A Formosan Aboriginal friend of mine called me up and invited me to come to a festival for Atyl Tribe culture. Hey, why not? On Saturday, I hopped on my trusty steed (run down 125 cc scooter) and beat asphalt up to the mountains of Miaoli.
The trip took 2 hours. It would have take 1.5 but I got stuck on “Loop Road” In Fengyuan which, you guessed it, led me on a 30 minute, scenic route through the city and spat me back out where I started. Cursing like a sailor and terrifying all small children within earshot, I eventually found my way out and proceeded towards Miaoli. If you haven’t seen the mountains of Taiwan yet, add it to your bucket list. The route also showed off some very extreme terrace gardens. These guys are farming on 100 degree slopes. What’s YOUR excuse?
The locals heavily favor plasticulture.
I gave Sean a call once I’d arrived in Dahu, A city known for growing strawberries. A two hour trip on a scooter is not for the faint of heart nor the tender of keister. By the time I dismounted, my ass felt like the morning after Prison Orientation Day. The Formosan Aboriginals are decent from the same people that the Filipinos are and also inherited the same sense of punctuality. I fired up Kindle on my tablet and I passed the time sipping 7-11’s finest coffee and reading Steve Solomans “Gardening When it Counts” (highly recommended).
Sean showed up in a van loaded to capacity with alcoholics and noisy children (his family). I hopped in and was immediately greeted with a 6 pack in typical, Aboriginal style; liver be damned! The winding, mountain road was bordered with: wild bamboo groves, peaches, bananas, plums and drunk people. at 12:00 noon, they had already been drinking for 5+ hours. Gotta admire their commitment if not their life choices.
Sean and his family are a well-known performing group that promotes Aboriginal culture. This makes them minor celebrities. Of course they had a performance at this festival later that night. They conveniently “mixed up” the time of said performance and Sean told the police officer directing parking that they were in a rush to get to the stage. That got us some of the best parking at the event. Score!
The list of strange local foods I haven’t tried is shorter than that of many locals themselves. Today it became one item shorter. With alcohol coursing through my veins and my stomach grumbling, I was dismayed to find that the only food at our villages stand was tofu and duck head. Tofu not doing the job, I prepared myself to do Donald Duck one last honor. Following the others examples, I learned that you are supposed to eat the facial skin then suck out the brains. that is pretty much all of the substance to it. The brain, being mostly fat tastes just like that: a small chunk of fat not unlike what you might trim off the edge of a steak.
Not long after, Sean insisted I go to get a fake facial tattoo in imitation of traditional Sediqu fashion. I obliged. After getting tatted up like I was ready to fight the Japanese, I realized Sean hadn’t gotten one. He explained he wasn’t getting one because that’s stupid and anyone with a fake tattoo on their face looks like an asshole. With friends like this guy, eh?
Aboriginal girls are not only beautiful but expressive and far less shy that the typical Chinese girl. Furthermore, they seems to have a genetic inclination towards white guys. Walking through their midst was like a sheep walking through a pack of hungry wolves. It was like they were undressing me with their eyes. I could only hang my head in shame, wrap my arms around myself and… hahaha. I can’t do it! I can’t keep a straight face typing this shit! My fingers wont even cooperate! But despite the thorough eye-fucking I received, none of it went anywhere. Seans family jealously guarded me like Jews gold and I could neither gracefully leave their company nor could the girls from other villages approach. Weak.
There were many events and performances but the only one I participated in was the pig wrasstlin’. In teams of 8, we would heard a pig out of the pen, wrestle it to the ground, hog tie it, run a bamboo pole through its legs the parade it through the stadium. Sean promised to take pictures but failed to deliver. Dick. On a more sober note: I do not advocate this practice or any other unncessary animal cruelty and I am not proud for having participated. Moving on.
The night ended with fireworks and dancing. By this point, I’d been sipping water for long enough that I guessed I should be safe to drive (I do not advocate judging your level of sobriety while under the influence. Do not try this at home!) Sean, being equally sauced agreed that I was good to go and the two of us stumbled past a few police officers, mounted up and Sean took me back down the mountain to my scooter. The ride back was otherwise uneventful.
Formosan Aboriginals are some of the friendliest people you can meet in Taiwan. Sadly, theirs is a dying culture and these festivals are a way of clinging on to traditions that are slipping away. These days, their native languages are sometimes taught in elementary school but the children never speak outside of class and forget before long. After these events, they go back to the city and practice the customs of the Chinese decent Taiwanese. There is a very real likelihood that as the older generations pass on, even these occasional festivals will become rarer and rarer until the only thing left is government sponsored dancers that Chinese tourists watch as a curiosity. I highly recommend you go out of your way to make some Aboriginal friends and get to a festival such as this before they dry up.