Sunday, October 5, 2008

一天在坪林 (A Day in Pinglin)

In March of 2007, my wife Alanna and I took a wonderful day trip to visit the little town of Pinglin, Taiwan (坪林,台灣). Pinglin is a major producer of Wenshan Baozhong (文山包種) tea and is located about 20 miles southwest of Taipei (台北). It is very easy to reach Pinglin via public transportation. First take the Taipei Metro green line to the Xindian Station (the farthest south stop). Just outside of the station there is a busy bus stop with many local buses and taxis passing by. The Pinglin bus will have the characters Taipei to Pinglin (台北-坪林) displayed above the windshield. Also, remember that the bus will not stop unless the driver sees somebody waving it over.

This particular Spring morning was mild and cloudy, the perfect weather for hiking around tea gardens and sipping fresh tea because it wasn't too hot and it wasn't raining. Alanna and I chatted about the beautiful green hills and old temples as our bus climbed up to Pinglin village. We had yet to have any tea this whole morning and were beginning to feel a little caffeine withdrawal so our first order of business after arriving in Pinglin was to drink some tea. We strolled along the reservoir and I pointed out the Tea Museum on the other side of the water. Then we turned towards Pinglin's famous "old street" (老街) and stopped to baibai (worship)(拜拜) at a small roadside temple. Baibai is a very appealing ritual for Alanna and me. We both enjoy the meditative and personal aspects of this ancient spiritual practice.



I was searching for a man I had met the year before from whom I had purchased some great Baozhong tea, but it was not meant to be. Instead we found a great new friend. I looked into a small tea shop and saw a man about our age with hip black glasses. I could tell by the way he smiled at us that this was the place we we're destined to find! His name was Amin (阿民) and he and his parents did a good tea business out of this shop, plus he spoke a little bit of English which really helped the three of us to communicate. He poured many excellent cups of Wenshan Baozhong tea and Dong Fang Mei Ren (東方美人) tea. Some were made by him, while others were made by his family members.

After several wonderful hours spent with Amin we felt revitalized but we were getting very hungry and eager to explore more of the town. Amin let us leave our bags with him as he and his mom began packing up all of the tea I had just bought. Alanna and I walked back to the main road and chose a restaurant. The spot we selected turned out great. The Laoban (boss) (老闆) put together a couple of tasty vegetarian lunch boxes for us, complete with bamboo shoot soup for me and lotus flower soup for Alanna!

After lunch we spent several magical hours hiking around Pinglin. We found a park with statues of Luyu and of cute animals. We crossed the reservoir on a big beautiful suspension bridge and we took tons of photos. We even hiked up a big hill to visit a large statue of Guanyin (觀音).

Teapot Statue:

坪林觀音 Vista:

After our walk we returned to Amin's place for more great tea and conversation. We promised we'd stop by anytime we're in Pinglin and finally said our goodbyes. Amin even gave us a ride to the bus stop so we wouldn't have to haul all of our newly purchased tea back up to the main road.

Pinglin is set in a lush green valley surrounded by rivers, and vibrant green tea gardens. This is truly a tea lovers paradise! You will find tea shops everywhere, and the town itself is even decorated with teapots and tea leaves. (sigh) I miss Pinglin!

Pinglin Tea Garden:


T.alain said...

How lucky you are!Nice journey
splendid photos...

Alanna said...

That was such a perfect, magical day. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!