Friday, March 30, 2012

Xiaoyehliu- Natural Rock Formations on The East Coast

     I visited Yehliu Geopark on the northeast coast many times but I had never been to Xiaoyehliu on the east coast near Taitung. I was curious what the differences were between Yehliu Geopark and Xiaoyehliu Natural Stone Sculptural Park. From the meaning of the words, xiao means small which refers that Xiaoyehliu is smaller than Yehliu.  Hence, different rock formations and shapes are differences between the two . 
Xiaoyehliu Visitor Center
This is the visitor center. It is very different than other national parks 
or national recreation areas. It is very modern and it looks like a church.
This sculpture is displayed outside of the visitor center.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Exploring Donghe Township on the East Coast

     Before I visited Donghe township, I was unfamiliar with this area. It was never on my map and had never been a popular place in Taiwan. The only thing I heard about it was its famous steamed meat buns. Most travelers just parked and ordered the steamed meat buns to go and then continued their journey. 
     It was also not on our schedule this time when we visited Taitung county; however, for some reasons we started exploring this small town. The population in Donghe is only 1,367 people. The population is divided into two groups which are 993 indigenous people the Amis tribe and 374 of Han decent. 
This is the famous steamed meat bun store which is located
on the main highway 11. It attracts a lot of tour buses, cars,
and bicyclists stopping here. The steamed meat bun is a northern
Chinese style food.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Escaping a Disaster-Like Situation on a Sunny Day

     My sister-in-law and her girlfriend would go back to the States the next day. So we had to go back to Taichung this morning. The weather report predicted it would be a sunny day for the rest of the week. It sounded good for us to travel back to Taichung on the high mountain road. It would take us around 6-7 hours drive. The distance was 188 km long from the Taroko National Park to Taichung.     
There was a major landslide two years ago
west of Tienhsiang on Highway No 8 from 

Taroko National Park to Dayulin then on to Lishan. 
The road is still under construction. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jade Pendant D.I.Y.

     After the treasure hunt in the Baibao river which offers a  upstream trekking and bicycle trail, we headed to a do-it-yourself jade store in Shoufeng village which was one of the Japanese immigrant model villages around 1920.  In 1960's, it produced massive jade products that were sold worldwide. But, the jade value dropped and the business died down because of social changes.
Common specie of spider in Taiwan
It was between two rails of a bridge on the way back to the main
highway from the riverside of the road. It was a good close up
shooting spot for taking this picture. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Treasure Hunt in Hualien

     Before my sister-in-law returning to the United States, we promised her that we would take her Taiwan jade hunting. Also our friend in Hualien knew she was in Taiwan and insisted to invite her to Hualien for dinner. So we planed a 3 day 2 night trip to Hualien, 4 days prior to their flight departure back to Wisconsin.    
     When my husband asked his sister "when would you guys prefer to leave the next morning?" They said "8:15-ish." I learned the new word quickly and liked this answer very much. I hoped my husband would take my **-ish opinion in the future. Ish means aound 15 minutes after 8. It could be earlier or will probable be later. 
The view from Chingjing looked at Wushe Township  
      We left before 8:15-wish and took my favor route which is the highest and the most beautiful highway in Taiwan to Hualien on a leisure drive. We stopped at Chingjing which is one of the high mountain villages. Its altitude is around 1,700~2,100 meters high. There is a sheep farm which attracts many visitors to see the wool cutting show each year. It is also famous for the sea of clouds, fresh air, and different style B&B's (Bed & Breakfast.) There will be another article for this area in the future. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 13: Wulai Recreational Area with the Tram and the Oldest Gondola Ride

This time of the year the weather should be dry, fair and a lovely time to travel in Taiwan. But, it rained almost everyday in the northern part of Taiwan so far this winter. The unusual rain pattern made traveling a bit uncomfortable and wet. However, in the meantime, we embraced poetry-like scenery and fresh air. That was the good parts of the rain. Our last scenic visit for the entire trip was Wulai hot springs recreational area. 
     Wulai hosts one of the 14 official recognized aboriginal tribes which is called Atayal. One of its traditional customs was its facial tattoos. It was the symbol of honor and beauty. When young women's waving skills were judged and approved by the elderly, they would be tattooed on their faces which also meant that they could get married. If young men passed the head hunting test, they became real men and they were also marked with facial tattoos. This is the most popular reason why the Atayal had facial tattoos; however, facial tattoos also have some other meanings. But, this cultural activity or custom is no longer adapted by the Atayl people due to the integrating of the Han cultures and changing norms
of  society.    
Wulai main street was lined with food and souvenir shops 
There is also an Atayal Tribal Museum awaiting visitors to understand their unique cultures.   
Taken by Ann
Wulai is in a remote area. It preserves some old lifestyles. A  mobile food market selling on the main street is one of the old lifestyles.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 12: Touliao and Cihu Mausoleum, Good Bye Sunshine

     This was our last day for traveling around Taiwan and we were going to head back to Taipei city today. Also we had to say goodbye to the sunny weather which we would miss when we were in Taipei. Our schedule was to visit Touliao and Cihu Mausoleums which hosted Chiang, Kaishek and his son Chiang, Chingkuo's bodies. 
     Who were they? They were Taiwan's presidents. In 1949, Chiang, Kaishek and his troops retreated to Taiwan after losing his war to the communist in China. After he came to Taiwan, he announced martial laws and started his dictatorship. He prosecuted a lot of innocent  Taiwanese elites and took their lives away. Until the day he died, he always though about taking back China from the communist. Taiwan was just a temporary place for him and his people to stay. He died in 1975. His body was placed in Cihu for people to pay their respect.  
     His son, Chiang, Chingkuo, continued his policies; however, Chiang Chingkuo realized that going back to China was impossible due to the China geting stronger, losing the support from the United States government, and the poor relationships with other countries in his life time. He started his Great Ten Projects which was to construct Taiwan infrastructures during the worldwide economic crisis in the 1970's. Because of the correct policies in the 70's, Taiwan economics improved extremely and transformed Taiwan into a industrial country from an agricultural country. He also constructed the most difficult and beautiful highway through the Taroko National Park. 
     Facing the stronger democracy request from people all around the island, Chiang, Chingkuo understood the changing of the political environment in his later years. He announced that his sons wouldn't take over his throne and also lifted the 38 years long martial laws in 1987. He started appointing Taiwanese for the high level and important government jobs. For example, he appointed Lee Tenghui, a Taiwanese, as his vice president. In 1988, he died and Lee Tenghui became the Taiwan president. Taiwanese elected their first president in 1996 and Taiwan became a real democracy country. 
We took leisure day traveling from Taichung to Taoyuan county. Our first stop was Touliao Mausoleum which hosted Chiang, Chingkuo's body.  It displayed the story of the Black Cat Squadron which flew U2 spy aircrafts over Chinese territory and took pictures from 1961 to 1974 under the support of the United  States' government. (No picture for the display.)
Taken by Ann
The guard was a real person who had to stand at the entrance of the mausoleum for 1 hour. He couldn't move even when there was a mosquito on his body. Therefore, the unite had another person stand by him to drive away mosquitoes or wipe off his sweat because of the heat, etc.  A lot of tourists didn't believe he was  a real person, especial tourists from China. They tried to poke or touch them or using many ways to make them move or laugh. Their behavior was stopped by the person who stood by the guard.   

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Day11:So Long Sun Moon Lake, Meet the Betelnut Beauty

     This morning I woke up early than I normal did because I wanted to see the sunrise over the lake. To a person like me who lives most of her time in the city jungle, it would be a precious chance to see this kind of natural scenery. But I was disappointed due to the overcasting sky. Well, I had to make the best of the day by enjoying the trip no matter how the weather was.     
Our room had a great view to see the lake.
Walking out of our hotel which was in the aboriginal village, there was a wharf for ferries crossing the lake and also tourist boats.     
The air was fresh and there was no noise only the sound of the small waves. 
The village still slept. Only the early birds and scenic hunters walked around on the wharf.
The most interesting thing about traveling was to meet locals or other tourists and share their life experiences. My husband and I came across a man fishing. We started chatting. He showed us his homemade bait.   

Monday, March 05, 2012

Day 10: Art Appreciation, Natural Destruction, and the Tranquility of Sun Moon Lake

     Leaving the slow path of the ancient capital, we were heading to the central county of Nantou which is the only county which doesn't have any border with the oceans. It would take us around three hours to drive to our destination Sun Moon Lake from Tainan. We would stop in two places Mingjien and Chichi townships on our way to Sun Moon Lake.       
 Visiting the woodturning master Chen, Maohui in Mingjien 
     Master Chen is the most famous woodturning master in Taiwan. He apprenticed at a wood lathing factory for 2 years after gradated from a junior high school at the age of 15 years old. He began with making Christmas ornaments and pool cues. Later on his major work was to make wood railings. Fortunately the wood railings industry was gradually declining. His business took a hit; however, god has always opened a door for hard working and talented people. One day someone came to Mr. Chen's workshop and asked him if he could make a wood vase for him.  Mr. Chen took the challenging job and finished it with his wood working skill. The patron was very happy with his work. After that, more patrons asked him to do many different style of wood objects. His fame spread out in the art fields. He modified his style gradually and worked his way up to be a woodturning master.      
Taken by Ann
He started his art work with decayed or rotten wood. His friends or patrons laughed at him and didn't believe those woods were workable. He proved his profession and skill to those people who didn't believe in him at first. In his philosophy, any wood serves functionalbility or beauty. It only depends upon the creator's mind and idea to make it alive. A piece of junk wood in an ordinary person's mind became a beautiful artwork under his hands and idea.   
 Master Chen Maohui with his artworks--Taken by Ann
Picture was taken by Ann at his show room 
Taken by Ann
At the beginning, he was shy for taking us to his studio because of a big mess at his work area in his studio. We convinced him that any artist workshops are mess as normally when they are creating their artworks. During the decreasing of the wood railing business in Taiwan, he almost sold all his wood lathe machines and only kept the one which was shown in the picture.  It is an old and out of date machine. But it serves him well as a new machines would in his hands.  
Taken by Ann
He explained to us how he used a spindle turning method to work with the wood.  One thing amazed me is that he drew his design on a small area of the wall once he saw the wood he was going to work with. After he finished, he erased all his designs. Sometimes, he competed with time because the textures of the wood would changed due to the turning and cutting of the wood being exposured to the air.     
Taken by Ann
This wood vase was probably 150 cm (59") in height. He made one years ago and sent it to a customer in England. He was very proud of that; most of his patrons don't allow him to inscribe his name on his works. 
Taken by Ann
This wood was awaiting processing and then would become a piece of art or some useful utensils. The artist website: 

Friday, March 02, 2012

Day 9: The Ancient Capital City Tainan With The Influence Of Holland

     It was time to say good bye to the Kaohsiung city and continue our journey for visiting the oldest city Tainan. It was about an hour drive from Kaohsiung to Tainan. We dropped off our friends Kent and his girl friend at the high speed train station in Zuoying on the way to Tainan because his right knee was getting worse. It was not easy to say goodbye to good companies, but we had no choice over his situation. At least, I knew Kent and his girlfriend enjoyed this trip untill now.   
We stopped at this beach in the outskirt of Tainan. There was an American beach nearby; however, it was gone due to the city development. My husband asked a lot of local people about the exact location, but no one could give a correct answer. We stood here listening to my husband talked about the history of American military stationed in Tainan. 
This was a tourist service center. It was built by a former city mayor who was in jail, because the mayor didn't apply for a permit to build it. So, it would be taken down soon because of the legal issue. That was surpriseing news to me.