Saturday, April 30, 2016

Taitung (台東) - Sanxiantai (三仙台) [Taiwan Day 972 to 975: Legends Part 1 “Land of the Immortals” - April 29, 2016]



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ABSTRACT: Once upon a time there was a PhD student who ran away from his work in the lab. He was too excited to celebrate his birthday that he left Taipei for a province in Eastern Taiwan called Taitung. Nobody knew what happened to him until he decided to tell everyone what he encountered along the coast in the Pacific Ocean. A dragon transformed itself into a bridge to connect a holy islet while caves kept the memories of its inhabitants who once lived there 50,000 years ago. Water is said to run upwards in a mysterious mountain. People get crazy of this phenomenon but they didn’t know that inside its forest was an empty stone coffin. There was also a burning island and it was surrounded by crystal clear waters. Travelling to this island was a challenge to most people because of the giant waves that can rock every passenger boat. Our protagonist had lots of fun in his four-day self-declared holiday and he is now back in the lab like nothing happened. He brought home unforgettable stories from Taitung. Its myth, origins and most specially its legends. 
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According to folklore, three heavenly saints walk down to Earth and landed on an islet in the Pacific Ocean. Lyu-Dongbin, Li-Tieguai and He-Xiangu enjoyed the view of the sea that they stayed in the island and left three large rocks. The place is now called Sanxiantai which means Terrace of the Three Immortals. Going here was pretty easy from Taitung Station but the travel from Taipei to Taitung City makes one wonder whether the three deities chose the people who they want to see on their island. 

The combo ticket which I bought from Taipei City Hall Bus Station.

My train to Hualien - Taitung train ticket

Getting train tickets going to Taitung province was very difficult. My experience in exploring the east coast of Taiwan prompted me to buy a bus-train combo ticket first to reach Hualien and then transfer to an express train going to Taitung. The six hour trip from Taipei allowed me to sleep until I suddenly woke up from the loud announcement that the train was getting nearer to Taitung Station. 


Taitung Station


waiting for the Taiwan Tour Bus East Coast Route

Taitung together with Hualien forms Eastern Taiwan. It is actually in the south of Taiwan but the mountains spanning the island from north to south creates a natural barrier that the weather here becomes more similar to the Philippines. I have seen coconut trees along the way to Sanxiantai as I rode the Taiwan Tour Bus East Coast Route. I thought I would never see the tropical trees that reminded me of my country. 


I bought this One-Day Pass from the bus driver.
Jinzun


A one-way ticket to Sanxiantai costs almost NTD 200 from Taitung Station so I bought a NTD 299 One-Day Pass from the Taiwan Tour Bus driver to save money. The travel time from the train station was 80 minutes and I was amazed of the view of the Pacific Ocean as the bus passes by Highway 11. It was my first time in Taitung and I tried to memorize the way because each stop of the tourist bus was an attraction. At the middle of the travel, the driver gave the passengers a 5-minute break in Jinzun which gave me the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of the ocean.





Large stones can be seen at the beach at Sanxiantai and they were even larger than the one in Qixingtan Beach in Hualien. It was around 3pm and I reminded myself that the last bus going back to Taitung City will leave at 17:20. The weather was gloomy but the bridge with 8 arches was still eye-catching. It resembles a dragon that connects the holy islet of Sanxiantai to the main island of Taiwan. 













Visitors were warned of the strong waves that came rushing to the beach but the beautiful rocks at the shore were really perfect for taking photos. I crossed the bridge and followed its path until it ended on a trail that goes around the Sanxiantai islet. Standing from the bridge, I can only see two large rocks and the other one might be hidden behind. There was something magical about the place with the eroded rocks keeping me astonished throughout the entire trip. 













The recommended time for exploring the trail in Sanxiantai was two hours but it was slowly getting dark so I hurriedly walked around the place and took pictures. I looked closely into the rock formations that were thought to be the footprints left by the deities and I was not sure if they were just lava that cooled down. They might also be rocks that were uplifted by the forces of nature and slowly eroded by the powerful waves of the sea for thousands of years. 








Before I decided to go back and walked for almost 2 kilometers, I found an interesting rock formation with a large opening. It was very wide and the ceiling was also high making it look like a huge wave that got frozen in time. I set up my tripod and camera and sat inside the rock formation for a great photo. Some areas were off-limits to the visitors but there was no feeling of emptiness as I wandered the place. The three deities of Sanxiantai might have been watching me as I go around their island. If they do, then they already knew that I have found the land of the immortals. (To be continued...)
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