This weekend the university took the Applied Foreign Language teachers on a retreat to the Youth Activities Center at Sun Moon Lake. The university was also kind enough to arrange a number of visits to local attractions, including a boat ride on the lake.

Out first stop was this educational farm outside Puli. The farm offered beautiful flower gardens as well as areas with plants from the tropics, deserts, and other biomes.

Here we explore the tropics.

Everyone’s favorite Taiwan vacation activity: having your picture taken there.

In addition to the beautiful plants, a number of local products were on sale.

The grounds were quite pleasant.

And the surrounding farms, against mountain backdrops, stirring.

We were also served lunch with a number of different kind of flower dishes.

The grounds.

The Youth Activity Center on the shores of Sun Moon Lake were our next destination. The center is run by the China Youth Corps, the former propaganda wing of the KMT aimed at teenagers (in Chinese it is called the Save The Nation Association), now officially severed from the KMT, though naturally a close relationship remains. Our school’s president had come up through the CYC.

A wall mural depicts Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek, and probably the more revered of the two men here in Taiwan.

The hostel.

Dinner at the center closed an exhausting afternoon of meetings. This was followed by competitive drinking in the best Taiwanese style. I lost.

On Sunday it was down to De Hwa village for a boat ride on the lake.

A couple of dozen tour boats awaited passengers.

Enjoying the boat ride.

The day started out sunny, but quickly misted over.

Fish farming on the lake.

The sunday morning excursionists were out in force.

A net for catching fish, an act generally performed only at night.

Halfway through the boat ride we tied up at a former Japanese era temple on the shore of the lake. There was a serious traffic jam as boats emerged out of the mist to jockey for spots at the wharf.

The Zen temple.

The crowds were appalling.

So was the mist.

The next stop was a floating hotel.

The hotel.

We took a walk around the village to take in the tourist atmosphere.

Where there were plenty of authentic local foods, like pork wrapped in tortillas.

The crowds were amazing.

But they didn’t stop this old fellow.

Preparing the betel nut for sale.

We stopped by a local restaurant to enjoy the displays of aboriginal dancing.

Then it was on to Puli and the obscenely crowded monopoly bureau winery, now a tourist mall.

The bus ride offered this final surreal moment: our bus played the Bollywood epic Krrish, starring the incomparable Priyanka Chopra — she was enough to make me want to start a new religion — as the love interest of a man with super powers given to him by visiting space aliens. Swinging from the snows of the Himal to the skyscrapers of Singapore, this reality-free fantasy proved of immense interest as an artifact of modernity and globalization — sitting on a bus in Nantou in Taiwan with the foreign language department watching an Indian film in Hindi and English with Chinese subtitles that took place in the Indian diaspora in Singapore with plenty of space aliens, Malays, and diaspora Chinese littering the backgrounds, starring a male lead named after a Hindu deity. One sad thing to me about these films is how talented these actors and actresses are — the dance scenes are astounding displays of coordination and physicality — yet it is all wasted on stories whose depth and believability make You’ve Got Mail seem like a philosophical tract. Fortunately, with rising Hollywood interest in Bollywood we’re going to see a lot more of these faces, and some interesting and valuable cross-fertilization of the two cinematic worlds.