to Green Island Adventures
Relaxation and family fun is a given
at Chihpen hot springs.
Southwest of Taitung is the small settlement of Chihpen. The village
itself is unremarkable, featuring the usual gaggle of restaurants and
convenience stores lining each side of the main road that runs through
it. Heading out of the village towards the mountains, though, the road
leads to one of the most popular tourist destinations in southeastern
Taiwan: Chihpen's hot springs and resort.
Hot springs are extremely popular in Taiwan because of their reputed
benefits to the skin and to general health. The novelty of naturally
occurring hot water never seems to wear off for tourists. Cooking eggs
and instant noodles in the water is one of the most favored pastimes
in Chihpen itself, with one of the resort's most popular stores consisting
simply of trays of thousands of eggs and a large stone trough into which
boiling spring water is piped.
Chihpen was first developed as a resort around the turn of the century
by the Japanese who ruled Taiwan from 1895 to 1945. The area became
a prime rest and relaxation venue for the elite of Japan's occupying
forces. Now, domestic tourists flock to the area during holidays, making
summer weekends a fairly bad time to visit.
Chihpen is about relaxation. Certainly, the area is infested with karaoke
bars and disco pubs, but these are peripheral to the main raison d'etre
of the resort: soaking in the hot spring pools that are a standard feature
of every hotel in the village.
Soak those aches away
For those who have never sampled a hot spring, it may seem a little
pointless to spend several days in a place the chief attraction of which
is hot water. Once sampled, though, hot spring bathing can become an
addiction. The sheer decadence of lazing outdoors in bath-temperature
water, while gazing at spectacular scenery, has to be experienced to
be appreciated. Aches, pains, and tensions dissolve away with the action
of the hot water, while watching the clouds roll over the mountains
on the opposite side of the valley can induce an almost meditational
state. Local lore also suggests that "taking the waters" can
cure rheumatism, arthritis, skin diseases, sciatica, and even problems
But pure relaxation in hot water isn't good enough for health-conscious
visitors. Bathers at most hot springs can be seen leaping vigorously
between the hot pool and an adjacent pool of cold water. This rapid
change in temperature is said to open the pores and hasten the replacement
of old skin with new cells, as well as promote the rejuvenation of internal
organs. The validity of this theory remains a matter for debate, and
the practice seems more likely to hasten the onset of pneumonia rather
than beautiful skin. Whatever the health benefits (or otherwise), though,
once over the initial trepidation, hot pool/cold pool jumping is actually
a real buzz, leaving the body with a delicious tingle at each change
of temperature. The experience gets easier the more often it's done,
but is still not recommended for those with weak hearts.
Not just a hot spring center
Although the resort of Chihpen exists almost purely as a place to use
the hot springs, the area itself is one of outstanding natural beauty
and deserves to be explored. The multi-story hotels which proliferate
here are dwarfed by the towering mountains forming the valley that contains
the Chihpen River. In these mountains, hundreds of small farms grow
fruit as well as one of Taiwan's largest cash crops-the betel nut. As
betel nut (also known somewhat ironically as "Chinese chewing gum")
is a premium-priced product in Taiwan, many of these farms boast residences
rather grander than the average Taiwan smallholder's house. Despite
their relative affluence, the residents seem happy to wave and even
stop for a chat (usually in Taiwanese) if visitors should inadvertently
venture onto their land.
The whole area is veined through with tiny roads that are ideal for
hiking or exploring by rented scooter or on foot. One of the best of
these runs past the entrance to the Hong Chuan Hotel and leads to a
strangely remote junior high school in the mountains. Although the roads
are tortuous and the quality of their surfacing varies, the rewards
for following them include secluded waterfalls and spectacular views
across the Taitung plain to the sea.
More organized hiking trails are available in the Chihpen Forest Park,
accessed via a suspension bridge which crosses the river and which sways
disconcertingly when walked over. It costs NT$50 to cross. The park
itself has a picnic area and a well-marked hiking trail which takes
about three hours to walk. Visitors bringing their own equipment can
camp free in the park, and tents and sleeping bags can be rented fairly
cheaply. The bridge closes at 4:30 p.m. and doesn't reopen until 7 a.m.,
which precludes evening trips to the hotel karaoke bars. Those desperate
to get to the resort's attractions could possibly wade across the river;
but the water is fairly fast-flowing and several people have been drowned
in the area, so this is not recommended.
The forest park's motto roughly translates as "Leave only footprints
and take only photographs," showing an admirable respect for the
ecology of the area. Indeed, the whole of Chihpen seems remarkably free
of the litter that pollutes so many other Taiwan resorts. This sense
of civic pride can also be seen in a newly built flood barrier-cum-promenade
which runs along part of the river. Instead of the usual rough, gray
cement, this structure is finished with attractive tiling and has aborigine
murals painted on it.
Just past the Dong Tair Hotel is the nominal center of the resort,
where a group of small stores and restaurants surround a parking area.
These stores sell mostly souvenirs such as rocks and driftwood sculptures
as well as swimsuits for visitors who have strangely arrived at this
hot spring resort without one. Outside almost every store, instead of
Taiwan's ubiquitous video games or gambling machines, stand rows of
coin-operated electric massage chairs, in keeping with Chihpen's health-conscious
Here also is the home of one of Chihpen's premier tourist attractions-proudly
advertised as "The 100-Year-Old Fish." After paying the NT$30
entry fee, the expectant visitor may be disappointed: The fish is dead.
Stuffed it may be, but the fish (actually an eel) must have been a
pretty formidable creature when it was alive. At 21 feet long and with
an evil-looking head as big as a basketball, it is no wonder that local
residents took it as a mystical sign when the giant eel was found floating
on the surface of the river after a lightning storm. The current owner,
a Mr. Wang, claims that he paid NT$1 million for the eel, so lucky a
religious icon does he consider it.
One of the many waterfalls to discover when visiting Chihpen's surrounding
Of meditation and waterfalls
Just south of the valley center is the Ching Chueh (Clear Realization)
Monastery. Here, monks and nuns pursue their meditations in an atmosphere
of pious tranquillity, while next door, in the upmarket Chihpen Royal
Hotel, tour busses disgorge streams of tourists to giggle and scream
in the hotel's hot pools.
Despite the intimate proximity of the massive hotel, the monastery has
miraculously retained its peaceful atmosphere. The main temple contains
two magnificent statues of the Buddha--one of bronze from Thailand and
the other a gorgeous white jade likeness from Burma. These statues were
donated by their respective countries Buddhist communities to acknowledge
links with the influential masters that reside at the monastery.
Another peaceful Chihpen attraction is the White Jade Waterfall.
Here, water from the mountains tumbles its way through the rocks, forming
pools and natural showers as it goes. Some overgrown steps follow the
course of the stream, leading to idyllic, hidden bathing spots that
offer a welcome respite from the summer heat.
Accessibility and accommodations
With the increase in availability of low-cost domestic air travel in
Taiwan, the whole of the island's southeast has become accessible to
tourists from the affluent north.
As a place to experience both hot springs and the largely undeveloped
charm of Taiwan's southeast coast, Chihpen is ideal and in the off-season
or during the week the resort retains more than enough of its peaceful
mountain character to make a stay there a wonderfully relaxing experience.
Copyright 1995 Vision International Publishing Co.
Hualien Taroko Gorge and more East Coast Tours
East Coast National Scenic Area
The East Coast National Scenic Area stretches in a strip along the coast
of Hualien and Taitung counties, between the Coastal Mountain Range
and the Pacific Ocean. It reaches from the mouth of the Hualien River
in the north to the Little Yeliou Scenic area in the south, a total
distance of more than 170 kilometers, and covers the largest amount
of land of any national scenic area on the island. The most unique landforms
in the area can be seen at Shihtiping, Sansiantai and Little Yeliou.
The section of the Siougulian River below Rueisuei is the most popular
site for white-water rafting in Taiwan. In addition to rafting, activities
offered withing the national scenic area include whale-watching, snorkling,
deep-sea fishing and soaking in hot-springs. The East Coast's unique
topography and ecology, and its rich indigenous cultures, weave an enchanting
web of attractions here.
East Rift Valley National Scenic Area
Traveling down provincial highway No.9, all you see on both sides are
green farm feilds stretching to the mountains. The national scenic are
stretches from Mugua River in Hualien to the north to Taitung City and
covers a total of 138,386 hectares encompasses mountains, valleys, and
hot springs, together with feilds of rice, daylilies, pomelos, tea,
and sugar apples in rich abundance. Berms crisscross the land, dividing
it into feilds; waves of rice billow as cows graze in organic pastures
and fish and shrimp cavort in the streams. The contentment-filled local
inhabitants are warmly hospitable in their rustic way, and the stream
beds are littered with precious stones. Truly, this is a paradise on
earth. The valley is home to four of Taiwan's indigenous tribes: the
Amis, Taroko, Bunun, and Puyuma. Aboriginal culture is among the most
important and most representative of the East Rift Valley's precious
Taroko National Park (Taroko Gorge)
Taroko National Park, located in East Taiwan, is a world-renowned land
of majestic beauty and marble-walled gorge scenery. Visitors sigh in
wonder at the vertical walls, sheer precipices, gorges, and contorted
tunnels along the route of the Liwu River. The marble has been cut and
sculpted by the relentless erosion of the river as the land has been
pushed upward over the millennia, leaving the nearly vertical U-shaped
gorge we see today. The Taroko Gorge generally refers to the 20 kilometer
section of the Central Cross-Island Highway that runs from Taroko to
Tiansiang. As you travel west from the arched enterance at its eastern
end, the gorge becomes narrower and narrower; the most spectacular scenery
is from Swallows' Grottos to the Bridge of Motherly Devotion (Cihmu
Bridge), where thwe highway runs mostly through tunnels or along grooves
carved into the vertical side of the gorge. The narrowest part of the
gorge are at Swallows'Grottos and the Tunnel of Nine Turns; and here,
too, are its most enchanting vistas. A number of hiking trails have
been developed along the two sides of the highway.
Cingshuei Cliff, located on the section of the Suao-Hualien Highway
that stretches between Heping and Chongde stations is one of the most
spectacular sights on Taiwan's Pacific Coast. The cliff is more than
1,000 meters high and drops almost vertically into the sea. The highway
snakes along its curving face for more than 20 kilometers, with the
sheer cliff rising on one side, and a sheer drop to the ocean on the
This is the sight of an old Atayal village at the confluence of the
Liwu and Dasha rivers. Its name commemorates Wen Tian-siang, who lived
in the 13th century and was the last prime minister of the Song Dynasty.
Scenic spots at Tiansiang include Siangde Temple, Tianfong Pagoda, a
suspension bridge, the Wen Tian-siang Memorial Garden, the Plum Garden,
and Tiansiang Church. In winter each year the Plum Garden blooms forth,
forming a sea of white blossoms stretching from the highway to Siangde
Temple. Shanyue Village at Bulowan, another old tribal settlement in
the gorge, offers a new and unique type of accomodation for the area.
This part of Taroko Gorge is composed of marble cliff faces covered
with small holes, the result of long-term erosion by rivers and ground
water. House swifts and Pacific swallows often forage and nest here,
giving the place its name.
Tunnel of Nine Turns
The tortuous course cut by the river has produced a gorge of many curves,
and the path of the highway that has been carved out of the cliff face
here seems to be an endless series of turns. Hence, the name. The gorge
is so narrow that only a very narrow width is open to the heavens, in
what the Chinese call "a thread of sky." The marble cliff face opposite
the highway varies in color from deep gray to pure white in a multitude
of changing designs. A walk through the Tunnel of Nine Turns takes about
30 minutes and gives access to enchanting scenes of the gorge, the river,
stone strata, the tunnel itself, and the surrounding vegetation. This
is one of the most scenic parts of the gorge, and the best place to
observe the gorge's ecology.
Yushan National Park
The Yushan National Park is a subtropical alpine park that is situated
in the Central Mountain Range ad covers an area of more than 100,000
hectares in Nantou, Chiayi, Kaohsiung and Hualien counties. It contains
30 of Taiwan's famed "100 Top Peaks," including those of Yushan (Jade
Mountain) itself, Mt. Siouguluan, Mt. Mabolasih, Dafen Peak, Mt. Sinkang,
and Mt. Guan. At 3,952 meters, Jade mountain is the tallest in Northeast
Asia, and contains complete subtropical, temperate, and frigid ecological
systems as well as a rich variety of plant life. The park is home to
34 species of mammals including the Formosan serow, Formosan Sambar,
Formosan black bear, Formosan wild boar, Reeve's muntjac, and Formosan
rock-monkey. The park contains almost all of the forest bird species
to be found in Taiwan, including a number of endemics, as well as an
abundance of butterflies, reptiles. amphibians, and rare fish.
Southern Cross-Island Highway
This highway (Provincial Highway No. 20) runs for 167 kilometers, from
Tainan to Taitung. From its 110K marker at Meishan to its 146K at Yakou,
it passes through the Yushan National Park. The road reaches an elevation
of 2,700 meters, giving access to a rich variety of medium and high
altitude forest vegetation as well as beautiful alpine vistas. The rugged
mountains and valleys along the highway offer scenes of spectacular
landscapes, including the Meishan Recreation Area, Jhongjhihguan, the
Mt. Guan Trail, Tianchih (Sky Pond), and Kuaigu (Cypress Valley). Lidao,
the biggest plateau on the highway, is a village inhabited by Bunun
aborigines. The great Mt. Guan Tunnel marks the eastern portal of the
Yushan National Park; the peaks of the east side of the tunnel are wreathed
in seas of clouds all year round, and the layered ridges and peaks provide
breathtaking vistas of majestic beauty.
Over the last 10 years we have
grown into a foreign owned, English speaking service that helps guests
from all over the world to, not only enjoy Green island, but
travel and enjoy all of Taiwan and the outlying islands. Great sightseeing,old
culture charm, cuisine for all tastes, and friendly people-are but a
few things that make visiting this part of the world interesting and
Taipei City Tours &Taroko Gorge 1 Day Tours. Car
Rental Cheap & Easy
Come Travel Taiwan with us.
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Green Island - A Paradise off the East Coast of Taiwan
Green Island offers visitors and expats in Taiwan
a great getaway option with spectacular snorkeling and diving options.
Life here is relaxed and at slow pace. The people are friendly and go
to great pains ensuring our guests visit a pollution-free,clean island.
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