Shifen Old Street [Shifen, Taiwan]

 Shifen Old Street is one of the busiest stops along the Pingxi Line in northeastern Taiwan. Visitors enjoy releasing sky lanterns (100-200 NT), looking through the souvenir shops and walking along Jingan Suspension Bridge to Shifen Waterfall. It takes roughly 15-20 minutes to walk from the station to the waterfall and admission is 80 NT for adults.

Shifen Station

 For more information:

Taiwan: The Heart of Asia

http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002091&id=R11

Travel King

http://www.travelking.com.tw/eng/tourguide/taipei/shifen-old-street.html

Taiwan.gov

http://www.taiwan.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=70954&CtNode=3037&mp=10003

Keelung Ghost Festival [Keelung, Taiwan]

 Keelung is one of Taiwan’s major port cities and is found in the northeast corner of the island. The Ghost Festival is celebrated annually in Keelung on the 15th night of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. These activities have been celebrated since 1855 and are now well known as one of Taiwan’s must-see folk events (a large cruise ship from Nassau was docked in the harbor so it seems this festival is gaining international recognition as well). According to Chinese tradition, the Ghost Festival is one of three major festivals that pay homage to your ancestors (something akin to Halloween in western countries). It’s believed that at the beginning of the 7th month, the gates to the spirit world open and all the spirits are released back into the human world. The spirits linger for the entire 7th month before returning threw the gates.

“This tradition is said to originate from the Buddhist Ullambana. According to Ullambana scriptures, the mother of one of Buddha’s disciples had been condemned to eternal torture and salvation as punishment for the sins she committed on earth. The disciple traveled to the depths of hell to offer his mother food, but it all vanished before reaching her mouth. The disciple turned to Buddha for help, who advised him to prepare more food for the monks so that they would aid him in the rescue of his mother and other long-suffering souls. This tradition has been carried through Buddhist societies and is the reason the Taiwanese prepare food and festivities for the dead during this month.” (formosatravel.net)

The festival spans both Buddhist and Taoist religions with people setting up tables outside temples, homes and businesses and placing small offerings of food for both their ancestors and unknown wandering souls. You will also see many people burning paper money in small bins near the street and, on a larger scale, you will see lanterns in the shape of houses, TVs and cars being burned as well. If the spirits are appeased, the people will receive good fortune for the coming year.

Getting there from Taipei is rather easy and the parade is centrally located. Some streets are blocked off at dusk so if your hotel is close to the parade route, you may have trouble getting in or out. Once the parade finishes (around 10pm) everyone starts moving up the coast highway to a small port 20 minutes outside the city. This is where, at midnight, the lanterns are set on fire and released into the ocean.

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For more information:

Taiwan Tourism

http://www.eventaiwan.tw/cal_en/cal_20069

Taiwan: The Heart of Asia

http://www.go2taiwan.net/monthly_selection.php?sqno=14

english.people.cn

http://english.people.com.cn/102774/8372417.html

Sunday Snapshot: Elephant Mountain [Taipei, Taiwan]

 Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan Trail or Nangang District Hiking Trail ) stands at 183m and is located in the Xinyi District of Taipei. It’s known as one of the best places to view the entire Taipei Basin and Taipei 101.

Photographers flock to get unique shots of the iconic building during the golden hours and throughout the day. The trail is especially busy during the weekends and you may have to wait to set up your tripod and shoot from the more popular viewpoints.

If you’re not interested in taking pictures, Elephant Mountain is also a great spot to people watch. You will find a lot of activity at the top of this mountain. It’s a favored place for socializing, picnics and workouts.

Elephant Mt, Taipei

 

For more information:

Guide to Taipei

http://guidetotaipei.com/visit/elephant-mountain-%E8%B1%A1%E5%B1%B1-xiangshan

Taipei Travel

http://www.taipeitravel.net/frontsite/en/sceneryEnListAction.do?method=doFindByPk&menuId=1030501&scenerySerNo=2011111300000018

Taiwan Explorer

http://mykafkeasquelife.blogspot.tw/2013/02/elephant-mountain-xiangshan-taipei.html

National Palace Museum & Zhishan Garden [Taipei, Taiwan]

 The National Palace Museum is found in the Shilin district of Taipei and houses one of the largest collections of ancient Chinese art in the world (over 600,000 pieces). The collection spans nearly 10,000 years from early Neolithic history to the end of the Manchu Dynasty in 1912. In 2013, the museum was ranked 7th on the list of most visited art museums in the world.

The Zhishan Garden is found within the National Palace Museum compound and contains Chinese style ponds, statues and wooden pavilions.

There are no photographs allowed inside the museum and you’ll likely be asked to check over-sized bags at the service counter. It’s still worth bringing along your camera to get some shots of Zhishan Garden and the exterior of the museum.

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For more information:

National Palace Museum

http://www.npm.gov.tw/en/

National Palace Museum: Zhishan Garden

http://www.npm.gov.tw/exh96/chih-shan/index3_en.html

Travel China Guide

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/taiwan/museum.htm

Taiwan: The Heart of Asia

http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002090&id=2751

Sunday Snapshot: Anapji Pond [Gyeongju, South Korea]

Anapji Pond (or ‘Samguk-sagi’) is a man-made pond located at the Banwolseong Palace Complex in the coastal city of Gyeongju. It dates back to the Silla Dynasty (roughly 674 CE) and was commissioned by King Mumnu who was heavily influenced by Taoism.

While beautiful during the day, I would suggest sticking around until sunset. The entire complex is lit perfectly for night photography (a sturdy tripod is recommended). Not only the palace buildings, but also the surrounding forest and small river areas have multi-colored lighting.

Gyeonju Temple

For more information:

Visit Korea

http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264367

Life in Korea

http://www.lifeinkorea.com/travel2/kyongju/121

360 Cities

http://www.360cities.net/image/night-view-of-anapji-pond-gyeongju-korea-2#358.40,-2.40,70.0

Asian Historical Architecture

http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/koreasouth/gyeongju/anapji.php