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.
This is Part Two in a two part photo essay series on my trip to Indonesia. Check here for Part One.
Java is an active volcanic island filled with 38 dormant and non-dormant volcanoes. The ecology goes from tropical in the lowlands to alpine on the tops of the volcanoes. It’s tallest mountain is Mount Semeru, but one of its most famous is Mount Bromo. Unfortunately, I don’t have many good photos from the top of Mount Bromo due to a cloudy morning, but I did still really enjoy walking around its crater.
Sunrise over Mount Sundoro, as seen from Dieng, Indonesia.
In all my time living and traveling in Asia, I never had the desire to travel to Indonesia. I don’t know why, but it just didn’t have the appeal to me as much as places like Myanmar, Tibet, Laos, or even Thailand. But, in the summer of 2012, I was assigned to go to Jakarta to photograph an article, and my mind was opened up to Indonesia.
Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world with 238 million people. It’s a string of over 17,000 islands that straddle the equator between Southeast Asia and Australia. The people are quite diverse: 87% are Muslim, 9% are Christian, 3% are Hindu, and the rest have too many religions and cultures to count. 742 different languages are spoken throughout the archipelago, but Bahasa Indonesian is a common language understood by all.
My destination this time, was the “main” island of Java, along with a few days of R&R on the famous island of Bali.
Sunrise a the ancient Buddhist temple, Borobudur.
Leh, India is a sleepy, remote town in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, once the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh. It is set at just about the northern most point of India, and in fact sits very close to highly disputed borders with China and Pakistan. The great majority of the local population is ethnic Tibetan, Tibetan Buddhism is the majority religion, and after spending months in Tibet, I can say that it has a very Tibetan feel to it.
I’m writing about Leh now, 5 years after I visited it, simply because I’ve been researching places to travel this summer, and this one is high one the list. I’m afraid that it has been so long, that I really don’t have much to write about. I’ll just give you a few memories, and of course a few pictures!
A Tibetan man hangs prayer flags near the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa in Leh, India.
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
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.
Taiwan Adventures iPhone Guidebook is a brand new way to learn about Taiwan as you travel through it. The “book” has over 900 entries featuring Taiwan’s best travel highlights. Useful to tourists and expats alike, the APP has entries describing everything from renting a car or scooter to finding that western food that you’ve been craving. A sample of the Guide is a downloadable from the iTunes Store for free.
Several of my colleagues and I have been working on this guide for nearly a year now. We’ve traveled to nearly every corner of Taiwan to find you the most interesting places, both famous and unknown. We’ve tried to push our favorite part of Taiwan – its amazing natural beauty, but have also scoured the cities for the best they have to offer.
You can get a small sample of the Guide for free from the iTunes Store, then the five divisions of Taiwan (Taipei City, Northern Taiwan, Eastern Taiwan, Central and the South) are a small additional fee.
All the entries have several photos (over 2,000 all together), many of which are exclusive to this APP.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers, TRAVEL
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, APP, Apple iPhone, Guide Book, guidebook, information, iPhone, iPhone App, map, Taipei, Taiwan Adventures, TRAVEL, Travel Guide
Taiwan Adventures Online Guide Book is a project that my partners and I have been working on for the better part of the last year. It is a free, online travel guide to Taiwan. It has over 800 entries, is available in English and 中文, and will very soon be available as an iPhone App (Ready sometime before the end of September).
It has been A LOT of work to compile, visit, photograph and write about all of these places, but it has also been really rewarding. Hopefully now I can get back on track and start writing some blog posts about the best of these wonderful places.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, Guide Book, information, iPhone, iPhone App, TRAVEL, Travel Guide, 台灣
Ghost Month is a traditional celebration held in most Chinese communities around the world, and of course in Taiwan. It is believed that this month is a sort-of vacation for all the ghosts living in Hell, and they are welcomed to walk the earth among the living. Many special precautions are taken to insure that the ghosts don’t hang around, like burning spirit money, guarding ones address and not moving house for fear that one of the ghosts might decide to stay in the new house.
In Taiwan, no city celebrates Ghost Month more vigorously than the harbor city of Keelung (基隆). They have parades, ceremonies and other events on almost every day of that month. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend as many events as I would have liked this year, but I did get to one of the most important days, the Ghost Festival Parade held on the 15th day of Ghost Month.
One of the musicians in the 2011 Keelung Ghost Festival Parade relaxes before the start.
My series of blog posts on hiking The Four Beast Mountains has become one of my most popular series since I’ve started blogging. Now that spring is back upon us, I’ve noticed that those posts are getting more and more hits. I can only guess that everyone is looking to get get some exercise!
So here’s a new post. It’s going to be mostly just pictures, but they are all from an area that I glossed over in the last three posts.
The general Yongchun area consists of two high schools, a small military base, several temples, and a few apartment building neighborhoods. The entire basin of this area (roughly 600m x 100m) was a shallow lake just a hundred years ago or so.
Categories: Hiking, Must See Taiwan, TAIWAN, The Four Beast Mountains
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, adventure, Asia, 無極天王, Elephant Mountain, 虎山, Four Beasts Mountains, hike, Hiking, mountain, natural, PHOTOGRAPHY, Taipei, Taipei 101, Taiwanese, Tianbao Temple, Tiger Mountain, trail, TRAVEL, 台灣, 台北, 四獸山, 天寶聖道宮
Longshan Temple 龍山寺 (aka Lungshan and Mengjia 艋舺龍山寺) is the oldest and most well-known temple in all of Taiwan. What’s truly wonderful about it, is that despite being a major tourist destination, Longshan Temple retains it’s charm and genuineness by remaining a place of daily worship. The area around Longshan can be quite interesting as well, and features traditional markets, calligraphers, traditional medicine shops, fortune tellers, and a place called Snake Alley. All these reasons and more are why Longshan Temple is on my list of must see places in Taipei.
Throngs of Buddhists and Daoists pack Longshan Temple in Taipei on Chinese Lunar New Year 2007.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, Buddhist, Chinese New Year, Daoism, 艋舺龍山寺, 龍山寺, images, Longshan Temple, Lunar New Year, Lungshan Temple, Mazu, Mengjia, must see taipei, PHOTOGRAPHY, religion, Taipei, Taoism, temple, TRAVEL, worship, 台灣, 台北
Yehliu GeoPark (野柳地質公園) is a popular stop on the Taiwan tourist circuit. It’s an interesting set of geological formations found in a small park about 20 minutes north of Keelung, Taiwan. Truth be told, the entire length of eastern Taiwan is an interesting set of geological formations, but here you can find them all in one small area with a coffee and souvenir shop. If you’re only in Taiwan for a short time, or don’t have any transportation of your own, this it the place to go to be awed by Mother Nature’s artistic side.
An overview of the most popular area of Yehliu GeoPark.
Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Motorcycling, Must See Taiwan, TAIWAN
Tags: PHOTOGRAPHY, 2. More Information on Taiwan, TRAVEL, 台灣, geology, Keelung, 和平島, Must See Taiwan, Yeliu, 基隆, 野柳, rocks, alien landscape, science, Heping Island, 野柳地質公園, Yeliu GeoPark, yehliu, Yehliu GeoPark
Snow Mountain (雪山) is Taiwan’s second highest mountain at 3,886m (12,749ft). Located in Shei-Pa National Park, the most popular trail to the peak is called the East Xue Trail and is quite a beautiful one. The trail passes through a variety of scenery including open grass fields, several different pine forests and a stunning ex-glacial cirque. Despite the fact that I say the following after nearly every hike in Taiwan: This might be one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on!
It’s possible to hike Snow Mountain (aka XueShan or Syue Mountain) on a two day weekend from Taipei, but it’s difficult. We spent an excruciating Saturday hiking for about 13 straight hours. Our day started at 3 am and finished at dusk. In between, we were lucky enough to have some beautiful weather and see some beautiful sites…
The East Peak of Snow Mountain pokes out of the mist during an early morning sunrise.
Categories: Hiking, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, alpine, 登山, environment, 雪山, hike, Hiking, images, mountain, mountaineering, PHOTOGRAPHY, Snow Mountain, Syue Mountain, TRAVEL, trek, trekking, 台灣
The Tibetan provinces of Amdo and Kham are the subject of my first multimedia project in a long while. Amdo and Kham are beautiful regions of the world that I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice recently…
Most westerners think of Tibet as being only what is today called the Tibet Autonomous Region (Xizang) in modern China. But what they don’t know is that this is only one third of the historical Tibetan Kingdom. Split off from modern day “Tibet” are the Tibetan Kham and Amdo provinces, now found in the Chinese Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces.
What is surprising though, is that these areas have become much better places to see Tibetan culture than Lhasa or many other places in Xizang. With both Chinese and Westerners’ attention focused on Lhasa, these areas are much less traveled and have far fewer travel restrictions than Xizang. That gives the Tibetans found there an sense of ease in their day to day lives and makes it a great place to explore.
If you’re interested in learning more or even visiting the region, have a look at my more in depth series of blog posts on the Kham and Amdo Provinces.
Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Tibet, TRAVEL
Tags: Amdo, Asia, Buddhism, China, Dege, Ganze, Kham, Litang, multimedia, PHOTOGRAPHY, portraits, Qinghai, Shangri La, Shangrila, Sichuan, Tibet, Tibetan, TRAVEL, Yunnan, Zhongdian
Shiding (石碇) and Shenkeng (深坑) are two small towns found just to the east of Taipei, Taiwan. They’re both withing 3o minutes of Taipei’s convenient MRT system and together, they make for a great day trip out of the city.
Shiding is a simple mountain village located at the convergence of two small mountain streams. It’s got an old-time Taiwan feel to it, and in fact has many stores that are over a century old. It also has two very clean, fish-filled streams that come from virgin forests high above, in the nearby mountains.
Doorways don't get much cooler than this.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, Asia, 石碇, Day Trips, market, must see, Must See Taiwan, Old Street, Shenkeng, Shiding, Taipei, traditional, TRAVEL, 深坑, 深坑老街