I’m looking at the map, wondering whether it’s worth spending more than two hours on a fast boat to reach such a tiny island. Lanyu is something like a gnome compared to other islands. There is literally nothing far and wide around it. Only the ocean and the sky.
I can’t resist, so I’m searching for more information about it, because its attribute “orchidˮ is perhaps not without reason. It doesn’t take long, and it becomes clear to me. It would have been a majestic mistake, not to stop at this small but beautiful place. I don’t hesitate for a second and get the tickets for the boat!
This ride probably won’t be the best experience for everyone. That’s why those with weaker stomachs lay nearly the whole time on the floor, so that they don’t feel too bad. On the open ocean it doesn’t take much, and the waves rock the ship like a floating matchbox.
Luckily, I’m not among those who suffer on the trip. I impatiently stand at the back, where there is open space. I watch how flying fish race by, competing to see which can fly the farthest over the water. If they unfortunate only knew that the native inhabitants of Lanyu consider them a great delicacy, they would definitely fly in another direction.
I’m impatiently shuffling my feet and wait for the horizon to show some hint that we are approaching the island. My words were finally heard after more than an hour’s ride. This must be Lanyu! In spirit, I convince myself and look forward to seeing dry land as if it’s been months. The closer our boat got, the more I knew that going to this place at the end of the world was the right choice. From a distance, I admire the green hills of bizarre shapes that seemed to grow right out of the ocean.
The island really is small. There is one road around his entire circumference. It takes less than an hour to get around it on a motorcycle. So, this is the means of transport I choose, like the person who will accompany me during my discovery of Lanyu.
The island’s original, indigenous population lives here still today. Getting to them is not easy, however. They keep their privacy and don’t want to be overrun by masses of tourists. That’s why I ask Vivien for help. She moved here after she got married. Together with her husband, they rent rooms to wandering rogues like me. Without her help, I would not have managed to reach the natives. So, we buy some home-made alcohol in a shop and take it with us. One supposedly can’t go on a visit “empty-handedˮ. This “fire-waterˮ is meant to be my ticket to the natives.
Everything turned out as it should have, and I sat quietly with the natives at their typical houses. They have been building them for long years so that the annual typhoons don’t destroy them. And this still works today.
If I had set off for this place in the spring, I would have seen for myself why Lanyu is called Orchid Island. Its green, grassy areas are then full of the mentioned flowers. Some say that the island turns into a carpet of orchids! But my trip was in summer, so I see them only rarely.
It must be really beautiful. It seems as if they couldn’t survive among these black rocks of different shapes, which often look like someone had modelled them. But the opposite is true, and I stop almost every minute to walk through those beautiful places.
The greatest jewel of the Lanyu is somewhere else, however, than on the hills or in their surroundings. The whole coastline of the island is made up of coral reefs. There are small but bigger fish too around them. They are made in all the shades of the colour spectrum that the human eye can see. One word for them: beautiful!
I’ve now been to Lanyu twice, and I know this was not my last visit. It’s always worth returning to such places!
Text and photo: Aleš Tvrdý