Archive for the 'Chiayi' Category


More Random Shots from HsingKang…

While I was in Hsingkang, I stayed with my dad’s cousin and wow, they are morning people!  They were all up around 4 AM, and I tried to be vaguely awake at 4:30 or 5, but after nearly falling asleep on the table, decided to go back to bed.  It was charming to see my Aunt in the morning, trimming her hedge, while my cousin (or is it second-cousin-once-removed??)  chatted with her while flapping a towel to keep the mosquitos away.  Oh, and they introduced me to the magical blue men’s shampoo that made my head all pleasantly cool and tingly.  Seriously awesome stuff!

Anyway, we got up early (for me anyway) to take the bus to Chiayi and then a train to Tainan.  Walking through the streets, the lovely thing about Hsingkang is that it’s really quiet, without that buzz that is so common here in Taipei.  The night I spent in Hsingkang, I could hear the cicadas (or was it crickets?) chirping in the yard.  They were truly kind and marvelous hosts and I wouldn’t have been able to get such a good look at Hsingkang without them.

Here are some early morning shots taken while we rushed to the bus stop:

At first sight of this balloon floating high above the village, I thought it was a lingering moon.

This cat is inspecting the durability of this old clay tile roof.

Hollyhocks in the morning sunlight.

Someone else’s old house.

This is a poster at the bus stop for the Chaiyi Performing Arts Centre, which my uncle kindly took me to a while ago, when Cloud Gate 2 was performing.  It’s a really lovely space that I wish I could have seen in the daylight.  All the same, the lotus were still beautifully glimmering with rain the night we went.  The dance Cloud Gate 2 performed, Oculus was indeed free-spirited and wildly beautiful.

And one more random shot from the temple– apparently all these guardian (I think this is a lion, but I’ m not sure…) lions have a ball in their mouths.  I have no idea why.  Oh, and does anyone know of a resource that tells the stories behind the gods here?  I’m thinking there should be something somewhere I could read to find out those stories…

More flowers– aren’t they pretty!  These were actually at the bus stop when we arrived in Chiayi from Taipei.


My Father’s Old House…

There is a certain wistful nostalgia that we have when we think of our childhood homes. My father is certainly not immune to this. He was downright grumpy with me upon my first visit to his house because my appreciation was considerably dampened by the mosquitos feasting on me and the lack of a flushing toilet… However, upon a quick visit, I realized what my father loved about his home. He told stories about the Japanese coming to my grandmother during the war and asking for the steel embedded in the window frames. On the last trip we went on when she was still alive, she was quite happily content, sitting on the front porch.

Here are some photos of the front yard with the flora and fauna.

Interesting long-rooted vine.

This is a water plant of some kind.

Within each of these buds, a red tongued blossom is waiting…

Doesn’t this look soft?!

Down in the depths of the old well, the ferns grow. No worries, I didn’t lose my balance to get this shot!


Visiting the temple

Proxy pilgrims are the dummies inside the cart– they are sent by people who can’t come themselves to tour the country and visit gods in different temples. They are wearing the shadows of the lanterns leading to the temple.

The market outside the temple.

Chatting in front of the temple by the fireworks cage.

Once we got inside, and asked if it was okay for me to be a shutterbug inside the temple, I kind of went a little nuts…

Continue reading ‘Visiting the temple’


On the wayside

The flower shop by my father’s old home. Any idea what these interesting cup flowers are?

Our shadows on the crumbling wall of my relative’s grandmother’s home (I think…)

Decorated by the local elementary school, I believe my relative said this is actually a private residence.

The street behind the temple where my relatives have their little everything shop.

On the way back at twilight– I liked the way this stoplight was broken just enough for the light within to gleam like a wannabe sunset.

The open gutter by the side of the road in Hsingkang. I love how impatiens are wildflowers in Taiwan– they bloom by the roadsides. It’s interesting being here– I understand my mother’s garden choices more, when I see flowers that are familiar, as if I’m not really quite so far away from home in the comfortable company of roses or begonias or impatiens.


Performing Arts High School in Shingkang

My father and my uncle by marriage on my mom’s side both come from the quiet town of Hsingkang or Shingkang.  It’s a tiny town that is accessible by a tiny crowded bus from Chiayi.  My dad’s cousin’s daughter who became an English teacher was very kind to let me join her.  Her family rescued us from a stay in my father’s old house (which is picturesque but lacks modern plumbing and air conditioning, while hosting a number of happy mosquitos) long long ago.

I walked back with her and her mother to their home and we passed through the newly-built arts high school.  Apparently it displaced some rice fields in the process of its creation.

Lucky kids– it looks really state of the art, and I love walkways of windows.  I think this one is headed to the dorms.


Wax or Rose Apple Tree

This tree had a combination of bud, blossoms, and fruit.  Liem boo or Lien Woo was one of my first delighted discoveries in Taiwan.

The flowers remind me of sea anemone with their outstretched stamens.

Not quite red enough yet to be fully sweet.

The whole tree sits next to a basketball court where people were playing in their bare feet.


Peach Picking this past weekend

Green tea growing on the mountain. They were going to be picked the next morning. Only the newest and tender leaves are picked in the moist mountain mist. Then they’re dried for tea. They harvest once per season with the spring season being the best.

Peaches wrapped and ready for sale. Each is individually wrapped by hand, the point pointing upwards, resting on their sides. I know, because I tried to help by wrapping a box, felt incredibly proud until they smiled and redid them all to make them look prettier. Boxes supposedly sell for about 800NT (over $20 US) in Taipei. The farmer gets 250NT per box.

Cutting the paper bags off of the peaches. They use the bags to keep insects away and then after taking the peaches out of them, will use the emptied bags as stuffing to cushion each box.

One of the few unbagged peaches ripening on the tree.

A thistle.

Bamboo in the sun.

So my room smells of peaches ripening in a cardboard box, thanks to the generosity of my aunt, her sister, her sister’s friend, and her sister’s friend’s cousin who owns a peach farm on a mountain called the “sound of jade” or something like that in translation.

The peaches we picked were small, blushing through their white paper bags, even if they weren’t all completely ripe yet. There were also large ones that solidly fit in the palm. They told me those weren’t as sweet, but they were sweet indeed.

Peaches in Chinese are tao tze and my mother’s familiar with the green crispy kind that I buy off the side of the street soaked in saltwater which somehow brings their sweetness into relief. The sort we picked, warm from the sun, some of them so soft that a touch would bruise them or leave their skin peeling, were more like the kind I am used to from the US. People here tend to eat them with the skin peeled. I didn’t.

I love picking fruit.

We also picked long chu tsai, dragon’s beard vegetables which grow like a vine along the ground, shoots curling. Those require much more bending over, while the peaches were more of a stretch. The vegetables were very good at my aunt’s mother’s dinner where their clan of six families bought out the main area of a karaoke restaurant and worked the over-echoing speakers enthusiastically. When the echo is turned up that substantially, it is… shall we say, rather unforgiving.

In order to get to the farm, we drove past groves of mangoes still green but blushing, and blue plastic bagged banana bunches hanging from the trees. We also did a quick stop in at a religious Christian sect’s “Mount Zion” which sells organic beauty care and jewelry.

I had fun with my cousin, fighting over the comforters, pillow fighting, and teaching her the tradition of gargling “The Star Spangled Banner” which my other cousin and I used to do in our PJs when she still wore braces, and I still had bangs.

Free Rice

September 2019
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