Confucius said: To see what is right and not to do it, is want of courage, or of principle.

The past week has been filled with beautiful things. 

In Taiwan, this time of year, the days are magic. It is still hot but without the humidity. So I have a lot more energy and cannot say no when I’m invited on a trip to a rural area I have never been to before. After a 10km scooter ride we took the local bus from Koahsuing into the mountains and to the village of Maolin. All year round there are places to see the butterflies: spring and summer in the Meinong area to see the lemon-yellow butterflies.  In winter Maolin area when the purple butterflies gather here. So many people travel to this area in the winter months to see the purple butterflies that the local government schedules extra busses on this route for a few weeks. 

Here are some facts about butterflies and Taiwan: 

  • Taiwan has 430 species of butterflies and 50 that’s endemic to the country.
  • In the 60’s and 70’s T earned USD 30 million exporting butterflies
  • Taiwan has such respect for nature and the butterflies that to prevent the butterflies being hit by cars the National Freeway Bureau (NFB – my abbreviation) has set up 30 foot high nets along some highways to force the butterflies to fly higher when crossing freeways. The NFB will also shut down some lanes on roads to slow down traffic when there are more than 500 butterflies per minute crossing the road. 

On this day I explored Maolin, a village where coffee is grown along with fruit and vegetables. It is home to an indigenous group and outside of this butterfly season this village gets very few visitors. I think its a pity as its a beautiful village, clean, quaint, lots of art work depicting the history of the tribe, fresh mountain air and many trails to take you around to see some amazing views. 

There is a variety of family run restaurants and a very nice coffee shop. At the coffee shop I found a young engineering student who works as a barista here over weekends. He speaks very good English as do many people in the village. He told me it is because of the missionaries that came to the village years / generations ago. Most of the people here are Christians too. He took me to where they are drying the coffee beans and said I should return in January to experience their latest crop. I promised that I would. Then I saw my bus pull up to take me down the hill to see the butterflies. The young man wished me a pleasant day and refused to take any money for the coffee I drank. Just another kind Taiwanese.

Unfortunately the weather changed. It became overcast and rained a little bit so I did not see as many butterflies as I had hoped too but what I did see was still very impressive and well worth the trip out here.

Once upon a time there was a second hand book store. Then it changed owners and the new owners decided to change the bookstore into a hostel. At CaoJi Book Inn in Tainan they say “Reading refines the mind and travel enriches your life.” Well just travelling to this hostel enriches my life. 

This hostel, CaoJi Book Inn, has just become my favourite place to stay in Tainan. Image the library in a colonial home and sleeping in it too. It is close to the Art Museum and the Literature Museum, on a main road that was recently closed off on a Sunday afternoon and evening to be the venue for a Christmas concert. 

I find the classification for places of accommodation in Taiwan a bit confusing. On their website CaoJi Book Inn says they are a 2 star establishment. However when I look at the quality you get here for about US$ 60 its really just wrong. They are worth at least 4 stars.

The mattresses are very comfortable, the linen of a good quality, the place is sparkling clean and that includes the kitchen. The free drinks and snacks available in the kitchen all day long, and the products in the bathroom are up-market brands. The breakfast is great. The decor and ambience makes this a destination, not just a place to sleep while visiting the city. CaoJi Book Inn just ticks all the boxes for me and I will become a loyal patron. 

When you look at their website to make a booking they described the layout in a confusing way. You are given an option of a 4-bed dorm, a 6-bed dorm or a 36-bed mixed gender dorm. So when I made my first booking I went for the 4-bed dorm thinking 36-bed dorm is just way too big for me. But when I arrived I realised the 36-bed dorm is how they describe the beds you see on the photo set behind the bookshelves. Its not one dorm with 36 beds but 36 beds scattered throughout the 3 floors that house the sleeping quarters in the hostel. The second time I stayed there I choose one of those beds and I found it more convenient than the 4-bed dorm. 

I visited Taichung recently and stayed in another 2 star hotel (chosen and booked by someone else). It was what you expect when you see 2 stars. I will not return there but why I mention it here under the heading Books and Butterflies is because they have awful dark wallpaper that looks like books on shelves on all the walls and in my bedroom there were butterfly stickers on everything. At least I could sit in that room and think of all the beautiful and real books and butterflies I had seem earlier in the week. 

And just one more mention of butterflies in the National Theatre in Taichung the architect created something so unique in that huge spacious building that at one times people said cannot be created using concrete. Inside there are beautiful colourful decorations to soften what could have been very stark and hard lines. And to celebrate the people of Taichung the architect used the edges of the wings of the butterflies for the profile of many locals’ faces as well as his own. 


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