Miss. Delicious #94 : Hualien's cultural heritage and ridiculous food bonanza!
Dear Steemit Friends:
Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park was originally a wine-making factory, the 26 warehouses that make up the 33,000 square meter complex have been turned in to a public exhibition space and areas for creative manufacture.
I am most looking forwards to taking you on a more cultural and local exploration. Sometimes my blogs are of course about areas of outstanding natural beauty or to see man made wonders of the world, but today we've got something a little different. Not that anything you will learn about today wasn't incredibly special, but just that it was all a little more personal, local and a little less well known.
As those of you who have followed me for a long time will know, I love to get involved more in the more local customs and foods of the places I visit. It is always amazing to go to popular tourist destinations and see the most visited areas, but I find much joy in visiting attractions that are more representative of local and daily life. Today we're going to explore the Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park (HCCIP) in Hualien City.
The HCCIP is located right in the centre of Hualien City and represents impressive re-purposing of old industrial buildings to support and create culture and creativity. Originally a wine-making factory, the 26 warehouses that make up the 33,000 square meter complex have been turned in to a public exhibition space and areas for creative manufacture.
The warehouses were closed as wine-making factories in 1988, after a long service as industrial manufacturing buildings. There is a diverse range of different buildings in the HCCIP reflect the different stages at which the factory originally developed. There are even Japanese dormitory style buildings built between 1928 and 1933 for the employees of the factory, as well as some structures that are remnants of the Japanese occupation period that were used by the Japanese military during World War II.
With this rich and diverse history you'll understand that the Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park (HCCIP) looks back at the industrial past as part of its own culture. Culture is, of course, the total sum of all of the different aspects of life, art, creation and life of a place or people. I think it was a very clever idea to use this old warehouse complex for its new purpose. What could have been left to become a rotten, decaying reminder of an industry long departed, the city has breathed new life in to these buildings which, though industrial, are part of the cultural history.
The land and buildings were obtained in early 2011 to build the HCCIP and the first trial of the idea was launched late the same year, where 30% of the buildings were opened with cultural exhibitions and creative shops. The park was fully opened in 2015, now using the majority of the original 26 factor warehouses!
Upon first arriving I wanted to just explore the building complex. It is very large and has many different buildings of different industrial styles, reflecting the history of the place as a manufacturing centre. The different buildings have clearly been built as the manufacturers required more space or more housing for workers in the factory. It is a bit of a maze actually and that isn't helped by the fact that the buildings have now been re-purposed to become many different things.
Some of the buildings have become shops, some have become restaurants, some have become exhibitions and some are areas for local hand made craftsmen to sell the items that they have made. There is not really a logical order to where you'll find each of these different things. I expected that they might have made 'districts' within the complex, for example having all of the shops in one area and all of the food outlets in a kind of 'food court' area. They didn't do this. But that's OK, I wasn't in a rush and being slightly lost in the maze of buildings let me appreciate the innovative use of the warehouses.
As you can see, the buildings have real character - like the wrinkles on an old man's face who has lived a long and busy life. You can see wear and tear that shows fatigue, practicality and good use on each of the buildings. Many of the exteriors have had modern work done on them to create signs and advertising but they haven't scrubbed away the character of the history either.
Many of the old signs that once guided factory workers and vehicles around the site are still there, slowly rusting next to the brand new signs of the restaurants and exhibitions that you can find. Inside most of the buildings have been completely renovated with bright lights, white walls and new displays. However, the period features are still visible, with the original windows and metal staircases well preserved but re-painted and de-rusted!
You can see above this little area that I found inside one of the buildings. Designed as a kind of seating area to get some food, there was grass and little bonsai trees growing on a shelf just inside the building and around the edges of the tables. As I looked at this little garden inside a building I realised that there was a little nest of eggs! Obviously the nest itself was man made but I thought that the eggs themselves might actually be real because they had a warming light shining on them as if they were incubating the little chicks inside to help them hatch! I didn't want to disturb them if they were real so I didn't get close enough to check - I like to think that one day soon there will be little hatchlings appearing from those eggs to sing to the visitors.
You can see quite clearly the different styles of the place as you move around, with many of the buildings being made from metal and concrete, as you'd expect from a manufacturing warehouse, but many also being clad and designed with wood too. I was trying to imagine what each of the buildings might have been originally used for. There's something quite interesting about abandoned buildings because it lets you imagine the people and the activities that would have once been walking around and working here.
Obviously the HCCIP is no longer abandoned, but its original purpose has been. The factory workers who would have once walked these halls have been replaced with tourists and it has a very different feel now to how it would have done 30+ years ago. I imagine there must still be people in the city who once worked here, it would be so interesting to walk around with them and hear their stories of the place but unfortunately I did not meet anyone like that!
There are two types of retail here in Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park, the first is more what I'd consider a 'gift shop', though admittedly with more unique things for sale than you'd usually expect. However, these areas did still have that slightly tacky gift shop feel. I actually like that!
The second type of retail that you find in the HCCIP is the real gem of the project - the hand made crafts from local people. The space was designed to be a centre for all things cultural and creative, hence the name, and that also means providing space for crafts people to produce and sell their wares. There were so many different stalls with different hand crafted items on, usually with each person specialising in something.
I spent a very long time walking between the stalls, and talking to these people who have put a lot of love and time in to making each of the items that they were selling. There were many different types of crafts, from jewellery to hats to woodwork and many of the people who were running the stalls were sat at their little tables, making more of the things that you could buy! I thought this was really quite special because it showed everyone that these people were the real makers of these items.
Sometimes you might go somewhere that sells hand made things but perhaps the person selling them isn't really the crafts person. Here, you know that all of the things you see have been made by the person you're buying off and that's really special.
The Cultural Exhibitions
The other aspect of the Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park other than the buildings and the creative manufacturers is the cultural exhibitions. As you can imagine, 26 warehouses gives quite a lot of exhibition space and so where we will explore now is through those many different rooms. What I would say, and what you will see, is that there is very little uniformity between the exhibitions. There are some old things mixed in with new things, practical things mixed in with art. It's quite quirky!
These rooms I found most interesting because they had preserved many of the artefacts from the past productions within the factories. There was not much information on each item so you had to try and guess what they might have been used for! This first room shows the most rustic and basic equipment used when this was a distillery and wine-makery, such as baskets for carrying and sacks for storing grain.
Next you start to see the more modern equipment used for making the alcohol. I didn't fully understand what each thing did but you can see in the background that there are photos of some of these original machines in place where they used to be in the factories. This place certainly must have made a lot of alcohol because some of the containers you can see in the pictures behind were huge!
Here you can see a good example of what I mean about old meeting new. Next to these old jars, vases and tea pots there were also these cat pillows, exhibitions of crafts and the modern shiny signs pointing to the next area. I suppose that culture is the total sum of both a place and people's past and present so perhaps this is how it should be!
Well, you know me! I am always a little silly and when I saw this crazy colourful statue I just had to strike a pose! I think I got it just right. Can you even tell which one is the statue and which one is me? If I'm honest I'm not sure what the statue was supposed to be, perhaps just some art? Or perhaps a mascot for the factory? Or the logo for the old company? I wasn't really sure but she was very brightly coloured and you all understand how much I love colour by now!
Here you can see some of the spaces that are used by local artists and crafts people to make some of their products, but also places where at times I think you can go and learn to make things yourself. There was an area for children to go and have fun making crafts or painting and a place which looked like it was laid out for grown-ups to try their hand at some crafts too. I also thought it was really nice that one of the shops was selling alcohol from smaller makers of wine and liquor, because it still reminds you of the history of the buildings and what they once produced.
Goodbye Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park, I really enjoyed exploring this local attraction, with its heritage, culture and creation. There is something very beautiful about these old concrete buildings being given a new life for this purpose. Concrete is a very functional material, not designed to look good or be beautiful. But it speaks of practicality, and that practicality speaks to the history of this place and the support it once gave to thousands of workers and their families.
Now that functional material of concrete and metal that once housed large factories, now houses small one person factories whose machines are only their hands. The concrete has become beautiful for what it allows future peoples to do and see within the walls of these buildings.
So, one last thing. As I headed off down the path to leave, I found these crazy paving slabs. What are these! They are so weird. There was a pretend fossil of a fish, the open mouth of a hippopotamus, a cute little cat and so many more! Wow, how strange and how funny!
Getting Taiwanese Oyster Omelette
By this point I was very tired! 33,000 square meters of cultural centre is a lot of walking to do and I knew I must go and get some food. But what to get? Well as I walked around looking for somewhere to eat, I saw a very busy little restaurant just off to the side of the street. It looked like it was filled with locals so I knew it was going to be great.
As I walked in I realised that they were all having just one dish - Taiwanese Oyster Omelette or 'pancake' depending on how you want to describe them. This classic Taiwanese street food is not just eggs, there is also a kind of pancake batter too which is why it could be perhaps either a pancake or an omelette. A real favourite of locals and tourists a like, there are many different versions of the Taiwanese Oyster Omelette depending on the specific vendor's secret recipe.
With that said, there defining features are egg, some kind of flour to thicken, oysters (obviously) and often a savoury sauce that is poured on top to finish the dish. This sauce is often one of the pieces of the dish that specific vendors will have their own special recipe for and many locals will only go to the vendor whose sauce they like best because the others taste different!
Turns out this little market style restaurant just off the street was busy for a very good reason. This was some of the best Taiwanese Oyster Omelette that I'd ever eaten, and in fact, some of the tastiest food I'd ever eaten too which is a big statement from someone who eats so much food! I suppose that when you just make one dish, you get very good at making it!
Ziqiang Night Market
In my mind, it doesn't get better than a good night market for getting to know the real 'feel' of a city. I have been to many, and have experienced many different atmospheres in each. Sometimes they are extremely busy and cramped, sometimes noisy, sometimes smelly, sometimes good smelly, sometimes a bit scary and most times amazing fun to explore.
If you've ever been to a night market, you'll know why it's important to differentiate between a night market and a day market. A night market just has a completely different feel to most day markets, and though you'll find many of the same products to buy and foods to eat, I always prefer the night market. I think perhaps it is the clientele. Tourists might be less likely to visit the markets at night and the young people of the city come out to socialise and spend their evenings together in the colourful lights and enjoy some tasty food.
This market in Hualien City had a lovely atmosphere. It wasn't too busy but it had enough people to make it still feel exciting. If you've ever been to a night market that is so crowded that you can't move, you'll know how unpleasant that is. You can't see any of the stalls and there's always a small worry about pick pockets in some larger cities. But not here in Hualien City in the Ziqiang Night Market. Mostly frequented by younger locals and tourists, there are many famous food stalls that people queue a long time for.
I spent a long time exploring the different food stalls that were on offer in the night market. There really was nearly everything you could imagine, including these very tasty gourmet looking oysters! I decided that what I'd do is explore each stall first, and try and pick three or four to come back to to get food from. That way I got to explore each and every single stall and then pick my favourite looking dishes.
Of course, what sort of @sweetsssj blog would it be without an absolute feast. The problem was with my plan of looking at each stall and then choosing what I wanted, was that I wanted everything! So I ended up with many different dishes. The good thing was that each stall had a queue (which is how you know it must be good!) so while I got one dish, I'd wait in the queue for the next dish and eat that one before moving on to the next. It resulted in a real variety of food and a whole night of eating! The grilled shrimp and the oysters were my favourite - I must be loving my seafood at the moment!
Train back to Taipei
After a magical visit to the Hualien Region of Taiwan is was time to head back to the capital city of Taipei. The train journey is not too long, as both cities are in the north of the island. The train route follows mostly the coast line which means it also avoids the huge mountains of the inner island. I think my train took around 2 hours and 30 minutes
Arriving back in Taipei I remembered how busy it could get compared to Hualien. Though not a small city, Hualien City does retain some of that small city charm. Taipei, being the capital, is of course much more metropolitan and busy. After the train ride, and going to freshen up, it was time for some dinner so I could reflect on my last few days away in the lovely region of Hualien County
I decided I would have dinner in the Shinkong Mitsukoshi Skyscraper or the Shin Kong Life Tower which was the tallest building in Taiwan until 1997, after first opening in 1993. It is now the third tallest building in Taiwan with the tallest being Tapei 101 which was completed in 2004. It is still impressively tall at 245 meters, with 51 stories. There are observation decks for beautiful views of the city, shopping centres, restaurants, offices and much more. I, was of course, there for the restaurants!
In typical fashion I dived in to get myself a serving of as many different dishes as I could. In fact I went a little bit overboard. As you can see I got some tempura, noodle soup a beautiful curry, fried vegetables and ground pork on rice. I think what I will let you do is just look at all of the different photos and just imagine how good they all were! Yes, they did taste as good as they look.
I hope you've enjoyed this more local and cultural exploration today. Taiwan has so much to offer, from landscapes to big modern cities, to local foods and a busy culture. I have to say I ate far too much food over this few days but I really did enjoy myself so I don't care! Though I loved the Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park, I can't pick a favourite bit of it so I'm going to say that my favourite part of this whole trip was the Taiwanese Oyster Omelette - one of the best I've ever had!
If you've enjoyed this trip with me today, please vote for this post and of course follow me for more trips in the future! Most importantly, I love talking to all of my Steemit friends so if you've read the article please do stop by for a chat in the comments below. I really want to hear from you so we can talk further!
Have a great day!
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