June 29 Nangang Tea House Hike

This blog entry is out of chronological order, because I forgot an outing when I was writing about our June activities. I have a weak excuse in that these photos did not appear in chronological order in Picasso on my computer. Still, I should have wondered why there was a missing weekend when I was writing about June. We do usually go somewhere every weekend! And on this particular weekend, we went to visit the Nangang Tea Center up in the Nangang mountains  northeast of Taipei.

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Jeff and Ann are standing in front of a wall displaying different size gongs inside of the Nangang Tea Center

We took the subway to the Nangang station where we were going to catch a bus up to the Nangang Tea Center. But when we arrived at the bus stop, we found out that we had just missed the bus, and another one would not arrive for an hour. So we took a taxi up the winding mountain road to the Nangang Tea Center. Jeff actually told the taxi driver to go past the Tea Center parking lot and continue on the road until it reached the top of the mountain, so we could take photos from there and then walk down to the Tea Center.

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Memorial to commemorate those killed in an uprising against Chiang Kai-shek

The first thing that we stopped and checked out was a very large structure near the top of the mountain. It was a Memorial to commemorate the people from the Nangang area who were killed in an uprising against Chiang Kai-shek.

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Jeff is reading the plaque on the memorial

Jeff spent some time reading the plaque on the memorial, and then he tried to explain it to me, as there was no English version. I am sorry that I do not remember most of what he told me, except that many people were killed here by Chiang’s army, and some of them were innocent villagers. I have included a photo of the plaque below, so that if you are one of the people reading this blog who can read Chinese characters, you can maybe get a better understanding of the significance of this memorial.

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Plaque explaining the memorial

The view of the surrounding mountains from the memorial was beautiful!

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Photo of the mountains of Nangang, taken from the road by the memorial

This statue of a man “coming home to Nangang” was alongside the road up to the Tea House in three different spots. Jeff really liked it, so I am giving it a spot in my blog.

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Statue of a man “coming home” to Nangang that was alongside of the road up to the tea center and temple

The Memorial was not quite at the very top of the mountain. We continued walking up the road until it ended at a temple on the top of the mountain. You could not see the temple until you got up close to it, as it was surrounded by large trees.

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Guangming Temple at the top of the mountain in Nangang

There was a pavillion across the street from the temple. It held six impressive sculptures on pedestals (three on each side) carved out of large rocks.

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Pavillion with rock sculptures across the street from the Guangming Temple entrance

The photo below shows a close up of one of the sculptures.

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Close up photo of one of the rock carving sculptures at Guangming Temple

There was also a great view of the mountains from the patio behind this pavillion

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Photo of the Nangang mountains taken from the patio in back of the Guangming Temple pavillion

The entrance to Guangming Temple was not very impressive, at least not in comparison to many that I have seen here in Taiwan or China.

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Entrance to Guangming Temple

But that was maybe because you passed through the entrance into a beautiful garden courtyard with a pond.

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Photo of the pond inside of the courtyard garden of the Guangming Temple

We spent some time walking around enjoying the garden, as we were the only ones visiting the temple at this time.

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Jeff is taking video in the courtyard garden of the Guangming Temple

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Bird statue near the pond in the Guangming Temple courtyard garden

The Guangming Temple had both a pagoda tower and a main temple building.

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Photo of the pagoda tower at the Guangming Temple

Once again, the main temple was very nice, but not as big or impressive as many that I have seen in Taiwan. But it was on a very old site. When I was walking around the courtyard, I spotted several remnants of old stone foundations. So I suspect that there has been a temple here for perhaps hundreds of years.

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Photo of the Guangming Temple in Nangang

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Entrance to one of the halls of Guangming Temple

I wish that I could write more about this temple, but there were no English signs or pamphlets, and there was no one around to ask.

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Photo of the inside of the hall of Guangming Temple

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Close up photo of the statue inside this hall of Guangming Temple

I could see the wall of a much older building behind the statue in this hall.

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Close up photo of a statue inside of a hall in Guangming Temple

After visiting the Guangming Temple, we walked back down the road to the Nangang Tea Center. We decided to eat lunch at the Tea Center restaurant before visiting the Tea Center. Lunch was delicious, and we got to taste local dishes made with the baozhong tea and sweet osmanthus mix that is the special tea grown by the Nangang area tea farms.

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Ann and Jeff in the Nangang Tea Center restaurant

The department of economic development of Taipei opened the Nangang Tea Processing and Demonstration Center in 1991 to maintain and enhance the standards of Nangang baozhong tea production,.The Tea Center includes a display area, a tea sampling area, a restaurant, and landscaped grounds with a pond. The display area includes information regarding the tea manufacturing process, the proper way to brew tea and the way to store tea.

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Photo taken looking down from the patio in front of the Nangang Tea Center

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Close up photo of the ducks in the previous photo

The representative tea of the Nangang District is the baozhong tea. 150 years ago, a Fujian man, Xi Cheng Wang, produced baozhong tea using the Wuyiyan production method.  The Nangang baozhong tea is a half fermented, oolong style tea. .The tea is often blended with the osmanthus flowers that are also grown in this area. giving it a pleasant fragrance.

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Wagon used to transport baskets of harvested tea leaves

We spent some time walking around the grounds outside of the Tea Center. There was a pair of large gongs hanging in a patio outside ofthe center.

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Jeff is standing next to a large gong hanging in a patio outside of the Nangang Tea Center

The tea consumed by the Taiwanese was first imported from mainland China—primarily from the provinces of southern Jiangsu and Fujian—during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Local Taiwan teas were produced mainly for export purposes, and it was not until the 1970s that the tea market slowly began to meet local demand.

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Rock art in the patio outside of the Nangang Tea Center

Local Taiwan teas originated from plants growing in the wild. Taiwan teas held little commercial value at first, but this changed after breeding improvements were made to the tea plants, making them suitable for making black tea. After the Treaties of Tianjin were ratified in 1860 and the port of Danshui was opened for trade, British tea merchant John Dodd began working with tea merchants and farmers to promote Taiwan tea, slowly developing it as an export item. Before long, tea ranked first among Taiwan’s top-three exports, ahead of sugar and camphor.

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Front entrance to the Nangang Tea Center

The earliest teas exported during the Qing dynasty were oolong and baozhong tea, which began to be sold abroad in 1865 and 1881, respectively. In 1906, during the Japanese occupation, black tea began to be exported alongside oolong and baozhong tea.

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Jeff is standing inside the display center of the Nangang Tea Center

The center also provides information concerning the history and distribution of Taiwanese teas.There was also a tea processing factory attached to the Nangang Tea Center.

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A stack of drying trays for tea leaves inside of the tea processing factory

The factory was officially opened in 2002. There are various types of tea processing equipment on display inside of the factory area, but no one is demonstrating how they are used. In this way, it is similar to the Maokong Tea Center in southwest  Taipei.

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Tea processing equipment inside of the factory at the Nangang Tea Processing Center

In 1949, Taiwan also began exporting green teas. These included fried green teas, such as zhu tea and mei tea. In 1963, steamed green tea, or Sen tea, began to be exported to Japan, and by 1973, the largest exported tea product was Sen tea.

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Jeff is standing next to a display of teapots inside of the Nangang Tea Center

In 1973, Taiwan’s tea producers began to realize the importance of the domestic market. Through the collaboration of county governments in tea-producing areas, farmers’ associations, and the mass media, a foundation was created for promoting tea in the domestic market. On August 14, 1977, the Chinese Kung Fu Tea House, the first of Taiwan’s modern teahouses, was established. Before long, teahouses were sprouting up everywhere, and these local teahouses slowly organized into associations devoted to the promotion of tea culture.

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Tea serving area inside of the Nangang Tea Center

There are two tea harvests in Nangang, in the late fall and spring. We were visiting in June, and it was hot, so that likely explained why there were so few people here! After we left the Nangang Tea Center, we walked around the trail that circles the center. The trail had many trees, and thus it was shady and cool.

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Jeff is standing on wooden steps that are part of the trail circling the Nangang Tea Center

There was a cute little bridge across a creek on this trail. It had two stone teapots next to its entrance.

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Jeff is standing next to a stone teapot near the entrance to the bridge

It was an interesting outing, and I learned a lot about tea from reading the English displays inside the Nangang Tea Center. Maybe if we return during the tea harvest in November, I can find out more about the Guangming Temple and the Memorial.

 

 

July 27 Tatunshan (Frog Prince Trail)

We began this hike with an easy start, by taking a taxi up a road up into the mountains to the highest point that the road goes. This enabled us to get to near the top of the trail in less than 30 minutes, without getting all sweaty and tired. This might be the best way to go when hiking in the subtropical Taiwan summers!

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Ann is standing next to a stone frog statue wearing a crown at the start of the Tatun Nature Trail

From where the taxi dropped us off, it was just a short walk to a viewing platform.

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Ann is standing on a platform near the road at the top of the mountain

I think that this view is looking across the lower mountains towards the higher mountain peaks of Yangmingshan.

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View of the mountains taken from the viewing platform

Not far from the viewing platform there was a dirt road going off in the opposite direction. Jeff had explored this road before, and told me that it led to a cemetery with a good view in the opposite direction. He was correct; there was a good view of Taipei from this group of hilltop gravesites.

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Jeff is standing on the roof of a gravesite at the top of the mountain, with a good view of Taipei

Jeff was interested in getting some good photos and videos of Taipei from the cemetery. I was more interested in the cemetery itself. Most of the family gravesites here were large and beautifully maintained. Some were Christian, as you could tell from the crosses and angel statues.

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Christian family gravesite on the top of the hill

Some were traditional.

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Traditional family gravesite at the top of the hill

Most of the family gravesites were in good shape, but a few were neglected and overgrown.

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Neglected family gravesite at the top of the hill

After we left the hilltop cemetery, we walked towards the nature trail. We walked by this pond right before we arrived at the trailhead. I am going to call it frog pond, because it looks like the type of pond that frogs would live in and enjoy!

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Ann is standing on a platform next to frog pond

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Close up photo of frog pond

There were two very cute stone frog statues wearing gold crowns at the start of the trail. I do not know the Chinese name for this trail, so I am calling it the “Frog Prince Trail” in my blog.

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Cute stone frog statue wearing a gold crown at the start of the trail

The Frog Prince is a fairy tale, best known through the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale storybook. Traditionally it is the first story in the book.

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Ann is standing next to a sign showing the trail map that has a frog wearing a crown on the top

In the fairy tale story, a spoiled princess reluctantly befriends the Frog Prince. She meets him after she drops her gold ball into a pond, and the frog prince retrieves it for her.

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Jeff is standing next to another sign along the trail that has a frog wearing a crown on the top of the sign

In modern versions of this fairy tale story, the frog magically transforms into a handsome prince when he is kissed by the princess. In the original Grimm version of the fairy tale, the frog’s spell was broken when the princess threw it against a wall in disgust. As a fan of real frogs, I like the modern version of the fairy tale much better!

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Jeff is standing on the trail next to a tall grove of bamboo

In another earlier version of this fairy tale, the frog magically transforms back into a prince after spending the night on the princess’s pillow. The frog below likes a bit like he is tucked into a bed with his head on a pillow!

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Cute frog plaque on the trail walkway. For some reason, this frog is not wearing a crown!

A popular phrase related to this fairy tale is, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your handsome prince.”

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Jeff is standing on a section of the wooden walkway where the trail was going down the mountain

This was a wonderful, well maintained trail. It was easy to walk on, and had many interesting things to see and great views, along with all of the cute frogs.

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Jeff is standing next to a tree with a hole in the center of its trunk that is growing through a hole in the walkway

For some reason, there was a snail and not a frog at the other end of this nature trail.

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Jeff is standing next to a snail at the other end of the nature trail

But there was a large rock with a stone frog statue on it in the field across from this end of the nature trail.

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Stone frog statue sitting on a large rock in a field across from the end of the nature trail

We had not carried enough water with us, so I was very thirsty when we were done walking on this nature trail. Fortunately, we did not have to walk far down the road before we arrived at the Coffee 101 Cafe. This cafe had a great view of Taipei 101 on their deck. But it was very hot sitting out on the deck, even under the umbrellas over the tables, so we chose to sit around on the side of the cafe in the shade.

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Ann is standing next to a sign for Coffee 101 Cafe

They served us a delicious fruit tea drink alongside a bowl of fresh fruit. There was music playing when we entered the cafe, but it stopped right when we were served our fruit teas. Jeff went inside to ask why there was no music playing, and then ended up spending much of the next hour trying to help the cafe owner fix his sound system.

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Ann is enjoying her fruit tea with fresh fruit at the Coffee 101 Cafe

The cafe served only drinks and snacks, so when we were finished enjoying our fruit trees, when headed down the road looking for a place to eat lunch. Before long, I started to recognize my surroundings. We were back in a section of the Neihu mountains near the Bishan Temple, where we had gone hiking before. We knew that there was a place to get something to eat on the other side of the mountain across the suspension bridge.

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Suspension bridge across a valley to the trails on the other side of the mountain

We walked across the bridge to the garden restaurant on the other side of the bridge.

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Ann is standing on the suspension bridge

We were so hungry that we ate lunch without taking a photo of our food! But we did take a picture of the shaved ice dessert before we ate it!

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Ann is sitting at a table with a traditional Taiwanese shaved ice dessert

After lunch, we walked down the waterfall trail back to Neihu. The area of the trail near the waterfall was very crowded. People were shouting, dogs were barking, and kids were running around everywhere.

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Busy scene near the waterfall

There was even an old man washing his clothes in the pool of water below the waterfall. That is something that I have not seen since I left China!

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Man washing his clothes in the pool of water near the waterfall

This was a fun hike, and I am sure that I will go back to the Frog Prince nature trail again!

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Jeff is standing on a rock with the Neihu waterfall behind him

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 19 Qingjing Farm

The first reaction when you tell someone that you are going to a sheep farm is “why?”  “Or haven’t you seen sheep grazing, border collie herding and sheep shearing at home in North Andover during the Sheep Shearing Festival?” So I will do my best to explain why we took this day trip to Qingjing Farm.

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Ann and Jeff are standing the the Green Grass Meadow area of Qingjing Veterans Recreational Farm

We took the HSR train to Taichung, and then got tickets on a tour bus to go up to Qingjing Farm. This farm is so popular that they run extra tour buses on weekends. Still wondering why everyone wants to go here?

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“Cinderella’s Castle” style entrance to Qingjing Farm

Qingjing Farm is situated in Nantou County off of the Central Cross-Island Highway in Taiwan. Its altitude is 1,750 meters (5,250 feet) above sea level. The weather at Qingjing Farm is generally mild all year round. In the months from May to September, the temperatures averages between 15℃ and 23℃ (59-73 degrees Fahrenheit). So it is an ideal place to escape from the hot summer weather in Taiwan!

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Close up photo of the cute sheep on the flag tower of the Qingjing Farm entrance

There was lots of cute sheep drawings, along with beautiful scenery at the farm. The Qingjing Farm also has an interesting history.

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Ann is posing in front of a gift store at Qingjing Farm

When the Communists took over mainland China in 1949, many of the minority groups living in southwest China fled to the Burmese-Thai-Laotian borders. There they joined the resistance forces in Yunnan. They fought against the Communists in Burma in October 1960; with each side suffering heavy casualties. These soldiers were ordered to retreat in 1961. Seventy-seven soldiers and their families emigrated to Pingtung, Taiwan. They were settled in the Qingjing Veterans Farm after one hundred days of agricultural training.

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Jeff is standing in front of the “sheep” trash and recycling cans

That is why it is sometimes referred to as Qingjing Veterans’ Farm.

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Cute do not litter sign on Qingjing Farm

Qingjing Farm lost money raising sheep for mutton, milk, and wool, and goats for meat and milk until the 1990s, when it was “discovered” by the tourist industry. Now the farm is very profitable catering to tourists, and the sheep and goats are mostly tourist attractions. This is the definition of a Recreational Farm, catering to tourists with agriculture as a small side industry. Qingjing Farm is one of eight recreational farms in Taiwan.

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Ann is supporting Qingjing Farm, trying to decide which sheep keychain to buy

The wide grass plain is the most popular site on the Qingjing Farm. It has sheep grazing on the grass, and the beautiful central mountains of Taiwan in the distance.

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Green grass plain on Qingjing Farm

And goats, although this one was sleeping instead of grazing.

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Sleeping goat at Qingjing Farm

The sheep are very friendly; and visitors usually can have their pictures taken with them. This is because the farm sells pellet food that you can feed to the animals. And on a summer day like this one, there were lots and lots of children feeding the animals. So most of the sheep here were too well fed to come over and take the food that this man is offering, as he tries to take a formal photo on the farm. I am assuming that this was a wedding photo shoot, because of the woman’s fancy dress.

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Man trying to get some sheep to come and pose for a photo with his fiance

June to August is sheep shearing season, and the farm holds sheep shearing shows. We did not bother to attend one, as we have seen plenty of sheep getting sheared during our years in North Andover. In fact, because I know what a good, cleanly sheared sheep should look like, I can tell that whoever is shearing these sheep is not doing a very good job. Many of the sheep looked like they were given very uneven “haircuts”!

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Sheep with a bad haircut on Qingjing Farm

There were also alpacas on the farm.

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Alpacas grazing at Qingjing Farm

Their pasture area had some of the best mountain views! On a clear day, you can see Yushan, the tallest mountain in Taiwan, from Qingjing Farm. It was not clear enough to see the mountain on the day day that we were there.

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Alpaca at Qingjing Farm

Qingjing Farm was having a Windmill Festival during the months of July and August on another section of the farm called the Small Swiss Garden.

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Ann is standing under a trellis of pinwheelss on the path leading to the Small Swiss Garden section of Qingjing Farm

The Small Swiss Garden has been called “Taiwan’s Little Switzerland” because many visitors have said that this section of the farm resembles Switzerland.  I am not sure if that is true because I have never been to Switzerland. But they were certainly trying to create that image here on this section of the farm. It also created more photo opportunities for visitors.

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Decorative windmill in the Small Swiss garden section of Qingjing Farm

Do they have windmills in Switzerland? Well, they had one here, along with many smaller pinwheels stuck into the grass. The pinwheels are in the shape of a sheep in the grass background behind Jeff in the photo below. And they even had a frame that you could pose in, so that the photo would have exactly the right angle to catch the “sheep” in the background!

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Jeff is posing inside a frame with a pinwheel “sheep” behind him in the Small swiss Garden section of Qingjing Farm

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Close up photo of some of the many pinwheels in this section of Qingjing Farm

There were also painted wooden cow shapes scattered around this section of the farm. This one below was my favorite because of its border collie and sheep theme. It was also reasonably well painted. many of the other painted cows looked like they had been done by first graders (and maybe they had.)

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Ann’s favorite painted cow in the Small Swiss Garden section of Qingjing Farm

The third section of Qingjing Farm is called Shoushan Park. The most notable thing about Shoushan Park  was the large Chiang Kai-shek statue in the center of it.

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Chiang Kai-shek statue in the center of Shoushan Park at Qingjing Farm

After leaving Shoushan Park, we took a trail down to the visitor center. They were two trails down the hillside to the visitor center. One was a short boardwalk trail that went directly down the hill. The other was a much longer trail (actually a road) that wound down the hillside.

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Jeff is standing under some very tall trees along the road that we walked down to the visitor center

We took the longer trail because we were in no hurry to get home. I was really enjoying the comfortable temperatures; it was so nice not to be hot and sweaty when I was walking around outside!

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Jeff is standing on the road down to the visitor center from Qingjing Farm

There were vendors along the road near the visitor center selling local peaches. This area of Taiwan grows a lot of peaches, and they are in season in July and August.

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Jeff is standing next to some wooden “critters” sheep? goats? alongside of the road to the visitor center

Instead of eating fresh peaches, we ended up at Mcdonalds. For some reason, I was having a McDonald’s craving, and so I insisted that we eat both breakfast (in the Taichung HSR station) and dinner (in the Taipei HSR station) at McDonalds. This is very unusual for me, as McDonalds is one of my least favorite places to eat. Maybe I am getting a bit homesick, and missing American food.

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Ann is enjoying eating McDonalds french fries in the Taipei station

 

 

July 13 Hello Kitty Show

There is a Hello Kitty Show taking place right now in Taipei at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. I am a Hello Kitty fan, so I wanted to see the show. We decided to go in the afternoon, as it would be air conditioned and cool inside at the show. So I put on my Hello Kitty sundress, and we went to see the show.

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Ann is standing next to “Party Hello Kitty” at the 40th Anniversary Hello Kitty Show at the Taipei Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

The show was taking place to celebrate Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary! Hello Kitty is produced by the Japanese company Sanrio. She is a female white Japanese bobtail cat with a red bow, first designed by Yuko Shimizu.

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Ann is standing next to the entrance to the Hello Kitty show

She first appeared on an a vinyl coin purse in Japan in 1974, sitting between a bottle of milk and a goldfish bowl. Hello Kitty was brought to the United States for the first time in 1976. By 2014, Hello Kitty was bringing Sanrio $7 billion a year in revenue. That’s a lot of Hello Kitty fans! And there were many of them at the show. It was crowded, with people of all ages trying to pose for photos with Hello Kitty.

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The original Hello Kitty drawing from 1974

There was a poster with a drawing of Hello Kitty for every year between 1974 and 2014. Her appearance did change over the years, according to popular cultural trends. I did take a photo of every year of Hello Kitty, but I will restrain myself from including them all in this blog!

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Hello Kitty 2014 with her top hat, multicolor bow, and magic moon wand

Spokespeople for Sanrio have said that Hello Kitty does not have a mouth because they want people to “project their feelings onto the character” and “be happy or sad together with Hello Kitty.” Another explanation Sanrio has given for her lack of a mouth is that she “speaks from the heart. She’s Sanrio’s ambassador to the world and isn’t bound to any particular language”. From Wikipedia

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“Cartoon Hello Kitty”

According to Sanrio, in 1999 Hello Kitty appeared on 12,000 different products yearly. By 2008, Hello Kitty was responsible for half of Sanrio’s $1 billion revenue and there were over 50,000 different Hello Kitty branded products in more than 60 countries. From Wikipedia

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Ann is posing with “Disco DJ Hello Kitty”

Can you imagine the Hello Kitty incarnation of the movie “The Seven Year Itch” in the style of sex goddess Marilyn Monroe? I couldn’t, but apparently somebody thought this was a good idea. I refused to pose next to this Hello Kitty because it did not look enough like the Hello Kitty that I love.

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“Marilyn Monroe Hello Kitty”

There was also a “Breakfast at Tiffany” edition of Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty does not have the grace and elegance of Audrey Hepburn.

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“Breakfast at Tiffany’s Hello Kitty”

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Ann is posing in the Hello Kitty cafe

There is also a Charlie Chaplin edition of Hello Kitty. Fortunately, the artists got over their fascination with Hollywood movie Hello Kitties after a while, and moved on to other ideas.

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“Charlie Chaplin Hello Kitty”

Thus came about “Skateboarding KT”, wearing a loose T-shirt and baggy hip pants, gold chains, and a hat with a red bow on it. (I did not say that they moved on to better ideas!)

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Hip hop “Skateboarding KT”

Hello Kitty has no “street cred”, no matter how hard they tried to project this image! This was so unlikely that it was very funny!

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Ann is posing next to “Skateboarding KT”

But it was a good, uncrowded photo spot, as it was hard to pose beside “Skateboarding KT” hanging from the ceiling! There were lots and lots of people of all ages, waiting in long lines to pose next to the various Hello Kitty statues. I did not want to wait in many lines, so I am posing with Hello Kitty in only a few of the photos. (Jeff did not want to pose with Hello Kitty, so I am in all of these photos.)

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Close up of Ann posing next to “Skateboarding KT”

After we left the Hello Kitty Show, we explored the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park where the show was being held. This was the location of the “Taiwan Sotokufu Tobacco Monopoly Bureau” from 1937 until 1945 during the Japanese colonial period. It was a large plant for manufacturing cigarettes. After the war, it was taken over by the Taiwan Monopoly Bureau and renamed the “Taiwanese Provincial Tobacco and Alcohol Monopoly Bureau Songshan Plant”. In 2001, it was declared a cultural heritage site of Taipei. It was renovated and reopened in 2011 as the “Songshan Cultural and Creative Park”.

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Ann is sitting in Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

In 2012, the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park was positioned by the Taipei City Government as the “Creative Hub of Taipei”. Although they did a nice job of converting an old tobacco factory into a show venue, it was not the most interesting part of the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.

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View of the new Taipei Stadium being built across from the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

The Eslite hotel, located across from the renovated factory building, was more interesting.

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Ann is standing in the plaza in front of Eslite Hotel in the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

In 2013, Eslite brought its long experience in the cultural and creative performing arts to Taipei’s Songshan Cultural Park.From its traditional base of operations in the cultural bookstore and retail industry, Eslite expanded its business scope to hotels, performance venues, and art movie houses—the goal being an integration of innovative sources that draw from a wide range of industries and countries. From the Eslite Website

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Photo of the large bookstore inside of the Eslite hotel

The bottom four floors of the Eslite Hotel were amazing. It was a large bookstore, combined with many cafes, and intermixed with small studios where artists were at work making everything from paper to guitars. So you could browse through books, and records (they had a vinyl record album section with records for sale!) They were coffee shops, tea shops, soda shops, and other cafes tucked into many spots among the books and artist studios, where you could get a snack or drink. And you could watch the artists at work.

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Artists at work in a small studio inside of the Eslite Hotel

It was a combination of craft fair and demonstrations of different artistic techniques.

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Artists at work in a small studio inside of the Eslite Hotel

And you could buy (if you had a lot of money) many of the things being made by the artists. Jeff thought that the bags (made from paper) in the photo below were amazing!

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Bags made from recycled paper for sale in the Eslite Hotel

 

 

 

 

July 13 Kangleshan Trail

It was a beautiful, clear, summer morning, so Jeff and I decided to hike to the top of the Kangleshan trail to take photos of Dahu Park and Neihu. There is a photo spot on this trail that is the best place to get great photos. Many photographers come here to take photos.

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Photo of Dahu Park and Neihu taken from the photo spot at the top of the Kangleshan trail

Jeff was nervous about taking me, after what happened on Saturday at Lion’s Head Mountain, but I did okay. It was early in the morning, so cooler, and we hiked up slowly.

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View of Dahu Park, the subway, and Neihu from the Kangleshan photo spot

The actual top of this mountain does not have a view, the photo spot is a bit further along the trail.

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Jeff is standing on the top of Kangleshan Mountain in Neihu

This photo has a good view of our apartment building, and Taipei in the background. Our apartment building is the tall one on the right with the round dome on top. You can also see the iconic Grand Hyatt hotel in the background on the left. It is the building visible with the yellow roof.

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Photo of our apartment building, with Taipei in the background, taken at the Kangleshan photo spot

Here is a photo of the mountains looking in the opposite direction. I included this photo in the blog for papa, as it has a great view of the high power lines going over the mountains.

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Photo of the high power lines going over the mountains, taken from the Kangleshan photo spot

We took a trail down the mountain that we had not taken before. This trail was notable for the many small temples along the trail. The first temple that we came to was a large Tudigong temple built up around a smaller Tudigong shrine.

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Photo of a Tudigong temple along the Kangleshan trail

This photo was taken from the front of the temple.

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Front view of the Tudigong temple along the Kangleshan trail

This photo is taken looking inside of the temple. you can see the roof of the original small stone shrine in the back.

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Photo of the inside of the Tudigong temple along the Kangleshan trail

The next photo was taken of the inside of the small stone shrine.

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Original small stone Tudigong shrine inside of the bigger temple

I am sure there is an interesting story behind why they built a bigger temple around this Tudigong shrine. But there were no signs (with English) anywhere, and there was no attendant on duty at the temple. So all I can write about now is what we saw. The photo below is of one of the sculptures on the roof of the temple. I liked this figure, as it is the way I would visualize Tudigong appearing if he was in a human form.

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Roof sculpture on the top of the Tudigong temple along the Kangleshan trail

I took this photo because I thought that it was amusing that there were hula hoops for exercise on the shaded patio next to the temple. So you could hike up this trail and pay your respects to Tudigong, and then get some exercise before you hike back down.

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Hula hoops on the shaded patio next to the Tudigong temple

Finally, I took this last photo because I thought it was cute that there was a dog sleeping next to the stone lion guardian by the temple steps. Two “guardians”, neither one caring that we were there!

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Dog sleeping next to a stone lion guardian by the steps up to the Tudigong temple

We continued hiking down the trail, and soon came to the next temple. This was a temple dedicated to Matsu under a large tree. it was much smaller than the Tudigong temple.

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Jeff is standing in front of the Matsu temple under a large tree along the Kangleshan trail

The photo below shows a close up view of the inside of the Matsu temple. The statue of Matsu is behind bars. Do they really need to put in bars to keep people from taking the statues? Does poor Matsu feel like a prisoner?

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Matsu statue behind bars in the Matsu temple

It was not long before we came to another temple. I think that this one was also dedicated to Tudigong.

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Jeff is standing in front of another temple along the Kangleshan trail

The photo below shows a close up view of the inside of this temple. There were no bars in this one.

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Photo of the inside of the temple

And then we came to another small temple. At this point, we were down off the mountain, and walking back towards the city.

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Small temple on the edge of a parking lot at the bottom of the trail

This temple’s small shelf was filled to capacity, so some of the statues are on a folding table in front of it.

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Inside photo of the small temple beside the parking lot

I still want to go back and do some more hiking around Lion’s Head Mountain. But clearly if we want to hike around lower elevation mountain trails with lots of old, small temples, we don’t need to go all the way to the Tri-mountain area of Taiwan! There are trails like that right in our backyard in the Neihu mountains!

 

 

 

July 12 Lion’s Head Mountain (Shitoushan) Hike

Shitoushan (chinese translation Lion’s Head Mountain) is located in Hsinchu and Miaoli counties south of Taipei. It rises to an elevation of about 500 meters (1,500 feet). Lion’s Head Mountain has forest temples over a hundred years old. It is also one of the oldest Buddhist sites in Taiwan. Jeff and I had never been there, so we decided to go and check it out.

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Jeff is standing next to the stone wall at the beginning of the historic Lion’s Head Mountain trail

Lion’s Head Mountain gained its name in 1826 when Mr. Li Shenyi of Danshui viewed the mountain and commented on how the peak resembled the head of a lion. He was likely one of the few who could easily see a lion head shape in this mountain. I had to be shown a photograph of the mountain with a drawing of a stone lion superimposed on it in the visitor center to see how it got its name.

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Lion’s Head Mountain is the peak with the clouds touching it in this photo taken from the tour bus

But first we had to get there. We decided to take the train down to Hsinchu. Unlike our trip to Fulong, this time we managed to take an express train that went almost directly to Hsinchu (chinese translation “new bamboo”). There are many trains that go between Taipei and Hsinchu because there are a lot of factories and businesses located in Hsinchu. So many people commute between Taipei to Hsinchu every day. Once we arrived in Hsinchu,  we were told that the tour bus only made stops at the train station in Zhubei (chinese translation “north bamboo”), and at the high speed rail (HSR) station in Hsinchu. So we took the train one stop north back to Zhubei.

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Ann is sitting on the express train between Taipei and Hsinchu. It looks more like a subway train than a normal railroad train

We got to Zhubei and found out that the tour bus runs every half hour, and we had just missed it. So we went to sit inside an air conditioned 7 Eleven  near the bus stop to wait for 20 minutes.

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Fancy Sheraton 5 star hotel in downtown Hsinchu

The tour bus was air conditioned and comfortable, and it actually did a tour of Hsinchu on our way to the Lion’s Head Mountain visitor center. It made five stops before reaching the HSR station in Hsinchu, and a recording in Chinese and English explained the sites at each stop. Thus, we know that the HSR station at Hsinchu won an architectural design award.

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Award winning HSR station at Hsinchu

It took about an hour for the tour bus to drive up into the mountains after we left the stop at Hsinchu HSR station. The total bus ride was about 1 3/4 hours, which was longer than I expected. So we did not arrive at our destination until around noon, and we had left our apartment before 8 am! When I write in the blog about the places where we go in Taiwan, it probably seems like we just easily get there, even without using a car. But traveling around on public transportation requires planning and working out the logistics of traveling to an area, and often we can only get a good sense of what is involved by doing it. In this case, subway to Taipei Main Train Station, plus express train to Hsinchu plus regular train to Zhubei plus tour bus added up to more than 4 hours of travel!

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Gate on the road going into the Lion’s Head Mountain visitor center

Lion’s Head Mountain was declared as a provincial scenic area in 1993. The scenic area includes Lion’s Head Mountain, Emei Lake, Wuzhi Mountain, and Beipu Town Area. Lion’s Head scenic area is very large, over 24,221 hectares, and has many hiking trails and historical sites. We saw Beipu Township and walked two trails on Lion’s Head Mountain on this trip. But first we stopped in the visitor center, so that we could learn more about the area.

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Lion’s Head Mountain Visitor Center

We decided to eat lunch next, as we were both hungry. There was a restaurant with beautiful terraced landscaping around it next to the visitor center.

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Stone terraces with ponds next to the restaurant at the Lion’s Head Visitor Center

The restaurant served traditional Hakka, Atayal and Saisiyat cuisine, and lunch was very good!

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Jeff is sitting at a table with our lunch on an outside deck at the restaurant at the Lion’s Head Visitor Center

The Lion’s Head Mountain scenic area is also well known for the wonderful fruit that is grown here. Asian pears, peaches, persimmons, lychees, dragon fruit, and wax apples are all grown in this area.  We walked under several wax apple trees with fruit on them on the path from the visitor center to the restaurant.

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Wax apple tree with fruit on it growing between the restaurant and the visitor center

I was hoping that it would be cooler up here in the mountains, but it was not. I guess that we were not up high enough. It was still very hot. So we decided to take the trail alongside of the river to Wanfo, as it would be shady with lots of trees.

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Jeff is standing next to a stone with Chinese characters carved into it at the start of the Wanfo Temple trail

We had only walked a short distance along the river trail before we saw the temple. Wanfo Temple is a Buddhist temple set into Shueilian Cave, the biggest cave in the scenic area.

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Wanfo Temple inside of the large cave, as seen from the river path

Natural spring water drips from the rock ledge overhanging the cave, and also flows out from the rocks underneath the shrine. I was hoping that it would be cooler in the cave temple, but it just felt hot and damp.

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Buddhist statues in Wanfo Temple inside of the cave

After we left Wanfo Temple, we continued along the river trail to the Sticky Rice Bridge

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Jeff is on the river side trail to the Sticky Rice Bridge

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Tall bamboo growing over the trail

The Sticky Rice Bridge got its name from the fact that sticky rice mixed with lime and sugar was used as mortar between the stones of the bridge. This bridge was built by the Japanese, and was very important when it was built because it  because it goes across the Thread of Sky Gorge.

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Sticky Rice stone bridge in the Lion’s Head scenic area

The trail and the bridge over the gorge were important for the local residents, as this was the main path connecting two area towns.

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Thread of Sky Gorge

I was feeling very bad by the time that we reached the bridge. I was pale, dizzy, and nauseous, with a bad headache and rapid heartbeat. In hindsight, it is very clear that I was suffering from heat exhaustion. I had to sit for a while on a bench in the shade next to the bridge. Jeff was feeling okay, and had started up the trail back towards the visitor center. When he noticed that I was not following him, he returned and sat beside me until I was feeling a bit better.

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Ferns growing alongside of the trail

It took me a long time, moving slowly, to get back up the trail to the visitor center. We had just missed the shuttle bus that takes hikers to the other end of the Lion Head’s Mountain Historic Trail. Jeff really wanted to see some of the historic temples along this trail, so we started walking up it.

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Stone lion on the wall near the start of the Lion’s Head historic trail

I quickly realized that I should not have done so. I started feeling very bad again, after not going very far along the path. So I sat down alongside of the trail, and Jeff hiked a bit farther along the trail. He just went up to the first little shrine in the photo below, and then turned back because he realized that it was a much longer hike to the temples than we thought. After I felt a bit better, we walked slowly back down the trail and got on the air conditioned bus to ride back to Hsinchu.

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Small shrine in a small cave alongside of the Lion’s Head Historic Trail

I was feeling a bit better after sitting for awhile in the air conditioning, so we decided to get off the bus in Beipu to get something to eat. Beipu was the site of the original Hakka settlement in this area. It is famous for its well preserved  houses on Beipu Old Street. and Chitian Temple. It is also famous for its Hakka cuisine and its special Hakka blends of ground green tea and nuts called “leicha.” (chinese translation pounded tea).

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Old family house in Beipu

Beipu is located in the foothills of eastern Hsinchu County. It is the major Hakka town in the north of the island and has a population of around 97% Hakka.  The Hakka people first moved out to Beipu about 150 years ago. This caused lots of problems with the indigenous Saisiyat tribe living in the area and the town of Beipu suffered many attacks..

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Jeff is standing on one of Beipu’s old streets

Citian Temple in Beipu is a Taoist temple that is an important historical building.

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Citian Temple in Beipu

The carvings on the roof of this temple were just amazing!

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Close up photo of some of the roof carvings on Citian Temple in Beipu

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Close up photo of some of the roof carvings on Citian Temple in Beipu

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Close up photo of some of the roof carvings on Citian Temple in Beipu

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Citian Temple door in Beipu

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Inside of the Citian temple in Beipu

We took the bus back to the Hsinchu HSR station from Beipu, and took the high speed train back to Taipei. We learned a lot during our first trip to the Lion’s Head Mountain scenic area. Next time, we will likely rent a car instead of taking public transportation, as we can get there faster driving a car from Taipei. There is plenty of parking. and many of the trail heads are not close to the bus stops up in the mountain area. I am sure that we will go back when the weather is cooler, as there is so much to see in this area. Also, I will be much more careful for the rest of the summer when I am outside walking around in this very hot, humid climate, as i do not want to get another case of heat exhaustion.

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Jeff is enjoying some food from the street vendor behind him in Beipu

 

 


 

 

 

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July 6 Qixingshan Hike

We went back up to Yangmingshan again on Sunday because it is slightly cooler in the mountains. July is turning into a challenge-how to do something active outside without developing heat stroke.This time, we decided to climb up from the volcanic west side of Mt. Qixing,, as that is a shorter hike up.

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Jeff is standing next to the entrance sign at the Xiaoyoukeng volcanic area on the northwestern side of Mt. Qixing i n Yangmingshan National Park

Xiaoyoukeng is a volcanic geological landscape area and is located on Mt. Qixing’s northwestern side. Volcanic activity in the Yangmingshan area tailed off after the formation of Mt. Shamao some 300,000 years ago, leaving the various signs of prior volcanic activity in certain areas of the park. The Xiaoyoukeng area of Yangmingshan has a lot of active fumaroles and sulfur vents.

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A photo of the large fumarole/landslide area at Xiaoyoukeng from the viewing platform on the hill across from it

Xiaoyoukeng is approximately 805 meters (2,415 feet) above sea level, so we would only be climbing up another 315 meters (945 feet) to get up to the top of Mt. Qixing. Of course, this is meant climbing up almost a 1,000 feet in hot weather. But we were going to hike up very slowly, and pause frequently to take photos and videos.

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Sulfur fumarole at Xiaoyoukeng

Xiaoyoukeng is famous for the fumaroles, sulfur crystals, hot springs and spectacular landslide terrain formed by post-volcanic activity in this area..The active fumarole steam at Dayoukeng, Xiaoyoukeng, Macao and Gengziping is strongly acidic and corrosive. It attacks and disintegrates the adjacent rock, causing the rock to collapse or slide, particularly when earthquakes or typhoons occur. It is also bad for camera lens, so we have to be careful when we are taking photos or video here. For example, the photo above, and the photo below, were taken from a distance with a telephoto zoom lens.

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Jeff is standing next to an active fumarole area on the path from Xiaoyoukeng up to the top of Mt. Qixing

We were both using our umbrellas as sun parasols on this section of the trail, as there was very little shade. I guess that was the trade-off on this hike up Mt. Qixing. This was a shorter trail up the mountain, but it had mostly arrow bamboo and silver grass growing alongside of it. The trail on the other side has many more trees for shade.

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Jeff is standing on the trail with arrow bamboo and silver grass surrounding him

Arrow bamboo only grows to a height of 1 to 2 meters (3 to 6 feet). Its stem is both slender and resilient, so it was often used by the local Taiwan aborigines to make arrow shafts. The type of arrow bamboo that grows at Yangmingshan  is one of three types of arrow bamboo found in Taiwan. In Yangmingshan National Park, it only grows on sheltered, sunny slopes at elevations of over 800 meters (2,400 feet). This is why there is so much of it alongside of this section of the Mt. Qixing trail. It is one of Yangmingshan’s dominant plants that flourish in the volcanic areas of the park.

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Fumarole vent with arrow bamboo and silver grass growing around it

It normally takes about an hour to reach the summit from the trail head at the Xiaoyoukeng visitor center. It took us longer on this hike because we were going up slowly in the hot weather.

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Ann is standing near the beginning of the trail up Mt. Qixing

Volcanic cones are formed by the piling up of lava flows and pyroclastic rocks around a volcanic crater. Mt. Qixing is a good example of this type of volcano. At an elevation of 1120 meters (3,360 feet) above sea level, it is the highest peak in Yangmingshan National Park. This is also one of the younger volcanoes in the park, and thus it has the most intact conical shape.

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Jeff is standing next to the stone marker at the top of Mt. Qixing

Clouds had blown in and were covering the top of Mt. Qixing when we reached the summit. The cloud cover combined with the elevation made it very cool and comfortable on the top of the mountain. I took a photo of the thermometer on the summit showing that the temperature was a pleasant 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius).  Definitely, the most pleasant outside temperature that I had felt since April here in Taiwan!

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Thermometer at the top of Mt. Qixing

There is a second, lower peak of Mt. Qixing, the East Peak. We did not go up the East Peak the last time when we were at the top of Mt. Qixing because I was too tired to do another climb. This time, maybe because we did not hike up as far, and went more slowly, I was not too tired to do another trail up. So we hiked down from the top of the main peak of Mt. Qixing, and then climbed back up to the top of the East Peak of Mt. Qixing.

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Jeff is on the trail up to the top of the East Peak of Mt. Qixing

The East Peak of Mt. Qixing has only a very small stone marker at the top, because it is only 1,107 meters (3,321 feet).

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Stone marker at the top of the East Peak of Mt. Qixing

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Jeff is standing on the top of the East Peak of Mt. Qixing

Even though it was cloudy, Jeff was still trying to take videos from the top of the mountains.

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Jeff is taking videos on the top of the mountain in the clouds

So I tried to photograph butterflies why he was taking videos. May, June, and July are the peak times to see butterflies in Yangmingshan National Park. There were a lot of butterflies on the trail, and even on the tops of the mountains.

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Slightly blurry butterfly photo taken on the top of Mt. Qixing

It is very hard to take good photos of butterflies. They usually do not stay in one place for long enough for the camera to focus on them! The butterfly in the photo below did a much better job of posing for me!

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Much better butterfly photo

The trail down the south side of Mt. Qixing is longer, but it has many more trees. It was shady and we were going down, so this was a very pleasant walk back to the start of the trail at the main visitor center..

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Photo of the tree-shaded trail on the south side of Mt. Qixing

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Jeff is resting on a bench alongside of the south Mt. Qixing trail

When we arrived at the bottom of the trail by the visitor center, it was hot again. But it was a great hike, and I could now get on an air conditioned bus for the drive back to Neihu!

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Jeff is standing next to the sign at the trail head of the Mt. Qixing south trail near the main visitor center