Lukang, in Western Taiwan, appears to be an uninteresting small town in Taiwan. But don’t always underestimate what the little towns can offer on your off-the-beaten path trip through Taiwan. A couple of miles from Taichung, Lukang is an “authentic” town that was kept from modernizing their buildings when Taiwan was going through technological changes. Therefore, many old buildings and alleyways still exist in the same, yet crumbling, conditions as it was half a century or more, and it has some of the most beautiful temples in Taiwan. Two temples in Lukang, Longshan Temple and Matsu Temple, are good representations of Taiwan’s diversity and history.

1. Longshan Temple, Lukang: Unlike the Longshan Temple in Taipei, the Lukang one is more quiet and less touristy. The first Buddhist temple in Taiwan, Longshan Temple (Long-shan-si) was built in Qing Dynasty-style architecture and art. This temple is dedicated to the Buddha, Siddhartha, and was literally crumbling away from old age up until a campaign was set to restore it a few years ago. During the 50 year Japanese occupation (1895-1945), the back building – and the most important building in terms of architectural layout – was constructed by the Japanese. The Japanese brought over a sacred Japanese Buddha statue for this temple. However, Japan was prohibited from retrieving the Buddha statue as a stipulation of their surrender in 1945. Longshan St and Sanmin Rd

2. Matsu Temple, Lukang: Although it may be confused as a Buddhist temple, Matsu temple is a Daoist temple dedicated to a popular Taiwanese folk deity of the sea. The temple is better preserved and more popular than the Lukang Temple, but the temple feels a little less sacred with all the rainbow colored plastic awnings and peddlers trying to sell you ghost money. Purchase a bag of incense from one of these old ladies for about 30NTD and make a small prayer to each of the many deities in the temple. Light the whole batch of them, make a small prayer, and stick 3 incenses into each incense holder as an offering to the god. When you make it to the main temple holding the Black-faced Matsu statue, take a minute to note of the four little statues on the gate. Each figure represents 4 of the greatest pleasures in life (ear-picking, back scratching, yawning, and nose-picking). Lucao Rd and Zhongshan Rd.

3. Surrounding the Matsu temple is a great market filled with vendors and local Taiwanese eats. The area offers some of Taiwan’s tastiest cuisine, including savory treats like, fried monkey shrimp, oyster pancakes, meatballs and sweets including long-shu-tang (dragon whisker candy) and niu-she-bing (cow-tongue crackers).

Yu Zhen Zhai is a fancy little shop in the neighborhood that sells pastries from Qing-dynasty recipes. The flaky little cakes are famous, but personally, I’m a huge fan of the almond and honey covered rice-puffs. Try them all and you won’t be disappointed. Visit their site for a little eye-candy: 168 Minzu Rd, Lukang, TW

Transportation to Lukang (via Official Lukang website)

From Taipei:

  1. United Highway Bus-It takes about three hours to reach Lukang from Taipei. Direct buses leave every hour from Chengteh Road(north of the Taipei train station)Tel. (02)25550085
  2. Taiwan motor transport Co. Bus-Take direct bus to Changhua at Taipei west Station; depatures every 30minutes; trip takes about 3 hours. At Changhua, make the transfer to a bus in Changhua. The bus station is across the street from the train station and opposite the McDonalds. It’s a 40 minutes ride to Lukang, which is the last stop. Tel.(02)223123413
  3. By railroad-Take train to Changhua ;make the transfer to Lukang. Tel.(04)7246111

From Taichung-Take bus to Lukang at 179 Fuhsing Rd. Sec. 4,Taichung; departures every 15 minutes; trip takes about 11/2 hours. Tel.(04)2256430

Visitor Center: English brochures can be picked up here. 784 1263 Fusing Rd

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