Taiwan: a mystical land of cloud seas, green mountain forests, misty mountains, hobbits wizards and dragons. Well, dragon boats, anyway. You will be unsurprised to learn that I have gleaned yet more insight from my wanderings among the leafy peaks of this island. Along with an intrepid band of adventurers, I bravely took a minibus to Smangus, known as ‘the most remote village in Taiwan’. And remote it was! Only a stone’s throw from the coffee shop, we found ourselves in a magical bamboo forest where the souls of the mountain seemed to whisper. What did they whisper? I strained my ears couldn’t quite catch it . Something about Jon Snow and the Mother of Dragons. Sounded like a spoiler to me, so I ignored it.
Bamboo is an inspiring plant. It grows really fast. It’s a lovely shade of green. It is flexible, yet strong. It looks great with Zhang Ziyi flying around it. All things to emulate if you can.
Not just bamboo featured on this walk. There were some huge cypress trees too. Marvellous. There really is nothing better for the soul than looking at impressive vegetation in mountain air. On the way to our accommodation I felt purified. So much so that I only felt the need to purchase two bottles of Taiwan Beer to go with dinner, so that my sense of purity would not be disturbed.
In the evening, we stayed in an indigenous Taiwanese village and were treated to a slap-up meal followed by a sing-song and a dance around a large bonfire. Our hosts proudly sang us the song of their people. Then our party and a load of people circled the fire and sang something in Chinese. Like a good foreign tourist I mouthed syllables that sounded vaguely like what the locals were singing. Having finished my two bottles of beer I mouthed them quite loudly. Everyone thought I was brilliant and exhorted me to sing some more. I did. They cheered my brilliance. Then they brought out some sort of massive pestle and mortar and some people sang while pounding what appeared to be a kind of grainy custard. With perfect timing, a tourist from Hsinchu handed me more beer and talked at length in Chinese. ‘對,’ I said (a lot), ‘是阿,’ because my Mandarin is so awesome.
After a while, I claimed the custard stick like the boss that I am and had a go myself. ‘Sing!’ they all shouted. I couldn’t remember what I had been singing earlier but somehow Britney Spears’ classic hit Baby One More Time seemed even more appropriate to the task at hand.
Then we barbecued some very delicious salt-encrusted boar meat on sticks on the bonfire. Roast boar goes really well with beer. This is the greatest insight from my pilgrimage to the mountains around Smangus.
If you want to go there too, I highly recommend Taiwan Adventures. (Thanks to Stu for two of these photographs.)
Happy Dragon Boat Festival!