Monday, December 06, 2010

Taitung & highway 9 and 11

The central mountains separate the east part of Taiwan from the west, leaving the east coast untouched from the modernization that changed green fields into skyscrapers. Eastern Taiwan is known as the Garden of Eden of Taiwan; It is also a place where over half the aborigines of Taiwan call home.

Taitung is located in south east Taiwan, a pit stop for travellers to Green Island and Orchid Island. Despite the fact that Han is the majority of demographic composition in Taitung city,  the city is the biggest aboriginal inhabitation in Taiwan. The biggest tribe in Taitung is the Ami (about 14000 people) followed by Puyuma (4000), Paiwan (1000), Rukai, and Yami etc. The various indigenous cultures make Taitung a great city for an aboriginal encounter. The main aboriginal festival, Malikoda, is held in July and August by Ami tribe, and the Mangayau, is held by Puyuma tribe in December. For details of aboriginal festival schedules and venues, visit Taiwan's Indegenous Peoples Portal (Chinese Only). Taitung is also one of the most important archaeological sites in Taiwan;  Changpin Culture, Chihlin Culture (Huge Stone Culture), and Peinan Culture are the 3 most important prehistory heritages found in Taitung. It is easy to spend 2 hours in the National Museum of Prehistory (opening hours: Tue-Sun, 09:00-17:00, NT$80/person (the ticket also gives you free access to Beinan Culture Park); audio guide avaliable for free rental / ID needed) where you can not only travel back to the prehistory  but also get to know the diversity of the Austronesian Cultures in Taiwan. The water fountain show of the museum is another attraction for visitors in Taitung, the schedules are 11:00-11:20, 17:00-17:20, and 20:00-20:40.

Except for cultural festivals, there are two distinct sceneries scattering along highway 9, the rift valley line, and highway 11, the coast line, from Taitung to Hualien. There are 3 routes of tourist shuttle buses that shuttle in between the tourist attractions in Taitung City (NT$100/person, unlimited access to all 3 routes on the purchase day). The rift valley route takes highway 9 stopping by Beinan Culture park, Endemic Plant Area, Chu Lu Ranch, and Lu Ye Hill etc; whereas the offshore island route takes highway 11 stopping by Forest Park, FuGang Fishing Harbor, Shiao Ye Liou, and Water Flowing Uphill etc. The 3rd tourist bus, Taitung City route, commutes between Taitung train station and Taitung airport stopping by Forest Park, Fruit Street, and National Museum of Prehistory etc. The 3 routes cover most of the tourist attractions in Taitung, however, to really enjoy the beauty of eastern Taiwan, I highly recommend to rent a car and take a few days driving along highway 9 or 11. Day lily sightings during late July to early October attract tourists to stay overnight on the mountains, to witness the moment when the golden hue of the flowers are brought up by the first ray from the Sun, spreading outward until the whole mountain is covered in a golden glow; hot springs wash away fatigue that was built up when driving in the wandering mountain roads and ranches make cowboy dreams come true for a day, etc; these are the excitments that highway 9 has to offer. Driving on highway 11, on one side the moutains are veiled occasionally by mists that makes the landscape look even more majestic and on the other side off the cliff, the waveless shimmering water of the Pacific Ocean contrasts the mercurial mountains making the name "Pacific" appreciated.

Useful websites:
Department of culture and tourism Taitung--the official tourisim website of Taitung.
East Rift Valley Natioanl Scenic Area-- Scenic spots along highway 9
East Coast National Scenic Area-- Scenic spots along highway 11
Wikitravel Taitung-- General information

Car rental tip:
The car rental services are mostly located in a walking distance of Taitung train station (car rentals in Taitung google map). The Union Car Rental has the best price. However, if you are planing to rent a car in Taitung and return it in other cities, you should stick with the HOTAI LEASING CORPORATION(HLC) as you don't have to pay an extra fee NT$1000-3000 if a reservation is made in advance.

A 3 days Itinerary:
Day 1: Visit Gao Tai Flying Sports Park in Lu Ye for sky diving -> lunch at Taitung Yuan Sen Applied Botanical Garden--taste organic vegetables hot pot -> Chu Lu Ranch for a walk -> Beinan Culture Park -> National Museum of Prehistory -> water fountain show at 20:00 -> check in to Aboriginal Culture Hotel (cheap and clean but NO air conditioning)

Day 2: Dulan Sugar Factory -> Water flowing uphill -> Shiao Ye Liu -> Fugang Fishing Harbor for seafood lunch -> Zhiben Forest Recreation Area -> check in one of the hot spring hotels.

Day 3: Day lily sighting on Jean Zen mountain in Taimali (late July  to early October only) -> Taitung Forest Park bicycle riding (you can rent the bicycle at the Taitung Aboriginal Culture Hotel) -> Taitung Railway Art Village.