Ren'ai 仁愛

Rén'ài 仁愛 occupies the remote northeastern third of Nantou. Despite the obscure location and small population it is home to some of Taiwan's biggest tourist attractions, most prominently Qingjing Farm, but also Héhuānshān and Taroko Gorge National Park.

Nantou Road Trip 2015: Ren’ai

Descending Into Wujie Village and the Zhoushui River Valley. This is the view after passing through the Zhoushe Tunnel.

My second day on the road in Nantou County in October 2015 was completely unplanned. I left Pǔlǐ 埔里 and headed deeper into the mountains simply to see what was there, not having done any advance research. From a glance at the map I had a rough idea where I’d be going—deeper into traditional aboriginal lands to the east of Puli Basin 埔里盆地. Ultimately I ended up visiting several settlements and two reservoirs in a few hours of riding around what is now known as the township of Rén'ài 仁愛.

Crossing the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan

High in the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

In the summer of last year I was nearing the end of my first sojourn in Taiwan 台灣. By the beginning of August I would be in Canada for a wedding in the family with no idea what I’d be doing after that. Since I wasn’t sure if I would be returning to Taiwan I made vague plans to go on a road trip. With only about a week to go before my departure the weather took an ominous turn as Typhoon Matmo 麥德姆 barreled toward the island. On July 20th, with the pressure of time bearing down on us, my girlfriend and I hopped on a 125cc scooter—the same kind of dinky, puttering scooter you see people riding around any Taiwanese town—and set out from Changhua 彰化 with the goal of crossing the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 at Wǔlíng 武陵, the highest paved (and publicly-accessible) mountain pass in Taiwan at 3,275 meters above sea level. With luck, time and weather permitting, we’d be able to visit Héhuānshān 合歡山 and maybe even drive down into the amazingly scenic Taroko Gorge 太魯閣峽谷 on the east side of the island.

Bin Laden Hotpot House

A curiously named hotpot restaurant at Qingjing Farm in Nantou.

My attention was drawn to this curious roadside restaurant while riding through Qingjing Farm 清境農場, an exquisitely awful tourist trap located deep in the mountains of Nantou. At this point my Chinese reading ability is rudimentary at best so I wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual if it weren’t pointed out to me—but pictured here is Bin Laden Hotpot House 賓拉登鍋屋, a restaurant named after mass murderer and terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden. I suppose that must be him on the sign—decked out in the customary cowboy hat of his native land.