Prowlin’ in Maolin
For Tasty Foods, Nifty Buys, Comfy Places to Sleep
Photos: Chang Jin-rui
Though a place of quiet and of simple-living people, there is no lack for appealing choice when it comes to accommodation, eating, and gift/souvenir purchases in the Maolin region.
The Pu-Lao Hot Spring Hotel is in a majestic setting, looking across at a low line of mountains over the sometimes roaring, generally water-thirsty Laonong River. In the shape of a squared “U,” the hotel has a pretty, welcoming landscaped courtyard with an attractive topiary, a mini-windmill, and a faux-rookery waterfall. The area’s weak carbonic-acid mineral waters are piped into each room’s Japanese-style soaking tub, and into the covered outdoor courtyard-side communal bathing pools with a cross-valley view (there’s also a swimming pool).
I recommend staying in the left arm of the “U,” where the rooms are like a series of attached log-wall cabins. Large and spartan, the furnishings rustic, the rooms reminded me of those in my parents-and-uncles-owned family cottage back home in Canada. (Rooms start at NT$3,500.)
BUY and DIY
On our first day on this trip your Travel in Taiwan crew visited the Rukai/Paiwan tribal village of Rinari. The village is a great place to learn about indigenous culture, and it also has a number of indigenous-artist studios, including four in the large tribal development center at the top of the village and a number in annexes attached to private homes. At some houses residents have a range of village-produced items on display for sale. On my village tour I decided on a work of exquisitely crafted headgear and a glass-bead necklace and bracelet, for wife, mom, and mom-in-law, respectively, and was taken aback by how inexpensive it was to take possession of such beauty. It took six full hours to create the most expensive, the bright-red traditional-style cloth cap (NT$350), covered in small decorative seashells, glass beads, and metal trinkets.
If you spend time in Rinari village you can take part in DIY sessions learn to make indigenous-style handicrafts, such as bracelets, wooden key rings, and leather ware. The village also offers archery sessions and Paiwan-cuisine cooking classes. Groups who have signed up for these activities are likely to receive a special warm welcome, including singing and dancing by village representatives. If you want to explore the surrounding area, you can also rent bikes in the village. Rinari nights are very quiet, and many residents sit out on their patio “living rooms” chatting or singing hymns. In the evening you can also take in the sparkling city lights of Kaohsiung in the far distance.
The Rukai and Paiwan are renowned for their artistic skills, their works – especially those in the shared traditions of glass-bead jewelry, pottery, and hunting knifes – adorned with bold and powerful totemic imagery. The valley slope-tipped village of Sandimen is the hub of a continually growing cluster of shops operated by native artists and artisans. At Shatao Dance & Glass Art Studio, watch traditional-style glass beads being made and used to create striking jewelry. You can also make your own beads. At Er-Ge Workshop, watch workers craft pottery vessels in the ancient Paiwan style, and watch wood carvers craft and decorate furniture, doors, and other items.
In the Dajin area by the Laonong River, on Provincial Highway 27, is the Zhong Family Fruit Farm. The Maolin National Scenic Area authorities are working with local farmers, promoting their produce and farm-experience visits, and with advance notice farmer Zhong Huan-hong is happy to show off his large net-protected fields of Chinese dates (jujubes) and papayas. This year he’s producing a new Taiwan-created cultivar on his 20-year-old date trees, “snow honey dates,” and the results are delicious, the best Chinese dates I’ve had, extra-large, finger-lickin’ juicy, nectar sweet – no writer’s embellishment here. Prices are based on weight; a box of 12 will be about NT$350. The 36-date box I brought home was gone in minutes when presented to my (Taiwanese) wife’s clan members, and one, a fruit-store owner, is now sourcing direct from Zhong.
Ever heard of jinafu? Though I’ve eaten traditional fare in many indigenous villages and restaurants around Taiwan over the years, I certainly never had until I stepped into Du Mama, a simple shop with walls of corrugated steel right on County Route 185 at Jiayi Village’s north end. Owner Mama Du is a Paiwan-tribe member; jinafu is an old-time Paiwan delicacy, and her shop is a must-stop for tourists.
Jinafu is made by wrapping ground millet, a staple of Taiwan’s tribes, and seasoned minced pork in leaves. Minced pork is the norm; Mamu Du fries chunks in a wok. These are first wrapped in a plant called Trichodesma calycosum, then in shell-ginger leaves. Steaming causes the millet to absorb the flavor of the pork and the leaves’ unique taste. The outer leaf layer, too thick and fibrous, is removed before eating. Mama Du also offers three other types of savory rice treats, using millet or glutinous rice.
When visiting Rinari village you can also enjoy an indigenous feast (NT$350 per person) that is a traditional welcome for visitors and invariably served to all family members who’ve been living away. Hearty and filling, my favorite selections were the grilled boar, steamed sweet potato topped with cane sugar-sweetened peanut, and a-bai, which is what the Rukai call their jinafu. Coffee, lemongrass drink, and afternoon tea are also available in the village.
English and Chinese
|snow honey dates||雪蜜棗|
|Take Your Shoes Off – Kucapungane||脫鞋子的好茶部落|
Du Mama (杜媽媽)
Add:104-13, Taiping Lane, Jiayi Village, Majia Township, Pingtung County (屏東縣瑪家鄉佳義村泰平巷104-13號)
Tel: (08) 799-0426
Er-ge Workshop (峨格手藝工作室)
Add:52, Sec. 2, Zhongzheng Road, Sandi Village, Sandimen Township, Pingtung County (屏東縣三地門鄉三地村中正路二段52號)
Tel: (08) 799-5200
Kucapungame (Rinari Village) (好茶部落)
Add:1, Makazhaya Street, Majia Township, Pingtung County (屏東縣瑪家鄉瑪卡札亞街1號)
Tel: (08) 799-7070
Pu-Lao Hot Spring Hotel (不老溫泉渡假村)
Add: 82, Xinkai Rd., Xinfa Borough, Liugui District, Kaohsiung City (高雄市六龜區新發里新開路82號)
Tel: (07) 679-1888
Shatao Dance & Glass Art Studio
Add:7, Lane 37, Sec. 2, Zhongzheng Road, Sandi Village, Sandimen Township, Pingtung County (屏東縣三地門鄉三地村中正路二段29巷45號)
Zhong Family Fruit Farm (鍾家果園)
Add:171, Dajin Borough, Liugui District, Kaohsiung City (高雄市六龜區大津里172號)
Tel: (07) 680-1656 / 0919-198-396