Saijia Recreation Area (賽嘉樂園) reopened last week, providing camping fans a new choice in southern Taiwan. Together with the reopening ceremony, a bicycle race was held at the entrance of the area with over 300 local and foreign cyclists participating.
Just this past New Year's weekend, while everyone and their mothers were getting ready to head out on the town and begin drinking the night away, I and a few other friends decided to break that tradition and head out to the mountains of Mao Lin National Scenic Area (茂林國家風景區) for a well-deserved rest.
Archaeologists have been active in Taiwan for a long time. In 1896, the year after China was forced to hand Taiwan over to Japan, Japanese researchers began investigating archaeological sites in the Taipei Basin. The following year, important discoveries were made at Yuanshan (圓山), near the Keelung River.
Tobacco has been grown in Taiwan since at least 1630, but it wasn't until the mid-20th century that it became a major cash crop. From then until a few years ago, tobacco underpinned the economy of certain parts of the countryside, most famously Meinong (美濃) in Kaohsiung County.
Meinong (美濃) in Kaohsiung County is better known for its cultural attractions, such as Hakka cuisine and clothing, than for its natural charms. However, of the latter there's no shortage. To the north and east of the town are steep hills; between these tree-covered slopes, unspoiled creeks water a rich variety of flora and fauna.
Finding greenery is not difficult in Taiwan, but because invasive or exotic plant species are so common, it's not always possible to enjoy truly local trees and flowers. Fortunately, there's a park devoted to indigenous flora that's both easy to reach and well worth an afternoon.
With the exception of Taipei 101 and some temples, Taiwan's natural and cultural attractions get a great deal more attention than the country's architectural highlights.
The Wu Shan Scenic Area (烏山風景區) near Nan Hua Village (南化村) is a fantastic place to visit. There are several large and active temples, a bee farm, some great hikes, tea and coffee shops perched on the hillside and great views of Tainan County. But don't miss the main attraction in the area, the Wu Shan Monkey Preserve (烏山獼猴生態保護區).
Taiwan has twelve remaining aboriginal groups of which the Bunun (布農) tribe ranks number four. Mala-ta-ngia or "shoot the ear festival"(打耳祭) is the Bunun tribe's largest and most important ceremony of the year. Similar to Chou (鄒) tribes well known Mayasafi, it is a coming of age ceremony that focuses on hunting.
Rice is a crop of global importance. Humans have been cultivating it for more than 6,000 years, and it accounts for about one-fifth of all calories consumed by mankind. Despite urbanization and industrialization, rice fields still cover a significant proportion of Taiwan's lowlands.