Sunday, February 8, 2015

Taiwan: Yehliu Geological Park

Action adventure girl and I wanted to head out to the coast one day to see a different view of Taiwan. We didn't have a car and we wanted to have someone actually show us stuff, so we decided to do one of the bus tours we had seen advertised. I guess there are a number of little companies that offer these tours and they all seem to have similar itinerary and costs. We decided to book one through the Concierge at the hotel, both for ease of booking and also because I felt that the hotel would get us a reputable company.

The bus picked us up at the hotel promptly at 9:00. We were in a little 10 person van with a driver and a tour guide. The tour guide spoke English and told us that there were only 2 other people going on this tour and we were going to pick them up over at another hotel. All well and good and we headed the few blocks over. At this point we were running quite a bit early and the other couple were not ready to go yet so my partner and I walked around the other hotel for a while.

The architecture in Taipei (at least in the part of the city where we were) is modern and diverse. Lots of new buildings and lots of stone and glass. Perhaps I haven't been around big new modern cities in a while, but Wow, these are really impressive. And they also had a unique style about them. A difference from what I am used to seeing in western buildings. I was trying to classify it somehow and define the.... well the oriental style of what is basically an office building. With Taipei 101 it is pretty easy to identify the difference. The many stages of the sky scraper are designed to look like the roofs of the ancient Chinese (and Japanese) pagoda style buildings. I realized that many of the buildings have this unique roof styling that make them stand apart from their western counterparts. Even many of the mid rise condo buildings I saw had this unique and attractive manner.

Upon returning to our van we met the couple that would be touring with us. Two older Taiwanese ladies. They were both visiting from the states but had both originally come from Taiwan. They were very polite and thanked us for “letting them join our adventure”. They spoke English pretty well but the tour guide still did the tour in English and Chinese.

And we were off.

I think there must be a course of study and a test required to be a tour guide. Lots of little things you have to learn and you have to be able to talk on and on to amuse your customers. Our tour guide talked a lot about the area and the weather and so on for the hour it took us to get to the coast. Mostly in Chinese. This was OK with me as we were in the back of the van and couldn't really hear well. The first city we visited was a big commercial port and fishing town. The navy had some vessels there as well. We went up to a large Buddhist shrine up on the hill that afforded a good view of the port. There was a big budha up there also, surrounded by a number of lesser gods that guarded the big guy. It was a very funny place. Here is this very sacred area set up for the worship of their deity, and even as I watched, local merchants were setting up for the day. There were lots of carny type games and rides being set up. I was very fond of the electric rideable Panda. Only 50 NTD in the slot by the neck !!


A Wishing Well
An Electric Wishing Well

Riding the Panda

Inside the building was the business section of the religion. Here is where you could get the priests to pray for you to get the job done. They were very efficient about it. You would pay money to buy a little prayer sign. This tiny sign was put on a big rotating light column with all of the other little prayers and it would spin slowly around and automatically pray for you. The ready adaptation of technology to the appeasement of the gods was heartening. There were also a set of prayer sticks one could throw. The arrangement of the sticks when they landed determined if the gods were for or against the endevor that you held in your mind at the time of the throw. I think you also had to pay the right amount for their favor. Sounds a bit like Vegas.

Prayer Tower
A close up of the individual prayer slides

Once done there we got back in the van and headed north up the shore to the main attraction of this little trip. At the town of Yehlui there is a unique geological area caused by the ocean and wind eroding an area of different hardness of stone. The softer underlying sandstone wears away to leave large, head shaped toppings. The Taiwanese are very poetic and have named most of these stones for what they may look like if you are standing at the right position. Perhaps you have to be standing at the right position right at dusk. A half bottle of Bushmills might also assist. Anyway, they have names like, “The Majestic Queen”, or “The Little Princess” or “The Bison”. From the pictures in the flyer we had seen, these mighty stones must stand like 50 feet tall. I was looking forward to seeing them.

But first we had to drive along the shore and see the sites that waited for us there. Two interesting things.

First, the fishing boats. Lots of lots of 60 or 70 foot vessels. Not really set up for nets or anything. Perhaps doing hand line or hand net fishing. But arranged all around the boats at just over head height are hundreds of huge incandescent light bulbs. These bulbs are the size of a gallon milk bottle and are clear glass. They must really light up the surface of the ocean at night. I think they are for squid fishing. Here are some pictures.

Yeah, a little blurry. I think that is the window of the Van.

Second: The artificial breakwaters. There were all made out of giant cement Caltrops . You know Caltrops? (not to be confused with Trollops, though both have anti-infantry uses). I am talking about the 4 spiked gizmos that are made to strew in the path of your enemy to puncture their tires or feet. No matter how they fall, there is a spike up. These were the size of half a Volkswagen and seemed to be made to be dumped off of a boat and fall such that they would easily interlock and stay together to be built up into a seawall. They were pretty cool.

Caltrops from

Giant Freudian Caltrops

Third: (ok, 3 interesting things). The seafood vendors. If you catch fish, you should sell fish. The main street at the little town we got to was lined with seafood restaurants and fish mongers. And the front of these establishments were crowded with large aquariums filled with live food. Sort of like the Lobster you might see at the Safeway back home, but here it was much more exotic. I saw one big tank filled with one big octopus. I wonder if he was really for sale and if so, would people just take him home to eat. Not that I am knocking eating Octopus. When I lived on Guam, my friends and I would often snorkle out to the reaf with our spears and bring home a giant octopus or two. Giant Octopus is a great thing to bring home in a bag for your mother if you are a 13 year old boy.

Yes, a 7-11

The entrance to the Geological park was a big deal. It had a lot of signage saying things like “Entrance to Geological Park”. It also had a lot of people. And now we come to the first bad part. I guess if you live in a crowded island nation and you go to a unique geological park on a particularly sunny and beautiful weekend day in late fall you are going to have a lot of people there with you. The large parking lot out front was filled with scores of the large tour busses and there were.... like thousands of people going in and out of the park. The park turns out to be the peninsula attached to this town and you have about a 10 minute walk to get from the entrance (ticket please) to the actual geological park part. First thing you walk by is artificial replicas of the most famous rocks (The Queen) made to like half or quarter scale. Strange. Why would you look at this little thing when the real thing is just a few hundred yards away? Let's go.

I wonder what that sign says.

There is a cement walkway all the way out to the little peninsula, so at last got to see the stones. Second bad thing. Those replicas? Actual size. Not 50 feet tall, but maybe 20 feet tall. Not huge and awe inspiring but small and... cute? Still very interesting however. Still very pretty. Also, if you looked at the stone at your feet you could see a lot of ancient sand dollar fossils coming out of the stone. Now we get to see the marvel of this place. These rocks have been standing for thousands of years and no one has ever come out and cut them down and carted them of to their home land. Perhaps the Japanese didn't see them during their occupation.

Fossil Sand Dollar. 10 meters across.

You also find out that the Taiwanese seem to consider most signs as sort of advisory. So the “Stay on Path. Do not Walk On Rocks” signs that are everywhere? Those are for the tourists, the real taiwanese can just walk right up and stand on the signs for a better view. When the security guards runs up to you and starts yelling at you to get on the path, you just tell him, “sure, in a minute, can't you see I am taking a picture?”

She is standing on the "don't stand here" sign.

Personally, I think that most of the rocks should have been named things like, “Semi Flacid Phalus” and “Hard Love”. But, I will let you be the judge. Well, I will put the local names on the ones that I know.

The Queen

You can sort of see the layering that causes this feature.

another angle on the Queen

This is just a cool pattern in the rock.

"Young Lover's Nipple"

"Lonely Woman's Friend"

Man with Lucky Wife
"Plumber Addressing Leak"

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Tries Skydiving

Woman with Lucky Husband. And a bunch of rocks.

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