Smangus and the Atayal spirit

2009 08 18_smangus_5024

I visited Smangus this week to continue the research for my thesis. There were some significant changes in the village since my visit last year. The major one was the new classroom building near the main entrance to the village. Construction began in July last year and was completed in April. There are currently 12 students studying in the experimental branch of the Xinguang Primary School. The curriculum includes classes in Atayal language and traditional knowledge.

The building has a slate roof, rough sawn timber walls and a concrete foundation. Its combination of traditional materials and modern building techniques is in many ways a metaphor for the Smangus community which combines traditional Atayal culture with ideas from the modern world. Continue reading

Hiking on Wuliao Jian


Wuliao Jian (五尞尖) in Sanxia (三峽) has been on my list of hikes to do for quite a while now. Beautiful weather made today the day I finally did it.


The hike goes along a spectacular ridge and it is not for the faint hearted. There are many sections that need to be climbed with the aid of ropes. Continue reading

History in the hills of Taipei

Today I joined Linda Arrigo on a walk around the hills behind Taipei Medical University (臺北醫學大學). The area is covered in graves which reveal many layers of the history of Taiwan in the post World War II period. Most of the graves are of people who arrived in Taiwan with the KMT after 1945 and there is a large number of Christian and Muslim graves. Michael Turton has a post on his blog about some of the history of this area and the slides from Linda's PowerPoint presentation at flickr. I'll add some more of my own photos and commentary. 

Taipei 101 with Taipei Medical University in the foreground

The Taipei Medical University is in the foreground of the photo. The area is within walking distance of Taipei 101. 

Crew from CTI TV recording Linda talking about the local history

A crew from CTI TV (中天電視網) came to record Linda talking about the history of the area. They will produce a segment for a news magazine program. There was also a journalist from the United Daily News (聯合報) there.  Continue reading

Hiking around Xindian & Maokong

Signpost to Simiantou Shan and Daliaokeng Shan on the hiking trail in Xindian

This morning I set out to explore some of the trails branching off from the Yinhe Cave trail. Above the Yinhe Cave (銀河洞) there is a branch of the trail pointing to Simiantou Shan (四面頭山). This trail is poorly made and there are no further signs. 

Simiantou Shan hiking trail along the creek

Part of the trail travels along the creek bed. 

Old wooden bridge on the Simiantou Shan hiking trail

When the trail reaches this old wooden bridge it branches in two directions. I initially took the branch to the left. It continues to follow the creek before going up.

Signpost to Shiliufen and Zhinan Elementary School near Erge Shan

I eventually came out on the shoulder between the peaks of Erge Shan (二格山) and Ejiaoge Shan (鵝角格山). The path I had come along had a sign pointing to Shiliufen (十六分) while in the other direction was the way to Zhinan Primary School and the Maokong Gondola Station. The peak of Erge Shan is topped by a huge electricity pylon while the peak of the Ejiaoge Shan is more natural. 

View of Taipei and Muzha from near the peak of Erge Shan in Maokong

The view from up here is great. In the above photo you can see the Maokong Gondola Station at the bottom right. Muzha and NCCU are visible in the centre while you can also see Taipei 101. There was quite a lot of haze so Yangmingshan isn't visible in the background.

Trees across the trail to Shiliufen

I returned along the Shiliufen trail that I had come up. When I got back to the old wooden bridge I explored the trail the branching off to the right.

Small shrine in a hole that has been carved into a large rock

I passed by this small shrine that had been placed in a hole cut out of a large rock. Not far past here I reached another mountain peak topped by a large electricity pylon. I am not sure if this was Simiantou Shan as there were no signs around. If the weather continues to be this fine I will be back in this area again very soon!  

*more photos at flickr.  

Hikes and bikes on the MRT

Bike Smiling along Dunhua Road in Taipei City

There is some good news for cyclists from the Taipei MRT (via Rank). Cyclists can now take their bicycles on the blue line of the MRT. Some conditions still apply and it is only at certain stations. The MRT has also reduced the ticket price for bicycles and their riders to NT$80. Further details from the MRT website

To encourage passengers to visit scenic spots around Taipei on bikes, Taipei Metro has lowered its fare for passengers bringing bikes onboard the MRT during weekends and holidays from NT$100 to NT$80, per person and bike, and irrespective of the travel distance starting on Saturday, March 1, 2008. Taipei Metro has also increased the number of chartered stations where passengers are allowed to enter and exit the metro system with their bikes, from 15 to 27. The 12 newly chartered stations are located on the Banqiao, Nangang, Tuchen, and Xiaonanmen Lines.

This makes it a lot more convenient for cyclists all over Taipei to use the MRT to get out of the city. If you take the blue line out to Tucheng then you can easily ride out to Sanxia and beyond.

* * * * * 

Marc supplied me with a pdf version of the Taipei Metro’s Guide to Hiking and Cycling (5MB pdf file). This useful guide can sometimes be found in MRT stations. Some people might find it convenient to have it in a downloadable format. The guide gives details (in English) of hiking and cycling trails that are easily accessible from MRT stations. Marc pointed out to me that the guide is by no means complete as there are a number of trails not mentioned. There is a lot to discover in and around Taipei!

Hiking the Yinhe Cave Trail

Although I have now been living in Xindian for a few months I have hardly explored any of the hiking trails in the nearby mountains. This morning I went out to hike the Yinhe Cave Hiking Trail (銀河洞越嶺步道).

Yinhe Dong Temple and waterfall in Xindian, Taipei County

The trail head is on a small road off Bei-Yi Road (北宜路),also known as Route 9 — the road to Pinglin. It is only a short, but steep, hike up to the Yinhe Cave and Waterfall. This is quite a spectacular location with the temple built into the cliff and a waterfall flowing down beside it.

sign pointing to Maokong on the Yinhe Dong Hiking Trail

After the waterfall he trail goes along a ridge through bamboo and tea gardens. It then reaches a point where it splits. One way leads to the Maokong Gondola Station. The other way goes to Dailaokeng Shan (待老坑山) and U-Theatre (優人禪鼓).  The signs in this area include coordinates making them easy to find with a GPS. I headed to Dailaokeng Shan. The summit of the mountain didn’t afford any special views though.

bird photographed while hiking the Yinhe Dong Trail in Xindian, Taipei

I captured this shot of a bird with the camera at full zoom (the photo has also been cropped). The bird is a Müller’s Barbet (Megalaima oorti; 五色鳥).  I also saw a raptor on the hike. There are still many more trails to explore in the Xindian and Muzha area. I hope to hike some more of them soon.

map of the Yinhe Dong Hiking Trail

Hongludi trail in Zhonghe

If you take the MRT all the way to Nanshijiao and then venture further south under the freeway to the edge of Zhonghe you will arrive at the start of the Hongludi hiking trail (烘爐地步道). Along the trail there are a number of interesting temples and stunning views across Taipei.

Jingnan Temple in Zhonghe, Taipei County

The first temple on the trail was the Guanyin Temple (觀音寺). It is not a small temple, but it is overshadowed by the larger temples above it. The next temple along the way was the Jingnan Temple (竟南宮). It is a huge sprawling complex with lots of colorful dragons on its roof.

Tudi Gong - god of the earth at Fude Temple in Zhonghe, Taipei County

At the top of the hill is the Nanshan Fude Temple (南山福德宮). It enjoys a commanding position on the top of the hill and was bustling with people praying and making offerings when I visited. The large statue of the Earth God (土地公) below the temple is a landmark visible from many places nearby.

panorama of Taipei  from Fude Temple in Zhonghe

There are great views across Taipei from all of the temples but the views improve as you get higher up. Behind the Fude Temple there is a hiking trail that continues along the ridge. The trail can be followed to Yuantong Chan Temple, also in Zhonghe, on the other side of the valley. It is also possible to hike to Tucheng but this trail is not clearly marked. I might try and follow it all the way next time.

Hiking the historic trail

Gongliao, Dali and Fulong Railway Station SignsI took an early morning train to the small town of Gongliao (貢寮) in Taipei County. Not far from the town is the beginning of the Caoling Historic Trail (草嶺古道). This trail was once an important transport route connecting Taipei with Yilan. These days it is a pleasant outing with some great views of Taiwan’s spectacular northeast coast.

river near gongliao

The trail actually starts about a kilometre from Gongliao. I passed by this nice river while walking along the road; the town is in the background. The area is very rural with little development although the fourth nuclear power plant is under construction not far from here (more about that later).

Boldly quell the wild mists inscription on rock in chinese charactersThe trail has several rocks which are carved with Chinese characters. The first one was “Boldly quell the wild mists” (雄鎮蠻煙) which has the distinction of being the largest stone inscription in Taiwan.

Tiger inscription on rock in Chinese charactersThe second one was the Tiger Rock. It looked more like a sheep (羊) than a tiger (虎) to my eye! It is also related to the weather. The following text is from the nearby sign:

When Taiwan Regional Commander Liu Ming-deng arrived at the Caoling Pass during an inspection tour of northern Taiwan in 1867, he was buffetted by such strong wind and thick fog that he could not tell his directions. In accordance with the ancient Chinese saying “Clouds obey the dragon, wind obeys the tiger” (雲從龍﹐風從虎) he inscribed  the Chinese character for “tiger” to suppress the wind. Legend has it that Liu Ming-deng loved to write the character for tiger, and that his calligraphy indicated differences of gender. The “tiger” inscription written by him in the Bo’ai Road military compound in Taipei is male, while the “tiger” on this stone is female.

Maybe that explains why I couldn’t read it correctly.

pass on the caoling historic trail

Shortly after the Tiger Rock the trail goes through a pass in the mountains. This view is from above the pass. It is very windswept, but the views are gorgeous. You can see the sea in two directions, looking back down the pass to Fulong (福隆) and to Dali (大里) on the other side.

The trail actually splits in two directions at the pass. One way follows the ridge line to the south and the other descends down to the coast at Dali.

view of the northeast coast from Dali, Taiwan

This is the view along the coast from Dali. I caught a train from Dali to Fulong.

dongxing temple in fulong, taipei county

surfing the waves at fulongThere were a few surfers out at Fulong Beach but the waves were very small. There is a large and impressive temple that stands guard at the eastern end of the beach.

Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant under construction near Fulong Beach

It was a few years since I had last been to Fulong. The major change I noticed was the sight of the fourth nuclear power plant under construction not far away at the western end of the beach. Sorry for the poor quality of the photo, but you can see the construction activity. A recent article in the Taipei Times reports that the second nuclear reactor has been installed.