The endemic Formosan macaque at Shoushan, Kaohsiung City
The Boat Burning Festival at Donggang, Pingtung County
Titantic Rock, Chiayi County
Sperm Whale skeleton, Taijiang National Park
Southern Taiwan has some of the most interesting aboriginal culture on the main island, with atmospheric (and often remote ) villages of Paiwan and Rukai stone houses, and several of Taiwan’s most memorable traditional festivities, including the insane Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, surely one of the most intense traditional annual participation events anywhere in the world.
For lovers of natural beauty, Chiayi County is unsurpassed. The crowds all flock to Alishan, but the best places in the area are Continue reading →
Guardian at the Zheng Chong-he Tomb , Miaoli County
On the 8-day-long Longde Temple Matsu Pilgrimage
Salt fields at Jingzaijiao, Tainan County
While the natural beauty of Taiwan will always be its greatest allure for me personally, the island also has an extraordinary wealth of cultural, historic and industrial attractions. Salt harvesting has been carried out on Taiwan for hundreds of years (with a history of eight centuries on the ROC-controlled island of Kinmen). Today salt production is a very minor industry here, but some of the salt fields (and a pair of unusual salt ‘mountains’) remain; the best have a strange beauty that’s quite unlike anything else on the island. Sugar, one of Taiwan’s biggest industries in the 1950s and 60s is now produced at only two sites on Taiwan, but some of Continue reading →
Crossing the Wanshan no. 1 Suspension Bridge (by scooter…), near Maolin
The Natural Cleft behind the ‘Stone Breast’ Temple near Tianliao
The ‘Grand Canyon’ near Nanhua
The main reason for our recent scooter weekend in Kaohsiung County was to explore a couple of new sights, and revisit the area’s mud volcanoes for a new project I’m working on, but we got to fit a lot more into those two jam-packed days.
First up came the wonderful Badlands landscapes: the magnificent ‘Grand Canyon’ (大峽谷) near Nanhua (南化), just across the border in Tainan County… Continue reading →
Compulsory protective gear for anyone daft enough to want to stand in the front line at Yanshui
Two of our party at Yanshui 2013, doing their best Daft Punk impression
Cold, gloomy February is one of those months (like May, which is often a washout, thanks to the plum rains) when living in Taipei suddenly doesn’t seem quite such a great idea. But, unlike May, this month features one of the great dates in the Chinese calendar: Lantern Festival. Falling on the fifteenth day of the lunar new year (which usually places it sometime in February; it falls on the 14th in 2014), Lantern Festival is a far more interesting event for many foreigners than Chinese New Year itself, where most of the celebrating goes on unseen within the family home. For many Taipei locals (and foreign visitors in the city too), Lantern Festival means joining the vast crowds thronging the streets around Taipei City Hall, goggling at the spectacle of countless large and very elaborate lanterns. For many it also – rather regrettably – means trekking out to the little town of Pingxi on the headwaters of the Keelung River and letting off one of the untold thousands of sky lanterns that are released throughout the year these days, only to litter the beautiful wooded mountains around the town (please don’t add to the problem!).
For a Lantern Festival you’ll never, ever, forget though, make the rather longer trek down to Tainan to join in the utter madness of the stunning Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival. This outrageous spectacle, surely one of the world’s most intense and unforgettable participation events, traces its roots back to a cholera outbreak in the town (which was then a major port) during the mid 1870s. Back in those days, Continue reading →
Apart from some magnificent temples, the occasional fine old town, and a scattering of miscellaneous minor sights, the flat plains and rolling foothills that run down Taiwan’s western coastal strip is generally a zone to pass through quickly, rather than stop and explore, but in northern Kaohsiung and southern Tainan counties, the otherwise monotonous and unremarkable landscape is punctuated by a quite remarkable series of bizarre landforms, known collectively by the Taiwanese as ‘moon world’ (月世界). Continue reading →
Every winter, between about October and March, a rather bleak strip of land at the mouth of the Cengwen River in southern Tainan County temporarily becomes one of Taiwan’s most eagerly watched hot-spots, as countless birders descend on the area to view the critically endangered Black Faced Spoonbill. Around two-thirds of the world’s entire population chooses to overwinter each year on this spot, near the town of Cigu (七股, pronounced chee-goo), just north of Tainan City.
The salt mountain, Cigu
While it’s rare and exotic-looking birds that make Cigu famous these days, traditionally, the area has a much more prosaic claim to fame: salt. The small, nondescript village is surrounded by huge shallow pools, used either for rearing fish or for the evaporation of salt. Although most ofTaiwan’s salt industry is now automated, in a couple of spots around Cigu, salt extraction is still done the old way. Continue reading →