The Matsu Islands (馬祖列島) are an archipelago of small islands, owned by Taiwan but very close to the Chinese coast, to the northwest of Taiwan proper. They are an excellent few days away from Taipei or any other big city, have some great attractions, and a very laid back vibe. The only negative, which really isn’t a problem at all, is that the islands are heavily militarized. But other than seeing the old bunkers everywhere (And I mean EVERYWHERE) the military presence really doesn’t affect the mood, in my opinion. In fact, I had several great conversations with solders, some of which said they really didn’t mind being stationed on those remote islands!
The Matsu archipelago is made up of 19 islands, but only a few are accessible to tourists. Of those, I visited the “main” island of Nangan, Dongyin (and it’s very close neighbor Xiyin), and Beigan (and it’s very close neighbor Daqiu). There are two that I would have loved to see called Dongju and Xiju, but they’ll have to wait for a different visit.
Before I go any further, let me highly, highly recommend Richard Saunder’s guidebook “The Islands of Taiwan”. I would have been totally lost without it. I’ve placed some links as to where you can buy it below.
Also, I’ve uploaded these pictures in a different way from before, so if you want to see them bigger (and sharper), just click on it.
Sunset over Turtle Island from Qinbi Village on Beigan Island, Matsu.
Ji Tong 乩童 (aka Tong Ji 童乩 or Tang-ki in Taiwanese), is a rarely seen event of old Taiwanese religious belief. It’s a type of shamanism, where the “spirit-medium” human is possessed by the spirit of a god. After doing so, the god can live for a short while in the body of the medium to prove his existence or even answer questions to the benefit of believers. The more visually interesting aspect of Ji Tong is when the gods take possession at a temple festival. That’s when the spirit-medium often starts self-flagellating himself with spiked bats, swords, and other medieval pain and blood inflicting devices.
Everyone I’ve talked to about this, has had very little information for me. It seems that many Taiwanese don’t believe it, and even fewer know anything about it. Even inquiring about it at local temples, people don’t know much, and never seem to know when the next event will happen. So, finding a ceremony with people practicing Ji Tong just seems to be something you have to be lucky to find. This was the first time I’ve seen it in over 8 years of living in Taiwan.
This man is performing a Ji Tong ritual. The spirit-medium, said to be possessed by the spirit of a Taoist God, self-flagellates at a religious ceremony in Tainan, Taiwan. The blood on his back is from repeated blows from various sharp weapons.
Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN
Tags: 童乩, 臺灣, Ji Tong, possesion, spirit mediums, Tainan, TAIWAN, Tang-Ki, Tong Ji, 台灣, 台南, 乩童
Tainan is often though of as Taiwan’s most beloved city. There’s good reason for that. Compared to the capital of Taipei, Tainan has a more traditional feel to it. It seems like almost anywhere you go, you’ll find something important to history, or at least something that looks like it should be!
I recently spent a day and a half there mostly on the outskirts without a real plan on what to see and do, and the following is what I ended up with. Note that this is not nearly as complete a view of the city as I’d like to give you, and the last time I visited Tainan wasn’t either. Hopefully one of these days I’ll be able to visit Tainan properly. But regardless, I’ve still really enjoyed this interesting place.
Tainan’s Jingzijiao Salt Fields are famous for their traditional sea salt harvesting methods.
Grappling with the Ghosts Festival 搶孤 is held on the last day of the Ghost Month holiday. It’s a unique festival that celebrates the end to the trepidatious holiday when the dead are said to be walking the earth. Why people need to climb greased poles to celebrate this day is beyond me, but it sure is cool!!!
Come on, you knew there would be fireworks.
The Taipei MRT System is pretty much the best thing about Taipei. Seriously. I’ve thought about this a lot. It’s a very modern, award winning subway system that will whisk you almost anywhere you want to go in this sprawling city in minutes. It’s clean. It’s convenient. It’s never late. It’s cheap. It’s easy to negotiate, even in English, Japanese, or Korean… It’s awesome.
The one complaint I think anyone would have for the MRT is that it can get very crowded at peak times. The biggest trouble spot used to be the transfer at Main Station, but since the Fuzhou-Nanshijiao (Orange) Line opened, the dreaded transfers now seem to be at the Zhongxiao-Xinsheng and the Zhongxiao-Fuxing Stations.
So, despite my love of the MRT, I present you with a photo essay based (mostly) about the crowds and flow of pedestrian traffic during peak hours.
The transfer from the Blue Line to the Orange Line at Zhongxiao-Xinsheng Station can be hectic, but MRT employees are there to help out.
Teapot Mountain 茶壺山 is definitely one of my favorite hikes in all of Taiwan. On a clear day, Teapot can easily be conquered on a day trip from Taipei that even includes a visit to the nearby towns of Jinguashi 金瓜石 and Jiufen 九份. A full weekend away could include any of the beautiful scenic areas of the Northeast Coast, including the Bitou Cape, Fulong Beach, Pingxi, the nearby Keelung City, and many other nice spots.
Banpingshan has amazing views of the whole Northeast Coast.
Categories: Hiking, Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN
Tags: 茶壺山, hike, Hiking, Jinguashi, JiuFen, Northeast Coast, outdoors, TAIWAN, Teapot Mountain
Xiaoliuqiu Island 小琉球 is a small island off the cost of Taiwan just below Kaohsiung. Although it is probably one of the least well known of Taiwan’s smaller islands, it is the easiest to access and quite a nice weekend away.
Little Liuqiu is located 14km off the coast of the port town of Donggang, itself located about a hour’s drive south of Kaohsiung. It’s total land mass is only about 6.8km, and about 13,000 people live there permanently. Xiaoliuqiu is uniquely located in an area that protects it from rough seas and northeasterly monsoons. It’s climate is generally dry and warm, and it is the only coral island located near Taiwan.
Smangus (司馬庫斯) is one of Taiwan’s most remote aboriginal villages. So far remote, that it has developed for itself an air of mystery and has become a popular, if not difficult to get to, destination.
I recently took a short trip there to help Taiwan Adventures develop a future tour to the area. Unfortunately, we didn’t have as much time to explore the village and surrounding sights as we would have liked, but I will return soon with a better report. Check the website or facebook page for more information about organized trips… read on for more photos and information.
A hiker enjoys the bamboo forest near Smangus, Taiwan.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, TAIWAN, TRAVEL
Tags: aboriginal, Atayal, 臺灣, remote, Smangus, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventures, TRAVEL, village, 台灣, 司馬庫斯
River tracing in Taiwan is an excellent way to explore some of the more remote areas of Taiwan, and a great way to beat the summer heat. Being such a steep, mountainous country, Taiwan has hundreds of small rivers loaded with clean water, waterfalls, and cool, refreshing pools to swim in. Taking a river tracing tour has become more and more popular in the last few years amongst locals and expats alike.
Remote waterfalls like this one are rarely seen by most people. The only way to get there is by spending a few adventurous hours in a river with your friends.
Categories: Hiking, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers
Tags: adventure, canyoning, Hiking, mountains, nature, river tracing, rivers, swimming, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventures
Shitiping 石梯坪 or (“Stone Steps” in Mandarin) is a small campground in Taiwan’s East Coast National Scenic Area. The campground sits on a beautiful stretch of rocky geology formed by a mixture of coral reefs, sea erosion and cliffs. The waters of the reef features some great diving and snorkeling in clear waters.
About a 6 hour drive from Taipei, Shitiping is located about 70km south of Hualien on Highway 11, not quite half way to Hualien’s sister coastal city, Taitung. It’s probably one of my favorite campgrounds in the world, and definitely one of my favorite places in Taiwan.
Lots of people come to Shitiping to go fishing with poles, or by snorkeling around the reefs.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL
Tags: Baxian Caves, campground, camping, coast, 石梯坪, 花蓮, geology, Highway 11, Hualien, Shitiping, TAIWAN, 八仙洞, 台灣
It’s been raining in Taipei for 6 weeks. Seriously. I usually don’t complain about stuff like this, especially on here, but I’m going completely insane.
A bigger problem is that I also have writers’ block and even squeezing out this self-absorbed rant is difficult. One of the big problems with writing a new blog post is that I have so much stuff from the last year that I haven’t written about, I don’t even know where to start. I think I have 10, half written posts in my “Recent Drafts” folder, none of which I’ll probably ever finish.
So here’s my solution to that: I’m going to throw up all (most) of the photos I want to write and/or talk about in this one post and just clear them out of the way. Then I can get started one new stuff. Chinese New Year is only a week away!
There’s actually A LOT of information here, if you click all the links.
To see larger galleries of images similar to each one below, click on each image… To read more about each location, click on the links under each image.
A summer sunrise at my favorite campground, Shitiping, Taiwan.
The above image was taken at Shitiping Campground, on Taiwan’s beautiful east coast.