ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Visit to Beautiful Orchid Island

Updated on February 7, 2013
BlossomSB profile image

Bronwen has lived in, taught in and visited a number of countries and loves to share these travel experiences with others.

Map Showing the Train Line and Taidong

Taipei Train Station

A few years ago now, we decided to visit Orchid Island, or Lan Yü, as our Taiwanese friends called it. Children's Day Holiday on 1st June was coming up and that year it fell on a Monday, making a long weekend.

On the Friday evening after work we caught a bus to Taipei Train Station, a lovely modern building with shops, cafés and restaurants. We boarded the train to Taitung (pronounced Táidōng) and settled in. The lunch-boxes we purchased were great and included a tiny bottle of what we call Yakult. We had chosen an air-conditioned train, but it was crowded with excited young people. It was not easy trying to sleep sitting up and the lights remained bright the whole journey.

Early Morning Exercise
Early Morning Exercise | Source

Taidong

We arrived early in the morning and enjoyed walking around near the Station, watching people exercising and dancing to music. Then it was time to board a bus for the airport.

The plane was due to leave at 7.30 a.m. and soon we were flying south-east over the ocean. The blue sky and mountains were beautiful in the early morning light.

The Plane to Lan Yu
The Plane to Lan Yu | Source

Orchid Island - Lan Yu

Lan Yu is a small, beautiful volcanic island about forty-five square kilometres and is part of the Republic of China's Taidong County.

About eight hundred years ago, Tao people migrated there from the Batan Archipelago in what is now the Philippines. The local language is Yami, and about two-thirds of the four thousand residents are aboriginal, while the rest are Chinese; compulsory education on the island is in Mandarin. Most of the aboriginal people are fishermen and farmers, although the younger generation usually go to Taiwan for further education and then not return, except to visit.

After the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese ruled Taiwan. They declared Orchid Island an ethnological area so it was restricted and, unlike the other Taiwanese aboriginal groups, most of the Tao traditions were retained until 1945.

The island was known by several different names over the centuries, but was officially named Orchid Island, or Lan Yu, in 1946, because of its lovely orchids.

We Arrive

As the plane neared, we could see the tiny runway ahead. Each end appeared to protrude over the sea; the plane dipped low, rose as it approached the elevated runway, touched down and thankfully came to a stop before reaching the end.

A Taiwanese friend had arranged accommodation in the Kindergarten as it was free for the holiday. This proved economical and suited us, but there are hotels, too. We were met by the kindergarten bus and squeezed into the tiny seats. By the end of our stay we became used to feeling rather like Alice in Wonderland. We sat on tiny chairs at low tables for meals and slept on the floor. it was fun.

The Tao's staple diet is dried flying fish. In the right season, canoes go out in early morning and later the catch is brought in, dealt with and hung up to dry.

Canoes on the Beach
Canoes on the Beach | Source

The Canoes

The Tao people continue the traditional way of making and decorating their canoes and they looked very colourful lined up on the beach, some with sails.

One evening we walked along the beach and then climbed a green, treeless hill, which was probably an old volcanic plug. The climb was worth it: we sat on the grassy slope looking out to sea and watched some boats coming back to shore, silhouetted against a beautiful sunset.

As we sat, we noticed a lovely perfume and looked around. We were surrounded by dozens of what we call Christmas Lilies. With their cream bells turning pink in the sunset and the beautiful scent, it was a delight to be there.

Not so far out to sea was a smaller, uninhabited island known as Little Orchid Island, or Hsiao Lan Yü. It looked pretty from the distance and there were many seabirds wheeling around above its mountain. We were told it was a nesting place and home of a rare orchid. It was also used by the military for target practice.

We returned to our meal of cooked, dried flying fish plus accompaniments. They had lots of bones but the flavour was good. The other main foods are taro, yams and millet.

Fish Drying
Fish Drying | Source

Housing

The R.O.C. government had constructed apartment buildings that were strong enough to withstand the earthquakes that frequently rocked the Island and Taiwan's east coast. They were intended for the local people and some lived there, but other folk preferred to continue living in traditional houses. These were mostly underground. Pits were lined with stone (see the photograph below) and then roofed over. The pigs' pens were similar. The style protected from the violent storms and typhoons that lash the area from time to time.

Numerous goats wandered along the roads and anywhere that was not strongly fenced. They even seemed to think that the cement bus-shelters were especially made for them and relaxed around on the floor and even on the seats!

Old Style House
Old Style House | Source

Out and About on Orchid Island

There were other visitors staying in the Kindergarten, too, and the Presbyterian Minister kindly took us all for a drive around the island in the little bus. He stopped at various points of interest and we extricated ourselves from the narrow seats to take photographs.

Not far from where we stayed he skirted the Lan Yu Nuclear Waste Storage Facility. Built there in 1982 without permission from the local people, it stored the waste from the three nuclear plants that provide Taiwan's electric power. As it is a humid, tropical climate, especially there in the south, the iron storage barrels were rusting and of great concern.

Since the nuclear power plant disaster in Fukishima, Japan, in 2011, the people are even more concerned, especially for the effect that it may have on their children. Taipower has a huge problem as some of the 100,000 barrels now leak into the sea near where children swim, but no other site has yet been found.

Children's Day

On Children's Day we loaded up with a picnic and, following groups of excited, chattering children, took a road up one of the mountains. There are eight in that small space that are over 400 m. high; the highest is Mt. Hong Tou Shan (Red Head Mountain) at 552 m. I've no idea which one we climbed, but it was high, which made for lovely scenery, but it was hot work in that climate.

There were many tropical plants, some only found on Orchid Island, and as we climbed the vegetation changed. There were many birds flying around and calling. We had read that a number of them were not found on Taiwan, such as the Chestnut-eared Bulbul, and the Black Paradise Flycatcher. We did see a Red-capped Green Pigeon, that reminded us of the Emerald Doves in Papua, but we did not know enough about most of the birds to be able to name them and the people with us only knew the local names. They were lovely, though.

Hiking up the Road
Hiking up the Road | Source

Climbing the Mountain

The higher we climbed, the more beautiful the scenery became. We could see the close mountains and the ocean far below. We could also see the road below that we had already been on, so that was encouragement to keep walking. Although we were hot from the walk, the light breeze was cooler and so welcome.

Looking Back at Where We had Been
Looking Back at Where We had Been | Source

At the Top

At last we reached the top. One man was already speaking, so we sat down on the cool grass. The students were sitting in a large half-circle, listening quietly and we were glad to join them and cool down. After about half an hour that speaker concluded and the next began. We could see that others would follow and began to feel sorry for the students spending their holiday in this way. Signalling to each other, we quietly left them and found a shady spot with a lovely view where we could enjoy our packed lunches.

Later we walked back down the mountain and cooled off with a swim before packing our things ready to depart.

We had so enjoyed Orchid Island, the views, the birds, the orchids growing wild, the other flowers and the friendly people and were sorry that it was time to catch the plane for our journey back home to return to our workaday life next day, somewhat lacking in sleep! Happy memories!

Children's Day Address
Children's Day Address | Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, Blossom,

      Thank you once again for taking us along on one of your most wonderful trips. How very beautiful and interesting of a trip!!!

      Orchid Island sounds like a little bit of Heaven right here on this earth.

      You are so blessed to be able to travel to such lovely places in the world no doubt!

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      God bless you. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      What a lovely place! DO you have any pics of the orchids?

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      How interesting this was. I was hoping to get a glimpse as some of the lovely orchids. I hope the nuclear waste containment is managed before something tragic happens. Enjoyed this very much. Sending you Angels this afternoon. Voted up up and away...shared.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Blossom. You do get around. Had never heard of Orchid Island but it's beautiful. Thanks for taking us to places many of us will never get to visit.

    • Angela Kane profile image

      Angela Kane 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      I love visiting new and different places. I have never been to Orchid Island, but would love to go. Great hub and information.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Blossom,

      This is a really great hub, and your pictures are outstanding. I lived in Kaohsiung for six years during the 70s, but never made it to Orchid Island. I had my own teaching business in Kaohsiung and was always too busy to get away. I assume you were teaching in Taiwan. When were you in Taiwan and how long did you stay? Taiwan was my second home until it became too modernized and I found Thailand where I now live. Voted up as interesting and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also pinning.

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Informative hub with very beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing. Voted up and sharing!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Orchid Island is beautiful, lucky you!!!Thank's for sharing....

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      Perfect hub + i got to know yet one more place of this world I had never heard about till five minutes ago!

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Faith Reaper: It was beautiful, and we were blessed to have the opportunity to go there.

      aviannovice: Unfortunately no! I was too busy admiring them and forgot to take photos.

      pstraubie48: Sorry about no orchid photos. Yes, I certainly hope that a solution is found soon. I can't bear to think of those beautiful little children ending up with radiation sickness.

      bdeguilio: I enjoyed the revisit, too. I guess I'll never get to go there again so it was lovely to reminisce.

      Angela Kane: Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Paul Kuehn: You were there longer than we were; we enjoyed four years living in Shi-Lin, a suburb of Taipei. You guessed right! I was teaching English, too, as an Associate Professor in the English faculty of one of the universities. My husband was Chaplain to the English-speaking people at a church there. Hope you're enjoying Thailand!

      livingsta: Thank you for your visit.

      always exploring: It really was beautiful, thank you for reading about it.

      Mike Robbers: Thank you. There are lots of places in the world that I've never heard of, too, but I love the variety of scenery and the different cultures.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Blossom, a wonderful journey, thank you for sharing this. I was planning to visit Kew Gardens, for the Orchids exhibition, but I'm down with the flu at the moment, however, it will be going til March 3rd so there's still time.

      Brilliant hub.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      tobusiness: Oh, dear! I hope you recover soon. That exhibition is sure to be beautiful, Kew Gardens has some lovely ones. Thank you for your comments.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I know that you must have enjoyed this trip as the celebration of Children's Day looked like it was rewarding. The mountain path looked a big treacherous, but I love adventure like this. Thanks for giving us a short tour of the island. I Enjoyed the read.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teaches12345: Sorry I've taken a while to reply, I've been away on holiday (it's summer here) and only returned a couple of hours ago. Yes, we really did enjoy it. That track was steep, so, although it was a little cooler at the top we were quite hot when we arrived there. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      What a wonderful Hub and such a lovely trip and excursion. I think I am jealous. :) Hope all is well. Theresa Sharing

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      phdast7: Thank you, it was different, but a delightful weekend. I hope all is well with you, too.

    Click to Rate This Article