Hualien, Taiwan

Taroko National Park Arch Gate at the park_s east entrance, Hualien, Taiwan

Taroko National Park Arch Gate at the park’s east entrance, Hualien, Taiwan

 

Known as Karenko during the Japanese occupation from1895 to the end of World War II, Hualien is now the largest municipality on Taiwan’s east coast.  Many visitors use Hualien as a base for exploring the natural and man-made wonders of Taiwan’s most popular attraction, Taroko National Park.  Just a short drive from the city, the park encompasses peaceful grottoes, waterfalls, steep marble-faced canyons festooned with dangling ferns, and miles of hiking trails.  A series of palm-lined, seaside parks make for pleasant strolling, while Chingszu Temple and the city’s Stone Sculptural Museum offer cultural appeal.

 

Entering Swallow Grotto, a particularly beautiful section of the gorge, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

Entering Swallow Grotto, a particularly beautiful section of the gorge, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

Looking through a natural “window” in the wall of the gorge wall at a portion of Swallow Grotto, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

Looking through a natural “window” in the wall of the gorge at a portion of Swallow Grotto, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

Widely regarded as Taiwan’s most extraordinary natural attraction, Taroko National Park is known for its sheer marble cliffs, deep chasms, winding tunnels and the Liwu River, which continues to carve its way through the stony landscape.  This singular topography originated over 230 million years ago with the formation of coral reefs in the tropical shallows of present-day Taiwan; over time, the coral was transformed into limestone, then into marble by the intense heat and pressure of geotectonic movements.  Major highlights in the park include Yanzihkou (Swallow Grotto), a particularly beautiful section of Taroko Gorge; Changchun (Eternal Spring), Shrine, a beautiful cliff-side shrine with a gushing spring that overlooks the Liwu River, dedicated to the 450 workers who lost their lives building the highway; and the Shakadang Trail, which reveals Tung trees and vibrant aquamarine pools strewn with boulders.

 

The walkway, carved through the gorge, is visible on the right side of this photograph of Swallow Grotto, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

The walkway, carved through the gorge, is visible on the right side of this photograph of Swallow Grotto, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

This singular topography originated over 230 million years ago with the formation of coral reefs in the tropical shallows of present-day Taiwan; over time, the coral was transformed into

This singular topography originated over 230 million years ago with the formation of coral reefs in the tropical shallows of present-day Taiwan; over time, the coral was transformed into limestone, then into marble by the intense heat and pressure of geotectonic movements, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

As we went further into Seallow Grotto, the gorge narrowed; the walkway is visible on the left side of the photographs, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

As we went further into Swallow Grotto, the gorge narrowed; the walkway is visible on the left side of the photographs, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

After hiking in Swallow Grotto, we drove to this bridge in the park where we hiked up the hillside to a Buddhist temple and pagoda (following photographs), Taroko National Park, Hualien,

After hiking in Swallow Grotto, we drove to this bridge in the park where we hiked up the hillside to a Buddhist temple and pagoda (following photographs), Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

A golden Buddha seated upon four elephants outside the outbuilding of the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

A golden Buddha seated upon four elephants outside the outbuilding of the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan; note the “backwards” swastikas on the side of the building predate the Nazis taking the historic Buddhist symbol and reversing it for the symbol of the National Socialist [German Worker’s] Party of Germany in the 1930s

A beautiful pagoda set in the forest next to the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

A beautiful pagoda set in the forest next to the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

A Golden Buddha with the mountains of Taroko National Park as a backdrop, Hualien, Taiwan

A beautiful pagoda set in the forest next to the Buddhist Temple in Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

After a delicious Chinese banquet luncheon at the Silks Palace Taroko Hotel, we concluded our visit to Taroko National Park with a 90-minute hike along the riverside Shakadang Trail that

After a delicious Chinese banquet luncheon at the Silks Palace Taroko Hotel, we concluded our visit to Taroko National Park with a 90-minute hike along the riverside Shakadang Trail that was previously known as the Mysterious Valley Trail, revealing vibrant aquamarine pools strewn with boulders; Hualien, Taiwan

 

The rock formations along the trail were beautiful, reflecting millions of years of Mother Nature shifting the “ground” that now formed the rock walls of the gorge, Taroko National P

The rock formations along the trail were beautiful, reflecting millions of years of Mother Nature shifting the “ground” that now formed the rock walls of the gorge, Taroko National Park, Hualien, Taiwan

 

Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

The first entry gates to Beomeosa Temple, Busan, South Korea, on Mt. Geumjeongsan, named as such -- Geumsaem (gold well) – which gives the temple its name, “fish from heaven”

The first entry gates to Beomeosa Temple, Busan, South Korea, on Mt. Geumjeongsan, named as such — Geumsaem (gold well) – which gives the temple its name, “fish from heaven”

 

“Beomeosa Temple (범어사) is located at the edge of Mt. Geumjeongsan, a famous mountain in Busan.  About 1,300 years ago it was constructed by monk Ui Sang in the 18th year (678) of King Munmu (reign 661~681) of the Silla Kingdom (the kingdom mainly occupied the Gyeongsang-do Province region in 678 A.D.).  In the geography book Donggukyeojiseungram the origin of Beomeosa Temple is written as follows: 
”There is a well on the top of Mt. Geumjeongsan and the water of that well is gold.  The golden fish in the well rode the colorful clouds and came down from the sky.  This is why the mountain is named Geumsaem (gold well) and the temple is named “fish from heaven”.’  

The original Beomeosa Temple building was lost during Imjinwaeran Invasion (Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592) but was renovated in 1713, which remains as it now is.  Daeungjeon is one of the most delicate and luxurious architectures of the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910).  There is Iljumun, the three-story pagoda with four pillars, built in the 9th century, and seven royal palace wings, pavilions, three gates, and eleven hermitages.  Designated as a natural monument, the wisteria woods and valleys are most beautiful in May.” – http://www.english.visitkorea.or.kr

 

The roof of one of the upper level temple halls, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

The roof of one of the upper level temple halls, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

One of South Korea’s best known urban temples, the Beomeosa Temple complex features a striking main entry gate, multi-tiered pagoda and seven royal palace wings.

 

Inside a temple, offerings to Buddha, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

Inside a temple, offerings to Buddha, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

Roof tiles, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

Roof tiles, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

The roof and side of one of the seven royal palace wings Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

The roof and side of one of the seven royal palace wings Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

Temple roof details, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

Temple roof details, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

The setting of Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea, is in a beautiful mountain forest_

The setting of Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea, is in a beautiful mountain forest

 

Three Buddhas in another temple building, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

Three Buddhas in another temple building, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

Korean-style “gargoyles” on roofs, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

Korean-style “gargoyles” on roofs, Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

Lone pine tree, Beomeosa Temple complex on Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

Lone pine tree, Beomeosa Temple complex on Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

Colored lanterns decorate the paths up and down the entry gates at Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

Colored lanterns decorate the paths up and down the entry gates at Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

Roof lines and lanterns of Beomeosa Temple set against Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

Roof lines and lanterns of Beomeosa Temple set against Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

Early blossoms in a belated spring at Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

Early blossoms in a belated spring at Beomeosa Temple, Mt. Geumjeongsan, Busan, South Korea

 

Bali, Indonesia

a-tantric-buddha-protected-us-from-any-evil-spirits-while-we-were-visiting-bali-indonesia

A Tantric Buddha protected us from any evil spirits while we were visiting Bali, Indonesia

 

“The mere mention of Bali [Indonesia] evokes thoughts of a paradise. It’s more than a place; it’s a mood, an aspiration, a tropical state of mind… Yes, Bali has beaches, surfing, diving, and resorts great and small, but it’s the essence of Bali – and the Balinese – that makes it so much more than just a fun-in-the-sun retreat.  It is possible to take the cliché of the smiling Balinese too far, but in reality, the inhabitants of this small island are indeed a generous, genuinely warm people… The rich and diverse culture of Bali plays out at all levels of life, from the exquisite flower-petal offerings placed everywhere, to the processions of joyfully garbed locals, shutting down major roads as they march to one of the myriad temple ceremonies, to the otherworldly traditional music and dance performed island-wide. Almost everything has spiritual meaning.” – http://www.lonelyplanet.com

 

it-was-lovely-each-morning-to-wake-up-at-the-st-regis-resort-and-find-two-local-accomplished-gamelan-players-greeting-us-by-the-entrance-to-the-restaurant-where-we-enjoyed-a-leisurely-asian-style-br

It was lovely each morning to wake up at the St. Regis Resort and find two local, accomplished gamelan players greeting us by the entrance to the restaurant where we enjoyed a leisurely Asian-style breakfast, Bali, Indonesia

 

“Gamelan is a term for various types of orchestra played in Indonesia.  It is the main element of the Indonesian traditional music.  Each gamelan is slightly different from the other; however, they all have the same organization, which based on different instrumental groups with specific orchestral functions.  The instruments in a gamelan are composed of sets of tuned bronze gongs, gong-chimes, metallophones, drums, one or more flute, bowed and plucked string instruments, and sometimes singers.  In some village gamelan, bronze is sometimes replaced by iron, wood, or bamboo.  The most popular gamelan can be found in Java, and Bali.

“In Indonesian traditional thinking, the gamelan is sacred and is believed to have supernatural power.  Both musician and non-musicians are humble and respectful to the gamelan.  Incense and flowers are often  offered to the gamelan.  It is believed that each instrument in the gamelan is guided by spirits.   Thus, the musician have to take off their shoes when they play the gamelan.  It is also forbidden to step over any instrument in a gamelan, because it might offend the spirit by doing so.  Some gamelan are believed to have so much powers that playing them may exert power over nature.  Others may be touched only by persons who are ritually qualified.” – http://www.SEAsite.niu.edu

 

close-up-of-the-gamelan-players-and-their-gamelans-st-regis-resort-bali-indonesia

Close-up of the gamelan players and their gamelans, St. Regis Resort, Bali, Indonesia

 

an-amazingly-delicious-and-unusual-breakfast-dish-was-an-eggshell-filled-with-lobster-and-parsley-cream-topped-with-salmon-roe-this-followed-our-traditional-asian-style-breakfast-of-soup-di

An amazingly delicious and unusual breakfast dish was an eggshell filled with lobster and parsley cream topped with salmon roe – this followed our traditional Asian-style breakfast of soup, dim sum, and sashimi, St. Regis Resort, Bali, Indonesia

 

a-cooked-to-order-fabulous-lobster-omelette-in-lobster-bisque-at-the-st-regis-resort-bali-indonesia

A cooked-to-order fabulous lobster omelette in lobster bisque at the St. Regis Resort, Bali, Indonesia

 

the-relaxing-interior-courtyard-of-the-papen-jewelry-compound-near-ubud-where-the-designs-were-influenced-by-the-internationally-famous-balinese-artisan-jewelry-designer-john-hardy-bali-indonesia

The relaxing interior courtyard of the Papen Jewelry compound near Ubud where the designs were influenced by the internationally famous Balinese artisan jewelry designer, John Hardy; Bali, Indonesia

 

“Ubud, a town in central Bali, is far removed from the beach party scene in Kuta, and is regarded as the cultural centre of Bali.  It is famous as an arts and crafts hub, and much of the town and nearby villages seems to consist of artists’ workshops and galleries.  There are some remarkable architectural and other sights to be found, and a general feeling of well being to be enjoyed, all thanks to the spirit, surroundings, and climate of the place.” – Wikitravel.com

 

a-classically-designed-and-hand-carved-balinese-dance-scene-wall-screen-made-by-expert-wood-carver-ketut-sedanas-father-at-the-ketut-sedana-studio-near-ubud-bali-indonesia

A classically designed and hand-carved Balinese dance scene wall-screen made by expert wood carver Ketut Sedana’s father, at the Ketut Sedana Studio near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

 

mother-and-child-sculpture-in-a-traditional-balinese-style-influenced-by-ubuds-legendary-modernist-wood-carving-family-of-ida-bagus-nyana-and-his-son-ida-bagus-tilem-at-the-ketut-sedana-stu

Mother and child sculpture in a traditional Balinese-style (influenced by Ubud’s legendary modernist wood carving family of Ida Bagus Nyana and his son Ida Bagus Tilem) at the Ketut Sedana Studio near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

 

in-the-distance-is-mount-batur-an-active-volcano-located-at-the-center-of-two-concentric-calderas-north-west-of-mount-agung-on-the-island-of-bali-the-mountain-is-a-very-popular-hiking-destination

In the distance is Mount Batur, an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung on the island of Bali — the mountain is a very popular hiking destination; viewed from Seminyak, Bali

 

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A typical rice field with a farm structure, Bali, Indonesia

 

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Close-up of the rice plants, before the rice is ready for harvesting, Bali, Indonesia

 

“Seminyak is Bali’s most fashionable beach, home to among the island’s luxurious resorts and host to a number of fine restaurants and boutiques.  Fashion stores and top dining spots with international chefs cooking up world-class cuisine line the streets…  Seminyak’s Petitenget Beach offers a more secluded ambiance compared to its sister strands of Kuta and Legian to the south.” – http://www.bali-indonesia.com

 

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Entrance to the grounds of Sardine restaurant, Kerobokan (adjacent to Seminyak), Bali, Indonesia

 

the-patio-at-sardine-restaurant-where-we-enjoyed-an-excellent-local-balinese-cuisine-luncheon-kerobokan-bali-indonesia

The patio at Sardine restaurant where we enjoyed an excellent local Balinese cuisine luncheon, Kerobokan (adjacent to Seminyak), Bali, Indonesia

 

our-old-friend-from-bali-kadek-who-guided-the-intrepid-traveler-and-your-blogger-around-bali-enjoying-lunch-at-sardine-restaurant-kerobokan-bali-indonesia

Our old friend from Bali, Kadek, who guided the intrepid traveler and your blogger around Bali for two days — enjoying lunch at Sardine restaurant, Kerobokan (adjacent to Seminyak), Bali, Indonesia