Museum of Marine Biology, Pingtung County
Guardian at the Zheng Chong-he Tomb , Miaoli County
On the 8-day-long Longde Temple Matsu Pilgrimage
Salt fields at Jingzaijiao, Tainan County
These places are all described in detail in Taiwan 101: volume 1, which is either available direct from me by mail-order, or from English language bookshops in Taiwan.
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 the old (mostly Japanese-built) sugar factories have been opened to the public, and it’s fascinating to explore the factory workings, and, at one, even ride on an old sugar train!
All over Taiwan, reminders of the Japanese occupation can be found in the form of Western-style buildings and Shinto shrines (all but one now in a ruined state), and (from an earlier age) over forty monuments to chastity and tombs of Qing dynasty figures, plus a trio of beautiful Qing-era gardens, all of which can be found along the western plains and in cities. Down the eastern side of the island vastly older monuments to Taiwan’s prehistoric past can be found in the form of carved rocks and standing stones.
Taiwan is home to several of the world’s rarer and stranger natural phenomenon. Natural eternal flames, pockets of natural gas that seep through cracks to the surface and ignite, can be found in at least eight spots around the island. Taiwan is one of around twenty countries around the world to have mud volcanoes, and is the only place on earth where strange badlands formations are found in a wet, tropical climate.
Finally Taiwan’s traditional Chinese (and Taiwanese) culture is far more intact and authentic than on Mainland China, thanks to the brutal excesses of the Cultural Revolution, which, of course, never reached the island. Chinese opera is regularly performed at several venues in Taipei, the uniquely Taiwanese form of budaixi (Taiwanese glove puppetry) is displayed at two museums, and, among many traditional festivals and events celebrated around the island each year, there’s the Ghost Month, celebrated with eye-opening events in Keelung and Yilan County. Best of all, there’s the incomparable set of Mazu Pilgrimages (considered one of the world’s largest regular religious events), held (usually) over seven or eight days, starting at several temples around the island (and on outlying Penghu too), and covering up to 400 or more kilometers – all on foot!
Sugar train at Qiaotou Sugar Factory, Kaohsiung City
Mud Volcano at Tianliao, Tainan County
The Saoba Stone Pillars, the visible part of a prehistoric site over 3,000 years old, Hualien County
The Sloping House at Jiufenershan, devastated by the great earthquake of September 21st 1999
Ovens at Qiaotou Sugar Factory, Kaohsiung County
Celebrating during the Longde Temple Matsu Procession, the largest in northern Taiwan and the longest of all Matsu pilgrimages in Taiwan, covering over 400 kilometers – all on foot! – during its 7-8 days.
Fire Water Spring at Guanziling, Chiayi County
Museum of Marine Biology, Pingtung county
Monument to the Ryukyuan islanders killed in 1871 by Paiwan aborigines, setting off the Mudan Incident, which eventually led to the invasion of Taiwan by Japan
Eternal Youth Spring, a Japanese-era reservoir at Changua
Offerings at the Grappling with the Ghosts Festival in Toucheng, Yilan County
Zhongxing Guesthose (later renamed Yangmingshuwu), the last residence of President Chiang Kai-shek
Chinese opera at Taipei Eye, Taipei City
Water pipe bent by the force of the great 921 Earthquake, at Shigang, near Taichung City
Museum of Marine Science, Keelung
Ghost lantern (about to be burned) at the annual Releasing of the Water Lanterns festival during Ghost Month in Keelung
The Sarcophagus, a prehistoric site in Taitung County
Taiwanese Budaixi (glove puppets) at Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum in Taipei City
Inside the brick chimney at Yuemei Sugar Factory, Taichung City
Badlands formations at the Grand Canyon, Caoshan, Tainan City
Salt fields in Tainan City
The Japanese-era Land Bank building, Taipei City
One of Chiang Kaishek’s cars, at his Sizihwan Bay Villa in Kaohsiung city
Museum of Marine Science, Keelung
The Grand Canyon of the Dahan River, on the border between Taichung City and Miaoli County, created by the great 921 earthquake of 1999
Matsu Pilgrimage celebrations
Japanese-era Wude Hall (used for martial arts training during colonial times), Tainan City
Fire Mountain, Miaoli County
Yangnu Mud Pond, Kaohsiung City
Lin Family Garde, one of Taiwan’s ‘Four Great Qing Gardens’
Ruined Shinto shrine at Jinguashi, New Taipei City
Wushanding Mud Volcano, Kaohsiung County
Grappling with Ghosts at Toucheng, Yilan County, during the annual Ghost Month
Chastity Memorial Arch on Kinmen island
Jenn Lann Temple on the first night of the annual 7-8 day Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage, the largest and most famous of Taiwan’s Mazu pilgrimages