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This year's Taipei flower festival offers a different kind on wonderment

This year's Taipei flower festival offers a different kind on wonderment

In the hopes of rekindling some of the wonderment I experienced the first time I gazed upon the flora of Taiwan, I decided to attend this year's Yangmingshan Flower Festival to soak in some nature. However, my most recent experience was not quite the same as my memories from youth.
On this trip, I was disappointed to find that there were barely any flowers in bloom. The endless wild stretch of color that I had anticipated on seeing only appeared in a few spatters of azaleas on manicured bushes that sat sadly in their man-made alcoves. Meanwhile, the fresh, dewy scent of nature was overpowered by vendors selling pungent carts of noodles and hotdogs. And strangely enough, a large sputtering fountain that was situated near the famed Yangmingshan flower clock was flanked by giant decorations of eggplants with eerily smiling faces. That's no joke - smiling eggplants.
To be fair, the unusually cold winter Taiwan has had this year may have contributed to the dearth of flowers in bloom, not to mention the fact that I only lazily ventured the footpath of Yangmingshan Park, without bothering to explore deeper and higher up the mountains where I hear an impressive batch of calla lilies have flourished.
Unexpected turn
Yet, as disappointing as my shallow quest for Mother Nature was, I was quite unexpectedly faced with a different aspect of the local culture to observe - the women of Taiwan.
The dirt paths of Yangmingshan Park are by no means pedestrian-friendly. Many areas of the trails are merely made up of packed mountain soil; in other areas, the uneven gravel of the dangerously high steps and sharp drops tests both climbers' endurance and flexibility.
Yet, many of the women I encountered, a majority of whom were in their teens, had chosen to wear high heels. The sight was quite puzzling - young women wearing miniskirts, stockings and high-heeled boots taking cautious, tiny steps to avoid either sinking into the mud or teetering off a particularly steep stretch of stairs. Some occasionally paused so their boyfriends, who were usually holding their girlfriend's oversized tote bags, could take pictures of them posing next to a flower while flashing the cutesified gesture for peace.
Middle-aged women were dressed in an equally inconvenient manner. I witnessed shellacked permed hair-dos and satin, bejeweled stilettos making their way across the jagged stone tracks. At some of the women's sides hung clutches, handbags and purses.
It might as well have been a scene of gossiping, shopping women on Zhong Hsiao East Road, except the background scenery had been switched to rolling hills and low-hanging tree branches.
In fact, the demographic that seemed to have the highest percentage of appropriately dressed hikers were men and those aged 50 or older. This demographic was also equipped with at least two water bottles, face towels and walking canes. If ever there was an emergency in the mountains at 2,000 meters above sea level, these are the people I want by my side.
Although I did not see the expanse of red, purple and blue petals that I had hoped to find, I still got what I wanted - a sense of wonderment. Only this time, it was from observing "flowers" of a different kind.


Updated : 2021-05-18 02:35 GMT+08:00