National Scenic Area (II)-Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, Alishan National Scenic Area, Southwest Coast National Scenic Area
Following last month, this month we will cover three more national scenic areas in West Taiwan. These three scenic areas cover Central and Southwest Taiwan, and all boast beautiful mountain and coastal scenery.
1. Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area
Sun Moon Lake is the biggest lake in Taiwan. It consists of the irregular rhombus-shaped Sun Lake, and the crescent-shaped Moon Lake to the west. Sun Moon Lake is the traditional habitat of the Thao people.According to legend the Thao people came across Sun Moon Lake while they were hunting a white buck. On discovering the lake, the tribe decided to move there for its beauty.
Sun Moon Lake's beauty lies in its tranquil turquoise water and the surrounding mountains, which layer upon one another as they recede into the misty distance and are reflected in the still waters of the lake.
In the surrounding mountains there are trails for hikers. Each of them offers visitors a different perspective of the lake's beauty. The sacred Lalu Island is off limits to visitors, but gardens built on rafts featuring a variety of local vegetation now surround it, so the tourist boats continue to call.
Like other scenic areas in Taiwan , Sun Moon Lake has a rich and diverse fauna and flora. Six rare indigenous birds including the Taiwan whistling thrush, the Taiwan sibia, the Taiwan blue magpie, Steere's liocichla, the white-throated hill partridge and the Taiwan yuhina as well as another 80-plus species are found here, and there are also dozens of butterfly, fish, and animal species in the area.
Temples both old and new are scattered along the highway around the lake's 24-kilometer perimeter. On the top of one mountain directly across the lake from Shueishe Village , where most of the hotels and restaurants are located, is a pagoda built by Chiang Kai-shek in memory of his mother. The President and his wife were frequent visitors to the lake. The villa where President Chiang stayed during his visits collapsed during the 921 ( Sep. 21, 1999 ) earthquake, and the government-owned lakeside hostel just below it was also heavily damaged.The property has since found a new owner, who has developed it into the most exclusive and expensive hotel in Taiwan .
Wunwu Temple , located on the lakeshore, is dedicated to two deities: Confucius and Guan Gong, the God of War. Two huge and fierce-looking stone lions guard the entrance to the temple.
For more information about the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.sunmoonlake.gov.tw
2. Alishan National Scenic Area
During the Japanese colonial occupation, Alishan became famous for its rich forests, especially the vast fields of Taiwan Yellow and False Red Cypress.
About half way up the Alishan Forest Railway stands Fencihu Station, where you can buy famous local snacks such as the renowned Fencihu Lunch Box and Train Cakes.
The railway terminal is situated in the Alishan Forest Recreation Area, which is best known for its spring cherry blossoms. Many people also like to come here in the summer for the cool weather.
The Alishan area is the ancestral homeland of the Tsou tribe, which is famous for its Millet Harvest Festival or Homeyaya Festival, as it is called in Tsou language. The time of the festival changes every year, but is usually held in August when the tribesmen start to reap the first millet harvest. At the Mayashivi Festival in mid-February every year, visitors have another chance to witness Tsou culture.
Fireflies gather in Alishan from March through to June every year. In recent years, this natural wonder has become one of the major attractions of the area. About 23 species of fireflies are found here, making it the perfect spot for firefly-watching, especially in the Rueili area. Seven firefly-watching routes and package tours are available for visitors. In addition to watching fireflies at night, these tours also include local attractions such as Tsou aboriginal culture, cuisine featuring fresh local produce and game, and trips to other natural scenic spots.
For more information about the Alishan National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.ali.org.tw
3. Southwest Coast National Scenic Area
In the Southwest Coast National Scenic Area there are quite a few interesting tourist spots. Among them, Cigu has become very popular because of the Black-faced Spoonbills which can be seen there.
Cigu Lagoon is the biggest lagoon in Taiwan and is very rich in natural resources including over 200 kinds of fish and clams, over 30 kinds of crabs, migratory birds and many other species, including four endangered species.
When it comes to seafood, one cannot miss Chiayi's two most famous fishing ports, Dongshih and Budai. Fresh seafood is sold at reasonable prices here – you can just nip into one of the seafood restaurants and eat to your heart's content. Oysters are a well known local delicacy due to the oyster farms on Chiayi's seaside sandbars. Raft tours to Waisanding Sandbar are offered to visitors who wish to experience the life of Taiwanese oyster farmers. The sandbar creeps south every year due to strong tropical coastal winds from Taiwan 's northeast in the winter. On the sandbar there is a lighthouse, a raised bamboo pavilion and even a B&B.
Daitianfu's famous Wangye Festival in the fourth month of the lunar calendar lasts for about 10 days. Spirit mediums and devout believers from around the island gather here to attend this annual celebration. At Donglong Temple , the celebrated Wangye Boat Festival is held in the eleventh month of the lunar calendar. This is a ceremonial send-off of the Wangye boat which is used by the deity to patrol the territory. The wooden Wangye boat is first carried through the streets in procession and is then put to sea, where it is burned, symbolizing the start of the deity's journey. This belief in Wangye originated in China 's Fujian Province , but has also flourished in coastal Taiwan for the past 300 years, overtaking its origins and maintaining its authentic form and spirit today.
For more information about the Southwest Coast National Scenic Area, visit: http://www.swcoast-nsa.gov.tw