Lanyu Island
Lanyu Island, Taiwan, 2009-09-17 12:00 by Laerke
Lanyu is wild and windy, rugged and remote and damn beautiful! It is also far from mainland Taiwan, both geographically and culturally. It is 65km of the coast of the city of Taitung, a 25 minutes ride in a very small plane or a 2½ hour boat ride away.

The people here are aboriginals, meaning that they are the original people of Taiwan, the people that lived all over Taiwan before the Chinese came. Their traditions are still strong, but you can feel that modernity is moving in fast on this little island.

Our hosts parents, who pampered us with great food (photo by A-Lan)

We had booked 3 beds in a dormitory (didn’t sound too exciting…) but it turns out that we have rented a whole house! Even a semi-traditional one, that is half-buried under the ground to better fend off typhoons and to help keep it a bit cooler. The inside is decorated with typical Lanyu designs in white, red and black, and it is really cute!

Last night we passed a village where a lot of men were standing by the water with long spears, we thought they were going fishing, but it turns out that someone had passed away and in the Yami belief when someone pass away the soul will become a demon spirit. The demon might attract other demon spirits as well and attack and possess humans. They apparently often come from the ocean, so the men were standing guard, trying to scare off the demons. A column of armed men came as reinforcements, some of them wearing the traditional hats and amours made of wood. We were told not to go too close as the Yami have gotten a bit tired of Taiwanese tourists and their cameras, but most importantly we were totally unprotected and therefore easy targets for the demons – later we were picked up by our host after having dinner, as it would be too dangerous to walk back in the dark! Almost all the Yami people have been converted to Christianity, but most of them rarely go to church and their old traditions and beliefs are still practiced.

Lanyu is famous for its elaborately decorated canoes; they are built of 27 different kinds of wood. Fathers take their sons to the mountains to point out the different kinds of trees that are used for the different parts of the boats. The canoes are said to be built without nails, which is quite a feat, especially when you witness the powerful, crashing waves that the canoes must brave. The canoes come in all kinds of sizes and are used to catch the flying fish, which are a delicacy here on Lanyu.

We have rented scooters and explored a bit of Lanyu. It is a really beautiful island with lots of black rock formations, green hills and a fierce blue/turquoise ocean visible at all times. We went to a place right by the sea that had little pools with cold water springs. There we had a nice swim in the calm water looking out over the wild waves crashing onto the shore. The people here on Lanyu are really friendly, and we have had good chats (mostly through our friend Yulun, unfortunately not many people here speak any English) but warm smiles require no language and we have had plenty of those!

If you are planning on going to Lanyu consider staying with A-Lan at his Lanyu Guesthouse, it costs around 500 taiwanese dollars per person and it fits 8 people max. If you go for example only 3 people he won’t put any one else in the house while you are there. His phone number is: 732 891 and he has a website (only in mandarin but with lots of awesome pictures, A-Lan is quite a photographer) A-Lan’s brother; A-Wen rents out scooters for 400-500 taiwanese dollars per 24 hours, he also runs an interesting place at the harbor with artsy postcards, homemade (really cute) t-shirts and other souvenirs. They are both great guys, and you would be in very good company hanging out with them! At night half of the village gathers in the “supermarket” which is also run by A-wen, the ‘supermarket” sells cold drinks, snacks and noodles. A-Lan is in the process of building a new guesthose that will have a great view out over the ocean, he thinks it will be done in a year or so.