Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dongshih and Fisherman's Wharf


Looking at the map the other day, we realized that when we’re in Putzu we’re halfway to the ocean, just another 8 miles. So after shopping, we continued on to Dongshih Fisherman’s Wharf at the ocean. The wharf is a wonderfully modern area after going through a small old fishing village. They have been fishing in this village since the 1600’s when the Dutch settled here. They commemorate their history with many old Dutch-style windmills. They look out of place in China until you know the history.

 Everyone fishes in this old village, especially for oysters. I thought we had seen a lot of oysters/oyster shells in SC but this beat them hands down. It was over-the-top, almost literally, with oyster shells! Baskets FULL of oyster shells, piles of them 4 feet high along the road, along the alleys, on every corner…everywhere…oyster shells! With no exaggeration, I cannot put into words the millions of oyster shells in this village! It should be named Oyster Village. What do I know? Maybe Dongshih means oyster!

On the ocean edge of the village is a lovely modern water park complex with shops, a playground, a manicured lawn with planted trees, a swimming pool with a clean, huge dressing pavilion and a boardwalk that runs along the sea wall both north/south and east/west. There were not very many people there on Sat. because, of course, it is winter. There was no water in the pool. The fabulous statues of a right whale and a pair of orcas were standing high and dry in the their places in the pool. Only some of the shops were open. However, I could picture the huge parking lots being full on a hot, humid summer day…all the area crowded with families trying to cool off.

Again, though, there is the paradox of Taiwan…the new, modern, clean next to the old, “backward,” and dirty. This lovely park was built to surround the fishing docks and oyster beds. These have not changed for decades, maybe centuries. I guess the materials have changed and methods for power, but the design is from way back. The boats were dilapidated junkets that had some sort of “cabin” mounted on a raft of pipes (wide diameter PVC?) that were lashed together with a motor attached. These fishing boats, though hard to imagine it by looking at them, are functioning, “commercial” fishing boats. These were docked amid floating discarded trash within a small harbor that opened up to the larger bay that was filled with the oyster beds.

These oyster beds were immediately recognizable by the thousands of bamboo poles stuck in the water, row after row after row for as far out as you could see.  This is not how they harvest oysters in SC, but this is a typical old Asian method. The oysters will adhere themselves to the bamboo pole and then you can pull it up and collect them.

There was another form of fishing in another area of the bay that I don’t actually understand how it worked. I Googled it at home and still can’t definitively explain what we saw, but it went like this: there were bamboo rafts lined up in the water. Some were sitting idle, that was obvious. There were makeshift bamboo tripods in the middle of them where it appeared the owners had collected up their gear, put it in a sack and hung it on the tripod for use on their return. However, there was one of these rafts that had working men on it. One of the men would pull strings of something, bait?, out of a cooler (?), hand it to another man who would drop that string down between the bamboo slats. It was wet, tedious work out there on the water in the hazy air. But they seemed to know what they were doing, like they’d done it all their life…which they probably had.

As we walked along the sea wall to make a complete circle from where we had started, we noticed that the tide had risen to cover 3 out of 4 rows of cement retaining rocks since we had first started out. On that side of the park, which was looking west to the Taiwan Strait, we saw a continuous line of seine nets anchored into the water with, yes, bamboo poles. In the time we had been in the park, maybe 2 hours, we could see those nets had caught a pile of fish in each one.

When we had driven into Dongshih, we had noticed a huge Taoist temple and had decided that we would check it out when we came back on our way home.

Note: The architectural difference between a Taoist temple and a Buddhist temple is the complexity of decoration, Taoist, and the simplicity of design, Buddhist. The colorful ornamentation of dragons and gods is exclusively Taoist. The simple absence of color and the orderliness of design and structure is exclusively Buddhist. Both have their own beauty. I appreciate both for their architecture and art form.

So when we left the wharf, we headed toward home knowing we would pass the temple. When we got close, we could see from the main road that we were looking at the back of the temple.

We decided to look for its “front.” In order to get around to the entrance of the temple, we had to get off the main street. We ended up going down a narrow alley that wove through a neighborhood.

The two blocks of alley were worth the detour. It was an “old,” not ancient, but very, very old neighborhood of houses crammed together. They were all oyster “fishermen” (if one is called that) and their families. Everyone was out in the back “yard” shucking oysters…mothers, fathers, children, grandparents…everyone. They were sitting on stools shucking oysters. They were squatting on the ground shucking oysters. They were stooping over pots shucking oysters. While they were shucking oysters, they were piling up more oyster shells! We had never imagined there could be so many oyster shells! This was the most amazing sight! Let me think if I can compare these piles of oyster shells to anything I have ever seen before. Maybe they were like piles of remnant carpet in Dalton or piles of scrap at the junkyard. No those don’t compare…but close.

Well, anyway, Don slowly maneuvered our minivan through this crowded narrow alleyway, and we came out immediately in front of the temple.

It was busy and crowded there, too. It was like a piazza in Italy. The two streets leading up to the entrance and the temple itself formed a cul-de-sac with the temple at the end and shops lining both of the side streets. Lanterns hung the entire length of the block. There were people milling about buying food and trinkets at the shops and vendors. There were moving vehicles of every variety among the mass of pedestrians. It was as if we drove from one crowded world into another. One was full of work and family. The other one was full of craziness and confusion.

The temple was huge. It had the customary carvings on the orange roof and to the left and the right there were large pagoda turrets. Everything about the colorful decorations was ornate and busy and chaotic…even though the design was symmetrical. There was something dark and foreboding about this temple. We took a few pictures and left.

It had been another interesting day in Taiwan!

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