Taroko, Communists, and a Tourist Trap - Day 2
At dawn, I leave the hotel towards Taroko, one of Asia's seven wonders, a stunning natural park located close to Hua Lian. Besides a brunch of fellow researchers, an aged Taiwanese gentleman, a distinguished retired medicine professor, and his wife are part of the tour. As they happen to speak French and are eager to practice, we speak together, mostly about politics. As he seems to be over sixty, he probably arrived in Taiwan with the nationalist army during his childhood. He explains to me how low he thinks of the mainlanders, the communists as he labeled them. His main point is that they lost their traditional values, e.g. honesty, and have become a nation of thieves. The sceneries are gorgeous, mid-way between the mountains and the ocean. The gorges in themselves, whose cliffs are surprisingly straight, are rich with colours due to their marble component. The cliffs are a bit moistened by the rain of the unstable weather, thus emphasizing their shimmering. The guide points at various rocks whose shapes are supposed to evoke various figures such as a bear or an Indian chef with his leather ornament. There are also a few water falls which pale besides the Niagara ones which I am leaving by.
The guide then takes us to a pub operated by an aboriginal family for a break. A place famous for its rose-blueberry tea, which Japanese tourist are craving for (a gage of its quality). The drink is indeed amazing, the best tea I ever had. I am (positively) surprised by the looks of the waitress, by their wide eyes and fair complexion. Their looks are also fierce. I ask the guide who confirms my intuition. They are from a local aboriginal tribe. Nowadays, these aboriginals, the first inhabitants of the islands before mainlanders settled in the XVIth century, only make up a few percents of the total population. For those keen with linguistics, below a very interesting article about their languages:
The guide tells me that aboriginal girls are famous for their beauty, an assertion I easily agree on.
At the end of the end, we are gently led to a tourist trap: a boring marble factory with a neighboring exhibition hall. The shop is selling jade jewels and marble sculptures. After more than one hour in the shop we are finally freed and head towards the train station. I suspect that the guide gets a commission on the sales and that she does not let her group go before they have spent a certain amount of money. Return to Taipei after an entire day spent in the gorges.