I’ve recently succumbed to a spate of wandering this beautiful land, and my travels have rewarded me immensely with trips that encompass breathtaking views of immense rice fields, endless cityscapes, and rare (albeit touristy) gems such as Taiwan’s Cat Village.
As I had heard so much about its natural beauty and fragrant high-plains tea, I recently took a ride on my motorbike into Taiwan’s Nantou County (南投縣). Nantou is located in Taiwan’s central high-mountain region, and thus its higher elevations offer some respite to summertime tourists seeking to escape the city heat of lower elevations, and perhaps to capture good deals on locally grown pineapples and fragrant “high-mountain” tea (高山茶), including the world-famed tung-ting oolong tea (東鼎烏龍茶), for which the region is famous in recent decades. In its lower elevations, Nantou County offers further exploration of myriad mountain communities that specialize in everything from hand-crafted paper products, honey, the touristy Sun Moon Lake, and a wide range of local Chinese foods for which Taiwan is also famous.
Taiwan is a land of change, and Nantou County ranks among this change, as the government is working vigorously to shut down Nantou’s tea plantations, claiming that agriculture chemicals and erosion are destroying the highland ecosystem. Sadly for some, my visual record here of Taiwan’s only landlocked province, is a record of Nantou’s passing beauty. For me, this is another day in an endless Search for Meaning Under the Sun.
The pictures here are many, as I saw many things of wonder…
This is what tea looks like in its unharvested form. Rows and rows of beautiful green leafy gems.
… and here, harvested, the leaves shorn from the tops of small bushy rows.
A curious section of brownishly colored trees amidst an otherwise green tree scape.
The beautiful lady in the middle of this photo is imminently aware of her surroundings, including my presence, despite me being hundreds of meters away.
Someone’s home amidst the paradise of countryside.
One of hundreds of local temples – some no bigger than a hut, some larger than seen here – litter the countryside as testament to belief in the abstract.
An ornamental dog of old Chinese lore plays with a ball that signifies the seat of its power, the center of attention.
Subject to unforetold bouts of rain and ever-present humidity, algae and mold hold an ubiquitous spell upon the soil, wood, stone and concrete, creating a carpet of green anywhere.
Bigger than life itself, this temple awaits completion.
The first of the native fish-catchers. I count nine in this photo.
Aloe vera is another cash crop grown for local consumption, and can be used as a salve for an upset stomach or sun-burnt skin.
A clever pineapple salesman’s proclaims 20 Taiwan dollars for a pineapple, when it really means 20 dollars per kilo.
This house has a sign at left that proclaims it inhabitants as sellers of “High Mountain Tea”.
A modern hearse.
More aloe vera.
This sign states the company is in the tea-oil business. I tried tea oil once, and it surely soothes the stomach.
Pineapple plantation. The fruit hasn’t erupted yet.
In the background are betel nut palms. As for the foreground, I don’t know what the crop is yet. Perhaps a light-colored tea leaf.
Betel-nut palm grove.
Tea, tea, tea…
Perhaps the third time in two years here that I have seen an eagle. They are indeed rare.
These red placards are placed in front of newly opened businesses as a self-bestowed well-wishing for good business, and as an invitation for new customers to come have a look.
Freshly cropped tea bushes.
A local housewares shop. The words on the sign are written from right-to-left in the old fashioned way. This is really countryside-style advertising.
Baby pineapples. In a few days, this lady will put small paper “hats” on the pineapples to keep the rain from pooling on the tender tops of the plants, thus attracting fruit flies and from spoiling the fruit.
This one looks on warily at the photographer.
An otherwise really nice shot of the mountain scape with those damn omnipresent power lines that ruin everything.
A field of babies…
A lotus flower not yet blossomed.
A no-frills low-budget local temple of impressive size. the only disadvantage to going the cheap route is the inevitable invasion of mold in the concrete, as one can see happening here.