Friday, July 23, 2010

Huoyanshan in central Taiwan stands out like painting to study in fascinating detail in wonderful ecology classroom

By Nancy T. Lu

Huoyanshan, a hill formation resembling a beautiful landscape painting when seen from the highway in Miaoli, takes its name from a legendary setting in the classic, “Journey to the West,” because of the dramatic flaming effect of sunlight on its hard and dry yellowish meandering ridges. Up close, this landmark of saw-tooth mountain ridges is a virtual classroom for geological and ecological study.

Huoyanshan’s rock layers have been formed by pebbles of different sizes over a long period of time. Sedimentation, corrosion and erosion have all come into geologic play. Patterns on rocks when studied by experts lead to a better understanding of the secrets of nature.

Erosion has resulted in materials from the hills settling in the low-lying areas. Compacting and compression have followed, accounting for Huoyanshan’s present formation particularly the main peak with an altitude of 600 meters above sea level. The Daan River nearby has mostly gravel beds. Over the years the landslides during the rainy season have frequently forced the closure of the road at the foot of the mountain to traffic. Even the building of a tunnel has not solved the problem.

The landscape consisting of interesting ridges, cliffs and slopes with vegetation here and there continues to rapidly change. The topography keeps evolving. The climate is one influencing factor. Constant rain washes away the mud holding the rocks together. As a consequence, rocks on the edges of the slopes slide off.

Motorists who drive past Huoyanshan can find weather sunny in the south and rainy in the north. In short, Huoyanshan is virtually a weather boundary between the north and the south. Such environment provides a unique habitat for animals and plants. The nature preserve tells a fascinating story in this respect.

The raised air current at Huoyanshan helps migratory birds passing through fly higher. The birds soar and glide to save on energy, riding on the winds and the thermals, which are rising currents of warm air.

Huoyanshan, in fact, is on the migration route of the gray-faced buzzard. Every spring, this raptor returns to the north for breeding. While en route, it stops and rests at Pakua Terrace and Huoyanshan Nature Preserve.

Forest fires and landslides explain the distribution of plant species at the Huoyanshan Nature Preserve. Growing in drier areas south of Huoyanshan’s main peak are the Taiwan pied pine, the Taiwan acacia, the Formosan sweet gum and the Formosan alder. Wild grass plants thrive in the gravel river delta.

Visits to fascinating Huoyanshan require special permission. The Huoyanshan Forest Ecological Education Center at 73 Zhongzheng Road in Sanyi, Miaoli, was inaugurated last July 16. The exhibits here provide an introduction to the wonderful ecology of the site. Visitors can peep through a hole and see, for example, a yellow butterfly from the area. Video clips show the many faces of Huoyanshan and what dangerous erosion has done to it.

Trained guides deployed Huoyanshan Forest Ecological Education Center are helpful in promoting love and protection of nature especially among visiting schoolchildren. Do-it-yourself activities are organized regularly to stimulate interest in the natural environment and its protection.

The Hsinchu Forest District Office of the Forestry Bureau under the Council of Agriculture has asked the Forestry Department of the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology to manage this center. The center is open from 9 a,m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday. Call tel. (037)878851 to make inquiries. Or write to email address

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Siraya and Southwest Coast Pavilions during culinary event to zero in on local bounty

By Nancy T. Lu

Oyster, milkfish, and giant grouper prepared with culinary creativity grabbed attention. So did Taiwan’s biggest and award-winning meatball, which tapped not just pork but also scallop and shrimp as ingredients for added flavor. Tourism-oriented establishments participating in coming 2010 Taiwan Culinary Exhibition also introduced foodways involving lotus seeds and pods, pumpkin, asparagus, ampalaya and vegetables.

Chefs in Taiwan have been warming up for the 2010 Taiwan Culinary Exhibition to unfold at the Taipei World Trade Center from August 27 to 30.

The preview of the Siraya National Scenic Park (Siraya refers to an indigenous people) and Southwest Coast Pavilions at the Ambassador Hotel in Taipei on July 14 was a feast for the eyes, zeroing in on the fresh food bounty of the land. Areas known for mud springs and salt beds were in the spotlight.

Culinary talents from remote places in Chiayi County and Tainan County cooked and prepared the ingredients with acquired flair. The organizers of the Taiwan Culinary Exhibition arranged their exposure to training by experts beforehand to enable them to grow professionally and get ready for the annual culinary showcase.

The Taiwan Culinary Exhibition this August will tips on how to eat right and eat local. It will drum up interest in becoming a low-carbon emission gourmet.

The Taiwan Culinary Exhibition this year will feature also Taipei’s seven popular night markets and seven gourmet gift items to take home.

The Tainan City Government has decided to promote local culinary traditions at the Tainan Food Pavilion.

As in the past years, there will be a domestic culinary competition. The Fine Dining Exhibit will put Gold Medal dishes in the limelight. The Celebrity Chef Cooking Classes promise to attract even homemakers who want to improve their skills in the kitchen.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Biking is a breeze in Caoling Tunnel in Fulong, Taipei County; no need to worry about sunburn

By Nancy T. Lu

Sunday biking in Fulong, Taipei County, is so much fun. There is no need to worry about ultraviolet rays and sunburn. A train tunnel no longer in use has been converted into a biking lane since around two years ago. A midway marker indicates the boundary between Taipei County and Yilan County.

So go out and rent a bike this summer. Pedal away with the entire family in the Caoling Tunnel. Go solo or take a tandem bicycle with a partner.

Natural ventilation inside the tunnel makes bike riding a breeze. The exercise is very relaxing. Watch out though for bikers who sometimes stop without warning or parents who block the path while helping their little ones unmindful of the pace of the cycling traffic on a lane filled with riders on a weekend.

The North Entrance of the 2.18-kilometer stretch for biking has a sign which translates to mean “Overcoming Obstacles of Nature.” The marker at the South Entrance says: “Where White Clouds Fly.”

One end of the bikeway looks out to the inactive volcanic Turtle Islet just 10 miles off Toucheng in Yilan County. Its precipitous cliffs, sulfur hot spring, mountain peaks, sea-eroded caves and marine resources invite exploring. The Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area Administration describes the islet as “an ideal outdoor classroom for the study of volcanic geology and natural ecology.”

While in the Fulong area, drive to Longtong-Bitou Geopark. Plateau 101 (top two photos), the apex of Badouzih Parks, offers a panoramic view of the area. Keelung Islet is to the north, Keelung Mountain and Jioufen are to the east, while Yeliu and Fugui Cape are within sight to the west. Sunrise and sunset from this point must be breathtaking. Beware of falling rocks and strong winds in the cliff area though, warns a sign.

A hearty seafood meal can be enjoyed along the coast. If you have a yen for the nine-hole abalone, call Yang Shu-chun on her mobile phone 0975733818. Motor to Joli Café (tel. 02-24903529) near a diving point by the sea in Gongliao. Yang will bring out platter after platter of the cooked gourmet mollusks for you to relish.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Football fever hits 2010 Taipei Film Festival with “Kick Off” emerging top contest winner

By Nancy T. Lu
Shawkat Amin Korki’s “Kick Off” took the coveted Grand Prize in the New Talent Competition of the 12th Taipei Film Festival. The jury announced the winners on July 2 at the Riverside Live House at the back of the Red Playhouse in Ximending.

The triumph of the film about how an exciting football game between the Kurdish and the Arabic boys gets organized in a semi-destroyed stadium doubling as refugee camp in post-Saddam Iraq perfectly tied in with the current World Cup fever.

The jury took note of the fact that the motion picture produced partly in black and white was made “under challenging conditions.” It was described further as “a daring work with outstanding direction.”

The Special Jury Prize went to “Women Without Men.” The “unforgettable” movie directed by Shirin Neshat is set in Iran of the 1950s. The jury’s statement read: “This is a visually striking film in which the awareness of female coincides with the awareness of the nation.”

The Special Mention honor went to two comedies: Taika Waititi’s “Boy” and Ho Wi-Ding’s “Pinoy Sunday.” Chung Mong-hong’s “The Fourth Portrait” received the Audience’s Choice Award.

This year's jury included Kim Dong Ho of the Pusan Film Festival, Brazilian movie actor Jose Wilker, Japanese filmmaker Isao Yukisada and Taiwanese actress Chen Shiang-chyi.

The Taipei Film Festival will run until July 15. Film screenings are held at the Zhongshan Hall and at the Shin Kong Cineplex in Ximending.

Photo shows Shawkat Amin Korki, director of “Kick Off,” flanked by Ho Wi-Ding of “Pinoy Sunday” and Chung Mong-hong of “The Fourth Portrait.”