Lugang - also spelled Lukang - is where you want to go if you're interested in ancient Chinese traditions and old Taiwanese culture. In Chinese, it is written 鹿港.
Quick facts about Lugang:
Matsu Temple - 天后宮
Witness temple rituals, divination and ancient Chinese religious practices at Taiwan's oldest Mazu Temple.
If you suffer from asthma, or any form of breathing problem stay away from here. No joke! All day long, Taiwanese people congregate here from all over Taiwan to burn huge amounts of incense to honor Matsu (Mazu), Goddess of the Sea.
It is said that the image of the "black-faced queen" was brought here in 1684. Lugang's Matsu Shrine also houses Chinese imperial tablets and other interesting religious artifacts such as weapons, stone carvings and Chinese paintings and calligraphy. The temple was renovated in 1936.
A visit to this archaic Taoist Chinese temple is truly unforgettable. It's one of my favorite temples in Taiwan.
Old Market Street - 古市街
Lugang's Old Market Street has to be my favorite pedestrian alley on the island. You just see so much while strolling down the atmospheric narrow lanes; artists painting Chinese fans and writing calligraphy on lanterns, preserved Qing dynasty buildings, elders sipping tea or playing Mahjong... The settings seem to come straight out of Tintin's Blue Lotus adventure. It all looks so... Chinese!
Make sure you don't miss Nanjing Palace and Elders Hall at the northern end of the alley. Both sites are rich in colors and will bring you attractive photographic subjects. If nothing happens when you get there, be patient and wait. Something will present itself - a parade, crazy folk rituals, some guy doing a Chinese dance... Just wait and get your camera ready.
Nine-Turns Lane - 九曲巷
South of Market Street, you'll find First Market, an outdoor traditional bazaar that sells Taiwanese snacks and cheap Chinese dishes. Nothing too fancy here... Grab a plastic stool and enjoy your meal while watching the crowds walk by.
From here, you can walk to Longshan Temple through Nine-Turns Lane - a narrow, winding alley lined with some of the oldest houses you'll see in Taiwan.
Longshan Temple - 龍山寺
The beautiful shrine of Longshan is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Taiwan for good reasons. It's old (built in the late 18th century), it's vast, the woodcarving is exquisite and the halls often host impressive religious ceremonies. It's a quiet place - not the kind where you would see self-flagellation or loud, bloody rituals.
Take a break at Wenkai Academy
Tired of the crowds but still want to do some more sightseeing? Head for the Wenkai Academy, a compound of traditional shrine, school and temple in the southern part of Lugang - a five-minute walk from Longshan Temple. The buildings are colorful, huge calligraphic tablets adorn the walls and the whole site is surrounded by a quiet park with tall trees.
Folk Arts Museum - 民俗文物館
I won't lie to you, I didn't even go inside this one, so I can't tell what it's like or recommend a visit there. Not that I didn't have the interest... It's just that, well, look at the sky on the picture... I just felt like it was gonna be a waste of good weather if I went in. I'm also more into discovering little hidden alleys. Nice building though, don't you think?
The Folk Arts Museum has a collection of ancient daily-life objects. Admission price is 130NT$.
Mr. Wu is known throughout the island as "the most skillful painter of folk lanterns". Travel writers from all over the world have come to report on this local talent and have turned his shop into a must-visit place in town. His lanterns range from NT500 to NT5000. It's only a stone's throw away from Matsu Temple at 312 Zhongshan Road.
Find special offers on Lugang hotels here. This town gets really busy on weekends and holidays, so don't wait to book your room. If you don't want to spend the night here, you should head back to Taichung City, where there is a much broader range of options for hotels / motels.
Getting There and Away
Fastest Way: Take the HSR (High-Speed Rail) to Changhua, then take a bus to Lukang from there.
From Taipei: The Ubus Company has few direct buses every day. You can catch the Ubus in Taipei behind the main train station at the bus station. You buy your ticket at the Ubus counter on the second floor. Buses leave Taipei Bus Station for Lukang at 8:20, 10:20, 12:20, 14:20, 16:20, 18:20, 20:20.
Honestly, it makes more sense to first take the train or HSR to Changhua, and then take a small bus to Lugang.
From Taichung: The Changhua Bus Company has a bus stop in front (diagonal) of the Taichung train station. Buses leave every 15 minutes and cost NT$60. Should take about an hour, depending on traffic.
To Taichung: There's a station on Minquan Rd in Lugang, by a Family Mart convenient store, that has frequent buses back to Taichung.
To Taipei: The Ubus Company has an office on Minquan Rd.