National Geographic : 1969 Jan
National Geographic, January 1969 We left the plains, their irregular fields shim mering in the sun, and climbed into the misty world of the mountains along a river valley pink with plum blossoms and bright with oranges and bananas. Still higher, the hillsides were stubbled with tea bushes; higher yet, bamboo spread its fairy fronds in trembling patterns as though a Chinese landscape painting had come to life. Between them we glimpsed Sun Moon Lake, an expanse of cobalt water cradled in cloud lost mountains (opposite). Traffic Jam on Sylvan Waters "Sun Moon Lake really two lakes," said our driver Chang. "One shaped like sun. Other like new moon. Japanese build dam. Now one lake. Very popular. I come here after marry." A launch carried us across the wind-dusted water to a small aboriginal village. We waited while the boatmen untangled a minor traffic jam as some 200 Japanese tourists scrambled aboard launches. Tour leaders, waving little flags like duckboys, hurried a few stragglers being photographed with a group of blase aboriginal girls. A sign near the dock advised us that pheas ants, flying foxes, and deer are protected wild life and not to be hunted. We ran a gantlet of shops displaying stuffed pheasants and flying foxes on our way to the Aborigine Museum, Aborigine Village, and Aborigine Stage Show, all identified in English and Chinese. Dutifully, a score of heavily made-up, red costumed girls trooped into the thatch-and bamboo theater for the performance. To our surprise, we enjoyed it. In the true spirit of show business, the girls' bored expressions became animated as soon as the recorded drum-and-flute accompaniment boomed from the loudspeakers. With growing enthusiasm, they performed the Harvest Dance, Hunting Dance, Marriage Dance, and War Dance, the latter spiced up with a symbolic blood drinking ritual, a wooden head, and several flares that threatened to ignite the grass roof. The costumes-particularly the leggings, head feathers, and tunics-resembled those of North American Indians. We sought the old chief to ask about their authenticity. We found Chief Mao Hsin-hsiao in white shirt and tie sitting under a thatched pagoda near a larger-than-life concrete horse. He looked more the successful businessman than hereditary tribal chieftain. "Horse for tourist take picture," he ex plained. "I think it myself. But girls' dress like always. Make-up new. Very modern." "And the dances?" Helen asked. "Dances same. Stage new. Before we dance outside. Dance for fun. People watch. No pay. Now pay. Good business." So it seemed. Half the village, Chief Mao told us, earned its living from tourists. "But government give us many new things too," he added. "Have electricity, concrete houses, school, clinic. Watch television. Have new seed for better rice. Many pigs. But many girls now leave village. Go to cities. Work in night clubs." They find plenty to do. With almost 300,000 visitors a year swelling Taiwan's foreign exchange coffers, more and more night spots are featuring aboriginal dances. A fair per centage of those tourists, however, find other aspects of Taipei night life more.exciting. Pei tou, a nearby hot-spring resort with mas seuses, has long been visited by Japanese businessmen. And Taipei's bars with their mini-skirted hostesses are popular with U. S. servicemen on Rest and Relaxation leave from the front in Viet Nam. By Boxcar to a Shell-pocked Bastion Taiwan's armed forces take R & R from a quieter front. Early one morning Helen and I boarded a camouflage-painted Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar" for the 1 1 /2-hour flight to the island of Quemoy, Nationalist China's outpost only 2,500 yards from Communist China. We had been waiting since 6 a.m.; not even the crew knew when we would leave until just before take off, which came at 7:10. "The flight times are varied each day," our escort, Lt. Comdr. Hollington Cheng, ex plained. "Technically, we're still at war. If we flew a regular schedule, the Communists could cause trouble." To prevent just that, jet fighters patrolled high overhead, and we swooped low over the By dawn's misty light on Sun Moon Lake, aboriginal fishermen set out on bamboo rafts with dip nets poised on the bows. Taiwan's chief tourist lure, Sun Moon was twin lakes until a Japanese-built dam raised the water level and merged the two. At a lakeside village the authors watched aboriginal girls perform ritual dances. But, the tribal chief bemoaned, too many of his young stage stars desert the hill country for the bright city lights. KODACHROME BY HELENANDFRANKSCHREIDER© N.G.S.