I was chased by a man that I passed today … He had two oranges to give me and he wanted to tell me that the area that I was walking through was famous for them. He wasn’t to know that the lady at the coffee shop had given me one ten minutes earlier. It reinforced my belief that there’s no friendlier place than Taiwan.
As we reviewed the possibilities for the day over breakfast, Tyson and I decided to cheat a little to fit everything in. The direct route from Changbin in Chenggong is 28km. Since we planned to take a somewhat less direct path to visit some aboriginal settlements and San Xian Tai Yu island, and we wanted to be in Chenggong by 4:30 PM to get our feet massaged again, it was clear that we would need to skip a few kilometres. We joined the crowd at the bus stop and Tyson got a lesson in local vegetables from the woman in a fur baseball cap who has her stall there. She told us that she was from the Amis tribe – Taiwan’s largest indigenous tribe. I enjoyed watching the early morning activity on Changbin’s main commercial street. The narrow road was teeming with activity; shoppers dodging cars, trucks, and scooters to buy groceries from shops that spilled out onto the street under awnings.
We took the bus to Nangpu – a hamlet about 10km down the coastal road. Once again we were walking in comfortable temperatures with the powerful, Pacific breakers to our left and the lush, green, mountains to our right. New sights today included the concrete fish farming basins, and the brightly decorated shacks and shops run by aboriginal owners. (The aesthetic of the ordinary Chinese businesses is austere by comparison). I stopped at one coffee shop that had a particularly pleasant ambience – although the building itself was just a shipping container, the owner had painted it tastefully and created a terrace surrounded by pot plants. Her young daughter (schools are closed as a precaution against coronavirus) was able to take my order and tell me the price in English. It was a pleasure to relax there with the sea in sight – even though it was immediately next to the main road.
Although Tyson and I were walking at different paces, we caught up with each other at the coffee shop and again at the Bailian aboriginal village. The restaurant there serves traditional aboriginal dishes, including flying fish (bony but delicious), wild boar, various vegetables, a soup (with more flying fish) and vegetable rice. It made for a delicious lunch.
A heavy rain reached the village as we were eating. Rather than making a hairy trip to the little island in the wet conditions, we opted to stay in the village and look for cartoons that had been painted on the walls of some houses by the famous cartoon artist, Jimmy Liao. It seems he created art work there some years ago to help to attract more visitors to the village. His wall paintings are fading, but the curious animal sculptures are still pulling crowds.
Following our search for Jimmy cartoons we stopped to see the beach before setting off to make our 4:30 pm appointment at the foot massage centre in Chenggong. It’s a lot posher than the one at the church in Changbin, but the technique is the same one that the Swiss missionaries brought to Taiwan. From the number of churches that I saw today, I guess they had a lot of success at converting Taiwanese people to Christianity. Churches seem to outnumber temples around here.
With our feet revived, we checked into the Zhen Wang Zi hotel, which resembles a 1970s vintage Japanese concrete resort-hotel. Not pretty but clean and reasonable. From there, we did a launderette run and ate dinner at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant.
Tomorrow we will be taking a bus part of the way again as it would take another couple of days to walk to Taitung but we have a dinner date with Professor Chun-Yuan Fan, whom we met in Hualien. And on Sunday I must travel back to Taipei.
I’m sad that this short Camino will soon come to an end but I’m certain that I’ll be back in Taiwan for more adventures soon.