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Temples, tea and tasty treats in Taiwan


In her final report for Traveltalk, JOY CLARK wraps up her trip to Taiwan feeling full - in mind, body and spirit.

 

We walk on to visit the Hsiahai City God Temple. Singles from near and far flock to this temple for a meeting with the Love God. Up to 500 visitors a day will turn up to pray that the love of their life will soon come. They will pray for around 15-20 minutes to complete the steps that are outlined at the temple.

 

On the day I was there I saw a succession of single females and males lighting the incense and praying. I was also lucky enough to watch one couple, who had been successful in love, come back and worship, and return money to the temple as thanks for their union.

 

It’s time for lunch and we meander down ‘eat street’ in the Wanhua District. It’s places like these you get a real feel for the gastronomic delights of the country. The flavours, the dishes you could never imagine, and the smell igniting your nostrils, begging you to taste.

 

It’s not expensive and you could eat the most delicious food every day without breaking the bank. 

 

 

For dinner I’m promised a seafood delight and head to the Wanhua District to the Re-Hai restaurant.  This small restaurant would be hard to find if you didn’t have a guide. Each dish was amazing, and a visual delight packed with extraordinary flavour. I also have to mention the largest oysters I have ever seen and the lime-flavoured crushed ice on top was mouth-watering. This restaurant is one you should definitely try to visit if in Taipei.

 

I cannot believe it is my last day in this wonderful country.  So much to see, do – and eat!

 

I meet my guide and driver and set off for Yangminshan National Park in Xizhi. Lunch today will be at the Shi-Yang Culture restaurant – described by my guide as “enjoying the food with a peaceful mind”.

 

Shi-Yang is an extremely popular restaurant and we are lucky to have secured a reservation, weeks in advance. As we head down the winding path, past the lake filled with koi and the mass of abundant greenery and flowers, a feeling of peace descends and I remember my guide’s description.

 

We are asked to remove our shoes then taken to one of the many private rooms for lunch. The majority of the restaurant staff are Zen Buddhists and I find myself speaking in hushed tones as I take my place at the (low) table.

  

 

The lunch is most certainly not to be a rushed affair and will take around three hours. Shi-Yang has one menu of 13 mouth-watering courses consisting of Japanese and Taiwanese flavours. I must mention the incredible seafood platter made up of sea urchins, abalone, prawns, squid, rice paper wrapped rolls with salmon roe and slices of yuzu citrus.

 

The lotus flower soup was one of my favourite courses, in taste and presentation. On arrival at the table it looked like a simple soup of chicken mushrooms and herbs, but when the waitress carefully places a dried lotus flower on top of the soup it slowly opens into the beautiful lotus flower and takes my breath away.

 

After lunch we move across to a Shi-Yang teahouse for a private tea ceremony with one of the “Tea Masters”, Mei Chuan, who has been doing this ceremony for 7 years. All is calm, all is quiet as we move unhurriedly and, it seems, in harmony to the (low) table. Buddhist music plays in the background. 

 

  

The ceremony is in two parts with a different tea for each part. The teapot we are served from is over 100 years old and is made of cast iron, allowing the tea to “breathe”.

 

Great care is taken in the preparation of the tea, everything seems to move in slow motion with the measuring and rinsing, pouring and serving. All is well in the world and come to realise that nothing is important at this moment except for the incomparable tea I am tasting.

 

By the end of the ceremony I find it difficult to move, I could probably stay in this relaxed state for a few more hoursHowever, it is time to bid our tea master, and this wonderful place farewell as we begin our journey back to Taipei. Walking back up the winding path I look back to see Mei Chuan waving us goodbye. I immediately make a mental note to return here again one day.

 

The writer was a guest of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau/Taiwan Visitors Association.

 

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Written by: Joy Clark
Published: 7 September 2019


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