Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mountain People

When my friend from the states came to visit me in Taiwan, one of the things we did was to visit my friend Laling in his home in the mountains near Zhu Dong (not far from Xin Zhu where I live). When we started out on the trip, the plan was to ride my scooter out to some hot springs, but as we got further into the countryside I realized that we were getting closer and closer to Laling's house, so I gave him a call and he invited us to come over.

I regret not having more photos of the actual ride up the mountain, the last leg of which was terrifying. The "road" was about five feet wide, was washed out or covered by rock slides in many parts (more parts than were not), full of hairpin turns, and was so steep in places that my scooter was barely moving. I'm just glad that my friend, who was riding on back, wasn't aware of how scared I was.

When we first got up to where Laling was, he and his family were still at work harvesting bamboo.

The scenery on the mountain, though shrouded in fog and mist most of the time, was beautiful. It was very rugged, but lush and green. It was also very quiet, which was a nice change from city life.

Laling's house is very simple. It has an indoor kitchen and sleeping area, but most of the time we spent outside in what serves as a living room. When we went to bed, the whole family slept in one room on a raised wooden platform. There were twelve of us: Laling, his two sons, his parents, his brother and sister, his sister's husband, his sister's son and daughter, and my friend and I.

Because they are aboriginal, Laling's family is allowed to hunt. They showed us how they make traps and snares, and Laling showed me their gun, which is a home-made muzzle loading contraption made of electrical conduit, a wooden stock, tape, and rubber bands. We didn't get the chance to shoot it because it was too rainy to go hunting.

All in all it was a really enjoyable and enlightening experience, and it reminded me of how diverse Taiwan is in terms of culture and technology. I should probably mention that the title of this post, "Mountain People," is not particularly politically correct. The aboriginal people of Taiwan are sometimes collectively referred to as mountain people, basically because they were driven into the mountains by successive waves of outsiders moving to the island. The Mandarin words for "mountain people" are considered derogatory, but because of the context of our experience--literally visiting people who live and work in the mountains--I chose this title. It is not intended to be descriptive of an ethnicity, but rather of the location of this particular family's home.

All the photos from our trip to the mountain can be seen at My Yahoo Photos.

I highly recommend watching the following videos. They give you a very good idea of what life is like for my friend's family up in the mountains, and they also show the natural beauty of the place. You can follow the links to YouTube, or watch the videos imbedded in this post.

Here is a video my friend made during the trip up the mountainside:

Here's the link to that video: In the mountains Southeast of Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Here's a video of us going back down the mountain: Riding a scooter down the mountains of Taiwan. It was shot on a fairly decent stretch of the road. It is very quiet because my scooter's motor kept dying, so we just coasted most of the way down.

This video, Misty Mountain Morning in Taiwan, is a view from Laling's home the morning after we spent the night there.

Another video of Morning at Lalings in Taiwan.

Here we are getting ready to have Dinner at Laling's.

Here is another shot of Dinner with Tayan People.

Laling's family makes their living by Harvesting Bamboo in Taiwan.

More Bamboo Harvesting.

One more of Bamboo Harvesting.

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