National Scenic Area (III)-East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, East Coast National Scenic Area, Maolin National Scenic Area
Continuing our round- the-island tour which we followed last month, this month we will move our focus to East Taiwan and cover three scenic areas in the east, central and southwest Taiwan. All three areas are renowned for their beautiful mountain and coastal scenery.
1. East Rift Valley National Scenic Area
The East Rift Valley National Scenic Area lies between the Central Range and the Coastal Range between the Mugua River in the north and Taitung City in the south. The scenic area covers a total of 15 townships and 138,368 hectares.
The East Rift Valley is often called a land of milk and honey, since it is one of the most fertile and verdant areas on the island, comprised of green fields, tea plantations, orchards, pasture land and of course, the typically Asian rice fields. These scenes of rural life are set amidst awesome natural scenery of alluvial plains and river terraces. Here one can also see breathtaking geological features, including canyons, waterfalls and river rapids, and plenty of hot springs. The area is well known as a tourist destination and offers plenty for visitors, including recreational farms, forest trails and recreation areas, and aboriginal cultural sites.
Liyu Lake (Carp Lake) is situated at the northern end of the Rift Valley. In addition to the breathtaking views of the mountains reflected in the still waters of the lake, visitors can also enjoy water games and sports such as boating and rowing, fishing, camping, bicycling and hiking on the many trails that take you away from the cultivated lands around the lake into the forest wilderness of the mountains. For those visitors who prefer a bit more comfort and modern amenities, the area between Shoufong and Guangfu has two big resorts, the Promise Land Resort, Shin Kong Chao Feng Ranch and Resort.
The valley is home to five of Taiwan's main aboriginal tribes: the Amis, Truku, Kavalan, Bunun, and Puyuma. The Amis are the most numerous of the aboriginal tribes in Taiwan, and the tribe is one of the few matriarchal cultures in the world. Their rituals are noted for the fantastic singing and dancing, especially at the harvest festivals, which are held at different times throughout the summer, depending on when the millet ripens and is ready for harvesting. The Puyuma, on the other hand, are one of the smaller aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. The cultures and traditions of these indigenous peoples are still thriving, and witnessing one of their many age-old festivals is an intensely moving experience for many visitors.
For more information about the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.erv-nsa.gov.tw/ .
2. East Coast National Scenic Area
The East Coast National Scenic Area is a long thin strip of countryside lying between the Pacific Ocean and Taiwan? Coastal Range. It has a total length of around 170 kilometers, and a width of less than 10, and a total area of around 41,483 hectares of land. The offshore islet Lyudao (Green Island) is also part of the East Coast National Scenic Area.
The mountains that extend right up to the sea shore are comprised of shale and sandstone. Because of the continuing tectonic movements in the region, tremors can occasionally be felt by visitors traveling in East Taiwan. After thousands of years of weathering, the rocks of the coastline have taken all kinds of strange and wonderful forms. The high mountains descending precipitously into the vast Pacific are a spectacular and impressive view.
Eastern Taiwan is known for its caves, many of which bear traces of inhabitation by prehistoric man. The region is important to archeologists who continue to search for evidence of man? early interaction with the Pacific region. While many of their findings in the form of artifacts and stone-age implements can be seen in the museum at Basiandong (Cave of the Eight Immortals), many of the caves themselves are now home to more recent Buddhist or Taoist temples
The Siouguluan River reaches the sea inside the East Coast National Scenic Area, although it has its source high up on the slopes of Mount Siouguluan located deep in the interior of the island, right on the Tropic of Cancer. Because the river has enough water all year round, it is one of the best places in Taiwan to enjoy whitewater rafting and other river sports. The river winds its way through some of the most spectacular scenery on the island, through gorges and between awesome cliffs, and meets the sea at Shihtiping, which means ? Stone Steps?? Here the rock has been formed by erosion into giant staircases and other strange shapes.
In addition to the awesome natural scenery, the other most interesting feature for visitors to East Taiwan is the rich variety of natural hot springs .
For more information about the East Coast National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.eastcoast-nsa.gov.tw/ .
3. Maolin National Scenic Area
The Maolin National Scenic Area is one of the newest official Scenic Areas on the main island of Taiwan, and as such is still relatively unexplored by the general public, which is a great bonus for visitors coming here for the first time, as you will be able to enjoy the spectacular sights unimpeded. The Scenic Area is a long thin stretch of inland mountainous country stretching from Kaohsiung? Taoyuan Township in the North, to Pingtung? Majia Township in the south. The Scenic Area was formed in recognition of the importance of the beautiful mountainous scenery and virgin forest which characterize the landscape of the region, and in an attempt to preserve it for future generations. Maolin is quintessentially rural inland Taiwan.
Perhaps the most spectacular sight to see in the Scenic Area is Purple Butterfly Valley, at the foot of the Dawushan (Mount Dawu). This warm and moist valley is the winter home of Taiwan purple crow butterfly (or Taiwan purple-spotted butterfly). Every year, it is estimated that over a million such butterflies arrive in the valley from the north, seeking shelter from the harsh winter. Here they rest in the shade of the mountains, covering the forest in a veil of black and purple wings. This valley is one of only two places in the world where visitors can see such large numbers of these beautiful migratory creatures, the other being Mexico? Monarch Butterfly Valley.
Another beautiful sight not be missed is Cingrengu (Lovers??Gorge). Located on the Jhuokou River south of Maolin Village, the gorge is reached by crossing a bridge. The gorge is graced by a magnificent waterfall consisting of five separate layers. The water falls in a fine thin spray which is refreshing after the summer heat, and at certain times of day, the sunlight strikes it in such a way as to cause a rainbow to appear. The river at the base of the fall is wide and deep enough to swim in, and the spot is wonderfully calm and relaxing.
The region is home to four aboriginal tribes: the Bunun, Tsou, Rukai, and Paiwan. The Rukai and Paiwan share many of the same cultural traditions. Both tribes build their houses from slate, both decorate themselves with glass beads, and both share many of the same rituals. However, while the Rukai have the lily as their sacred symbol, a clay kettle is the sacred sign for the Paiwan. Visitors to the valleys of Maolin can witness many of the festivals and see the handicrafts of these peoples.
For more information about the Maolin National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.maolin-nsa.gov.tw/ .