One week last fall, our school was closed down because of H1N1 infection. Having nothing to do, we got on the subway and took it down to the end of the line to visit the CiaoTou Sugar Factory. The factory was a big employer north of Kaohsiung for a lot of the 20th century, especially once the Japanese got in, but it was closed sometime in the 80s, I think. Near the end of the 1990s, the government opened it as a museum and memorial to the role it played in local economics and employment.
To be honest, as a museum it wasn’t that great. As a photographer, I loved it, but there wasn’t much explanation of anything in English or Chinese and parts of it seemed almost dangerous. There is a resident artist and when the museum first opened, a different artist was commissioned to take pieces of the old factory and make art of them, which he did quite well sometimes. Though it didn’t give me a huge insight into sugar-making in Taiwan in the 20th century, I did get a few neat pictures out of our time there.
The best part was, of course, the food. It wasn’t much, but we had a little ice cream while we were there. Green mango ice cream, with real bits of green mango in it. My taste buds couldn’t get enough of it, the green mango didn’t taste bitter or sour – sweet and delicious mouthfuls every time. I was scraping the bottom of the cup at the end, trying to get the last bit of melted goodness out.
The other interesting part was flavoured brown sugar cubes. These weren’t meant for coffee or cooking or anything, they’re actually cubes of sugar meant to be eaten like candy. We got mango flavour. Just a hint of mango, not overpowering, but complimenting the sweetness of the brown sugar. It was well-done and quite tasty, though I personally can’t eat too much in one go. After all, it is still eating sugar.
Based on these two food discoveries, and some decent pictures we took, we have forgiven CiaoTou for sucking as a tour. It’s on our watch list, though – if they ever stop serving green mango ice cream, I may have to take action.