Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Gold Mine Adventure

We also fall back into routines.
I arrive in Taipei at 10:30 p.m. on a Monday and after a two hour drive to Taichung take the elevator up to the 19th floor of the Moon Basin Apartment complex, turn my key in the lock, and step into the lamplight and perfect stillness of my old, current, and new life. My girls are upside down in their beds, blankets tossed, rainbow socks and silver tiaras, water markers and Lego’s spread about the room in earthquake patterns. Rebekah has ballet shoes stuffed under her pillow like a squirrel storing nuts, and Xi’an with a Mother Goose nursery rhyme anthology sprawled across her legs looks like a Chicken Little acorn fallen from the sky. I have two Barbie dolls stuffed in my duffle bag for them I bought in America, something I promised I would never purchase, never push, but they’ve been begging for them and at least for today, this time, after being gone two weeks, I’m spoiling them rotten. I close the door and crouch low at the foot of their beds, the same place I have sat and watched them sleep almost every night of their lives. Total peace. Total tranquility. Not a care or fear in the world.
By Saturday we are back on the road, a steady two hour drive south to the: “Exotic Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, since 1986.” Billed as: “A Journey to Find the True Taiwan and Touch Your Heart.”
Now who wouldn’t want that?
I mean, we came here to experience a “True” culture, right? And as a parent, to have my daughter’s “heart’s touched” sounds too good to be true. Oh, it was, because the place scared the crap out of me.
Before coming to Taiwan, I didn’t know much as far as this country’s sights to see. If one is going to Asia, Taiwan doesn’t really jump off the map as a big tourist destination. Yet why is that? What is Taiwanese culture? How is it different from the rest of Asia? All good questions to ponder as we pass through the rustic wooden gates, park the minivan, and head onto the grounds. Once inside, we are confronted by a massive sprawling cartoon map ascending into the mountainside. I quickly learn that there’s more to this collection of Aboriginal Taiwanese villages than was advertised.
First we stroll through the European Palace Garden, complete with climbing rose archways, sculpted hedges, and Renaissance fountains embellished with Roman style; a gothic bell tower which, according to the inscription will allow one to, “recall your romantic mood”; and a Ritz Palace designed in the elegant Baroque style that serves, “excellent Chinese cuisine.” Now, one might think this mix of cultures would create an uncertainty about one’s surroundings which would be a bit scary, but no. I assure you, this was not the scary part.
Now, adjacent to this, moving up the mountain toward the aforementioned Aboriginal Village, was Amusement Isle, complete with roller coaster rides including: Space Mountain, a swinging pendulum Pirate Ship, a Waikiki Wave, and a Jurassic Cruise with wooly mammoth, robotic T-Rex, and live erupting volcano. This of course is connected to the 3-Dimensional Space Tour, Venetian Carousel, Love Boat, and Mayan Village with imported cave drawings of ritualistic sacrifice. Now, one might also think this cashing in on different world cultures would create a bankruptcy of morality which would be a bit scary, but no. I promise you, this was not the scary part.
From here we moved to the cable cars, which were absolutely first class. Rising higher and higher into the sky, above the UFO Gyro Drop and treelines, to the Mountain Top’s Observation Tower, we could look down at the Kiddie Train Rides, the circular silver Monorail, and the Gold Mine Adventure with its brown boulders and thrusting water slides.
“Daddy, can I ride that? Can I ride that?”
Xi’an bounced up and down in the cable car like a super ball, causing us to swing in the wind.
“Now Xi’an, I don’t know if you’re big enough for the Gold Mine Adventure. Besides, we came here to see the villages at the top of the mountain, to learn something about history and culture, not just..." I caught myself... "run amuck, Remember?”
Xi’an folded her arms angrily across her chest. “I don’t like culture.” She pouted.
I assured her that whatever lay ahead of us would be worth it, but she just grumbled. “All I wanted was to ride the Gold Mine Adventure.”
“But you didn’t even know it existed until two seconds ago.”
“I don’t care. I’ve still always wanted it.”
Now, one might think this clashing of father and daughter high above the trees ascending a mountain face in a claustophobic cable car with the wind gusting would be scary. One might also think that the wringing out of ancient, historic, and foreign eras would create an unstable collective conscious resulting in mass paranoia, and that would be scary, but no. I entreat you, this was not the scary part.
From the Observation Tower we descended the mountain. Here we finally arrived at the Aboriginal Village. There were perfectly manicured stone huts of mason perfection with geometrically accurate thatched roves next to totem faces etched in rock telling of tribal legends long since forgotten. Here were the Paiwan, with their skill of wood carving, the Rukui, with their excellent cloth weaving, and the Saistat, with traditional bamboo houses, all very impressive. Yet with each stop, there were these incredibly life like wax statues, dressed in traditional clothes and set in action poses of ethnic life:
Five men in a circle playing a game of sky lacrosse.
A woman with haunted grin sweeping a courtyard next to two men sharing a drink from a gourd.
All absolutely life like, muscles taut, facial expressions keen, even down to the dramatic situations of life or death. For example, two men with spears standing over a screaming monkey in a cage, poised to stab the shrieking beast to fill their bellies. A grotesque dentist yanking a rotting tooth out from the blackened gums of a grimacing woman with a long string, a stone shelf of human skulls next to a pagan fire of sacrifice, a pygmy woman suckling a demon-looking child. All again, totally life like. Stumbling down the mountain in a daze was akin to racing through a haunted house. At every turn a new horror, causing us to avert our child’s eyes.
“Daddy, why are the men killing the monkey?”
“Daddy, why don’t the men wear pants?”
I admit, I’m no lightweight, but this place just gives me the creeps, but even so! I implore you, that was not the scary part.
So, was this Taiwanese culture? Was this supposed to “Touch my Heart?” Honestly, there was nothing to do but head down the hill and hit the Aboriginal Restaurant for a Lupit Burger, top that off with some pineapple kabobs from the Hawaiian Bar, and wash that down with some Mexican ice cream before hitting the water slides at the Gold Mine Adventure. Oh, and we got a souvenir too, a $12 framed digital photo taken right atop the water slid before the 100 foot drop into a splashing pool of water. My face said it all, a strange expression. Bug eyes wide, mouth aghast, arms clutching the rails for dear life. I remember thinking, I wonder if I put the traditional yarn woven vest from the Puyuma tribe on lay away will they validate my parking?
Yes, at long last, that was the scary part, because they did.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. that theme park i like the most.

    their purpose is put some aboriginal cuture, in order to let us to understand how they lived before. Yup, just 'some' aboriginal cuture. If you notice this villiage name in chinese, there says '9 tribes', but if you counted you can find there are 10 tribes in this theme park...but actually there are 14 tribes in Taiwan...(maybe later will be more, there are still some tribes haven't been proved.) and culture in taiwan, isn't just only aboriginal cuture, right? so i said, it's 'some'...

    And, i think you felt quite strange....why they say 'touch your heart', I think they stole the slogan of Taiwan Tourism Bureau:'taiwan will touch your heart' haha...