Afternoon light in a Beijing hutong
On our way back to Taipei and passing through Yilan, we stopped at the Lanyan Museum — a beautiful gem of a building, arguably best viewed from a distance, where the architecture’s rugged peaks appear to rise straight out of the misty waters as if to narrate the story of Yilan’s birth.
outside, mountain mist so thick you need to cut it with a knife to reveal the water beneath;
inside, the gentle aroma of oolong tea leaves stewing in the pot; the sizzle of the fire heating up the kettle; and the rise and fall of soft voices in lazy conversation, a blend of Japanese and Taiwanese and Mandarin. We dallied until dusk.
Any doubts I had about being back in Taiwan was erased when I bit into my first black-pepper bun for the first time in my life, sometime last year. (I’ve probably eaten it as a kid, too, but I won’t pretend that that counts at all.) It was love at first sight with this golden-crisp, savory with a hint of spice, juice-splattering, crunchy-on-the-outside chewy-on-the-inside ball of goodness. No wonder my mother used to line up for half an hour to buy them fresh out of the clay oven.