Scooter Diary: The City over The Mountain

September 5th, 2012: This morning, I unpacked my own Chinese tea set and went to sit in the guest house garden. I want to drink oolong tea on this sweet potato farm, and enjoy the view of Yangmingshan where my ancestors lived 100 years ago.

The guest house lets visitors experience the tradtional farmers' life by collecting sweet potatoes from the field outside and roasting them in a special kiln or oven. I had borrowed a bicycle from the guesthouse the day before and cycled off to enjoy the peaceful country lanes that crisscross the wide sweet potato fields, with the mountains in the distance.

As I cycled around, I wondered if I could figure out which of the brick farm houses was my family's ancestral home. Most of the houses are already rebuild into a more modern style, only few old brick houses remain in the style of one hundred years ago. In fact, I was in this area with my family 6 years ago looking at that old house, but even now, my memory of it isn't very clear.

Mr. Chow got us some sandwiches from the local breakfast shop: soft white bread cheese sandwich, with sweet cold soybean milk to drink. I don't complain about the quality of the food; he got up very early to buy this. He even offered free instant coffee and tea. I had my breakfast in the garden looking at the view of the sweet potato farm and Yangmingshan.

We were the only guests in this big countryside house, because he rarely gets business during the weekdays. But the guestrooms are usually fully packed on the weekend, especially Saturdays. He can't employ others to work for him, so he gets extremely tired during the weekend. The real problem for him, and many other guest houses owners, is that the tourism industry in Taiwan isn't as successful as people would like.

The Taiwanese are trying very hard to get tourists from China, but they usually come in really large groups, with a very low budget. Tourists who are really interested in exploring local culture usually don't learn about the possibility of visiting Taiwan. For example, many Western travelers only think about visiting Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore when they plan trips to Asia.

Going home

Instead of driving back around the coast, we decided to go back home to Taipei by driving right over the mountain on the Yangjin road, and have lunch in the wild vegetable restaurant on the way. The outdoor restaurants cook very fresh local food. Many travelers stop by.

The mountain peak is about 1 mile high. Even in Summer. it's very cool driving above 800 meters. We enjoyed the view of the mountains and ocean and fresh air, we arrived at the little restaurant, just like some stalls with a roof and no walls. They serve bamboo soup, and ginger sweet potato soup, and some deep fried dishes. Their main business now is actually selling fresh uncooked vegetables, which people can buy to take home and cook for themselves. Maybe that's because there are now some legal problems with operating a restaurant on this land.

We ordered some bamboo soup, and deep fried sweet potatoes. The tasted fresh and delicious, we are so glad to have such food in this remote mountain far from the city. There are more cars arriving. People come to buy the local fresh vegetables, have something to eat, and chat with the owners of this shop. The couple have been doing business here for 30 years. They are very compatible couple in business: while the wife is promoting their fresh vegetables and so on, the husband is quietly preparing food.

The female owner casually mentioned that they would no longer be running the business here in the near future, because the land had been sold to Farglory group. They are going to build resorts, and an indoor food court, she said.

So, sooner or later, the travelers driving on this road will no longer find this wild restaurant. I think I prefer to eat in this little open shelter with fresh air, rather than in the air conditioning food court. I didn't tell her that the founder of the Farglory group is my neighbor. I think that Mr. Zhow would enjoy the deep fried sweet potatoes and bamboo soup in the bungalow with fresh air.

We start to drive down. From high on the mountain, Taipei becomes visible, blue in the distance. The city seems very far away, but soon it will be here.



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