A Hostel that “Goes with the Flow”

9 01 2011

As fate would have it, the skies clear on Saturday morning and with the temperature beginning to rise I find myself at a small B & B on the coastal route north of Hengchun called “Sui Yuan Ju”. “Sui Yuan” can be roughly translated as “go with the flow” – which is turning out to be the theme of my trip to Pingtung County.

Today Atimbon is decked out in a suit and has prepared several red envelopes full of money. It’s a propitious day on the lunar calendar, which means he has several weddings and other social engagements to attend in nearby Paiwan villages. But first, in the capricious spirit that’s become the invisible force dictating my Pingtung trip, we stop for a cup of tea with the proprietor of Sui Yuan Ju.

She shows us around her quaint little shop filled with freshly carved wooden furniture and a collection of curios and other handicrafts peeking out from nooks and crannies throughout the shop. In addition to selling artwork and furniture, she also runs a modest hostel for bicyclers and backpackers. But she doesn’t rely on traditional business principles.

She explains that she has no set price for her hostel – visitors pay what they think their stay was worth. That means that students traveling on a budget sometimes pay relatively little or nothing at all. Others who can afford to pay more are often moved to do so by the generosity of their host. In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine running a business with such zen-like principles, but the owner of Sui Yuan Ju manages to do so, and the radiance she exudes makes it clear that her “go with the flow” approach to life suits her just fine.

We thank her for the tea, and before leaving take a quick tour of the sculptures in the garden out in front. The owner’s son is the creative force behind the quixotic collection of driftwood creations which alone make the shop worth a visit. There is a motorcycle, a stallion, and two perfectly formed cranes below a betel nut tree.

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