Hi everyone, today I wanted to share a few things from the trip I took this weekend! Me and my classmates went to the southern Taiwanese county of Pingdong. We went to a lot of different places within this county, including Hengchun town, Kenting National Park, and Eluanbi Park (which touches the southern ocean, the furthest tip of the main Taiwanese island). Even though we were only there for two days, I really enjoyed the trip! For our last trip, we plan to go to Taitung City in April, and I’m really excited for that too! Now, in this blog, I want to first introduce these areas, and then share two small stories. I hope that you all like this blog!
Hengchun town is a very old town in Southern Taiwan, with a lot of history regarding the Japanese. The first contact between the Japanese and Taiwan was when fishermen from the Japanese Ryukyu island were shipwrecked in this Taiwanese town. When this happened, 57 Japanese people were killed by Taiwanese Aboriginals living in the region, and, because of this, Japan launched an offensive on the, then Chinese, island of Taiwan. This even showed the world that the Qing Dynasty’s grip on the Taiwanese island was weak, as the Japanese were able to attack without any real repercussions. This, in a way, set the stage for the later Japanese occupation of Taiwan. The town became a military stronghold with a seat of the Japanese occupying government when Japan eventually did come to the island, and, as such, it is surrounded by a defensive wall. We got to see this enclosing wall, with its four gates at each of the cardinal directions, as well as a dragon-shaped mountain range, and a very special temple. This temple is special because there is a poem carved into a mountain from multiple thousands of years ago. This poem was written by a man from the Chinese jurisdiction of Guangdong, and it is really interesting because it shows that modern Chinese speakers, even hundreds of years later, still write the same characters. Besides the history, there was also a really good beef noodle restaurant! This was a really fun place to go!
The seven of us then went to Kenting. In our Chinese classes at Wenzao Foreign Language University, our classmates are always saying how Kenting is really fun, and, luckily, we finally got the opportunity to go! I thought Kenting and Hengchun, while both fun, were really a different type of fun. I think Kenting’s version of fun is more about the beautiful scenery and the food, and, as such, I ate a lot of really good food that night. My NSLI-Y classmates decided to go to an Italian restaurant, but I chose to seize the opportunity to eat local food and ate at the food stands along the main road. That night, I ate all different types of food, including: stone grilled pork (mountain pork and sausage), fried fatty intestine (this one sounds better in Mandarin…), a huge corn dog, fried abalone, Thai-style banana pancakes, gelato, grilled big piece of squid, and I even drank a coconut! It was all really good, and everything had a different good flavor!
I really enjoyed that night a lot! The next day, we went to Kenting National Park, and that to Eluanbi Park. When we went to Kenting park, there was a ton of beautiful scenery, the air was clean, and there were even two caves (one shallow, one deeper). There was also a watchtower on the top of a mountain which allowed us to a beautiful, clear view of the Southern Ocean off this tip of the main island. After our time at the park, we continued to the farthest south tip of the main island, a park known as Eluanbi. After taking a few pictures with the lighthouse there, we went to see the rocky beach on the southern tip. Next to the lighthouse there was a stone engraved with the three characters “鵞鑾鼻” (Eluanbi). (Notice the writing of the first character, 鵞 is the historic form of 鵝 [The character ‘我’, meaning ‘me’ has moved to a new location], which I think is really cool).
Now I want to share with you two stories: first, a story about learning language, and secondly another one which is just a fun little story. In case you didn’t know, when speaking the Mandarin language, you have to use proper tones on every word or it can have an entirely different meaning, and, because of this, when you accidentally hear the wrong tone, the meaning of what you hear can very easily be confused. When our Local Coordinator told us that we were going to stop to see a certain type of native deer when we stopped in Hengchun, but there was a small problem: when she said this, I learn, “stop to see ‘roads of beautiful flowers’” (in Chinese, these two words differ only by the tone on the first morpheme)! I thought that we were going to see beautiful flowers on the roads, but in reality we were really going to see deer (a type of animal)! Chinese tones are clearly really important!
Also, I have another story to share with you about coconuts. When I was looking for dinner, I ran into a street stand selling coconuts. Originally, I thought it must be really expensive, but then, when I asked the seller, he told me they were $50 NTD (About $1.60 USD)! I thought he must be joking: how could they be so cheap?! So, I asked him again: “Really?! Are they really only $50?!” His response? “Yup, $50!” I immidietely purchased 50 coconuts. Okay, not really, but I don’t think you’ve ever seen someone purchase anything as fast as I bought that coconut. He grabbed a knife, opened the top by making a small slice, and stuck a straw in it. And when he gave it to me, I was the happiest person in the world: everything was perfect with me and my coconut. Okay, okay, that may be a bit melodramatic, but you get the point: I was really happy. Then, coconut in hand, I returned to my hotel: take step, sip coconut, take step, sip coconut. When I got back, I saw Jenny and Kripa (people in charge of me) eating dinner, so I ran over to talk to them. I loudly shared, “I have a coconut!” I think they thought I had gone crazy. I’m not entirely certain myself, to be honest. In any case, I made quick work of drinking the rest of the coconut juice. If you had been there, you would have thought I was about to die: now juice-less coconut shell in hand, my life became a tragedy. But then, Jenny told me, “you do know that you can go back to the stand and that the owner will help you open it so you can eat the meat, right?” I responded, “I absolutely did not, but the stand is really a bit far…” So she told me I could just break it off my head, just like in the movies! I laughed and said no, so she told me that I could really just drop it on the ground and it would open, but I said that probably wouldn’t work and that going back to the stand was better. My two friends (who had, at the time, already come back) suggested that I could go to the service counter at the hotel, as they had a restaurant, so they should probably have access to a knife with which the coconut could be opened. So, I asked two of them to go with me to the counter, and, when we found one of the women who worked through the hotel and showed her our coconut, she took one look and immediately spoke a single English word, “no.” I smiled a little bit. Anyway, because of this, we three had to go back to the stand. Once we got there and told the owner we wanted to the the meat, he said, lazily, “alright,” took the coconut, and promptly dropped it on the floor. I almost died laughing: we walked all the way to find him and all he has to do is throw the coconut on the ground. I could have just done that myself, I didn’t have to waste all this time walking around. I signed and went back to the hotel. Anyway, I just want to tell everyone: if you’re in Taiwan and you buy a coconut, don’t waste your time, please just smash it on the ground yourself. *sigh*…