Postcards From Meinong 美濃明信片

On the road somewhere between Qíshān 旗山 and Měinóng 美濃.

I briefly visited Měinóng 美濃 in July of 2014 while cycling around southern Taiwan. I hadn’t done any planning prior to arrival and knew nothing of what I was getting myself into nor what sights I should have made an effort to see. I was navigating almost exclusively by instinct, riding in whatever direction seemed interesting, simply to see what was there. Gathered here are several of my photos from a few uninformed hours in this bucolic rural township in Kaohsiung 高雄.

A suspicious dog crosses the courtyard of a traditional home in Meinong.

Meinong is famous for Hakka culture, beautiful natural surroundings, and a variety of industries and products, most prominently oil paper umbrellas and tobacco. I only really picked up on the first two, for the landscape is indeed quite scenic, and I was knowledgeable enough to recognize the ubiquity of Hakka-style sanheyuan, even if I was ignorant of exactly what I was looking at.

A two-storey courtyard home in the countryside.
Meinong’s famous Zhongzheng Lake in the midst of a drought.

One look at the parched fields and low water levels in ponds and lakes would be enough to inform you that there was a drought at the time I visited. I cruised by Meinong Lake 美濃湖 (formerly Zhōngzhèng Lake 中正湖 or Zhongzheng Reservoir 中正湖水庫 from 1956 until sometime in recent decades and still widely known by this name) without seeing much in the way of activity. Pavilions ordinarily immersed in water stood tall over muddy banks overgrown with weeds. Hardly anything moved in the stagnant midday heat and humidity of early summer.

Another beautiful old house in Meinong. The style of bricks is common in Hakka areas.
A monkey sculpture on an old bridge in town.

After meandering around the countryside I cruised into town in search of traces of history. I had visited Qíshān 旗山 earlier that day and had been impressed with its colonial architecture and old shophouses and was seeking for more of the same—but all I found was Meinong Old Bridge 美濃舊橋, which really wasn’t much to look at despite having been built in 1930.

Main street in Meinong. It wasn’t at all like I expected. The town didn’t seem to have much of a center.
A Hakka restaurant in Meinong. I chose it at random but it turned out to be rather famous (and quite good).
A Hakka rice noodle dish. Plain but surprisingly delicious.
Hakka stir fry in Meinong. It has a little bit of everything.

Stopping for lunch was one of the more serendipitous experiences I had in Meinong. There weren’t many people around the day I went so I chose a place more or less at random—and lucked out with Lin Family Bantiao Shop 林家粄條店, one of the more well-known Hakka restaurants in town. Not only that, but the boss spoke a little English so I was able to order two signature dishes: rice noodles (presumably bǎntiáo 板條, though they look a lot thinner than the ones I’ve had up north) and a stir fry full of all sorts of stuff (tofu, squid, and little bits of octopus). It was all very good! (But don’t take my word for it, check out this more informed post about Hakka cuisine in Meinong.)

Totoro in tile. Not exactly the most authentic representation of local culture but hey, whatever. Totoro!
Meinong high school student bags in a 7-Eleven. I had to make frequent stops in the summer heat.

On my way out of town I made a point of visiting the historic East Gate Tower 東門樓, originally built in 1755. Unfortunately it was undergoing renovation when I cycled by so I didn’t end up seeing much of anything. I did find it quaint that they had gone to the trouble of printing giant images of the gate on the tarp covering it up.

The historic old eastern gate was under renovation when I passed by. Very disappointing.
This weird horse at the roadside caught my eye on my way out of Meinong.

Overall I wasn’t hugely impressed with my brief spin through Meinong, unlike my time in Qíshān 旗山, which was really cool. Looking back, it doesn’t seem like I missed very much aside from the Meinong Folk Village 美濃客家村 (see here for an English language blog about it) and whatever remains of the old tobacco industry. Then again, I declined to head into the hills, which would have made for a far more scenic ride, as you can see from bicycle blogs by Michael Turton, Taiwan In Cycles, and Travels With Kylie.

Parched agricultural fields just south of the center of Meinong.

If you’re curious about Měinóng 美濃 more general information can be found on English In Taiwan, White Goldfish, and Time For Taiwan.

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2 Comments

  1. “I cruised by Zhōngzhèng Lake 中正湖 (obviously not its original name)…”
    The lake is now officially Meinong Lake, and has been since 1982, which surely makes it one of the first places in Taiwan to drop its connection with Chiang Kai-shek. However, the locals all seem to call it Zhongzheng Lake, 30+ years later.

  2. Hi Steven,
    I think it is really cool that you are living in Taiwan. I lived in Japan for about 8 years and really loved it. I live in Hawaii now because I like the cultural similarities. Ever been to Hawaii? Reading and looking at your blog, I think the Meinong high school student bag is really cool. Would it be possible to get one? I live in Hawaii and looking for something like this bag. Thanks for posting.

    Eddie

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