Taiwan 101: Part 5. The South

In 'Top One Hundred' mountains, Aboriginal Culture, Chiayi County, Coastal Scenery, Cultural relics, Day hikes, Geological curiosities, History, Kaohsiung City, Mountains, Natural history, Photo Collections, Pingtung County, River Tracing, Tainan City, Temples and local religious beliefs, Traditional festivals, Treks and long walks, Waterfalls by Richard3 Comments

The endemic Formosan macaque at Shoushan, Kaohsiung City

The endemic Formosan macaque at Shoushan, Kaohsiung City

The Boat Burning Festival at Donggang, Pingtung County

The Boat Burning Festival at Donggang, Pingtung County

Titantic Rock, Chiayi County

Titantic Rock, Chiayi County

Sperm Whale skeleton, Taijiang National Park

Sperm Whale skeleton, Taijiang National Park

Taiwan 101, volume 2 is available by mail-order from me direct, or from English-language bookshops in Taiwan.

Southern Taiwan has some of the most interesting aboriginal culture on the main island, with atmospheric (and often remote ) villages of Paiwan and Rukai stone houses, and several of Taiwan’s most memorable traditional festivities, including the insane Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, surely one of the most intense traditional annual participation events anywhere in the world.

For lovers of natural beauty, Chiayi County is unsurpassed. The crowds all flock to Alishan, but the best places in the area are just to the north, where villages like Laiji, Fengshan, Taihe, Ruili, Ruifeng, and (just over the border in Yunlin County) Caoling and Zhanghu offer some of the finest exploring in the whole of Taiwan. Further south, Tainan and Kaohsiung cities are both stuck on the flat plains quite far from the mountain foothills, but thanks to a geological anomaly known as the Gutingkeng Formation, a band of crumbling mudstone stretching north for tens of kilometers across the border between Tainan and Kaohsiung cities, there are some remarkable sights within easy reach of both cities. Best-known are the strange Badlands formations that dot the landscape here. Also here are the related natural phenomenon of mud volcanoes (Taiwan’s two best examples are only an hour from Kaohsiung) and all but two of the island’s strange natural eternal flames. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Gutingkeng Formation, Dadi Gorge, is only accessible for two months of the year, thanks to a reservoir that now floods the only approach to the gorge at all times except the very end of the dry season, so make a note to visit in early April for the best chance of seeing it!

The area around Tainan is (together with Keelung and Tamsui in the north) where Taiwan’s recorded history began, with the arrival of the Dutch in the 1620s. Tainan is famed as Taiwan’s historic capital, and while  visitors expecting another Hanoi or Penang will probably be sorely disappointed, there are still loads of fascinating and beautiful old Taiwanese temples, memorial gates, town houses, and Western-style structures dating from the Japanese colonial period to make it easy to ignore the ugly, functional architecture that crowds many of the city’s streets. Further south, Hengchun, the closest town to Kenting’s beaches, is an unexpectedly fascinating place, and the only Taiwanese town or city to retain much of its Qing-era city walls.

Kenting itself is far more than sandy beaches; one of its most remarkable natural attractions is its amazing uplifted  coral landscapes, eroded into jagged towers, bluffs, narrow crack-like chasms, and several caves, including the only stalactite caves in Taiwan open to the general public. More amazing coral landscapes can be found near Tianliao in Kaohsiung City, at beautiful Xiao Liuqiu off the coast of Pingtung County, and, looming above Kaohsiung city center, the amazing natural playground of Shoushan, dotted with rugged little clefts and gorges (some of which take a bit of searching out), more caves, and a large and very visible colony of Taiwan’s only endemic primate, the Formosan macaque.

 

Dadi Gorge, Tainan City

Dadi Gorge, Tainan City

National Museum of History, Tainan

National Museum of History, Tainan

Anping Tree House, Tainan

Anping Tree House, Tainan

Hiking on Shoushan, Kaohsiung City

Hiking on Shoushan, Kaohsiung City

Longgong Waterfall, Chiayi County

Longgong Waterfall, Chiayi County: a path leads right behind the waterfall

On the trail to Yushan, northeast Asia's highest mountain

On the trail to Yushan, northeast Asia’s highest mountain

Aboriginal art at remote Jiuhaocha village, Pingtung County

Aboriginal art at remote Jiuhaocha village, Pingtung County

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, Taiwan's most extreme traditional event, Tainan

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival, Taiwan’s most extreme traditional event, Tainan

The astonishing yet virtually unknown Ghost Axe Canyon, Kaohsiung City

Ghost Axe Canyon, Kaohsiung City

Ruitai Old Trail, Chiayi

Ruitai Old Trail, Chiayi

Hiking back from Jiuhaocha aboriginal village, Pingtung County

Hiking back from Jiuhaocha aboriginal village, Pingtung County

Bizarre coral formations on Xiao Liuqiu island, Pingtung County

Bizarre coral formations on Xiao Liuqiu island, Pingtung County

One of the old city gates, Tainan

One of the old city gates, Tainan

White Horse Pavilion, Zengwen Reservoir, Chiayi County

White Horse Pavilion, Zengwen Reservoir, Chiayi County

Buddhist statues at Fo Guang Shan, Kaohsiung City

Buddhist statues at Fo Guang Shan, Kaohsiung City

Waterfall near Ganlan Gorge, Chiayi County

Waterfall near Ganlan Gorge, Chiayi County

Alangyi Old Trail, Pingtung County

Alangyi Old Trail, Pingtung County, perhaps the finest coastal walk on the main island of Taiwan

Swallows Grotto, Ruili, Chaiyi County

Swallows Grotto, Ruili, Chaiyi County

Lulin Ancient Tree, the fifth largest in Taiwan

Lulin Ancient Tree, the fifth largest in Taiwan

One of the old Shay steam locomotives that once ran on the Alishan Forest Railway, Chiayi County

One of the old Shay steam locomotives that once ran on the Alishan Forest Railway, Chiayi County

Aboriginal art at Duona Elementary School, Kaohsiung City

Aboriginal art at Duona Elementary School, Kaohsiung City

The middle fall at Yuntan Waterfall, Ruili, Chaiyi County

The middle fall at Yuntan Waterfall, Ruili, Chaiyi County

Tefuyie Old Trail, Chiayi County

Tefuyie Old Trail, Chiayi County

Tashan (Tower Mountain) Chiayi County

Tashan (Tower Mountain) Chiayi County

Chiken Tower, Tainan

Chiken Tower, Tainan

Bizarre rock formations at Chufengbi, Pingtung County

Bizarre rock formations at Chufengbi, Pingtung County

Coral cleft at Sheding Park, Pingtung County

Coral cleft at Sheding Park, Pingtung County

Temple sculpture, Tainan

Temple sculpture, Tainan

Fo Guang Shan, Kaohsiung City

Fo Guang Shan, Kaohsiung City

Lovers' Waterfall, Kaohsiung City

Lovers’ Waterfall, Kaohsiung City

Statue of Koxinga, Taiwan's national hero, at Taijiang National Park, Tianan City

Statue of Koxinga, Taiwan’s national hero, at Taijiang National Park, Tianan City

Jiuhaocha aboriginal village, Pingtung County, to reach which requires a two-day (return) trek

Jiuhaocha aboriginal village, Pingtung County

Meishan Grand Canyon, Chiayi County

Meishan Grand Canyon, Chiayi County

Green Tunnel, Taijiang National Park, Tainan City

The famous Green Tunnel, Taijiang National Park, Tainan City

Alangyi Historic Trail, Pingtung County

Alangyi Historic Trail, Pingtung County

Yushan (Jade Mountain) the highest mountain in Taiwan, yet one of its easiest high mountains to climb

Yushan (Jade Mountain) the highest mountain in Taiwan

Chufengbi, Pingtung County

Chufengbi, Pingtung County

Near the summit of Yushan (Jade Mountain), Chiayi County

Near the summit of Yushan (Jade Mountain), Chiayi County

Neptune's Palace, Pingtung County, one of the finest easy river tracing venues in the south

Neptune’s Palace, Pingtung County

Ghost Axe Canyon, Kaohsiung City

Ghost Axe Canyon, Kaohsiung City

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