Travel in Taiwan (No.106 2021 7/8 )

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2021

JUL & AUG

No.

ICE TREATS

ICE AND FRUIT COMBINATIONS

106

FSHORE OF

CYCLING IN TAIWAN A BIKE RIDE THROUGH TAMSUI

LOCAL LIFESTYLE FREEDIVING IN TAIWAN

ISLANDS FUN IN THE PENGHU SUN KINMEN AND MATSU ISLANDS LITTLE LIUQIU

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2021

Hawk-Watching Guanyinshan Join a LOHAS tour to Guanyinshan

Get to know Guanyinshan

Savor rich bamboo shoot flavors

Enjoy the sweet fragrance of autumn

Guanyinshan is located at the northern end of Taiwan's west coast. The mountain has a rich natural environment and is a well-known site for watching hawks. At the Guanyinshan Raptor Museum, adjacent to the visitor center, you can learn about the birds by looking at specimen and VR multimedia displays. Experience the natural habitat of Taiwan's raptors with all your senses. Guanyinshan has seven popular interconnected trails, and from Yinghan Peak you can take in marvelous mountain-and-river scenery. During different seasons of the year, enjoy the unique local treasures, including bamboo shoots in the summer and Wendan pomelos in the fall. Welcome to Guanyinshan! Enjoy a healthful and educational fun vacation!

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交通部觀光局北海岸及觀音山國家風景區管理處

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Welcome to

Taiwan!

Publisher's Note Dear Traveler, We’ve reached the height of summer, and thus the height of the sun’s powers for the year. So what better time, and what better way to escape the heat, than a number of quick trips to some of Taiwan’s small, breezy offshore islands, where the cooling coastal waters beckon? In our main Islands article we explore the Penghu Islands, an archipelago that’s been described as “pearls floating in the Taiwan Strait.” Our biggest mini-adventure within this big island adventure is a day of yacht-touring and coral-reef snorkeling amongst the tiny islands south of the main group, including a location within the South Penghu Marine National Park. Each of Taiwan’s many offshore islands has a personality that is completely unlike all the others, and a world away from what you’ll discover on mainland Taiwan. In two further Islands articles we showcase the Kinmen and Matsu archipelagoes, located within sight of the China mainland though far from each other, and also introduce tiny Xiao (Little) Liuqiu, just off the Taiwan coast near the southern city of Kaohsiung. The Kinmen and Matsu groups are thrilling destinations for modern military-history buffs, and are also home to richly photogenic old settlements of traditional architecture that have been thoroughly renovated and made tourist-centric. Xiao Liuqiu, Taiwan’s only coral-reef island, is a place of snorkeling, diving, intertidal-zone and coastal boat tours, and much other tropical-sun fun. We spend extra time in Xiao Liuqiu in our Local Lifestyle section visiting a California native who has made the island his home to follow his dream of a free-diving life. A final breeze-catching outing is enjoyed back on mainland Taiwan in our Cycling in Taiwan file, with a two-wheeled jaunt along the scenic Tamsui River in the historic northern port town of Tamsui, accompanied by side dips into its old quarter. You’ll be cooling down by different means in Good Food, where our destination is Taiwan’s yummy world of ice treats. The joys of our menu presentation range from local classics like mango shaved ice and peanut ice to Western-style sorbets. We also suggest some of the island’s best joints to explore these heat-beating gems. Enjoy your time in Taiwan!

ON THE COVER

Basalt rock formations on Tongpan Island, Penghu County (photo by Zhuo Ying-ci)

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TAIWAN TOURISM BUREAU MOTC, R.O.C.


台 灣 觀 光 雙 月刊 Travel in Taiwan The Official Bimonthly English Magazine of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau (Advertisement) JULY/AUGUST, 2021 Tourism Bureau, MOTC First published Jan./Feb. 2004 ISSN: 18177964 GPN: 2009305475 Price: NT$200

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C O N T E N T S

2021

JUL/AUG

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ISLANDS / XIAO LIUQIU

LOCAL LIFESTYLE / FREEDIVING

ALL ABOARD THE GOOD SHIP “LITTLE LIUQIU”

FEELING FREE

Tourist-Popular Xiao Liuqiu, Just Off Taiwan’s Southwest Coast

Living the Dream on Little Liuqiu Island

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ISLANDS / PENGHU

GOOD FOOD / ICE TREATS

BIKING FUN / SUPPLY STATIONS

FUN IN THE PENGHU SUN

FROZEN AND FRUITY

HELP IS ON ALONG THE WAY

A Penghu Islands Surf & Turf Getaway Adventure

Magnificent Ice and Fruit Combinations to Keep You Cool

Bike Supply Stations for Cyclists Riding Around Taiwan

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FEATURE

PUBLISHER'S NOTE

04 TAIWAN TOURISM EVENTS

06 TRAVEL NEWS

– HAPPENING IN TAIWAN NOW

08 CULTURE

– CONCERTS, THEATER, EXHIBITIONS, FESTIVALS, SHOWS

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22 ISLANDS / KINMEN & MATSU

38 CYCLING IN TAIWAN / TAMSUI

JOURNEYS TO THE EDGE OF THE TAIWAN WORLD

GO WITH THE FLOW

The Kinmen and Matsu Islands

Cast Off on a Ride Through Historic Tamsui


TAIWAN TOURISM EVENTS

July-September

Because of the ongoing pandemic, festivals and events might be cancelled or postponed; please check official websites for confirmation.

LATE SUMMER Exciting Events and Happenings

1 TAIPEI CITY September 17~26

TAIPEI LANTERN FESTIVAL 臺北燈節

Photo courtesy of Taipei City Dept. of Information and Tourism

E x t r a o r d i n a r y c i r c u m s t a n c e s o f te n l e a d to extraordinary measures. The global pandemic that has disrupted the lives of people around the world since early 2020 has impacted – luckily to a lesser degree than in many other countries – the lives of the people of Taiwan as well. During the past 18 months or so many annual events have had to be cancelled or postponed, one of them the Taipei Lantern Festival. For the first time since it’s inaugural edition back in 1997, the festival is being staged this year in September instead of the usual time period (two weeks after the Lunar New Year in January/February). The festival draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, attracted by dazzling arrays of well-crafted paper lanterns in all manner of shapes, sizes, and themes. Website: www.tpedoit.gov.taipei (Taipei City Department of Information and Tourism)

2 PENGHU COUNTY September 26

PENGHU CYCLING FESTIVAL / 101 HOPPING BIKE 澎湖跳島 101K 自行車活動

As part of its efforts to promote cycling tourism on the islands of Penghu (see page 10), the Penghu National Scenic Area Administration is staging this special cycling event on September 26. Meant to be a relaxed group ride rather than a competitive race, interested cyclists can register (before August 6) to participate in a cycling experience tackling either a more challenging route (101km; 400 riders) or a slowerpace leisure jaunt (20km; 200 riders). Both rides will start and end at the Administration headquarters on Penghu’s main island. While riders on the shorter route will head southwest to Shili Beach and return, the cyclists on the longer route will, after returning from Shili Beach, make their way all the way to the Yuwengdao Lighthouse in the southwest corner of Xiyu Island, on the way “hopping” across the islands of Zhongtun and Baisha via the connecting bridges. Photo courtesy of Penghu NSA Admin. Website: www.penghu-nsa.gov.tw (Penghu National Scenic Area) Registration: bao-ming.com/eb/content/4806#23561 (Chinese)

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3 TAICHUNG CITY DATE NOT DECIDED YET

TAICHUNG JAZZ FESTIVAL 臺中爵士音樂節

Taichung, in central Taiwan, the island’s second-largest city, is justifiably called a “city of culture” by many. It is known for its excellent museums, such as the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, and its premier cultural-performance venues, such as the world-class National Taichung Theater. For more than a decade, the annual Taichung Jazz Festival has been setting the tone for the city’s cultural vibe. The main stage is set up in Civic Square in the city’s center, a large square-shaped park surrounded by modern high-rises. Music lovers flock here to take in the open-air performances by local jazz troupes and well-known jazz artists from abroad. The Calligraphy Greenway, a popular pedestrian area connected to Civic Square, is the festival’s other key performance venue. Website: www.culture.taichung.gov.tw (Taichung City Cultural Affairs Bureau)

4 YUNLIN COUNTY 1

DATE NOT DECIDED YET

YUNLIN INTERNATIONAL PUPPET THEATER FESTIVAL 雲林國際偶戲節 Staged annually since 1999, the Yunlin International Puppet Theater Festival is a grand gathering for puppet-theater lovers young and old. The festival takes place in Yunlin County’s Huwe i Township, k nown a s Taiwa n’s ce nte r of puppet theater, and neighboring Douliu Township. The standard program includes a colorful mix of local and foreign troupes conducting countless puppet performances, entertaining the crowds with a wide range of puppet drama. Apart from the performances, visitors can enjoy a host of other activities, including exhibitions and DIY workshops. Website: 2020puppet.yunlin.gov.tw (last year’s website)

5 TAITUNG COUNTY 3 Photo courtesy of Taitung County Govt.

DATE NOT DECIDED YET

TAIWAN OPEN OF SURFING 臺灣國際衝浪公開賽 In recent years, the tiny fishing harbor at Jinzun in Taitung County has become an international traveler hotspot. It’s not the harbor itself that draws – mostly young – people from around the world, but the pebble beach and sea area just to the north of it, where surfers find perfect conditions for riding the waves. In autumn and winter, ideal surfing swells are created outside the harbor’s dyke thanks to the northeast monsoon. The Taiwan Open of Surfing will be held at Jinzun again this year, with highly talented surfers expected to put on a marvelous show once again. Website: www.taiwanopenofsurfing.org

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Taiwan Tourism Events Calendar Website

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TRAVEL NEWS

HAPPENING in TAIWAN Now If planning to travel in Taiwan during the late-summer months, prepare for intense sunshine and the chance of typhoon weather. With conditions being hot and humid this time of the year, make sure you stay hydrated and keep your skin protected. You definitely want to try the various sweet and juicy local fruits that ripen in the summer, among them watermelons, peaches, lychees, mangoes, and longans.

THINGS TO DO IN JULY~SEPTEMBER

1. One of the most exciting cultural festivals of the year takes place August~September in Keelung City on the Northeast Coast, the Keelung Ghost Festival.

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tour.klcg.gov.tw/en

2. The summer months are great for whale-watching trips off Taiwan’s eastern coast, from ports such as Wushi Harbor in Yilan County.

www.eastcoast-nsa.gov.tw 3. August is the best time to visit Sixty Stone Mountain and Chike Mountain in Hualien County, when the mountain slopes are covered in orange “carpets” of blooming daylilies.

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Photo Courtesy of Northeast and Yilan Coast NSA Admin.

Offshore Islands I n l a te A p r i l a n e w f e r r y s e r v i c e wa s introduced, connecting Anping Harbor in Tainan City with Magong Harbor in the Penghu Islands, giving travelers a new option for reaching the archipelago from southern Taiwan. Plying the route three times a week (Wed/Fri/Sun) is the Natchan Rera. Trips one way last about two hours, and return tickets are NT$1,850/pers., with a surcharge of NT$100 for bicycles. In comparison, return tickets for flights between Tainan and Magong are NT$2,655, with a flight taking about 30 minutes.

www.uni-wagon.com (Chinese)

Photo courtesy of Wagon Group

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www.erv-nsa.gov.tw


New Museum Taiwan’s first museum dedicated to photography and image arts, the National Center of Photography and Images, was opened in Taipei this April. The home for this museum is a three-story building with a distinctive Japanese architectural style on busy Zhongxiao West Road, just a stone’s throw from Taipei Main Station. The building dates from the 1895-1945 Japanese colonial period, and was originally occupied by a Japanese shipping company, later by the Taiwan Provincial Highway Bureau. From 2017 through 2019 the structure was restored, returning what had become an unsightly office building to its colonialtime splendor, complete with rooftop lookout tower. The museum’s mission is to provide space for exhibitions, other education initiatives, and promotion, with the main focus on photography and image arts in Taiwan. ncpi.ntmofa.gov.tw Photo courtesy of Nat. Center of Photography and Images

HOTELS Photos courtesy of hotels

Kaohsiung Marriott Hotel located in central Kaohsiung City; currently the hotel with the most guestrooms in the city (700)

T11/T12 Hotel motorsport-themed hotel, part of Lihpao Resort in Taichung City

好行 台灣

Tourist Shuttle

New

Accessing the marvelously scenic East Coast region between the cities of Hualien and Taitung by public transport can pose a bit of a challenge for travelers, since buses are infrequent. To address this problem, last November the administration of the East Coast National Scenic Area introduced the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle network’s Yuchang Fengbin Line as a cruise-style bus route, with buses (operating once a day) stopping at tourist sites long enough to give passengers time to walk around, take pictures, and hop back onto the bus to continue the ride. Stops made by the bus, which departs once a day (10:50am) from Yuli Railway Station in the East Rift Valley, include Jingang (“King Kong”) Boulevard (30min stop) and the Shitiping coastal rock-formation area (1hr). Another East Coast bus route option, since May also operating cruise-style, is the East Coast Line 8101A, following the coastal highway from Taitung Bus Station (departure once a day at 8:30am) in Taitung City all the way north to the Sanxiantai Recreation Area (1hr) and back, on the way passing tourist attractions such as Xiaoyeliu (45min) and the Jinzun Recreation Area (20min). This service is perfect for a one-day trip; shorter bus routes for half-day outings from Taitung City are available as well. www.taiwantrip.com.tw

OLAH Poshtel opened late last year; backpacker-friendly hotel in Hualien City

Forest Recreation

Photos courtesy of Pingtung Forest District Office

Good news for lovers of Taiwan’s mountains and forests. Twelve years after Typhoon Morakat caused severe damage in Kaohsiung City’s mountainous Taoyuan District, obstructing access to the remote Tengjhih National Forest Recreation Area, the area was reopened to visitors this May. Located at an altitude of 1,500m to 1,800m, the area, managed by the national Forestry Bureau, is excellent for escaping the summer heat in southern Taiwan and going on invigorating forest walks. Often shrouded in mist, the forest here is home to members of many precious tree species, including the stout camphor tree and Chinese guger tree. recreation.forest.gov.tw

Weather Since this is the time of year when the chance of a typhoon hitting Taiwan is highest, make sure to regularly check weather forecasts from reliable sources, especially when planning trips to mountain areas and offshore islands. www.cwb.gov.tw

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CULTURE & ART Because of the ongoing pandemic, festivals and events might be cancelled or postponed; please check official websites for confirmation.

Culture Concerts, Theater, Exhibitions, Festivals, Shows

Exhibition

Photo courtesy of TNAM

Exhibition

The Story of Taiwan Nephrite 玉言故事:臺灣玉傳奇

What is nephrite? Nephrite is one of the two distinct minerals commonly known as jade, the other being jadeite. The difference between the two? Jadeite has somewhat greater hardness than nephrite. Since nephrite can occur in extremely large sizes, however, larger jade sculptures are commonly made from this material. Both are extremely tough and resistant to wear, but nephrite is somewhat tougher and resistant to fracture. However, the top color for jade, imperial green, only occurs in jadeite, which is also rarer and more likely to be translucent, making it more valuable. This exhibition gives you a comprehensive introduction to jade in general and Taiwan nephrite in particular, featuring amazing examples of art objects. web3.nmns.edu.tw

Until December 16 National Museum of Natural Science ( Taichung City )

Editor's

CHOICE

The Exploration of Beauty – Chen Huei-Tung Solo Exhibition 美的探索—陳輝東創作展

Until August 29 Tainan Art Museum ( Tainan City ) A native of Tainan City in southern Taiwan, Chen Huei-Tung (1938-) is known for his realistic portraits, landscapes, and still lifes. He has been an important figure behind the establishment of cultural institutions in the city, including the Tainan Cultural Center and the Tainan Art Museum. The centerpiece of this exhibition is a large oil painting depicting sailing boats on a rough sea during a regatta, a highly symbolic scene showing the determination of men taking on the challenges of the world and the forces of nature.

www.tnam.museum Photo courtesy of Carrier Entertainment

Exhibition Museum of Failure 失敗博物館

Until September 19 Songshan Cultural and Creative Park ( Taipei City )

Photo courtesy of NMNS

Tired of hearing about success stories? Curious about products that failed big time, with no one wanting to buy them? Welcome to the Museum of Failure, a collection of failed products and services from around the world. Brainchild of psychologist and innovation researcher Dr. Samuel West, an American, the idea for the museum originated while he was living in Sweden, with the first exhibition held in Helsingborg in 2017. With a collection currently totaling 159 items, among them the infamous Google Glass and the – at time of creation – futuristic DeLorean car, the touring exhibition is an eyeopening show about the pitfalls in the world of innovation.

museumoffailure.com www.songshanculturalpark.org

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Photo courtesy of Media Sphere Communications Ltd.

Exhibition Mind of Genius Salvador Dalí Exhibition 天才達利展

Until September 26 National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall ( Taipei City ) Surrealist Spanish artist Salvador Dali (1904~1989) does not need an introduction. His works are famous worldwide and his best-known creations, such as The Persistence of Memory (1931), depicting melting watches on a beach, are easily recognized. Recognizing a Dali painting, however, does not mean understanding it, especially because the artist never explained his works. This exhibition features more than 100 paintings by the iconoclast, including his illustrations of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, one of the most important works of Italian literature.

www.cksmh.gov.tw Photo courtesy of JUT ART MUSEUM

Photo courtesy of KHAM INC.

Exhibition

Ballet

Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association

莫斯科市立芭蕾舞團 – 天鵝湖

聚變:AA 倫敦建築聯盟的前銳時代

Until September 5 JUT Art Museum ( Taipei City ) If you have an interest in architecture and are curious about the thought processes of some of the world’s leading architects, this exhibition will give you a fascinating insight into the visions of these creative minds. Shown are early sketches and prints by students of London’s Architectural Association School of Architecture, one of the most prestigious and competitive schools of architecture in the world. The works were collected by the former director of the school, Alvin Boyarsky (1928-1990), and include creations by would-become top architects such as Rem Koolhaas (1944-) and Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), both recipients of the illustrious Pritzker Architecture Prize.

jam.jutfoundation.org.tw

Moscow City Ballet – Swan Lake July 23 ~ 31 Metropolitan Hall ( Taipei City ) Tainan Cultural Center ( Tainan City ) Nat. Kaohsiung Ctr for the Arts – Weiwuying ( Kaohsiung City )

Editor

CHOICE's

The Moscow City Ballet was founded in 1988 by the distinguished Russian choreographer Victor Smir nov- G olovanov, with the aim of promoting the original ideas of the great 19 th and 20 th century Russian choreographers. Smirnov-Golovanov's own productions, as well as previous versions of the classical ballets, all share a clearly defined style, ideas, and choreographic integrity, setting highperformance standards. The company is renowned for the perfection of its corps de ballet in the best traditions of the Russian school of classical ballet.

moscowcityballet.com

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ISLANDS

Penghu

Fun in the

PENGHU SUN

A Penghu Islands Surf & Turf Getaway Adventure TE X T R I C K C H A R E T T E

P H OTOS C H EN C H EN G - K U O

Ahoy! We’re headed out to the scores of islands big and small, populated and unpopulated, that make up the Penghu Islands, all within the Penghu National Scenic Area gem that floats smack in the middle of the Taiwan Strait. What awaits the tourist visitor to these islands, surrounded by shallow coral-rich waters of turquoise, aquamarine, and other color nouns you may well have not been in-person inspired to use in far too long a time? Treat yourself to an inexpensive trip to what is a hot local-tourism “faraway, exotic” destination with a quick hop from Taiwan’s main island.

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ISLANDS

W

hen I t h i n k of t he Pen g hu I s l a nd s , my image is of a giant marine-theme recreation park spread out on a giant patch of beautiful pastel-hue waters in “the middle of the ocean.” They’re not actually in any ocean’s middle, of course. The archipelago is almost smack-dab in the middle of the Taiwan Strait. Whatever you do, it seems that big open water is always a focus. Riding a motor scooter or driving a car along the islands’ ring roads, the sea is always in view. Most villages are spread out along the coastlines, the heritage settlements with the most interesting architecture all fishing villages seemingly forever in place. Farm walls are made of stacked coral taken from the sea. The produce cultivated behind them is all lowlying edibles that can resist the strong salt-laden winds that come hurtling over the sea from faraway places in the cooler months. Cactus of five different types are seen everywhere, thriving where trees struggle because of the sea winds. Heritage fort facilities

Penghu

look warily out to sea, still searching for waterborne enemies. Picturesque natural stone sculptures crafted by sea water and wind erosion adorn the shores, as do massive exposed basalt-column formations formed, long before man and woman showed up, by magma exploding from the sea bottom and instantly cooled by the waters. First-rate, super-fresh, and very inexpensive seafood is always right hand, everywhere you go. Travel between the islands is by ferry ride, save for on the closely clustered main islands – three large and one small – where the open waters between are jumped by scenic bridges. There’s also all types of different fun you can have on and in the water. The many fine-sand beaches. The floating seafood boat restaurants, anchored out in open water. The special guided tour-boat outings and nighttime squid-fishing expeditions. The guided tour-boat adventures to snorkeling locations (the biggest of our introduced fun-frolics in this article). Intertidal zone exploring. Et cetera, et cetera.

Erkan Village on Xiyu Island

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ISLANDS

Penghu

Coral Reef Adventure Hey! Yacht-touring to different islands over the open sea your kind of thing? Snorkeling coral reefs in idyllic isolated saltwater bays your kind of thing? Well, then, we’ve got something to tell you! On our research trip for this article your Travel in Taiwan team had more than a ton of fun vetting a full-day snorkeling/yacht touring guided adventure offered by a first-rate Penghu outfit called Penghu Coral Reef Travel. Called the Blue Paradise One Day Tour, it has won several national awards. You meet up at 8 in the morning and are brought back between 5-7 in the evening. Here’s a skeleton outline, to be filled out with key details afterwards: Meet-up and launch f rom Magong City on Penghu’s main island – Snorkeling prep and coralreef snorkeling off two small islands – Eco-walk on unpopulated reef island – Seafood feast on open-water moored barge – Barge-based water fun (“cliff jumping” from second level, “sea walking” contest on floating pads, etc.) – return to Magong.

A Coral Reef Adventure Walk-Through

Here we go! You meet up at 8am at the Penghu Coral Reef Travel desk in Magong Harbor’s Penghu South Visitor Center, from which South Sea tour-yachts and ferries launch. The Penghu archipelago’s main islands form what is called the Inner Sea between them; the city of Magong (Penghu’s only) is on this body of water. The islands south of the main islands are in what is called the South Sea; there’s also a North Sea area. Your yacht heads south out of the Inner Sea and past various islands, reaching Jiangjun’ao Island less than an hour later. Note that all through the day the many-person coral reef travel crew will be providing info (in Chinese) on a wide range of topics – eco, culture, history, military…. Arrival! A moored double-decker barge, your base for the day. Just meters off Jinguazai Reef, a tiny island right off Jiangjun’ao Island, the two forming a quiet protected area. First activity is snorkeling. The team distributes all your needed snorkeling gear here and you transport yourself from barge to shore on a raft by pulling a rope. Final instructions are provided, coaches divvy up teams, and you wade in slowly above your head per comfort level to start snorkeling. Coaches are always there, with circle floats.

THE YACHT The powerful boat takes you from Magong to Jinguazai Reef in just 45 minutes

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ISLANDS

Penghu

CORAL REEF SNORKELING When the sun is strong and the water is calm, the beauty of Penghu is on full display

After this, return to the barge, a rest, and then a 25-minute ride further south to a bigger snorkeling challenge, in a broad bay on the north side of Dongyuping Island. This is an open-water snorkeling adventure – you jump in right from the boat, a hundred-or-so yards offshore directly before an old, mostly abandoned fishing village with many traditional stone-wall houses. The winds, waves, and currents are stronger here, the swimming slightly harder, but your coach’s floats are always there per need. Your reward is reefs deeper down with fish and coral color and variety far richer than your first round – turtles and stingrays are also sometimes spotted here. Your coach will inform you that until recent years the Penghu area has been overfished, especially by fleets from mainland China engaging in illicit bottom-dredging, but bans are now bringing the below-surface beauties back and Penghu tourism operators are highlighting this source of treasure.

Photos on this and opposite page courtesy of Penghu Coral Reef Travel

THE BASE FOR FUN The activities of the tour are centered on a barge moored off Jinguazai Reef

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Penghu

Back to the barge base, first for an eco-walk on Jinguazai Reef, which is a few hundred meters in diameter and has a 30m-high plateau area in the middle, followed by a hearty seafood meal onboard the barge, which has kitchen facilities (along with bathroom and shower/change facilities, picnic tables on both decks, and upper-deck awning protection if needed). The star of the very filling meal is a hearty seafood soup containing a small neritic squid, large prawn, oyster (with shell), jiukong abalone (with shell), and other appetizing morsels. All the exercise you’ve done this day will guarantee you’ll think this is the best repast you’ve downed in quite some time. After this, a rest period, then a wholly different kind of fun ’n’ frolic session. First, “I dare you” fun jumping off the barge’s upper deck – about 3m to the water. Then a friendly competition emulating the famed Taiwan T V game show 100 Wars, 100 Victories. In this you “walk the plank,” stepping from the barge to navigate a row of colorful connected floating cushions in the fastest possible time and return. Those who complete the feat win Penghu memento prizes. Then a final “surfing” session with two choices: a jet ski pulling you about individually on a type of paddleboard, and a small powerboat pulling as many as six about on a contraption resembling a floating sofa. You can try all of these merrymaking gambols as many times as you want, time allowing. Then a rest session with snacks provided, including Penghu’s renowned brownsugar cakes and peanut brittle. And then, the happy homeward journey back to Magong.

OTHER PRACTICAL BITS AND BITES Your guides are young, ver y congenial, well-trained, professional, and well-informed; most have taken marinerelated studies in university. But don’t necessarily speak English fluently, so if you cannot speak the language having a Chinese speaker with you is obviously beneficial. On windy days the open-water boating can get a little choppy, so consider seasickness pills. As well, have only a light breakfast, and bring along something light to occasionally munch on until the platform barge is reached. Have comfy, light clothing to wear under your wetsuit. Beyond your snorkeling equipment, big towels are also provided. Have sunscreen as well – note that you’re asked not to have any on when going into the water, because some ingredients are harmful to the below-water denizens. During the second snorkeling session your guide will take photos of you and your group while in the water, which you can download. T h e o u t f i t a l s o of fe r s th e U n m a n n e d I s l a n d Ca m p experience, in which you camp overnight on Jinguazai Reef (which has a large tent platform set up). There’s also snorkeling, a daytime eco-walk, barge dinner, nighttime ocean and intertidal-zone tour, campfire, and stargazing. (English details on website.)

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PLANK WALK Running on floating cushions is a whole lot of fun

BOOKINGS AND COST Advance booking, a deposit, and then full payment prior to the outing are required. Details in English on these and other matters are available on the Penghu Coral Reef Travel website (www.excitingpenghu.com.tw). The cost at time of writing is NT$3,200 for adults.

South Penghu Marine National Park Though your guides will be filling you with info through the day, your rewards will be even greater if you do online Google satellite view and other checking of the various locations mentioned above, so you’ll know exactly where you are and what you’re seeing at all times. Especially, check out the South Penghu Marine National Park; you’ll be in it for your second snorkeling session. You enter and exit by passing pointy-top Steeple Islet, a massive block of stone hurled straight up from the sea bottom (thick black sections basalt, brown center sandstone). This is an important tern-breeding spot; nesting locations are revealed by the telltale cliffside whitedroppings splotches. As elsewhere in Penghu, the park’s islands have basalt landforms, including columnar basalt formations. The park area was once home to thousands of humans; today there are less than a hundred permanent residents. Cold weather in 2008 and 2010 affected marine life in Penghu’s more northerly areas, and the park was thereafter established as a protected Penghu “germplasm bank.” It’s home to 254 fish species, including 28 recently discovered, and 154 coral species. FUN & NATURE The tour offers a great mix of learning about the marine environment and frolicking on and in the water


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Penghu

Photos on this page courtesy of Penghu Coral Reef Travel

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Penghu

Unique P laces To Chill In P enghu Let’s now take a little land tour of some of the chill places to visit on the main islands, starting with the largest, where Magong is located. This is also called Penghu. In breezy, forested Lintou Park, on the island’s south shore in its southeast, Gilly primavera sits amidst tall shade trees directly off the popular fine-sand beach. This is a glass-fronted café with umbrella seating in front of it in the trees and a large stained-wood deck with umbrella seating right beside the beachside boardwalk. There’s a wide range of single-origin coffees here, plus a list of Italian-style coffees. What seems to most excite the pa lates of ma ny if not most visitors, ho w e v e r, a r e t he hom e m a d e b a k e d goodies, such as the cranberry scone, chee sec a ke a nd choc olate c a ke, a nd

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honey-glazed croissant – and the cooling bevera ges, especia lly t he muscovado sugar milk tea, strawberry carbonated juice with lemon slice, and passionfruit carbonated juice with orange slice. There are also other fine beaches on this side of the island, notably Sha nshui Beach, which ha s a bust ling cluster of beach-bum-style eateries and cafés. Nearby this beach, right at the island’s southwesternmost point, is the Fenggui Cave, where the sea pounds into a basaltcolumn shoreline cave and blows out the cliff-top opening with thunderclap audio. On the island of Baisha, the exquisitely decorated Leisure Time Café, open six years now, has become a go-to destination.

Leisure Time Café JUL/AUG 2021

You head down a long dirt road off a secondary highway through thick bush to emerge at a large villa-style building looking out over an expansive lawn and, beyond, the Inner Sea and far-distant Magong. The bright-white building is a whimsical affair, looking to me like a giant white-icing wedding cake, featuring a turret tower, faux Roman-style arch ruins, trellisworks rich with green foliage and pastel-hue flowers – and a gorgeous chapel (unconsecrated) at the side. The chapel and other facilities are often used for weddings. T he c a f é i s op e n f or lu nc h a nd a f t e r n o o n t e a . Pe n g h u p r o d u c e i s emph a si z e d . A mon g t he se i s fe ng r u (Cobbler’s tack) tea, a Penghu-specialty herbal tea. The herb is collected wild, and the tea marketed locally in English as


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Penghu

COFFEE AND TEA There is no shortage of places in Penghu where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy delightful refreshments

Grandma/Nana’s Tea. The stars of your afternoon tea set are homemade bite-sized quiche, custard puffs, honey bread with chocolate topping, and scones.

Lao-Pai Café

Lao-Pai Café

Paradise Road, on Baisha’s north side, has in recent years become one of Penghu’s most popular locations for taking photos. The “road” is a long, narrow, winding pier wall, part of an abandoned fishing port, that leads out into the deep blue waters like a sea serpent headed to sea. It’s footpath-top is not much above water at high tide. On Xiyu, the westernmost island, always the busiest tourist destination is old Erkan Village, today thoroughly renovated and tourist-oriented save for a few homes. You’ll walk through a dense collection of heritage stone-wall residences in the old Minnan style – the style of China’s southern Fujian province. Many of these venerable places now house retail operations – eateries, cafés, a soybean-milk shop…. You’ll also come across such old-time examples of rural living as Qing dynasty-era scales and weights, thigh-high ceramic storage jars, and winnowing equipment. Spend a little time and lucre at Erkan’s antique-filled Lao-Pai Café, run by a young owner-couple, opened two years ago. This is the ancestral home of the wife’s family, built a century ago. Lao-Pai serves single-origin hand-drip coffees, Italian-style coffees, teas, and fruity beverages, plus simple treats such as homemade cheesecake and a delicious old-style Xiyu confection called sanjiao bing (three-corner pastries), made with either savory fried onion or sweet muscovado sugar. They’re sourced from a local 90-year-old shop now run by the third generation. Xiyu is also home to a number of other key main-islands draws, including the well-preserved Xiyu Western Fort, built in the 1880s to repel attack by foreign empires, Yuwengdao Lighthouse, the first lighthouse built in the Taiwan area (1778), the giant Whale Cave formation, a sperm whalelookalike artwork formed by wave erosion, and the Daguoye Columnar Basalt site, a huge wall of uncovered columns which looks across the Inner Sea at Magong.

Gilly primavera

GILLY PRIMAVERA ( 及林春 ) (06) 992-3639 No. 1-3, Lintou, Huxi Township, Penghu County ( 澎湖縣湖西鄉林投村 1-3 號 ) gillyprimavera.cafe (Chinese) LEISURE TIME CAFÉ ( 半日閑下午茶 ) (06) 993-1366 No. 71, Zhenhai Village, Baisha Township, Penghu County ( 澎湖縣白沙鄉鎮海村 71 號 ) www.facebook.com/leisure.time.cafe.penghu LAO-PAI CAFÉ ( 老派咖啡 ) 0988-235-278 No. 20, Erkan Village, Xiyu Township, Penghu County ( 澎湖縣西嶼鄉二崁村 20 號 ) www.facebook.com/laopaicoffee

Gilly primavera

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Penghu

Unique P laces To Overnight In P enghu The Enishi Resort Villa is on Penghu. It’s on the edge of a quiet farming-family hamlet a short distance from two popular beaches, Aimen Beach and Lintou Beach (connected by a long coast-side boardwalk). This is a dynamic purpose-built creation that looks like a giant slab of concrete sticking straight up from the ground. Inside, concrete predominates as well. Stepping within, the view is like looking up through a narrow crevasse, sunlight streaming in through the (glass) top, guestrooms exiting from the “cliffs” facing each other either side. The crevasse runs east-west, meaning the sun shines directly inside all through the daytime, no lights needed. Each guestroom has a uniquely quirky ultramodern interior design. There’s also restaurant, bar, and café facilities, and a deeply quiet walled-in outdoor pool area out back. The ENISHI project won 1st prize in Taiwan’s 2018 ADA Awards for Emerging Architects.

The small, cozy, exceedingly tranquil Murraya Paniculata Villa, which has just a few rooms, sits amidst open grassy countryside, low hill behind, on Penghu’s south side, short drives from Fenggui Cave and Shanshui Beach. The purpose-built facility is in the style of the ornate classical southern Fujian-style residences found at Erkan Village. Guestrooms, which feature all modern amenities, are rich with antique items sourced from around the archipelago by the owner. Guests walk from rooms directly into a small, private inner courtyard with small swimming pool. A compact private garden space is located behind the rooms in the complex rear. Directly in front of the walled-in complex is a large pond busy with carps.

ENISHI RESORT VILLA ( 緣民宿 ) (06) 926-0302 No. 45-3, Aimen Village, Huxi Township, Penghu County ( 澎湖縣湖西鄉隘門村 45 之 3 號 ) en.enishiresortvillatw.com MURRAYA PANICULATA VILLA ( 月橘獨棟 VILLA) (06) 995-1926 No. 185, Wude Borough, Magong City, Penghu County ( 澎湖縣馬公市五德里 185 號 ) Murraya Paniculata Villa

Murraya Paniculata Villa

Enishi Resort Villa FINE DESIGNS Guesthouses in Penghu are known to be of unique character and style

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Enishi Resort Villa


M agong City Magong’s story begins at Tianhou (“Empress of Heaven”) Temple, erected in 1604. This is Taiwan’s oldest temple dedicated to Mazu, protectress of seafarers. Nearby is the tourism-focused Zhongyang Old Street, which encompasses narrow Zhongyang Street and its side arteries. Zhongyang, as old as the temple, was for centuries Magong’s high street. The Old Street area is packed with old-timey shops selling specialty foods and handicrafts (see Food and Souvenir Suggestions below). Threatened with demolition decades back, today the area beams with wood-and-red brick façade shops lovingly returned to heydays visual charm. You’ll also come across the renowned ancient Four-Eyed Well, still used, which has four narrow openings to prevent kid accidents and to maintain water-access order. Duxingshi Village Cultural Park is a fascinating enclave located on the city’s north/northwest side. This is a former military dependents’ village, long abandoned, that has been thoroughly restored and does service today as a key Penghu tourist attraction. There is a mix of scores of compact concrete-wall homes and more expansive traditional Japanese-style woodbuilt buildings. Many are open to the public, some serving as cute cafés and eateries. The most interesting have a dedicated theme – for example, two homes of residents that later became famous pop singers, their music heard inside and outside, a mock-up of an old-days mom-and-pop store, etc. The pedestrian-only Xiying Rainbow Bridge, north of the cultural park, is one of Penghu’s best-known and most-photographed landmarks. It soars almost 200m across a man-created harbor inlet that runs almost completely dry at low tide, inviting rewarding tidal-zone exploration. Sunsets here are gorgeous, and through each evening the romantic rainbow lights of this arch glow on the waters below. The park area here is the site for the annual Penghu International Fireworks Festival, stretching mid-April through late June, which brings in the high tide of the Penghu tourist season. It features spectacular high-altitude fireworks shows over harbor and bridge every Monday and Thursday night, preceded by stage shows featuring Taiwan’s hottest pop singers.

MAGNIFICENT MAGONG If you are interested in history and culture, Penghu's only city is were you want to explore

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Penghu HAI YUE HOTEL One of the main places to stay in Magong, the hotel has excellent harbor views and an all-vegetarian buffet breakfast

Staying In M agong The comely Hai Yue Hotel is perfectly situated for visitors eager to explore the core of the city on foot. The core, where most of the tourist action happens, takes up the peninsula north of the harbor. It’s just a minute on foot to the harbor itself, five or so to the Penghu South Visitor Center. South-facing rooms have a terrific view over harbor comings and goings. The streets behind the hotel are filled with eateries, and are pleasantly busy with foot traffic during the summer high tourist season. The Old Street area is just a few blocks southwest. The hotel lobby is accessed from the street via a broad staircase, lending the hotel a magisterial mien. Between lobby and staircase is a guest favorite, a wide and long stone-paved outdoor patio with inviting seating (rain cover provided awning-style by the protruding second floor). More shade is provided by a wall of green plants on the street side, beside the staircase. You’ll see a line of brightcolored Giant bicycles outside along the lobby’s floor-to-ceiling glass wall, and a line of Merida bikes inside; guests can use these free of charge. The hotel also provides map information (Chinese) with four recommended cycling routes. Paying homage to Penghu traditions, the sun-drenched 2F restaurant has a nautical decorative theme, with a large mural at one end, overlooking the buffet food-display area, depicting a Penghu lighthouse scene. A smile will invariably come to your face looking down “into” your table through the tabletop glass at that table’s playful mini-mockup of an iconic coastal tableau. Your complimentary all-vegetarian Chinese buffet-style breakfast includes classic items such as congee, fried Chinese dumplings, vermicelli with fried veggies, spicy dried beancurd, and pickled cucumber. The spacious guestrooms feature chic contemporary styling, with understated earth tones predominant, and have a work desk and WiFi connection. Each bathroom has a spacious shower stall. 20

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HAI YUE HOTEL ( 海悅飯店 ) (06) 926-9166 No. 75, Minfu Rd., Magong City, Penghu County ( 澎湖縣馬公市民福路 75 號 ) www.haiyue.com.tw


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Penghu

F ood And Souvenir Suggestions While perambulating around the islands, be sure to foray into Penghu’s culinary specialties, especially its toothsome snack treats. Directly across the street from the Hai Yue Hotel is the Chinese Mesona shop, with perhaps the islands’ best shaved-ice treats, many starring Chinese Mesona, commonly called “herbal jelly.” The fruit of a local cactus is used to make delicious sweet, purple-tint cactus shaved ice, ice cream, and sorbets. At the cutesy 235 Cactus Gelato shop, on Magong’s Minzu Road, choose Cactus Fruit Gelato, Herb Tea Gelato, Seaweed Gelato, or Black Pineapple Gelato (the blackness comes from cuttlefish ink). On Old Street, just a short walk from the gelato shop, drop in at Liyang bakery for a slice or two of its delicate, tasteful cactus-fruit mille crepe cake. Its cactus-fruit cream puffs are also a delight. Brownsugar cakes are a favorite Penghu tourist take-home purchase. Made with muscovado sugar, they’re steamed, not baked. Pick yours up on Old Street at “Brunette Brown Sugar Cake.” The local seafood is wide-ranging, supremely fresh, and delectable, and squid vermicelli, served in a rich broth, is a Penghu culinary icon. Tourists visiting Xiyu make special foodie pilgrimages to “Little Ping’s Shop” at Xiaomen Fishing Harbor, close to where the Whale Cave is located. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of my other personal favorites: Penghu’s naturally sweet peanuts, soft and lightly sweet peanut brittle, winter-melon cakes, and shrimp fritters.

Shrimp fritters

Black Pineapple Gelato

Brown sugar cake

MORE INFO Those interested in diving info-deeper on Penghu should visit penghu-nsa.gov.tw (Penghu National Scenic Area)

ENGLISH AND CHINESE 100 Wars, 100 Victories 百戰百勝 235 Cactus Gelato 235 掌上明珠 Blue Paradise One Day Tour 珊瑚礁忘憂島一日遊 "Brunette Brown Sugar Cake" 黑妞黑糖糕 Chinese Mesona 玉冠嫩仙草 Dongyuping Island 東嶼坪嶼 Duxingshi Village Cultural Park 篤行十村眷村文化保存園區 Erkan Village 二崁聚落 fengru tea 風茹茶 Grandma/Nana’s Tea 外婆茶 Jiangjun’ao Island 將軍澳嶼 Jinguazai Reef 金瓜仔礁 jiukong 九孔 Lintou Park 林投公園 "Little Ping’s Shop" 小萍的店 Liyang 麗洋手作伴手禮 Paradise Road 天堂路 Penghu Coral Reef Travel 珊瑚礁旅遊 sanjiao bing 三角餅 Steeple Islet 頭巾嶼 Xiying Rainbow Bridge 西瀛虹橋 Zhongyang Old Street 中央老街

Chinese Mesona

Cactus-fruit mille crepe cake

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Kinmen & Matsu

TAIWAN WORLD JOURNEYS TO THE EDGE OF THE

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THE KINMEN AND MATSU ISLANDS TE X T R I C K C H A R E T T E P H OTOS V I SI O N


ISLANDS

Kinmen & Matsu

Taiwan has many offshore islands, which despite the ease and rapidity of modern transport access from the mother island are a world apart from it – and from each other. Their mutual geo-physical, cultural, and historical dissimilarities are striking. Of late I’ve had the great good fortune to visit many of islands in the Taiwan Strait – Xiao Liuqiu, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu – and following I’ll give you a shopwindow look at the latter two island groups.

H

MAZU'S HOME The Goddess of the Sea is worshiped in numerous temples on the islands

eading west within Republic of China borders, you cannot get further from the main island, Ta iw a n, t h a n t he K i n men a nd M a t s u i s l a nd g r oup s . No, go past them and you don’t fall off the edge of the planet. The China mainland looms directly ahead, so close it’s in clear view from many Kinmen/Matsu locations. The practical result, in cultural terms, is that today both these destinations are a world away from what you’ll experience on mainland Taiwan. These are places crafted by influences both ancient and modern flowing from two strongly separated geo-cultural springs. They thus offer exotic “getaways from Taiwan” while remaining within Taiwan, just a short f light away from the main island (there’s also an overnight ferry service to Matsu). Summer and fall are the best times to visit both archipelagoes. Both are somewhat cooler than hot and humid main-island Taiwan during this period. In winter and spring both island groups can experience rains, strong winds, low temperatures, and dense fog, sometimes shutting down transportation services.

MATSU

THE FAR NORTH A highlight of a visit to Dongyin Island is the picturesque Dongyong Lighthouse

T he M a t s u I s l a nd s , f a r to mainland Taiwan’s northwest, are great hunks of granite that have surged forth from the sea bottom and, in many locations, surged far above the waves. They stand just outside the mouth of China’s mighty Min River and, just inland, the great city of Fuzhou. There is little f lat land here, and limited farming. Marine catch was long the economic lifeblood, today pa ired w it h tourism. T he heritage pure-white light houses positioned d r a m at ic a l ly h i g h on c l i f f s a re a n ic on ic attraction. On each visit history-buff I invariably find myself dreaming of China’s imperial days and a more dangerous era of shipping, especially when at the gravity-defiant cliffside-hugging Dongyong Lighthouse complex on Dongyin isla nd, Matsu’s northernmost, nothing but endless ocean seen to the north and east. It was

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ISLANDS

Kinmen & Matsu

built by British engineers in the early 1900s to facilitate access from Fuzhou, after a number of Western vessels had been wrecked. Fuzhou was one of the treaty ports forced open during the 19th century’s Opium Wars period. The two largest and most heavily populated islands are Beigan and Nangan, close neighbors, with regular ferry service between. Matsu’s fishing-village architecture is unlike anything you’ll see on mainland Taiwan. The old stone residences were built in the east Fujian style (i.e., China’s Fujian Province), while the roots of traditional mainland Taiwanese culture primarily lie in south Fujian. The most meticulously renovated village, today busy with homestays and eateries, is Beigan’s Qinbi. This is among the best-preserved exemplars of east Fujian architecture extant. Note how the tall two-f loor residences are divided into distinct tiers, narrow stone pathways running between. This ensures full sea-views for each, along with cooling breeze exposure. Their design, with thick granite walls, heavy doors, narrow windows, and trap doors between floors, enabled double-duty as mini-forts if attacked by pirates or, occasionally, rival fishing villages. Nangan’s most popular attraction is the redoubtable Beihai Tunnel, a massive military tunnel built into a mountainside that has openings to the sea. During the long 20th century Cold War period of tension with the People’s Republic of China, a forest of defensive military facilities were constructed on both Matsu and Kinmen, many now open for tourist visits. The Beihai Tunnel system, hewn by hand over a 3-year period by grunts, could accommodate 120 smallsized vessels. The guided boat tours (Chinese) are far more rewarding than traversing the narrow internal walkways by yourself; guides explain the wall holes where soldiers were sent in to place explosives, side caves dug out for pigraising and other purposes, and much else. Fuzheng Village and Dongquan Lighthouse on Dongju Island

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Qinbi Village on Beigan

Kinmen & Matsu

TUNNEL VIEW The tunnels on the islands of Beigan, Nangan, and Dongyin are major tourist attractions

You’re reading this article at the right time! Over the past decade Matsu’s Blue Tears phenomenon, which occurs May~September, has captured the tourist imagination. Coastal waters will sometimes glow blue at night, caused by a type of algae that produces brilliant bioluminescent shows when the waters are disturbed, generally by wind, wave, or tidal f low. Special nighttime guided boat tours in a completely darkened Beihai Tunnel have become a big hit. Check as well with the local tourism authorities (see end of article) about special Blue Tears coastal boat tours. On Dongju island, south of Nangan, the Dongquan Lighthouse stands atop the northeast-corner cape. It’s informally called the “Red-Hair Lighthouse”; the term “red-hair” was commonly used for Westerners during China’s imperial days after the Dutch appeared in regional waters. This facility was also built by the British, in 1872. Attractive trails, often windblown, run away along the cliffs in both directions. Downhill just a short distance on the island’s other side is the lovely old fishing village of Fuzheng, its sturdy old buildings now steadily being renovated and homestays taking up residence. Its sheltered harbor is especially picturesque, with a number of abandoned larger fishing craft slowly melting into the beach sands. Finally, I’d be a poor writer-guide indeed if I didn’t mention Matsu’s distinctive food and drink. Among the many unique offerings is a beloved old-time east Fujian spirit called laojiu (lit. “old wine,”); visit the Nangan distillery and nearby Tunnel 88, once used for tank storage, now for wine aging. Others include Buddha Hand clams, dancai mussels, red-yeast sea eel, and “Matsu hamburgers.” Learn about these and other tasty treasure on the official website of the Matsu National Scenic Area (see end of article).

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Kinmen & Matsu

KINMEN

The islands of the small Kinmen archipelago, directly across the Taiwan Strait from central Taiwan, are just a short distance from the island on which the great Chinese maritime city of Xiamen grew. Key to Kinmen’s history is the fact that Xiamen was another of the treaty ports forced open in the 19th century Opium Wars. “Xiamen” means “Mansion Gate,” referencing its ancient role as a China gateway. “Kinmen” means “golden gate,” according to one version referencing its role as gateway to Xiamen and its riches. The archipelago has two larger, populated islands, Kinmen and Lieyu (also called Little Kinmen), along with numerous smaller islands. As with Matsu, granite is predominant. The main islands are low, quite f lat, and bicycle-friendly, and the farmrich countryside is dotted with well-preserved imperial-era clan villages featuring distinctive south Fujian architecture, along with many Western-inf luenced mansions built by successful Kinmen merchants. The land has good tree cover, thanks to major reforestation efforts, and there are impressive military-related tourist sites, including large-scale underground facilities dug by hand from solid granite and facilities explaining Cold War-era military confrontations. Shanhou Folk Culture Village is Kinmen’s most iconic and bestpreserved historic village, a clan village of 16 traditional south Fujian-style residences built between 1876 and 1900 using monies made operating businesses in Japan. The meticulously renovated complex also features an old-style private school and the clan’s ancestral shrine. The buildings are in three symmetrical rows,

tightly packed for defense purposes. Two residences serve as minimuseums – one has private quarters, kitchen, and ancestral hall furnished in Qing Dynasty style, and the other has displays on Kinmen architecture and overseas life for the Kinmen diaspora. This was the first Kinmen village transformed into a tourist destination. A number of buildings are operated as shops, with food available, and you can also overnight in one of the B&Bs that has been opened. You’ll find above 100 Western-inf luenced colonial mansions called yanglou (lit. “Western storied buildings”) spread around Kinmen/Lieyu, the majority dating to the late 1800s/early 1900s, constructed by returning sons of Kinmen who’d struck gold in the merchant trade in foreign lands, notably Southeast Asia and Japan. Under an ongoing government support program, many have been renovated and now house homestay operations and/or cafés and souvenir shops. One of the finest – and definitely the largest – is the Chen Jing-lan Western-style House, erected by a merchant who made his fortune in Singapore. The immaculate allwhite exterior features symmetric archways along the breezy firstand second-floor arcades and refined carvings inside and outside. Inside are displays on the house, its former residents, and the Kinmen diaspora (Chinese). The large Zhaishan Tunnel is the most remarkable of the many Cold War military-built facilities now open for public visit. This large U-shaped cavern was hewn almost solely by hand from solid granite within a seaside hill-and-cliff over a five-year period in the 1960s. It was used as a safe harbor for supply boats making the RICH IN HISTORY Wherever you go on the islands of Kinmen, you are never far away from sights of historic significance

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ISLANDS

hazardous run to and from Taiwan’s main island, with a capacity for 42. There are two entrances and exits, the latter on the crashing sea, to ensure continuous ingress/egress if under attack. An information display is provided outside the tourist entrance, but best of all is the outdoor exhibit of anti-aircraft guns, supply boats, and other decommissioned equipment. The tunnel also serves as an acoustics-perfect concert hall each autumn during the Kinmen Tunnel Music Festival, with both Chinese and Western classical music performances.

Kinmen & Matsu

A fresh new Kinmen tourist attraction is the launch of minicruises (four options available) on the Chu Ri Hao, a refitted ferry that once plied a Kinmen-Xiamen route. Outings last 1.5~2hrs, and besides the two main islands take you sailing by a number of the smaller islands – and much closer to Xiamen, coruscating and especially comely at night. While aboard you also enjoy quality buffet dining starring Kinmen specialties. (en. liondmctaiwan.com)

PRACTICAL INFO Your best sources for all information needed for Kinmen and Matsu visits can be found here: Kinmen National Park website (kmnp.gov.tw) Matsu National Scenic Area website (matsu-nsa.gov.tw) Taiwan Tourism Bureau website (taiwan.net.tw) As well, note that the Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s toll-free Tourist Hotline (0800-011-765) provides 24H service in English, Japanese, and Mandarin.

ENGLISH AND CHINESE Beihai Tunnel 北海坑道 Blue Tears 藍眼淚 Buddha Hand 佛手 Chen Jing-lan Western-style House 陳景蘭洋樓 Chu Ri Hao 初日號 dancai mussels 淡菜 Dongquan Lighthouse 東犬燈塔 Dongyong Lighthouse 東湧燈塔 Fuzheng 福正 Kinmen Islands 金門列島 Kinmen Tunnel Music Festival 金門坑道音樂節 laojiu 老酒 Matsu hamburgers 馬祖漢堡 Matsu Islands 馬祖列島 Qinbi 芹壁 Shanhou Folk Culture Village 山后民俗村 Tunnel 88 八八坑道 yanglou 洋樓 Zhaishan Tunnel 翟山坑道 TR AVEL IN TAIWAN

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ISLANDS

Xiao Liuqiu

TREASURE ISLAND Beautiful coral rock formations and superb diving are the top draws of Little Liuqiu

Sea slug found at Little Liuqiu (photo by Peggy Chiang)

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ISLANDS

Xiao Liuqiu

All Aboard the Good Ship

“Little Liuqiu”! Tourist-Popular Xiao Liuqiu, Just Off Taiwan’s Southwest Coast TE X T

RICK CHARET TE

P H OTOS V I SI O N

Just a short ferry ride off the coast of Pingtung County is Taiwan’s only coral-reef island, not too big yet not too small, offering a bountiful harvest of recreational fun – breezy seafood barbecues, round-island scooter rides to unusual rock formations and other sights, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and canoeing, intertidal-zone, semi-submarine, and glass-bottom boat tours, and much other fun in the tropical sun.

I

f you’ve been traveling around the Taiwan mainland a while and have got to feeling a bit of a landlubber with the thought of heading to sea, the little island of Xiao Liuqiu (Little Liuqiu) beckons. Made almost entirely of upraised coral, she lies just 14km off the mainland, south of the big-shouldered port city of Kaohsiung. Hop on one of the regular ferries at the tourism-oriented fishing-port town of Donggang (famed for its tuna!) and after a speedy and comfy 25-minute zip you’re on the Good Ship Little Liuqiu. Why the “Good Ship” imagery? As you travel coast-side south from Kaohsiung she’s often in view, to me looking like a great ship far off at anchor. Her beauty and easy access has brought steady tourist traffic, both overnighters and day-trippers, and facilities have been built up to match – notably homestays, scooter/bike-rental facilities, and tour-operator outfits for on-land/in-water/ on-water fun.

Snorkeling/Scuba-Diving and Eco-Explorations Despite its significant tourism traffic, Little Liuqiu is not a party island. Your nights will be quiet, wherever you are – even in the main harbor town – and partying is generally limited to gatherings with folks you know at the local eateries for things like outdoor BBQ, which star Liuqiu’s inexpensive, high-quality marine catch. These eateries also do nighttime double-duty as pubs (no true bars/pubs here – eating comes first). During vacation periods scooter packs of merrymaking post-secondary students are also a ubiquitous sight on the few roads. What most everyone is here for – save for the yearning for quiet and the young-romance explorations intimated at above – is admiration of Mother Nature’s creativity. Your options are many, from guided snorkeling, free-diving (see article on page 44), scuba-diving outings around coral reefs to daytime/nighttime tidal-zone eco-walkabout excursions to semi-submarine and glassbottom boat eco-tours, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoeing sessions. In truth, unless you get yourself wet out on or in the local waters, you cannot legitimately claim to have “done Liuqiu.” And by “waters” we mean saltwater – this as said is an uplifted-coral island, most rainwater sinking right into the rock, and you won’t be doing things like pond swimming or stream tracing. The warm and shallow island-surroundings waters make for splendidly pleasurable watersport forays, and the high eco-environmental quality means much color and guaranteed quantity satisfaction on your chosen eco-touring expeditions. The various guided water-fun recreation operators are quality enterprises, and are vetted by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. An info nugget you might want to take note of, however, is the fact that in online voting Discover Lamay (discover-lamay.com; Chinese) is consistently rated right at the top. The operation offers sessions with certified guides for everyone from novices to seasoned snorkelers/divers, and provides all necessary equipment.


ISLANDS

Xiao Liuqiu

The island is defined by an intertidal foreshore that is ruggedly rocky and uneven, adorned with countless pools and trenches. Bluffs behind the foreshore are common, and there are small “sa ndy” beaches in various spots. Though primarily constructed of uplifted coral reef, Xiao Liuqiu is far from flat. The shallow inshore waters teem with subtropical sea creatures of mesmerizingly pleasing diversity of color, shape, and behavior. Perhaps the most popular of the “sandy” beaches is at Geban Bay, dubbed “Venice Beach” by the locals. A key local sand ingredient is small, sharp coral fragments, making thick-sole footwear a very good idea. Pick up a handful and look through the rich mosaic of tiny shapes and colors for irregular five-pointed yellow stars. These are foraminifera, the shells of microscale organisms, each less than 1mm in diameter. Local tourism authorities like to characterize pint-sized Xiao Liuqiu, just 6.8 sq. km. with a 12km coastline, as a “green sea turtle airport.” About a hundred such turtles call the reefs around the island home, and between April and September shuttle to and from the island’s small beaches and secluded rocky coves to lay their eggs. Your eco-tour guides of course know the best locations, and advise that as a general rule around eight in the morning and four in the afternoon are best for turtle-spotting. During intertidal-zone tours you’ll be able to wade out quite a ways from dry land without the water coming up much over your ankles (neoprene wading boots on). Among the more unusual of the local bio-zone denizens your guide will point out will be black brittle starfish, black sea cucumbers, and sea hares. The last of these is a marine gastropod mollusc, named for prominent head protuberances (rhinophores) that resemble hare’s ears. A sea hare’s color corresponds with the color of the seaweed it eats, and thus at the same time serves as camouflage. When under attack it shoots a toxic purple ink that disorients its nemesis. Unless your guide gives you the go-ahead – don’t be touchin’ or pokin’ nuthin’!

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Underwater photos on this page by Peggy Chiang

DIVING HEAVEN The island is perfect for snorkeling, scubadiving, and freediving year round


Round the Island on Two Wheels While not all visitors will choose to head out on, in, or under the island’s surrounding waters, pretty much all will sally forth on a round-island on-land sightseeing expedition. The majority of the sights to be taken in are found right along the well-paved, well-maintained ring road following the coastline. Most trippers will be on scooter/e-bicycle rentals, some on mini-bus tours, some on bicycle rentals, a very few hardy souls on foot. Rental outfits are readily found around the ferry pier in the main port town; if unsure, check in first at the portside Liuqiu Visitor Center. Here’s a quick intro of the most popular stops: The base of foliage-topped Vase Rock is submerged when the tide is in. Photographers flock here in the evening, for the sun sets behind it. At high tide you’ll often see scores of novice snorkelers around it and divers beyond it. The Beauty Cave name is from a tragic legend about a shipwrecked damsel from China who managed to struggle ashore but died of hunger here. From this spot look offshore and you’ll see Xiao Liuqiu’s distinctive floating round-top “cage nets,” used for aquaculture. No, there are now no wild boars at Wild Boar Trench. The largest of the island’s wild land-based creatures are lizards, mice, and voles. The cool and damp deep gullies here are rich with ferns, a climbing strangler called dye fig, and a taro-like plant called giant elephant’s ear. The in-places extremely narrow Black Devil Cave, entered high up on a bluff and exited down above the breakers, is said to have been the site of a gruesome massacre of Xiao Liuqiu’s now-extinct dark-skinned local natives by the Dutch East India Company in the 1600s. The long and wide Houshi Fringing Reef is a powerful manifestation in another form of Mother Nature’s brute sea-erosion sculpting force. The unique reef platforms here are divided by rough, uneven ditches into which the sea drills and recedes.

PRACTICAL INFO From Kaohsiung’s Zuoying High Speed Rail Station, take a Dapeng Bay Liuqiu Route bus of the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle service (www.taiwantrip.com.tw) to the Donggang Ferry Terminal (NT$120 one way) and take a ferry to the island from there (NT$200 one way). Xiao Liuqiu is par t of the Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area. Visit the official website (www.dbnsa.gov. tw) to find more info about the island, the ferry service, scooter/bike/mini-bus rentals, and other related matters.

ENGLISH AND CHINESE Beauty Cave 美人洞 Black Devil Cave 烏鬼洞 Donggang 東港 Geban Bay 蛤板灣 Houshi Fringing Reef 厚石群礁 Vase Rock 花瓶岩 Wild Boar Trench 山豬溝 Xiao Liuqiu 小琉球

THE SIGHTS The island's best rock formations, caves, and beaches can be visited in a day


GOOD FOOD

Ice Treats

FROZEN AND

FRUIT Y TE X T K I M W EI N ER S

P H OTOS V I SI O N

M a gnificent I ce a nd Fruit Combina tions to Keep You Cool Taiwan's famously hot and humid weather starts in early May, with the dog days of the warm season lasting well into November in some years. While you may be tempted to hide inside to avoid the heat, and when venturing out run from air-conditioned convenience store to air-conditioned MRT station, the “real” way to cool down during the summer lies in Taiwan's astounding variety of frozen treats. From classics like shaved ice topped with a mountain of mango and other delectables to more Western-style treats like sorbet, spend the summer reveling in Taiwan’s delectable icy sweets.


GOOD FOOD

Ice Treats

W

ith its subtropical and tropical climate zones, it’s no wonder Taiwan does iced treats extremely well. Arriving in July from America my first year here, and quickly missing the usual ice cream cones, gelatos, sorbets, and slushies from back home, I set about finding out exactly what was available. In convenience stores it's easy to spot familiar items, including the ones mentioned above, as well as other imported treats from Southeast Asia, Europe, and elsewhere. However, that wasn't quite enough for me. I was curious about the huge piles of shaved ice with yummy goodies loaded atop that I'd seen online, and having my first mango ice was definitely an eye-opening experience. I then moved on to trying more unusual options (“People eat ice with red beans as a dessert?!” “It's true – and it's delicious!”), and soon found out that Taiwan's native icy treats are able to compete with any ice cream cone – and oftentimes surpass them in flavor.

Ice wIth FruIt D a yung ’s A business that was started in Changhua way back in 2001, Day ung’s celebrates its 20 t h anniversary this year. Having grown from a small fruit stand on the streets of this central Taiwan city into a multinational company with locations in mainland China, the United States, Cambodia, and island-wide in Taiwan, Dayung’s is the quintessential success story. Founded by the children of fruit farmers, the company firmly sticks to its roots, using only locally grown fruits from small farms. To ensure the best quality of its products, Dayung’s also implements strict quality control to ensure that only healthful produce that has been naturally grown is used. Its multilevel Taipei flagship branch, located just a short walk from MRT Taipei City Hall Station (Exit 4), is impeccably decorated in retro fashion, with bright-green tiles and comfortable wooden seats. The smell of egg cakes hits you as soon as you enter the shop, and it only gets more delicious from there. The egg cakes are stuffed with chocolate or sesame, making them the perfect accompaniment to Dayung’s wide range of freshly-made fruit concoctions. Like mad scientists, the artisans at Dayung’s have managed to make some of the most interesting combinations of fruits and desserts I’ve ever had. Their Frozen Yoghurt with Plum Tomato has a unique, tart taste, plum and tomato unexpectedly working perfectly together. The Mango Smoothie Double Double, the shop’s specialty, is a rich and thick mango slush topped with chunks of sweet and juicy mango. Mangoes are in season during the summer, and there’s no better way to enjoy them than in the form of mango shaved ice, topped with panna cotta and dripping with a sweet condensed sauce. End your visit with some refreshing Pineapple Green Tea, the perfect takeout for when you’re on the go exploring the city’s lively East District. DAYUNG�S ( 大苑子 ) (02) 2768-0900 No. 139, Sec. 5, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Xinyi District, Taipei City (City Hall Dream Branch) (台北市信義區忠孝東路五段 139 號 ) ( 市府夢想店 ) www.dayungs.com (Chinese)

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GOOD FOOD

Ice Treats

tradItIonal Flavors Lia ng Le The port town of Tamsui, one of greater Taipei's most popular tourist destinations (see page 38), is home to one of the best peanut ice wraps I’ve tried in Taiwan: Liang Le, a tiny shop in one of the narrow lanes of the town’s Old Street area. Just a few minutes’ walk from MRT Tamsui Station, the shop packs a big punch with its flavorful wraps, and is the perfect place to stop after a day of exploring Tamsui on foot or bike. Peanut ice, wrapped in a crepe skin and topped with ice cream and coriander, is a common sight in Taiwan during the summer months. Go to a place popular with tourists (such as Jiufen Old Street on the Northeast Coast) and chances are there’s at least one stand selling the treat. Peanut ice wraps are made by starting with a crepe wrap,

which is then filled with peanut powder shaved off from a large brick. Scoops of ice cream in varying flavors are added, and coriander is sprinkled on top. The resulting wrap is something that looks a bit like a Western burrito, with a taste all its own. On the daily-changed menu of this simple-design shop, the ice cream offerings include guava, mango, taro, strawberry, and matcha. Liang Le also offers Taiwanese craft beer to go alongside the ice cream. The shop sources its fresh fruit from small farmers, and no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives are used in its ice cream, peanut brick, or crepe wraps. Visitors can choose to add coriander or not, but for an extra shot of flavor, be sure to add it. In addition to the wraps, cones are also available, if you like your ice cream in a more Western style.

PEANUT ICE WRAP A common icy treat found around Taiwan LIANG LE ( 倆樂 ) 0920-097-763 No. 11, Ln. 11, Zhongzheng Rd., Tamsui District, New Taipei City ( 新北市淡水區中正路 11 巷 11 號 ) www.facebook.com/LiAngLe0313

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GOOD FOOD

Ice Treats

Right ice crea m Just steps away from downtown Taipei’s Songshan Cultural and Creative Park and the soon-to-open Taipei Dome is a shop named Right ice cream. Packed with trinkets and homey retro-style decorations, this shop brings to mind the small neighborhood ice cream scoop shops of days gone by. The extensive menu boasts both local and exotic favorites, including a rarely seen sight in Taiwan: ice cream cake. The owner is a self-taught ice cream connoisseur, using local ingredients to create some of the most interesting and unique flavors you'll see in a local shop. This is a place that caters to the tastes of both foreigners and locals. On a recent visit I was treated to several trial scoops of some of these f lavors, including honey sourced from Yunlin County and banana from Taichung. The ice cream is rich and smooth and has a taste and texture with which foreign visitors will be very familiar. Other options, including grape, strawberry, mango, pineapple, passion fruit, and osmanthus, are equally flavorful. Right ice cream’s more Taiwanese-style offerings have their own interesting twists as well. The shaved ice is infused with either lemon or brown sugar flavoring, a delightful change from the usual mound of plain shaved ice. Lemons sourced from the southern county of Pingtung are tangy enough to provide some extra f lavor, but don’t overwhelm the dish as a whole. Throw some konjac jelly, sweetened red beans, or even sorbet on top, and you’ve got an interesting take on a familiar dish. The sorbet, another familiar Western-style ice treat, is bursting with berry taste and is by far, in my opinion, the best item the shop sells. If you’ve taken a liking to a certain f lavor (and it’s hard not to!), note that Right ice cream sells 500ml containers of its ice cream for just $180, so you can take home the deliciousness.

JELLY AND BEANS Don't be surprised to find mung and adzuki beans as main ingredients in many sweet offerings

RIGHT ICE CREAM ( 來特冰淇淋 ) (02) 2762-2008 No. 54, Ln. 36, Sec. 4, Bade Rd., Songshan District, Taipei City ( 台北市松山區八德路四段 36 巷 54 號 ) www.facebook.com/righticecream/

RETRO DECO Old-time flavors are best enjoyed in an old-style setting

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GOOD FOOD

Ice Treats

other types oF Ice treats common In taIwan Su g a rca ne I ce Sugarcane juice is very popular in Taiwan, with nearly every night market having at least one kiosk selling this sweet and refreshing drink. One ice shop has decided to take things a step further, making this yearround favorite extra enjoyable in the summer. Located just outside Shoufeng Railway Station in Hualien County, Fengchun Ice Shop offers sugarcane ice with an array of traditional Taiwanese shaved-ice toppings, including taro, pineapple, mesona (herbal jelly), adzuki beans and more. The ice itself is made using the traditional method – the shop boasts one of only a few traditional ice machines left in Taiwan. Dating back to pre-1960, the machine makes the sugarcane ice served here all the more unique. Visitors can choose two generous helpings of toppings from a long list. FENGCHUN ICE SHOP ( 豐春冰菓店 ) (03) 865-1530 No. 79, Sec. 1, Shoufeng Rd., Shoufeng Township, Hualien County ( 花蓮縣壽豐鄉壽豐路一段 79 號 )

Ta ngyu a n I ce Whether it's in soup or over ice, tangyuan, or glutinous-rice balls, are popular during the cold and hot seasons alike. Both options are available at Taipei’s Yupinyuan Ice Fire Tangyuan, located in the Tonghua Street Night Market, not far from Taipei 101. Offering both sweet and savory renditions of tangyuan, the variety of soups will have you coming back on repeat visits. The specialty here, however, is the Ice Fire Tangyuan. Peanut or sesame tangyuan are served piping hot on top of ice, which then hardens the balls. You can eat the tangyuan while still hot – revealing the tasty peanut- or sesame-paste centers – or wait until they harden. The shop and the night market, one of Taipei’s most popular, can be easily reached from MRT Xinyi Anhe Station. YUPINYUAN ICE FIRE TANGYUAN ( 御品元冰火湯圓 ) 0955-861-816 No. 31, Alley 50, Ln. 39, Tonghua St., Da’an District, Taipei City ( 台北市大安區通化街 39 巷 50 弄 31 號 ) www.facebook.com/ice.fire.dumpling

AVAILABLE ALL YEAR Many of Taiwan's most favorite sweet treats can be enjoyed in the summer as ice and in the winter as hot soup

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GOOD FOOD

Eight Trea sure I ce To get a well-rounded taste of traditional Taiwanese ice snacks, look no further than Zhengjiang Traditional Ice Shop, located near the foodie's paradise that is the streets surrounding MRT Dongmen Station in Taipei. A fter sampling the wide variety of foods in the area, a stop at Zhengjiang is a great opportunity to try a version of the aptlynamed Eight Treasure Ice. Enjoy a heaping helping of the “eight treasures,” which include adzuki beans, mung beans, taro balls, peanuts, chestnuts, kidney beans, sweet potato balls, and tapioca pearls atop a mountain of shaved ice. In addition to its ice treats, the shop offers warming tangyuan soup, which is a must-try during the colder months, as well as douhua (soft tofu pudding), seasonal fruit juices, and a range of soups, including peanut and adzuki bean.

Ice Treats

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ZHENGJIANG TRADITIONAL ICE SHOP ( 政江號 ) (02) 2395-2109 No. 109, Sec. 2, Jinshan S. Rd., Da’an District, Taipei City ( 台北市大安區金山南路二段 109 號 ) www.facebook.com/52ckh

Fruit Popsicles Originating from the East Rift Valley in eastern Taiwan, Ice Spring was founded in 2008 by Li Ming-huang when he encountered the problem of fruit overproduction. Farmers in Taitung County’s Luye Township would offer him fruit they could not sell at market prices and that would otherwise be discarded. Unhappy with the amount of food being wasted, Li began thinking of a way to help the struggling fruit farmers, and decided to use the fruit for handcrafted popsicles. Ice Spring, which was started as a non-profit organization, has grown into a thriving business since. The company uses a wide array of exclusively locally grown fruits such as mango, watermelon, pineapple, dragon fruit, and passion fruit – just to name a few – to create fresh and delicious versions of a classic summer treat. The popsicles can be conveniently ordered online at its website. They are also sold in stores around the island, including a dedicated Ice Spring outlet not far from MRT Yongchun Station in Taipei. ICE SPRING ( 春一枝 ) (02) 2345-6617 No. 3, Alley 28, Ln. 372, Sec. 5, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Xinyi District, Taipei City ( 台北市信義區忠孝東路五段 372 巷 28 弄 3 號 ) icespring.com.tw (Chinese) ENGLISH AND CHINESE douhua 豆花 East Rift Valley 花東縱谷 Eight Treasure Ice 八寶冰 Frozen Yoghurt with Plum Tomato 番茄梅霜淇淋 Ice Fire Tangyuan 冰火湯圓 Jiufen Old Street 九份老街 Li Ming-huang 李銘煌 Mango Smoothie Double Double 愛文芒果冰沙 Double Double Pineapple Green Tea 旺來翡翠 popsicles 枝仔冰 Shoufeng 壽豐 Songshan Cultural and Creative Park 松山文創園區 Taipei Dome 台北大巨蛋 tangyuan 湯圓 Tonghua Street Night Market 通化街夜市

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CYCLING IN TAIWAN

Tamsui

GO WITH THE FLOW

CAST OFF ON A RIDE THROUGH HISTORIC TAMSUI TE X T A M I B A R N ES

P H OTOS R AY C H A N G

A day trip to Tamsui is often part of the itinerary for both foreign and domestic tourists visiting northern Taiwan. And for good reason – this coastal community has much to offer. Travelers who venture beyond the waterfront stalls selling tasty treats will find traces of historic Tamsui at every turn – each opening a window into a chapter of Taiwan’s past. And if neither food nor history floats your boat, well then perhaps you can be tempted by the simple pleasure of a gentle exploratory bike ride followed by the timeless delight of watching the sun sink into the sea.

S

ituated on the right bank at the mouth of the Tamsui River, modern-day Tamsui has carved out a niche for itself as a weekend seaside town to which Taipei’s families come to rinse off the stresses of city living. The port town’s fortunes have risen and dipped with the changing geopolitical and economic currents of the day – from humble beginnings as a fishing village, Tamsui saw a long f lourishing period of international significance punctuated by long decades in the 20th century during which north Taiwan’s center of maritime commerce was tugged east to Keelung, and in recent decades it has enjoyed a tourism renaissance. It has been a long time since ships bound for foreign shores moored here, but the centuries of maritime trade have left their mark on this seaward community in the form of architecture, infrastructure, and even battle scars. Exploring these remnants could not be easier – simply ride the Tamsui-Xinyi Line of the Taipei Metro (MRT) to its northern terminal station, then head to the nearby YouBike public rental-bike station to get started. 38

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Fisherman’s Wharf Reverend Mackay’s Residence Bok Su Lao The House Tamsui Customs of Maidens Officers' Residence Tamsui Customs Wharf

Tamsui River

Former Residence of Tada Eikichi Chi Po-lin Museum Douglas Lapraik & Co.

MRT Tamsui Station

Tai p

ei C

RIVERSIDE RIDE Riding north along the Tamsui all the way to the Fisherman's Wharf is the obvious bike route to follow in the port town

GOING ON A BIKE RIDE Stepping out of MRT Tamsui Station on a warm midweek morning, I found myself caught up amongst the tide of locals making the most of the pleasant weather. One group was practicing coordinated aerobics, another salsa dancing. Benches along the whole length of the riverside esplanade section here were occupied by retirees staring out across the Tamsui River, some listening to handheld radios. The faint scent of sea salt in the air was an immediate tonic, triggering childhood recollections of carefree days in the sun eating ice cream and the relaxation that comes from not having anything important to do. However, on this occasion ice cream would have to wait, for we had a day’s worth of sightseeing to do first. Our plan was to meander along the waterfront promenade and through the narrow lanes adjacent, stopping at spots of cultural and historic interest, before setting course north for Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf, located right where river meets sea. To make the journey between destinations speedier we rented YouBikes from outside the MRT station. It is also possible to start off on foot and switch to two wheels later on, after you have seen your fill of sights in the central area of the town. Multiple rental stations along the way make it convenient to drop off and pick up bikes if you plan to stay in one place for a bit longer. (If you bring your own bike, note that you have to get off your train at MRT Hongshulin Station, one stop before Tamsui, and start pedaling from there, since bicycles are not allowed in the terminal station.) It’s an easy 4.5km from Tamsui station to the wharf, but with all of our diversions and dallyings, the journey took the better part of five hours. Even at this unhurried pace, I felt there was much that we had skimmed over. We didn’t visit such popular sites as Hobe Fort, New Taipei City Martyrs’ Shrine, and Cloud Gate Theater, so there are a number of attractions remaining that warrant a return trip. Following are the many interesting spots we did check out.

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ity


CULTURAL SPACES IN THE TAMSUI OLD STREET AREA

Douglas Lapraik & Co

As one of the top Western trading companies of its day, Douglas Lapraik & Co. was both beneficiary and driver of Tamsui’s growing prosperit y during t he 180 0s. L oc ated on Zhongzheng Road just a few minutes from the MRT station, the company’s old warehouse is now home to a permanent exhibition detailing the factors that precipitated and resulted from the Sino-French War of the mid-1880s. This potentially dry subject has been deftly dealt with – interactive installations intersperse historical facts with personal accounts, all presented with excellent bilingual texts – leaving me far more informed than when I had arrived.

Chi Po-lin Museum

DOUGLAS LAPRAIK & CO. ( 得忌利士洋行 ) (02) 2629-9522 No. 316, Zhongzheng Rd., Tamsui District, New Taipei City ( 新北市淡水區中正路 316 號 ) en.tshs.ntpc.gov.tw (Tamsui Historical Museum) CHI PO-LIN MUSEUM ( 齊柏林空間 ) (02) 2629-1996 No. 316-1, Zhongzheng Rd., Tamsui District, New Taipei City ( 新北市淡水區中正路 316-1 號 ) www.chipolin.org (Chinese)

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Just next door is a relatively recent addition to the cultural landscape of Tamsui: the Chi Polin Museum. Occupying a renovated historic building, this gallery is dedicated to preserving, sharing, and perpetuating the work of celebrated aerial photographer and documentary maker Chi Po-lin. Chi, who died in a helicopter crash in 2017, was a civil servant turned filmmaker best known for Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above. This heartbreakingly beautiful film was shot entirely from the skies, and is a biting polemic against the misuse and abuse done to the land by us humans, its reckless custodians. The museum is currently hosting its second exhibition, Above the Coast, focusing specifically on Taiwan’s littoral environments. Upon entry we were presented with a f loor-to-ceiling projection of footage shot by Chi – a 30-minute round-island trip that is as dizzying as it is aweinspiring. Beyond this, striking photographic enlargements document a litany of harm: crumbling concrete-wall abalone farms, illegally dumped wastewater, coastal erosion, liquids from landfill sites spilling directly into the waves. It is a sharp slap in the face. But thankfully the exhibition doesn’t end there. The final room is given over to interviews with experts who work in fields related to environmental restoration, and the message is one of hope. Visitors who book one of the exhibition tours (thrice daily on weekends) are also guided to think about steps we can take in our own lives. It’s a fitting tribute to Chi’s memory.


HISTORIC RESIDENCES Best accessed on foot, the Former Residence of Tada Eikichi sits on a narrow wedge of land slightly inland and uphill. It’s an elegant 1930s traditional Japanese wood-built structure constructed at the behest of businessman Tada Eikichi, a merchant who arrived on Taiwan’s shores as part of the wave of entrepreneurial sorts settling here in the early years of Japanese rule (1895~1945). Over the course of the following decade he parlayed his business successes into a position as Tamsui’s mayor. Guests are required to swap their outdoor shoes for slippers upon entry, then you’re free to explore the rooms. On fine days staff throw open the sliding doors that lead out onto porches, giving the whole space an airy, breezy feel. I was envious of the couple who’d bagged the perfect spot out on the front porch to sit and gaze contentedly across the river to where clouds were scudding over Mt. Guanyin. Follow the lane that curves snugly along the rear of the Tada Eikichi house for 150m and you’ll arrive at the entrance of the Little White House. If the Tada Eikichi residence is the epitome of Japanese grace and simplicity, then the Little White House is its European cousin, a stately colonial-style work of architecture. Built in 1870 as accommodation for the Tamsui Port customs officer, the Little White House’s understated ivory arches, trimmed lawn, and topiaried hedges exude a distinctly British flavor. FORMER RESIDENCE OF TADA EIKICHI ( 多田榮吉故居 ) (02) 2629-5092 No. 19, Maxie St., Tamsui District, New Taipei City ( 新北市淡水區馬偕街 19 號 ) en.tshs.ntpc.gov.tw (Tamsui Historical Museum) LITTLE WHITE HOUSE ( 小白宮 ) (02) 2628-2865 No. 15, Zhenli St., Tamsui District, New Taipei City ( 新北市淡水區真理街 15 號 ) en.tshs.ntpc.gov.tw (Tamsui Historical Museum)

Little White House

HISTORY RETOLD The stories of important men who left their mark in Tamsui are told in numerous well-restored heritage sites

Former Residence of Tada Eikichi

Displays detail the building’s history, but it’s the gardens that I most enjoyed. Surveying the river from the veranda with frangipani trees framing the view, it was almost possible to imagine that you’d slipped back in time. Before you go, check out the rear garden, where several car-sized depressions mar the otherwise neatly manicured lawn. This is no oversight by the conservators. The hollows are in fact craters left by artillery shells during the attempt by French forces to capture Tamsui. Or perhaps they were caused by US bombs dropped in World War II. It seems the truth has been swept away by the waters of time, but that doesn’t diminish the visual impact.

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CYCLING IN TAIWAN

Tamsui

MACKAY-RELATED SITES No trip to Tamsui would be complete without crossing paths with the late Reverend Mackay. Dr. George Leslie Mackay was an unconventional Canadian missionary who – through services in education, medicine, and religion – earned the moniker “son-in-law of Taiwan.” His legacy casts ripples throughout Taiwan to this day, and what better place to encounter him than Aletheia University – the direct descendant of an educational institute he founded more than a century ago. When it opened in 1882 the establishment was named Oxford College. It is Taiwan’s oldest institute of tertiary education. The campus spans both sides of Zhenli Street, with the original classroom facilities to the north and residential buildings to the south. Of note in the northern section is the historic Oxford College building, whilst the southern buildings include the twin red-brick House of the Reverends (aka Bok Su Lao in Taiwanese) and House of the Maidens. Both built in 1906, the former served as the residence for various pastors who taught and preached here

Old Mackay residence

over the years, and its neighbor housed the female missionaries who taught at Tamsui Girls’ School. I nd e e d , t h i s l it t le c or ne r of Ta m s u i d e s e r ve s w id e r acknowledgement for its pioneering role in advancing women’s education in Taiwan. Tamsui Girls’ School was the first educational facility for girls when it opened in 1884, and one of the six teachers at Oxford College was female. Minnie Mackay (born Tiu Chhangmia), was a local Hoklo woman and Christian convert who married Dr. Mackay and went on to become a preacher and educator in her own right. The whitewashed villa once occupied by Minnie, her husband, and their children sits next to the House of the Maidens. The pair is buried side-by-side on the nearby grounds of Tamkang Senior High School. In normal times guests can wander the campus, but because of the ongoing pandemic the university is temporarily closed to visitors – although you can still visit the café which is run out of the western corner of Bok Su Lao.

Old Mackay residence

House of the Reverends

House of the Maidens

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BOK SU LAO CAFÉ ( 牧師樓古蹟庭園咖啡 ) (02) 2628-1212 No. 32, Zhenli St., Tamsui District, New Taipei City ( 新北市淡水區真理街 32 號 ) www.facebook.com/boksulao/ www.au.edu.tw (Aletheia University)


CYCLING IN TAIWAN

Tamsui

FISHERMAN’S WHARF AND SCENIC SUNSET At the waterfront promenade’s northern extremity is Tamsui Customs Wharf. In its heyday this was a major trade hub, seeing constant streams of tea, camphor, and sugar flowing in from areas around Taipei, then out to the world across the ocean. The old wharfside warehouses have now been converted into galleries, with displays detailing various aspects of Tamsui’s illustrious history. Between the Customs Wharf and Fisherman’s Wharf is a section of bikeway where we could finally make good headway. For a brief while it tracks the shore, before diving inland for the final kilometer or so. At Fisherman’s Wharf fishing boats and pleasure vessels line multiple jetties, and the water’s edge is ringed with precisely the kind of seafood-heavy eateries that you’d expect to find around a working fishing harbor. We walked along the breakwater where building work for the new Danjiang Bridge (road and light rail) caught my attention; soon Tamsui’s residents will have a faster option than taking the ferry, or first driving upriver to Guandu Bridge, to reach Bali on the other side of the river. The ride back to MRT Tamsui Station took a mere 25 minutes, and by late afternoon the promenade there had transformed – the dancers were gone, replaced by dog walkers and dating couples. Even on a weekday, buskers and popular vendors were drawing crowds. At this point my companions and I parted ways, the MRT whisking them swiftly back to the city, while I lingered, passing the time until the sun went down. On good days, sunset in Tamsui is a splendid natural light show, setting the river, and the sea beyond, ablaze with a wash of orange, and on this occasion the sun had lined up perfectly with the middle of the waterway’s mouth. I watched along with an admiring crowd as it was doused in the waves of the Taiwan Strait. And did I get to enjoy that ice cream? I did. (Although childhood me would have questioned my choice of f lavor: peanut with a coriander garnish.)

Lover's Bridge at Fisherman's Wharf

Tamsui Customs Wharf TAMSUI CUSTOMS WHARF ( 淡水海關碼頭 ) (02) 2623-1001 No. 259, Zhongzheng Rd., Tamsui District, New Taipei City ( 新北市淡水區中正路 259 號 ) en.tshs.ntpc.gov.tw (Tamsui Historical Museum) ENGLISH AND CHINESE Aletheia University 真理大學 Bali 八里 Cloud Gate Theater 雲門劇場 Danjiang Bridge 淡江大橋 Guandu Bridge 關渡大橋 Hobe Fort 滬尾砲台 Hongshulin 紅樹林 House of the Maidens 姑娘樓

House of the Reverends 牧師樓 Mt. Guanyin 觀音山 New Taipei City Martyrs’ Shrine 新北市忠烈祠 Oxford College 牛津學堂 Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf 淡水漁人碼頭 Tamsui River 淡水河

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Feeling Free Living the Dream on Little Liuqiu Island TE X T OWA I N M C K I M M P H OTOS R AY KO, C H EN C H EN G - K U O

Quitting the rat race to live on a tropical island is many a city worker's dream. Few, however, ever find the courage to truly make the leap and leave the creature comforts of life in the big city. California native Ray Ko is one of the few who have done exactly that. After discovering a love of freediving after decades in the finance industry, Ko traded in his trading software for a pair of flippers and relocated to Xiao Liuqiu (Little Liuqiu), a small island of just 13,000 people off the southwest coast of Taiwan. He now teaches freediving under the moniker Freedive Nomad.

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LOCAL LIFESTYLE

Freediving

A

s a former financier, Ko is no stranger to living and working in Asia. Since 1996 he has spent several stints in the region. As a trader for a mu lt i n at ion a l i nve s t ment b a n k , he move d between Taipei and Hong Kong. Though the job certainly had its perks, for Ko, a twenty-plusyear veteran of the industry, it had begun to lose its allure. "I was chained to my desk, basically helping people push money around the world; there wasn't really joy in it," he says. It was time for a change. The Universe seemed to agree. Soon after beginning his third stint in Taipei in 2019, the bank he was working for entered a difficult period and Ko was laid off. Fortunately, however, a few months earlier he had discovered the passion that would become his future calling: freediving. While he had always had an interest in freediving, which stemmed from having seen the film The Big Blue as a teenager, it had never occurred to him that he could actually study it. "In 2017, I was up for a move to Singapore. I was researching things to do there and freediving came up, and it suddenly dawned on me that it was something I could actually learn." After that move fell through and he came to Taiwan in 2019, he found an instructor, and passed two freediving courses (which enabled him to hold his breath for 2 minutes and 45 seconds and dive to a depth of 24m). He became convinced that freediving was something he wanted to do long-term. "I love the ocean. I've done surfing, ocean swimming, scuba, long-distance ocean swimming, but I'd never found anything that I felt was truly it for me. Freediving gave me that very visceral feeling: this is it," he says. A month after passing his second course, he was laid off from his banking job. That was all the encouragement he needed. It was straight to the small island of Gili Air in Indonesia to take the advanced courses needed to become a qualified freediving instructor. In early 2020, back in the States, Ko and his wife began drawing up plans for their new nomadic lifestyle. "The name I chose for myself as a teacher is Freedive Nomad, because I've always dreamed of living that digital-nomad lifestyle. For a long time I'd been held to one place because of my job and family obligations, and so I wanted freediving to be a way for me to see the world." Plans to visit Mexico and Europe, however, were ultimately thwarted by the COVID-19 outbreak. So in the fall of 2020 – having gotten a taste for small-island life while training in Indonesia – Ko and his wife decided to ride out the pandemic in Taiwan, setting up shop on Xiao Liuqiu, one of Taiwan's offshore islands known for its burgeoning freediving scene.

GOING DEEP Freediving is less about exploring the ocean than exploring yourself

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LOCAL LIFESTYLE

Freediving

Freediving in Taiwan The popularity of freediving as a pastime in Taiwan has shot up in recent years, and freediving spots and centers can now be found in various locations: at Chaojing Park and Longdong Bay on Taiwan's Northeast Coast; on Green Island and Lanyu (Orchid Island) off the southeast coast; on Xiao Liuqiu in the southwest; and at the popular surf town of Kending in the far south. The city of Taichung, halfway down Taiwan's west coast, even has a hotel (Divecube City Diving & Hotel; www. divecube.com.tw) with the second-deepest dive pool in A sia at 21m (the deepest, 26m, is in South Korea). On Xiao Liuqiu, hundreds of freedivers visit every weekend to dive among the island's colorful coral reefs and see the many sea turtles that call its clear blue waters home. Ko suspects that this surge in popularity is in no small part due to with social media: "The underwater photos you can take when freediving look so elegant. You don't have the cumbersome gear that you do with scuba diving, and the long fins that we use for freediving really elongate the body." But while people may sign up for the Instagram ops, they likely stay for the mental peace that the sport encourages and, indeed, necessitates to progress. In fact, even the allure of marine life seems to become less and less important after a while. “About 90% of the marine life that people want to see, when they're doing activities like scuba diving, are between the surface and 18m below. So after you pass your second freediving course, you're already diving deeper than that; that's not what attracts you anymore." Indeed, the way Ko describes freediving is more akin to yoga than an extreme sport: "If you're diving for depth, you really have to put your mind into a meditative flow state; you have to relax every muscle in your body, and bring your heart rate down low so you consume as little oxygen as possible. Progression in freediving is progression in your ability to relax." When in such a state, he adds, stress, fear, and even pain cease to exist.

TAKE A COURSE Minimize the risks by learning how to go about freediving the right way

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Freediving

LESS IS MORE Freedivers enjoy a more intimate relationship with the ocean without the heavy scuba gear

However, that isn't to say that the practice does not have its risks – the perils of diving at such depths and for such durations unassisted a re hopef u lly self-evident. But Ko is passionate that those risks are minimized if one has proper training. "My advice for anyone considering freediving is to take a freediving course," he says. "The ocean is fickle and is a risk. But I don’t feel scared because I know what the risks are. With the risks minimized I can accept the small risks. That's what taking a freediving course will teach you: how to avoid the risks and what to do in case those risks do materialize." Even simple things such as the rule never to freedive with a snorkel in your mouth (if you pass out, the snorkel will allow water to rush into your lungs, compromising your body's automatic reaction to close your airways) or do freediving or breath-holding in the water alone can be instrumental in avoiding tragedy. "Whenever I hear of a freediver getting into trouble," Ko says, "it's almost always an untrained diver. Freediving can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing (never taken a course), but it is relatively safe if you do.” As someone who used to work a regular city-job schedule and knows how difficult getting time off can be, Ko's own approach to teaching freediving is based on making his courses as accessible as possible while also giving students the proper amount of attention. Though most freedive coaches allow classes of four, Ko has a maximum limit of two. He is also flexible in terms of location, allowing students to complete the theory part of their course online and traveling to Taipei himself to do the pool session, with students only needing to travel to Xiao Liuqiu for the open-water portion of the course. Ko's aim, he says, is to challenge misconceptions about freediving, to challenge the mental block that many have about pursuing the sport: "My last student was adamant that she wouldn't be able to hold her breath for more than a minute, and I was able to teach her to do it. To see the joy in my students' eyes when they achieve things they thought were impossible is an amazing thing."

MORE INFO You can find more info about freediving in general and diving in Xiao Liuqiu in particular on Ko’s website at www.freedivenomadtaiwan.com. While a full freedive course is highly recommended, a free safety course is available at freedivingsafety.com.

ENGLISH AND CHINESE Chaojing Park 潮境公園 Divecube City Diving & Hotel 潛立方旅館 Freediving 自由潛水 Green Island 綠島 Kending 墾丁 Lanyu 蘭嶼 Longdong Bay 龍洞灣 Xiao Liuqiu 小琉球

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BIKING FUN

Supply Stations

Help Is On Along the Way Bike Supply Stations for Cyclists Riding Around Taiwan TE X T & P H OTOS V I SI O N

Even if you go on your first, or next, round-Taiwan cycling adventure wellprepared and well-equipped, during your trip you might still run into technical difficulties with your bicycle, and when this happens you will certainly look for a place where you can make a pit stop. That’s when the numerous bike supply stations set up along Taiwan’s major bike routes come in handy.

If you think of a large, well-staffed service center when hearing the term “bike supply station” (Chinese: danche bujizhan or danche yizhan), you might need to lower your expectations just a little bit. Many of these “stations” are not more than small corners set aside at visitor centers, police stations, gas stations, convenience stores, and other businesses to give cyclists a space to rest and refresh. Many, however, provide pumps and basic tools for fixing minor bike problems, and some provide helpful travel information such as maps and brochures. Supply stations can be found roughly every 20km along Cycling Route No. 1, the main route around the island, which is about 950km long and takes between 7 and 12 days to complete for average riders. They can also be found along other routes and in popular tourist areas, such as at Sun Moon Lake, and even on some of Taiwan’s offshore islands, including Penghu and Green Island.

Over the years, various individual bike supply stations have become especially popular among cyclists. One example is the Shou k a Tiema Yizha n (“Shouk a Bic ycle Supply Station”), located at the intersection of Provincial Highway 9E and County Route 199 in Pingtung County. Sitting at the highest point of the highway that connects the west and east coasts in Taiwan’s far south, the station has become a must-stop for cyclists on roundthe-island excursions. Tired from the long ascent up to this point from any of the three possible directions, riders are eager to get off their steeds here. Inside the small building they will rest, share stories with fellow riders, and leave messages on specially prepared slices of wood (please don’t write on the walls of the building!). The station is open daily 8am~4:30pm (lunch break 12~12:30) Tel: (08) 870-1300

Shouka Tiema Yizhan (photo courtesy of Shizi Township Office)

Not all supply stations provide tools, but some do have a full set of them, thanks to Topeak (www.topeak.com), a Taiwanese bike and accessories design and marketing enterprise. Last year the company, which produces a wide range of bicycle accessories, donated a total of 100 specially-made tool posts to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to be distributed to bike supply stations along Cycling Route No. 1. The bright-yellow steel posts come with a stainless-steel pump with a four-inch tire-pressure gauge and a set of ten handy tools commonly used in bike repairs. A list of all bike supply stations around Taiwan can be found at:

FIX STATION Like a Swiss knife, the tool posts donated by Topeak come with a set of handy tools for cyclists with bike problems 48

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taiwanbike.taiwan.net.tw/TransferInfo/SupplyStation (Chinese) ENGLISH AND CHINESE danche bujizhan 單車補給站 danche yizhan 單車驛站 Shouka Tiema Yizhan 壽卡鐵馬驛站