Traditional Taiwanese culture is very similar to that of China. Chinese opera, and its half-sibling Taiwanese opera, are an integral part of the culture: you probably won't understand a word, but the costumes, music, acting and atmosphere are beautiful nonetheless. Most Chinese music is made with string instruments or flutes, but you'll have to go out of your way to hear the delightful melodies these produce. You're far more likely to hear the strident noise of temple trumpets and gongs.
The Taiwanese take health and longevity very seriously. Many practise taijiquan - slow motion shadow boxing - for exercise and as an art form. If you're an early riser, you will often see groups of people gliding through the graceful motions of taijiquan as the sun rises. Chinese medicine, acupuncture and faith healing - quigong - provide an alternative to a growing western medical system. Superstitious about death, the Taiwanese avoid its symbols - white and the number four - and never talk about dying or accidents. Despite this, people do die, and when they do the tip-toeing attitude goes out the window. Taiwanese funerals are reminiscent of a Saoshing-soaked night in a karaoke bar: electric organs belt out funeral tunes, bikini-clad women sing songs (and sometimes strip) and everyone eats a great deal. Taiwan can be a cultural minefield for the uninformed visitor. As in China, 'face' is vital, and destroying someone's face is surprisingly easy to do. In order to save the face of others, the Taiwanese rarely express their emotions or speak frankly: smiles and politeness all-round are the norm. Gift-giving - especially when the gift is prestigious - flattery, self-deprecation and flowery rhetoric are an everyday part of Taiwanese interaction. As well as saving face, this rigmarole creates guanxi, a relationship of two-way obligations which allows participants to ask the most outrageous favours of one another.
The Taiwanese love to eat, and they love to feed guests. Food here is much the same as in China, with dishes from Beijing-Shandong, Sichuan-Hunan, Shanghaiese and Cantonese-Chaozhou cuisine. The Taiwanese have added a subtropical flavour with plenty of seafood and the liberal use of sugar. Eating out can be another excuse for a display of face-making, with everyone ordering exotic, high-priced dishes and competing with each other to pay the entire bill. Although the Taiwanese use many ingredients which seem implausible to westerners - dog, snake, bear organs - these are usually medicinal and expensive, and you'll be unlikely to encounter them in an everyday dish. Special foods to keep an eye out for include moon cakes (made during the Moon Festival in Autumn), spring rolls (sold in April), rice dumplings (made for the Dragon Boat Festival) and red turtle cakes (for birthdays and temple worship).
Gold Ecological Museum
The Gold Ecological Museum is at Jinguashih, which is a 10-15 minute bus ride away from Jiufen.
The gold museum is spread out over a sprawling area and consists of several buildings and attractions. First, you enter a building that takes you through the gold mining history of the area with well-labelled exhibits in English and Chinese.
The grounds of the museum also contain a Japanese Crown Prince chalet. Apparently, the Japanese crown prince used to holiday here. You can walk around the modest grounds of the chalet, and look at the chalet from the outside.
Another attraction in the gold museum is the underground gold mine walk. Here, you put on a safety helmet, and follow a guide, who will take you into the Benshan fifth tunnel, which was a real gold mine in the past. In the mine, wax figurines and voice recordings recreate actual mine working conditions and helps bring history to life. In there, you can alsoi see actual gold streaks on the walls. Be careful when walking through the mine, because it is slippery from all that ground water seeping through the roof.
The sprawling grounds of the museum also means that you can take a picnic there and just have fun.
You can also try the food that gold miners ate in the past; the lunchboxes are on sale at the cafe at the gold museum.
Formosa, the beautiful island
"Taichung, Taiwan: More than just a home away from"
I came to Taiwan in 2000 to continue my studies in Chinese herbal medicine, and I ended up teaching English, Chinese herbal medicine and nutrition. What kept me here for so long and what has prompted me to buy a house and settle down in Taichung?
Well, the main reason is the food. For example, I just love to be able to eat mi tai mu (thick, QQ rice noodles in soup), ge jian rou (a connective tissue between liver and gallbladder of a pig), and di gua ye (sweet potato leaves) for breakfast, followed by a lunch of dong fen (bean noodles) and zhu sun tang (bamboo shoot soup), and for dinner enjoy an organic spinach salad with basil-pine nut-garlic pesto and a salmon filet with tomato-cilantro salsa.
Then there is the weather! Oh yes, this gorgeous sub-tropical weather is a dream come true! Warm to hot, and humid, with very mild winters, it really fits my bill! I could do with a bit less pollution, and I would love to see waste-water treatment plants, but that is just a matter of time. Right, Jason Hu?
That leads me to the next reason why I love Taizhong so much: I’ve been very impressed with the forward-looking leadership we have been enjoying. The ecological development of Taiwan, and in particular Taizhong area, as a travel destination is a wonderful proposition that requires bi-lingual signage, local and foreign community involvement, and cultural events such as Jazz, Food, and Art Festivals. Our local leaders have long recognized and acted upon that, and it gives me great hope that over the next many years we will continue to improve the environment and with that the quality of our lives.
As a Chinese herbalist, I have yet another reason why Taizhong is such a fantastic place: It’s the tea!! Just order ban tang (half the sugar), and you can enjoy an amazing variety of healthful teas everywhere, from wu long tea to green tea to fruit and flower teas.
Lastly, there are the Hot Springs that make you feel like you have reached Nirvana and the lovely farms and breath-taking mountains surrounding these most delightful pleasures of life add to an unforgettable experience, over and over again!
"Hualian, Taiwan, aerial views"
Hotel Resort near Hualian
"Hualian, Taiwan, aerial views"
View of Taifeng/Typhoon drainage canal
Lantern Festival for the Chinese Year
"The Year of Rooster-2"
This is my favorite shape of the lanterns. In the middle of the Chinese charater is " ‡Ö", meaning "happy to be married".
The best off seashore of Taiwan in my mind is Orchid Island, also called Lanyu. It's never easy to get. You can't make sure if your reservation is still working because you will never know the weather. But definately if you love to see the sea and wonder in a slow way, you must come and enjoy your time here.
"The Rooster Year-3"
There are two phoenixes with my boyfriend in the photo. Phoenix is one of the luncky animals in Chinese Year. Two is better than one, as two can keep company with each other.
What an amazing place. I've been coming to Taiwan since I was young since this is where my mom is from and the place of residence of my grandparents. The best parts of going to Taiwan (besides family): the FOOD and shopping!