Category Archives: Incredible Taiwan

Poetry by the road

Somebody told somebody that I might be interested. That’s how, a typicalTaipeiraining morning, I met Zahira. The gathering of hundreds of cycle riders in a south park of the capital, cheered up by a big crowd of volunteers and the presence of Mr. Ma, the President of Taiwan, doesn’t seem the perfect atmosphere to find an enthusiast of organic tea. But, my will was leaving the city and drive the island in search of tea plantations, taste the brewing and knew how Taiwanese relate to one of their finest products and Zahira’s contact was now in my pocket.

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Hualien, Luye andTainanpassed by. And it was the time for a realSunMoonLakeexperience. The geography of this part of Nantou county is mesmerizing. Even though the touristy activities, who can say that Sun Moon lake isn’t a landmark, a place for connection with nature and oneself. I settled down and walked the shore while groups of tourists rush up to do all what they had in their program for the day. As per my schedule, my only rule was finding time for a good tea. At first sight, that place was not the best spot for tasty food and delicate tea, so I ended up sitting in a Ten Ren shop, a branch of a famous tea company, not bad at all, but not as unique as I was looking for. I should meet Zahira in the shop they had nearby the lake; she inspired me energy and a project filled with illusion. Maybe she was what I was searching.

It was not easy to find the tea shop nearby the road, probably because of my lack of understanding. And I must confess that when I found it, it kindly of disappointed me. You know those tinny road side business that inSpainsell just low quality products for tourists. So, I expected to find in the Tea Shop of Lohas, being skeptical is in my genes, I guess. But as soon as I entered, the smooth Spanish guitar made me feel a bit at home. Money, in charge of the tea, and Zahira started to explain me about their project and their lives. 7 people were at the moment involved in a project of organic agriculture that not only target the tea plantations, but a whole way of living according to community based understanding, with meditation as part of the daily routine and an excellent distribution of tasks in the plantations, shops and promotion of their products. Amazing women and men from places as far asKuala Lumpur, as Money, changed their lives in such a manner that could be an inspiration for many of the lost souls that these days roam in the postmodernity. Actually, it was a pleasure to listen to them. Their knowledge about the soil, the terroir that we say when talking about wines, their poetical way to name each and every harvest of those tea trees that were not watered to provide the real taste of the year over the plants. That was a sincere Lohas (acronym for the words Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability).

Money explained each variety with a sense of pause and slowly unveiled the meaning of the leaves. I got impressed by shaking (zen han) a winter oolong tea that was named after the earthquake, 4 springs was a variety that could be plucked 4 times a year, but my favorite was a black tea with a subtle natural scent of rose, rose red. They told me about their tea meditation activities where they work with youth to teach how through a cup of tea one can dive into himself, starting by the senses and ending up in a real search for the inner silence. And from that we jumped into the wu shi, one of the most fantastic stories about tea I heart inTaiwan. This tea is a green variety that a Taoist master selects every year in a very few plantations to be plugged exactly the summer solstice. They were lucky enough to get into the perfect moment of ripening some part of their plantation in the solstice of 2007. That is not something they wanted to do, but it happened to be there. According to the Taoist tradition, this tea is charged with yang, who has the power to calm down the yin, so it is good for those moody people, unlucky or not healthy ones. Their uniqueness to balance the spiritual energies of the Taiwanese believers make it quite costly (70€ for150 grams). I got totally trapped by the story of a tea that besides all its good properties also could provide you the balance.

In the Tea Shop of Lohas, not a single tea was unpleasant, and it was really difficult to say how much time I spent there tasting. The night overtook us and we prepared some simple, yet yummy, noodles. When I walked back to my scooter, parked in the garden, I kept thinking in their inspirational approach to life, in their courage for changing and how it was imprinted in their products. As if I were in a dream, everything could have evaporated as soon as I start the engine, but I am sure they are still working on it, in a permanent search for a balanced be in the world.  And that was their gift to me: reflection and balance.


Taiwan in the BBC

Fuli to Donghe

Road 23 crosses a national forest and there is barely any car. I swing with the curves of the road and caress the surface of the beautiful mountains. From time to time, some wild animal comes to my sight and some unidentified waterfall appears in the distance. At the end, while descending, a strange sign gets my attention. It means “Danger: Monkeys?”. I did not know that there were monkeys inTaiwan and, for a second, I thought it was a joke. But after some meters, some monkey families show up playing nearby the road. They don’t pay any attention to me, not many cars disturb their joyful games. I take some pictures and continue towards the sea.

Chenggong is my next step, the fish market brings back the smell of the Ocean. Huge fish are put on sale while the fishermen start to enjoy a beer or some street food in the tinny food stalls of the port.

I must rush before it gets dark. Sansiantai is not far, and I cannot miss the chance to visit it. Some buses with tourists from Mainland China make it a bit crowded and noisy. But, finally, I get alone and feel how the sea pull the round stones in Pebble Beach, a bit like an earthquake feeling. Later, I cross the 8 arches bridge and walk the island in circles as if it was a Tibetan pagoda. The waves reach smoothly the shore. It is the ritual of every evening; the local fishermen pick up their catches and go home. Night approaches with its dark veil.

East Rift Valley

From Yuli to Luye, the road is wide and comfortable. We are back in the world of 7elevens and petrol stations, but it is the concession of the mountains for a while. Taiwanese grow rice and anything possible in this amazing valley walled between the Sea Range and the Yushan Mountains. When I reach Luye, I realize I forgot the small map of the guest house and I go to the Town Hall to ask for the adress. After a long discussion, one civil servant takes his scooter and drive me to the guest house where a young guy has been noticed of my arrival. The place looks beautiful and the plantations at the sides of the hills announce another interesting tea stop in my itinerary.

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Drama or tragedy

I reach Hualien City and I got a scooter in PONY, just in front of the train station. The woman is not specially nice, but she gives me a discount for a 10 days scooter rent.

Leaving Hualien City is not difficult, just follow Zhongshan Road and in front of the sea turn right. The road takes its time to enter in the East Coast Scenic Area, but once it does, it drives you crazy. The mountains drop into the sea in a dramatic way and, at moments, it becomes really tragic. The road is very less crowded and whenever I stop, I feel lonely between the clouds, the sea and the mountains. The landscape is as breathtaking that at times I feel I could hear the sound of a huge rock sliding down into de sea after a storm thousand years ago, or breaking in thousand of pieces in the wide valleys that break the mountain range from time to time.

On the road, some B&B face the Pacific Ocean, there are some restaurants literally hanging over the waves with amazing sights, but not many petrol stations or 7eleven. It is a totally different Taiwan, where I could meet the sublime for a while. Imagine a pink piano played by a Hungarian musician, in love with Schubert.  Imagine a beach on the way, down the cliff, dark sand and a brave sea. Silence, wave, silence, wave, silence. Imagine!

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I like the train. Its sound, its atmosphere. From the window, life is like a movie. We are protected, we are saved. The journey from Taipei to Hualien is really something I would recommend to anybody. The nature is lush from Taipei to Yilan. Mountains exploding in greens, beautiful, quite, isoletad landspaces. You are mesmerized everytime you leave a tunnel when suddenly, the sea. Amazing blue, even under the heavy clouds of today. The train snakes the coastline, a tinny island on the horizon and the green cliffs here and there. From Yilan to Hualien is impossible don’t get lost in the immensity of the Pacific Ocean and more is coming!

“Y cómo es él?”

There is a Spanish song by Jose Luis Perales “Y cómo es él?” (How is he?). The lyrics say something like “Who is he? Where did he fall in love with you? Where is he from? What does he do in his free time? Ask him, why did he steal a piece of my life.  He is a thief that stole everything from me”. I cannot stop thinking in that when yesterday I got a call from a friend in Taipei who said I was in the news.

Through an invitation from the Executive Yuan National Youth Commission (NYC), hundreds of Taiwanese youths and international students biked along the Xindian and Jingmei Rivers with President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday morning.

On Sunday, I attended a Youth Commission event. Cycling riverside in Gongguang. After a rehearsal, a man came and pedal with me and other youth in a stage and then went cycling along the riverside park. I assumed he was important, but how could I know that he was the President of Taiwan? So, there I was! He greeted me in Spanish and asked me if it was my first time in the country (I wonder if he learnt Spanish in Paraguay?). Very kind and youthful. He might drink a lot of tea!

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