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FYI SOUTH Magazine, July 2006.


--By Steven Crook & Richard Matheson Translated by Annie Liu


Nanhua Reservoir, built in the early 1990s to supply water to towns and factories on the lowlands, is perhaps the most scenic of South Taiwan's artificial lakes. Surrounded by green hills whose peaks are 600 to 800 meters above sea level, the reservoir is usually sparkling blue; however, after heavy rains it sometimes takes on the color of milk tea. The park just below the reservoir has several old military airplanes on display. The reservoir is best reached by Taiwan Highway 20 (the Southern Cross-Island Highway); it's between Beiliao and Jiasian.


The only manmade landscape feature to make this list, the Baoan Bridge is part of the newish east-west expressway that links both freeways. It doesn't look particularly special during the day, but at night it's a striking illuminated landmark. If you're driving toward Tainan City on the old provincial highway, you can't miss it. If you're heading to Baoan to see the famous old wooden railway station, you'll notice the bridge a few hundred meters to the north.


The Yuntan Waterfalls are impressive cascades deep in the hills of Chiayi County, not far from Ruili. Access is by County Road 122; park in the parking lot (where there's also a snack bar), then take the path down to the waterfalls; there are 617 steps. It's possible to go beyond the waterfalls--another sign indicates very precise distances to Cingnianling (1,919 meters) and Ruili Elementary School (2,781 meters). Take care: The upper falls plunge down into a pool, from which water drains rapidly over a terrifying precipice. Swimming is prohibited.


Just east of the tunnel at Yakou, the highest point on the Southern Cross-Island Highway, there's space to park, and a decent trail to the 3,174-meter-high ridge called Guanshanlingshan. If the weather is good, you can see very far indeed from the top. Guanshanlingshan is considered one of the "three stars of the Southern Cross-Island Highway"--peaks that are real mountains, yet manageable in a day. If you do plan on hiking around here, follow the usual rules: stick to the trail, carry snacks and water, keep an eye on the weather, take a hat and a waterproof jacket, and wear proper boots.


Caoshan Moon World occupies parts of Tainan County's Longci and Zuojhen townships. The area's distinctive sharp-ridged bare clay hillocks have been rutted and eroded over time by rain and wind, and now resemble the surface of the moon. Only the flat patches of land between the hills support vegetation; the soil isn't suitable for rice or fruit trees, so local farmers grow bananas and bamboo instead. Caoshan Moon World can be reached from Taiwan Highway 20 near Zuojhen; there are bilingual road signs. The area's steep, narrow roads are popular with cyclists.


Cigu is known to many as home of the Black-Faced Spoonbill, an endangered bird species that spends each winter in the area. However, there's plenty to see here throughout the year: mangrove forests full of large waterbirds and small crabs, quaint villages, and long sandy beaches. The sunsets are often spectacular. If you're looking for a deserted spot where you can do some romancing with your significant other, follow the Zengwun River to its mouth, then explore the tiny roads between the fish farms.


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