Every year, thousands of religious pilgrims make the long trek from Taichung (台中) County to Chiayi (嘉義) County -- and back again -- in honor of the goddess Matsu (媽祖).
As we drove our scooters into the little aboriginal settlement of Cha Shan (茶山,tea mountain) one mid Saturday afternoon in early March, we disturbed a ball game that was underway in the middle of the village main street.
About the only place many Chinese ever get to see live fish are at the local pet shop or swimming sadly around a tiny aquarium at a seafood restaurant waiting to be fished out, cooked and eaten.
According to the map, the tiny aboriginal village of Tefuyie lies smack-dab right on the Tropic of Cancer, yet the chilly January night we sat huddled around the bonfire just outside our home stay on the edge of this tiny settlement deep in the mountains was anything but tropical.
As the taxi made its way over the flat terrain of western Chiayi (嘉義) County and approached the seaside village of Tongshih, about an hour's drive from Chiayi City -- and just a half-hour from the new High-Speed Railway train station in Taibao (太保 ) -- a cool breeze from the ocean carried fragrant smells from this quaint, picturesque "oyster village".
How many tourists that sweep along the Alishan highway, or chug along the mountain railway that connects the resort with Chiayi city on the plain below know there's another, even more scenic (if slower) way to get to this most popular of Taiwan's mountain resorts?
We're standing on a narrow rock ledge cut by the elements into a cliff about sixty meters above the bottom of a deep gorge, looking across at the nearly vertical opposite side of the canyon, down which a tiny wisp of stream cascades over six waterfalls to the rock-strewn floor of the gorge far below our feet.
As the taxi climbs the gentle hills that surround the well-landscaped campus of National Chung Cheng University (NCCU) (國立中正大學) in Chiayi (嘉義) County, the view of distant mountain peaks is breathtaking.
Among Taiwan's many natural wonders, one of the most impressive has to be among its less well-known. An island internationally famous as the current home of the world's tallest building, Taipei 101, Taiwan also has, it is said, the tallest waterfall in East Asia, Jiao Lung Waterfall, (蛟龍瀑布, Dragon Waterfall) in Chiayi (嘉義) County.
Even today, when Taiwan is crisscrossed with an impressive network of speedy freeways, and the high speed train service will -- one day -- make the train journey between Taipei and Kaohsiung almost as fast as the plane, I'm glad to see there are some places on this island which still require a little effort to get to.