My niece Ayla, who is almost four, has travelled to Taiwan three times, so I asked her advice about what we do during our trip there. “Jump on the couch with Kai Kai and Chen Chen!” she replied with a giggle.
Kai Kai and Chen Chen live in Chutung, about a 20 minute ride from Hsinchu City in Western Taiwan. They are my nieces’ Ayla and Willa’s older cousins and apparently they enjoy jumping on the couch. HOB and I visited them (and their lovely family) two weeks ago.
A few minutes after we arrived in our hotel, our relatives picked us up and drove us to their home. It was the last day of the six day holiday so everyone was around. We sat on the famous couch (spoiler alert: no jumping ensued) and the family immediately started bringing us snacks; tea, candies, strawberries, and cake. And then they gave us gifts.
Check out all the beautiful gifts (Taiwanese specialties!) they gave us.
Next we walked to the local market, which was festively decorated for the holiday.
A group of musicians were playing some sort of ceremonial music in a market stall to bring prosperity during the upcoming year. They a received red envelope of cash in return.
From the market we went out to lunch. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the restaurant was in the same building where my sister-in-law grew up.
We ate an enormous amount of delicious food. More dishes kept arriving and I had to eat with a spoon because I can’t use chopsticks.
Kimchi is my favorite food and Somi ordered me two types; Korean style, and a superb Taiwanese version made with kohlrabi. (Somi also bought me two kimchi boxes to go, so I had even more yumminess for dinner again later that night).
From the restaurant it was a close walk to the family’s temple.
Hwei Chang temple is 200 years old with stunning décor. The family helped me with my steep learning curve on temple culture and art.
Whoa that painted dome!
These were described to me as “Grandma and Grampa”. Grandma is a vegetarian so please don’t leave her any offerings containing meat.
I don’t know the name of any of these gods, however I admire their luxuriant variety of facial hair.
At least I recognized the Bodhisattva.
Despite the huge lunch, we still had room for tapioca milk tea.
After our walk from the temple we returned to the house and soon after more relatives (cousins?) showed up and as we were leaving, even more friendly people stopped by spreading holiday cheer.
Our day in Chutung was our travel dream: a unique town we never would have had access to as tourists, tasty food and quality time with two adorable, smart and polite little boys.
Dear Lucy, Mr. T, Kaila, Somi, Antonia, Vanessa, Kong-Shong, Show-Jen, Kai Kia and Chen Chen,
Thank you for being the kindest hosts and for sharing Chutung with us.
Your American friends who would never ever jump on your couch, HOB and WOB
How we got to Chutung: train from Taipei to Hsinchu City, and then our relatives drove us to Chutung.
Where we slept: Golden Swallow Hotel. Price: €26 for a double. Recommended: yes.