Monday, 6 October 2008

Yehlui Bound and Good Luck Charms

There is much more to Taiwan than its capital city Taipei. For a start it has a centre spine of mountainous terrain and a coast line very reminiscent of New Zealand.

Interestingly the ancestors of New Zealand's Maori and all Polynesian peoples came from this island as both tribal custom, linguistics and genetics have recently proven.

Following the typhoon hiatus mentioned in my previous post we spent a day touring the northern part of Taiwan and one of the highlights was Yehliu, a headland of wind and wave-sculpted sandstone shapes.

Queens Head with Tour Group

Not that one could see many of rocks that well with the bus loads on Chinese tourist dogging our every step and a guardian with a piercing whistle doing his best to shoo them away from the more unstable structures (which they had a propensity to hug).

The Queens Head (pictured above) is the most famous of the rocks at Yehliu but there are others with more dramatic sculptural forms.

Taiwanese are known for their fish and fresh catch was abundant in the markets. Evidence of this fishing activity was everywhere, from the fleets of squid boats tied up at the jetties to the solitary individuals perched on rocks, rod in hand and braving the incoming swells.

Roger Smith 10/2008

From Yehliu we travelled along the coast and then inland, taking in the usual tourist traps laid out by our tour guide. A couple of these are worthy of mention.

The first was the Mau products shop. The Rukai (Mau) are one of the indigenous tribes of Taiwan and have a great marketing pitch. Their shop specialised in the rejuvenating powers of dried fawn foetuses (which they handed around for inspection) and royal jelly which apparently allowed the former first lady and fourth wife of Chiang Kai-shek, Soong May-ling , to live to well into her nineties.

Needless to say their was no 'essence of fawn' packed into our luggage for the return journey.

The final shopping stop was at a shop that sold jade charms to ward off anything from acid reflux to losses on the sharemarket; the latter being foremost in most people's thoughts at the time of our visit.

While I do not claim to be an expert on jade I do recognise crude carving of this precious mineral when I see it and many of the offerings on sale were just that. Only one couple in our small group were interested in a purchase.

Our tour guide we observed, was wearing one of the charms although he confessed later that he only had become a tour guide in later years after his business had been wiped out by an early typhoon. So much for good luck charms we thought to ourselves. It obviously had not done him much good.

Much to the amusement of my wife and one of the Cantonese in our group we noted that the address of the shop concerned was '158'. To the superstitious Cantonese the numbers '5' and '8' together mean "never prosper". There is a rather delicious irony on the fact that a Lucky Charms establishment should have the misfortune (in the eyes on some Chinese) of a street address such as this.

The final stop for the day was the Shilin Night Market, a 'pasar malam' to use the term better known to most Singaporeans. It is well known for its food and a favourite is the oyster omlette. We gave this a miss having eaten it before in Singapore and having noted how oily the local version was.

The market itself has the usual cheap knock-offs of clothing and accessories. The only thing that really caught my eye was a selection of loudly squawking rubber chickens although I couldn't figure out to how to get it back to Singapore without causing a considerable degree of panic in the Customs Hall!

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