Sunday, 3 February 2013


Shenkeng is a small town just outside Taipei, famous for stinky tofu. If you love tofu, you're in heaven there as it's on sale in myriad forms, including tofu ice-cream.

Somehow we've managed to live just ten minutes away by bus 660, yet only visit it twice in all our months in Muzha. Our first trip was aborted when rain stopped play, but the gorgeous winter weather we're currently experiencing, with temperatures in the high twenties, drew us there again this weekend.

We were actually looking forward to resuming our attempt to make the short trek to a small waterfall nearby, but I couldn't resist first popping into Yungan House. I'm so glad we made the effort. There are very, very few houses preserved from earlier times in Taiwan and consequently few opportunities to get a feel for how people used to live.

This was clearly the house of a very rich family, as a large kitchen was needed to feed everyone, and frivolously expensive decorations still adorn the roof. The original furniture is ornate too, and children were obviously spoiled with generous gifts.

Following Richard Saunders' directions in Taipei Escapes 1, we left busy Shenkeng behind to walk to Four Dragons Waterfall. It was so hot I was glad I'd stopped to buy extra water to take with us, despite the fact that we were only travelling a mile or two.

The trail up to the waterfall was in the process of reconstruction, but the workers had thoughtfully left behind sacks of cement in lieu of steps to help us on our way. We traced the course of the stream that flowed down from the waterfall, glad to be out of the sun's glare, in the cool, humming, chirping shade of the forest. All the way up and down, we didn't meet another soul (which was probably a good thing as the cement sacks were only one person wide). It was glorious.

Satisfyingly exercised, we returned to civilisation and indulged in Shnekeng Old Street's excess eating and shopping experience. A temple painting is a highlight of the street, but approaching Chinese New Year as we are, the crowds and decorations were enough of a buzz in themselves. Full of craft shops and interesting food stalls, Old Street could keep anyone entertained for hours.

We didn't exhaust all the walking possibilities around Shenkeng. No doubt the odour of stinky tofu will lure us back.

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