Taoyuan airport is very impressive - its huge! One terminal for arrivals and one for departures - and what seemed like miles and miles of shops and eateries. We spent a little while getting our bearings and seeing what was on offer. Showers, prayer rooms, computer internet access and some rest lounges with reclining chairs. Needless to say these were occupied when we found them. However cue 10:30pm and we could take our pick. Charging points too - bonus! Every gate has its own theme be it 'Hello Kitty", a library, a music zone to agarden area. Very cool. Having settled down to our chairs, put up our first year anniversary cards (thank you) we got some shut eye.
Up early and through immigration for our free 'Half day tour' in the morning put on especially for lay over passengers. Thank goodness we gave ourselves lots of time as we struggled to find the coach. Asking as many people in a uniform proved a little confusing as we were led from pillar to post, the first taste of the language barriers, eventually we found the tour information point. We then realised Frank had lost his scarf in the confusion - mild panic ensued and a retracing of steps was had, but alas no scarf. Sad face. "May our bad luck go with it" Frank declared, and on the bus we hopped.
Our tour started at Sanxia Old Street a beautiful red brick road with houses/shops harking back to Qing dynasty with Qing, Japanese and Baroque architecture. Then a swift walk down this road to the Qingshui Zushi Temple. It bagan to spit rain from the ominous black clouds, still the temple proved impressive. Hand carved ornate wooden temple, we lit incense (me the wrong way up - well it was my first time!), were given threaded bracelets and prayed for health and good things. Out and round the back of the temple was the 'Old Market' another quick glimpse of life somewhere else from home. The people looked laid back, calm and friendly. We bought 2 orange juices, freshly squeezed and our changed was counted back out to us.
March back to the bus and the next stop was Yingge ceramics old street, the tropical thunder storm that had then erupted had other ideas for us though. So a swap of agenda to keep us dry we were taken to Tai-Hwa pottery studio to see the skilled crafts men and women at work and the process. 'Made in Taiwan' takes on a whole different meaning. Very delicate skill involved and all with the backdrop of vast jungle strewn hills and mountains drowned in the storm. The burst water mains in Minster broadway have got nothing on this deluge! After enjoying the cooling drama of the weather under the canopy of the pottery studio, the rain abated and we were back on track to Yingge pottery street. On arrival the sunshine greeted us and to celebrate we purchased an ice lolly and frozen mango balls (!). Lovely. A stroll throught the cobbled streets in the already humid morning whetted our appetite for our onward adventures. Sweetened with that holiday feel you only get from pure heat of the sun.
Feeling refreshed after our long flight we began to look forward to Japan...