Nantou, Taiwan

In the Heart of the Other China


Early morning on the lake
Two Taiwanese who previously worked in Taipei enjoy the clear water of Sun Moon Lake.
lacustrine art
Line of boats moored in a small dock on Sun Moon Lake, on a foggy morning.
A Sacred View
Visitors enjoy Sun Moon Lake scenery from an elevated balcony of the Wenwu temple.
sun moon lake
Idyllic setting of Sun Moon Lake, beyond a dense swath of tropical vegetation.
Early morning at Lake II
Taiwanese who previously worked in Taipei enjoy the clear water of Sun Moon Lake.
aboriginal Taiwanese
One of the participants in Formosan Aboriginal Village's Aboriginal-inspired shows.
university bridge
Taiwanese visiting Hsitou cross the University lake on a wooden bridge.
A Divine-Leonine Protection
One of the stone lions guarding the entrance to the Wenwu temple on the shores of Sun Moon Lake.
Taiwanese piggybacks
Boyfriends walk along a small garden boulevard at Formosan Aboriginal Village.
Reading in wood
Visitors to Formosan Aboriginal Village examine a message board posted at the entrance.
Early Morning on Lake III
Taiwanese who previously worked in Taipei enjoy the clear water of Sun Moon Lake.
morning swim
Julia, a teacher who has worked most of her life in Taipei and retired to live on the shores of Sun Moon Lake, in the heart of Nantou province.
among totems
A group of Taiwanese passes among a group of totems that retrieve the originals of the Aboriginal people, in Formosan Aboriginal Village.
divinity of wood
Detail of one of the imitations of the totems used in the animist beliefs of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan.
Foreman
Formosan Aboriginal Village employee repairs one of the platforms in front of the Formosan Aboriginal Village concert stage.
Nantou Mountains
Lush slopes of Nantou province, Taiwan's only province completely cut off from the Pacific Ocean.

Nantou is Taiwan's only province isolated from the Pacific Ocean. Those who discover the mountainous heart of this region today tend to agree with the Portuguese navigators who named Taiwan Formosa.

One of so many tropical depressions gradually unravels over Taiwan and the weather shows itself, over the island, with gestures and whims that come back to surprise us with every ten kilometers that pass, with a crazy intermittence between thinly cloudy skies. and scorching sun and cumulus nimbus frightening ones that pour out floodwaters.

We have Jack at the wheel. This is the English-speaking version of the name chubby driver who knows little else in English and calls the boss to talk to us whenever he encounters a lack of information or difficulties of other kinds.

"It's boss!” communicates us for the umpteenth time since we had left the capital Taipei. "Speak, speak!.” And hand us the cell phone.

In conference with the boss, we decided it was time to leave the lush depths of Taroko Gorge and head southwest towards the province's main city, the namesake Nantou and Hsitou. The route takes us around, on its north face, Mount Chilaichushanpei, one of the most imposing in old Formosa.

We are in one of the most seismic domains on Earth. Jack is very present. In his swashbuckling MMA style, he patiently researches a translator of his diminutive smart phone and communicates to us almost in ecstasy: “This road before cabuuum! fall down. "

"before” It was a while ago but no Taiwanese will ever forget the famous 921 earthquake, so named for having happened on September 21, 1999, with an approximate maximum intensity of 8.0 and epicenter in Jiji, a mere dozen kilometers from where we walked. The earthquake killed nearly 2.500 people and left more than 100.000 homeless.

It was labeled by the local press as the Earthquake of the Century, also due to the dissatisfaction and the economic and political devastation it generated, with the defeat of the Kuomintang party in the 2000 elections.

We pass Wushe and then Puli, along the Central Cross Island Highway and between steep slopes, many of them brimming with one of the good teas of the East.

Even though practically all the villages in the province were seriously affected, when we arrived in Hsitou we didn't detect any sign of this event. There reigns a verdant peace of mind such as we haven't felt for a long time, preserved in a dense fog that stubbornly refused to rise. We settled in an elegant inn built largely out of bamboo and, as soon as we left to explore the surrounding rainforest, we noticed the almost excessive abundance of that leafy and exotic reedbed.

Like New status quo of pseudo-nation of the Republic of China, the reforestation of the area has been one of the main projects and with great success. Also during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, a forest reserve was established. The National Taiwan University that now runs it grows more than a million trees – cypresses, cedars and pine trees – and bamboo shoots every year in its terraced nurseries. Later, they are distributed around the island, where they can be most needed.

Compared to the pressure cooker atmosphere in which certain areas are surrounded, the climate of Hsitou is refreshing and the place has become very popular as a weekend getaway, also among couples on honeymoon. When Friday arrives, it is invaded by a population of Taipei eager to relax from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in communion with Nature. As we had been worn out from the many hundreds of kilometers already covered by car and on foot, we too indulged in an uncommitted escape, entertained by circling the University Lake and exploring the paths that follow the streams that feed it. At the end of one of them, we came across a cypress tree almost 50 m high, believed to be 2800 years old.

The origin of the lake to which we moved next is much earlier. And, were it not for a hydroelectric project still being developed by the Japanese, instead of just one, there would still be two, side by side. Instead, the dam that the Japanese erected merged into one, the largest in Taiwan, more than 9 km in area. Most of the inhabitants did not resent the move beyond that. In addition to being superlative, the new reservoir of bluish and limpid waters had enormous charm. Accordingly, much more than Hsitou, Sun Moon Lake is the island's main natural attraction. Many Taipei workers are eager to buy houses in the vicinity so that they can retire in harmony in the second half of their lives.

By the time we got there, Jack couldn't find the opposite opportunity. As soon as he hung up the always hyperactive phone, he made a point of expressing displeasure at the time we had already forced him to spend away from his home in the capital. "Wife very angry! Have to go back!"

We are well aware of the duration of the task he had been given and we chose to ignore his outbursts once again. Instead, we asked him to take us to the Wenwu temple, which replaced two much older ones that were submerged by the hydroelectric dam. There, we defeated the guard of two intimidating red stone guard lions and climbed the stairs to explore two distinct wings: one dedicated to the war gods Guan Gong and Yue Fei, and a later one erected in honor of Confucius.

Very distinct deities were worshiped in Taiwan before the massive occupation of the Han ethnic group who migrated to the island from the XNUMXth century, mainly from the Fujian region, on the coast of mainland China.

Several Aboriginal tribes inhabited Taiwan for at least 10.000 years, coming from other islands in the Pacific, in such a way that the original Taiwanese are much more similar to the Filipino people who, for the most part, belong to the Malay ethnic group). Once, the only occupants of Formosa, the aborigines make up, today, only 2% (almost 400.000) of the more than 20 million inhabitants. Even so, they are divided into eleven tribes, each with its own language.

Similar to what happened in several other parts of the world, Taiwanese aborigines also suffered severe discrimination. This situation only improved substantially in the 90s when the government launched a six-year Aboriginal culture promotion program that included medical care, legal support and subsidized loans. Also the improvement of roads linking cities with aboriginal settlements and the marking of reserve territories that could no longer be sold to non-indigenous people.

From then on, Taiwan's indigenous culture has not ceased to gain adherents. All crafts and arts in general became fashionable and entered the homes of Taiwanese, Aboriginal music entered the tops of Formosa and its cuisine in the menus of restaurants in large cities. Many aborigines insisted on getting rid of their Chinese names and recovering the tribals. At the same time, newly married Han couples wear Aboriginal costumes during their wedding photo shoots.

However, the new attitude of the Chinese authorities and population towards the oldest inhabitants of the island does not always have the deserved subtlety and genuineness.

Moved by Jack's proximity and frantic advice, we decided to take a peek at a Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.

Erected in an incoherent way, the theme park was designed to bring together a cultural microcosm of ethnic groups recognized by the government, side by side with an inappropriate European castle, a garden and a vast amusement park. It didn't take long to see with the architectural ensemble and that, even though they were colorful and very shaken, the shows staged on a rounded stage in the center of an artificial lake gave the indigenous Formosa an obvious commercial exhibitionism. The locution, only in Mandarin, did little to overcome the problem.

Jack watched the shows for the first time with undisguised delight. We put up with a stoic forty minutes, after which we left the amphitheater to examine the areas that grouped dwellings, traditional ones, totems and other key elements of its culture, with the pity that we are not admiring one of its manifestations in earnest, such as the Festival das Crops or other.

Taroko George

Deep in Taiwan

In 1956, skeptical Taiwanese doubted that the initial 20km of Central Cross-Island Hwy was possible. The marble canyon that challenged it is today the most remarkable natural setting in Formosa.

Taiwan

Formosa but Unsafe

Portuguese navigators could not imagine the imbroglio reserved for the Formosa they baptized. Nearly 500 years later, even though it is uncertain of its future, Taiwan still prospers. Somewhere between independence and integration in greater China.
Huang Shan, China

Huang Shan: The Yellow Mountains of the Floating Peaks

The granitic peaks of the floating yellow mountains of Huang Shan, from which acrobat pines sprout, appear in artistic illustrations from China without count. The real scenery, in addition to being remote, remains hidden above the clouds for over 200 days.
Beijing, China

The Heart of the Great Dragon

It is the incoherent historic center of Maoist-Communist ideology and almost all Chinese aspire to visit it, but Tianamen Square will always be remembered as a macabre epitaph of the nation's aspirations.
Badaling, China

The Sino Invasion of the Great Wall of China

With the arrival of the hot days, hordes of Han visitors take over the Great Wall of China, the largest man-made structure. They go back to the era of imperial dynasties and celebrate the nation's newfound prominence.
Esteros del Iberá, Pantanal Argentina, Alligator
Safari
Iberá Wetlands, Argentina

The Pantanal of the Pampas

On the world map, south of the famous brazilian wetland, a little-known flooded region appears, but almost as vast and rich in biodiversity. the Guarani expression Y bera defines it as “shining waters”. The adjective fits more than its strong luminance.
Herd in Manang, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 8th Manang, Nepal,

Manang: the Last Acclimatization in Civilization

Six days after leaving Besisahar we finally arrived in Manang (3519m). Located at the foot of the Annapurna III and Gangapurna Mountains, Manang is the civilization that pampers and prepares hikers for the ever-dreaded crossing of Thorong La Gorge (5416 m).
A Lost and Found City
Architecture & Design
Machu Picchu, Peru

The City Lost in the Mystery of the Incas

As we wander around Machu Picchu, we find meaning in the most accepted explanations for its foundation and abandonment. But whenever the complex is closed, the ruins are left to their enigmas.
Passengers, scenic flights-Southern Alps, New Zealand
Adventure
Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand

The Aeronautical Conquest of the Southern Alps

In 1955, pilot Harry Wigley created a system for taking off and landing on asphalt or snow. Since then, his company has unveiled, from the air, some of the greatest scenery in Oceania.
The Crucifixion in Helsinki
Ceremonies and Festivities
Helsinki, Finland

A Frigid-Scholarly Via Crucis

When Holy Week arrives, Helsinki shows its belief. Despite the freezing cold, little dressed actors star in a sophisticated re-enactment of Via Crucis through streets full of spectators.
patpong, go go bar, bangkok, one thousand and one nights, thailand
Cities
Bangkok, Thailand

One Thousand and One Lost Nights

In 1984, Murray Head sang the nighttime magic and bipolarity of the Thai capital in "One night in bangkok". Several years, coups d'etat, and demonstrations later, Bangkok remains sleepless.
Beverage Machines, Japan
Meal
Japan

The Beverage Machines Empire

There are more than 5 million ultra-tech light boxes spread across the country and many more exuberant cans and bottles of appealing drinks. The Japanese have long since stopped resisting them.
Culture
Helsinki, Finland

The Pagan Passover of Seurasaari

In Helsinki, Holy Saturday is also celebrated in a Gentile way. Hundreds of families gather on an offshore island, around lit fires to chase away evil spirits, witches and trolls
combat arbiter, cockfighting, philippines
Sport
Philippines

When Only Cock Fights Wake Up the Philippines

Banned in much of the First World, cockfighting thrives in the Philippines where they move millions of people and pesos. Despite its eternal problems, it is the sabong that most stimulates the nation.
Manatee Creek, Florida, United States of America
Traveling
Florida Keys, USA

The Caribbean Stepping Stone of the USA

Os United States continental islands seem to close to the south in its capricious peninsula of Florida. Don't stop there. More than a hundred islands of coral, sand and mangroves form an eccentric tropical expanse that has long seduced American vacationers.
Ethnic
Pueblos del Sur, Venezuela

The Pueblos del Sur Locainas, Their Dances and Co.

From the beginning of the XNUMXth century, with Hispanic settlers and, more recently, with Portuguese emigrants, customs and traditions well known in the Iberian Peninsula and, in particular, in northern Portugal, were consolidated in the Pueblos del Sur.
View of Fa Island, Tonga, Last Polynesian Monarchy
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Got2Globe Portfolio

Exotic Signs of Life

At the end of the afternoon
History
Ilha de Mozambique, Mozambique  

The Island of Ali Musa Bin Bique. Pardon... of Mozambique

With the arrival of Vasco da Gama in the extreme south-east of Africa, the Portuguese took over an island that had previously been ruled by an Arab emir, who ended up misrepresenting the name. The emir lost his territory and office. Mozambique - the molded name - remains on the resplendent island where it all began and also baptized the nation that Portuguese colonization ended up forming.
Seeding, Lombok, Sea Bali, Sonda Island, Indonesia
Islands
Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok. The Bali Sea Deserves such a Sonda

Long overshadowed by the neighboring island's fame, Lombok's exotic settings remain unrevealed, under the sacred protection of guardian Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia's second-largest volcano.
Reindeer Racing, Kings Cup, Inari, Finland
Winter White
Inari, Finland

The Wackiest Race on the Top of the World

Finland's Lapps have been competing in the tow of their reindeer for centuries. In the final of the Kings Cup - Porokuninkuusajot - , they face each other at great speed, well above the Arctic Circle and well below zero.
Cove, Big Sur, California, United States
Literature
Big Sur, USA

The Coast of All Refuges

Over 150km, the Californian coast is subjected to a vastness of mountains, ocean and fog. In this epic setting, hundreds of tormented souls follow in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and Henri Miller.
Nature
Annapurna Circuit: 5th- Ngawal-BragaNepal,

Towards the Nepalese Braga

We spent another morning of glorious weather discovering Ngawal. There is a short journey towards Manang, the main town on the way to the zenith of the Annapurna circuit. We stayed for Braga (Braka). The hamlet would soon prove to be one of its most unforgettable places.
Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Autumn
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

Lost among the snowy mountains that separate Europe from Asia, Sheki is one of Azerbaijan's most iconic towns. Its largely silky history includes periods of great harshness. When we visited it, autumn pastels added color to a peculiar post-Soviet and Muslim life.
Ostrich, Cape Good Hope, South Africa
Natural Parks
Cape of Good Hope - Cape of Good Hope NP, South Africa

On the edge of the Old End of the World

We arrived where great Africa yielded to the domains of the “Mostrengo” Adamastor and the Portuguese navigators trembled like sticks. There, where Earth was, after all, far from ending, the sailors' hope of rounding the tenebrous Cape was challenged by the same storms that continue to ravage there.
M:S Viking Tor Ferry-Wrapped Passenger, Aurlandfjord, Norway
UNESCO World Heritage
Flam a Balestrand, Norway

Where the Mountains Give In to the Fjords

The final station of the Flam Railway marks the end of the dizzying railway descent from the highlands of Hallingskarvet to the plains of Flam. In this town too small for its fame, we leave the train and sail down the Aurland fjord towards the prodigious Balestrand.
Ooty, Tamil Nadu, Bollywood Scenery, Heartthrob's Eye
Characters
Ooty, India

In Bollywood's Nearly Ideal Setting

The conflict with Pakistan and the threat of terrorism made filming in Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh a drama. In Ooty, we see how this former British colonial station took the lead.
Martinique island, French Antilles, Caribbean Monument Cap 110
Beaches
Martinique, French Antilles

The Armpit Baguette Caribbean

We move around Martinique as freely as the Euro and the tricolor flags fly supreme. But this piece of France is volcanic and lush. Lies in the insular heart of the Americas and has a delicious taste of Africa.
Prayer flags in Ghyaru, Nepal
Religion
Annapurna Circuit: 4th – Upper Pisang to Ngawal, Nepal,

From Nightmare to Dazzle

Unbeknownst to us, we are faced with an ascent that leads us to despair. We pulled our strength as far as possible and reached Ghyaru where we felt closer than ever to the Annapurnas. The rest of the way to Ngawal felt like a kind of extension of the reward.
Back in the sun. San Francisco Cable Cars, Life Ups and Downs
On Rails
San Francisco, USA

San Francisco Cable Cars: A Life of Highs and Lows

A macabre wagon accident inspired the San Francisco cable car saga. Today, these relics work as a charm operation in the city of fog, but they also have their risks.
Australia Day, Perth, Australian Flag
Society
Perth, Australia

Australia Day: In Honor of the Foundation, Mourning for Invasion

26/1 is a controversial date in Australia. While British settlers celebrate it with barbecues and lots of beer, Aborigines celebrate the fact that they haven't been completely wiped out.
herd, foot-and-mouth disease, weak meat, colonia pellegrini, argentina
Daily life
Colónia Pellegrini, Argentina

When the Meat is Weak

The unmistakable flavor of Argentine beef is well known. But this wealth is more vulnerable than you think. The threat of foot-and-mouth disease, in particular, keeps authorities and growers afloat.
Bather rescue in Boucan Canot, Reunion Island
Wildlife
Reunion Island

The Bathing Melodrama of Reunion

Not all tropical coastlines are pleasurable and refreshing retreats. Beaten by violent surf, undermined by treacherous currents and, worse, the scene of the most frequent shark attacks on the face of the Earth, that of the Reunion Island he fails to grant his bathers the peace and delight they crave from him.
Bungee jumping, Queenstown, New Zealand
Scenic Flights
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, the Queen of Extreme Sports

In the century. XVIII, the Kiwi government proclaimed a mining village on the South Island "fit for a queen".Today's extreme scenery and activities reinforce the majestic status of ever-challenging Queenstown.
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