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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Lanyu, Part one...

To be honest, I'm still trying to wrap my brain around how to present Lanyu, or Orchard Island, in the Lonely Planet book. So far I've done only the intro paragraph:

The Yami people call their island home 'Pongso No Tao,' or 'Island of the People,' but the Taiwanese renamed it Lanyu (La\'nyu\v), or Orchid Island, after the flowers that once bloomed here before being picked to near-extinction. A volcanic, mountainous island covered with a carpet of tropical rain forest, Lanyu is approximately 65 kilometres SE of the city of Taitung, making it the southernmost outpost of the Republic of China. Its status as a far flung outpost isn't merely geographical, but cultural as well; Lanyu is by far the least Sinofied part of the ROC. The Yami tribe who live here are of Polynesian descent, speak their own distinct language, and have a culture quite different than that of the people "on the Mainland" (as Taiwanese are sometimes referred). Coral reefs, perhaps the least spoiled in the area, surround the rocky coastline, and at first glance the island might appear a tropical paradise. In many ways it is. But to its inhabitants, the island is a sacred land, one mistreated in a number of ways by its by a much larger neighbour, and there are certain frictions between natives and the outsiders who view the Yami as a strange tribal oddity. Visitors to Lanyu should tread lightly, and treat the locals with respect.

At no time did I feel unwelcome on Lanyu, not by the Yami - but there was something intense about the land itself, not unwelcoming, merely...intense. Since my comrade Philip has already written about the trip beautifully at I won't repeat the day by day details of the first part of the trip. But by the middle of the second full day, after our hike up Tianchi (where, as Philip wrote, a certain amount of monkey wrenching had occur ed by locals apparently not too happy with having wooden stairs slapped on the side of their sacred mountain) Philip and Tammy left, we assumed to catch their flight back to Taiwan, and after a nap Laurie and I went out for a ride up the mountain. At that point we didn't know that P&T were still on Lanyu, that their flight had been cancelled due to the wind, and the idea that we might ourselves be stuck on Lanyu longer than we'd planned hadn't occurred to us. Since we left Penghu wanting to spend more time there, we were talking about spending an extra day or two on Lanyu. And why not? We had an inexpensive & homey deal in our guest house, which was more than tolerable despite our hostesses strange penchant for putting mothballs in every room. And like I wrote in the intro, Lanyu was, in many ways, a tropical paradise.

But though she had said just the day before that Lanyu was both amazing and idyllic, Laurie admitted that there was something about Lanyu that made her not want to spend more time than we'd planned on the island. And I had felt it too, a pulse of sorts emitting from the rocks themselves, a vibe that seemed to be saying 'visit, listen, and take back fond memories. But don't overstay your welcome.'

I am not sure whether P&T felt this vibe, and its quite possible that my own perceptions might be tinted from a adolescence spent eating hallucinogens and reading HP Lovecraft.

This would be a good time to put up some photographs, no?

1 comment:

  1. I found you after reading your awesome little bit about the subways in Shenzhen. Completely random, yes, but damn you're a good writer. Keep it up. I'll link you this week and give you another 3 unique page hits or so a month.


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