Winter is returning, and with it the Yangmingshan Calla Lily festival, which means that once again while heading up Yangmingshan to teach students there twice a week I’ll have to share the bus with gaggles of giggling young couples clutching armfuls of white calla lily blooms.
What’s the big deal with calla lilies and the annual Jhuzihu Calla Lilly Festival? What drives so many to venture up into frigid, mist-shrouded Yangmingshan at the nastiest time of year just to see a muddy fields of apple-green foliage studded with white funnel-flowers which don’t even have a scent? Those who seem to think that the calla lillies at Jhuzihu make a fine display in the early months of the year really must make a point next summer of hiring a scooter, renting a car, joining a tour, or otherwise finding some way to get down to Taiwan’s east coast during the hot months (August and September are best) and see one of Taiwan’s most astounding annual sights: the blooming of the three great daylily plantations in southern Hualien and northern Taidong Counties that grow these golden buds for use in soup and other dishes in countless restaurants around the island. It’s not necessary to love flowers, to be in love or to even have any special interest in the natural world to be moved by the magnificence of the display that unfolds each year in August and September at three main places: Liushidanshan (六十石山) and Chihkeshan (赤科山) in southern Hualien County, and Taimali (太麻里) in Taidong County.
Among the three, my favorite is Liushidanshan (which is also the easiest to reach – eight kilometers from Highway 9 – the main route through the East Rift Valley) but in full bloom, the first two are compulsory stops on any summer visit to the East Rift Valley, while Taimali makes an unforgettable stopover while heading south from Taidong city along the coast.