Travel in Taiwan (No.53, 2012 9/10)

Page 1

No. 53, 2012

9 10 /


Rugged and Remote Islands BEST BIKE ROUTES

Riding with the Wind in Penghu


Bird Watching in Matsu


The Bananas of Qishan

Taiwan Designers’ Week Golden Horse Film Festival Foot Massage San-He Tile Kiln

The Official Bimonthly English Magazine of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. Advertisement Website: ht tp: //t aiwan. net .t w

Welcome to Taiwan! Dear Traveler, The edge is off the heat as summer heads out Taiwan’s back door, and autumn walks in the front with a cool and brisk hello. Taiwan travel has once again slowed down and become quieter with all our young folk back in school, heads buried in books, even on weekends. Our Feature this issue spotlights a place that is always among Taiwan’s quietest, the Matsu Islands, far to the northwest of mainland Taiwan and just off the coast of mainland China. They’re small, hilly, and starkly beautif ul, with strong f ishing traditions, food and stone architecture that is very different, and a strong military presence, with many tunnels, strongholds, and other facilities now tourist sites. We also give you guidance on where to stay, what to eat, and what to buy, and in our Natural Treasures f ile we tell you about the splendid birdwatching opportunities there. Taiwan is home to numerous other offshore islands, many now tourist attractions, and in our Scener y section we highlight those we consider the f ive most attractive. We stay in one group, the Penghu Islands, in our Best Bike Routes article, to tell you about the pleasant biking there along scenic, easy-grade routes. Back on Taiwan proper, it’s off to the deep south, to Greater Kaohsiung, to visit the San-He Tile Kiln, where tours are given on traditional tile/brick-making and you can also make your own and/or buy unique memento items made on-site. We also take you to the city’s Qishan District, famed for banana cultivation, introducing attractions where you learn all about the industry and other spots that f ill in the rest of the rich Qishan story. We also spent a good deal of time in north Taiwan. We raise the curtain on the Golden Horse Film Festival, an annual celebration of the best talent f rom around the region and around the globe, the awards ceremony being staged in Yilan County this year. We introduce Taiwan Designers’ Week, a major showcase of Taiwan’s cutting-edge design talent held annually in Taipei. And we give you a chance to rest with an article recommending a number of Taipei foot-massage parlors; foot massage is a favorite Taiwan experience with international visitors. Time now to put your travel shoes on – Taiwan is waiting for you.

David W. J. Hsieh Director General Tourism Bureau, MOTC, R.O.C.


September ~ October 2012

30 28

8 ,

PUBLISHER David W. J. Hsieh Editing Consultant

Producer Vision Int l Publ. Co., Ltd. Address Rm. 5, 10F, 2 Fuxing N. Rd., Taipei, 104 Taiwan

Wayne Hsi-Lin Liu

TEL: 886-2-2711-5403 Fax: 886-2-2721-2790 E-MAIL: endy L. C. Yen General Manager W rank K. Yen Deputy General Manager F Editor in Chief Johannes Twellmann English Editors Rick Charette, Richard Saunders DIRECTOR OF PLANNING & EDITING DEPT Joe Lee MANAGING EDITOR Sunny Su EDITORS Ming-Jing Yin, Vivian Liu, Gemma Cheng, April Su CONTRIBUTORS R ick Charette, Owain Mckimm, Mark Caltonhill, Joe Henley, Steven Crook PHOTOGRAPHERS Jen Guo-Chen, Sunny Su, Maggie Song, Ivy Chen ART DIRECTOR Sting Chen DESIGNERS Ivy Chen, Maggie Song, Eve Chiang, Kirk Cheng ui-chun Tsai, Nai-jen Liu, Xiou Mieng Jiang Administrative Dept H 86-2-2721-5412 Advertising Hotline 8

Publishing Organization

Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Transportation and Communications CONTACT

International Division, Taiwan Tourism Bureau Add: 9F, 290 Zhongxiao E. Rd., Sec. 4, Taipei, 10694, Taiwan Tel: 886-2-2717-3737 Fax: 886-2-2771-7036 E-mail: Website:

台 灣 觀 光 雙 月 刊 Travel in Taiwan Bimonthly September/October, 2012 Tourism Bureau, MOTC First published in Jan./Feb., 2004 ISSN: 18177964 GPN: 2009305475 Price: NT$200 Copyright © 2012 Tourism Bureau. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form without written permission is prohibited.


1. Wu-Nan Culture Plaza, 6, Zhongshan Rd., Central Dist., Taichung City 40043 886-4-2226-0330 2. N ational Bookstore, 1F., No.209, Songjiang Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei City 10485 886-2-2518-0207

Where you can pick up a copy of Travel in Taiwan Abroad

Offices of the Tourism Bureau in Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Frankfurt; Taiwan Representative Offices; Overseas Offices of the Ministry of Economic Affairs; Overseas Offices of the Central News Agency; onboard China Airlines, EVA Air and other selected international airways; selected travel agencies in Asia, North America, and Europe; and other organizations


Read the online version of Travel in Taiwan at . Log in and search for "Travel in Taiwan." Or visit vision/index.htm

Taking in the sunset at Qinbi Village on Matsu's Beigan Island.

In Taiwan

(Photo by Jen Guo-Chen)

Tourism Bureau Visitor Center; Tourism Bureau; Taiwan Visitors Association; foreign representative offices in Taiwan, Tourism Bureau service counters at Taiwan Taoyuan Int’l Airport and Kaohsiung Int’l Airport, major tourist hotels; Taipei World Trade Center; VIP lounges of international airlines; major tourist spots in Taipei; visitor centers of cities and counties around Taiwan; offices of national scenic area administrations; public libraries

This magazine is printed on FSC certified paper. Any product with the FSC logo on it comes from a forest that has been responsibly maintained and harvested in a sustainable manner.

50 22 26 FEATURE


8 Matsu

— Main Where Taiwan Is Not Quite Itself – The Remote, Rugged, and Very Different Matsu Islands — Stay Matsu’s Stone House Homestays – A Little Bit of Provence Off the China Coast — Eat Long-Time Favorite Local Eateries – The Unique Flavors of a Remote Island Group — Buy How to Fit Matsu into Your Luggage – Suggestions for Picking Up Local Specialties

18 Scenery

— Taiwan’s Offshore Islands – Quick Getaways to Different Worlds

1 Publisher’s Note 35 What Is This? 4 News & Events around Taiwan 40 Festivals and Events 6 Concerts, Exhibitions, and Happenings



— Mother Nature’s Fauna Gifts to the Islands

… It’s for the Birds

26 Banana Kingdom

— Visiting Kaohsiung’s Qishan District

The Yami Tribe — Life on Orchid Island,

Where Yesterday Is Still Present

— The Most Important Annual Event for Taiwan’s Film Industry



— Foot Massage in Taiwan



Reinventing Taiwanese Design — Learning about the Latest Trends at Taiwan Designers’ Week


Taipei, So “Re-nao”! — Rush Hour in the Big City Makes Your Head Spin


Golden Horse Film Festival


Flying on the Wind — Exploring Penghu by Bicycle


Fire and Art — San-He Tile Kiln in Kaohsiung


Travel in Taiwan


The Okura Prestige Taipei

Located on one of Taipei’s most important thoroughfares, Nanjing E. Road, and close to popular shopping and entertainment districts, The Okura Prestige Taipei is a new choice for travelers who want to stay in a luxurious and stylish environment. The hotel is a member of the Japanese hotel chain Okura Hotels & Resorts. It features 208 spacious guestrooms and presents guests with the most modern facilities, including a state-of-the-art fitness gym, a heated rooftop swimming pool, and a massage room and sauna. As for dining options, The Okura offers a Japanese restaurant, Yamazato, and a Cantonese restaurant, Toh-Ka-Lin, serving up the best of Japanese and Cantonese cuisine, respectively. More info about the hotel can be found at

E WS & EVEN TS A ROU N D TA I WA N Cuisine Airlines

Taiwan among the World’s Most Popular Culinary Destinations

According to a survey conducted by the worldwide room-reservation service website, Taiwan is the world’s 9th most popular travel destination when it comes to food and fine cuisine. Italy, France, and Japan took the first three places in the survey, with 7,000 people casting votes. The survey also revealed that most Taiwanese think that Taipei is the best place to experience local cuisine. The three specialties recommended most often by respondents from Taiwan were bubble tea (named by 58%), stinky tofu (43%), and deep-fried chicken (39%). Other must-try eats named included oyster omelets, pork gravy rice, and little steamed dumplings.

Travel Info

New Travel App Issued by Tourism Bureau

A new application, named “Tour Taiwan,” offers smartphone users a helpful tour guide with a wealth of travel information. The app is available in English and Chinese and can be downloaded from online app stores or via the Taiwan Tourism Bureau website ( You will find information about many places of interest, accommodation ranging from luxury five-star hotels to affordable homestays (B&Bs), dining options, the location of visitor centers, transportation choices, and much more.




Nantou’s Sky Bridge

Taiwan Times Village

Nantou in central Taiwan, the only county on the island with no access to the sea, is characterized by mountainous terrain. The county has many scenic tourist attractions, among them a newly built “sky bridge.” This 204-meter-long bridge, suspended 70 meters above a valley, is located in the Houtanjing Scenic Area, part of the Baguashan Mountain Range on the border of Nantou and Changhua counties. There is a limit for people allowed on the bridge (150), and visitors must buy a ticket (NT$50 for adults). From the bridge you’ll have great views of the surrounding mountains and the Changhua plains. For more info on Nantou County, visit english.

If you have fallen in love with Taiwanese specialty foods, or intend to do so, this place will be to your liking. Taiwan Times Village (, located in central Taiwan’s Caotun Township, presents you with the best of traditional Taiwan fare in a nostalgic setting. The “village,” located inside a large hall, features replicas of shops and eateries from yesteryear and has a great collection of things that older Taiwanese will know from their childhood. Browse through the old shops, check out a replica of Jiji Railway Station and, most importantly, sample all the delicious foods offered at snack-food stalls and shops to get a feel what Taiwan was like a few decades ago.

Travel in Taiwan


Bus Tours

Taiwan Excellence Pavilion and Franz Café

Extension of Tourist Shuttle Route in Lugang

The next time you visit the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, take a look at the south wing of the iconic museum building and you’ll see a new, modern-design annex. This is the Taiwan Excellence Pavilion, a showcase for outstanding Made in Taiwan (“MIT”) products. Inside the pavilion the research, design, and marketing behind the most innovative products from Taiwan's leading brands are explored, and the pavilion itself is a showcase of eco-friendly building methods, featuring expansive glass walls that allow natural light to stream into every corner. At the far end of the exhibition hall you can sit down and sip a cup of coffee or tea, and marvel at the fine porcelain works of the award-winning Taiwan brand Franz. If you opt for a cup of tea, the café staff will even invite you to drink from one of the beautifully crafted cups seen on one of the display shelves.

The Taiwan Tourist Shuttle service ( is one of the most convenient travel options for self-help travelers wishing to explore all the good places Taiwan has to offer. The town of Lugang, located in central Taiwan’s Changhua County, is one of those places, attracting visitors with old temples and ancient crafts. From Taichung’s High Speed Rail (HSR) station at Wuri, for some time travelers have been able to catch a Tourist Shuttle bus to Lugang via Changhua City. You are now able to go even further and explore more of Changhua, because an extension of the existing route has recently been established. From Lugang, the extension (service three times daily on weekends and twice on weekdays) brings you to Changhua’s coastal region, where you can get off at the Brand’s Health Museum ( tw/museum/index.html), Taiwan Glass Gallery (www.timingjump., and Wanggong Oyster Art Museum (, all interesting sights representing local industries.


Yushan Inn

There is no lack of special-theme homestays (B&Bs) in Taiwan these days, and new proprietors are constantly introducing new and fresh accommodation-space designs to attract guests, but this homestay is worth mentioning. Yushan Inn, in the southern Taiwan city of Chiayi, has been around for 60 years. In its early days it served as a rest stop for travelers on the way to Alishan, and for a time it was a seedy winehouse before being closed down. The inn has now been brought back to life, lovingly restored and decorated with paraphernalia from the 1930s and ’40s, and is a great and (at NT$300 a night) cheap place to stay or enjoy a cup of coffee. Yushan Inn (玉山旅社) Add: 410, Gonghe Rd., Chiayi City (嘉義市共和路 410 號)/Tel: (05) 276-3269

WHAT IS THIS? It is a strange sight indeed. What can it be? A mysterious structure made by aliens? A man-made monument of love? A work of art? Here’s a tip: It is not just beautiful, but also serves a practical purpose related to food. Find the answer on page 35.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK! We, the producers of Travel in Taiwan , wish to improve our magazine with each issue and give you the best possible help when planning – or carrying out – your next trip to Taiwan. Tell us what you think by filling out our short online questionnaire at www. . Senders of the first 10 completed questionnaires for each issue will receive three free issues of Travel in Taiwan . Thank you in advance for your feedback.


Travel in Taiwan

August 24 ~ September 8

2012 Dancing in Autumn 2012舞蹈秋天

oncerts, s, n o i t i b i h x E a nd s g n i n e p p a H Taiwan has a diverse cultural scene, with art venues ranging from international-caliber concert halls and theaters to makeshift stages on temple plazas. Among Taiwan’s museums is the world-famous National Palace Museum as well as many smaller museums dedicated to different art forms and aspects of Taiwanese culture. Here is a brief selection of upcoming happenings. For more information, please visit the websites of the listed venues. July 17 ~ January 16 National Palace Museum

Painting Anime “Imitating Zhao Bosu's Illustration of the Latter Red Cliff” 古畫動漫 明文徵明仿趙伯驌後赤壁圖 In 2011 the National Palace Museum initiated the project Painting Anime, comprising six series of high-resolution long-scroll painting animations. Making use of the latest in technology, four high-resolution 1080 HD projectors seamlessly unfold long-scroll paintings on a lighted wall to present the scenery depicted in classic Chinese paintings. Six famous paintings have been reproduced in this way to date: Up the River During Qingming (by Qing court artists), Spring Morning in the Han Palace (by Qiu Ying), Imitating Zhao Bosu's Illustration of the Latter Red Cliff (by Wen Zhengming), Syzygy of the Sun, Moon, and the Five Planets (by Xu Yang), Departure Herald (anonymous), Return Clearing (anonymous), and Activities of the Twelve Months (by Qing Dynasty court artists). These six animations faithfully present the true spirit of the original paintings, and their most attractive segments.


Travel in Taiwan

Dancing in Autumn is a dance-series program staged every other year by the National Theater. It features dance companies from around the world, in addition to Taiwan. Among the troupes and individual talents invited this year are Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, Aterballetto - Fondazione Nazionale della Danza from Italy, French artist Christian Rizzo, and Taiwanese artists Huang Yi and Su Wen-chi.

September 13 ~ 16, 18 ~ 22

National Theater

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre: Nine Songs 雲門舞集: 九歌 Choreographer Lin Hwai-min’s Nine Songs premiered at the National Theater in 1993, and has since become a central work of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s repertoire. It was praised by the New York Times as an “elegantly picturesque marvel.” In the performance, dance is combined with the work of famed calligrapher Dong Yang-zi, and the stage features an image of Lin Yu-shan’s famous painting The Lotus. This restaging of the work is the 2000th performance by Cloud Gate.

November 23 ~ 25

National Theater

Aterballetto - Fondazione Nazionale della Danza: Les Noces & Rossini Cards 艾德現代芭蕾舞團: 婚禮、戀戀羅西尼 Based in northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, the Aterballetto Fondazione Nazionale della Danza is known in Italy and abroad for its significant dance projects, including professional training courses for young dancers and teachers, ballet performances, and a variety of projects promoting wider public awareness of, and interest in, the world of dance. This time the company will perform Igor Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Gioachino Rossini’s Rossini Cards, the troupe’s strong and passionate Italian styling sure to bring about a new experience for dance lovers in Taiwan.

September 22

Taipei Show Hall 2

Sport_B. Plugged – Keane 基音樂團2012台北演唱會 British alternative rock band Keane was formed in 1997 and achieved mainstream success in 2004 with its debut album Hopes and Fears. The group has recorded three more successful albums since then, and has won numerous music awards. The use of a piano as lead instrument, instead of guitars, differentiates Keane from most other rock bands, leading to renown as “the band with no guitars.” Keane will be on tour in Asia this fall, with concerts scheduled for Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Manila, and Bangkok.

September 13 ~ October 21

Novel Hall

Asia and New Look 亞太新勢力 After a renovation project that lasted eight months, Novel Hall, one of Taipei’s premier venues for stage performances, will open its doors again in September. To celebrate the occasion, four dance companies from Asia and New Zealand have been invited to perform. Company Ea Sola from Vietnam, featuring female dancers aged 55 to 70, starts with Drought and Rain, set to traditional Vietnamese music performed live on stage. Tao Dance Theater then presents the two works Weight x 3 and 4,dance performances with a heavy dose of Zen meaning. Mau Dance from New Zealand follows with Birds with Skymirrors, a dance meditation on the relationship between man and planet Earth. Finally, EDx2 Dance Company from Korea stages Modern Feeling and What We’ve Lost, the first performance exploring the relationship between two dancers in humorous ways.

Venues Taipei Taipei Zhongshan Hall (台北中山堂)

Add: 98, Yanping S. Rd., Taipei City ( 台北市延平南 路 9 8 號 )

Tel: (02) 2381-3137 Nearest MRT Station: Ximen

Taipei International Convention Center (台北國際會議中心)

Add: 1, Xinyi Rd., Sec.5, Taipei City ( 台北市信義 路五段 1 號 )

Tel: (02) 2725-5200, ext. 3517, 3518 Nearest MRT Station: Taipei City Hall

Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts

Window to the East: John Thomson – The Journey to Formosa, China and Southeast Asia 1865 ~1871 約翰湯姆生-世紀影像特展 In 1871, Scottish photographer John Thomson traveled to Taiwan and captured images of the port at Ta-kow (Takao/ Dagou, now Kaohsiung), creating an early photographic record of today’s sprawling city. This exhibition displays a total of 250 photographs made by Thomson on his travels through Formosa, China, and Southeast Asia. Visitors can travel back in time and experience the unique cultural and social facets of Asia almost 150 years ago. The works reflect Thomson’s unique viewpoints and emotional responses as he first encountered the exotic cultures of the Orient.

Add: 181 Zhongshan N. Rd., Sec. 3, Taipei City ( 台北市中山北 路 3 段 181 號 )

Tel: (02) 2595-7656 Nearest MRT Station: Yuanshan

Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei(台北當代藝術館) Add: 39 Chang-an W. Rd., Taipei City ( 台北市長 安 西 路 3 9 號 )

Tel: (02) 2552-3720 Nearest MRT Station: Zhongshan

National Taiwan Science Education Center(台灣科學教育館)

National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall(國立中正紀念堂)

Add: 189 Shishang Rd., Taipei City

Add: 21 Zhongshan S. Rd., Taipei City

Tel: (02) 6610-1234 Nearest MRT Station: Shilin

( 台北市中山南 路 21 號 )

Tel: (02) 2343-1100~3 Nearest MRT Station: CKS Memorial Hall

( 台北市士商路 189 號 )

TWTC Nangang Exhibiton Hall (台北世貿中心南港展覽館)

National Concert Hall(國家音樂聽) National Theater(國家戲劇院)

Add: 1, Jingmao 2nd Rd., Taipei City

Add: 21-1 Zhongshan S. Rd., Taipei City

Tel: (02) 2725-5200 Nearest MRT Station: Nangang Exhibition Hall

( 台北市中山南 路 21-1 號 )

( 台北市經貿二路 1 號 )

Tel: (02) 3393-9888 Nearest MRT Station: CKS Memorial Hall

Metropolitan Hall(城市舞台)

National Museum of History

Tel: (02) 2577-5931 Nearest MRT Station: Nanjing E. Rd.


National Concert Hall June 25 ~ October 28

Taipei Fine Arts Museum (台北市立美術館)

Add: 49 Nanhai Rd., Taipei City ( 台北市 南 海路 4 9 號 )

Tel: (02) 2361-0270 Nearest MRT Station: CKS Memorial Hall

National Palace Museum

Add: 25, Sec. 3, Bade Rd., Taipei City ( 台北市八德路 3 段 25 號 )

Taipei Show Hall 2(台北展演二館) Add: 3, Songlian Road, Taipei City, ( 台北市松廉路三號 )

Tel: (02) 2362-5221 Nearest MRT Station: Taipei City Hall


Add: 221 Zhishan Rd., Sec. 2, Taipei City ( 台北市至 善路 2 段 2 21 號 )

Tel: (02) 2881-2021 Nearest MRT Station: Shilin

National Taiwan Museum (國立臺灣博物館)

Add: 2 Xiangyang Rd., Taipei City ( 台北市 襄 陽 路二號 )

Tel: (02) 2382-2566 Nearest MRT Station: NTU Hospital

Taichung National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts(國立台灣美術館) Add: 2 Wuquan W. Rd., Sec. 1, Taichung City ( 台中市五權 西 路 一段 2 號 )

Tel: (04) 2372-3552

Tainan Tainan City Cultural Center (台南市立文化中心)

Novel Hall(新舞臺)

Add: 332 Zhonghua E. Rd., Sec. 3, Tainan City

Add: 3 Songshou Rd., Taipei City

Tel: (06) 269-2864

( 台北市松 壽路 3 號 )

Tel: (02) 2722-4302 Nearest MRT Station: Taipei City Hall

National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (國立國父紀念館)

Add: 505 Ren-ai Rd., Sec. 4, Taipei City ( 台北市仁 愛 路 四 段 5 0 5 號 )

Tel: (02) 2758-8008 Nearest MRT Station: Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

Taipei Arena(台北小巨蛋) Add: 2 Nanjing E. Rd., Sec. 4, Taipei City

( 台南 市中華東 路 3 段 332 號 )

Kaohsiung Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts(高雄市立美術館) Add: 80 Meishuguan Rd., Kaohsiung City ( 高 雄 市美 術館 路 8 0 號 )

Tel: (07) 555-0331 Nearest KMRT Station: Aozihdi Station

Kaohsiung Museum of History (高雄市立歷史博物館)

Add: 272 Zhongzheng 4th Rd., Kaohsiung City

( 台北市 南 京 東 路 4 段 2 號 )

( 高 雄 市中正四 路 27 2 號 )

Tel: (02) 2577-3500 Nearest MRT Station: Nanjing E. Rd.

Tel: (07) 531-2560 Nearest KMRT Station: City Council


Travel in Taiwan


Where Taiwan Is

Not Quite Itself


Travel in Taiwan



Riddle: What’s the farthest away you can get from Taiwan while still in Taiwan? Answer: sdnalsI ustaM (hold up to mirror)

Photo/ Jen Guo-Chen

By Rick Charette

Sunset at Qinbi V illage


Travel in Taiwan


Qiaozi V illage on Beigan Island Beach b efore Baxian Caves

Your Matsu impressions will be about the ubiquitous militar y forti fications, dramatic seascapes, unique architecture and food, island-hopping, and birds answer, yes, is the Matsu Islands. “Taiwan” is of course the name of a great big island, but in the modern political sense “Taiwan” is also a collection of this great big island and scores of smaller ones. Among the latter, two – Kinmen and Matsu – are archipelagoes so close to mainland China you can see the red stars on People’s Liberation Army caps on the opposite side.

Well, maybe only with a telescope, but you get the point. Pretty darn close. Locals will tell you that over the years, soldiers from one side would swim over to the other to carry out nighttime attacks – though over the past two-plus decades things have quieted down markedly and front-line troop numbers have dramatically dropped. Kinmen is across from southern Fujian Province, where the ancestors of most of Taiwan’s people came from. Taiwan proper is far behind, across the Taiwan Strait. Matsu is far to the north, Taiwan’s northernmost possession, across from a northern Fujian area called east Fujian in recognition of its distinctive dialect and cultural traditions. This is where the ancestors of Matsu’s permanent population came from. So you see how a Matsu visit takes you as far away from Taiwan as possible physically – and culturally – while still standing on Taiwan soil.

I had

the great fortune to visit the Matsu islands for a second time just recently, with a Travel in Taiwan team. My f irst trip was 10 years ago. Military control of Matsu was lif ted in 1992 (martial law was in effect in Taiwan f rom the late 1940s until 1987), the Matsu National Scenic Area was off icially launched in 1999, and since my last visit there has been striking


Travel in Taiwan

progress in the tourism facilities and the overall tourist experience. You’ll f ind your key Matsu impressions will be about the ubiquitous military fortif ications (many now tourist sites), dramatic seascapes, unique architecture and food, island-hopping, and birds, birds, birds. We savor the food in our accompanying “Eat” and “Buy” articles, and get busy with binoculars in a special birding piece.

All Aboard! Most visitors explore Beigan and Nangan, the two main islands, whose shapes give them a map appearance resembling two oracle blocks cast upon the sea. If time allows, many take in remote Dongyin, the northernmost island, which offers Matsu’s most spectacular seascapes. It’s about two hours from Nangan by ferry. (In an informal poll during this visit among Matsu National Scenic Area personnel, Dongyin was the almost universal favorite.) Inter-island travel is by ferry; there’s also a helicopter service. The quintessential Matsu travel experience includes an overnight Tai-Ma Ferry ride from Keelung, north of Taipei, to Dongyin and Nangan. The trip takes about 10 hours, arrival at the second port about 8 am. It’s eye-opening, and quite f un. You’re accompanied by hundreds – conscript soldiers, Matsu locals, tourists. The Keelung Harbor exit is thrilling, famous mountainside Jiufen town twinkling far off, f ishing boats with lights ablaze gliding by, the galaxy of stars and shooting stars wonderf ul. On-board amenities are basic; most bring their own munchies. (Note: I f lew back to Taipei both trips, just 50 minutes.)

Photos/ Jen Guo-Chen, Twelli




Culture Matsu is a better showcase of traditional eastern Fu jian culture than east Fu jian itself is, where the infamous attacks on all “feudal olds” during Mao Zedong’s reign created turmoil and destruction.

Stone Houses

most visually distinctive cultural expression is the stone houses. Four old villages are now protected, and stone houses are ubiquitous elsewhere. Beigan’s Qinbi and Nangan’s Niu jiao are the most popular stone-house villages. Snuggled up between beach and mountain, Qinbi reminds you of old tiered, hill-clinging European villages by the Mediterranean. The granite blocks used in walls have rough, curved surfaces; those used in traditional southern Fu jianese architecture are cut f lat. The red-tiled roofs are covered with large rocks for protection f rom the big, booming winds that of ten come howling in, holding the tiles down. The houses are said to “breathe,” for no mortar is used to fasten the tiles, facilitating ventilation. This also enables easy roof repair. There are no overhanging eaves, avoiding upward wind pressure on roofs.

Matsu of fers p eace and quiet

T ianhou Temple close to Banli Beach

Locals say Qinbi houses are particularly well-built because this was once a pirate village, among the islands’ wealthiest. You’ll notice blocks in two shades, yellow and blue. The yellow is from Matsu, blue from mainland China; as a rough rule, blue meant you were more prosperous. As elsewhere, most structures are two-storied, the second f loor providing views, allowing breeze access, and bringing relief from the damp at ground level. Interior walls and beams are of wood. Windows tend to be small and higher up, for defense against attack. You’ll see bright-blue strips high up on what are called “f ire-sealing walls.” The blue symbolizes water, dousing wannabe f ires. Some are also topped with exaggerated vertical eaves that help block sparks f rom nearby f ires.

Temples and Religion


folk have traditionally been seafaring people. Mazu, Goddess of the Sea, is unsurprisingly very popular, as is a deity not known so well elsewhere in Taiwan, the White Horse God, who also protects ocean sojourners.

The harborf ront Magang Mazu Temple is Matsu’s key place of worship. The goddess was born human over 1,000 years ago on the island of Meizhou to the north. She performed many miracles, and according to local Matsu Islands lore, her body f loated into this harbor af ter famously saving her f isherman father f rom drowning – all this, though

Statue of Mazu

very real, happening in the girl’s f itf ul dreams while she lay at home sleeping. Matsu folk sent her body home, but buried her sacred garments here and, later, built this temple. You’ll notice the bright-orange walls on many local temples. These are a f ire-sealing wall variation. The color symbolizes f lames. Since the temples are already on f ire, why would real f ire need to visit?


Travel in Taiwan


Iron For t

Military Facilities When the ROC military was pushed off the China mainland in the late 1940s, units dug in – literally – on many islands just off the coast. Matsu and Kinmen are those still held. You’ll see cliff-side pillboxes, strongholds, and other facilities everywhere, many now abandoned, many now tourist sites. Matsu, it’s said, has the world’s highest density of military tunnels and strongholds.

Iron For t


Beihai Tunnel on Nangan is an extraordinary tunnel complex, a hidden port hewn f rom solid granite, hacked out by conscripts in the 1960s armed with not much more than picks and tremendous willpower. Many forfeited their lives in the effort. Gouged out of a mountainside, it f it 120 smaller-sized vessels. The Andong Tunnel on Dongyin and Wusha Beihai Tunnel on Beigan also engender powerf ul emotions. The gates at the latter are gone, and the sea comes pounding in at both ends. Yes, it’s perfectly safe. Wusha Beihai Tunnel

Military Tunnels

Iron Fort


to Nangan’s Beihai Tunnel, the Iron Fort is both on and in a rocky outcrop in a small bay. It once protected f rogmen units. Narrow tunnels within lead to sniper slots, gun emplacements, sleeping quarters, and a kitchen. Outside, note the dog kennels. When tensions were high, PRC f rogmen units staged night attacks, poisoning the guard dogs and taking human ears as trophies and proof of success. Many died this way over the years, here and elsewhere in Matsu.

Monument close to entrance of Beihai Tunnel


Travel in Taiwan

Photos/ Jen Guo-Chen, Twelli

K ayak ing in Beihai Tunnel


On a terrace at Qinbi V illage

Seascapes and Trails The Matsu Islands are just tiny little specks in the ocean, small granite outcrops. The stark beauty of these sharp-cut rock-hills bursting skyward f rom the ocean’s depths is of ten breathtaking. The National Scenic Area administration has been systematically developing a network of inviting walking trails, most following old inter-village routes over mountain or high up on coast-side slopes, generally well-shaded. On my recent trip I was Luoshan Nature Trail especially taken w ith the Luoshan Nature Trail, which doesn’t f it the inter-village mold. In the area behind Beigan Airport, it starts on a small mountain and ends far down on a narrow bare-rock promontor y, ocean pounding rock below your feet on both sides. This is an old dead-end trail used by local oyster gatherers and f ishermen. Along the way, visit abandoned Stronghold No. 12 and the attractive War and Peace Memorial Park Exhibition Center (good English), w ith informative displays on Matsu’s modern militar y histor y.

Matsu National Scenic Area On the website of the Matsu National Scenic Area, at www.mat su-nsa. gov.t w (Chinese/Engl ish/Japanese versions) you’ ll f ind a w ide range of information you’ ll need for v isiting the islands, including detail on f l ights to/f rom Ta iwan proper, f er r y ser v ice to/f rom Keelung, accommodations, taxi/van/scooter rental, v isitor centers, and more. On all ma jor islands (Nangan, Beigan, Dongy in, and Dong ju) there are visitor centers run by the National Scenic Area administration, where f riendly staf f w ill prov ide you w ith travel information in print and mult imedia form. Travel informat ion is also prov ided at the ferr y terminal at Nangan’s Fu’ao Harbor.


安東坑道 Andong Tunnel 北竿 Beigan 北海坑道 Beihai Tunnel 壁山 Bishan 東引 Dongyin 鐵堡 Iron Fort 九份 Jiufen 基隆 Keelung 金門 Kinmen 螺山步道 Luoshan Nature Trail Magang Mazu Temple 馬港天后宮

馬祖 Matsu (the islands) 媽祖 Mazu (the goddess) 湄洲 Meizhou 南竿 Nangan 牛角 Niujiao 芹壁聚落 Qinbi Village 臺馬輪 Tai-Ma Ferry 天后宮 Tianhou Temple War and Peace Memorial Park Exhibition Center 戰爭和平紀念公園主題館 Wusha Beihai Tunnel 午沙北海坑道


Chinb e No. 25 Guesthouse

A Little Bit of Provence Off the China Coast The surface look of an old Mediterranean village, the character of old East Fujian at the core. Inventive and inviting homestays are popping up in Matsu’s protected villages of old cut-stone dwellings. By Rick Charette you agree that when traveling it is always more interesting to stay in a place that is itself a work of living history? The traditional architecture of Matsu is unique in Taiwan, where the three-sided courtyardstyle residence traditional to south Fu jian in mainland China is the norm. In the past decade quality hotels have been opening on Matsu, but how in the world could you make the effort to travel to this lovely island group, with its unique socio-cultural background and its faraway feel, and not step back through Matsu time by staying at a place that is a protected heritage site? We give you three suggestions. Around Taiwan, you f ind l ittle clusters of people who’ve lef t the big cities in search of new, non-mainstream l ifestyles – opening artsy restaurants and cafés in farmquilted Yilan County, pretty homestays and arts & craf ts cafés along the laid-back east coast, and so on. Such folk are now cluster ing in Matsu as well, opening homestays


Travel in Taiwan

and cafés in the protected v illages. The owners I met on my recent tr ip were all f rom Taipei. Chinbe No. 25 Guesthouse is on the lowest tier of slopehugging Qinbi Village on Beigan Island, with an unfettered view of the beach below and mainland China beyond. It’s run by Sammi Chen, who lived here when a little girl. Her clan moved to Taipei when she was four, af ter Fu jian f ishermen had almost tapped out local stocks. There are three separate buildings, containing 18 guestrooms in total (rates start at NT$2,900; breakfast included). One was her grandma’s home, one her father’s, one the home of four male cousins. All the men were f ishermen. Sammi didn’t like family vacations here – walls would be crumbling, roofs leaking, the almost completely abandoned town was “spooky” at night, and there were soldiers everywhere. Look at the cliffs on either side of the beach and you’ll see they’re hived with abandoned pillboxes.

Photos/ Jen Guo-Chen, Sunny Su


STAY The three buildings have been systematically rebuilt, the walls torn down and reconstructed. Public sections are tiled; the café/restaurant f loor tile is originally f rom the roofs and smokehouse. The main building’s public area is f illed with antique f urnishings, but the guestrooms have been given a rustic-yet-modern revamp. Fuzhou f ir sourced f rom Fu jian is used extensively. There’s air-con, wall-mounted TVs, and bright, well-laid-out bathrooms with hot water instantly available, no phones in the guestrooms (but WiFi access). Light meals are provided at the café/restaurant (soothing, vista-rich alf resco dining!), including a traditional Matsu breakfast. Fu Ren Guesthouse is in Xiwei Village on Nangan Island. There is a quaint café on the f irst f loor, with outdoor seating. The rooms are on the second f loor, reached f rom within by a steep, narrow ladder. The wood-theme, stone-walled facility is rustic, and very simple. There are two dorm-style areas on either side of a common area (one person NT$700, two people

NT$600 each, 3 and above NT$500 each; breakfast included). Each dorm area sleeps eight, but if you book any number under eight – including just yourself – you get the section to yourself. You sleep on tatami mats, and the bathroom facilities are next door, i.e., down the ladder and out the door. Chinb e No. 25

Niu Lan Homestay, in protected Niu jiao Village, also on Nangan Island, is run by another Matsu returnee, Cao Erlan, who always seems to be smiling. He decided to come back af ter his kids lef t the family’s Taiwan nest. There are seven rooms (starting at NT$800 for one person, credit cards not accepted), in two buildings. In the larger, more modern two-f loor building, guests have a comfortable living room on each f loor. In the second building, of traditional cutstone, are three guestrooms and two shared bathrooms (with showers). The outdoor area has inviting patio tables, barbecue facilities, and a heart-warming temple and harbor view.


Sammi Chen 陳惠娟

Cao Er-lan 曹爾嵐

CHINBE NO. 25 GUESTHOUSE ( 芹壁村 25 號 )

Add : 25 , Qinbi Village, Beigan Township ( 北竿鄉芹壁村 25 號 ) Tel : 08365 - 56280 / 0975 - 421 - 178 Website : 25 Fu Ren Guesthouse ( 夫人民宿 ) Add : 40 - 1 , Siwei Village, Nangan Township ( 南竿鄉四維村 40 - 1 號 ) Tel : 0836 - 25138 / 0932 - 260514 Website : (Chinese)

Niu L an Homestay

Niu Lan Homestay ( 牛嵐民宿 ) Add : 124 , Niujiao Village, Nangan Township ( 南竿鄉牛角村 124 號 ) Tel : 0978 - 215 - 898 Website : (Chinese)



Fish noodle “A- Po”

iconic local restaurant that serves many Matsu specialties, open 36 years, is Da Zhong, in Matsu Village on a tourist-oriented street lined with eateries. The décor is simple – the food is king here, all else secondary. I recommend the hongzao f ried rice and the noodle soup f lavored with Matsu laojiu. I specially recommend the mussels; Matsu locals eat theirs cold, marinated in a highly seasoned rice-wine sauce af ter cooking. I extra-specially Fish noodle soup recommend the “Matsu hamburger,” a hearty, chew y treat that one f riend has noted could be a much-loved soul food in the southern U.S. You deep-f ry a charcoal-baked, sesamecovered, bagel-like Jiguang bun – another Matsu specialty – slice it open, and stuff it with a savory f illing of f ried egg, fat oysters, green onion, and other yummies. (I just made myself hungry typing this sentence out.)


The Unique Flavors of a Remote Island Group Matsu cuisine is delectably distinct from what you find on tables elsewhere in Taiwan. Eastern Fujianese culinary traditions are followed, not the southern Fujianese traditions followed “down south,” and the unique seafood catch of the islands is highlighted.

iconic eatery is A-Po’s Fish Noodle, in Tangqi Village, in the touristfocused district f ronting tiny Beigan Airport. “A-Po” means “granny.” Granny, in her 80s, still makes her sun-dried noodles by hand on-site, which you can watch. Matsu folk mix f ish paste right into the noodle dough, 60% Matsu eel or yellow croaker, 40% potato starch (not f lour). Buy her packaged noodles, or sit down for classic f ish noodles with wontons, seaweed, crab, and laojiu. I also much like the crispy deep-f ried noodles, light as potato chips. “Matsu hamburger ”

By Rick Charette


thing you’ll quickly notice is that hongzao, or red yeast, is a favorite seasoning. Hongzao is the dregs remaining f rom production of lao jiu, a rice-based liquor; private production remains common. Hongzao f ried pork and sea eel are my favorites, the red-yeast coating sealing the natural juices inside. A second thing you’ll notice is the distinctive local marine harvest: the thick sea eel mentioned, Buddha-hand clams, sea-helmet mollusks, razor clams, mussels, and even barnacles.


Travel in Taiwan


Jiguang bun

Deep -fried fish noodles


Add : 80 , Matsu Village, Nangan Township ( 南竿鄉馬祖村 80 號 ) Tel : 0836 - 22185 A-PO'S FISH NOODLE ( 阿婆魚麵 )

Add: 168, Tangqi Village, Beigan Township (北竿鄉塘岐村168號) Tel : 0836 - 56359


Suggestions for Picking Up Local Specialties If on the hunt for Matsu take-home purchases, you’ve no better choice than Tangqi Village close to Beigan Airport. By Rick Charette


streets before Beigan Airport have numerous touristoriented retail outlets, and the terminal is two minutes on foot from the district’s edge, so you can leave your shopping to the last minute and avoid having to lug purchases around the islands.

Start at small yet spacious Xie He Foods (Master Fa), which specializes in famous Matsu snacks, condiments/ seasonings, and alcohols. It makes many of these at its own facilities, and provides samples of the foods. Its best-selling items are turnip puffs, Matsu crunch, lotus crunch, and sweetpotato dumplings. The delicate, savory/ “Onl y in Matsu can you find sweet puffs, which contain white turnip, peanut, and honey plum, are such a delicious pastr y!” traditionally the f inal course at Matsu weddings and other special occasions. editions of Matsu’s iconic Tunnel 88 Kaoliang liquor, made Matsu crunch, all locals know, was so named in the early f rom sorghum, and Matsu Laojiu liquor, made f rom glutinous 1960s by late ROC president Chiang Ching-kuo when in Matsu rice. Of course, a visit to the Matsu Distillery and Tunnel 88, conducting military inspections. Trying one, he happily both tourist draws, is highly recommended. described the sensation, and as locals will tell you, exclaimed: “Only in Matsu can you f ind such a delicious pastry!” It’s Finally, don’t forget that the well-known A-Po's Fish made by frying a f lour-and-egg mix, adding barley malt Noodle shop is in Tangqi, and you can buy take-home syrup, and then pressing. packages (see our "Eat" article).

Photos/ Jen Guo-Chen

If while in Matsu you become another fan of the f ragrant red yeast widely used as a seasoning, buy a jar at Xie He for use in your own cooking. Another good idea is the robust rice vinegar, used by islanders both for cooking and as a medicinal ingredient. The attractive ceramic container is shaped like the traditional Matsu cut-stone houses, the spout serving as chimney.

A few

doors down is the much larger Matsu Specialty Center, which stocks goods of myriad kind, f loor to ceiling – everything f rom cute Dongyin lighthouse key rings to the standard and special-issue


Chiang Ching-kuo lotus crunch Matsu crunch Matsu Distillery Tunnel 88 Kaoliang liquor

蔣經國 蓮花酥 / 芙蓉酥 馬祖酥 馬祖酒廠 八八坑道高粱酒

XIE HE FOODS (MASTER FA) (協和食品行 [ 發師傅 ]) Add : 229 , Tangqi Village, Beigan Township ( 北竿鄉塘岐村 229 號 )

Tel : 0836 - 55236 / 0933 - 095 - 034 Website : www. 083655236 (Chinese)

MATSU SPECIALTY CENTER (台灣菸酒海產金銀買賣店 ) Add : 233 , Tangqi Village, Beigan Township ( 北竿鄉塘岐村 233 號 )

Tel : 0836 - 55412


Travel in Taiwan


Quick Getaways to Different Worlds

Historically, the word “Taiwan” meant a single island. Say “Taiwan” today and you are speaking of Taiwan proper as well as a great many smaller islands that are under Republic of China control. Many of these, including Matsu, this issue’s Feature subject, have become tourist destinations. By Rick Charette

A small archipelago that at its nearest point, Mashan Observation Station, is just 1,800 meters away f rom mainland China, the military has a strong presence here. The islands are quite f lat and bicycle-f riendly (most visitors stay on the two main islands), and the countryside is dotted with well-preserved imperial-era clan villages featuring distinctive southern Fu jianese architecture. The land has good tree cover, thanks to ma jor military reforestation efforts, and there are impressive military-related tourist sites, including large-scale underground facilities dug by hand f rom solid granite and facilities explaining Cold War-era military conf rontations here. Getting there: Regular f lights f rom Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, and Magong (Penghu). Also, ferr y f rom Xiamen in mainland China. More info about Kinmen at


Travel in Taiwan

Photos/ Vision Int'l



Penghu This sprawling archipelago of low-lying islands, situated in the middle of the temperamental Taiwan Strait, was a key crossroads in the days of sail, including for pirates. Locals describe Penghu as “pearls scattered on the turquoise sea.� There are many old villages and temples, and old fort ruins. Small farm plots are protected f rom winds by low coral walls. The main islands, connected by bridge, form a calm inland sea; scooter touring and sail sports are popular here. The archipelago is rocky, with volcanic basalt prominent and seascapes dramatic; boat tours to outlying islands are popular, as are night-time squid-f ishing outings. Getting there: Regular f lights f rom Taipei, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Kinmen. Regular ferries f rom Taichung, Chiayi, and Kaohsiung. More info about Penghu at


Travel in Taiwan


Green Island A volcanic island just 16 sq. km. lying, on a clear day, within view of mainland Taiwan off the southeast coast, the big draw here is nature’s beauties. A loop road follows the coast; tourists can ride the hop-on/hop-off tourist bus service, or rent a scooter/bicycle. A bicycle tour around the island takes a half-day or more. The dramatic coastline has strange rock formations, the bright-colored reefs bring many for snorkeling and diving, there are two good inland hiking trails, caves can be explored, notably Guanyin Cave, which has an underground waterway (and a shrine), and – the island’s claim to fame – the coast-side, tourist-f riendly Zhaori Hot Springs (“hot springs of the rising sun”) is one of only three saltwater hot springs in the world. A prime cultural attraction is a notorious complex for political prisoners that has been transformed into a human-rights park. Getting there: Regular f lights f rom Taitung City, and regular ferries f rom Fugang Fishing Harbor. More info about Green Island at


Travel in Taiwan

SCENERY Lanyu (Orchid Island) This scenic volcanic island, larger than Green Island to the north, lies 62 km off the Taiwan mainland. It is home to the Yami tribe, members of the great Austronesia diaspora, who form the majority of the 4,000-plus population. Their traditional culture is more intact than the cultures of Taiwan’s other tribes, the result of greater isolation and, overall, greater protection. A ring road takes you to the six villages – there’s limited bus service, plus scooter/bicycle rentals – where you’ll come across old-style semi-subterranean stone-and-wood dwellings (providing protection from heat and typhoons), carved oceangoing canoes made with not a single nail that are decorated with powerful symbols (they’re sacred, so don’t touch!), and, on occasion, men dressed in traditional loincloths, for comfort and convenience, while f ishing or at other tasks. Tourists also come for the snorkeling and diving. Getting there: Regular f lights f rom Taitung City, and regular ferries f rom Fugang Fishing Harbor. More info about Lanyu at (Chinese).

Special Mentions Little Liuqiu, off Taiwan’s southwest coast, attracts both day-trippers and overnighters. Just 6.8 sq. km., it’s made almost entirely of coral, and has wondrous, imaginatively named formations such as Wild Boar Ditch, Flower Vase Rock, etc. Black Ghost Cave was a key site in the Dutch East India Company extermination of the darkskinned local natives in the 1600s. Getting there: Regular ferries f rom Donggang Fishing Harbor, south of Kaohsiung City. More info about Little Liuqiu at .

Guishan (Turtle) Island is just off the Yilan County coast. A small volcanic outcrop that indeed resembles a giant turtle, it is today uninhabited. Now a nature park, visit the ruins of a century-old f ishing village evacuated in 1977, inspect abandoned military facilities, and hike to the main summit. Getting there: Regular tour-yacht outings f rom north Yilan County ’s Wushi Fishing Harbor. More info about Turtle Island at /turtle (Chinese).

A closing note: A good indicator of the quality of the visitor’s experience on Taiwan’s outlying islands is the fact that Matsu and all the islands named here are given coveted star ratings in the Michelin Green Guide: Taiwan.


Black Ghost Cave Donggang Fishing Harbor Flower Vase Rock Fugang Fishing Harbor Green Island Guanyin Cave Guishan Island Kinmen Lanyu Little Liuqiu Mashan Observation Station Penghu Wushi Fishing Harbor Yami tribe Wild Boar Ditch Zhaori Hot Springs

烏鬼洞 東港漁港 花瓶石 富岡漁港 綠島 觀音洞 龜山島 金門 蘭嶼 小琉球 馬山觀測站 澎湖 烏石漁港 雅美族 山豬溝 朝日溫泉

Guishan Island




Penghu Green Island Little Liuqiu



Travel in Taiwan


It’s for the Birds Mother Nature’s Fauna Gifts to the Islands

Matsu’s animal-kingdom claim to fame is birds, birds, birds. Blocks of almost solid granite surging from the ocean, the Matsu Islands provide prime bare-rock nesting sites for birds that like that sort of thing. And despite being almost solid granite, the major islands are covered with surprisingly dense forest cover, providing prime green-foliage nesting sites for birds that like that sort of thing. Let’s take a tour. By Rick Charette


A total of 286 species have been recorded in the islands. Among these, 222 are migrating species, 31 are winter breeders, and 14 are summer breeders. Summer migrants such as the barn swallow and tern species are a particularly magnif icent sight. (For a list of many of the birds, go to: http://birdingtaiwan.blogs /2012/05/matsu-migrants.html.) Eight uninhabited islets/islands and surrounding sea were set aside as the 60-hectare Matsu Islands Tern Refuge in early 2000. The main species under protection are the Crested Tern, Bridled Tern, Roseate Tern, Black-naped Tern, Black-tailed Gull, Eastern Reef Heron/ Egret, and Fork-tailed Swif t. July and August are the best months for tern-spotting. When Matsu was under military control, which ended in 1992, some of the bare-rock islets were used for target practice, driving off much of the area’s seabird population. Cliffs were also favorite targets; one of the giant bull’s-eyes is visible f rom Stronghold No. 12 on the Luoshan Nature Trail (see our Feature article). Numbers of birds have increased dramatically since this was stopped, and the islets are now almost perfect sanctuaries f rom the birds’ perspective. They’re rarely disturbed by humans, boats must lay off a safe distance, and


Travel in Taiwan

Photos/ Matsu National Scenic Area Administration, Jen Guo-Chen

just off the mainland China coast, Matsu has a climate and a bird population quite different f rom Taiwan proper. The islands are on the great avian north-south/south-north migratory highway along the Pacif ic edge of the Asian continent, positioned about half-way along making them popular rest stops. Each year over 10,000 migratory birds f rom Siberia, northeastern China, Korea, and Japan arrive in the fall, and return in late spring on the way back north.


food is found swimming all about. In the past there was a problem with poachers brazenly sneaking over f rom the China mainland at night to gather eggs, but greater vigilance since the ref uge was established has effectively ended this. Each year f rom April through August, gulls and terns in the thousands descend on Matsu. During this season the local tourist authorities arrange myriad bird-related activities. Among the most popular is the guided gull-watching tours to the high, plateau-topped island of Daqiu (see the sika deer entry below), and the July/August Matsu Tern Festival. Chinese Crested Tern The star of the great Matsu avian show is the Chinese Crested Tern (T halasseus bernsteini), among the planet’s rarest birds, a critically endangered species. Its population is believed to be under 100. For many years it was thought to be extinct, but in summer 2000 the head of the Wild Bird Society of Matsu and a f ilm producer, working on a documentary, noticed some misf its among the busy f locks of Greater Crested Terns on local islets. There were only a few, but they were undeniably Chinese Crested Terns. The two are similar: the “Greater” version has an all-yellow beak, the “Chinese” a black-tipped one. The former is slightly larger, its bill is stouter, and it has a darker grey mantle and rump. The news hurtled like a welcome tsunami through the birding world, especially af ter a special BBC television report, and f locks of dedicated birdwatchers have f lown in f rom around the globe. Since their f irst sighting, the birds have also been spotted at other Matsu locations.

The tern grows to about 40 cm in height, and mainly eats f ish and shrimp. Its mating season is June to August, and when watching those birds trying to attract a mate you’ll see the crest of feathers atop the males’ heads standing up. It winters in the Philippines, and in the past was seen as far north as China’s Shandong Province.

Bird watching b oat trip in Matsu

Prime Birdwatching Spots Perhaps the best place to view the terns and gulls is on the rocky islets between Nangan and Beigan islands, and up along Beigan’s west side. These are visited on the birdwatching boat tours regularly launched f rom Nangan’s main harbor. They last about two hours, and a guide gives introductions (in Chinese). Matsu’s only wetlands, by Nangan’s Qingshui Village, attracts birders in number. The site is connected with the lovely, shaded Jinren Trail between scenic, protected Jinsha Village and Ren’ai Village, high up above the coastline. This narrow former military road, for jeeps and tanks, has busy bird life.

Black-nap ed Terns


Travel in Taiwan


Black-tailed Gulls

f rom the entrance, on the right is protected habitat for the Black-tailed Gull and Black-naped Tern. Inside, side tunnels lead to openings on sheer cliffsides, formerly used for gun emplacements. Black-tailed gulls nest in number on these cliffs in summer, crashing surf far below. The tunnel’s bottom opens out onto a large platform right above the sea, with tern nests on the rocky cliffs all about, so close that binoculars are unnecessary. The Yulu Trail, on Dong ju, one of Matsu’s f ive main islands, connects Dapu and Daping villages. It was blazed over a century ago by local denizens, who used it to transport loads of f ish to market, and has now been spruced up and made a long, narrow eco-park. You’ll spot many different species of migratory bird and butterf ly here.

Formosan Sika Deer On Formosa itself – i.e., Taiwan proper – the Formosan Sika Deer runs f reely only in south-tip Kenting National Park and a bit beyond. This is a reintroduced population; the last sighting of an original wild-population member was in 1969. The Kenting group now numbers over 1,000, but your chances of seeing one of these mid-sized spotted deer are not big. In Matsu, enjoy sightings in number on small Daqiu Island, off Beigan’s north. The island’s human residents were all gone by the late 1980s, and the military lef t in 1996. The county government then decided to move Beigan’s small group of deer here. The f lock moves about f reely, there are no natural predators, and the population has leapt f rom the original 12 to over 100. Matsu Flora If you are interested in the islands’ f lora, f irst head to Beigan’s Biyuan, a mountainside park. The Matsu National Scenic Area Administration has beautif ied the paths, has built viewing pavilions, bridges, and other facilities, and signage identif ies what you’re looking at. It’s quiet, and cool in summer, thick with Formosan Acacia and Chinaberry trees. Indigenous Matsu plants such as Creeping Fig, Chinese Wormwood, and Red Spider Lily are present, along with ferns found nowhere else in Taiwan. Bird-Watching Trips The Matsu National Scenic Area administration (w w w.mat w) organizes guided bird-watching boat tr ips. The tr ips give you a chance to get close to small islands where a large variety of sea bird species can be seen. Prices start at NT$250/trip. For more info, contact the national scenic area administration.

Birdwatching Tips ENGLISH & CHINESE

Biyuan Daping Village Dapu Village Daqiu Dongju Jinren Trail Jinsha Village Matsu Islands Tern Refuge Matsu Tern Festival Qingshui Village Ren'ai Village Xiju Yulu Trail


Travel in Taiwan

碧園 大坪村 大埔聚落 大坵 東莒 津仁步道 津沙聚落 馬祖列島燕鷗保護區 馬祖燕鷗季 清水村 仁愛村 西莒 魚路古道

1. B ring a good telescope or binoculars; boats cannot get too close to islets. 2. T hough boats don’t go out in rough weather, there’s always some rocking, so bring seasickness pills just in case. 3. T here’s intense sunlight in exposed areas in summer; bring sunblock, and cover up. 4. There are strong and chilly winds in winter; be aware of this when visiting exposed areas. 5. A void loud talking and unnecessary noise; the terns/gulls are easily disturbed.

Photos/ Matsu National Scenic Area Administration

Dongyin’s Andong Tunnel will leave you feeling incredulous. It shoots right through a small mountain f rom high on the inland side, exiting far down below at sea level. It’s steep, built at a 30-degree angle, so expect sore calves the next day. Inside are now-unused barracks, bathrooms, a kitchen, a meeting hall… even a pigsty. Looking out



Life on Orchid Island, Where Yesterday Is Still Present

Yami Tribe By Rick Charette


Yami tribe, numbering 4,000-plus, inhabits small, hilly, scenic Orchid Island. Fringed with coral reefs, the island is located 62 km off the Taiwan mainland, southeast of Taitung City. The tribe belongs to the great Austronesian diaspora, and traditional Yami culture has survived better intact than the cultures of Taiwan’s other tribes, thanks to the island’s isolation and off icial decisions over the years affording greater cultural protection. When the Japanese ruled Taiwan (1895-1945) they made the island a grand anthropological study site, proscribing general visitors f rom outside.

The most eye-catching traditional elements are the semi-subterranean dwell ings, made of stone and wood, and the beautif ully car ved and painted oceangoing canoes. On occasion you’ ll also see men dressed in traditional loincloths, for comfort and convenience, while f ishing or at other tasks. This is a more l ikely sight, however, at traditional celebrations, and at such events you’ ll also see the local men decked out in rattan armor and large, conical silver helmets w ith eye sl its. The helmets are made of beaten coins.

Dr ying fish in the sun

Yami culture has survived better intact than the cultures of Taiwan’s other tribes The traditional dwellings, built to protect against heat and typhoon, stay cool in summer and retain body heat in winter. A simple workhouse of smaller size is constructed on one side; each has a plank f loor and a below-ground storage space underneath. On the other side is an elevated rest platform, capped with a sun-shield thatch roof, which catches cooling breezes. These have a grand, unobstructed view of the sea, and are a favorite place to sit about gnawing over the issues of the day and perhaps a chew of betel-nut.

Photos/ Tourism Bureau


most colorf ul time to visit Orchid Island is during the annual springtime Flying Fish Festival, when boat-launching and other ceremonies are held. Not a single nail is used in the making of the vessels. Decorated with powerf ul symbols, they are sacred – so no touching. Just before being placed in the water for the f irst time, Yami males toss the craf t into the air while grimacing menacingly to scare off evil spirits. To invite the f lying f ish, a Yami staple, to return, such practices as the offering of chicken blood and chanting are followed.

Young member of the Yami tribe ENGLISH & CHINESE

Flying Fish Festival Orchid Island Yami tribe

飛魚季 蘭嶼 雅美族


Travel in Taiwan


Banana farmer Lu Ming in Qishan


Travel in Taiwan



Kingd m

Visiting Kaohsiung’s Qishan District More often bypassed than visited, Qishan (also spelled “Cishan“) is used to being neglected by tourists rushing through en route to the Hakka district of Meinong or the religious center of Foguangshan. However, this bustling-yet-bucolic township – now officially part of the Greater Kaohsiung municipality – is not only charming, but can also rightfully claim to have played an important role in Taiwan’s economic and agricultural history. By Steven Crook


Photos/ Ivy Chen

is synonymous with one crop – the banana. Amid the cornucopia of delicious f ruits grown in Taiwan, these yellow-skinned delights are quite humble. They’re commonplace and inexpensive. When people want to make a gif t of f ruit, few opt for bananas. They’re more likely to buy perfect peaches, gorgeous grapes, or prestigious pitayas.


in Qishan on one of the f requent buses which link it with Kaohsiung’s high-speed railway station (40 minutes one way), Travel in Taiwan met up with members of the Zun-Huai Foundation, an NGO established in Qishan in 1995 to preserve and promote local culture, community sentiment, and ecology.

Zun-Huai has a small number of Banana growing was lucrative, and Half a century ago, Japanese bicycles, which tourists are welcome advertising one's occupation was a consumers couldn't get enough of to use (free for the f irst two hours) surefire way to attract a wife Qishan's bananas. Ninety percent of the so they can explore the town in a fun bananas eaten in Japan were f rom Taiwan, and exports of the and eco-friendly manner. Its off ice is a two-minute walk from f ruit generated a third of Taiwan's foreign-currency earnings. Qishan’s South Bus Station. The foundation doesn’t An entire section of the Port of Kaohsiung was dedicated to currently organize any English-language activities, the f ruit. The warehouses where they were kept cool before but this may change. Some of its younger workers shipping, now known as Banana Pier ( speak English and are eager to help; getting in tw), have been revamped into a shopping-and-banqueting touch with the foundation ahead of time by complex. telephone or e-mail is a good idea, whether you’re hoping for an in-depth tour or simply want to borrow a bike. At the height of the boom, each banana tree generated as much income per year as a teacher earned in a month, and Local farmer Lu Chao - qun it's said that for every six bananas a farmer sold to Japan, he could buy a quality suit. Not that banana farmers made a habit of wearing f ine garments – it's also said that even in their f ree time, while shopping or drinking with f riends in the town of Qishan, bachelor farmers liked to wear their sap-stained work clothes. This wasn't due to any sense of thrif t; they did so because everyone knew banana growing was lucrative, and advertising one's occupation was a suref ire way to attract a wife. Banana tree


Travel in Taiwan


Youthbanana band

Among Zun-Huai’s core members are f ive young men who play music together under the name Youthbanana ( The band, which recently appeared on the same bill as Taiwanese pop-band kings Mayday, performs original Chinese- and Taiwanese-language rock songs which, they hope, will inspire young people to value local agriculture and pay greater attention to their communities and the environment.

goes on to say, as they are more f lavorful and slightly chewy. Those grown in the summer, by contrast, are relatively watery and soft on account of the hot season's heavy rains.

Lao Wang, Youthbanana’s songwriter-keyboardist, points out that the average age of Qishan’s banana farmers is now over 60, and that very few young people consider a career in farming. The white hairs of two banana-growing veterans we met conf irmed this: Lu Ming is 76, while Lu Chao-qun is 87.


Lu Chao-qun stands straight as a die, and scampers up ladders like a man half his age. He doesn’t wear glasses or use a hearing aid. Each morning he rides an old bicycle 14km f rom home to f ield. If more people could meet this walking advertisement for the farmer’s lifestyle, surely agriculture wouldn't lack for recruits. As you’d expect, both men know a good banana when they see one. Peel that's a uniform color may look attractive, but Lu Ming points out that those with some black spots are invariably sweeter. Bananas harvested at the end of winter are the best, he

Banana peel that's a uniform color may look attractive, but those bananas with some black spots are invariabl y sweeter is especially suitable for growing bananas, Lu Ming explains, because the soil is sandy and so drains well. Until tall levees were built along its bank, the Qishan River f looded every few years, covering nearby f ields with fresh, nutritious sediment. Bananas prefer temperatures of 25 to 30 degrees Celsius; Qishan never gets especially cold in wintertime, and during the summer rainbearing winds beat back the heat.

However, the replenishing layers of silt are now a thing of the past, and banana leaf-spot disease (caused by a fungus) is a serious problem. The disease, which turns banana leaves yellow, doesn’t kill the plants – but farmers are only able to sell about half of the bananas that grow on affected trees, down from the 80 percent yield for healthy trees. Because of these diff iculties, many of Qishan's farmers have turned to cucumbers, beans, and other crops.

About the Banana

Bananas are grown in more than 100 countr ies, most close to the equator, and in almost ever y county in Taiwan; the island’s banana groves are the world’s most northerly. Cavendish bananas – the long, bright-yellow f ruit familiar to supermarket shoppers throughout the world – thrive in Taiwan’s climate, as do less-sweet, greenish plantains. The former made fortunes in Qishan; the latter are more suitable for cooking and the making of processed foods.


Travel in Taiwan

Photos/ Ivy Chen, Sunny Su

So what exactly are bananas? The banana plant is a herbaceous native of Southeast Asia which humans have been cult ivat ing for thousands of years. R ich in f i ber, potassium, vitamins B6 and C, and manganese, the f ruit is as healthy as it is tasty.

BANANAS To give city folk a taste of farming life and the satisfaction of nurturing something they can later eat, Zun-Huai has launched a DIY banana-growing program. Participants pay NT$3,000 for each tree they plant, but they get a third of this back in the form of gifts. A single tree can produce up to 50kg of bananas, so those who sign up can expect plenty of bananas to share with friends and relatives. No pesticides are used on the plot set aside for this activity, and the only fertilizer applied to the soil is an organic concoction made from rice, peanut, sesame, and soybean. The gif ts include items made and sold by the NGO, such as a cake made from local bei jiao bananas – the kind of bananas, a Cavendish variant, which accounted for most of Qishan’s exports during the industry’s heyday. The cake is made with minimal salt and sugar, and no artif icial f lavors. What’s labeled in Chinese and English as a banana beverage is in fact 8 to 12 percent alcohol; it can't be labeled as a wine or liquor for legal reasons. The malt cookies, also made with beijiao bananas, are satisf ying without being cloyingly sweet. Other banana-related products are also easy to f ind in Qishan. If your energy is f lagging, try banana-f lavored coffee (available hot or cold). To cool down, enjoy banana ice cream or banana shaved ice.

Qishan Attractions Until 1979, trains ran between Kaohsiung and Q ishan. The tracks are long gone, but the old Qishan Railway Station, pale-blue and made of wood, has been preserved. The exhibit inside has some information about the railroad, as well as the local banana and sugar industries. Anyone curious about the last should make a point of dropping by the Qishan Sugar Refiner y, on the main road to Meinong. These days no sugar is produced there, but tour ists can en joy popsicles while their children clamber over disused locomotives. Another attractive landmark is the Wudo Dojo. The or iginal, built in 1934 as a place to learn martial arts, burned down in 1994. The current structure is a 2001 rebuild, an example of Japanese architecture in what is otherw ise a neighborhood of pure Taiwanese character.

Banana produc ts


Banana Pier beijiao Foguangshan Lao Wang Lu Chao-qun Lu Ming Meinong

香蕉碼頭 北蕉 佛光山 老王 呂超群 呂明 美濃

Qishan Qishan Railway Station Qishan Sugar Refinery Wudo Dojo Youthbanana Zhongshan Rd.

旗山 旗山火車站 旗山糖廠 武德殿 台青蕉 中山路


Add: 3, Datong St., Qishan District, Kaohsiung City (高雄市旗山區大同街3號) Tel: (07) 661-1451 E-Mail: Website:


Flying on the Wind

Exploring Penghu by Bicycle Despite the strong winds and the strong sunshine often encountered on the islands, the Penghu Archipelago is a great destination for bicycle riders. By Mark Caltonhill

Penghu Cross-Sea Bridge


Travel in Taiwan



at on a map, Penghu does not seem l ike a promising hol iday destination for bicycl ing. An archipelago of 90 small islands – some of which do not even boast a proper road – located near the middle of the w indstrafed Taiwan Strait, the Pescadores, as they are also known in Engl ish v ia Portuguese (meaning “f ishermen”), are usually explored by youths on motor scooters and older v isitors in tour buses. However, the islands’ small individual sizes make them well suited for even beginner cyclists, and their low population density means the roads are quiet and safe. Moreover, without even a signif icant hill – the highest “peak” is just 70 meters above sea level – the terrain is largely f lat, in distinct contrast to much of the rest of Taiwan, and with nowhere more than a kilometer or two f rom the sea, there are plenty of swimming spots to cool off should bikers raise a sweat.

The three main islands – Magong/Huxi, Baisha and Xiyu – are connected by bridges, while boats and planes take cyclists and their bikes quickly to other outlying islands. Similarly, bikes can be taken to Penghu as part of a passenger’s luggage allowance by boat or plane f rom Taiwan. There are also hire shops in Magong, the islands’ main town, and while the machines available are suff icient to handle Penghu’s modest inclines, visitors should not expect the latest racing models.

Penghu Aquarium

whatever means of transportation they arrive, the town of Magong is the f irst port of call for visitors, and deserves prolonged inspection before hitting the road. Its name is a corruption of the Chinese for Magong or Mazu Temple (the ma changed to a different but similarly pronounced character), the town’s name changed by the Japanese colonial administration in 1920 as part of its campaign against non-Japanese religions. The formal name of the temple is the Tianhou Temple, dedicated to the seafarers’ deity Mazu. Dating f rom before contact with the West, which started with the arrival of the Dutch early in the 17th century, it is the oldest temple in the Republic of China.

Magong is small enough that you can visit most tourist sights by foot. These include Zhongyang Old Street, with its traditional buildings and the photogenic Four-Eyed Well, temples dedicated to the City God and Bodhisattva Guanyin, a lively f ishing port and morning f resh-f ish market, the South Sea Visitor Center, and around sunset, the Xiying Rainbow Bridge. The old harbor next to the bridge is also a good place to swim, especially around dawn and dusk, and cyclists can camp in the park here or stay in the Penghu Youth Activity Center. A short local bike path along the coast starts nearby.

Peculiar rock formations Dr ying squid

Photos/ Ivy Chen, Penghu National Scenic Area, Sunny Su

Bikers should prepare for strong winds

Having fun in Penghu



Travel in Taiwan

BEST BIKE ROUTES natural attractions, such as Kuibishan Geopark, perhaps the main benef it f rom taking this route is an understanding of the role of agriculture in traditional Penghu life, in complement to the more obvious role of the maritime one.

Crops include peanuts, sugarcane, cacti, tithonia vine For a short day-ride f rom Magong, cyclists are – unique to Penghu and used to make a ref reshing drink – recommended to take County Route 205 eastward following and various types of squash. Kept alive with water f rom the coast out of town, then switch to Route 201, heading ancient wells and modern-day reservoirs, and protected f rom south and then west. This takes you around a large bay, the sometimes harsh winds by walls of coral brick, these are passing through small f ishing villages such as Shili, to the among the few things that will grow on the islands’ thin, south-side tip at Fenggui, which offers views of Magong dry, salty soils. Visitors will just a couple of kilometers across f ind few green vegetables the water. Nearby are monuments The islands’ small sizes make them well suited on local restaurant menus, marking the sites of a 17th-century for cyclists, and their low population density as they are expensive to Dutch fort – which was dismantled means the roads are quiet and safe import, nor will they see and moved brick by brick to much beef, although oxen present-day Tainan when the are common. This is because, as beasts of burden, they are Chinese government offered Taiwan as a base to the European needed and respected for their labor contribution – though traders, pushing them to vacate Penghu – as well as an 1895 it is true that the younger generation has a different landing by Japanese troops, their Penghu occupation seen perspective, and beef jerky is sold alongside peanut cakes and as crucial to enforcing Japan’s claim to the whole of Taiwan other delicacies in Magong’s gif t shops. as its f irst colony. More famous are the Fenggui Blowholes, eroded basalt cliffs where the waves pound the coast and spurt high into the air. islands’ main cycle adventure, however, is the horseshoe route northward to the top of Huxi, westward across Baisha, and then southward down Xiyu. half-day cycle – for those desperate to f ind extra kilometers in these relatively small islands – is to loop around Huxi using routes Taking Township Road No. 33 north f rom Magong to Xiwei 204 and 202. In addition to beaches, such as at Aimen, and adds a couple of kilometers to the route and a great deal of



Traditional houses

Basalt columns

Bikers Sunset


Travel in Taiwan

Photos/ Ivy Chen, Penghu National Scenic Area, Sunny Su

The town also offers most of Penghu’s famed foods, it has a wide choice of accommodation options, and its quay area is the location for boats to the outer islands or to book tickets for a nighttime squid-f ishing trip.

PENGHU interest as well, as the village is home to a dozen families that still make noodles by hand and hang them on huge racks to dry in the sunshine, creating a great photo opportunity.

structure in the whole of Taiwan. A popular point for lovers’ photographs at all times of the day, at sunset this is a truly romantic place.

Sights on Baisha include the Penghu Aquarium, and visitor centers at Houliao and Chikan. This last promotes a local specialty, immature silver anchovies, which swarm through the nearby channel in early summer and are caught at night, then sun-dried for use in soups and stir-f ries, or in bottled preserves.


Before crossing the Penghu Cross-Sea Bridge – the islands’ longest – f rom Baisha to Xiyu, a short diversion to the lef t is recommended to visit the sprawling 300-year-old root-and-branch system of the Tongliang Great Banyan Tree. Even compared to the unusualness of the Penghu experienced so far, Xiyu is special. First up is the worldclass, still-inhabited historic hamlet of Erkan, which has well-preserved houses in a style unique to the islands. With many converted to shops and restaurants, their architectural features can be explored while shopping for souvenirs or ref ueling on snacks. Next comes the Daguoye Columnar Basalt, with its spectacular rock formations, followed by Wai’an f ishing port at the southern tip, which is a pretense-f ree working harbor. Cycling on brings one to the West Fort and then the Yuwengdao Lighthouse, the oldest such Western-style

just a stone’s throw across the bay, there is no ferry back to Magong. There are buses, however, whose drivers happily take a bike or two on board should your time be short or you do not want to retrace your route.

And if Xiyu is special, even more so are some of the outlying islands accessed by boats f rom Magong. Two are large enough to justif y cycling. Wang’an is best known for its green turtle conservation and release center, but also has temples, traditional architecture and natural vistas scattered along its 10 or so kilometers of road. To watch turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, visitors must book through the center. Qimei is larger and has a greater choice of roads, but most visitors make a counterclockwise loop starting f rom Nanhugang port – or the airport, should they f ly in. This route takes in the lighthouse, Waiting for Husband Reef, which resembles a stone woman eternally awaiting her lost seafaring partner, and the Seven Beauties Tomb. Qimei means “seven beauties,” and the tomb’s name was inspired by a legend that seven young women chose to jump into a well here rather than be def iled by pirate invaders.

Magong Harb or

Cac tus ice


Travel in Taiwan


Tongliang Great Banyan Tree Penghu Cross-Sea Bridge

Chikan Penghu Aquarium



Erkan Daguoye Columnar Basalt

Wai’an Port Yuwengdao Lighthouse

Kuibishan Geopark Xiwei

Penghu cow

West Fort


Fenggui Fenggui Blowholes

Little Taiwan




Aimen Beach

Leisure cycling

Hu jing

Wang’an Penghu

Qimei Nanhugang


Tw in Heart Stone Weir Seven Beauties Tomb Waiting for Husband Reef

Qimei attractions include the Little Taiwan rock platform, which is indeed Taiwan-shaped

Penghu, as can be seen, has much to offer cyclists, and while at present there is little inf rastructure in the way of bike paths or cycle sale-and-repair shops, the local traff ic environment is quiet and safe, and if a mechanical fault occurs for which a spare part is not readily available, as said, bus drivers happily allow bikes on buses back to Magong. Penghu National Scenic Area On the website of the Penghu National Scenic Area at w (Engl ish/Chinese/Japanese/Korean versions) you’ ll f ind all the information needed w hen t r a v e l i ng to P enghu, i nc l ud i ng i n f o on t r a n s por t a t ion, accommodation, and food. The national scenic area administration runs visitor centers on Magong/Baisha, Jibei, and Wang’an islands, prov iding information, includ ing pamphlets a bout bic ycl ing in Penghu, and other travel-related ser vices.


Travel in Taiwan

Aimen Baisha Chikan Daguoye Columnar Basalt Erkan Fenggui Fenggui Blowholes Four-Eyed Well Huxi Kuibishan Geopark Magong Mazu Mazu Temple Nanhugang Penghu Penghu Aquarium Penghu Cross-Sea Bridge Qimei Seven Beauties Tomb Shili South Sea Visitor Center Tianhou Temple Tongliang Great Banyan Tree Twin Heart Stone Weir Wai'an Waiting for Husband Reef Wang'an West Fort Xiwei Xiying Rainbow Bridge Xiyu Yuwengdao Lighthouse Zhongyang Old Street

隘門 白沙 赤崁 大 葉柱狀玄武岩 二崁 風櫃 風櫃洞 四眼井 湖西 奎壁山地質公園 馬公 媽祖 媽宮 南滬港 澎湖 澎湖水族館 澎湖跨海大橋 七美 七美人塚 裡 南海遊客中心 天后宮 通梁古榕 雙心石滬 外安 望夫石 望安 西台 西衛 西瀛虹橋 西嶼 漁翁島燈塔 中央老街

Photos/ Ivy Chen, Vision Int'l


Natural attractions include a cliffside rock formation said to resemble a lion and the Little Taiwan rock platform, which is indeed Taiwan-shaped. On the island’s north side is a manmade attraction, the renowned Twin Heart Stone Weir. There were once thousands of these hand-built traps along Penghu’s inter-tidal coastline, used for catching f ish, but only a few are now maintained as tourist attractions. Visitors can try their hand at f ishing as the tide ebbs. This is the only weir created in the shape of two hearts, and thus is particularly popular with camera-toting visitors.


Twin Heart Stone Weir

Photo/ Vision lnt'l


here you have it, the answer for the question on page 5. The islands of Penghu are known as the “Fishermen’s Islands,” and f ishing has been a key local industry since ancient times, with different methods used. One of these is building f ish traps (weirs) made of stone; f ish that have entered the device during high tide are trapped when the tide goes out. There are more than 500 stone weirs in Penghu, distributed around the many islands of the archipelago. The trap depicted here, Twin Heart Stone Weir on Qimei Island, is regarded as the most beautif ul and romantic sight in all of Penghu.


Travel in Taiwan


The Most Important Annual Event for Taiwan’s Film Industry

Golden Horse Film Festival The

The annual Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival (TGHFF) is one of the most celebrated independent showcases for Chinese-language and international films in the world. Once held on late President Chiang Kai-shek's birthday, the awards ceremony now takes place in November each year, bringing together hundreds of filmmakers from the host country, Hong Kong, mainland China, Malaysia, and Singapore, along with members of the rest of the international film community and film investors from around the globe. By Joe Henley


Travel in Taiwan

festival is actually comprised of four different parts – the Golden Horse Awards, the Film Festival, the Film Project Promotion, and the Film Academy – the meticulous planning for which begins at the start of each year when TGHFF off icials fan out around the world to attend other f ilm festivals in order to stay on top of global f ilm-industry hype and begin to decide which f ilms they should screen. From that point on, the work doesn't stop until the last award has been handed out and the f inal af ter-party has shut down.

The Golden Horse Awards Ceremony is held in a different city in Taiwan each year. The ceremony is never short of surprises, and the little moments that make up the memorable evening are always genuine and heartfelt. As TGHFF C.E.O. Wen Tien-Hsiang says, “At the ceremony, all the laughter and all those tears are real, because there is no way they [the nominees] can know ahead of time if they can win or not. So their emotions are so real.” The winners are selected by a jury of 17 to 21 esteemed members of the Chinese-language Direc tor Leon Dai, multiple winner at the Golden Horse Film Festival


“At the ceremony, all the laughter and all those tears are real, because there is no way they can know ahead of time if they can win or not”

Han Tang Yuefu, Sting Chen Photos/ Golden Horse Film Festival

f ilm industry on the day of the ceremony itself, making for much last-minute intrigue. Two or three international jurors are also invited to sit on the jury each year. Unlike other f ilm festivals, where judges may only have to view between 20 and 30 f ilms, the TGHFF has its judges watch 60 to 70 f ilms, keeping them very busy f rom the beginning of the process right to the end. Last year's jury included renowned South Korean director Lee Chang-dong, whose f ilms have twice taken home awards at the venerable Cannes Film Festival. Having an international contingent on the jury, according to Wen, is vital to the TGHFF philosophy of maintaining a completely open mind. “These international can provide some T he gait which dancers adoptjurists on stage look s par t militar y march, par t marionet te, f resh viewpoints to the jury. All these jurists, if they were and requires months of training to p er fec t only f rom China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, they may have some stereotypes, so the international jurists bring another aspect to the judging process.” As for those special moments, the ceremony never disappoints. In 1978, Taiwan director Li Hsing, who at that point was no stranger to the podium at awards shows, was once again nominated for Best Director. Many, for the simple fact that Lee had already racked up so many wins on the award circuit, f igured this wasn't to be his year. However,

Lee's name was called once again, and when it was time to make his victory speech, his opening words, “I deserve this,” brought the house down. Ever since then, those three simple words have become an of t-repeated catch phrase at the ceremony. In 2009 came a f irst for the TGHFF when the jury ended up deadlocked in the Best Actor category. Though the jury contained an odd number of members, the men and women tasked with making the selection couldn't come to a solid consensus in choosing between the f inal two nominees, even af ter seven hotly debated rounds of voting. So, with no clearcut winner, they decided to simply let both actors take home the hardware, and for the f irst time in the festival's history two winners were announced, much to the surprise of the audience and the general public, to say nothing of the two actors who found themselves headed to the podium together.


the international portion of the event, the Film Festival, many of the year's most talked-about f ilms, 90 percent of which are English-language or have English subtitles, are screened for the general public. Rather than focus on Hollywood, Japanese, or Korean f ilms, Wen and his team instead look to other, lesser-known markets such as Af rica and Eastern Europe for f ilms that will broaden


Travel in Taiwan

FESTIVAL the horizons of Taiwanese and international members of the audiences. Tickets can be bought at coffee shops, bookstores, and convenience stores around Taiwan; the most anticipated f ilms usually sell out within an hour, so festival-goers are urged to be quick on the draw. Films are shown in selected movie theaters around Taipei and other ma jor cities (for more information, check the festival’s off icial website).

Meeting during the Film Projec t Promotion

Film Academy work shop

The success of Wei Te-Sheng’s film Cape No. 7 has sparked a resurgence of interest in locally-made films

“We place no limits on themes or scripts,” says Wen, once again pointing to the central idea behind his festival, “because we are very open-minded. But how to f it discussions of the many ideas into those three days is a big challenge.” Last but not least is the Film Academy, now in its fourth year of operation. This aspect of the festival, the brainchild of acclaimed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien, is as an intensive three-week f ilm-making boot camp, over the course of which 12 to 16 aspiring f ilm makers are broken up into two teams to shoot, edit, and screen two short f ilms. In the past, such highly regarded directors as Ang Lee and John Woo have been brought in to mentor the young f ilmmakers, and this year's instructors will likely include some Golden Horse Award nominees teaching alongside Hou, who is a yearly f ixture at the academy. The academy presents some unique hurdles for those lucky enough to be selected, but Wen has found that they always rise to meet the moment. “It’s a very tight schedule and there is lots of pressure,” he says of the experience of the apprentices that attend each year, “but usually during this process all students will develop very strong bonds with each other and with their teachers. They will of ten decide to work together af ter this, sometimes on international productions.”


prof ile of the TGHFF, along with attendance, has been growing year on year since just af ter the turn of the millennium, and the festival has grown right alongside Taiwan’s f ilm industry itself. In the late nineties, the local f ilm industry entered a period of decline af ter the country opened up to Hollywood movies for the f irst time,


Travel in Taiwan

Photos/ Golden Horse Film Festival, ARS Film Production rs

Selec tion of films for the film festival

It goes without saying that no f ilm gets made for f ree, and the TGHFF is well aware of the fact that great f ilmmakers of ten need generous backers in order to share their artistic vision with the world. This is where the festival's Film Project Promotion (FPP) arm comes into play. This year marks the sixth edition of this event, which puts investors, directors, and producers in the same room together, hopef ully to hammer out deals that will take f ilm ideas f rom dream to reality. Last year, in just a three-day period, over 500 meetings took place via the FPP, with 25 projects pitched to a variety of investors, presenting something of a scheduling nightmare for Wen and his dedicated team.

FILM with those f ilms coming to dominate the box off ice. That all began to change in 2008 with director Wei Te-Sheng's f ilm Cape No. 7, a touching love story bouncing between the 1940s and contemporary times in Taiwan. The f ilm took home f ive statues at that year's Golden Horse Awards, and became the second-highest grossing f ilm, domestic or otherwise, in Taiwan's box-off ice history, second only to James Cameron's T itanic. The success of Cape No. 7 sparked a resurgence of interest in locally-made f ilms, and in the past three years the honor of Best Feature Film at the Golden Horse Awards has gone to a Taiwanese f ilm each time. Now, says Wen, Taiwanese f ilmmakers are inspired once again to adapt and evolve in order to put the best possible product on the screen, with the added assurance that a loyal audience will be there to support them when the time comes. “Today, Taiwan’s f ilmmakers are thinking about how they can bring their f ilms closer to the audience. In addition to humanism they try to put more entertainment into it, but at the same time they don’t want it to just be entertainment. They want Taiwanese f ilms to have their own character, but also be welcomed in different areas. That’s their challenge right now.”

This year, the Golden Horse Awards Ceremony will be staged in Yilan County for the f irst time. The ceremony will take place at the Luodong Cultural Working House, with a red-carpet gala that will be open to the public. Though the ceremony itself will be for the nominees and f ilm industry personnel only, visitors are invited to view the elegant program on a big screen outside the center. Last year, around six thousand fans came out for the gala lead-up and to watch the live broadcast of the ceremony under the stars, making for a suitably festive atmosphere. Who knows what unforgettable moments this year's Golden Horse Awards and the surrounding festival will have to offer. TAIPEI GOLDEN HORSE FILM FESTIVAL (金馬國際影展 )

Date: Nov. 8 ~ 29 , 2012 Website: ENGLISH & CHINESE

Ang Lee Cape No. 7 Hou Hsiao-hsien John Woo Li Hsing Luodong Cultural Working House Wei Te-Sheng Wen Tien-Hsiang Yilan

Ambassador Classic Pineapple Cake In Taiwanese the words for “pineapple” sound like the words for “prosperous future.” Pineapples are therefore often used as auspicious symbols. Resembling little gold bars, pineapple cakes make for a delicious gift with symbolic meaning to friends you want to wish well. The Ambassador Hotel Classic Pineapple Cakes, the finest quality, are made with soft & light outer shell and delicious sweet & sour pineapple paste as filling. By sharing these flavorful cakes with you, we hope to wish you and the people close to you good fortune and prosperous times ahead! NT$270 Pack of 6 NT$450 Pack of 10 NT$880 Pack of 20

李安 海角七號 侯孝賢 吳宇森 李行 羅東文化中心 魏德聖 聞天祥 宜蘭

Ambassador Hotel Taipei Add:No. 63 Chungshan North Road, Section 2, Taipei, Taiwan R.O.C. TEL:+886 (2) 2551-1111 FAX:+886 (2) 2531-5215 Ambassador Hotel Hsinchu Add:No.188, Sec. 2, Zhonghua Rd., Hsinchu City, Taiwan R.O.C. TEL:+886 (3) 515-1111 FAX:+886 (3) 515-1112 Ambassador Hotel Kaohsiung Add:No.202, Mingsheng 2nd Road, Kaohsiung City,Taiwan R.O.C. TEL:+886 (7) 211-5211 FAX:+886 (7) 201-0348

UPCOMING Festivals and Events from September to October SEP 1 ∼ 16

Taipei Fringe Festival 台北藝穗節

Locations: Treasure Hill Artist Village, Wellspring Theatre, Kishu An Forest of Literature, etc. Tel: (02) 2528-9580 ext. 194 Website:

SEP 28

Confucius Ceremony and Related Activities at Confucius Temple 台北孔廟釋奠典禮及相關活動 Location: Taipei Confucius Temple ( 台北市孔廟 ), 275 Dalong St., Taipei City ( 台北市大龍街 275 號 ) Time: 6 am Tel: (02) 2592-3934 ext. 22 Website:

OCT 19 ~ 22

Taipei Season of Hot Springs

台北溫泉季 Location: Near MRT Xinbeitou Station Tel: (02) 2895-5418 Website:

OCT 20 ~ 28

Kaohsiung Zuoying Wannian Folklore Festival

左營萬年祭 Location: Lotus Lake in Zuoying and surrounding area ( 左營蓮池潭及其週邊環潭場域 ) Tel: (07) 719-1060 Website:

OCT 10 ~ NOV 10

Sun Moon Lake Music Festival

日月潭國際花火音樂嘉年華 Location: Ita Thao Wharf ( 伊達邵碼頭 ), Xiangshan Visitor Center ( 向山遊客中心 ) and scenic spots around Sun Moon Lake Tel: (049) 285-5668 Website:

OCT 13 ~ 15

Taipei Hakka Yimin Festival

臺北客家義民嘉年華 Location: Taipei City Hakka Cultural Park ( 臺北市客家文化主題公園 ) Tel: (02) 2702-6141 ext. 222 Website:

OCT 26 ~ 29

Taipei International Travel Fair

臺北國際旅展 Location: Hall 1 (5, Sec. 5, Xinyi Rd., Taipei City) and Hall 3 (6 Songshou Rd., Taipei City) of Taipei World Trade Center Tel: (02) 2597-9691 Website:

NOV 3 ~ 11

Caoling Historic Trail Silver Grass Season 草嶺古道芒花季 Location: Caoling Historic Trail, Northeast Coast ( 東北角草嶺古道 ) Tel: (02) 2499-1115 Website:

For more information on upcoming festivals and events, visit the website of the Tourism Bureau at and click on “Festivals” or call the 24-hour toll-free Travel Information Hotline at 0800-011765.


Travel in Taiwan

FOOT MASSAGE 6 Star Foot Massage Center


Foot Massage in Taiwan Having a foot massage while touring Taiwan has become a fixture in the itinerary of many tourists visiting the island. Massage parlors are easy to find in the cities and the bigger ones offer a wide range of services to ensure you complete relaxation. By Owain Mckimm


their guests by emulating a Bal inese rainforest or some art of foot massage, or ref lexology, has been other natural env ironment, The Bl ind Massage Health around in China for over 3,000 years. But it is Center is run more in the vein of a Sw iss health cl inic, only since the late 1970s that it has become popular in emphasizing cleanl iness and professional ism over leisure Taiwan. A Swiss priest called Father Josef Eugster, who has and relaxation. been ministering in the Taitung area in southeastern Taiwan for the past 40 years, taught himself ref lexology to treat The four massage centers r un by the foundat ion his rheumatoid arthritis. Finding it effective, Father Josef employ a total of 27 massage exper ts, al l of whom (known in Taiwan as “Father Wu”) began expounding the are v isual ly impa ired. Unt il recently, only v isual ly benef its of the practice to his congregation. Now, over 30 impa ired people were el igi ble to years later, the “Father Wu Foot Massage” Taiwan has become a mecca for apply for a massage l icense f rom has become a byword for the ref lexology techniques developed and popularized by aficionados of the foot massage the gover nment ’s Counci l of L a bor Af f a irs. W h i le sighted people the priest. Taiwan has become a mecca for ga ined cer t if icat ion f rom var ious pr ivate massage and af icionados of the foot massage. Visitors f rom all over Asia, ref lexology associat ions, it was only the bl ind who and Japan in particular, f lock to Taiwan to have their feet could ta ke the gover nment exam. The gover nment pummeled and their viscera reinvigorated. tra in ing program for the bl ind has been one of the most thorough. Blind Massage Health Center on Minquan E. Road is one of four massage centers in Ta ipei The basic theory behind ref lexology is that the feet act operated by the Ta iwan Foundation for the Bl ind (TFB; as a window to the body’s internal organs and f unctions. w /english/about.html). Located on the f if th Each area of the foot, from the heel to the tip of your big toe, f loor of a high-r ise, far away f rom the distractions of the corresponds to another part of the body, and by stimulating street below, its inter ior is l it by sunl ight f rom a long a certain area of the foot you stimulate the corresponding north-facing w indow. The walls are a cl inical white, w ith organ. Underlying this whole principle is the ancient Chinese wood panel ing used around the reception area, and three theory of meridians and channels, which facilitate the chaise longues l ined up perpendicular to the w indow f low of qi, of ten translated as “vital energy,” through the consist of simple white cushions and a w icker base. Unl ike body. If your qi is blocked by ill health or a problem with many local spas of fer ing massage ser v ices, which relax

Photo/ Ivy Chen



Travel in Taiwan

ENJOYMENT Blind Massage Health Center

one of your organs, the corresponding area on the foot will become more sensitive or will accumulate sediment. By feeling for this sediment and sensitivity, masseurs can theoretically diagnose health problems and then stimulate the necessary areas to open your channels and rectif y the problem.


to the intensive training that The Blind Massage Health Center’s masseurs go through, massages here tend to have more of a medical-treatment character than at other local facilities. There is more focus on getting your qi f lowing correctly than on simply giving you a relaxing foot rub, and if that means kneading your foot until you grind your teeth in pain, so be it. In fact, during my recent visit Steven agreed to personally give me a foot massage. He f irst wrapped my feet in hot cloths, and then rubbed them to get the blood f lowing. He then started digging his thumb into the sole of my foot. To say it hurt would be a gross understatement. It felt like the enraged ghost of Keith Moon (drummer of the legendary band The Who) was playing an epic drum solo on the exposed nerves of my feet. Steven then started to knead the listlist crest of my big toe between the joints of his index and middle f ingers. It didn’t look as if he was applying much pressure, but in no time at all I was covered in sweat and grasping my hair in agony. Steven commented that the clicking sound heard when he massaged my heel suggested that I have trouble sleeping, and based on the sensitivity around the outside of my big toe he guessed correctly that I’d had a cold recently. As to the effect that the massage will have on my overall health, I remain skeptical. But I will say this: Af ter it was over, I felt like I’d undergone a baptism of catharsis. It was if I’d spent the af ternoon watching performance af ter performance of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and come out weeping but cleansed; face contorted in horror, but strangely enlightened.


you’re looking for more of a pampering, the 6 Star Foot Massage Center on Nanjing E. Road, or Kin Raku Foot Massage on Bade Road, may be more to your liking.

The Nanjing E. Road enterprise is one of four 6 Star Foot Massage Center branches in Taipei. This luxury facility, open daily 24 hours, caters to over 450 customers per day. Staff are trained in basic English, Japanese, and Korean to cater to the foreign visitors who make up 30 percent of the clientele. Bamboo and lush green plants f ill the reception area downstairs. Manager Una Lai says that these, along with the abundance of wooden f urniture and f lowers, are used to give the environment the f resh aroma of a tropical forest. When visitors come in for a foot massage they f irst receive a soothing-hot foot bath and a f ree shoulder massage. The foot-bath water has an inf usion of twelve herbs used in Chinese medicine, including mugwort leaf, lemongrass, cinnamon, and Japanese bog orchid. Guests are then led to one of the 51 reclining leather chairs on the second f loor to receive their foot massage. Each of these chairs is equipped with a personal TV to keep you distracted while the masseur/masseuse pampers your feet. Also recommended is the center’s f ull-body massage, which consists of rhythmic applications of pressure along the entire length of the body. If one of these doesn’t lull you into an infantile sleep, I don’t Blind Massage Health Center know what will.


Travel in Taiwan

Photos/ Ivy Chen

It f elt like the enraged ghost of Keith Moon was playing an epic drum solo on the exposed nerves of my f eet


K in Raku Foot Massage

6 Star Foot Massage Center

Kin Raku Foot Massage, the largest massage center in Taipei, is similarly grand, with a total area of over 2,300 square meters spread over four f loors. When they arrive, guests are given a special herbal tea made with liquorice root, goji berry, and red date, which is said to work as a cleansing diuretic. An indoor waterfall provides a suitably tranquil atmosphere, and the foot massages are mercif ully tender, with a lot of foot cream used to smoothen out the process (though with the odd pinch of pain for good measure). Af ter my foot massage here, my feet felt marvelously ref reshed. One of the K in Raku massage special ists noted that many Ta iwanese people feel that if their foot massage is pa in-f ree it w ill be inef fective. Foreign customers, however, usually prefer a gentler massage, as they are unused to such tor turous ordeals. Excessive walking and general stress w ill also make your feet more sensitive dur ing a foot massage. Nonetheless, as caval ier as it may sound consider ing what I’ve sa id to this point, I highly recommend you follow the masochistic example of the locals when getting a Ta iwan-st yle foot massage – the more pa inf ul the better. You’ ll scream, you’ ll weep, you’ ll beg for mercy. But rest assured, just l ike r iding a white-knuckle rollercoaster, tr y it once and I’ ll guarantee you’ ll want to queue up for another go. ENGLISH & CHINESE

Father Wu Father Wu Foot Massage qi Steven Chang Taiwan Foundation for the Blind Una Lai

吳神父 吳神父腳底按摩 氣 張捷 財團法人愛盲基金會 賴雅玲


Add : 5 F, 146 , Sec. 2 , Minquan E. Road, Taipei City ( 台北市民權東路 2 段 146 號 5 樓 ) (Nearest MRT station: Xingtian Temple) Tel : ( 02 ) 2509 - 3363 Website : www.massage 104 (Chinese only) Hours : 10 am ~ 10 pm daily Prices : Foot massage 30 min/NT$ 500 ; full-body massage 60 min/NT$ 990 Notes : Booking required. Reception staff speak basic English. See website for locations of other Taipei branches.

6 STAR FOOT MASSAGE CENTER (6 星集足體養身會館) Add : 76 , Sec. 5 , Nanjing E. Road, Taipei City ( 台北市南京東路五段 76 號 ) (Nearest MRT station: Nanjing E. Road) Tel : ( 02 ) 2762 - 2166 Website : Hours : 24 h daily Prices : Foot massage 40 min/NT$ 600 ; full-body massage 60 min/NT$ 1 , 000 Notes : For afternoon massages, advanced booking is recommended. Staff speak basic English. See website for full range of treatments offered and locations of other Taipei branches. Kin Raku Foot Massage ( 金樂足體養生會館 ) Add : 324 , Sec. 2 , Bade Road, Taipei City ( 台北市八德路二段 324 號 ) (Nearest MRT stations: Nanjing E. Road and Zhongxiao-Fuxing) Tel : ( 02 ) 2771 - 1928 Website : Hours : 10 am ~ 2 am daily Prices : Foot massage 40 min/NT$ 600 ; full-body massage 60 min/NT$ 1 , 000 ; body-oil massage 60 min/ NT$ 1 , 200 Notes : Booking recommended for evening massages. Reception staff speak basic English. See website for full range of treatments offered.


Travel in Taiwan


Learning about the Latest Trends at Taiwan Designers’ Week In Taiwan, the broad field of design was once almost exclusively limited to the IT and electronics fields. However, since 2007 an annual event in Taipei has been slowly changing this year, Taiwan Design Web will stage Taiwan Designers’ Week for the sixth time, bringing together the best from Taiwan’s design community and international designers from around the world. By Joe Henley

Sof a designed by Kevin Chou


man who has been involved with Taiwan Designers’ Week since the beginning is Kevin Chou, an award-winning designer based in Taipei. Af ter f ive years of designing f lat-screen monitors for Philips Design, Chou made the leap into f reelancing, marking not only a lifestyle change but a stylistic shif t as well. He, like many young designers who are drawn into Taiwan’s thriving IT


Travel in Taiwan

industry upon graduation f rom design school, felt compelled to make a change and to bring his own creations to life. “It’s a dream of many in the IT f ield to design something for themselves. Maybe they want to design some stationery or f urniture, for example, but they don’t have the stage to show their ideas,” says Chou.



Week gave them that stage. In 2009 another volunteer, Ben Chiu, came onboard to help plan the huge event. Chiu explains that the project was born out of a desire to join other design hubs, such as Tokyo and Milan, that already had their own design weeks. Previously, he says, life for designers in Taiwan involved copying trends f rom other places, trying to mimic them. Those times, however, are now largely a thing of the past. The last few years have been all about teaching not only design students, but also the general public in Taiwan, about what constitutes good, original design. “We want to bring design into people’s lives,” says Chiu of his desire to see innovative design permeate every part of daily life in Taiwan, “so it’s a great chance for us to educate students.”


Designers’ Week was prev iously held at Huashan 1914 Creative Park, but the event has now outgrown the former f actor y and warehouse complex, which had been conver ted into an ar t space. It is being moved this year to the former site of the Ta ipei International F lora Expo, beside MRT Yuanshan Station, now called Ta ipei Expo Park. Whereas 45 designers took par t last year, 75 have already signed up for this year ’s edition, which is broken down into many dif ferent sections. Every year, Designers’ Week chooses a broadly based theme, inviting all participants to come up with a design they feel subtly ref lects some nuance of this central idea. In years past, themes included “Wish,” and “Care,” and this year the team behind the event has brainstormed and come up with “Flow.” To see how the designers interpret this theme, head to TWDW Presents, a special section of the exhibition reserved for those designers who have been involved with Designers’ Week f rom the outset. Organized by Chou himself, this area will feature the works of 22 designers. The Theme Zone will also offer the imaginative takes of other designers on this nebulous topic. To check out a selection of up-and-coming designers, head to the Rising Star section, where design students take part in a competition judged by the organizers, who w ill evaluate the designs and of fer adv ice. There w ill also be design seminars and workshops for aspir ing designers to take part in, in addition to speeches by special guest speakers.

Designers’ Week is about turning Taipei into one of the design capitals of Asia, and the world If you’re looking to do a little shopping, the Design Bazaar is for you. Designers will offer their wares for sale outdoors, under a large tent. As Chiu points out, Designers’ Week is also a time for deal-making, as investors will come to peruse the displays looking for the next big product to throw into mass production. Then, if wondering where the best place is to experience the pinnacle of design in Taiwan, you’ll want to visit the Go Design area. There you’ll be introduced to places such as coffee shops and other establishments that have interesting design quirks, as well as design schools and studios that open themselves up for tours during Designers’ Week. Last but not least is something called 3x3, so named for the size of the booths – 3 by 3 meters – where designers display their unique creations. Designers are invited to make their booths ref lect their own artistic proclivities, meaning you won’t see any two booths alike. Here you’ll see f urniture, clothing, jewelry, stationery products, Chinese paper-cutting, and even architectural designs. One highlight is a recyclingfocused group that returns every year with new, innovative and, above all, environmentally f riendly designs. Another group that draws much interest is Mothers Design, which believes that moms make the best designers of all, and collaborates with mothers f rom all walks of life to design products of all kinds.


Travel in Taiwan

DESIGN Designer Kevin Chou

Design by Mothers Design

Chou, seeing all this come together provides a very rewarding feeling. He has seen Taiwanese design come quite far in the past few years, and has played an active role in its evolution. In the months leading up to the show, he meets biweekly with the designers taking part in TWDW Presents, making sure everyone is on point, in addition to preparing his own design for the event and doing his regular f reelancing work. Chou’s designs are all about f inding a balance between art and f unction, a concept which has won him numerous awards.

Looking through Chou’s past work, f rom his days as a graduate student at Cranbrook in Michigan, to his time at Philips, and up to the present day, one gets the sense that he wants people to think about spaces in their homes, and how to use them better. To that end, he has designed a broom that can actually f it seamlessly into the f loor, going f lush with the f loor when it is put away, taking up virtually zero space. In that same vein is his f lat, thin metallic scale with an LED display, with its shimmering exterior giving it the appearance of water ref lecting sunlight. Then there is his luggage set, which converts into a home-f urniture item such as a table or desk when not being used for travel. Af ter years of working on cold, mechanical products back in his old corporate life, one of Chou’s biggest passions these days is working with bamboo. He has made a bamboo barstool, which he calls a “Bambool,” and a bamboo sofa comprised of 732 woven bamboo balls. “The reason I chose bamboo,” Chou explains, “is because I think it's very ‘East.’ When you think about the East you always talk about bamboo. And f rom an environmental point of view, it's very environmentally f riendly.”

Bamboo barstool


Travel in Taiwan

Chou is just one of several Taiwanese designers to keep an eye on. Many local designers are beginning to branch out into the world and make a name for themselves internationally, with several of them making an appearance at last year’s design week in Milan. Kenkie Chiu, for example, looked at the zig-zag doodles of his young child, and found in them the design for a metal chair with a sturdy yet irregular f rame that follows the whimsical lines of a child’s caref ree, f reeform drawing. Matt Liu has also been making waves with his own brand of mechanical-themed f urniture. And for something wildly eccentric, look no f urther than the hybrid designs of Chen Jen-feng, whose work of ten combines both human and animalistic elements. Chen has also come up with a multif unctional, multi-piece sofa that can be assembled and reassembled in different ways to suit the user’s unique personal taste or space needs.

I f wondering where the best place is to experience the pinnacle of design in Taiwan, you’ll want to visit the Go Design area.

Luggage set



TAIPEI Taking in all that Taipei Designers’ Week has to offer is as simple as buying a ticket at the gate, and this year they’ll be priced at just NT$230. From September 14 to 23, you’ll have the chance to witness the culmination of endless hours of volunteer work and the passion of a tight-knit and dedicated community that has pulled Taiwan design f rom the realm of the purely practical and pragmatic to a place where there is equal parts form, f unction, and art. As Ben Chiu says, Designers’ Week is about turning Taipei into one of the design capitals of Asia, and the world, and putting design on every corner, in every shop, and in every home. “We hope that when Designers’ Week is staged, all of Taipei City will become the exhibition,” Chiu enthuses. “Like in Milan, it will be everywhere. You’ll have a show in a coffee shop, and then you’ll walk to the corner and there will be another show. It won’t be only our show, it will be everywhere in Taipei City.” Broom designed by Kevin Chou

Chair by Kenkie Chiu


Ben Chiu Chen Jen-feng Huashan 1914 Creative Park Kenkie Chiu Kevin Chou Matt Liu Taipei Expo Park

邱乾珉 陳人鳳 華山 1914 文創園區 邱建基 周育潤 劉晨旭 花博公園


Add: Sept. 14 ~ 23; Mon ~ Thu 10 am ~ 8:30 pm (Fri ~ Sun until 9 pm) Venue: EXPO Dome, Taipei Expo Park (台北花博公園爭艷館) Tel: (02) 2581-2687 Website:



Taipei, So Re -nao''! Rush Hour in the Big City Makes Your Head Spin


Travel in Taiwan

Photos by Maggie Song & Twelli



6 pm on a weekday, and you happen to be in one of Taipei’s busy MRT stations, such as Zhongxiao-Fuxing Station or Taipei Main Station. You brace yourself as the masses emerge f rom the trains rolling in, and head for the exit. Others wait in long lines to herd into the trains before they head on. The platforms are f ull of people, the escalators are f ull of people, space is at a premium. Everyone seems to be in a rush to get in or get out. Experience this once and you know why the locals call Taipei a “re-nao” (hustling and bustling) city. Taiwan’s capital is a dynamic and vibrant metropolis where you can take in the busy and crowded life that is such an intrinsic part of Asia’s big cities. The good news is that, once the “re-nao” starts to wear on you af ter a bit of time in the urban jungle, it’s easy to escape it all. Serene mountains and the big blue ocean are never far away in Taiwan, and there are indeed almost countless nice places on this island where you can enjoy peace and quiet.


San-He Tile Kiln in Kaohsiung

Inside one of the k ilns

Visiting a tile factory may not sound like a fun thing to do, but San-He Tile Kiln in southern Taiwan is definitely worth a try. You’ll learn a lot about tile- and brick-making, get to see the production process up close, and get your hands dirty creating your own tile designs. By Steven Crook


Travel in Taiwan



single-story three-sided courtyard house is a timeless feature of the Taiwan countryside. These quaint abodes, known in Mandarin Chinese as sanhe yuan, are recognizable by their tiled roofs and wings set at right angles to the main part of the house. Some sanheyuan are cramped; others have enough space for large extended families. The walls may be of pounded earth, wattleand-daub, or round river stones cemented together, but if the owners could afford it, the material of choice was red brick.

Cut ting tiles

The clay-red and stone-gray exteriors bear soot smears, dampness stains and even tu fts of grass

Few sanheyuan have been built since the 1960s, and Taiwan's construction industry now prefers steel-reinforced concrete. Not surprisingly, many brick-makers have gone out of business. Of the 130-plus traditional brick-making kilns which used to operate in Kaohsiung City's Dashu District, only three remain, and they all belong to San-He Tile Kiln. The company's Chinese-only website features gorgeous photos of the company's premises and products. As recently as the 1950s, the area boasted 20 companies in the same line of business. All have fallen by the wayside, save for San-He, now managed by Lee Chunhung, great-grandson of the entrepreneur who purchased the business in 1925.

Photos/ Ivy Chen

Located about 1km west of the Gaoping River – the waterway that divides Kaohsiung City and Pingtung County – San-He's kilns catch the eye of motorists heading along Provincial Highway No. 21. Constructed in the early part of the 20th century and repaired many times since, these squat, windowless structures resemble military blockhouses. The clay-red and stone-gray exteriors bear soot smears, dampness stains and even tuf ts of grass. But what can be seen f rom the road isn't half as interesting as what a tour of the premises reveals, and today Travel in Taiwan has the good fortune to be shown around by the manager, Mr. Xu Xi-ping.

T he complex from the outside

Mr. Xu

begins by introducing the tile- and brickmaking process. In the past, he says, local clay was used. The company now buys clay excavated during construction projects around Taiwan. Piles of the raw material are kept on site, and f rom time to time a team of f ive or six gets together, wets and kneads the clay, then shapes clods of it into bricks and tiles using a device like a cheese-cutter. Before f ir ing, these items must be properly dr ied – and this can't be rushed. Mr. Xu expla ins that too-rapid dr y ing causes cracking, so unf ired ware is of ten kept covered. The workshop's strange layout – the roof is ver y low, and the sides don't allow much ventilation – makes sense when you real ize breezes might unduly hasten the dr y ing-out process.


Travel in Taiwan


The company welcomes tourists to come and create their own unique ceramic masterpieces

Loading a kiln takes the better part of a week. The material has to be stacked in a way that maximizes the number that can be f ired, yet allows the air to circulate properly. Stepping inside one partly-loaded kiln, we notice several tiles with corners broken off, or broken down the middle. This, Mr. Xu tells us, is normal. When loading has been completed, a f ire is set at the f ront of the kiln, and superheated air begins to pass between the bricks and tiles before exiting via two small vents at the rear. Firing is a three-stage affair which takes around four months. Throughout, the kiln is tended 24/7 to ensure the temperature doesn't drop. Wood is burned during the f irst stage, and the temperature reaches 300 degrees Celsius. Much of this f uel is waste obtained f rom f urniture makers, or beams f rom demolished buildings. Mr. Xu says that occasionally San-He receives a carved or decorated piece much too nice to burn; some have been recycled as tables on which souvenirs are displayed in the company's store. The second part of the process, which typically lasts two or three months, sees rice husks fed to the f lames and the temperature soaring to 1,080 degrees Celsius. Then, over a period of a month or so, the f ire is allowed to die out, with the kiln sealed to keep in the heat. Not every f inished item which emerges f rom San-He has been f ired in the traditional manner. The company also has a gas kiln, which it uses for rush jobs. According to Mr. Xu, it takes around a week, but the kiln handles far smaller quantities.

Tr ying out tile designs

Double Happiness tiles


Travel in Taiwan

Gif t items

will happily sell you a thousand tiles for that sanheyuan you're renovating, or customdesign pieces to decorate the lintel of the temple you're building. The price depends not only on the quantity to be f ired, says Mr. Xu, but also on the number of molds that have to be made, as these need to be individually craf ted by hand. The company also welcomes tourists to come and create their own unique ceramic masterpieces. There are seven DIY options, priced f rom NT$100 to NT$500. If you choose the most expensive, you'll get a personalized tile bearing your address. It'll surely add a touch of class to your f ront door. Alternatively, you can customize a pencil holder.

Photos/ Ivy Chen, Vison Int'l



T ile designer at work

Other Places to Visit Dashu District's most famous attraction is Foguangshan, site of a leading Buddhist monastery and the new Buddha Memorial Center. Foguangshan is about 11km north of SanHe on Highway 21, but it isn't necessary to go that far if you want to turn your excursion into a whole-day trip. There's a place much closer where visitors can enjoy history, ecology and scenery – Kaohsiung Railway Bridge Marsh Park.

One of the most popular options – and something I try my hand at – costs just NT$150, and gives f ree run to your imagination. You're handed a f resh tile no bigger than a slice of toast (one that hasn't been allowed to dry, let alone been f ired in the kiln), plus a pair of tools you use to score and gouge the clay. I ask myself what my 8-year-old son would likely draw, then get to work creating a rural scene with birds, trees and a European castle. Other visitors draw pictures of family members. Young couples, as you might expect, of ten etch their names inside a heart. When you've f inished, you return your work to the staf f, and they'll make a note of your name and address so they can mail it to you when f iring has been completed several weeks later. Alternatively, come back and collect it in person. If you're looking for quality ceramic souvenirs that won't bust your budget, San-He's gif t shop is well worth a close look. Among the items for sale are pencil holders decorated with f ine latticework, censers that resemble little houses, and teapot warmers. The last look like miniature stoves, and are made of bricks the size of dominoes. If you want something you can hang on your wall, go for one of the simple but elegant unpainted ceramic disks that bear a single Chinese character such as f u (meaning “good fortune”) or xi (“double happiness”). Most of these works are priced NT$1,500 to NT$3,000.

The park gets its name f rom a 99-yearold disused bridge. This 1,526m-long steel-truss structure – just south of the current railway crossing – was for many years the longest bridge in Asia.

Getting there Buses between downtown Kaohsiung and Qishan District stop on Highway 21 close to San-He. If you'd prefer to take the train, the nearest station is Jiuqutang on the KaohsiungPingtung line. From the station you'll have to walk a little over 1km, or take a taxi, to San-He Tile Kiln. ENGLISH & CHINESE

Buddha Memorial Center Dashu District Foguangshan fu Jiuqutang Gaoping River Kaohsiung Railway Bridge Marsh Park Lee Chun-hung Qishan District sanheyuan xi Xu Xi-ping

佛陀紀念館 大樹區 佛光山 福 九曲堂 高屏溪 高屏溪舊鐵橋濕地公園 李俊宏 旗山區 三合院 囍 許西平


Add: 94 , Zhuliao Road, Dashu District, Kaohsiung City ( 高雄市大樹區竹寮路 94 號 ) Tel : ( 07 ) 652 - 1432 Website : 333 Hours : Monday to Friday 8 am ~ 5 pm; Saturday & Sunday 8 am ~ 7 pm (groups should book in advance)


Travel in Taiwan


Qinbi Villageon Beigan in the evening


Tourists in Matsu


Old building in Qinbi

Jinsha Village on Nangan


Sunset at Qiaozi Village on Beigan Roof decoration of temple in Qiaozi Village


Monument at the entrance of Nangan’s Beihai Tunnel

Jinsha Village on Nangan Island Breakfast at Qinbi Village


Little Turtle Island seen from Qinbi Village