As an American who lives in the western part of the country, I may take our national parks for granted. Anytime I want to, I’ll day-trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park and enjoy some of most stunning mountain vistas in the nation (the world, actually). But not every country has the resources to protect natural environments in this way. Fortunately, within the last 50 years, Taiwan’s government established a park service and now has eight areas under protection–including the stunning Taroko National Park in Hualien and Nantou counties.
This particular park, first recognized during the Japanese occupation, was unestablished (I guess that’s what you call it) in 1945, and then reestablished in 1986.
The park’s most stunning features (IMO) lie in Taroko Gorge, made entirely of marble laced with Taiwan’s only jade deposits. Two hundred million years, massive tectonic plate compression, and subsequently the persistence of flowing water, formed the gorge. The Tupido tribe built the first trail through this natural wonder, and the original tribal family lived there until Japanese troops eliminated some and evicted others.
Guardian dog: marble. Bridge railings: marble. Walkways: marble. The place is a natural palace.
The park carries an element of danger, for you thrill seekers. Active rock slides and narrow passages make the trip up and down the canyon road (a single lane in some places
) a white-knuckle seat-gripper. It rained hard the night we stayed over (I started looking for animals two-by-two, hurrah! hurrah!
), which (for those from desert country, like me
) causes rock slides. We are from Colorado, rock slides happen regularly in the mountains, so we weren’t as impressed as the Danish people in the shuttle bus when the driver stopped at a curve on the elevated road, citing a slide. I though he meant they were clearing rocks from the road–until through the windshield I saw giant boulders cascading down a cut in the mountain, and into the river beneath. After the dust cleared (literally
), a road guy in a yellow vest began hopping excitedly and waving his little red baton. The shuttle driver stomped on it, and we drove through there like a bat out of hell. After a short silence in the bus, Danish guy says, “Well that
explains why they drive so fast!”
…and here’s where all that marble comes from.
If you keep a bucket list of amazing places on the globe, I suggest you add Taroko. (I checked one thing on my bucket list–seeing a monkey in the wild. Sorry, no photo, the sighting was of a huge male and it happened too fast to capture it). Stay at the Silks Place hotel while you’re there–a Japanese-style hotel with a zen attitude that will remind you to be thankful for the blessings of our planet–and your place on it.
Random photos of the day:
Seriously, Mr. Brown Coffee? It’s one of the most popular brands in Taiwan! Ewwwww…
Not quite sure how it happened, but the weekend also found us at a world-class whiskey distillery–complete with a tasting of award-winning single malt. Hint: If they can ever get corn and beans in the ground (endless rain and 16 inches of snow last week in Minnesota means Randy probably won’t miss any planting while we’re here), the crew is in for a unique toast when they’re done.
Breakfast view at the Silks Place Hotel. Have I mentioned the fantastic fruit in Taiwan? Succulent pineapples, magnificent mangos, wonderful watermelon…
Please behave yourself, for heaven’s sake.
We also visited the National Center for Traditional Arts
this weekend–a special request of mine. Here, preservation of traditional arts means artists practice forms of Taiwanese art and crafts, and have a market for the art, including ceramics, jade and wood carving, weaving, music and dance, candy and cake making, puppetry, and much more.
Carved and painted detail on a temple column at the National Center for Traditional Arts.