National Center for Traditional Art

A shot of the National Center for Traditional Art's
old street recreation.
In January, my dad and I were lucky enough to be driven by a friend to Yilan which is on the east coast of Taiwan, about an hour away from Taipei. We were able to visit many interesting places, primarily the National Center for Traditional Arts.  It's a huge compound where you can take in replicas of old buildings and enjoy Taiwanese art and snacks.  There are several activities for children as well as adults. Luckily, we went on a bright, sun-shiny day!

The statue at the entrance.
The road was made to look like
an old street road.
I learned a lot at the center from listening to the guides and reading the descriptions. If you want to listen to descriptions of the buildings in another language, you can pick up an audio guide free of charge.  I did, but honestly I didn't use it.  I wanted to practice my Chinese listening comprehension and reading. Also, I was to busy looking around at everything! 

One of the more interesting things I learned was why old market streets in Taiwan were made in a winding fashion.  The reason was two-fold: firstly, if there was a storm or large gust of wind, things that fell into the road would not slide off the mountainside roads because they would get "caught" by the buildings. If the roads were straight, things would roll all the way down. Secondly, if a thief stole something, he would have to run through the winding roads, which would be tiresome. Then, it would be quite easy to catch him! Cool, right?

I also got to sample traditional sweets at the center. There was one that contained peanut flakes and cilantro (胡荽葉, husuiye) called runbing (潤餅). It was delicious!

Girls preparing sweets.
My delicious runbing before I attacked it!
I also watched one of the workers in a sweets shop make an interesting type of semi-hard candy roll. It's white, hollow in the middle, and has a crunchy outer layer.  I don't remember what it's called though...

First: Twirl the malleable candy around a short poll.

Second: Pull it and progressively stretch it out.

Third: Keep stretching...

...and stretching...


...and stretching!

Lastly: Hand the candy on a poll to dry.
Looks tough, right?

A parade, obviously geared towards kids, was held near the candy shop.  We hung around and watched it for a bit anyway.

The performers.
One of them up close.
I believe he was a cockroach.
There was a dragon, too!
After watching the show, we explored the exhibits.  One of my favorite ones was a replica of an old house, complete with a compound and artifacts from decades ago inside.

The old-style house.
This little guy was out front, so cute!
Part of an old plow.
Used for sifting grains or rice.
It was taller than me!
A family alter replica.
After we left the house, we cruised around the various shops. While there are naturally some tourist traps, I think the stores are definitely not to be missed, especially the crafts! Almost everything sold is locally handmade, and in most of the stores, you can watch the artisans work.  It's truly neat.

Carp on the way to the stores.  They were adorable!
An incense shop.
Incense left outside to dry.
This shop sold a variety of handmade clay crafts,
including Naruto ones!
My dad wearing tribal headgear!
Kinda blurry but I had to post it.
Yilan is certainly worth visiting as it's quite different from Taipei. However, I suggest you go by car or at least familiarize yourself with the bus routes there first since it's population density much lower than Taipei's and the main attractions are spread out.

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