Hu-Kou Old Street; Hsinchu County, Taiwan (Part I)

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Day Trip 2010

During my first year in Taiwan, during the academic year 2009-10, I spent part of the winter break in Hsinchu, dog sitting for one of my friends. On one of those days, a mutual friend, Mei-Hung, came and took me for a day trip. This was the first of several day trips I would have with Mei-Hung while in Taiwan, and right from the beginning, I learned that a day trip with her is to be treasured. She starts out with a loose plan, but she’s always open to opportunities that present themselves. On this first trip, she took me to the historical Hu-Kou Street in the mountainous area near Hsinchu. What an amazing place, full of culture and things to see. Best of all, it wasn’t crowded, so we could really just wander around and enjoy the sights.

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On both sides of Hu-Kou Old Street (300 meters long), vendors of all kinds offered merchandise and foods of all kinds. According to information found here, Old Street first started in 1893 when a north-south railway station was established. However, the economic development didn’t last long because the station was relocated in 1929. In recent years, efforts were made to restore Old Street and make it a center of economic growth and culture again. You can go to http://travel.hsinchu.gov.tw/page.aspx?wtp=3&wnd=142&id=510 for more information.

One interesting building located on Old Street is the Catholic Church established in 1965 and featuring Italian architecture. After being shut down in 1993, “Old Hukou Catholic Church Museum”  was reopened in 2001 as a center for local arts and literature. Here, you can see us in the interior of the museum. I love the traditional hakka fabric that is draped from the beams. This fabric is also made in bright blues, greens, pinks, and purples. I know that before I leave Taiwan, I will make some kind of quilt with these fabrics or bring some back with me. They always attract my attention, regardless of the color.

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2_D300890-Tasty, You have to try once, Hakka f...

(Photo credit: 棟樑‧Harry‧黃基峰‧Taiwan)

An interesting cultural phenomenon, especially among young people in Taiwan, is to take photos of their meals before they eat. This is one case where it would have been great to have photographed lunch. Mei-Hung ordered a variety of traditional hakka dishes, which I remember thoroughly enjoying. Without any pictures of my own, I offer this one I located on the internet.

After lunch, there were more shops to visit, and we headed out for afternoon coffee. This tea shop below was tempting, but my host had other plans–a trip to a particular coffee shop that would lead to a magical afternoon involving three of my favorite things.

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NEXT:  Three of My Favorite Things (Hu-Kou Old Street, Part II)

A Spring Adventure in Taiwan (1): Recharging the Spirit

Outings in Taiwan

English: Hsinchu_County, Taiwan

Hsinchu_County, Taiwan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lately, I have been thinking more and more about seeing more of this beautiful island I’ve called home for nearly four years. I’ve seen many interesting sites in northwestern Taiwan, but I’ve yet to head east or south. Still, the places I’ve been have been enchanting. Particularly, when I visit the mountain villages near Hsinchu with my friend, Mei-Hung.

I first met Mei-Hung at Christmas my first year in Taiwan at the home of mutual friends. Shortly after that meeting, I was dog-sitting for those same mutual friends while they were in Malaysia. That is when Mei-Hung and I had our first adventure to Old Street in Hukou, a trip I will recap in a later post. Then last year, my husband joined our adventure that took us on a series of errands and outings that resulted in an ongoing day of wonderful surprises. 

My personal tendency is to plan things out and to know what’s going to happen next. But on these days, I surrender to the spontaneity of her “plans.” I say that because, while she definitely researches possibilities and discovers lots of ideas, no plan is ever final until the car is parked. We will be driving along and suddenly, she starts thinking out loud, and the plans start changing form again. But we’ve come to refer to our trips as adventures, and we both like it that way.

When she picked me up at the train station in Hsinchu, she asked me if I wanted mountains or water, and I’m so spoiled by the mountain trips that I opted for that direction again. Our first stop, a bakery that had been closed during last year’s adventure. This time, she had checked and found that Thursday and Saturday were their baking days, so we were in luck.

BK Fun Bakery

Entrance to BK Bakery (Photo Credit: Deborah Kraklow)

Entrance to BK Bakery (Photo Credit: Deborah Kraklow)

I loved this path. The smell from the wood-fired bakery beckoned us to come closer. The building itself was small and old. Screen doors on delicate wood frames were pushed open to reveal a room domnated by a large work table. To the left (and kitty corner from the door) was the stone oven. This bakery is the result of a man who left his job in Hsinchu’s Science Park and took up a dream to have a bakery. During his travels, he discovered German bread. He bought a brick oven bakery and started experimenting with recipes. He and his wife have created a life full of meaning that allows them to do what they love and to give back to the community. Even though the building is very tiny, it is a peaceful place, full of hospitality, and scintillating scents and flavors.

100_0473The day we arrived, they were baking nine types of bread. You can check out the varieties they bake here (make sure to scroll to the top before all the comments). Mei-Hung had ordered one of each before we arrived. She went through them and left a few for some other visitors who followed us.Their breads have no eggs. His wife teaches people who come in about the nutritional value of the breads, fruits, and nuts. The sample plates include some of each of the breads they are baking that day, as well as olive oil, coconut paste, and other dips and spreads.

The breads are so dense and crusty. After a taste of cranberry orange bread, I was sold. But then, I tasted the nut bread, and I found out just how fickle I can be. I loved the nut bread. So as Mei-Hung went through the breads set aside for her, she made sure to keep the nut one in her order, and she gave it to me to take home. Yum!

A few more pictures from the bakery:

The largest pineapple cake I've ever seen.

The largest pineapple cake I’ve ever seen.

They gave us a free sample of this to take home! So different than the usual pineapple cake. That sourdough taste and wonderful crust!

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This is a view of the oven. They were gracious about letting me move around the space and take photos. Here’s one of him moving things in the oven.

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Here’s his wife, cutting up the breads of the day.

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Here are all the visitors enjoying the samples.

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You can see the spot on the table where online orders are filled and readied for delivery.

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What a great start to our adventure. And the souvenirs we brought home are great, too! If you want to poke around their website, there is lots of information, once you click the translate button. Next stop: a Hakka tea factory.