Thursday, November 03, 2011

Night in an aquarium

The National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium is the biggest aquarium in Taiwan and it’s located in Checheng, Pingtung County just about 20 km from the famous southern Taiwan water recreation area of Kenting. There are 3 themed exhibit areas: Waters of Taiwan; Coral Kingdom Pavilion and World Waters Pavilion. Opened to the public all year round, the aquarium closes daily at 17:00/18:00.

Now you can stay overnight in the aquarium, sleeping with fishes, penguins or seals. The night in the NMMBA is organized and operated by Hi-Scene World Enterprise Co, LTD. It’s a unique experience that allows you to see the aquarium from a different perspective after hours.Giving you a unique opportunity to view the workings of the aquarium from behind the scenes, you get to experience and tour areas that are not usually open to the public as well as having the chance to experience the sea life in their nocturnal stage.  As well, you get to choose what areas you would like to sleep in, next to sharks or jellyfish perhaps fall asleep watching the stingrays.

The aquarium lighting system is synchronized with the natural environment so if you expect to fall asleep with fish swimming around you maybe disappointed. Except for this, I highly recommend to sleep over at the aquarium and experience the wonder yourself.

Reservation and Payment: reservations must made 3 days in advance
  1. Online: go to the website: (IE only!)
  2. Fax: Call +886-8-8825678 to check the availability, then fill out the reservation form (Download here) and fax it with the postal remittance to +886-8-8825061. (postal remittance account number: 42079414, Name: 海景世界企業 股份有限公司)

Cost: Year 2012

6 years older  (include)
3-6 years old
Younger than 3 years old
Free of charge
* Sunken ship adventure and Wale pool regions are opened for registration only by FAX
Birth certificates are needed for children younger than 6 years old

Detail schedule:

Day 1 
15:00-15:30   Registration
15:30-15:50   Deposit luggage
15:50-16:10   Introduction of the aquarium and schedule
16:10-17:10   Exhibition halls guided tour
17:10-18:00   Eco-tour of the tidal flat
18:00-19:00   Dinner
19:00-22:00   Visit back stage of the Pacific water square
                              Feeding jelly fish
                              Night tour of the Coral Kingdom Pavilion
                              Handy craft making
22:20~               Sleeping time

Day 2
07:00 ~               Wake up call
07:30-09:00    Breakfast
09:00-09:30    Feeding show at the Pacific Water Square
09:30-09:50    Souvenir & Receipt
09:50-11:00    Free tour
11:00~                Goodbye

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Kinmen or Jinmen is a small achipelago of several islands located 210km west of Taiwan; the closest distance to Chinese territory, Jiaoyu, is only 1.8km. The Han Chinese immigration started as early as the Jin Dynasty (317) when 6 families fled from a war in mainland China. The first administrative machinery was setup during the Tang Dynasty (803) when Chen Yuan was assigned as the administrator to supervise horse raising in this wasteland with 12 families. In the Ming Dynasty (1387), the formal name of the island, Wuzhou, was changed to Jinmen, the golden gate, as a fortress was setup to guard the east-south coastline of Fujian. The islands were used as a base for military training by Koxinga in the mid 16th century and it was one of the front-lines of civil war R.O.C against China after WWII. The islands were a military reserved for 21 years, and it was returned to the civilian government in the mid-1990s, after which travel to and from it was allowed. Given its geo-location and history, Kinmen developed a unique fusion culture that is reflected in the architecture, scenery, dinning and life style.

At first glance, I was amazed by the well preserved traditional southern Fujian building style houses in each village that is rarely found in Taiwan today. I walked into the village and spent time looking around, the western extended windows, angel sculptures on walls, baroque style architecture with stone lions in front, etc that is like looking at a giant Xmas tree being decorated with glinted balls and a bagua on the top, weird but somehow in harmony. And the fusion of Chinese and western styles was not an influence by outsiders but the residents who went to south asia for business and brought back money and the local culture.

During the war, there were about 100,000 soldiers who called Kinmen home, nowadays only about 5000 soldiers remain, garrisoning the islands. The once battlefields are now taking off their guard and transforming into a unique national park that is filled with a military atmosphere. Kinmen has the highest road density in the county built under military control; veering off the main concrete roads to unpaved trails that were trampled out by soldiers, I found fortresses hidden in the forest and a lot of them were deserted leaving bunkers standing still, watching over the sea. Beach is a delightful alternative while traveling in Kinmen, even though water activities seem to be still restricted. It's rare to see a person on any beach. The enormous tidal flat extends hundreds of meters from the shore to the open sea; it's a million dollar view all for yourself. Layers of spike sticks lay along the beach add contrast to the tranquility, the once anti landing fortification becomes a great oyster farm, It's the specialty only seen in Kinmen.

The people’s liberation army forces began an intense artillery bombardment against Kinmen on August 23rd, 1958. A half million artillery shells were fired in 44 days, the event is known as the 823 Artillery Bombardment. The bombardment actually lasted for 21 years as China kept firing artillery every other day till a diplomatic relationship between China and the US was established in 1979. The event not only made steel knives one of the famous souvenirs in Kinmen as they are made from the endless supply of bomb steel fired by China, but also created the massive underground tunnel network on the island. The A-shaped waterways of Zhaishan tunnel is probably the most visited in Kinmen. The tunnel was closed and abandoned in 1986 due to lack of manpower and money to save the tunnels from accumulated sand. The Kinmen national park headquarters took over from military in 1997 and opened it to the public. The depth of water in the tunnel could be very deceitful when the granite reflection is mirrored on the still water, creating an illusion. An annual music festival is held in the tunnel that softens the harshness of the place.

Getting around:
There is a car rental service in the airport. GuanCheng car rental tel: 0933278713 , opening hours: 07:30-19:30. Price: motorcycle: NT$400/day; car: 1cc for NT$1/day. There bus information can be found here:

The Kinmen national park headquarters singed a contract with the owners of traditional southern Fujian building style houses in the villages. In the contract, the owners give rights to the organization to use the properties for 30 years and in return the houses will be renovated and returned to the owners when the contract is expired. The renovated houses will be listed in a public bidding and the winning tenderer can operate the houses as a museum, restaurant, bar or B&B, based on the bidders' presenting proposals. It's a shame not to stay in one of these houses overnight. The list of B&B can be found at (Chinese only). My recommendations: Piano Piano, in Zhushan village, tel:082-372866; 0988-182-832; Visit Kinmen Guest House in ShanHau, tel: 082-352058. If you prefer to check in a hotel, Haifu is my recommendation.

Eating in Kinmen could be a problem for backpackers who are traveling alone. A lot of restaurants are still used to serving dishes in large proportions because they became used to serving large groups of soldiers. For example, you have to order at least 30 pan-fried dumplings in Chengkong dumpling. There is no nightlife in Kinmen, the only pub is the White Lion that is owned by a wonderful Irish couple. In fact, it is the only place I know of that serves home made french fries with vinegar.

As some of the beaches are currently being cleared of mines, especially in Lieyu, do not wander off into areas that have barbed wire and "Danger Mine" signs. I spoke to one of the people working on mine sweeping, a nice guy from Mozambique, who said they should be finished clearing the area in about 2 years.

View Kinmen in a larger map

Friday, September 09, 2011

Taijiang National Park

In 2001 the local government proposed that Sicao Wildlife Refuge be turned into a national park. Following years of campaigning, communication and research, the National Park Planning Committee approved the 「Taijiang National Park Plan」 draft that included part of Cigu Township in a national park in its 83rd meeting on June 29, 2009. The area was approved as Taiwan’s eighth national park by the Executive Yuan on September 28 and the formal announcement made on October 15. The national park headquarter was opened on December 12 the same year, signaling that the park had begun operating.

The park has a total area of 39,310 hectares. Land area includes public land from Tainan City’s Yanshui River to the Zengwen River, Tainan black-faced spoonbill Reserve and Cigu Lagoon, covering 4095. The main focuses of planning are protecting wetlands bio-diversity, and relics from the settlement of the area and the salt industry. The sea area portion of the park encompasses the coastal waters to a depth of 20 meters. The area is about 5 kilometers wide and about 54 kilometers long from the Yanshuei River to the south end of Tungchi Island. It was the main water route for early Han Chinese settlers crossing from Tungchi Island to Luerhmen. The sea area makes up an area of 34,405 hectares.

Was it because the Taijiang National Park was the only national park in Taiwan that was proposed and campaigned by the local government instead of the central government or was it because of its vast coverage that diminished the highlights in the park? I traveled hundreds of kilometers to the east of Taiwan for Taroko National Park yet the idea of paying a visit to the national park that is right in my backyard has never occurred to me. Actually, that is not exactly correct; I visited the Sichao green tunnel and the black-faced spoonbill preservation area years ago before the national park plan was even heard, but somehow the beauty of the scenery didn’t imprint on my mind.

A video, Time for Taiwan—My Beautiful Island, produced by Michael Fimognari was broadcast worldwide this year that had caught my attention. The green tunnel in Sichao looks so peaceful in the video so I took a day off and visited the tunnel trying to figure out how did I ever overlook such a beauty. The tranquility of cruising in the green tunnel formed by mangroves was lost in the tour guide’s noise amplified through the loudspeaker then I realized the tranquility in the video was a result of reduction: the loss of audio stimulation intensifies the visual impact. Then I saw the beauty and the value of the Taijiang National Park:
the main focuses of planning are protecting wetlands bio-diversity, and relics from the settlement of the area and the salt industry”.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The seven links

I am nominated by Lief in Taiwan for the 7 links project. The goal of the project is to "unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again". I've lost track of how many posts that I had published and what the posts were about. The nomination gives me a chance to look back at what I had published via the 7 categories and here are my seven:

1. The most beautiful: Old Buildings New Spirits

Someone once said "everything new is beautiful". In the blog 'old buildings new spirits', I attempted to capture the beauty that still resides in some old and discarded places when they are given a renewed purpose in use. The effect captured a resonance in time and meaning that I found quite beautiful, inspiring and enjoyable.

2. The most popular: Black Card Photography I

Of all my blog posts, this one is far and away the most popular in terms of 'hits' and 'citations'. Much to my surprise it found its niche audience, specifically for people who are interested in this photo technique.
3. The most controversial:Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese
The never ending story of what kind of Chinese is best to use and how a founding member of the UN lost its position. This post was so controversial that it was blocked in China at that time.

4. The most helpful: Nikon picture control
This blog allows Nikon DSLR camera owners to design their own picture controls in a step by step guide that was most helpful to interested users.

5. A post whose success surprised me: South Tainan Station

This has been on my top ten list for a long time and I still can't figure out why? Color me surprised! Who knew that a post about an old train station would have so many people jumping on board.

6. A post that didn't get the attention it deserved: Human flesh search invasion
Electronic lynchings are all the rage says Mr. Murdoch, yet for some reason this post didn't get much attention. Maybe next time I should include anonymous.  

7. The post that I am most proud of: Plitvice Lakes National Park

I have to credit the natural beauty of this area for making it my choice. The stunning beauty found in this part of Croatia makes me want to return time and again.

My nominations:
1. Fili's world
Full of great travel links, Fili has a passion and it shows in his blog.  

2. Traveling Hawk
Many wonderful experiences but you have to translate it from Romanian

3. On pine street
Creative writing blog that can help you with writing

4. Tainan City Guide
Some place you can find information about Tainan

5. Craig Ferguson Images
Wonderful pics and tips

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blame it on the Moon

I had a dream about the eclipse this morning: at the moment when the full eclipse took place, the blood red moon turned into a bright glowing orb in the sky emitting rainbow colors like a Sun. I took a video camera and filmed this unusual phenomenon then I blogged about it with the words "vampires would shed tears of joy as the day-walker is released from its intangible dream, it only takes a full lunar eclipse once in a blue moon" as my last sentences.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sun Moon Lake Scenic Area

Sun Moon Lake is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Taiwan. The Sun Moon Lake Scenic Area Administration hosts a website containing the most informative resources about the area you can find online. However, I am turned off by the swarms of Chinese tourists, aggressive boat ticket sellers soliciting everyone in the parking area, and invincible tourist guides who would stop the traffic in the middle of a road in order to get a short cut to restaurants for their groups regardless the traffic laws. Nevertheless, the beauty of Sun Moon Lake keeps me going back on a yearly basis.

The magic power of Sun Moon Lake is best felt at dawn, before it is surrounded by tourists. The lake is protected by the surrounding hills. At dawn, before the sun has risen, the still water and hills shrouded in mists cast a charm of tranquility that is like being projected into a masterpiece of Chinese brush painting where time stand still. The mesmerizing spell is broken by the rays of the sun that disperse mists among the hills and unveil the golden hue of swift mists on the surface of the lake. From a distance, the wake of a rowing boat disturbs the reflections on the mirror-like lake, turning the fairytale land into reality.

You can find all the information you need for a trip to Sun Moon Lake on the website mentioned above. Most of the tourist groups skip the trails that are the quintessence of the area. Here is my version of a 2 day itinerary.

Day 1: Toushe Basin --> Syuanguang Temple --> Ci En Pagoda --> Syuentzang Temple --> Ita Thao  (lunch and feel the crowds)--> Ita Thao Lakeside trail  --> Shueiwatou Nature Trail --> Dajhuhu Nature Trail-->  Wenwu Temple  --> Maolan Mountain firefly sighting (only during mid April to mid May)--> Shueishe pier (accommodation, book a room with a lakeside view in advance)

Day 2: Shueishe pier sun rise --> Shueishe lake side trail --> Hanbi trail --> Paper Dome --> Make by Iron

Recommended Nearby Scenic Attractions

Toushe Basin is located at the west-south tip of the Sun Moon Lake and its peat soil makes it glint like a star next to the bright lights of Sun Moon Lake. Peat soil in the lake area is formed of decomposed vegetation. It is mostly organic, with a small proportion of mud, and rich in humic acid with a pH value of about 3.6. The peat in Toushe Basin is about 60 meters deep and covers an area about 175 hectares. The ground of Toushe Basin bounces like a water bed, as a result all man made artifacts are built at the edge of the basin. It is an unique experience walking on it. Follow the signs for Red Wood B&B (紅木農莊; GPS: 23.83103, 120.90389) on HuanHu road and you will find the bouncing earth that I filmed below:

The great Hanshin earthquake in Kobe/Japan on Jan. 17th 1995 destroyed more than 200,000 buildings including the Takatori Church. To build a temporary home for the community meeting house, architect Shigeru Ban raised funds and recruited 160 volunteers, most of them were college students, to build the house that is made of paper. The project started in July and was completed on September 17th, 1995. Inspired by Bernini's churches, 58 paper pillars (5m in length, 33cm in diameter, 15 mm in thickness) were arranged in an oval-shape that were sheltered in a rectangular fiberglass form.

The New Home Land Foundation (an organization that's dedicated to post 9-21 earthquake community reconstruction ) heard that the paper church that had served not only as a temporary meeting house but also a spiritual asylum for the community was about to be torn-down and relocation to rebuild the Takatori church when participating in the 10th anniversary memorial ceremony of the great Hanshin earthquake. The chairman proposed to relocate the paper church to Nantou/Taiwan where the epicenter of the 9-21 earthquake was in 1999. The proposal was accepted and the paper church was shipped to Taiwan in July, 2005. The paper church reassembling was completed and opened to the public on September 21st, 2008 in Tao-Mi Eco-village, Puli township.

Entrance fee: NT$100, exchangable voucher
Opening hours: Sun-Fri: 09:00-20:00; Sat and National holidays: 09:00-21:00
Address: No. 52-12, Taomi lane, Taomi village, Puli township, Nantou county (GPS: 23.94143, 120.92703)

Make By Iron (金剛基地) is the base of Autobots in Taiwan. Inspired by the movie Transformers, Mr. Liang gave up his job as a gardener and built a Bumblebee, Optimus Prime and some transformers out from the car parts for his son. The base was opened for public on Jan. 23rd, 2011, with an entrance fee NT$30 which can deduct expenses in the base. (Address: 200, Chungshan rd sec. 4th, Puli township, Nantou County; Opening hours: 10:00-17:30; Tue. off)

Monday, April 11, 2011


I got this weekend free so I drove around Tainan and visited a few places that I always wanted to go but had never been. This is my photo-trio.

Cigu Salt Mountain is the monument that stands for the glory of salt making of old times. Under the promotion of tourism, Cigu salt fields usually overshadow the other salt fields in Tainan, but when it comes to the best quality of salt made in Taiwan, Beimen salt stands out unanimously. Jing Zai Jiao tile paved salt field (井仔腳瓦盤鹽田) was the first salt farm in Beimen District, Tainan, to use a tile base for drying the seawater.The saltworks started operation in 1818 and the area for salt drying in Beimen county was as big as 360 hectares in 1980. However, the high cost of manpower for making salt in Taiwan is becoming unaffordable and the Beiman salt fields were shut down in 2000. Jing Zai Jiao tile paved salt field is the only salt field kept for tourism purposes and the salt crystals glint in the sunset making it a great spot for photography.

Built during the 23rd year of the reign of Jiacing in the Cing dynasty (A.D. 1818), the Jingzaijiao Tiled Salt Fields were formerly known as Laidong Salt Fields.The site was originally a barren desert. Lying on the sandy beach is a small sand dune, where underground water gushes out from low-lying ground forming a well-like structure. The name, Jiingzaijiao, was essentially derived from this particular landscape formation. To prevent salt crystals from attaching to the soil, salt miners at Pottery Dish Salt Field manually laid out broken debris of pottery onto the crystallizing ponds of salt fields. This approach resulted in purer and clearer salt being mined. Under the sunshine, the Pottery Salt Pan displays a resplendent, mosaic like pattern. These features make it a unique cultural landscape of the homeland of salt. Today, it has become an excellent site for tourists to experience salt drying.

Oyster farm is the most common scene in Cigu but the z-shaped oyster stands with the sun setting in a perfect location makes this spot a popular site for sunset black card photography. It's not an easy location to find, I drove back and forth about one hour, asked a few fishermen and still couldn't find it. It wasn't until I cross referenced with internet information and the google map with iphone to locate this spot. If you are interested, check on the map below for details.

Tainan Science Park public art space features the "yellow ribbon" at a cost of NT$300 million, (US$10 million) it's worth taking a look at just because of the price.
* lights up sometime after 19:00.

View Photo-trio in a larger map

Monday, March 07, 2011

E-Da World

Located in Da Shu District, Kaohsiung City, E-Da world is a community that incorporates recreation, education, estate development and health care. E-United group, in cooperation with Eliter Corp, spent 25 years planing and constructing and invested more than 50 billion to build a community that has 2 hotels (Crowne Plaza and E-Da Skylark Hotel), the biggest outlet shopping mall in Taiwan, the first Greek themed amusement park, E-Shu University and international high school, Eliter Estate (Earl's District) and its own public transportation. E-Da World was test operated on June 19th, 2010 and the grand opening was on December 18th, 2010.

I visited E-Da world during the new year holidays and checked in to the Crowne Plaza. Off the freeway No.1, the width of roads to E-Da world started from 3 lanes each direction down to a 1 lane winding mountain road, with the new year crowds I was amazed that I didn't get stuck in traffic. After parking, I gave up on checking into my room because of the crowds in the Crowne Plaza lobby and headed to the outlet mall (Mon-Fri: 11:00-22:00; weekend/holidays: 10:00-22:00). The 19 thousand meter square outlet mall is divided into 3 sections. Section A, 7 floors and a ferris wheel on the roof (NT$200; free ride if you have a ticket to the amusement park), sells designers collections, interior decor and housewares. Section B, 2 floors, has a Fontana di Trevi replica and painted dome that attracts most of the attention in the mall. The roof of section B is an open-air market and restaurants where live performances take place every night. Section C, 6 floors, is where all the fun starts. Rock climbing, ice skating, baseball, basketball and a movie theater. This section is also the ticketing and entrance of the amusement park.

E-Da theme park (NT$899, Mon-Thu 09:30-17:30; Fri-Sun 09:30-19:30; NT$ 650 after 14:00(Mon-Thu),15:00 (Fri-Sun); tickets sold before 17:30) is the first Greece themed amusement park in Taiwan, the park is built according to the Acropolis, Santorini Mountain City and Trojan Castle styles. Acropolis has an extravagant opera theatre that can accommodate 1800 guests. Santorini mountain city creates an illusion of being actually in Greece. The giant wooden horse in front of the Trojan Castle recreates the scene of the famous story that has been told for thousands of years. In the castle, flying over Taiwan simulates hangliding over scenaries of Taiwan. There are 47 recreation facilities in the park including an U shaped roller coaster, a spin that goes up to 55 meters above ground and a roller coaster goes into water, etc. This is the place where you can have fun untill you throw up.

I went back to the Crowne Plaza Hotel and was suprised by the crowds in the lobby waiting to check in at 18:00. I've never seen anything like this: guests in every counter of the reception were complaining about the sluggish checkin procedure; a woman was screaming at the manager, it was so loud that everyone in the lobby could hear her and a group were taken into the manager room as they were banging on the table; people who waited in lines were total strangers but acted as they were the best comrades and were planing a riot. I waited an hour and finally it was my turn. After checking my reservation and ID the receptionist told me that my room was not ready yet and suggested that I should have dinner first and come back later! I asked the receptionist to send my key to me at the Italian restaurant in the hotel, 30 mins later, my key was sent to my table and my room was upgraded.

Despite the incident of checking-in, the hotel amenities of Crowne Plaza were fabulous. Water fountain show right next to the restaurants, sauna, swining pool, gym and espresso café machine in the room..., it was a great acommodation.

Transportation: shuttle buses commute between Taiwan High Speed Rail Zuoying station and E-Da World (NT$37; 06:20-23:00, timetable in details),

Sunday, March 06, 2011

2011 Taiwan International Orchid Show

The 2011 Taiwan International Orchid Show (TIOS) is now taking place at the Taiwan Orchid Plantation in the Huobi District of Tainan City. I bought a pre-ordered ticket from 7-11 ibon (NT$90; the full price for an adult is NT$150) and drove about 50km from Tainan city to the venue. I was affraid that I'd be traped in the traffic and would end up seeing nothing but tourists at the exhibition but to my surprise, the traffic was smooth and the venue was well organized: cars were directed to drive in from one direction and out from the other; parking lots were set far away from the exhibition and lots of shuttle buses were taking visitors back and forth seamlessly. I got to take some amazing photos of even more amazing orchids.

Magnificent landscaping made from all kinds of orchids can be found right at the entrance of the gallery that also exhibits the wining orchids to welcome visitors. this gallery is the highllight of the orchid show. The well designed exhibition and tour routes allow an enjoyable tour despite the crowds. The grand champion of this year is Prince Edward of York, a Paohiopedilum.

The show will continue from March 5 to the 14th at the Taiwan Orchid Plantation (325, Wushulin, Wushu Village, Houbi Dist, Tainan) from 09:00-18:00.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sio business dormitory

In 1899, the salt monopoly policy was implemented by Japanese Government in Taiwan and the Taiwan Monopoly Bureau was founded in 1901. In 1919, Taiwan Salt Manufacture Co. was founded for manufacturing salt exclusively in Taiwan and in 1922, the Anping office, one of the 4 salt factories in Tainan, was set up and a building complex including a salt making laboratory ,vacuum distillation factories, warehouses and a dormitory was built. The complex was used as a experimental salt factory and salt re-distributing office during Japanese colonial period and the vacuum distillated salt was the great achivement. The vacumn distillation factory was destroyed in WW II and the building was used as a dormitory by Taiwan Salt Co. Inc. retirees. The Ministry of Economic Affairs took back the building and recognized the deserted dormitory as a city grade historical site in 2003. A renovation project was started in 2008 and completed in February 2010. The building is now operating by Hwang Sun Enterprise Co. Ltd. under the BOT contract, called Sio Business Dormitory (Xi You Chu Zhang Suo, 夕遊出張所, as sio is the Japanese pronounciation for salt and Chu Zhang Suo is a business dormitory)

The architecture is a combination of Japanese and western styles. The 2 wooden buildings are connected with a roofed corridor in a formation of L shape. The roof of the entrance was built in hankirizuma-zukuri style; extending from the main building, a style of western balcony. The windows are counterpoised, you can easily stop the windows in any position. In the building, looking up, timbers were arranged in a crisscross pattern, a traditional Japanese roofing style; one room is elevated and covered with tatamis emitting a dense Japanese atmosphere.

Given the history of the building, Sio business dormitory exhibits lots of salt sculptures in the room like the 12 Chinese Zodiac and Jadeite Cabbage with Insects.

366 different colored salt (one for Feb. 29th) is displayed in the lobby, you can find your birthday salt and a card explaining your characteristics.

Boiled egg is coated with white salt and shaped like a steam bun (NT$30).

Address: 196, Gubao St, Anping rd, Anping district, Tainan
Tel: 06-3911088
Opening hours: weekdays: 11:00-19:00; weekend: 10:00-20:00, Monday off.
Entrance is free

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fo Guang Shan & Shen Wei Tian Tai Shan

During the Chinese New Year, I visited Fo Guang Shan and Shen Wei Tian Tai Shan I Kuan Tao. If you want to know more about Fo Guang Shan and I Kuan Tao , I embeded the links in the texts.

Happy Rabbit Year!!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Tai Sui Culture

By observing the position of stars in the sky, Chinese astronomers discovered the regular pattern of Jupiter moving about 30 degrees every year and it takes 12 years for it to finish a celestial circle (the orbital period of  Jupiter moving around the Sun is 12 years, 11.86 years to be exact). Based on this observation, Chinese astronomers divided the celestial circle into 12 sections called 12 Earthly Branches (地支) to follow the orbit of Jupiter. The ruling role of the Jupiter in ancient Chinese daily life was profound and it was recognized as the Year Star (Sui Xing, 歲星). However, Jupiter moves in a counterclockwise direction around the yellow belt (Yin direction) which is opposite from the habit used on Earth for direction. Chinese astronomers thus created a phantom star call Tai Sui (太歲) that moves in a direct opposite direction of Jupiter (in Yang direction (clockwise)) around the yellow belt with a cycle of 12 years. The twelve years of the Jupiter cycle not only identifies the phantom start "Tai Sui", but also provides the foundation of 12 Earthly Branches, the 12 Chinese Zodiac, the Chinese hour in the form of double-hours,12 directions, and the Chinese Sexagenary cycle, etc.

Tai Sui was considered as a guardian star that held the same standing as an emperor and the direction of Tai Sui was considered the direction of best luck. However, the prestige of Tai Sui is unchallengeable, the civilians don't have what it takes to get benefit from it; in contrary, it's advised to avoid facing it directly as it might offend the supreme star which could bring misfortune. It's the same idea that civilians couldn't look directly at the Emperor in ancient time. In time, the guardian role of Tai Sui was neglected and the evil influence prevailed.

Tai Sui was first recorded to be apotheosized in Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 CE). It was until the Jin Dynasty, the Emperor Zhangzong (August 31, 1168 – December 29, 1208) started to worship his mother's natal star to pray for a fast recovery from her illness, the Tai Sui worshiping culture (An Tai Sui, 安太歲) got its popularity. Later on, 60 honorable generals were apotheosized as Tai Sui to assist the Jade Emperor (the king of all dieties) in taking charge of the well-being of the mortal world. Each of them takes turn to be in charge for a year; 60 generals (Tai Sui) match the 60 years of Sexagenary cycle.

The basic rule of An Tai Sui can be simplified as follows: each year, those whose Chinese Zodiacs are in alignment with Tai Sui/Jupiter are considered offending the Tai Sui (2 Zodiacs) while those whose Chinese Zodiacs form an angle of 45 degree from Tai Sui/Jupiter are considered conflicting the Tai Sui (2 Zodiacs). For example: this year, 2011, is a rabbit year, which means Tai Sui is orbitting upon the Rabbit Zodiac. Together with the Rooster (on the direct opposite direction of rabbit) are considered offending Tai Sui. Meanwhile, the Rat and Horse form an angle of 45 degree from the rabbit (where the Tai Sui is located) are considered conflicting Tai Sui (take a look on Tai ji and 12 Zodiacs pic for better understanding). It is advised those signs to go throught a prayer for blessing in avoidance of the evil influence of Tai Sui that might bring misforturne.

The An Tai Sui ceremony was as simple as writing down words like "The Tai Sui of this year is here" on a yellow or red paper and posted it on a wall then worshipped it with joss sticks twice a day through out the whole year. In the end of the year, the paper was torn down and burned. Nowaday, people go to temples around Chinese New Year (usually before January 15th of lunar calendar), pay some money (NT$600~1,200) and have the professionals say the prayer for them. In Taiwan, those whose Chinese Zodiacs offending/conflicting Tai Sui go to temples and write down their names and birthdays in lunar calendar (Gregorian-Lunar Calendar Conversion Table)(including the hour of birth). The information will be written on a piece of red paper and posted on a wall with a LED light lit up throughout the year (some have a buddha statu embeded in the wall). To identify the paper that has your name on it on a wall from hundreds of similar papers on it is not an easy task. The Tainan Kaiji Wu Temple (No.114, Xinmei St, Central-West District, Tainan city) introduced a system to help to locate your Tai Sui easily. You will be given a 6 digit number that is unique for your Tai Sui, keyin these digit on the locator, all LED lights on the wall will be switched off leaving only your light turned on for a while. Other temples also embrace modernization: you can pay the money via creadit card or even do it online.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mukumugi & Taroko Gorge, Hualien

Taroko Gorge
Taroko National Park is one of the signature tourist attrations in Taiwan. It's located on the east end of the Central Cross-Island Highway (Provincial Highway No. 8) in Hualien, which was the first highway that connects east and west parts of Taiwan through the majestic central mountains. The budget used to build the Central Cross-Island Highway was funded by United States and the workers were veterans who fellback from mainland China to Taiwan with the Government in 1949. The construction began on July 7, 1956, and was first opened to traffic on May 9, 1960. The 190.83 kilometer highway passing through various topographies, altitude ranged from sea level to 3,000 meters and the most beautiful/majestic sceneries on the road are riveting for the last 20 km at the east end.

Most tourist groups spend only a half day in the park to visit Eternal Spring (Changchun) Shrine TrailSwallow Grotto (Yanzihkou) Trail and the Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong) Trail. Everyday, after lunch, swarms of crowds diminish the stupendous workmanship of the trails. It is wise to visit these trails in the early morning when the solitude intensifies the majesty of the gorge and then you can really project yourself back to the time when the veterans doug through the marble of the mountainside. Except for the 3 most popular trails, Taroko National Park has much more to offer; you can easily spend a whole week hiking in the park on different trails as each trail has its uniqueness and it's a shame to miss one.

Recently, I spent 2 days in the park and finally visited the Shakadang Trail (4.4km/oneway; 3-4 hours/roundtrip) and Lüshui Trail (2km/oneway; one hour/roundtrip) for the very first time. A friend of mine once told me that she thought the Shakadang trail is the most beautiful trail in Taroko National Park. I have been to Taroko many times but I could never find the entrance of Shakadang trail so I stopped by the tourist center of Taroko and found the information: "The trail entrance is near the park headquarters to the west. Through the tunnel of Shakadang about 1km(0.6mile) from the headquarters, there is a Shakadang bridge connect to it. On the right of the bridge head, take the staircase down to the trailhead" (there is a small parking on the other end of the Shakadang bridge, you can park your car there and walk back to the entrance). Shakadang trail was built along the Shakadang river cliffs during Japanese colonial period in order to divert water to the Liwu hydropower plant. Thousands of years, the river cut through the gorge leaving mysterious patterns on marble that reflects on still, copper blue waters in a greenish background, such scenery earned the trail the name "Mysterious Valley Trail". I couldn't agree with my friend more, Shakadang is the most beautiful trail in the Park and it's worth spending 4 hours for a roundtrip.

The other new experience on this trip was the Lushui Trail. The history of the trail can be traced back 300 years. It was the trail used between Taroko tribes when they first settled along the Liwu river. Walking on this trail, high above the Central Cross-Island Highway, you can overlook the Lushui terrace. A suspension bridge, a tunnel with water dripping down, butterflies, bees, etc. along the way, it was an easy yet surprising trail.

More info:
Transportation: Tourist shuttle bus, Taroko route, (Time table and Fare Sheet)
Accommodation: Leader Village Taroko, Tienhsiang Youth Hostel, Silks Place Taroko, and a camping site at Lushui.
Resturant: Except for accommodation sites listed above, there are a few resturants next to the Tienhsiang bus station.

Meqmegi was the name of the first Taroko tribal family who settled in this area about 300 years ago. To honor their ancestors, the tribes called this area "MGMGI" and was known as "Mukumugi", a transliteration from the Taroko tribe, by others. The place was renamed "Tongmen" (copper gate) as a copper mine was found here. Mukumugi is located in Tongmen township, Sioulin county, about 20 min driving distance from Hualien City. Compared to the famous Taroko National Park, Mukumugi is less known and visited by tourists as it was closed for public visit on May 20th, 2003 in order to restore the ecosystem. The area was re-opened 3 years later, with a 300 visitors/day restriction. The Mukumugi eco-tourism started to get the public's attention as the Taroko National Park is getting over crowded, day by day. Unlike the Shakadang trail in the Taroko National Park, Mukumugi not only offers a similar picturesque scenery but also a resort that allows vistors to have a close encounter with the nature.

More info:
Entrance permit application:
1. go to the Tongmen police station and fill-out the form on the day of entrance (ID needed); go early to ensure you are in the first 300 applicants list.
2. apply the permit online at (Chinese only): you should send out your application 7-30 days before your trip; 2-3 days after sending out the application, go back to the website and check if you get the permit. If you do, print it out and take it with you to the Tongmen police station on the day of your trip and have them stamp it (no queue with others who apply the permit on site).

Free tour guide: contact the Mukumugi tourist center in advance. (Tel :03-8641822) There are two trails in the Mukumugi area. One more difficult, requires a guide. Contact tourist center for more information.