the silver lining

comments 10
China / Lijiang
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, 玉龙雪山 (Yùlóngxuě Shān)Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, 玉龙雪山 (Yùlóngxuě Shān) Lijiang, China – the southernmost glacier in the Northern Hemisphere

It’s pretty dang tough being a blogger when you live behind the Great Firewall. This Spring has been the worst so far. I finally just gave up altogether, and quit trying. You can only bang your head against the Wall for so long before you end up with a headache. And you can waste an awful lot of time waiting, waiting, waiting…only to get “connection timed out” which is code for, the Wall wins, you lose! So I stopped waiting and got busy with life.Since I last posted, we’ve been to Bali for two weeks, made a trip to Lijiang and rented a new apartment, packed up everything we own here in Chengdu, and arranged all the details for a move to a different province! The train picks our stuff up Tuesday morning and we follow it shortly thereafter. I am so excited! I love Lijiang. I can hardly wait to introduce you all to our magical new home. The photo above is our new view. I think it’s a big improvement from the view here in Chengdu. What do you think?

But there was one other benefit I rediscovered while the internet was beyond my grasp. Being offline gives you a gift of more time to read. I also discovered another wonderful thing: I can borrow books from my local library in Washington through Overdrive, and have them delivered to my Kindle for FREE!! Free books is the best thing since sliced bread. I had missed the library so much. Now the library goes with me wherever I go! What a fantastic innovation!

So far this Spring I’ve read:
The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
The Sense of An Ending – Julian Barnes
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
The Great Santini – Pat Conroy
I Capture The Castle – Dodie Smith
The Book Theif – Marcus Zusak
The Cooked Seed: A Memoir – Anchee Min
The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch
The Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Room With a View – EM Forster
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
Death Comes to Pemberly – P.D. James
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Aviator’s Wife – Melanie Benjamin
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel – Neil Gaiman
The Cookbook Collector – Allegra Goodman
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
The Dinner – Herman Koch
The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
All That Is – James Salter
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
I’ve already downloaded books for the long train ride South:
The Circle – Dave Eggers
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
White Oleander – Janet Fitch
The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin

Our last train trip to LJ, I read 8 books, so if you have a suggestion, I’d love to have it quick! Or check out my Reading List and give me your recommendations or reviews. The to read section is still fairly healthy, but now that I’m on Overdrive, I’m whittling it down at a pretty good clip. And hopefully, the Wall will be less formidable in our new home and I’ll be back in the blogging business just as soon as I’ve unpacked all these boxes and settled in. I missed that too.

Lost and Found

comments 5
Maolin / Taiwan
a photo of a purple bracelet with Chinese Characters

I found this bracelet on a bridge in the middle of nowhere. I’m so curious what the story is. How did it get there? Did someone leave it there on purpose? Or did they lose it and whoever found it leave it where it might be seen and reclaimed? I’ll never know, but I can’t help wondering. But I’m grateful to whoever thought it belonged in just this spot. The purple on the yellow background just makes me happy.

Rukai Wedding: The Headdresses

comments 3
Maolin / Taiwan
The previous post was all about the Ruikai wedding and the dancing. But I thought the headdresses deserved a post of their own. I found them so interesting. For me, there is an obvious similarity to the headdresses from my home. These are familiar and yet totally different. I find that so often in Chinese minority cultures…I always feel quite at home, but at the same time intrigued by the differences.

Girl at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, TaiwanHeaddress at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Man at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Headdress at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Headdress at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Headdress at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Elders at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Headdress at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Rukai Wedding

comments 6
Maolin / Taiwan
Bride and Groom dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

We attended a Rukai Wedding in WanShan. A Rukai wedding is pretty much like any other wedding you’ve been to…just a whole lot better. First there’s a ceremony, then a banquet, and finally dancing. Lots of dancing. The only difference is Rukai are just way cooler than you and me.

Prayer at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Feast at  Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Dancing at Rukai Wedding, Wan Shan Village, Taiwan

Simply Irresistible

comments 20
Maolin / Taiwan
a photo of a feild of Cosmos flowers
There is something truly magical about a field of flowers. I find it totally irresistible. I must get in the field and photograph it. We saw so many of these fields of Cosmos in Taiwan.

Field of Cosmos Flowers, near Maolin, Taiwan

Cosmos

Cosmos

Cosmos

Cosmos

Cosmos

Cosmos is one of my all time favorite flowers. I think they are so photogenic. And butterflies love them too. I think the thing that has surprised me the most is how many different varieties there are in Asia that I never saw anywhere else.

Maolin Valley Waterfall

comments 14
Maolin / Taiwan

a photo of Maolin Valley Waterfall

Before we arrived, I had read online that the trail to the waterfall was destroyed by Typhoon Morakot in 2009. We hiked up the river from the LuMuSu Bridge and then came to the trail head for the waterfall, but didn’t plan to go. Fortunately, we ran into a couple from Kaohsiung who told us that we could get to the waterfall. They had done the hike several times.

a photo of Maolin Valley Waterfall Traila photo of Maolin Valley Waterfall Trail

Two of the bridges were destroyed and are only now being rebuilt. It’s a bit challenging getting through these sections, but totally doable if you just go slowly and carefully. The rest of the hike is no problem at all.

We had the waterfall all to ourselves, and so I was kind of glad that the trail wasn’t repaired yet. It’s a really lovely spot, and one of the best waterfalls we’ve been to. So peaceful and quiet. The water in the pools was so clean and clear…it’s worth the effort to get to.

a photo of The Stream in Maolin Valley

a photo of the pool at Maolin Valley Waterfall

a coffee story

comments 4
Maolin / Taiwan
The Japanese, during the occupation, planted a lot of coffee trees in the Maolin Valley. After they left, the Rukai didn’t know what to do with them…it wasn’t edible, so they just cut them down or let them go. But a few years back, some NGO workers came in and discovered the coffee trees. They taught locals how to harvest and roast the coffee.

CoffeeWe came across coffee trees just growing on the mountain sides in the Maolin Valley, when we hiked up the river.

But it’s great that now you can have a cup of locally grown coffee. It’s quite good. Da Tou roasts his own at De En Gorge Guest House.

Coffee

There is also a charming coffee shop and gift store in Duo Na Village. Their coffee was really good as well…they had the coffee berries drying in the sun in their courtyard.

I really loved the slate house with its fantastic details. And shopping for local  I really loved the slate house with its fantastic details. And shopping for local handcrafted items is always fun. They also had home made wine from millet. Our friend encouraged us to try it. Because of its bright yellow color, I was afraid it was going to be really strong. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s delicious! I wish I had a bottle of it right now, but I was afraid I couldn’t get it through customs.

Slate house in DuoNa VillagePhoto & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Jinafu

comments 2
Maolin / Taiwan

One of my favorite things about traveling is getting to try local dishes. We not only got to try this one, we got to be involved in the preparation. The inner leaves are stuffed with a meat mixture, then folded and wrapped with the outer leaf, before being tied up. After they are steamed, the inner leaf is edible, but the outer is discarded. Jinafu is a quite yummy and a must try Rukai dish if you visit Maolin.

a photo of leaves

a photo of Jinafu - Ruikai local dish

a photo of Jinafu - Ruikai local dish

De En Gorge Guest House

comments 6
Maolin / Taiwan
If you go to Maolin, this is where you want to stay! It’s really a wonderful little family run ecological guest house. DaTou, his fiance and his parents, have created a lovely little get away to base out of for exploring Maolin (see previous post). We enjoyed getting to know this family, spending time with them, sharing their home and culture so much. They are unbelievably gracious hosts, and just wonderful friends. We will be going back, hopefully many, many times!

I knew this was where we wanted to go, but had a hard time finding information online, so I’m going to give some of the details I wanted to know before hand, for other butterfliers.

a photo of the De En Gorge Guest House Coffee bar and reception

The guest house is not in one of the villages, but on an adjacent hillside across the river, which is wonderful. There are several roads and trails and rivers to hike, all with plenty of butterflies.

You will want to arrange ahead of time to have your meals here. DaTou’s Mama is a fabulous cook, and her food was one of our favorite things about our whole vacation in Taiwan. She uses seasonal, local produce to make traditional Rukai dishes – fantastic! Also, DaTou roasts his own coffee and makes a great cup of Joe! So coffee in the morning is not a problem, even though you are in the middle of nowhere. It doesn’t get any better than that!

a photo of the dorm room at  De En Gorge Guest House

There are 4 options for accommodations. We went with the cheap dorm rooms. These rooms are in a long house, and each room has four beds. We were there for 8 days, and didn’t have to share our room, even though the guest house was pretty packed for the weekend. We were completely satisfied with the room, which also had it’s own bath. It’s not luxury…think more along the lines of summer camp. But as we were staying over a week, cost was a factor and we were not disappointed.

a photo of the De En Gorge Guest House

If you are looking for higher end accommodations, there is the little slate house that is adorable. I peeked in the window it’s really charming.

a photo of the De En Gorge Guest House

The rooms in the second long dormitory are much nicer than the ones we stayed in. They have five beds I believe. But they are also a bit pricier, especially if there are only one or two in your party. For a family or group, they are probably more economical.

a photo of the camping area at De En Gorge Guest House

There are also two camping areas. On the weekend, the camp areas were packed! But on the others days, they only had one or two tents.

A photo of a frog

Each evening, DaTou leads a tour around the property and explains about a lot of the species that have been sharing the place with you, and that you probably have just walked right past! It’s interesting and fun, and definitely a don’t miss part of staying at DeEnGu. Also, DaTou can arrange for an English speaking tour guide to show you around the area for a very reasonable price. He also arranged for our taxi to the Kaohsiung Airport. You can book a room through Hostel World, or contact DaTou directly at yammjuin@gmail.com or +886-989-579-751. The facebook page also has more information. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to answer if I can.