Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Visit to Green Island, Taiwan

"A Visit to Green Island, Taiwan"," Now a popular vacation destination for locals, the treacherous Kuroshio Current surrounding the island and its infamous prison once made it notorious for being Taiwan's Alcatraz. Keep an eye on the weather though; all transportation is grounded in the event of heavy rain or strong winds, and it's easy to find yourself stranded. Many of the hotels are by the harbor, which is crowded, smelly and expensive. Shiacarl is, hands down, the best place to stay on Green Island. Prices vary by season, but I spent about US $150 on the package for four days/three nights during the high season. The best room is a double room at the top which offers both. Green Island is a haven for those wishing to escape the overcrowding of Taiwan's larger cities and a must-see for anyone who visits Taiwan. If starting from Shiacarl, bike or ride a scooter north up a steep mountainous road (30 min. by scooter). After catching the sunrise, start off northwest toward the Sika Deer Area. The cave protects a stalagmite mildly resembling Guanyin, a Buddhist goddess that island fishermen and sailors pray to for safety. The prison is open to the public and, for many visitors, is the historic highlight of the island. Be on the lookout for lizards and coconut crabs as you follow the road around these buildings to your right and come upon a sandy path that leads to the beach. I think I frightened them as much as they did me! The tombs belong to soldiers and political prisoners, and many believe the surrounding hills are haunted by their ghosts. Look up the steep cliffs behind Swallow Cave and you will probably see herds of goats vying for the choicest bits of grass and daring each other further out onto the ledges. "" The monument consists of a pool of rain water with a duct spiraling down to a fountain that is said to signify the thousands of tears that have fallen in grief for the dead or ""missing"" victims. If you're feeling famished, pass through the village of Gong Guan where there's a hotel-run coffee shop and a good grill-it-yourself buffet restaurant (US ~$12 lunch/dinner only). This is an immense pre-historic fossilized shell heap created by the San Zung Liao, who inhabited the island circa 1,000-1,800 B. Everything from shells and antlers to pottery and jewelry has been found there. You can snap a picture from the outside, but will only be allowed in if you do something really heinous. Unfortunately, a lot of the coral near the shore has died (probably from being trampled by tourists), but there is still a surprisingly large variety of fish. Near the diving area stands a modest lighthouse. As a gesture of gratitude, America donated money to construct the lighthouse, which was completed in 1939. The shopping's ok if you need a bikini, want to pick up some dried deer, squid or seaweed, or are interested in shells with plastic googly eyes imported from Southeast Asia. The snacks are pretty good; indulge in big seashells of milk tofu and seaweed gelatin over ice. Just past the harbor is the Big Mushroom Coral Reef, which is rumored to be fantastic snorkeling, although I didn't have a chance to see it myself. However, it's a little pricey from what I've been told (US $15-20/night). Near the campground, right on the beach, is the world-famous Jhaorih sulphur/saltwater hot spring. Near the hot spring is the trailhead for the Cross-Mountain Trail, which is only accessible by foot. So, if you find yourself in Asia, don't make the mistake of overlooking Taiwan. The marvelous scenery, welcoming locals, rich history, and sprinkling of adventure are the perfect combination for an unforgettable journey. Make my day click here  

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