Sandimen and Liuchiu
Today's stage is Sandimen township, a peaceful hamlet surrounded with beautiful mountains, mostly inhabited by aboriginals. It hosts a so-called aboriginal park devoted to the customs of Taiwan original tribes. In spite of being too tourists oriented, this attraction is interesting since it describes rather well their dances, beliefs etc. After visiting the park, I walk towards the village in itself, across a river. Plenty of trees around, either mango or betel nuts ones. The village looks dirty, with a smattering of errant dogs. I stopped in a pub. The waitress, an aboriginal girl (of a different tribe than the Taroko girls, much less beautiful) seems very pleased with having a Westerner as her customer. Having uttered the usual "You are very handsome", she asks the usual questions: country ? married ? girlfriend ? As I am taking my leave, she gives me her phone number: "In case you come back, if God decides so". Hem hem.
After Sandimen, I travel to a small island on the East Coast, Liu Qiu. As I am the only Westerner on the ferry to the island, the captain treats me as a very precious guest. He leads me to the best seat on board and makes sure that I alight first. It is rather embarrassing to have priority over some old gentlemen and ladies. His English is far worse than my Chinese. Moreover, nearly all his sentences are punctuated with a final "ah" (as he would do in Chinese). Nevertheless, he is friendly and helpful. When I set foot on the island, he introduces me to an old Chinese lady, saying that she will help me to find a hotel and to rent a bike. She does not know a single English word but we settle a good bargain. I asks her whether I need a lock or not. She replies 不要不要 « No need ! No need ! ». A few years ago, I attended a conference about China. The lecturer was saying that 50 years ago, there weren't many thieves there and that nobody would steal an unattached bike. A golden age lost. It seems there that Taiwan is lagging some decades behind the mainland for this particular aspect.
I tour the island on bike, its perimeter being around 10km. There is a fairly beautiful sand beach on the West coast. Apart from that, there is a smattering of beautiful sceneries there, including some oddly shaped rocks.
I return to the port just before sunset. Finding a place for dinner is not a piece of cake since there aren't many restaurants other than the street vendors whose hygiene is questionable. I finally find one whose mango sorbet is a pure delight (located in front of the pier). Liuqiu is only a stone throw away from Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan. The contrast between the quiet island and the vivid metropolis, whose lights are shining on the other shore, is stunning.