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Olde Taichung – Garry Young

Why do foreigners come to Taiwan? Is it the allure of risking one’s life in the traffic? The Sour and Spicy noodles with duck’s blood? The ginger soup with intestines of a porky variety?

One reason for looking to Taiwan is simple; for hundreds of years, Westerners have romanticized the Far East. We yearn to experience just a little of the wonder Marco Polo must have felt in the process of “discovery”.

We even may long (with some trepidation) to be symbolically shanghaied onto a “trading vessel” as an unwilling sailor, where we spend a decade of our lives in ways that we never planned, but will always look back fondly on the incredible experience. We hunger for the exotic ambiance, with some sharp edges for added spice.

Unfortunately (or fortunately at times), we don’t always find what we are looking for. But quite possibly, there is still something there, hidden away below the 21st century veneer. You just have to look for it.

Taichung’s old town center, located just above the train station, is an interesting place with ambiance in bundles. There are numerous narrow alleys of no particular interest beyond adding a sense of age. Others hide treasure troves of cultural interest. Traditional stores can be found here, offering teas made from a variety of grasses and plants – although the taste can be difficult to acquire. Each tea is made from a different plant (bitter cactus green juice!), and is focused on treating different organs of the body.

The aromas of the city here are complex and may sometimes be unpleasant to the uncultured nose, but are an indication of the variety available. The old Jian Guo traditional market is a place where your knives can be sharpened within a stone’s throw of where the sharpening machines can be bought, all while you shop for a good fish to fillet for lunch.

The old jade market runs every Saturday in the area, and has a far more cramped and dingy feel to it than the new jade market. It’s definitely worth exploring, partly for the jade treasures you may find, but mostly for the authentic feel, the…the …yeah: The Feel.

The old city center runs all the way from the train station area to Taichung park and offers much more than shopping destinations. Just walking along, sampling various wares, chatting to the denizens of the area is an experience worth undertaking. Even the people who populate the area give one the impression that they don’t venture out into other areas of the city (obviously they must, but we are talking about the Feeling).

Twenty years ago, on arrival in Taiwan, this was where I lived and worked, and I am grateful for that origin. The eldest of ancient wyrms breathed on me. It actually took me a long time to realize there was a more modern city out there. The ambiance shanghaied me onto the sailing vessel called “The Ancient Dragon”, and years later, having moved up the ranking from deckhand to ship’s poet, I am yet to give up my involuntary pirate identity.

TRANSLATION

舊台中

外國人為什麼要來台灣呢?是因為可以冒著交通生命危險的吸引而來?還是為了酸辣鴨血而來?或者是為了大腸小腸湯而來的呢?

他們會如此嚮往台灣的動機只有一個簡單的原因:那就是,百年來西方人一直都將東方傳奇化,所以我們也因而嚮往能夠體驗馬可波羅在發現新大陸的過程中的那麼一些些驚奇感受就好。

但也有些忐忑不安情緒的,就是當我們有時幻想被綁架成為貿易船隻上的水手時,卻又不情願地在船上做牛做馬數十年,因為畢竟這不是在我們計劃之中的事啊!所以我們總是不經意地會去回首這些美妙的經歷,並期待在平凡的生活中增添些許異國情調。

不幸的但或許有時也是何其有幸的是,我們雖然無法總是能順利尋得我們夢想中所期待的事物;但頗有可能的是,你要找的東西或許就在某處,或許遠遠地就隱藏在21世紀的建築之下,而你所要做的事就只是找尋而已,不是嗎?

台中舊巿中心位於火車站北方,是個存在多種不同有趣氛圍的地區。在這個區域中有著許多狹窄的巷弄,沒有特殊的意義僅單純地呈現老舊的風格,與其它有些巷弄象徵著貴重的文化產物,顯現出截然不同的風味。

此外,在那裡也有許多傳統商店仍在經營著,店鋪裡出售各式各樣由不同草藥或植物製成的茶葉。雖然口味有點難以下嚥,但每種茶(如苦仙人掌綠汁等)都針對身體內不同的器官有著不同的療效。

台中巿內各地區存有相當的人文複雜性,這對於一些守舊派人士是不受到歡迎的,但確實是存在著可以去大力開發的可能。例如說在舊建國巿場裡你可以找到ㄧ家磨刀店,但也可以順道買台咖啡研磨機之類的,或者是你也可以買到已經煮好的去骨魚肉當您的午餐,類似這樣如此方便的生活機能!

每個星期六在這裡還有中古玉器巿集交流,比起新的玉器巿場,這裡是更加狹窄且昏暗的。但這裡確實是個值得探索的地方,因為有些玉石珍品,你或許會發現大都為正宗正品,嗯~這就是所謂的個人感覺囉。

舊台中巿中心是從火車站一直延伸到台中公園的一大片區域,這一路上不僅有著許多購物場所。就連只需來這走走、逛逛不同的陶器、或是和當地居民聊個天,都是個值得體驗的經驗。即便是當地居民都給予他人不願外出探索台中其他地區的印象(顯然地他們必須如此,因為我們討論的都是一種“感覺”,ok?)!當二十年前我初來台灣時,這兒就是我工作及居住的地方,我很感激這樣的開始,因為最古老的蟲(龍)在我身上呼吸著。然而花了我許久的時間,我卻才發現台中還有其他更為現代化的地區,這個地區的氛圍綁架了我到一艘叫做“古龍”的船上!不過在多年之後,即使從甲板的水手升格成為船上的詩人後,我卻是不想放棄我不由自主的海盜身份。

One Response

  1. I love how the bright colours of the beads and lamps contrast with the grey! I’ve wandered around this area a bit but not recently. You’ve tempted me to go again.

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