tacky - but also kind of super fun - "handmade" shell souvenirs. I totally bought a soap dish, because I needed a soap dish.

From there you can head down to the puppetry museum and artsy village area - which I'll post about in an hour or two.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

More Pod Houses!

Most of you are probably familiar with the erstwhile Pod Houses of Sanzhi, chronicled here and in other places.

I was, like maybe people, sad to see them go. They were not only world-famous (in a somewhat ironic sense, but still famous - famous enough to get on Wikipedia anyway) but quirky and fun and an example of the unexpected things one finds on this beautiful island.

Well, good news! There are more pod houses, brought to you by photographer Craig Ferguson. Craig doesn't give the address (presumably as people still live in some of them, so it isn't such a great idea to send the hipster foreign hordes looking for neat pictures there) but looking at the environment, I can take a fair guess at where they are and might go looking for them someday.

But really, it just warms my cynical little heart to know that the old pod houses might be gone, but the pod house legacy remains.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bye Bye Pod Houses

Two Things:

1.) We took a bus from Danshui to Jinshan today, and ended up in Jinshan eating all things sweet potato. A nice town to stop in if you're in the area but not really worth its own day trip. But the purple yam ice cream there is fantastic and you'll love the local food on offer if you like sweet potatoes.

Also, though the "old street" isn't really "old" at all, you can at least stock up on the usual Old Street stuff that you may like - for me it's black sugar cake (黑糖糕) and those smelly glycerin soaps in a million scents, and the little camphor balms. Also got some ginger herb tea (薑母茶) chunks because it tasted so good.

But we didn't go to Jinshan because we'd planned it that way - we originally set out to find these:

To, you know, look around, take some photos, marvel at the total freakiness of the place. We've been by there on the bus a few times so we knew where they should have been...but they weren't there! They're gone! They are (or rather were) quite close to the highway - you can practically see in the windows from a moving bus - and we kept our eyes peeled out both sides of the bus all the way past Laomei and Cape Fugui. And they're definitely gone.

Boo. There should be a law against demolishing creepy, old fantastic things that may be haunted.

We also walked to the tip of Cape Fugui after the sun had set, which made the walk extra atmospheric - with the lighthouse beacon, lapping waves, frightening military installations, large domes, sea breezes and garbage truck song playing from nearby Laomei Village and all. Plus, out there, you can see a lot of stars - about as many as I remember being able to see from my parents' rural backyard on a clear night.

We did not, however, make it to Jinshan Beach, so no awesome photos of the nuclear reactors on either side.

2.) I just realized why I love posted photos from American-based message boards so much - no matter the topic of the board.

Whether it's a photo contest in which someone enters a picture that involves the inside of their house, or Fail Blog with the picture of some heinous Fail taken while displayed in a living room to a woman trying on her wedding dress in her den...'s the houses. On some weird, subconscious level, I may not be homesick, but I feel a weird desire to visit home whenever I see the insides of American houses. Doesn't matter what room. And not from movies or magazines, because those houses are all impossibly expensive or fake. Seeing real people's homes reminds me of what it was like to live in a big American house with things like a "den" (do you have any idea how long it's been since I've been in someone's den? Do dens even exist in Taiwan) or even a garage or rec room. Bonus points if it has wall-to-wall carpeting or an installed setup that I recognize from lots of houses from that era, like my grandparents' pre-installed "stone fireplace" that so many suburban homes have, or wood paneling on one wall, or *gasp* a bay window.

Anyway I'll stop there - it's clearly a very weird outlet of homesickness and I swear it's not creepy. It just is what it is.