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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another Day in Tak'eng (Dakeng) 大坑

With mornings now free for the time being on Tuesdays, I got up at 7 today, and after a typically frustrating breakfast at one of the local McDonald's (the server decided I wanted a cold coffee instead of the hot drink I specifically asked for), rode out to the Tak'eng (Dakeng) 大坑 area to go on a morning hike. Arriving at the parking area for the No.'s 6, 7 and 8 trails, I was surprised to see a lot of cars and bikes parked there. Though it wasn't anywhere near as congested as on weekends, I still didn't expect there to be so many people out at 8:30 on a Tuesday morning. This meant, of course, that some of the many karaoke カラオケ joints in the area were open to serve those who have never come close to grasping the concept of quietly contemplating what nature has given us (I guess all those old Chinese scroll paintings I've seen in museums were all a big lie, much like Bill and Ted's album covers). On today's course, I started off by walking through a nearby cemetery 墓地 on my way to the junction with the No. 9 Trail.

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A lot of Westerners assume that all East Asian cultures are basically the same, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Take cemeteries, for example. The Taiwanese are terrified of them, while the Japanese aren't quite as spooked (excuse the pun). I have seen the cherry blossoms 桜 in Aoyama Reien 青山霊園, and the maple leaves 紅葉 in Zoshigaya Reien 雑司ヶ谷霊園. I have walked through Yanaka Reien 谷中霊園 on several occasions while visiting some of Tokyo's 東京 older, atmospheric neighborhoods. And no visit to Koya-san 高野山 is complete without going to the Oku-no-in 奥の院. The thing is, while I may be a strange foreigner 変な外人, there were plenty of Japanese at those places when I visited, all sharing the same experiences.

In Taiwan, on the other hand, people avoid visiting cemeteries out of fear of the ghosts residing there (that's not to say Japanese aren't afraid, either. If you're looking for a cheap apartment in Tokyo, look for a building next door to a bone yard). With the exception of Tomb Sweeping Day 清明節, which comes once a year, you will rarely see people visiting a graveyard (it's not uncommon in Japan to see people tending to tombs at any time of year). The result is that a cemetery is the one place where I can be assured of escaping the hordes. And thanks to feng shui 風水, many resting places of the dead are located on the sides of hills offering great views over the surrounding plains. On a clear day, you can see much of T'aichung (Taijhong) 台中 from the cemetery I walked through this morning.


This morning's outing was uneventful. I walked up the No. 9 Trail, passing by papaya パパイヤ orchards until it joined with the No. 6 Trail. Close to the junction is a Kuanyin (Guanyin) 観音 Temple that is overrun on weekends with people eating breakfast. Even with smaller crowds this Tuesday, the noise was still pretty loud.
 

After walking around for a while (and surprising a couple of snakes), I eventually returned to the parking lot via the No. 8 Trail, and was home by 11. Next Tuesday we need to go to T'aipei (Taibei) 台北 in pursuit of a US tourist visa for Pamela, so it'll be a couple of weeks before I can get out to Takeng again.

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