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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Taiwan, Homg Kong (5)

Sun Moon Lake (日月潭)

Sun Moon Lake (日月潭)
I was hoping to go to the number one tourist trap in Taiwan, Alishan (阿里山), a famous mountain range in Taiwan.  Alishan is known for their beautiful women by virtue of a popular song The Girls of Alishan (阿里山的姑娘) in the 60s.
Ethnically, Taiwan is incredibly diverse with tens of well known aboriginal tribes, by and large, they are ethnic Polynesians. In the early years, the natives were converted to Christianity by Catholic missionaries, in a strange case of Lamarckian evolution, some of the later generations of the natives started to resemble the priests and produced many beautiful round eyed Eurasian girls that made it to the entertainment industry.
Regrettably,  we were too weary to drive to yet another mountain and settled instead for the other big attraction, Sun Moon Lake.

The Road Arounf The Lake

Sun Moon Lake is actually 2 lakes: Sun and Moon, this road goes all around the lake (or lakes), but we could only tell there's a big body of water (maybe we only drove around one?). The street is typical of a tourist town,  full of eateries, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

The store on the left was a big tea shop, we made friends with owners who invited us to a hike around the lake 6AM the next morning. We bought some Assam tea (the Japanese grew Indian Assam black tea during their occupation) and local millet wine (小米酒).   Millet wine is often mentioned in Taiwanese novels, back when people were less politically correct, millet wine and aborigines were put in a context similar to whiskey and American Indians.  I drank the bottle and we ate some native fried fish by the lake that night.

Sun Moon Lake campground

They reminded me of trips to the beach when we were small in Hong Kong, excuses to lounge and prepare food and had little to do with swimming.

A Fish Farm

I think only the natives are allowed to raise or catch fish on the lake. The natives used to set up floating platforms to attract fish. They also farm fish today.

Everything is lush green

Beautiful Colors

This place was truly paradise 100s of years ago. A freshwater highland lake with plenty of fish and games all around. They said the lake was discovered by a native hunter stalking a deer.  Deers (which had  few natural predators) ruled this land for a long time, even after "civilization" came to Taiwan, deer was its greatest export and many geographical names still bear the word "deer". Taiwan likes to be called Treasure Island (寶島), for once, the substance matches the marketing term.

Many college aged kids were fishing

None too seriously

Our tea shop friends

I think all or some stores must be owner by people with aboriginal blood. the tea shop owners were Taiwanese (Han) Chinese and only had native in-laws. They walked to this gazebo every morning with rice and a jug water . After a breakfast of rice porridge and freshly brewed tea, the folding table, the portable stove, pots, and kettle were just put away under the gazebo floor. (They drank Oolong tea from their farm, in case you wonder.) 

Shao Ladies

The two younger women in leggings were daughter-in-laws. I was told full-blooded natives are rarer than giant pandas. The local tribe is Shao (or Thao, 邵族), the tribe of the beautiful Alishan girls.

W and I figured one could easily live to a hundred keeping such a lifestyle, in fact, their mother who was in her late eighties, walked as if she was weightless. The old Chinese cliche "great hermits hide in the market" (大隠於市)  crossed my mind although their business hours were quite long.

The man showed me an album of pictures of Nobel laureate Mo Yan (莫言)who was their house guest for 3 weeks. Mr. Mo, who is from mainland China,  famously praised Taiwan by saying the everyman in Taiwan is Leifeng (雷锋) -- an exemplary communist soldier who gave his life to the people.

Some anti-government banner
Apparently the rights of the natives were infringed. Man On The Street comment was the banners will come down as soon as they pay up. Increditbly, we would see simmilar banners and hear the exact same comment a few days later in Hong Kong!

The boat
There were no personal pleasure boats on the lake, the tour boats all made the same stops. Here we visited a temple and the personal protestant church of Chiang Kai Shek. No clear what denomination was the Jesus Church (耶穌堂), Madame Chiang was Southern Methodist!

On this boat we met one of the few Americans we encountered, he was a recent Princeton grad on his way to a Japanese aerospace program and decided to take some time off in Taiwan teaching English. More than once we met Americans fluent in Mandarin, another time after checking email, I was browsing NBA scores and this young man asked me for an update, he was totally at home surfing in Chinese and typing street names in Pinyin faster than I could, he claimed he just picked up the language on his own in Denver, CO.

(Everything new is now in Pinyin, Wade-Giles Romanization is only seen on older signs. To me, many parts of Taiwan is now indistinguishable from Mainland)

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