Arrival at the Hotel Likko in Xincheng was after dark, so in the morning I was surprised to find the Asia Cement Corporation factory looming behind us. It was nestled in the town’s backside, quaintly dwarfed by the pristine mountains behind it. Clouds of smoke spewed from smokestacks, with endless trains carrying raw materials in and processed materials out, adding to a haze of grey dust engulfing the manufactory.
Our brief exploration of the previous evening had already hinted that the town was either very new to, or very bad at, tourism. Here was evidence the town did not intend to depend on tourism for its livelihood. People needed cement, and they clearly had all the ingredients swirling around them. Diversification is a good thing, particularly when it gives folks ill-suited to sucking-up to passing gawkers something else to do.
Even so, it was a bit of a puzzle. The Taiwanese had shown themselves to be highly efficient in providing quality tourism infrastructure, and more than adequate in sucking-up, as the industry demands. Here we were, within sight of Taroko National Park, whose spectacular geology seemed to be on every Taiwan tourist’s must-do list. Yet hotels and restaurants were few and far between – and these folks, although friendly, didn’t seem too interested in sucking up.
At the Taroko National Park Visitor Center, the woman in front of us in line innocently asked the dowdily uniformed middle-aged park ranger “Will it rain today?”
“How do I know? I’m not god!” she shot back. I have to admit, the response made my day – but the woman on the receiving end was rather offended. Continue reading 05. Dust in Time