Saturday, September 13, 2008

Southwest Taiwan's Ecological Treasure-House (Travel in Taiwan)

When people think of Chiayi, a largely rural region in Southwest Taiwan, they usually think of Alishan and other attractions in the mountainous eastern part of the county.

Many visitors ignore the county's thinly-populated coastline. This is unfortunate. Not only are the river mouths, mudflats and wetlands rich in wildlife - they're also good places to see people engaged in traditional occupations like fishing and raising oysters.

Producing salt by evaporating seawater was once a major undertaking - Chiayi's dry, sunny climate is ideal for it. Salt is now longer made this way in Taiwan, but the coast here still bears signs of the industry: Abandoned salt pans, salt warehouses, and even a small "salt mountain" [pictured above] just outside Budai.

Eco-tourists who head for the hills won't, of course, be disappointed. But if it's birds you hope to see, add the townships of Budai and Dongshih to your itinerary.

Aogu Wetland [pictured right] is an excellent place to begin. Much of the land belongs to the Taiwan Sugar Corp., a state-owned enterprise that has spent the past half-century reclaiming and afforesting parts of the peninsula. Much of the land is now left fallow, and almost no one lives here, so it's no surprise the area has at least 120 bird species...

The complete article appears in the September-October issue of Travel in Taiwan. To read it online, go here and do a search using my name.

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