Xikou Little Switzerland (aka Tianjing Whirlpool) is a glory hole above Wushantou Reservoir in Dongshan District of Tainan City. It looks like a giant bathtub drain, moving water from the waterway above down to the Wushantou power station below, making a giant whirlpool, and has become a unique tourist destination in Tainan.
The glory called "Xikou Little Switzerland" was built as a drain to connect water coming from Tsengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫) and Wushantou Reservoir (烏山頭水庫). The water from Tsengwen River below Tsengwen Reservoir flows through an underground tunnel under a mountain to the small waterway where Xikou Little Switzerland lies. This underground tunnel and waterway was built during the Japanese Era in about 1930. Wushantou Reservoir was also completed in 1930. The Xikou Little Sweden drain was also completed at this time.
Tsengwen Reservoir was completed later in 1973 to increase water capacity in the area.
The water from Xikou Little Switzerland flows down to a tower and then a power generating station at the mouth of the Wushantou Reservoir.
The name "Xikou" means west entrance, referring to the west entrance of the underground tunnel connecting the Tsengwen River.
The name "Little Switzerland" was used to describe the area long before the dam was built, because the surrounding mountains to the east make the place look like a miniature Switzerland.
Now the area only sees a few visitors a day because of its remoteness, but is still a unique place that many people want to see.
How to get there:
By car/taxi: From Tainan, take National Freeway 3 north to Wushantou exit 329. From there take Tainan City highway 174 east, and turn right at the sign to 西口小瑞士.
Unfortunately there is no public transport to this location; the nearest bus stop is 3-4 KM away.
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Jinguashi is a small village in Ruifang District in New Taipei, famous for its now defunct mines. Here you can explore the Gold Mine Musuem, touch a multi-million dollar gold ingot, see golden waterfalls, go on some of the best hikes in Taiwan, check out the old mining town, see Japanese era historic sites, and explore abandoned mining sites.
In 1890 during the Qing Dynasty, gold was found in the Keelung River during the construction of Taiwan's first railroad, which led to a small gold rush. Gold seams were eventually found in the mountains behind Jiufen around what is today Jinguashi.
The name Jinguashui (金瓜石 Jīnguāshí), literally meaning "Gold Gourd Stone" comes from the shape of the nearby Keelung Mountain, which resembled a Pumpkin "Nánguā 南瓜" to early settlers, and the fact that early gold miners found lots of little gold seams resembling small gourds.
After Taiwan was colonized by the Japanese in 1895, the Japanese quickly took control of the mines at Jinguashi, banning locals from owning mining rights. They quickly found many more copper and gold seams, and Jinguashi became the number one gold mine in the Japanese empire.
During WWI, the mine came upon difficult times, and mining rights were passed to what is now Japan Energy, who built the 13 level complex that sits abandoned today. By 1938 it had become the most profitable gold mine in Asia, and population grew to over 80,000.
During WWII, the mining operations switched from gold to copper, and the area was used as a POW camp.
After the ROC took Taiwan, the mines were used mainly for copper, as the cost of refining gold was too high. The Chalet built for the crown prince of Japan at Jinguashi was later used by Chiang Kai-shek. After worldwide copper prices collapsed in the 1980s, the mine shut down for good in 1987. After that, people moved out of the town, and Jinguashi has a population of just about 2,000 people.
Later mining initiatives have been met with strong criticism from environmentalists.
In 2004, the New Taipei City Gold Mine Museum was completed, using several abandoned mining sites near Jinguashi, making it a popular tourist attraction in the area.
Gold Mine Museum Hours:
9:30 AM to 5 PM, closed Mondays
Gold Mine Museum Price:
80 NT per person (Free for New Taipei Residents)
How to get There:
By Train: Take TRA to Ruifang Station, then transfer to Keelung Bus which goes directly to Jinguashi every few minutes (about a 15 minute ride from Ruifang).
By Bus: Buses directly to Jinguashi leave from Taipei Main Station, Taipei City Hall, and Songshan Station regularly via Keelung Bus.
By Car/Scooter: Take provincial highway 2 to Ruifang and then travel on highway 102 all the way up to Jiufen, then go over the mountain and keep going down to Jinguashi. Parking is scarce, and if you drive a car you need to park at the bottom of the hill and take the bus up to the gold mine museum. There is free scooter parking at the entrance.
You can book a tour with My Taiwan Tour here.
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Hinoki Village (aka Cypress Forest Life Village 檜意森活村 Guìyì sēnhuó cūn) is the largest group of Japaneses era buildings in Taiwan, with over 30 restored era wooden structures. Located in Chiayi City, it is a remnant of the logging industry that existed in Chiayi during the Japanese era. As one of the best preserved historical sites in Taiwan, it is definitely worth a stop on your trip to Chiayi.
Hinoki Village dates back to 1914 when the Japanese built the Alishan Forest Railway for exploitation of lumber in the mountains of Chiayi. The village acted as a residential area for loggers, lumber industry management, and dependents.
The village included a building for top management, two buildings for management dependents, another four dormitories for dependents, a dormitory for single workers, a public bath house, and a hostel.
After WWII, it became a residential area for the ROC's forestry bureau and their dependents. In 2005, many buildings were listed as historical buildings under protection. In 2009, the area was planned as one of Taiwan's six major city renovation projects. It took NT 400 million dollars and 4 years to complete. The renovation of the village was completed in 2013 and is now operated by the public.
The village now contains 21 bookstores, restaurants, coffee and tea shops, and a farmers market.
10 AM to 6 PM
How to get there:
By Train/Bus: The village is a short walk across the street from Chiayi Beimen (North Gate) Station.
By Car/Scooter: From Chiayi Station, turn north on County road 159 until you reach Beimen Station. The village is across the street from Beimen Station. There is free and paid parking on the street nearby.
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling 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.