Under the Miaoli Moon

Those who have been following our travels since our first blog will know that our love of Taiwan was born in Miaoli County.

We spent a month in 2017 harvesting jujubes (also known as red dates, or Chinese dates) in the fields of Gongguan Township, and meeting tons of friends along the way. We’ve been dying to go back ever since, and last weekend we finally found our opportunity.

September 13th is Taiwan’s Mid-Autumn Festival and it’s a major occasion all across the island. It turns out that Yulun was planning a make a trip down to Miaoli to visit family for the holiday, and invited us to tag along!

Arriving at the Miaoli High Speed Rail station was like the best kind of déjà vu. All we could think about was the last time we’d been at this same station—two whole years ago, during our very first days in Taiwan. How far we’ve come since then!

Yulun had some business to attend to with her family right when we arrived, so Jeff generously offered to pick us up from the station, so we could spend some time with him before the holiday dinner. As always, he had plenty of plans in store! First off, he took us to a lovely little café owned by two of his close friends, Irene and Peter.

Richland Music is an incredible artistic hub, right in the heart of Miaoli City. Miaoli doesn’t have much of a music scene, so Irene and Peter have taken it upon themselves to start one and give all the support they can to their fellow local musicians.

In addition to a cozy seating area with drinks and snacks downstairs, they have two whole floors of studio space and instruments. It’s there that they teach music classes, host events, and hold concerts on weekends. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the place, plus a private show from Peter!

The café only just opened recently, but we’re already looking forward to taking a trip down south again to see their shows in the future.

After we took off from the café, Jeff brought us to some all-too-familiar territory: Stonewall Village.

Stonewall is the village where we first met Jeff and so many other friends. It’s where we farmed and explored and first began to learn about life in Taiwan. Last time we were here, we lived with Jeff and two other friends, Karen and Jean Paul. They were hosting us as part of their tourism business, Keep-Tripper, and these days, Keep Tripper has expanded far beyond hosting foreign visitors!

Jeff took us to the new Keep-Tripper offices that have opened since we were last here, and we were stunned.

In the two years since we’ve been gone, Karen and Jean Paul have transformed a little building down the road from their home into an incredible space that’s part office, part art gallery, part museum, and part working photography studio. Their current installation is a photography exhibit in honor of a famous local photographer who recently passed.

In addition to decking out their studio space, they’ve also turned the whole village into an interactive exhibit, featuring photos of Stonewall’s past alongside stories from the town’s history. The two of them were excited to see us again and gave us a tour of everything they’ve been up to.

A few kids from town decided to tag along too!

We even got to visit Karen and Jean Paul’s home, where we lived during our first ever trip to Miaoli, and re-add our names to their annual wall of visitors.

After we’d gotten a tour of our old stomping grounds, Yulun arrived to whisk us away for dinner.

Her family lives in Sanyi, an area of Miaoli County we’ve heard lots about, but never had the chance to visit. They welcomed us into their home for a celebration that seemed to us like a mix between Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. Family members had come from all over to celebrate and feast together under the nearly full moon.

The Moon Festival is an important date in the lunar calendar that originates in celebrating abundant harvest and rain. It lives on as one of Taiwan’s three most important holidays, along with New Year and the Dragon Boat Festival. These days, it’s tradition to gather with loved ones together and barbecue outside under the moon. We enjoyed a feast of home-cooked seafood and vegetables (and plenty of meat for the meateaters, of course). We got to know Yulun’s family, practiced our Chinese, and enjoyed some of the best food we’ve ever had.

Fittingly, as we sat swatting mosquitoes and eating moon cakes, we realized that this weekend marked two years to the day since we last left Taiwan. When we left last time, we promised everyone in Miaoli that we’d be back in two years—once we’d finished school, gotten jobs, thought about where we were going in life. And here we were, two years later, keeping our promise on one of the most important days of the year.

It was a night to remember for sure, but we weren’t done with Miaoli yet. Jeff still had plans for us in the morning and Yulun wanted to show us her grandfather’s garden before we left. Stuffed with food and feeling exceptionally grateful for our good luck and good friends, we went to bed ready for whatever adventures Miaoli had in store for us in the morning.  

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