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