Pingxi Crags are a set of hiking trails that traverse steep mountain peaks and rock cliffs in the mountains south of Pingxi Village. The sedimentary rocks here stick out of the forest at the tops of the mountains, making for great views but also dangerous climbs.
The rock formations that form the Pingxi crags hike formed as sediment under the ocean millions of years ago and were then uplifted thanks to the collision of the Eurasian and Phillipine plates. The rocks are mainly sedimentary and are part of the same formation that forms the special rock formations on the northern coast around Keelung.
The area also has some coal deposits, and there is an abandoned mine on the trail.
There are basically six main peaks along the Pingxi Crags trail: Xiaozishan (孝子山), Cimu Peak (慈母峰), Cien Peak (慈恩嶺), Putuoshan (普陀山), Choutoutshan (臭頭山) and the Zhongyangjian Peak (中央尖) which is the highest peak in that chain of mountains.
Xiaozishan is 140 (459 feet) above sea level.
Much of the climbing is medium to difficult, and includes rock scrambling and rope climbs up steep cliffs with carved steps and footholds, as well as ladder crossings and chain ladder climbs in some places.
The area is popular with hikers and can get busy on the weekends.
The trail is technically 1.6 KM to Zhongyanjian, but it could take you most of the day because the hike is steep and there is lots of rope climbing. The difficulty here is medium because you are not gaining tons of elevation but there are some really scary rope climbs, rock scrambling, and near vertical rock climbs in some places.
When to go:
On a sunny dry day. The rocks can get slippery and a fall on some of the trails could kill you.
When not to go:
Don't go when it is raining. You could slip right off a cliff to your death, plus it will be cloudy with no good views. Don't bring children under 12 years old.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at Pingxi Station, and then walk south past the river toward the mountains. The trailhead starts right to the right of the public bathroom.
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shifen. Then turn right and go west on county road 106 until you reach the Pingxi Old street and turn left up the mountain after you reach the Taiwan Power Company. There is a parking lot and trail head at the end of the road.
You can check out the full trail map here or here.
For the location of the start of the trail, please see below:
Wanggu Waterfall is a less known set of four waterfalls near Wanggu Station on the Pingxi Railway Line, located in Pingxi District of New Taipei. The short hike from Wanggu Station will take you to a series of waterfalls, with the second waterfall being the biggest. The trail is a pleasant hike and also a relaxing place to swim.
To read a great blog about this place in Chinese, check Willy Chang's incredibly extensive blog of the area here, from which I have pulled some information.
The Pingxi Railway was completed in 1921 during the Japanese Era of Taiwan mainly to transport coal in the area. Wanggu Station was completed in only 1972 as the coal industry was gradually declining. It is an unmanned station, where you are on your honor to buy a ticket and the station you get off at because there is no one working at the station (or use an Easy Card). Wanggu Station was originally named Qinghe Station "慶和車站" after the main coal mine right next to it, but was later named to Wanggu Station in 1989.
There is a broken suspension bridge near the train station, nemed Qinghe Suspension Bridge (慶和吊橋) that used to ship coal from another mine across the Keelung River before it was brought to Wanggu Station.
By the 1990's, Taiwan's coal mining industry was in decline, and it was hard to produce cheap local coal.
As of 2017, there was an average of 18 people a day arriving or leaving from Wanggu Station.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at Wanggu Station, and then walk west down the road up the bridge and over the train tracks, you will see the trail to the waterfall at the top of the bridge.
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shifen. Then turn right and go west on county raod 106 until you reach the Wanggu Station turnoff. After that, you have to drive on a narrow road between old buildings and the train tracks, then cross over the tracks to the hiking trail entrance. Parking is free and plentiful along the road.
Please see below:
Full Moon Waterfall (Manyue Waterfall) lies in Sanxia's Manyueyuan National Forest Recreation Area in New Taipei. It's a beautiful waterfall and an easy family hike.
I actually recommend not going until the new tourist information center and Virgin Waterfall are opened up. That's right, Virgin Waterfall, the biggest waterfall in the park, is not even accessible, but you can still see Manyueyuan Waterfall for a discounted price.
To get there, the only way is by taking your own vehicle or taxi. According to the recreation area website, there are no buses to get there. See a map of the waterfall below:
Before we get into hiking just let me tell you about the parking situation here. If you go on a weekend, especially on a long holiday weekend, parking is going to be competitive. There is some free parking near the entrance to the trail, if you buy some vegetables. So what happens if you don't buy some veggies before your hike? You get yelled at by the kid next to the sign and by the people selling them. We were afraid that people would scratch our car while we gone out of spite, but we also didn't want to haul a bunch of potatoes up a mountain.
There is an entrance fee, which is normally 100 NT per person. However, because Virgin Waterfall was closed on this day, the fee was only 50 NT per person. Yipee!
View of the trail entrance as we began our way up. There's even a map in English!
This day in January was rather chilly and windy (you can tell how far behind we are on posts for this blog).
From the get-go, there were signs that this nature trail had little nature. Besides the smelly bathrooms, the trail was a paved asphalt path, and you can see the river below has a rock wall.
Oh, the rock wall reduces the impact of the stream water?! Really!
The sign says" Piled stones are used to reinforce the riverbed. The arch principle and watertight construction methods are used to reduce the impact form the water in areas where the waterway curves even large stone pile-ups may not be able to withstand the long-term erosion of the water. In these locations, adding a spur dike can achieve the goal of protecting the shores."
Let's protect nature against getting destroyed by nature by building walls all over nature!
There are large stones in the river due to erosion!
This is probably the prettiest part of the trail, even though it is completely man made. A nice stop for selfies from everyone walking by.
Further up the trail, we find a pavilion that has truly become one with nature.
Here is the tourist information center that is still under construction. It will probably be a cool place once its finished, so come back in few months or a year and check it out.
My perfectly balanced photo of the park ranger lodge.
Is this the Full Moon Waterfall? Nope, its a man made waterfall that you can barely see through the bushes. Keep walking.
If you are sick of nature halfway through the hike, you're in luck because there is a restaurant right at the halfway mark so satisfy your hunger for man-made consumables.
You can also learn about nature from these cool flippy signs.
Soon you'll be able to memorize the Latin name for almost every plant in the forest!
A glimpse of the river below before the waterfall.
Just before the waterfall, there is a trail to the left that leads to a pavilion overlooking the waterfall.
It's a beautiful view! On the day we went there seemed to be quite a lot of people, so we couldn't sit and stare for very long.
Below the waterfall is a bridge from which you can see the lower part of the waterfall.
So you can't see much here and there are a few branches in the way, but that's what nature is all about.
Closeup of Full Moon Waterfall. There happened to be a full moon that night! It was destiny that we visited this magical waterfall.
The whole hike took less than two hours, and was really easy and flat. You could bring young children here and hike to the end with no problem.
After our hike down, we bought a bag of sweet potatoes for only 45NT and headed down the mountain. The traffic was quite bad going down the mountain to Sanxia Old Street.
It took a while to find parking, but we eventually found a spot under the elementary school nearby. That night we ate some sausages, ice cream, stinky tofu, and we bought some Ox Horn Bread for our relatives because apparently that is the delicacy of Sanxia.
Sanxia Old Street is beautiful and one of the best Old Streets in greater Taipei. Be sure to follow our Instagram!
Thanks for sharing this obscure family friendly hike in Taiwan with us, and be sure to follow and like so you can see our next adventures!
First off I would like to warn everyone that the road from Xinyi to Yushan is blocked off from 6:30pm-6:30am for rock fall control. We had to drive around Alishan which added 4 hours of driving to our trip.
That being said, let me tell you about our one day hike of the tallest mountain in Taiwan and East Asia (okay, East Asia is debatable, but it sounds better).
I know that I am not the first person to have climbed Jade Mountain in a day, but it seems like no one has blogged about it in English in a while. The last blog I found about hiking it in one day is from 2012, so I would like to give everyone some more recent info about the hike. I will also walk you through our experience with help with meticulous time notes compiled by my climbing partner.
Applying for permits 申請許可證:
This is perhaps the most difficult part of hiking Jade Mountain. In Taiwan, mountain and park permits are required to limit fatalities and help with rescue on the mountain. Originally we planned to do a two day hike and stay at Paiyun Lodge, but we realized we didn’t have time to wait; my climbing partner is going to get a Master’s degree in America at the beginning of next year, and Jade Mountain is closed for normal hikers from January to March. Also, I wanted to take as few days off from work as possible, so we opted for the one day hike, which is easier to get approved for if you meet the qualifications.
The mountain permit and park entry permit can both be applied for online. Some special requirements for the day hike though are that you must have experience climbing mountains above 3000 meters in the past 5 years. All you have to do is upload a picture of yourself on top of a mountain above 3000 meters and tell them which mountain it was. Also, you must give the park personal information such as name, age, and ID or passport number.
As with Paiyun Lodge, the day hike also requires a lottery process, but there are a lot less people who apply for it, so getting a spot is easier. We originally planned for Dec. 19th, but later the Jade Mountain Park service called us and told us that spots had opened up on the 18th, so we switched.
I had brought some my climbing gear from America, such as hiking boots, wool socks, hat, fleece pants, and gloves. I didn’t have any polyester long underwear, which I regretted later. My main food for the trip was 6 chocolate Costco muffins, which was too much. I only ate 2 ½. I also brought 3000 cc of water, although this may have been excessive as well because I’m sure you can fill up water at Paiyun lodge.
Also, because Jade Mountain had snowed the week before we left, we rented some crampons, not because we needed them but because we feared the park service would reject our climb if we didn’t have them (we ended up not needing them).
The Adventure 冒險:
Day 0: Dec. 17th, 2017
12:40 Met at Nangang Station and departed 南港車站集合，出發
15:05 Exited off the Mingjian Interchange 從名間交流道下來
At this time we figured there was time in the schedule for a quick trip to Sun Moon Lake. We drove to the lakeside and took some pictures and that was about it because it was super cold outside.
18:00 Arrived at Go Bier Hostel 到GO比爾民宿
Once we drove about the Xinyi there was super thick fog everywhere. Our hostel was in the middle of some fields on top of a mountain. Eventually we had to ask one of the locals to show us where it was. To get to the hostel we had to drive through some farmland on bumpy roads. Once we got there, our hostess told us that the road to Jade Mountain was going to close at 6:30 for rock fall control. If we left then, we would get no sleep and arrive too early to hike the mountain (Our permit was only for the 18th). If we left after 6:30, we would get there too late, because if you arrive later than 10:00 AM to Paiyun Lodge, they will not let you press on to the main peak.
This nightly road closing had only started last year with the advent of the Labor Standards Act, because the road crews have less manpower to keep the roads open for longer at night.
At this point our entire trip was in jeopardy. Then the hostel owner’s husband told us that the road to Jade Mountain from Alishan should be open, but there could be thick fog. It would be a three hour car ride, while driving from Xinyi would only have been one hour.
18:40 Slept 睡覺
21:00 Woke up 起床
21:10 Departed from the hostel 從民宿出發
22:14 Got on National Highway 3 toward Chiayi上南三高往嘉儀
22:55 Stopped at Family Mart to get drinks and some gas停全家買食物，加油
On the way up from Alishan we were lucky that there was very little fog on our way to the trail head, so we made it safely to the top.
Day 1: Dec, 18th, 2017
00:50 Made it to the Tataka parking lot (2610 M, 8562 ft.), parked, ate, broke an iPhone, and made sure we had everything. 抵達塔塔加停車場（2610M）停車，吃東西，破壞手機，整理裝備
As we were about to depart I found myself looking for my cell phone which had disappeared. Then I remembered I left it on the back door latch of our Toyota Wish to use as a light, but it was too late. We had smashed the iPhone with our car door twice. Later, I found that the phone was too expensive to repair. At that time I was very sad because for the long hike my music would be gone.
01:25 Departed 出發
02:05 Made it to the Linzhi Mountain Entrance 麟趾山登山口
02:20 Made it to the top of Linzhi Mountain 麟趾山山頂 （2854）
We made history by being perhaps the only day hikers of Jade Mountain to start of the day by climbing Linzhi Mountain. This added maybe 200 meters to our total climb, but I didn’t add it to the total because I am not sure of the altitude of the Jade Mountain entrance vs the parking lot entrance. It’s not really important. Basically, it was dark, we were first-timers, and we took a right when we should have turned left at the ancient tree. But, we still made it to the Jade Mountain hiking entrance in good time.
02:40 Made it to the Tataka saddle / Jade Mountain entrance 塔塔加鞍部登山口 (2610 M, 8562 ft.)
03:21 Menglu Pavillion 1.7K (1 mile) 孟祿亭 1.7K
I took a wizz here. It was quite a smelly experience. I think I understand now why my climbing partner didn’t go to the bathroom pretty much the whole day.
At this point, I was pretty beat. My climbing partner was in much better shape than me and she was pushing at a pace I couldn’t keep up with, which is why I went in front.
03:48 Jade Mountain Front Peak Trail Entrance 2.7K (1.6 miles) 玉山前峰登山口 2.7K
06:15 8K (5 miles)
At about 8 kilometers (5 miles), it was bright enough outside for me to turn off my headlamp and take a picture of the sea of clouds below.
We suddenly realized we were in the middle of a beautiful nature scene.
A small variety of bamboo grows everywhere here (sorry for the blur, it was dark).
The path the Paiyun seemed close. 去排雲山莊好像很進。
06:45 Made it to Paiyun Lodge (3402M, 11,161 ft) 8.5K (5.2 miles), delivered our park permits to the administration, rested 排雲山莊 (3402) 8.5K, 繳交入園證給管理員，大休
The first glorious sight of Paiyun Lodge. 第一次看見排雲山莊。
I noticed they had breakfast at the lodge for the guests there. As this blog is about the day trip and not the lodge stay, I have no further information. I sat on a stool here and slept for about 10 minutes. I could have slept for the whole day, but we had a mountain to climb.
We were told we could leave some bags at the lodge before our ascent to the top, so I gladly unpacked our heavy crampons that we had prepared in case there was going to be snow (there were only tiny patches of snow on the mountain).
I guess collecting rainwater is important at Paiyun Lodge. 在排雲山莊積水好像很重要。
The smelly bathrooms at the lodge. 排雲山莊很臭的洗手間。
07:15 Departed from Paiyun Lodge 從排雲山莊出發
07:58 Round Peak Fork 圓峰交叉口
We could see the top of Jade Mountain laughing at us from afar. 玉山主峰遠遠地似乎諷刺我們。
At around 8:30, the sun peaked over the ridge, and from then on it was a hot, hot hike.
At about the same time, we has hiked above the tree line. 大概這個時候我們超越森林綫。
This is just to give you an idea of how steep the trail was toward the top. The climb got steeper and steeper on the 2.4 KM (1.5 miles) from Paiyun Lodge to the top, which is a very short distance to climb 550 meters (nearly 2000 feet).
The higher we climbed, the stepper it got, and we began to see chains along the trail.
09:12 Rock Cages 鐵龍
Before the final run to the very top, there is a short section of cages to protect from rock falls along the side of the mountain. Everyone stopped here for photos and seemed content on resting here for a while.
At the end toward the main peak the trail almost went vertical, and some rock scrambling was required. Also, the higher up we got the stronger the winds were. I was feeling a bit queasy actually about halfway up from Paiyun Lodge, but I just took my time and near the top as we started scrambling I felt a lot better. We passed many people that had hiked the mountain from Paiyun Village early that morning, many that seemed to be Japanese tourists. One group told me that it would have been easy for me to stay in the Lodge because I’m a foreigner, but I didn’t have 3 other foreigners to go with me, so I couldn’t have done that.
在主峰的盡頭，這條小路幾乎垂直，需要一些亂石。另外，越高，風越強。 Paiyun Lodge的中途，我感覺有些不舒服，但是我只是把時間花在接近頂端，因為我們開始爭先恐後地感覺好多了。當天早上，我們經過許多從排雲村上山的人，有不少似乎是日本遊客。有一個小組告訴我，因為我是一個外國人，所以我留在旅館很容易，但是我沒有其他三個外國人和我一起去，所以我不能這樣做。
09:22 Main Peak – North Peak fork主北岔路
After the cages, you come directly to the Main Peak – North Peak fork. Here, known literally as the wind hole （風口）, the wind was the strongest. The wind was blowing hard enough to blow your hat and socks off.
Taking a short rest right before the summit.
There was some rock scrambling involved.
A fall here could kill you. 這邊率倒會死。
Almost there! 差一點就到頂！
09:49 Made it to Yushan Main Peak! (3952 M, 12,965 ft) 10.9 K (6.7 miles) 玉山主峰 （3952）10.9K 拍照
On the top we found another couple holding the ROC flag up, and we helped them take some pictures. I brought my company’s flag up too, but all the pictures turned out pretty terrible because it was so windy. The weather was perfect at the top and coming down, so we were lucky in that regard.
Me attempting to take a picture of our company flag.
View of Yushan West Peak. 玉山西峰。
View of Yushan North Peak. The Jade Mountain weather station lays on top of it. I think the view of Jade Mountain is best seen from this peak. Next time I think I would want to climb this one instead of the main peak.
Yushan East Peak. Dashuikushan in the background. 玉山東峰。大水窟山在後方。
View to the southeast.
View of Yushan Round Peak on the bottom and South Peak on the top.
View of Nanshan (Yushan south peak) through the clouds.
The best picture of me and my climbing partner at the top.
10:02 Journey back回程
Coming up and down the top was the steepest part. My climbing partner said that most of the deaths on Jade Mountain have occurred here. I believe that.
Coming back down the cages.
View coming down. 下來的風景。
11:15 Paiyun Lodge排雲山莊
This stretch from Paiyun lodge to the entrance was the longest part of the trip, probably because I didn’t recognize anything, as we hiked up in the dark. I found myself hallucinating, and every half kilometer seemed like a lifetime. I felt like I had lost control of my body and was watching myself walk down the trail. This was probably due to lack of sleep and fatigue, as well as the five blisters festering on my feet (I think it’s time for a new pair of hiking boots).
Even in my state of hallucination, I managed to get some photos of the nice ancient forest and mountain scenery.
Views similar to that of a Chinese painting. 像山水畫的風景。
Last view of the ancient forest. 神木森林最後的照片。
View of the valley right before the trail entrance. 我們來到登山口的最後山谷之照。
14:42 Tataka saddle entrance塔塔加鞍部登山口
When we reached the trail entrance, there were shuttles waiting for the hikers. At 100 NT to go like 1 K back to the parking lot, the price seemed a little steep, but we were exhausted and happily paid. This same shuttle was not available when we started at midnight.
當我們到達小道入口處時，有班車正在等待遠足者。在100 NT, 才1 K回到停車場，價格似乎有點貴，但我們已經筋疲力盡，愉快的付出這筆錢。當我們在午夜開始的時候，同樣的班車沒有開。
The road down from Jade Mountain to Xinyi was amazing. I felt like it is one of the highest roads in Taiwan, with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Howver, there are often rock slides, and the speed limit is only 30-40 at most. Much of the road was under construction at the time, and I felt that at any time a section of the road could slide off the mountain.
16:25 Made it back to the hostel, prepared our things, showered 回到民宿，整理裝備
17:20 Departed from Taipei 出發回臺北
21:10 Back to Nangang 回到南港
You may ask why we didn't stay an extra night at the hostel. Because I didn't want to take off work again. You may ask why we booked a hostel at all. Simply because my wife and child were there waiting for us.
Total hiking statistics for our trip 我們此行的總徒步數據:
Total walking distance: 2.1K (1.3 miles) from the south river and Yushan forest trail, + 1.8K (1.1 miles) from Linzhi Mountain to Tataka saddle entrance, 8.5K*2 (5.3 miles*2) from the entrance to Paiyun lodge, 2.4K*2 (1.5 miles*2) Paiyun lodge to Yushan main peaker, for a grand total of 25.7K (16 miles).
Total Elevation gained: Tataka parking lot (2610, 8563 feet) to Yushan Main peak (3952M, 12966 feet) = 1342M (4,403 feet).
Total hiking time: 14:42 - 01:25= 13 hours 17 minutes
Total time driving: 5:20+3:40+1:20+3:50= 14 hours 10 minutes
Total time sleeping in a 48 hour period: 3 hours 30 minutes
總共行走：2.1K 南溪和玉山林道+1.8K麟趾山步道+8.5K*2 登山口到排雲山莊+2.4K*2排雲山莊到玉山主峰=25.7K
總共行走時間：14:42 - 01:25= 13小時17分鐘
If this blog hasn’t been as helpful as you need, there are a few forums on climbing Jade Mountain that you can search:
Lonely Planet Forum:
Trip Advisor Forum:
Fun Fact 有趣的事實：
After I climbed the mountain, my coworker showed me a photo from when she climbed it a few decades ago:
From 1965 until 1995, a bust of the famous scholar and ROC revolutionary Yu Youren stood on top of Jade Mountain. It was thought that if they placed his bust high enough, it could reach above 4000 meters (however later they found that Jade Mountain was 3 Meters less than this height, making the mountain with his bust only 3997 meters).
However, in 1995 a group of environmentalists cut off the bronze head and threw it off the mountain. Later, the park service found the head and put it back, but then in 1996 an unknown someone cut off the head again and it was never seen again. The reason that these original perpetrators did this is they thought that the bust on top of Jade Mountain was disrespecting nature. After the last beheading in 1996, later the Nantou county head placed a smaller rock on top of the mountain instead.
The ROC government did not prosecute the environmentalist beheadeders and has had no further reaction to this incident. I think most people can respect this action and realize that Jade Mountain should stand as a natural edifice and not a monument to Yu Youren.
Climbing Jade Mountain in one day turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be, and it definitely takes a greater fitness level to climb it in one day than two. As much as people like to play down how hard it is, the last 2.4 K, 550 meter climb at 3000+ meters （1.5 mile, 2000 foot climb at 10,000 feet) are a tough test for anyone. But, climbing it in one day gives you more flexibility time wise, is easier to get a spot, and takes less time.
The best advice I can give is to go to the mountain from Alishan, not Xinyi, no matter how much faster Google Maps tells you it will be. If you want a nicer accommodation than the Dongpu Lodge, you can book a hostel in near Alishan.
Also, one thing that became clear to me while hiking this is that I was climbing it only for pride, because it was the highest mountain. I think I would have enjoyed a lower hike with less people and less work much more. But because I climbed it, be sure to tell the whole world how great I am. Seriously, go shout it from the rooftops.
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All photos credit to Stephanie Huffman and Candace Chen
Though the form for which the island is named is readily apparent from angles further north and south, from Toucheng pier due west, Turtle Island looks more slug-like than terrapin-shaped. A small and curving rock covered in green, the island – like all points on the horizon – grows larger and more distinctive as our boat draws closer. There are about sixty people on the Blue Whale, all wearing bright orange life jackets and hoping to catch a glimpse of the dolphins sometimes spotted frolicking around the island. The boat takes its time along the island’s southern end, a steep hill dotted with carved outcroppings.
所有的照片都歸功於Stephanie Huffman和Candace Chen
儘管從南面和南面的角度，西面的頭城碼頭，這個島嶼的名稱是顯而易見的，但是龜山島看起來比鱉魚更像是瓜牛的樣子。 隨著我們的船靠近，一個綠色的小彎曲的岩石，像島上所有的點 - 越來越大，更加鮮明。 “藍鯨”上有六十人左右，都穿著明亮的橙色救生衣，希望能看到有時在島上嬉鬧的海豚。 船沿著島的南端，一個陡峭的小山，點綴著雕刻的露頭。
“Are those lookout points?”, asks Stephanie. I point to the long, faded green barrel of a cannon just sticking out of one of the outcropping. “Among other things,” I answer. As with many of Taiwan’s outer islands, military utility took precedence over tourism for many years.
Stephanie問道：“那些瞭望點？ 我指著長長的，褪色的大砲剛剛露出的一個大砲。 “還有其他用處，”我回答。 和台灣的許多外島一樣，軍事用途多年來一直以旅遊業為主。
The smell of sulfur, a gentle rotten egg fragrance fills the air as the Blue Whale approaches the underwater thermal springs bubbling from beneath the waves by the Turtle’s head. Steam rising from the water makes it seem like the beast is smoking some great underwater hooka. As our boat rounds the Turtle’s head, the gentle green curves of the island’s Taiwan-facing side give way to the rocky cliffs of its seaward side, which in parts look almost as if the process of collapsing into the sea are ongoing.
From this angle, Turtle Island is far more foreboding. Over the boat’s loudspeaker, the guide explains in Mandarin that the seaward side of the volcanic island takes the brunt of the area’s regular typhoons, and that some of the more rugged cliffs were formed by earthquakes. Past the cliffs the landscape becomes more gentle, and with a bit of squinting I can almost see the long, sloping neck of the turtle connecting head to shell, all covered in green. Although I’m told there are hiking trails along the spine, no hikers are currently present.
Though technically open to tourists as a maritime ecological park since 2000, tourism to the island is fairly restricted. Our friend Candice had applied for our landing permit nearly a month in advance, but of the other travelers on our boat only one couple from Taipei had done the same. It was a far smaller group that were permitted to disembark from the Whale at the boat dock that sits just to one side of the Turtle’s tail. Only when our names are checked against those on a list by a Coast Guard official are we allowed to cross the floating bridge connecting pier to island. The Blue Whale will head further out in search of dolphins while our small group would explore the area around the Turtle’s tail.
Our guide, Mr. Guo, brings us first to the island’s ranger station staffed by an older gentleman and lady. The woman is cheerful, and runs a small, well-stocked gift shop. The man’s semi-military attire suggests that he’s an official of some sort. He sits behind a long desk, empty except for six round, smooth stones arranged in the shape of a turtle.
“Can you guess what these are?” The man says, adding before anyone can reply: “That’s right! Turtle Eggs!”
I pick one up. The man’s claim is patently false. I wonder if he is just testing me to see if I, as a foreigner, am aware of the dual meaning of the term Turtle Egg in Mandarin. In China the term can be used as a pejorative.
“They’re stones,” I say.
“Ha ha ha ha!” The man’s voice booms through the room.” Of course you’re right…but they are laid out in the shape of a turtle!”
He has the bearing of a man who knows well the lay of the land (and had much time for rock collecting). I ask him if there are any guest houses on Turtle Island, or if perhaps camping is allowed. He laughs again, even louder this time, as if willingly spending the night on this godforsaken rock was something people would pay for.
“No camping, no guest house.” He tells me. “Even I don’t sleep here.”
Turtle Island wasn’t always uninhabited. Settlers began arriving in 1853, and by the early 1970s the small, flat plain on the part of the island facing Taiwan boasted a village with houses, a school, a fresh water spring, and even a temple. But in 1977, the villagers – then numbering around 700 – were relocated to the town of Toucheng in Yilan. The official story, according to both Guo (and the surprisingly well-translated English language displays in what’s left of the town itself) is that after a particularly bad typhoon which cut the village off from resupply for almost two weeks, the villagers agreed that life on the island had become unsustainable and moved willingly to the mainland as part of a deal negotiated with the government. Immediately thereafter Turtle Island was declared a restricted military zone, and of course it’s equally likely that the villagers’ relocation was not entirely as enthusiastically agreed-upon as our guide or the display suggests.
As it turned out, the island’s new inhabitants would come to wish that one particular Turtle Island resident had not joined the villagers’ exodus.
Guo takes us to a temple, a small one by Taiwanese standards, but one that’s clearly been maintained to weather the elements. “Can you guess whose temple this is?” he asks.
“Matsu,” I answer. It seems a sensible guess. A temple built on a small island by people whose livelihoods depend on the sea would naturally offer prayers to the Goddess of the Sea. But I am simultaneously right and wrong.
Guo tells the tale of how the villagers, evicted from their island home, brought their goddess with them to their new village. Shortly thereafter, the military moved in. But in the months that followed, the new residents complained that a general malaise seemed to have crept into life on the island.
“After the villagers left, the weather was rougher than normal, and the soldiers now living on the island described feeling uneasy,” Guo tells us. “It was decided that having an empty temple was upsetting the very spirit of the island itself. The military brought a statue of Guanyin from Taiwan along with some priests, who re-consecrated the temple to the Goddess of Compassion and Mercy.”
According to Guo, things got better shortly after.
Beneath the main statue in the Guanyin temple, there is also a lucky money tiger, where visitors exchange old coins for new while wishing for good fortune. Though the tiger is a simulacrum, Green Island’s other wildlife is not. The island is best-known for what lives in the waters surrounding it, from a species of crab that feeds on the sulfur coming from the underwater hot springs to a number of larger aquatic animals such as dolphins and killer whales.
One animal endemic (some say epidemic) to turtle island are snakes, and signs warning visitors to be wary of venomous snakes greet us at various points along our journey. As we walk through the remains of the now-abandoned fishing village, Guo tells us his own version of a not-uncommon tale among the Taiwanese of Japanese snake-breeding experiments designed to create particularly venomous vipers, presumably to be used in battlefield situations. Having heard the story before, I already know where it’s going.
“Of course, when the Japanese lost the war, they released all the snakes, which is why there are so many snakes on Turtle Island today,” Guo tells the group. Whether by nature or nurture, the snake population is clearly a concern to the people in charge of maintaining guest safety. In addition to the general Beware of Snakes signs posted throughout, part of a multilingual exhibit of text and photographs covering the history, geography and ecology of Turtle Island is specifically devoted to snakes, going into detail on their size, color patterns, aggressiveness and venom level. The display is sobering, and I find myself hoping that the ranger station has a well stocked anti-venom bar somewhere by the gift shop.
We continue through the village, a lonely collection of a few crumbling stone houses and a newer barracks building built for the military, all built on the side of a brackish lake. I try to imagine children playing in the rock-paved streets and people living in the houses, now being used to store massive rolls of green mesh webbing used to gather stones to create the walls and levees that keep the high tides from inundating the island’s low-lying spots. Even with my imaginary life, the place still feels forlorn.
我們繼續穿過這個村子，孤零零地收集幾座搖搖欲墜的石頭房屋和一個為軍隊建造的更新的軍營建築，全部建在半鹹水湖的一側。我試圖想像孩子們在岩石鋪就的街道和住在房子裡的人們玩耍，現在被用來儲存大量的綠色網狀織物，用來收集石頭，以創造牆壁和堤壩，防止高潮淹沒島上的低 - 點。即使在我想像的生活中，這個地方仍然感到孤獨。
Lack of time and hiking permits does not allow our small group to hike up the Turtle’s back, but Guo has a different kind of exploration planned for us. A short hike leads us to a tunnel entrance, next to which a few abandoned military-type buildings stand, broken doors revealing electronic equipment likely state of the art in the 1970s, including a stereo system, microphone and tape deck likely used to both facilitate communication throughout the island and keep up troop morale. Another sign warns us to keep only to the main tunnel, and again to beware of snakes.
“This is one of the tunnels built throughout the island for military defense purposes,” Guo tells us. The tunnel is long enough so that midway through, the only light comes from fluorescent tubes stuttering at even intervals; secondary tunnels branch off here and there, but, technically off limits to tourists in any event, unlit. Reaching the end of our tunnel, I realize that we are now inside one of the outcroppings that Stephanie had pointed out from the deck of the Whale. The 120mm naval gun makes clear the fact that observation is only one of the lookout’s purposes.
Guo shows some of the features of the area, from the swiveling gun turret to the shape of the ceiling, designed to dissipate the gun’s deafening boom. I try to imagine being among the conscripts assigned to man the lonely outcropping day in, day out, staring out over a patch of ocean that, in the eighties and nineties at least, seemed an unlikely spot for conflict. Our guide looks at his watch and tells us we’ll need to hurry if we’re to catch the boat back. We return through the tunnel and village, past the ranger station (now closed), and to the dock where the Blue Whaleawaits to return us to Taiwan, leaving Turtle Island uninhabited once more save for a few officials, an unknown number of snakes and whatever ghosts choose to remain behind beneath the watchful eye of the Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness.
Our exploration focused mainly on culture and history, but Taiwan based author Richard Saunders writes lovingly about his 2010 Turtle Island Hiking trip at Taiwan Off The Beaten Track.
Interested in visiting Turtle Island? MyTaiwanTour will do its best to hook you up. (No promises though – permits need to be obtained in advance, and slots often fill up quick.)
我們的探索主要集中在文化和歷史上，但是台灣作家理查德·桑德斯（Richard Saunders）深情地寫下了他在台灣“Off The Beaten Track. ”的2010年龜島徒步旅行。
有興趣參觀龜島嗎？ MyTaiwanTour將竭盡全力來吸引你。 （沒有任何承諾 - 許可證需要提前獲得，而且插槽通常會很快填滿。）
(Guanyin, Snakes & History’s Ghosts: An Afternoon on Turtle Island 觀音，蛇和歷史：龜山島的一個下午之旅) originally ran at the MyTaiwanTour Journal. All photos and text posted in the above blog were taken from https://www.mytaiwantour.com/blog/. Follow this link for more stories like this one!
Visiting Taiwan? Let MyTaiwanTour help curate your experience. Find them online at https://www.mytaiwantour.com/
（Guanyin, Snakes & History’s Ghosts: An Afternoon on Turtle Island 觀音，蛇和歷史：龜山島的一個下午之旅）最初跑在MyTaiwanTour學報。 https://www.mytaiwantour.com/blog/. 點擊此鏈接獲得更多這樣的故事！
拜訪台灣？ 讓MyTaiwanTour幫助策劃你的經驗。 通過 https://www.mytaiwantour.com/
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Next we made our way to Ershui, (二水), to see the monkeys. We got lost, and finally asked a guy who told us that the road was just ahead. But that was all he said. Luckily it was the next road to the left. We walked up the trail a ways before we saw the monkeys, but there was an entire family of about 20 monkeys. It was fun to interact with them and we may or may not have fed them. Matt named a monkey George and tried to adopt it, but it seemed George was happy to stay right where he was.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.