Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Andrew and Michael's Excellent Adventures in Miaoli

On Wednesday my friend Andrew and I headed out to Tunghsiao in Miaoli to take a look at one of the island's few remaining Shinto temples from the Japanese period, and enjoy the views from atop Tiger Head Hill in Tunghsiao, where are historical marker commemorates a famous event in Japanese history (to go to any pic, click directly on it).

Our trip began in northern Taichung, where we had to avoid all kinds of vehicles making illegal left turns as we mounted the highway to Sanyi and Miaoli.

We got off the highway in Sanyi. If you follow the road through town, all the way to the end, you'll hit this bridge. Bear to the right and hook around underneath it. Congratulations: this road, Rte. 121, will take you to Tunghsaio through some great Taiwan farming country. If you have wee ones, it goes past the popular recreational farm Flying Cow. If you don't have small kids, there's not much reason to go.

The road climbs over the ridge, offering excellent views of Tunghsaio and the ocean beyond.

Naturally, I created a panorama of the scene (click on pic for large size).

Try finding that bug.

At the end of the valley, a few kilometers outside of Tunghsiao, there is a collection of old, probably Hakka, farmsteads built in Japanese instead of Chinese style. They probably date from before WWII.

Mud-brick wall.

The house, of wood.

Another view.

A small temple serves the local families.

Workers eat lunch at the temple.

Tunghsiao: your basic Mark 1 Taiwanese town.

To find the temple and the marker, first find the main gate of the Miaoli County high school. Turn right and follow the road up the hill. You'll see it in a moment.

This austere temple was intended to obtain blessings for sugar and alcohol production. Because the gods pay close attention to those things when they are not tightly monitoring what we do with our genitals.

Andrew conjectured that this was the Abbot's house.

Name rectification: those of you who wonder why the DPP wants the names changed should recall travesties like this: on the gate before the temple, Andrew points to where the KMT removed all references to the year of the Showa emperor (Hirohito) that the temple was built, obliterating the previous colonialism for replacement with the latest mode. All over the site Japanese has been scratched out of existence. The KMT, Andrew observed, frequently replaced Shinto shrines with martyrs to the war dead, or Chinese temples. In this case, there wasn't enough money to replace the site with some marker of KMT colonialism, Andrew explained, so the temple survived.


The caretaker comes to sweep up.

The interior of the temple, redolent with the smell of fresh pine, was empty.

Looking toward the gate.

Tiger Head Hill overlooks the city and the port, and as you climb up the hill you pass old military installations. Here a blockhouse reminds visitors of the military role of the site.

A guardhouse rots in the midday sun.

The views from the top are wonderful... I made a panorama of the city, looking south, with the ocean to the right (click on pic for large size).

The harbor authorities are constructing facilities for the thermal generation plant right on the coast.

At the top of the hill is the historical marker, still defended by an old gun, whether Japanese or not I could not tell. The gun appears to be authentic as the barrel is rifled; nobody would bother to rifle the barrel of a replica gun.

Unfortunately some ripe asshole has covered the weapon in graffiti that says The police are Chen Shui-bian's Dogs! What? There aren't enough walls to spray paint?

This marker commemorates the sighting of the Russian fleet by a Japanese lookout in 1905. The fleet had sailed around the world to meet the Japanese off the coast of Korea at Tsushima, where Admiral Togo crushed it, dramatically announcing Japan's arrival as a world power, and having a major effect on naval design as well (Wiki). Name rectification: the KMT came in and obliterated the original Japanese, leaving the marker, and renamed it "Retrocession" Memorial.

A plaque gives the details.

The views from the summit are fantastic, and we had perfect weather. So naturally....

...but you guessed it: a panorama. This one looks east toward the central mountain range. Sanyi would be on the left side of the picture, in the distance (click on pic for large size).

It's like having a window into everyone's lives.

The thermal power station in Tunghsiao.

A view looking south along the coast.

Here is the viewing platform at the top of the hill. Why am I showing you the underside? The cistern cover in the center of the picture is a hint that the platform is built around an old blockhouse. Andrew found the stairs for it underneath the modern construction.

The fishing port.

Homeward bound through that good Taiwan farming country.

The flat valley floor.

Flooded green fields + factories + betel nut trees = Taiwan.

The road goes up over the ridge and vanishes into the forest....

Narrowing to a single lane of blind curves. I can't understand why my son thinks outings are boring. Moments like this make my heart sing....

Back through Sanyi town, now a major retail and production center for the island's woodworking industry. Well worth a day trip from Taipei or Taichung. The little museum here is wonderful, full of beautiful art objects (Our trip in 2006).

We decided to detour to visit the ruined Japanese-era railroad bridge in Lungteng. This entailed passing through Shengshing Railroad station, now a spot full of authentic Taiwanese Alpine style faux wood buildings, and traditional tourist activities, such as getting stuck in traffic, and...

...interacting with attractive and inviting salesgirls selling authentic local products made in China.

To find the bridge, follow the old railroad tracks through the forest and through the farming areas.

In this lovely little valley a good friend of mine had his wedding photos taken.

As we arrived at the ruins, raptors greeted us.

Sooner or later, you too will be assimilated to the Asian Sign of Picture Taking.

The bridge takes all of five minutes to enjoy.

How many angles can I shoot these from?

Last pic. On the scale of enjoyable things to do, I would rate this somewhere between getting your teeth cleaned and picking up some instant noodles at the supermarket. This is one of those places where getting there beats being there hands down.

On the way back we hit this beautiful valley and I stopped to make this panorama and soak up the scenery. The jagged peak just visible in the right center background is the mountain of sand and gravel just north of Taichung on the banks of the Ta-An River, that dominates the view as you head north out of Taichung (click on pic for large size).


The canonical Taiwan shot.

Where's Waldo?

Plumb tuckered out, we headed past this lumber operation to find the highway and home.


Ben Findlay said...

Great shots. Cheers.
I thought the crumbling viaduct looked viscerally woebegone and beautiful. Or perhaps that's the beer.fbu

Thoth Harris said...

I"ve been by that broken bridge in Miaoli a couple of times. I think I enjoyed it way more than you did, I think. And it looks like you were lucky that there weren't vast hordes of people getting in the way of your long shot view of the bridge. When I went (and for that bridge, even though your camera's images are mostly much sharper, more powerful, and more beautiful, I prefer mine, for the angle, the sky, the colours, and the general composition), there were way, way too many people.

Michael, is that white, curvy bird ("Where's Waldo?") an egret or a crane?. I always thought those birds were cranes, because they do come from that part of the world. But, maybe I'm wrong. You know more than I do about these things. I'm curious.

"...interacting with attractive and inviting salesgirls selling authentic local products made in China.":
Some interesting information on such matters, Michael. I was buying a suit in Taichung, and I was remarking to my partner, Sharon (you met her!), as I sighed, too bad this is made in Mainland China, though. Sharon responded with the explanation that it is very, very likely not, since the manufacturers and vendors there in Taiwan always put labels that say, "Made in China" on things, when they are, in fact, made in Taiwan. Why? For this simple reason that they will not have to pay as many of the taxes one has to pay when one is in the business of mass-manufacturing such goods. I wonder if those things those girls you saw selling were in fact made in China or if they were made in Taiwan.

Joel Haas said...

I loved this post; no politics and lots of good pictures.
I checked out your Sanyi visit in 2006, but would really, really like to see a bunch more photos taken at the wood carving museum with your NEW camera, since it does such a good job on bugs and landscapes. This is an entirely selfish request, of course.

tmarc said...

Check out this 3d photo trick found on reddit yesterday. It takes a few seconds for the pics to load, but the results are pretty cool.

It's in Japanese, but you can probably figure it out.

Kaminoge said...

Great pictures. If I have to nitpick, I'd point out that religious sites associated with Shintoism are called "shrines" in English (the word "temple" is reserved for Buddhism in Japan), and therefore the old house most likely belonged to the chief priest, and not an abbot.

Not only did the KMT remove all the Japanese markings, it appears they also rebuilt the main shrine building. Shinto shrine structures are usually made of wood, not brick, and the building has a KMT-like sun emblem on the roof.

Anonymous said...

when i was a kid, like your son, i also thought outings were boring. then i grew up.