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Monday, April 23, 2007

Flower-viewing 花見

No, it wasn't cherry blossoms 桜 we went to see today, but tung blossoms. Every April, the flowers of the Tung tree アブラギリ bloom, and fall to the ground in what the locals call "April (or May) Snow". So off we went to the nearby town of Sani (Sanyi) 三義, in the neighboring county of Miaoli 苗栗県(びょうりつけん)to see what all the excitement was for ourselves. So did half the population of Taiwan, it seemed. It was a long, slow crawl from the freeway exit and through Sanyi town, where at least Amber knew best how to use the time to maximum efficiency

Fortunately, Pamela had done her research, and had selected a trail away from the center of Sanyi and the descending hordes. Once we had driven through town, the road cleared up. Our destination was far from desolate, but the crowd size was tolerable, and everyone was in a good mood.

After stopping off for lunch

we found the entrance to the trail, parked our car along the side of the road, and started a gentle 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) walk uphill that ended in a large tea plantation. Amber walked most of the way, and didn't seem at all tired from the effort.

Tung blossoms were scattered on the ground all along the road, and everyone was stopping to pick them up, with many making wreaths 花輪 with the petals.

The sight of the scattered blossoms on the ground, in fact, was much more beautiful than the flowers blooming in the trees above. From a distance, Tung trees in full bloom are a pretty sight, but up close, the flowers are too high up to fully appreciate

After taking a break at the top (where Amber was more interested in stones than the pretty flowers)

we headed back down to the car. Amber managed to develop a fan following along the way
Back in the car, we decided not to head back into Sanyi and the resulting gridlock, opting instead to keep going straight on the road where we had parked. After making a quick stop to check out the scenery
, and driving through some nice, almost American or Hokkaido-looking rural scenery, we eventually reached the coast and the small town of T'unghsiao (Tongsiao) 通宵. Just north of Tunghsiao is one of the tackiest sights you're likely to come across in Taiwan. Just off Highway 1 is a garden built by a wealthy businessman in memory of his mother. Free to the public, it's a bizarre collection of religious imagery, with displays relating to Buddhism 仏教
,
Christianity キリスト教
,
Taoism 道教 and Confucianism 儒教, and Chinese Nationalist 中国国民党/Republic of China 中華民国 propaganda
,
along with some stuff that is just plain strange

There was even a poem written in Japanese, called 私の心, "My Heart"

The large number of gangsters 暴力団員 there with their families and girlfriends only added to the overall weirdness of the place. Fortunately, the ocean is just behind the garden, and the view of the setting sun over the Taiwan Straits 台湾海峡 seemed like the proper way to finish off a nice afternoon.

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