After a brief visit to the Douliu Train Station in Taitung, we headed to my mom’s hometown in Tuku, located in Yunlin County. Located in central Taiwan, Yunlin County is rural and definitely off the beaten path. It’s largest city and county seat is Douliu, which has a population of just over 100,000 people. The tourism infrastructure in Yunlin is fairly limited compared to the rest of Taiwan and is regularly skipped by visitors. It doesn’t have the stunning, idyllic scenery of east Taiwan, nor the hustle and bustle of the major cities, so we focused our time in Yunlin recharging after a hectic weeklong bus tour that had stretched Baby T’s resilience.
Most of my previous trips to Taiwan centered around Tuku, where my grandmother and other relatives call home. When I was younger, I always found my mom’s hometown to be boring; it’s a tiny little village with little to do other than visit old relatives. But, this visit provided respite for me and Nate before we hit the road again; it’s the first time on this trip that we spent two consecutive nights in the same place. My parents, sister, and her boyfriend settled in at my grandmother’s house while me, Nate, and baby T stayed at my late grandfather’s brother-in-law’s building a couple of blocks away. We spent our time living like the locals (or in this case following my relatives around as they transitioned away from vacation mode).
Douliu Night Market
For dinner, my cousin (the last time I saw him he was six) drove us to the Douliu Night Market, about thirty minutes away from Tuku. It’s a newer night market and only opened on the weekends. Compared to night markets I’ve been to in Taipei, Tainan, and Kaohsiung on previous trips to Taiwan, this one was tiny. Still, it was a good spot to introduce Nate and Adam the Taiwanese night market experience without the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds typical in the big cities. The smaller crowd made it easier to navigate with a baby and to keep track of my aunts, uncles, and cousins.
What can you expect at a night market? Typically, you’ll find vendors selling clothes, small trinkets, produce, specialty drinks like bubble tea, food, and carnival games. Each stall usually only sells one type of item.
Nate and I only stayed for about thirty minutes, just enough time to eat from a street vendors. We left for the night market at 7 PM, and it wasn’t until I was in the car that I found out that it was a thirty minute drive. With an 8PM bedtime for Baby T, the night market excursion was not a good idea for a baby that had not napped all day.
The next morning, I picked up breakfast with my mom on the main road in Tuku. I love that in Taiwan, even in the rural villages, anyone can walk down the road to buy a meal, produce, and meat.
Easter and Tomb Sweeping Holiday
Then, we headed to my grandmother’s church for Easter service. Luckily, Baby T slept through half of it. When he woke up, Nate took him to church’s indoor playroom since he didn’t understand a single word in the service. Luckily, Nate met two moms in the playroom who spoke English.
After church, we met up at my grandmother’s home for lunch. At this point we were craving American food, so one of my cousins ordered Domino’s pizza. I know most people think it’s silly to eat pizza in another country when there’s so much local food to try. Still, I find it fascinating to see how other cultures interpret American and Western cuisine. Our pizza toppings included shrimp, corn, and squid, very typical of what Taiwanese people order on a pizza. Overall, the pizza was not nearly as greasy compared to ones from Dominos here in the US.
We unsuccessfully tried to get Titus down for a second nap, so we headed to my grandfather’s burial site in Douliu. This year, Easter coincided with Taiwan’s Tomb Sweeping Day or Qingming Festival. During Qingming, families travel to ancestral burial sites and clean the tombs and to pay their respects. Sometimes, prayers and offerings of food and “spirit” money are left at the tombs. It’s similar to Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday.
With dates for Easter and Tomb Sweeping Holiday being so close this year, a lot of Taiwanese Christians opted to visit the family grave on Easter, since the first Easter began with a group of women visiting Christ’s grave. In fact, this year my grandmother’s church held its Easter sunrise service at the church grave.
Green Tunnel Park
After a brief visit at the church cemetery, we headed to Green Tunnel Park, named for the trees along the main path, also in Douliu. Since it was the beginning of a long holiday week, the popular park was packed; there were vendors hawking their wares and street performers. We saw one of the families we had met at church at the park. They came prepared with toys and bubbles and invited Baby T to play.
Later that night, my mom’s cousin took us out to dinner. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but the food was the best I’ve had all week, mostly because the host purposely ordered food (in Taiwan, the host is responsible for ordering and paying for everyone) that would suit our “American” taste. So no organs or weird meats made it to the table.
Previous posts about our trip to Taiwan:
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