Mysterious island: a report from the fields, forests and mountains of Taiwan
The island the Portuguese called Formosa, meaning “Beautiful.” In Taiwan it’s hard not to fall in love at first sight on its small territory there was a place the mountains and the valleys, bustling cities and relaxed beach resorts, technology parks from the future and ancient tea plantations. In General, everything that we love about Asia — only in concentrated form.
24 may 2019 17:17
Pagoda temple Sande in Taroko national Park.
Chiang Kai-shek and cabbage
Five portly, immaculately dressed soldiers measured pace, are going to meet me at the deserted parade ground. Stopped in a few meters, they have a man – or rather, from under the pulled-down helmets – look through me and abruptly pulls off a shoulder gun with a sharp glittering in the sun bayonets. I want to run, but I hold myself in place – it’s just a changing of the guard in Taipei’s martyrs Shrine, which is held here several times a day. “Wait, now begins the fun,” smiles my guide Kuning. Obeying the commands of the officer, the soldiers start simultaneously to turn the rifle around the hands, beating the rhythm of the ringing blows of rifle butts on the ground. Show, and with meaning – they not only demonstrate the prowess of the Taiwanese army, but also pay tribute to the thousands of soldiers who died in the Chinese civil war. Once soldiers complete the passage and stand in front of the temple, they gently correct belts and smooth out the wrinkles on the form – that turned out better in photos.
Buddhist monastery of Fo Guang Shan in southern Taiwan, the largest on the island.
Like the changing of the guard in Taipei, capital of Taiwan, can be seen in front of the main attraction of the city – a Grand memorial of Chiang Kai-shek in Liberty square. In the echoing hall on the second floor there is nothing but bronze statues of the father of modern Taiwan, seated on a bronze chair, and on the first floor is located the Museum dedicated to him. In 1949, Kai-shek the Generalissimo and head of the Chinese conservative party, the Kuomintang lost the war to Mao Zedong and fled to Taiwan. Behind him on the island gradually moved about two million people – not only military and officials-party members, but also scientists, experts, entrepreneurs. And Chiang Kai-shek took with him the Golden Fund of China and the principal treasures of the museums of the Forbidden city in Beijing today, they show in a specially constructed for this purpose the Museum of the Imperial Palace.
In the bustling capital of Taiwan, Taipei is home to around 10% of the population of the island.
“There is almost 700 000 objects – praise Kuning. You choose what you want to see – bronze, porcelain or jade”. I want to see everything at once – the richest collection. The most popular exhibits radicova cabbage with hidden in its succulent leaves grasshopper and locusts (XIX century) and like oozing fat pork “Dongpo” of Jasper (XVII century), and flecked with characters bronze pot “Mao Gong Ding” (an incredible IX century BC). “The art we carry the weight, is winking Kuning. – The cafe at the Museum you can choose in the menu and an appetizer in the form of Chinese cabbage, but instead alapetite grasshopper will be shrimp and pork “Dongpo”, but this time from a real breast. Although it is better to order the Taiwanese beef soup with noodles it’s served in a pot, reminiscent of the cauldron-tripod “Mao Gong Ding”.
Food to Taiwanese in General – and for Kunena in particular is the most favorite leisure activities, fetish and main mission in life. It seems that cafe or fast food store network 7-Eleven opened in every second building. And even in the tallest building of Taiwan – 510-meter high “Taipei 101” – guide first leads me to the food court, holding his ground, then at the Starbucks on the 35th floor, the highest in the world (“reservation for two days, or do not get!”), and then to the observation deck on floor 91. But for me, much more interesting in Western coffee shops and food courts refined the colorful eatery in an old street of Beijing. “See these chips? They are sweet potato – sweet potato on the island it grows five kinds, there’s even purple. Here water bamboo shoots, wood mushrooms here – for salads and soups. And it’s Taro and yams – also root vegetables, ingredients for many dishes and toppings for pastries”.
Sashimi at the fish market in the town of Donggang (South Taiwan). Most often they are doing here from local bluefin tuna.
Throughout Beijing local Housewives to sell outlandish for European products, snacks (here they are called “saachi” – “little food”) and sweets, but people come here for outstanding duck at Taiwan. On the way back to me, despite tight as a drum belly, still manages to cram a plate of exotic dessert Dou Hua pudding soft tofu with peanut nuts, balls of jelly, syrup, and candied hibiscus flowers. Very tasty and very strange – like you’re eating sweet Medusa.
The moon and the Sun
Taiwan – the island is rather big, about 400 km long and 140 km wide. At the same time in the North may be pouring rain in the mountains – flakes fell the snow, in the cloudless South is to fry the sun. At the same time, due to internal flights, high speed trains and excellent roads to choose weather you can literally set the mood. “Our island you can slip on the machine for 12 hours, if you do not stop – laughing Kuning. – And many do, just not on the car, but on motorcycles or bicycles. By the way, did you know that Taiwan is the world’s leading Bicycle manufacturer? And even yachts and saxophones”.
Beautiful landscapes, the island is not left out. More than 70% of its area is mountains, and the serious – the height of the main peak, Yushan, is almost 4000 meters. The most impressive national Park, Taroko, is also located on a ridge, away from the overcrowded Western plains. “Our Grand Canyon, says with pride Kuning. – It is named after a local tribe of aborigines, dialled. Most tourists want to quickly see the Taroko gorge with steep walls and take pictures at the Swallow’s grotto, but in fact there are about 20 routes to suit all tastes”.
Landscapes of the Taroko gorge in the eponymous national Park.
Taroko gorge called the largest marble canyon in the world, although actually in the Park, punctuated by granite marble quartz and mica, which gives rise to such a variety of layers, patterns and drawings on porous rocks and broke away from them, the stones. I step through the most scenic trail – Shakugan. The path length of only four kilometers, but quickly pass it does not work – the track is literally carved into the mountain, which is a frozen stone wave hangs over her head. The observation deck is arranged every hundred meters, and milky-blue rivers, Tadamasa through huge boulders with intricate texture, you can enjoy forever. The second visual feast with the route – Bayang. It runs along an abandoned road with eight tunnels and ends in the cave with “water curtain” – almost in pitch darkness the moisture gushes out of the pores in the ceiling, dissipating into millions of fine spray, so that when you log on you have to wear a raincoat and hide under the camera and a flashlight.
(Pagoda of the Tiger and the Dragon in Kaohsiung – go relies through the dragon mouth and exit from the jaws of a tiger. Inside these brutal gallery decorated with images of Daoist heroes and pictures of heaven and hell.)
Passing through the island’s Central highway – a real engineering marvel. It was built mainly to transport troops from West to East. Built by hand with picks and shovels, dynamite blew up. Through tunnels and dizzying switchbacks with steep cliffs, we slowly slipped from the mountains, bypassing the “Alpine village” with kitschy castles, windmills, half-timbered houses and farms (“often come here with children to pet the sheep and ride a pony, and when a lot of snow – make snowmen and play in the snow”) and found ourselves in one of the most romantic places of the island, on the lake of the Sun and moon.
“One shore of Sun Moon Lake look more like a month, and another – the shape of the sun, explains Koning. – However, you can only see this from above – from the cabin cable car or from the top floor of the local pagoda”. I believe his word, but instead prefer to go to the largest in Taiwan Taoist temple Venho. “We have a purely Buddhist and Taoist temples, but the most common sanctuary fusion is when in different rooms, you can pray to different gods. For example, Venho dedicated to the God of literature, God of war, and Confucius”. Its construction – and it is a temple complex of many buildings – climb the steep slope of the mountain. On the top, to a ceremonial arch of gray stone with bas-reliefs of dragons, is “stairway to heaven” of the 366 steps – the step for every day of a leap year. The contours of the coast here is not to distinguish, but the height is good to see after the sunset slowly fade the paint in the sky and the lake is hiding a misty veil.
“Mountain railway in Darjeeling is famous all over the world, but in fact it is inferior to our railway on a mountain of Alishan, says Kunin. In India you go from the height of 100 meters to 2200 meters above sea level, Alishan is from 30 to 2451 meters, there is a difference?!” Are, and what, besides the local train chugs along a zigzag canvas among the beautiful forest with mosses and lichen, as if drawn from the pages of a fantasy novel. But instead of strange animals you love looking residents of the surrounding villages Yes hikers with backpacks.
(On the mountain Alishan tea bushes are everywhere. And almost every roadside tea shop you can arrange a short tour of the plantations and thoughtful tasting.)
Forest railway at Alishan appeared in 1912 during the Japanese occupation it was used in transporting the valuable timber of cypress, which cut down on the mountain tops. In old photographs in local museums and hotels you can see on what flimsy, hastily put together bridge designs had to go down the locomotive with the trucks. Today the train is also not that long – about a year ago, the new management of the 71-km narrow gauge railway has launched tours by train. The most detailed starts from the town of Chiayi, the duration is about two and a half hours. But from the mountain station of the Alishan, you can go on a short trip – for example, in a half-hour tour to the observation deck to greet the sunrise. This adventure is organized from all over Taiwan thoroughness: early morning at the hotel you are awoken by two (!) calls to the front Desk, then a bus takes to built of fragrant cypress station, where all await the arrival of the train. To understand the surrounding peaks, vrezalsya the veil of clouds, help information boards on the panoramic grounds, and back to back on the same (or several of them in the morning) train, and on foot, leading through the forest and bamboo trails, ponds, Taoist temples and thick trees several thousand years.
In the spring near the railroad blooming cherry and Magnolia.
I have long wanted to go to Alishan because here there are plantations of high mountain tea-Oolong. Tea tasting I like the Alon – owner of a tiny family company and the planter in the second generation. “In the 1980s was paved highway the tourist flow, he said. – Then there started to appear the plantation, and my father decided to open shop for sale of tea, although we have only a two hectare”. Tasting at Alon includes ten teas, and the Oolong is to try to in a strict sequence so as not to clog the taste buds: the first inhale the aroma from the open water of tea leaves, and then draw a cold drink with the air with a spoon.
(Tasting green, red and Oolong teas on the mountain Alishan)
Alon does not only lichenskie classic Oolong with a flowery taste and a long sweet aftertaste, but the Oolong with the scent of roses (tea leaves in the processing of interleave rose petals) and even tea, the leaves of which fed the local green-winged Cicada biting them, it starts the fermentation process before the collection, after further processing of the leaves leads to a special bouquet and taste. “Surprisingly, the Chinese tea ceremony in China is not very popular – just brewed tea in a thermos during the day and top up with boiling water, says Alon. – And at a pretty leisurely ritual with the proper utensils and tea pairs – long Cup is used to enjoy the aroma, short for the drink – no one has the time.”
I drink in, like, the tenth Cup of tea, staring at the thick carpet of tea bushes outside the window and already know what to bring as a gift to friends. No, it is not just a tea Alishan, which if desired can be bought in Moscow shops. I’ll bring them a sense of warmth, peace and happiness – it is sure to circulate after the tea ceremony, to be held of the canons, as it is for me now makes Alon. And you know what, better tourist authorities of the country to not change with geography with the slogan “Taiwan the Heart of Asia” on the “Heart of Asia” – because you are guaranteed to leave him in the foggy vastness of this wonderful island.
(Nun collecting donations at the gates of the temple, Sanda in Taroko national Park)
In the experiment, the Taiwan abolished visas for Russian citizens until July 31, 2019 on the island you can stay without a visa up to 14 days. Most likely, the summer visa-free regime will be extended.
Come to the island year-round except for the period from June to September, when typhoons are frequent. Sakura blooms in Taiwan in February, anticipating the annual Festival of lights (eng.taiwan.net.tw).
How to speak
English language in Taiwan well understood in major cities and most hotels, but sometimes when ordering food and communicating on the street, helps service electronic and online translators – translation is not always accurate, but each other can understand.
(Buddha statues in the monastery of Fo Guang Shan in the suburbs of Kaohsiung (South Taiwan))
How to get
From Moscow to Taiwan also offers easy access to flights of “Aeroflot” (aeroflot.ru) to Hong Kong and then China Airlines flight (china-airlines.com) in one of the international airports of the island.
How to navigate
Relatively small distance and excellent bus (taiwanbus.tw) and railway (railway.gov.tw) are doing internal flights redundant. In Taipei (http://english.metro.taipei) and Kaohsiung (krtco.com.tw) running underground. For independent travel it is better to rent a car in one of the rental stations in airports or cities. Also popular scooters and bikes that can be rented even for a few hours.
In Taiwan, the path of cocoa beans from plantations to a chocolate factory — one of the shortest in the world.
In Taiwan it is difficult to stay hungry – all sorts of cafes and restaurants are everywhere in shopping malls are food courts with a wide choice of dishes and cuisines, a quick snack on the walking streets and night markets as well as in the shops of the network 7-Eleven. The most popular dish on the island is the soup with noodles and beef, but on the coast it’s hard to resist the fresh fish and variety of seafood. Some of the ingredients – for example, tofu, jellyfish, yams, Taro, Chinese mushrooms – an unprepared foreigner can seem too exotic.
The long island is experiencing a tourism boom, so the opportunities to stay overnight here weight – from modest hostels in towns to five star resort hotels. A good option in Taipei – the designer Home Hotel Da-An (homehotel.com.tw), in Taroko national Park – Silks Place (silksplace.com) with two restaurants, a Spa and a cinema on the roof, and on mount Alishan is definitely worth it to live in the historic wing Alishan House (alishanhouse.com.tw), where when I came in the summer of Chiang Kai-shek and where the leaders of many countries.