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Hakka Culture

October 11, 2009
View from the Lavender Cottage

View from the Lavender Cottage

For being such a small island, Taiwan has an incredibly diverse population. About 15-20 percent (according to Wikipedia) of the population is composed of the aboriginal group known as the Hakkas. About two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to join the Rotary Club of Taipei on their Hakka Culture trip. We visited the Hakkas of Hsinchu County, a county about one hour southwest of Taipei city. The particular tribe living in this area is known as the Atayal tribe. Over the course of the years, most Hakka tribes have inhabited the mountainous regions of Taiwan; therefore I was able to spend the day in a beautiful nature area, surrounded by large, green peaks. In addition, Hakka food is very special and I had the opportunity to try all sorts of new delicacies. Throughout this trip, I was able to further acquaint myself with Rotarians and learn more about Taiwan, as we all traveled together on a comfortable travel bus.

Our first stop was at a known suspension bridge, spanning across a valley. We visited the bridge for about an hour, stopping for an ice cream break and simply enjoying the surrounding scenery.

The suspension bridge and the valley it links

The suspension bridge and the valley it links

On the other side of the bridge, we stopped in a little shop and had sorbets made from a local berry (forgot the name, sorry)

On the other side of the bridge, we stopped in a little shop and had sorbets made from a local berry (forgot the name, sorry)

After the bridge, we drove on to the Hakka town of Nei Wan, where we spend a couple of hours meandering through the busy streets, stopping by various stalls to observe specialty products and of course, try Hakka food specialties.

Nei Wan market street

Nei Wan market street

If you see this stall, buy their special Hakka dumplings, so delicious (see below)

If you see this stall, buy their special Hakka dumplings, so delicious (see below)

At that booth, you would definitely want to buy the Wild Ginger Flower Sticky Rice Dumpling.

At that booth, you would definitely want to buy the Wild Ginger Flower Sticky Rice Dumpling.

We also met a Chinese calligrapher/brush maker, who let us try out his brushes.

We also met a Chinese calligrapher/brush maker, who let us try out his brushes.

Another Nei Wan market scene with the lovely mountains

Another Nei Wan market scene with the lovely mountains

After spending the lunch hours in Nei Wan, we transferred to a smaller bus, as we would make our way up narrow roads, all the way atop a mountain, which housed the Lavender Cottage. The Lavender Cottage is a beautiful botanical garden, serving as a retreat for city dwellers wanting to escape the crowded cities. The Lavender Cottage has beautiful views, all sorts of plants, a restaurant, food stands, sitting areas and a really neat gift shop. We spent the afternoon lazily strolling about the gardens and trying some of the Cottages fun delicacies, including Lavender ice tea and Lavender ice cream (so good).

Resting at one of the scenic spots at the Lavender Cottage.

Resting at one of the scenic spots at the Lavender Cottage.

Restaurant at the Lavender Cottage

Restaurant at the Lavender Cottage

Lavender ice cream!!!

Lavender ice cream!!!

Having rested about 3 hours in the cottage, we descended back down the mountain and made our way on to Dashi in Taoyuan country, another county housing a Hakka population. We arrived to the riverside town around 6 pm, just in time for the night market. Once again, I was able to stroll down the streets and sample new flavors and foods (most stands have samples of foods, so you can try everything). I had to restrain myself at this point, as I was bracing myself for a large traditional Hakka meal right after.

Dashi Night Market Street

Dashi Night Market Street

Street stand specialties

Street stand specialties

The day was completed at the Dashi Garden Restaurant, a rather fancy Hakka restaurant. Dishes were served in the traditional Chinese style: large dishes placed on a lazy Susan at the center of the table. Food ranged from Basil tofu, dumplings soup to gingered pig intestines, which I tried and must admit, surprisingly liked. Dinner with the Rotarians was so enjoyable, as lively chatter and good stories went along with the amazing food.

Hakka Dinner!  The dish on the far left is the gingered pig intestines.  This dinner had about 10 other dishes, I was ridiculously full and satisfied.

Hakka Dinner! The dish on the far left is the gingered pig intestines. This dinner had about 10 other dishes, I was ridiculously full and satisfied.

After the restaurant, we began our trip back into Taipei city, and yes, Karaoke was sung all the way back. We made it back into Taipei around 9:30 that evening. This was a long day, considering the trip had begun at 7:30 that morning. However, my stomach was full, my eyes were satisfied and my soul was replenished.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 14, 2009 12:24 am

    HI LAURA, I LOVED YOUR LATEST BLOG. YOU ARE HAVING SUCH INTERESTING ADVENTURES AND I AM SOOOOO HAPPY FOR YOU. WE CELBRATED JONATHAN’S 21ST BD. LAST SATURDAY NIGHT AT BELLA MIA AND THEN HOME FOR A SPECIAL FRUIT PIE AND HOME MADE ICE CREAM…YUMMIE~ SINCE JON COULDN’T COME HOME ON HIS BD AND I AM LEAVING TOMORROW FOR TWO WEEKS VISITING COUSINS IN OHIO, WE WOULD MISS HIS ACTUAL DAY. MY YOUNGER BROTHER, DAVID AND WIFE,LYNN ARE DRIVING ME UP TO OHIO AND JOINING ME IN VISITING COUSINS WE HAVEN’T SEEN IN YEARS. SHOULD BE FUN AND ENLIGHTENING. I AM ALWAYS GLAD TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR TRIPS AROUND TAIWAN AND THE INTERESTING FOOD YOU ARE TRYING. HOPE THINGS KEEP GETTING FOR YOU AND YOU ACHIEVE ALL YOUR GOALS. LOVE, GRANDMA

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