A few weeks ago my Spark Drone Crashed. I posted a few photos which gained quite a lot of interest, so I have decided to share the whole blog about the crash here. Also as a fellow internet user I know that is helpful to post this kind of crash information on the internets for the use of others.
The Pingxi Railway in New Taipei has some of the most popular attractions in Northern Taiwan. With a total of 7 stations (plus 2 if you count Ruifang and Houtong), there are endless places to explore, eat, hike, and enjoy Taiwan's history, culture, and natural beauty all in one place.
Before the Pingxi Railway was built, during the Qing Dynasty a section of the Danlan Old Trail ran through roughly the same area, connecting Yilan to Tamsui. The Japanese completed the Pingxi Railway in 1921 in order to transport coal from the area. Most all of the stations and villages along the line were economically reliant on the coal industry until its downfall in the late 1990s.
The coal industry remained strong after the ROC took over Taiwan after WWII, but slowly waned in the 1980s and 1990s due to the decrease in global coal prices.
In the year 2000, Sanxia’s Lifeng Mine shut down operations, and Taiwan’s mining company closed, and thus all coal mining in Taiwan effectively stopped.
The Pingxi Railway is a single track that is 12.9 KM long with 7 stations.
Recently the government has offered many plans to connect the Pingxi Railway to the Taipei MRT via Jingtong to Jingmei, however due to many factors these plans have never been approved.
The area around Pingxi and Ruifang is made up of sedimentary rock which easily erodes, creating many large waterfalls such as Shifen Falls, and pointy jagged peaks like the Pingxi Crags.
Popular activities along the Pingxi Railway include hiking, river tracing, eating at one of the many old streets, setting off sky lanterns, and exploring the many historical coal mining sites.
The first train reaches Sandiaoling daily at 5:25 AM and the last train leaves Jingtong at 8:33 PM.
80 NT per person for a one day pass
When to go:
Any time of year is great. However, waterfalls are most enjoyable during the hot summer, and you may want to come for lantern festival when hundreds of sky lanterns are set off at once.
To avoid crowds and packed trains, do not go on weekends or holidays.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, buy the Pingxi Railway line one day pass, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at any station!
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shifen. You can drive right or left to reach all of the stations on the Pingxi Railway line. But please know there is limited car parking around the stations.
Please see below:
Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with any camp ground or camping products in Taiwan. The following FAQ is only based on our opinion after years of camping in Taiwan, and should not be considered absolute fact. If in doubt, make sure you check with the local police station or other government office to make sure you are following local regulations while camping in Taiwan.
With two thirds of the island covered in mountains, Taiwan has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of Taiwan is via camping. Below is a very basic level FAQ on camping in Taiwan for foreigners that have never experienced it.
Sandiaoling is a small station along the Pingxi Railway in Ruifang District of New Taipei, near Shuoren Village that was once reliant on coal mining. Officially the first station along the Pingxi Line, it is popular with hikers for nearby trails to waterfalls. The village also has a few historical sites such as the defunct Sandiao Mine and the abandoned Shuoren Elementary School. There are also quite a few tea and coffee shops here, perfect for resting hikers to relax. Sandiaoling Station is the only train station in Taiwan that is inaccessible by car; it can only be reached by foot.
The name Sandiaoling Comes from the Spanish name Santiago, which was the name the Spanish gave to the of the nearby Fulong Village and Santiaogo Cape in when they landed there in 1626. Sandiao is the Taiwanese transliteration of Santiago.
During the Qing Dynasty, Sandiaoling was also a town along the Danlan Old Trail that connected Taipei to Yilan.
The Pingxi Line was completed in 1921 by the Japanese for coal transport, and opened to travelers in 1929.
The reason that Sandiaoling Station is inaccessible by road is that originally it was only meant as a stop for railway workers who were directing trains at the fork here. Trains from Sandiaoling can either go up the Pingxi Line or travel on to Yilan. Another reason is that the Keelung River acts as a natural barrier to the nearest road.
In 1968, another track was added between Houtong Station and Sandiaoling Station, so as to prevent train accidents, as Sandiaoling is a convergence of the Pingxi and Yilan lines.
Coal mining at Sandialing stopped in the 1980s with the decline of the coal industry in Taiwan.
In 2018, there were an average of 86 passengers per day to Sandiaoling Station.
24/7 （first train comes at about 5:30 AM, last train leaves at about 10:30 PM, with one train coming every half hour or so)
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at Sandiaoling Station, and you have arrived!
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shuangxi. You then need to take highway 102 past Mudan (牡丹) and then turn left onto Houmu Public Road (侯牡公路), take it to the end and you will reach Shuoren Village near Sandiaoling Station (you then need to walk about 5 mintues to get the station).
Please see below:
In an area full of majestic waterfalls, Sandiaoling's Three Tiered Waterfall Trail near Sandiaoling Station could be the most spectacular, with three large waterfalls over 30 meters tall in a row next to each other.
There are many waterfalls along the Keelung River valley which runs through Pingxi and Ruifang; this is due to easily eroding sedimentary rock that makes up the terrain, which also makes for odd shapes and holes along rivers.
The Sandiaoling waterfalls lie on a tributary of the Keelung River, in a mountain valley above the former mining village of Sandiaoling.
Coming from Sandiaoling, the first waterfall you will see on the trail is Hegu Waterfall (合谷瀑布) which consists of two falls, the higher falls are 25 meters high and 9 meters wide, and the lower falls are 15 meters high and 6 meters wide.
The second or middle waterfall is Motian Waterfall (摩天瀑布) which is 41 meters tall and 7 meters wide; it perhaps the tallest waterfall along the Pingxi Railway.
The third or highest waterfall along the trail is Pipa Waterfall (aka Pipadong Waterfall 枇杷洞瀑布), and is about 31 meters high.
This hike is moderately challenging; the whole hike take about an hour or two but there are ropes, chains, and ladders along the way, making for some gnarly climbs near the the top two waterfalls.
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at Sandiaoling Station, then walk along the tracks to Shuoren Elementary School (碩仁國小); the trail starts at the entrance of the school.
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shifen. Then take highway 106 to Wufenliao (五分寮), and take the road down to the trail head, where there is plenty of free parking. From here the first waterfall you will come across is Pipadong Waterfall (coming down from above). You can also drive to Sandiaoling Station and use the directions above.
Please see below:
Dahua Station is one of the smallest, most remote, and less visited train stations on the Pingxi Railway. There are almost no commercialized attractions, but that has also made it a pristine nature area popular with hikers. Nearby one can see natural sites such as the Dahua potholes, waterfalls, forests, and wildlife, as well as historical mining sites.
Dahua Station was completed in 1956, 35 years after the Pingxi Railway itself was completed. Its main purposes at the time was to ship coal and other mining materials from the nearby coal screening facility and also provide transportation for mine employees.
In 1990, coal production at Dahua station stopped along with the gradual demise of the coal industry in Taiwan, due to low coal import prices and safety issues.
In 1994, a small platform was built for tourists.
Dahua station is unmanned. As of 2018, only an average of 18 people per day visited the station.
Popular attractions near the train station include the Dahua Potholes, Cukeng Falls, Youkeng Falls, and Youkeng trail that connect Dahua Station to Sandiaoling Station.
A lot of visitors mistakenly stop at Dahua Station while trying to walk to Shifen Waterfall. This is a mistake! It is a really long walk to Shifen Waterfall. You are best to just wait an hour for another oncoming train.
Hours: 24/7 （first train comes at 5:32 AM, last train leaves at 10:30 PM, with one train coming every half hour or so)
How to get there:
By Train: Take the TRA to Ruifang Station, and then switch to the Pingxi Railway line. Get off at Dahua Station, and you have arrived!
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 east toward Pinglin, then get off the main highway once you reach Shifen, then cross to the south of the Keelung River and take the Dahua Agricultural Road all the way to the end where you will find the station. There is no road that directly connects to Sandiaoling.
Please see below:
Orchid Island (not to be confused with the Fijian Island of the same name), known in the the local Tao language as Ponso No Tao (Island of the people), and in Chinese as Lanyu (蘭嶼) is a secret indigenous people's paradise off the southeastern coast of Taiwan. It is different than any other place in Taiwan, and has the best preserved indigenous culture anywhere in the country. If Taiwan's best tourist activity is experiencing the culture of Taiwan's indigenous peoples, then Lanyu has the best tourist experience anywhere in Taiwan.
Orchid Island became inhabited about 800 years ago by the Tao indigenous people (達悟族) (aka Yami people 雅美族, which is a name coined by the Japanese, but the native people prefer Tao), which are thought to have traveled from the Batanes Islands in the Philippines , which are a little less than 200 KM away, cut off by the Bashi Channel. However Orchid Island is very different than the Philippines.
Beginning in1644, some Dutch Sailors were sent to investigate the island, and some settled there among the natives. Because of this, the Island was known as Red Head Island (紅頭嶼) by the Chinese and the Japanese.
After the Dutch were defeated in Taiwan, Lanyu was claimed but not controlled by the Qing Dynasty.
The Japanese claimed the Island shortly after the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, but protected it as an "ethnological research site" and forbid outsiders from entering.
After the Republic of China took over Taiwan following the end of WWII, they continued to ban visitors to the island until 1967, after which tourists were allowed to enter and public schools were built there.
Christian missionaries began preaching and living on the island starting in the 1950s, and now basically all native people on the island are Christian (mixed with traditional beliefs). However Christianity was introduced much earlier starting with the Dutch in the 1600s although to a lesser extent.
In 1982 a nuclear waste storage plant was built on the south side of the Island without the islanders consent, causing protests from the inhabitants. Also because of this, the Island inhabitants receive free electricity.
The island is volcanic in nature, with the last major eruption being over 5 million years ago. The highest mountain is 552 meters (1,811 feet).
Currently there are 2,400 people permanently living on the island, 90% of them being of native Tao descent.
The Tao people number in about 2,000 living on Orchid Island, with about another 2,000 living on the Taiwan mainland. The Tao people rely on the sea for survival, and much of their traditions and lifestyle is centered on fishing.
The Tao people are mostly Christian but also still practice many of their traditional beliefs. However their ancestral religion included a pantheon of Gods.
Traditional roles for men are fishing while roles for women include harvesting taro and sweet potato and weaving. The men usually fish at night or early morning and rest on traditional wooden platforms during the day.
Boats are made from planks of wood and are painted with red, white, and black. The boat usually has human figures, waves, and the traditional sun image (red and black circles and sun rays) which is said to warn off evil spirits. Boats are considered sacred and the ultimate human creation. There is also a launching ceremony for new boats in which traditional clothes and headgear (such as silver helmets for men and wooden hats for women) are worn, pigs are slaughtered, and the boat is lifted into the air multiple times before being set in the water. Traditional clothes include loin cloths and vests for men, and aprons and vests for women. Young people on the street usually do not wear traditional dress.
Flying Fish Festival:
There are three basic seasons on Lanyu: one is the flying fish season when flying fish can be easily caught and used in and lasts from February to May. The other seasons are from May to October and October to February, when flying fish cannot be caught for ceremonial use. There are many taboos during flying fish season which are discussed below.
The Flying Fish Festival lasts from aboutMarch to October when flying fish are caught. During this time many ceremonies take place such as for the beginning of the festival, plentiful harvest, etc. During the festival, there are multiple migrations of flying fish species near Lanyu. There are many taboos during this time, especially when it comes to catching and eating flying fish which are the main life source of the Tao people.
Weather and Climate:
The island has a tropical rain forest climate, with average high temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees year round. The rainy months are in summer, especially due to Typhoons, but the most sunny days are also in summer (expect a lot of sun), and the most rainy days are in winter. Summer is the tourist season, but spring and fall are also popular times to visit. Winters are said to be dreary, cold, and have constant northeastern winds that can stop airplanes and ferries from departing to the island.
When to go:
The best time to go they say is around May when it is not too hot and there are no northeasterly winds or typhoons which can cancel your transportation to the island.
Typhoon season lasts from around June to October. The busy season is during summer break from June to August, during which time it can be hard to book a hostel or airplane ticket. Winter is the less crowded season, but the water will be cold, there will be constant wind (which could cancel transportation), and it will rain more often.
How to get there:
The only planes to and from Orchid Island come from Taitung.
Flight times: As of the time of this blog, there were six flights per day byDaily Air Corporation from about8 AM to 4 PM (Please note their website is only in Chinese). The flight from Taitung to Lanyu takes about 25 minutes. Please note that the aircraft are small and flights can be cancelled due to high winds or unfavorable weather.
Costs: NT 1428 to Lanyu and NT 1360 from Lanyu.
You can purchase a tickets through a tour agency such as My Taiwan Tour or a similar website.
There are two places that offer ferry rides to Lanyu: Houbihu Harbor (恆春後壁湖漁港） in Pingtung and Fugang Harbor in Taitung (臺東富岡漁港). There are also two ferry companies that operate at both harbors. Both companies leave from both harbors at the same time and arrive at the same time for the same price (2300 NT per person round trip/1150 NT per single trip).
Ferry Boat costs:
2300 NT per person round trip (1150 NT per single trip)from both Taitung or Pingtung. Both ferry companies have the same price.
Ferry Boat Times:
7:30/7:00 AM departure, 9:30 AM arrival to Lanyu.
12:00/12:30 PM departure, 3:00 PM arrival to Lanyu.
9:30 AM departure from Lanyu, 11:30 arrival to Taitung or Pingtung.
3:00 PM departure from Lanyu, 5:00 PM arrival to Taitung or Pingtung.
Both ferry companies depart and arrive at the same time to both locations.
You can purchase a tickets through a tour agency such as My Taiwan Tour or a similar website.
Getting around the island:
Rent a scooter! The island is small so you should not need to rent a car. You can rent bicycles but you will not be able to travel as fast. You can also hire a driver to take you on tours.
Ask your hostel for more rental information. They can help you book a rental in advance.
Price: expect 500 NT per day.
Be sure to book your rental in advance, especially during summer weekends. Ask for help from your hostel owner if needed.
I am 100% percent certain you do not need a Taiwan local license to rent scooters here, however they may ask for an international license (but I'm fairly sure they will let you rent without one).
Helmet wearing is not enforced at all as you will quickly find, but it's still the law.
Also be careful to not hit any goats because they wander as they please.
There is only one gas station next to Kaiyuan Fishing Harbor.
Price: expect 2000 NT per day.
Don't rent a car unless you absolutely need to. Renting scooters should be sufficient for most travelers.
Booking accommodation on the island can be difficult in summer months and on weekends, when rooms can be fully booked for months in advance. AirBnb has the most choices, however there is also a nice selection on Booking.com. Here is a list of every registered hostel on the island, but it is in Chinese.
My hostel required that I pay for my room in advance via bank wire transfer (this may not be an option if you are a foreign traveler, so make sure they accept credit cards if you do not have a Taiwan bank account).
Expect to pay 2000 - 4000 NT per night for a standard double room on Lanyu.
Please see below:
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
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/
Be sure to like, share and comment below!
Longdong (aka Dragon Caves -龍洞 Lóngdòng) is a popular spot for snorkeling, scuba diving, and rock climbing. There is also a large sea cave there (pictured above) from where the place gets its name.
The sandstone that forms Longdong was formed as sediment under the ocean millions of years ago and were then uplifted thanks to the collision of the Eurasian and Philippine 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. Because of this, there are many interesting eroded rock formations around the cape.
The name Longdong (龍洞 Lóngdòng) means dragon cave in Chinese, named after the prominent cave in the area.
The area is a popular weekend destination for many residents of Northern Taiwan.
How to get there:
By Car/Scooter: From Keelung, take provincial highway 2 east along the north coast until you reach the Longdong. There is limited parking near the harbor, and further free parking farther away.
By Bus: From Keelung TRA Station, take Keelung Bus 791 east about two hours to Longdong.
Please see below:
Original post from May, 2014:
On Wednesday we made the long trek to Long Dong 龍洞 where Matt was determined to do some awesome rock climbing. But alas it was raining the whole time, and the sea cliff was too slippery to climb. On a normal day though, the sea cliffs seemed like they would be a great place to climb, some of the cliffs were almost 70 meters high, and there were anchors in the rocks everywhere. We hiked around the beach until we decided we couldn’t go any further, the cliffs were too gnarly. So we went around to the other side of the beach to go to the dragons cave Long Dong. Scott stayed in the car, and I don’t blame him because the trek to the dragons cave was a treacherous one. There was a lot of boulder hopping on the way there, and it was raining, topped with the fact that there was also moss on lots of the rocks. It was fun, but at some points I had to get on all fours to not slip. There was also a small cliff jump which was fun, which I biffed on the way back, but I was fine. The cave was grand and majestic.
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.
On Sunday we made our way up to Alishan (Mount Ali 阿里山). It was a very long ride, with windy roads and lots of fog. At the Alishan park were some shops, with decently priced food, and a train that went around the mountain. We took the train over to see that sacred tree when we were once again confronted with hundreds of Chinese tourists taking pictures of everything. The forest was definitely pretty, and there were some huge trees; it was kind of similar to the redwood forest, but there were only a handful of big trees. There was also a peaceful pond (姊妹潭) there that we relaxed at. The shops there were ridiculously overpriced, but among them we found some delicious wasabi peanuts.
We took the train back around the mountain, which we still had to pay for (100-200NT), and had some decent fried rice at one of the restaurants. Then we made our way back down the mountain toward Nantou. On the way down, we tried to take a shortcut down a narrow road, but the fog would only let me see like ten feet in front of us, so I decided to turn back and take the main road where I knew there were at least two lanes. The rest of the way to Nantou went smoothly, and we were able to stay at a friend’s house.
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.