Life of a Rooster

Memoirs of a psychiatrist, journalist and educator

Pond of the Two Sisters

on September 1, 2014
The trail in the forest on Alishan.

The trail in the forest on Alishan.

The entire touristic range of Alishan was more than the sunrise terrace and the sacred tree. Uncle Chen took us on a hike around the main stops. Saadia and I walked more or less silently while Papa and Uncle Chen continued chatting and squabbling. We stopped by a little pond in the middle of the forest. A sign said this was the Pond of the Two Sisters. Uncle Chen said that the legend goes that a young girl threw herself in the pond because of an unhappy love story. Out of love for her, her sister threw herself into the pond too. Just as I was wondering about why native mountain girls didn’t know how to swim, Papa challenged Uncle Chen on the legend. He replied, “Ah, we just made it up in the department. Got to have something to feed the tourists. In order to have people stop and take pictures of the pond, you need something, like a legend.”

The famed Two Sisters Pond, which ignited the blase tourist in me.

The famed Two Sisters Pond, which ignited the blase tourist in me.

That struck me deep. Really deep inside. In France, all tourist stories were historically true. Here was the bed that Napoleon and Josephine de Beauharnais slept in.  Here was the cottage where so and so kept his mistress.  This was the hall where such and such peace treaty was signed. This is where the Bastille fortress stood before it was destroyed by the revolutionary mobs.  It never occurred to me that tourist departments could sit there making up stories to attract more visitors. Suddenly, everywhere we went, I felt like in a sort of Disneyland. Made up structures and stories for tourists.

E-Luan-Pi, the  southernmost tip of Taiwan, and the lighthouse at the visitors center

E-Luan-Pi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan, and the lighthouse at the visitors center

In southern Taiwan, we went to E-Luan-Pi, the very southern tip of the island, where the Pacific meets the Taiwan Strait. Papa told us of his previous trip there many years ago with a colleague. The colleague asked Papa to take a picture of him standing with his bare feet in the water. He shouted victoriously while Papa was adjusting his lens, “The Pacific Ocean is my foot washbasin!” Just then a huge wave rolled towards him, and the ocean conqueror ran for his life. Papa rolled with laughter, “Ha, Ha, Ha… your foot washbasin nearly drowned you! Hahaha!”

We also visited Ken-Ting National Park, a tropical land and marine nature preserve and the first national park in Taiwan. I don’t remember much of it, except that we took pictures at the entrance. The truth is that by then, I was resenting the heat. Summer in the humid tropics is not fun. And that is when my old friend, my bad health, resurfaced, leaving me weak, exhausted, half dehydrated, and dizzy most of the day. Since I was hitting puberty and acted like a typical pouting and resentful teenager, Papa and Saadia assumed it was my normal disagreeable self, and let me be. The pictures we took attest to my angry look.

Saadia and I, standing on the Nine-Corner-Bridge, on a lake in Kaohsiung. Both of us are very bothered by the heat, and looking like grouchy teenagers.

Saadia and I, standing on the Nine-Corner-Bridge, on a lake in Kaohsiung. Both of us are very bothered by the heat, and looking like grouchy teenagers.

In Kaohsiung, the southern port city, we visited a lake and a pagoda. I tried finding them online and assume it must have been Lotus Pond. But I am very sure those two grotesque sculptures of a dragon and a tiger were not there at the time. I do remember the nine-corner-bridge, as Papa explained something about deflecting evil spirits, and an empty modern pagoda with no purpose except to attract tourists. I felt very scornful of it, imagining a few people at the tourism department sitting around a table dreaming up some new touristic gimmick. We climbed up to the top story, and purposely took a picture next to a sign that expressly forbade it. The whole building was empty, with no purpose except to let us get some exercise and get a good view of the lake and surroundings. Today, if you go on their website, you will find that this pagoda must have made good money, because now there are two of them side by side, with the ridiculous sculptures mentioned above, just so one could name them the Dragon & Tiger Pagodas. There is also a huge statue of Guan Gong in garish colors down by the other side of the lake. Poor Guan Gong. Such a great personage, heroic deeds and chivalrous loyalty, all summed up in a gaudy vulgar toy-like structure. Could they not at least hire a good artist for the project?

The garish monstrosities of Guan Gong, Dragon and Tiger at the colorful Twin Pagodas. Back in 1971, there was just one pagoda and it was yet only whitewashed, and had no attending sculpture of any kind or color. Much better then.

The garish monstrosities of Guan Gong, Dragon and Tiger at the colorful Twin Pagodas. Back in 1971, there was just one pagoda and it was yet only whitewashed, and had no attending sculpture of any kind or color. Much better then.

 

 


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