Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How to get to the Old City of Lukang

I have just left Chiayi City and am heading to Taichung by train on this my seventh day going around Taipei with only public transportation. The purpose of going to Taichung is to travel to the old city of Lukang. Many years ago, the city elders decided they did not want a train station and all the unsavory development that it would bring. That was a good thing for us because visiting Lukang is like going back in time. We get a glimpse of life in Taiwan 50 or 100 years ago.

I will spend the night in Taichung and then take the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus to Lukang in the morning. The Taichung Railway station (TRA) is being modernized and enlarged. After arriving, I exited the rear of the station but took a maze to reach the front of the station. The hotel I selected is not a far walk from the train station. I try to pick nice hotels near the train stations on this trip around Taiwan. It makes life easier when I need to take public transportation.  My hotel in Taichung is the 1969 Blue Sky Hotel.  Probably one of the best values on my trip! It was a very cool modern-romantic industrial type of design that has been opened for only a short time.

Lobby of 1969 Blue Sky Hotel
Creative breakfast - 1969 Blue Sky Hotel

I need to travel to the nearby Taichung High-Speed Rail Station (HSR) to catch the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus to Lukang. I think there are local buses that leave from Taichung to Lukang, but most local bus schedules are in Chinese which I can't read, so I took a short train ride from the Taichung Rail Station to the High-Speed Rail Station.  Taichung will have an MRT soon that will link the downtown with the HSR station. Estimates are that this line will start in December 2018. By the way, I have never had a problem speaking English at any train ticket booth. 

Short train ride from Taichung TRA station
to Taichung HSR station

Finding the bus to Lukang at the Taichung HSR terminal is very easy. When you are in the main terminal of the HSR station, head down one floor to where the bus terminal is. I caught the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus at Platform 5 which also makes a stop at Changhua. There are helpful people at tourist information desks at the bus terminal and the main terminal floor. I had my Easy Card, so no need to buy a bus ticket!

The way down to the bus terminal

Bus Platform 5 to Lukang

One thing to remember, the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle does not stop at every stop. When you are getting close to your stop, you need to press the button on the bus. I was looking at Google Maps on my phone for the nearest stop to my hotel in Lukang, but I was too late. I ended up at the main bus stop in Lukang and had to walk some distance to my hotel. Lukang Old Town is not that large, so it was not a far walk.

The Changhua stop

Bus parking lot at Lukang bus stop

I stayed at a very new, modern, luxurious hotel called Union House. It is probably the best high-end choice in old town.

Union House hotel

Union House hotel lobby

Union House hotel reception

Time to explore the Old City! Lukang is known for its old buildings, small alleys where artisans still work, and its many temples. I could see the Longshan temple from my hotel’s window so that was my first stop.

Longshan Temple from Union House hotel

Longshan Temple

Now time to head up the street to the infamous Mazu Temple. There are so many food vendors around the temple, especially seafood.

Many food stands!

Wow! Those are big!

Pleasure for the eyes and stomach!

Squid on a stick

Mazu Temple

Time to explore some of the back alleys. It’s like a treasure hunt – you don’t know what you will discover.

This hotel was the only one I have stayed at in Taiwan that did not have a breakfast buffet. I think maybe it was because there were so few guests staying here. I didn’t see any other guests, but I saw lots of staff.

Union House hotel breakfast area

I will take the bus back to the Taichung HSR station and then take a high-speed train back to Taipei. I walked back to the bus stopped where I was dropped off the previous day and asked a person who worked there that didn’t speak English “where to get on the Tourist shuttle bus?” Using hand gestures, he told me to wait in the small bus terminal and I suspect he will then tell me when the bus arrives. 

Part of the bus schedule in the Lukang bus station

The next bus to Chunghua and then the HSR station was a local bus.  No problem. It makes more stops then the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus but still goes to the same place. It dropped me off at Platform 5 and I was at the HSR terminal. Since so many trains go to Taipei it is no problem buying tickets the same day, except around local holidays. After a short wait, I am speeding to Taipei!

All Aboard Taiwan!

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