I briefly visited Meinong 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.
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.
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.
After meandering around the countryside I cruised into town in search of traces of history. I had visited Qishan 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.
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 (bǎntiáo 板條), 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.)
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.
Overall I wasn’t hugely impressed with my brief spin through Meinong, unlike my time in Qishan, 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) 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.
If you’re curious about Meinong more general information can be found on English In Taiwan, White Goldfish, and Time For Taiwan.
“I cruised by Zhongzheng 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.
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.