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01_taiwan_2012_xitou_and_zushan_temple_sunday_april_01st_2012


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Sitou’s Monster Village, is a small Japanese-inspired tourist curiosity located next to the Mingshan Hotel, at the foot of Phoenix Mountain near Lugu village in Nantou County (Taiwan's only landlocked county). The Monster Village has the Sitou Forest Recreation Area nearby, filled with quaint replica fairytale scenes. As well, the village is filled with charming wooden buildings and lanterns and is populated by a handful of cartoonish monsters, one in particular who reminds me of the Aussie Yowie. Sitou is part of the experimental forest belonging to the National Taiwan University, where they grow cedars, spruces and many other different kinds of trees. After three devastating earthquakes in the last ten years, it has made an amazing recovery. Afterwards, after driving back down the mountain, we spent time at the Zushan Temple where the ancient Chinese ritual of burning fake money in honour of Ghost month was taking place.

178 files, last one added on Jun 16, 2012

02_taiwan_2012_shoushan_monkey_mountain_wed_04th_april_2012


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The amazing macaque or Formosan Rock monkeys of Shoushan (Longevity mountain) in the Kaohsiung suburb of Neiwei. As you climb the wooden staircase up the mountain through the forest you are afforded great views of the city. I find it amazing that in this forest so close to the city, you find these gorgeous monkeys. The mountain is a nice and most convenient escape from the heat, humidity and pollution of the city, as well as presenting the visitor with the wonderful sideshow of the tame and gorgeous monkeys. A must see on any visit to Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city of approximately 2.9 million people.

137 files, last one added on Jun 16, 2012

04_foguangshan_buddha_memorial_centre_sat_07th_april_2012


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The imposing and impressive Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Centre in Dashu District of Kaohsiung County. Fo Guang Shan (Chinese: 佛光山; pinyin: Fóguāngshān; literally "Buddha's Light Mountain") is an international Chinese Mahayana Buddhist monastic order based in Taiwan, and one of the largest Buddhist organisations. The headquarters of Fo Guang Shan, is located here, and it is the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. The organisation itself is also one of the largest charity organizations in Taiwan. The order also calls itself the International Buddhist Progress Society. This memorial centre was only completed in 2011, at the back of the temple, and so the Google Earth imagery only shows the construction site, not the completed centre. Founded in 1967 by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the order promotes Humanistic Buddhism, a modern Chinese Buddhist thought developed through the 20th Century and made popular by this and other modern Chinese Buddhist orders. Some of the photos here will display information on his life story, starting with his early life in Mainland China.

162 files, last one added on Jun 17, 2012

05_brisbane_park_with_jiang_jiang_sunday_08th_april_2012


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Kaohsiung, the city where I met my wife, was our home base for our one month stay in Taiwan. We stayed with my brother in law, and he had a beautiful black dog with personality called "Jiang Jiang". We would often walk her in the nearby "Brisbane Park", so named to commemorate the sister city relationship between the cities. Brisbane, likewise has a Kaohsiung Park in the suburb of Eight Mile Plains. Jiang Jiang herself seemed to be somewhat of a local celebrity dog, with people on scooters passing by saying "Jiang Jiang", people in the park recognising her etc etc. In these photos she is only ten months old and still a puppy who constantly craves attention.

35 files, last one added on Jun 18, 2012

06a_bus_trip_up_and_first_evening_in_alishan_monday_09th_april_2012


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The Alishan National Scenic Area (Chinese: 阿里山國家風景區), which I visited once before in December 2003, is a mountain resort and natural preserve located in the mountains of Chiayi County in Central Taiwan. It is 415 km² in area. It includes, among other things, mountain wilderness, four villages, waterfalls, high altitude tea plantations, the Alishan Forest Railway and several hiking trails. The area is popular among tourists and mountain climbers, and Alishan or Mount Ali (Chinese: 阿里山; pinyin: Ālǐshān) itself has become one of the major landmarks associated with Taiwan. The area is also famous for its production of high mountain tea and wasabi (Japanese HOT sauce). This album is our bus trip up the mountain, as unlike in 2003, we had to take the bus up, as the world famous mountain railway up the mountain from Chaiyi was damaged in 2008 from a devastating earthquake. However, the railway at the top still does operate, as can be seen in the following album about the famous Ali Shan sunrise. Mount Ali is higher than Australia's Mount Kosciusko, reaching well over 2200 metres above sea level, and most indicative of this, is that as the bus climbs, how much the vegetation changes from tropical at sea level to temperate at the top. At the top, the scene is reminiscent of a coniferous forest in Canada, rather than a tropical Taiwanese forest at sea level. No matter what time of year, you should always take warm clothing with you, as the temperature drops very significantly as you climb. For us, Alishan was a most welcome escape from the terrible heat, humidity and pollution of Kaohsiung.

69 files, last one added on Jun 21, 2012

06b_alishan_sunrise_tuesday_10th_april_2012


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The world famous Ali Shan sunrise. The day we arrived on the bus the weather was very bleak. When we got to our hotel reception, they told us that they would call us at 3:30 the following morning to catch the mountain train to Zhusan Station, which is only a two minute walk to the Zhusan viewing lot---provided the weather was fine!! At the time this hardly seemed likely, but mountain weather is extremely changeable, like the temperament of one of my ex-girlfriends, so come 3:30am, we got the call. It was very pleasing to see that the Mountain railway, built by the Japanese in 1912 during their occupation of Taiwan for the initial purpose of logging, was still operational at least at the top of the mountain. This train ride is only 15 minutes or so, and when we arrived at the Ali Shan Recreation Area Station, we found it packed with mainland Chinese tourists. Over the last few years, the number of Mainland Chinese tourists coming to Taiwan has grown exponentially. Anyway, at 5:50am the sun rose to rapturous cheers with me clicking wildly on our digital camera, capturing a most quintessential Taiwanese moment.

107 files, last one added on Jun 21, 2012

06c_rest_of_tuesday_in_alishan_10th_april_2012


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After the sunrise, we took the train back to the recreation area to rest up at our hotel for a couple of hours. At about 11:30 we started hiking along the forest railway for a couple of hours before heading to the beautiful Sister Pond. Even though it was a Tuesday, we were accompanied by countless Mainland Chinese tourists all day. Nevertheless, the mass of humanity could not detract from the beauty of the forest and the last blooming of the Japanese cherry blossoms. We were hoping to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, but unfortunately we only only saw the blooming in its dying stages. Early to mid March I would now recommend to see the cherry blossoms in Ali Shan in full bloom. The weather this day was again, like one of my ex-girlfriends, most changeable but this enabled us to photograph the forest in many varied conditions. At the end of our day, we again caught a train back to the recreation area, this time from the Sacred Tree Station. However, just before boarding, I managed to photograph the famous 1000 year old Red Cypress Tree, standing at an impressive 24 metres high, with a 6 metre wide trunk at its base.

216 files, last one added on Jun 21, 2012

06d_baoshan_meinong_cishan_thursday_12th_april_2012


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My brother in law Curtis drove us, along with his wife Sophie (Sonia's sister) and his little son Stan (named after my Dad) to the beautiful Maolin National Scenic Area in Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties. This area, along with much of Taiwan, was devastated in August 2009 by Typhoon Morakot, and evidence of this past devastation was still abundantly clear. We got as far as the Bao-shan Police station, right in the middle of Kaohsiung County, where its Taiwanese aboriginal cop told us that we should not have travelled this far on this apalling road. By now Curtis' car was making funny sounds courtesy of its bottom scraping the crest of a diabolical undulation in the road a little earlier on. Wisely we turned back, much to the relief of Cutis' car, now ceasing its strange murmurings, but not before taking a few photos of the impressive mountainous landscape and having my photo taken with the local cop. Little Stan did likewise. This however, did not end our day. About 18Km south in a straight line, back at sea level, we visited the Hakka village of Meinong, famous for its oil paper umbrellas, which are mostly exported to Japan. In March 2012, the month we arrived in Taiwan, Meinong was named on the http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/life/10-coolest-small-tourist-town-taiwan-903796 site as one of Taiwan's top 10 smallest towns. We finished our day, just nine km west in the busy town of Cishan (Qishan), Taiwan's banana capital with its historical old Japanese Railway station, now only serving purely as an historical relic.

90 files, last one added on Jun 23, 2012

07_hutoupi_scenic_area_and_restaurant_sat_14th_april_2012


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The Hutoupi Scenic Area is situated at the Hutou Mountain area in the suburban area to the east of Sinhua (新化) Township or only 17Km east-north-east of Tainan, which was during the Dutch occupation from 1624 to 1662, the capital of Taiwan, and very nearly became so in the 20th century. Tainan itself is only 30 or so kilometres north of Kaohsiung and while visiting Sonia's cousin Daniel there, he drove us to the lovely Hutoupi Scenic Area. Many in Taiwan call it "Little Sun Moon Lake", which I will feature in a later album. Hutou pond (Hutoupi) was named by the shape of the mountains that look like the face a ferocious tiger surrounding it. The vast lake of Hutou pond (Hutoupi) has landside pathways around it, where camphor trees and Taiwanese acacia are dense. The Tiger Moon Pavilion stands tall on the lake isle, which is connected to both banks of the lake with Tiger Moon Suspension Bridge. From this suspension bridge I was able to take great photos of the beautiful sunset. The area is complete with various leisure facilities including a camping area. Near the Tiger Moon Pavilion is the so called "Husband and Wife Tree", so named as it arose from two near trees, which over time embraced each other. Later on, we retired to a beautiful restaurant nearby for dinner.

87 files, last one added on Jul 05, 2012

08_guanziling_hot_springs_sunday_15th_april_2012


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The beautiful Jin Da Hot Springs Resort in Guanziling Township, Tainan County, about 50Km north-east of Tainan City. Taiwan is famous for its hot springs, which due to its mountainous terrain and tendency for earthquakes, are most abundant throughout this tiny island only half the size of Tasmania. In 2003 and 2008, Sonia and I visited the Bao-Li hot springs in Kaohsiung County, but that town was sadly devastated by a diabolical earthquake since then. I visited Guanziling once before in December 2003, but this resort was vastly superior with views of the mountainous terrain while you enjoy the hot spring, and better facilities overall. For example, there were springs of various temperatures to suit, herbal springs, muddy springs and a pond where you could have tiny fish nibble away dead skin from your feet--a nice sensation I must say. There is also the requisite sauna and swimming pool, together with water sprays to massage your back. There is NO TIME LIMIT and all this for less than $15 Australian a day. In Taiwan, your dollar goes a long way!!

59 files, last one added on Jul 06, 2012

09_zusin_garden_cingjing_farm_17th_to_18th_april_2012


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In early May 2008, we visited Cingjing Veteran's Farm and the beautiful gardens of nearby Little Switzerland in the mountains of north-eastern Nantou County, Taiwan's only landlocked county. Then we stayed at a B&B in the nearby village of Wushe. This time around we stayed at the beautiful B&B of Zusin Garden from where we could look down on Wushe two-and-a-half kilometres to the south-west and at an elevation about 450 metres below us. At Zusin Garden we were at about 1600 metres above sea level, while the Farm was at almost 1900 metres and about two-and-a-half kilometres north of Zusin. The weather on our first day was terribly gloomy and misty, but the following morning, at about 5am, the weather while still overcast, allowed reasonable visibility and some beautiful shots of the mountains immersed in seas of clouds from just near our hotel room. Just before we left, I took more photos later in the morning between 9 and 11am. From the first day, you will notice some photos taken in an expensive and posh restaurant/hotel. It was the "Old England" and we had a light lunch there for about $1000 Taiwanese ($30 Aussie), a price even within my skąpiec (cheapskate) budget. In Australia, it probably would have smashed our whole travel budget for a similar privilege. All in all, despite the temperamental mountain weather, it was a beautiful two days.

279 files, last one added on Jul 11, 2012

10_juifen_18th_to_19th_april_2012


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The Fascinating village and old gold mining area of Jiufen on Taiwan's north-east coast. Previously, I had never seen much of Taiwan's north, and on this trip I was determined to rectify this situation. During the first years of the Qing Dynasty, the village here housed nine families, thus the village would request "nine portions" every time shipments arrived. Later Jiufen (九份), which literally means "nine portions" in Mandarin (Chinese) would become the name of the village. Jiufen was only an isolated village until 1893, when gold was discovered in the area, only two years before the start of fifty years of Japanese occupation from 1895 until the end of World War II. The resulting gold rush hastened the village's development into a town, and reached its peak during the Japanese rule. Many present features of Jiufen reflect the era under Japanese colonization, with many Japanese inns surviving to this day. During World War II, a POW camp named Kinkaseki was set up in the village, holding Allied soldiers captured in Singapore (including many British and Aussies) who worked in the nearby gold mines. After 1945, the gold mines were taken over by the Chinese Nationalist Government, but Gold mining activities declined after World War II, and in 1987, the Government run corporation known as the Taiwan Metal Mining Corporation went into liquidation, and so nearly a century of gold mining in the Juifen area came to an end. We visited the fascinating Gold Ecological park in nearby Jinguashi, only a short but eventful bus ride from Juifen. Eventful, as the bus had to negotiate numerous hairpin turns in this mountainous area right by the Pacific Ocean, with even the passing of buses on the road being at times an operation as involved as mating elephants. The Ecological park is a Gold mining museum with internal and outside exhibits nestled in wonderful scenery overlooking the Pacific. As well as walking through an underground mine, you also get to touch 220 kilos of gold, but sadly, they don't hand out any free samples. One is struck by the incredible density of gold---20 times that of water---so 220 kilos of gold is only about one cubic foot. Thus, Hollywood movies of blokes packing their backpacks with gold bars and carrying them away is bullshit. But before wrapping up this rather lengthy but warranted description, I must mention Juifen's Old Street. It is known for its assortment of historic businesses, eateries, and teahouses, allowing visitors to relive the past while sampling local specialties and purchasing handicrafts and other knick-knacks. The area also provides spectacular views of the harbour and the Pacific Ocean below, where I was able to take some impressive night view shots, of which one I selected for the album thumbnail.

440 files, last one added on Jul 13, 2012

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