Friday, March 13, 2009

Beautiful Beipu

Anyone who's read a guidebook on Taiwan knows where Beipu is and why it's famous. Well, nationally famous anyway. So I'll be short on the commentary (it was a typical fun day trip with the usual suspects) and get right to the pictures.

Beipu is well-known for being a stronghold of Hakka culture. This means Hakka food (yum!), Hakka lei cha or "pounded tea" - apparently not really an 'old' or 'traditional' drink at all, so says Lonely Planet - made with various nuts and green tea, which tastes basically like liquid trail mix to me. Don't get me wrong, I like the stuff.

And, of course, lots of old buildings as well as the usual tourist market and purty temple.

If you want some good food and to otherwise hang out in a teahouse and wander the streets of a quaint old-style town (with lots of newer buildings as well; Beipu is still an active settlement), it makes a lovely day trip for anyone on the northwest coast.

And now, the photos:

A lovely view inside the main temple in Beipu. It looks more or less like almost every other temple in Taiwan, but I love the column, the lighting and the billowing incense smoke in this shot.

Stone carvings with red lips.

One thing we noticed in the temple is that the decorations are rarely just painted on, as with many other temples. This one follows a different style (which I've also seen elsewhere in Taiwan) where the art is done as tiny sculptures. This takes a lot more time, a lot more skill and, of course, a lot more money. Another form of decoration uses bas-relief carvings, sometimes painted.

The old stereotype of the Hakka is that they're a.) exceptionally hard workers and b.) quite stingy with their money, and good at saving it too. That would explain why they could afford such a spiffy temple.

I'm not a big fan of stereotyping based on culture/race (lordy knows Americans get enough of it directed at them - we are not all fat, lazy, undereducated and materialistic, thank you very much), however, so maybe people in this area donate more to temples than elsewhere.

This guy appears to be selling "traditional beautiful food" (can also be read as "American food" but it is quite obviously not that), which seems to be "Zhu Ge Chang" or "Pork Elder Brother Prosperous". Seeing as these are quite clearly glutinous zongzi, the dessert kind most likely...well...anyone better at Chinese than I am care to explain?

Pretty lantern

View through a teahouse window

View through a red-painted fence

Drying herbs on a very low roof (the buildings open out onto a street much lower than the one on the opposite side, so from the road we were on, you could climb quite handily up onto these roofs. Besides, older buildings tended to be far lower. Money was scarcer for building materials and people were shorter.

The one on the right is garlic. The one on the left is some traditional herb used in Hakka cooking. I have a few bundles of them at home . They make a great pork stew but I don't actually know what they are.

It was great, being able to peer through old stone fences and down tiny alleys and come upon pretty scenes of plants and old buildings. We did a lot of that through the course of the day.

Through the main temple entrance.

Window on the old meeting hall, built by the Jiang family, who came to Beipu with the 'mandate' to keep the local aborigines at bay. Hmmm.

Selling dried herbs and bananas.

The area is still a real town, but its main economic bastion seems to be tourism. The area around the temple and square is a huge tourist market, selling toys, balloons, trinkets, souvenirs and lei cha. I kind of like those markets; they're great for gift shopping and I have a soft spot for traditional-style stuff (some of my natural fiber Chinese-style clothes, the tonghua Hakka-style fabric, my flip-flops and my favorite little wooden massage doodad all came from those markets).

Old brick doorway

Some of the heritage homes are kept in good condition, and many still house residents who remain in their ancestral homes. Others, however...

...are not in such good condition.


Anonymous said...

very interesting indeed.

Anonymous said...

Great photos Jenna. I've been to Beipu but don't remember half the stuff you showed - but then it was about a few years ago that I was there. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

the 美食 in Chinese means not really "beautiful",but the word 美 has also the meaning of " delicious" food =]