Category Archives: Taiwan

Geotourism at its finest: A fieldtrip along Taiwan’s East Coast

My most favorite part of geologic conferences is the fieldtrip portion 🙂 So naturally I was excited when we attended a conference in Taitung, Taiwan. I have been to Taiwan thrice, but this was my first time in Taitung.

The conference proper was for the first two days, and on the third day we checked out of our hotel in Taitung. We boarded a bus that would take us from the south to the central portion of Taiwan’s East Coast, which is considered as a ‘National Scenic Area’ in Taiwan’s tourism campaign. The trip showcased the East Coast’s geologic formations that also served as tourist attractions.

Our first stop was the Lichi Melange.A melange in geology is a body of rock with blocks and fragments of all sizes and rock types contained within a sheared matrix (I hope I did not lose you there). To be more simple, it’s a jumble of different rocks formed when there is crushing or collision in the Earth’s crust. Anyway, we just looked at the crumbling outcrops (the Lichi Melange is unstable and easily eroded) and tried to identify the different rocks contained in it. The place reminded me so much of the lahars caused by Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines.

Explaining about the Lichi Melange

Our next stop consisted of prettier rocks 🙂 The Xiaoyeliu Area (‘Little Yehliu’, but don’t ask me to pronounce this) boasts of pretty sandstone outcrops along the coast.Tectonic uplift seems to have caused the exposure of these rock units. We enjoyed taking photographs of the beautifully exposed sandstone layers.

Uplifted corals overlying the sandstone unit

The sandstone layers up close

There was a Visitor Center explaining the geologic features and also selling some souvenirs.

Exhibit at the Visitor Center explaining about the origin of the rock formations

We also watched a video promoting the sites along the East Coast of Taiwan.

Going north, we made a short stop at the ‘Water Running Up Area’, which was just that: an area where the water was running up instead of down (if that makes any sense).

Water Running Up!

There were small canals, where you can place a leaf or a paper boat and watch your leaf ‘climb’ the slope(?). I couldn’t figure out if the water was really climbing, but that was what it looked like. But aside from this, there was nothing more to see except for some flowers in the garden. It was pretty straightforward: they said there was water running up, and so that was what we came for. In any case, it was still pretty baffling/interesting.

We stayed longer at our next destination: the Sanxiantai Island (Three Immortals Island). It was mid-day when we arrived there, so we discussed geology under the scorching heat of the sun by the beach outcrop.There were some tourists soaking their feet at the pebbled beach, but we just made do with taking a lot of photographs, especially with the very nice bridge (connecting the island to the mainland) as background.

Pebbly beach

We had a quick Taiwanese lunch at a restaurant along the way, and then we stopped for a while at the marker of the Tropic of Cancer. It’s a tall white pillar that indicates where the Tropic of Cancer cuts across Taiwan.

Tropic of Cancer landmark

Well, I didn’t know that people made markers for that, but there you are! They say that at noon during the annual summer solstice, the sun shines right into the slits of the pillar and one can experience being ‘shadowless’.

Our next major stop was in Shitiping. The Taiwan tourism website claims it is a site for world-class outdoor geology. Upon arrival, we immediately saw some amazing geologic formations. The cliffs on the side of the coast is continually being eroded by waves, resulting in nice rock formations.

Wave action eroding the rocks

We proceeded to the coast, where we got to see more of the amazing rock formations. The strong waves have shaped and eroded the rock exposures over time. We used our umbrellas as protection not just from the sun, but from the spray of saltwater caused by the huge waves. Even then, when a huge wave slammed against the rocks, we got soaked! Good thing the weather was sunny so we became dry before we returned to the bus. We walked to another area further along the coast, and we saw a geologist’s playground. Tilted rock layers, faults, and exotic blocks provided for a good distraction from the heat.The nerds in us were awakened by the amazing rock formations and we had fun taking photos with the interesting rocks.

Planking in the direction of the rock layers

It’s our fault!

Our last stop for that day was a viewing deck (the name of which I can’t remember because it was only supposed to be a toilet break). There were coin-operated binoculars, which offered a view of a good part of the East Coast. While looking at the nice view and remembering our stops for the day, I was impressed at how Taiwan was able to incorporate geology to its tourism industry. While it was nice to admire a view of the coast, the experience was made better by explaining how the place came to be that way. This trip showed me how effective geotourism can be. Now, if we could just do this for my country… (A girl can dream, can’t she?)