Saturday, December 28, 2013

The 13 Levels (Shuinandong Smelter)

 After several trips to the Jinguashi area, I finally got around to the 13 Levels. Two other photographers and I went to explore the ruins last Sunday. Jinguashi and Jiufen are full of artifacts and buildings from their mining era, but the Shuinandong Smelter (水湳洞精鍊廠), or 13 Levels (十三層), is one that cannot be missed; it stands on the side of the mountain overlooking the ocean looking like a dystopian fortress of sorts. Its tiered layout is the reason for the name, 13 Levels, even though there is apparently a total of 18 levels.

The 13 Levels was built for refining gold and copper ore during the Japanese Colonial Era.  It was also called the Mine Selection Plant as it was also used in the screening and selection process for high quality ores.  The various levels were for different filtration layers needed for sorting the precious metals from the normal rocks.

Abandoned warehouse
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:
Due to gold and copper deposits drying up, mining in this area was no longer economically feasible. Over time this area became popular for tourists. I've written about this in earlier posts on Jinguashi and Jiufen.

Due to the high toxicity of copper refining, Shuinandong Smelter also had one of the world's longest concrete pipeline ventilation systems to carry harmful gases over the mountains without harming the nearby inhabited areas and flora.

Blue steel pillar inside abandoned warehouse
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:
The 13 Levels are a perfect monument to how prosperity can falter rapidly.

Abandoned building
© Photographer: Kenneth Paul | Agency:

To learn more about interesting places and sights to visit in Taiwan, check out my list of Places to see in Taiwan

Monday, December 2, 2013

Suggested Vendors... Make-up and Hair Stylists Aki and Naomi

This is my first in a series of posts I plan to do about vendors I personally recommend. I will be starting with some make-up and hair stylists.

Make-up artists and hairstylists are an essential part of a photo shoot. They give the subject being photographed more life and add dimension into the photo.

Aki in action, styling Corayne's hair
Aki Yang and Naomi Chou are the incredible hair and make-up team from Layer Hair & Make-up. We met while working on a short film together. 

The kind of make-up you need in a movie about real people is the same as what you would use in portraits of real people: A subtle make-up that people won't even notice is there (But would be very apparent if it were not). Layer did an excellent job of this. Working with the creative team attentively and applying their craft with the exact finesse needed for the desired results.

Hair Stylist Aki Yang
Aki studied at Tokyo University of the Arts and the at the Toni & Guy academy in Singapore.  He now has 14 years of experience in hair styling and has styled for commercials, branding, and calendar models. He is the general manager of Layer Hair & Make-up.
Make-up artist Naomi Chuo
Naomi has over six years experience in makeup.  She has worked as a make-up artist for fashion magazines, catalogs, and weddings.

I loved their work and can recommend them as being friendly, reliable, professional, and talented artists.

Aki Yang 楊曜齊: 髮型師經歷14 日本藝術大學美髮部修業完成 新加坡Toni&Guy結業擔任廣告.品牌.年曆專任髮型師 現任Layer Hair & Make 主理.

Naomi Chou 周盈妤: 彩妝師經歷6年,擔任多國品牌型錄及雜誌專欄專任彩妝師以及新娘祕書等.

Monday, November 25, 2013


I went to Jinguashi just a few months ago, but I decided it was worth visiting again to see the golden waterfalls I had missed on my last trip.

Jinguashi (金瓜石) is a quaint mountain town in the Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan. It is known for it's historic gold and copper mines. It is situated on Keelung Mountain (基隆山).  right next to the coastline, which makes for exquisite views. It is known as Kinkaseki in Japanese from the period when it was under Japanese control. It was used as a POW camp from 1942 to 1945.

Arrangement of houses in Jinguashi. The Cyuanji Temple with the Guan gong deity on top is in the top right side
Arrangement of houses in Jinguashi. The Cyuanji Temple with the Guan gong deity on top is in the top right side
I took the Yilan express train to Ruifang (Taipei Padu- Rueifang- Ilan- Suao). The last time I was here with Andy, we took a taxi to Jinguashi, which costs about NT$240. This time I opted for the bus (On these busy narrow mountain roads, taking a taxi doesn't seem to be any faster).  To get to the bus stop, walk out of the station, cross the pavilion, and cross the road. There is a bus stop there. The bus does not stop here on weekends, so if you are there over a weekend, turn left and continue walking to the next bus stop. The sign on the bus will say "Jinguashi (金瓜石)."  There are also buses from both Taipei and Keelung which go to Jinguashi and Jiufen.  I took the bus all the way from Taipei a few years ago on a trip to Jiufen. It was a crazy ride, and I wouldn't recommend this to people with weak stomachs. If you dare, you can go to bus stop by Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT station, exit 1. The bus will be from the Keelung Bus Company and say "Jinguashi (金瓜石)."

Gold Ecological Park (黃金博物館區)

The bus stops right by the Gold Ecological Park, which is the main attraction for visitors here. The small park preserves and reproduces the town's mining heritage to recreate the atmosphere of 1930s Taiwan. It includes a gold museum and a number of renovated residences from the Japanese Colonial Era. The excellent translations around the park and incredibly helpful information centre make for an extremely tourist-friendly destination.

Entrance to Benshan Tunnel

The first building on the route is the Japanese ‘Four-Joined’ Style Residence, an old typical Japanese-style Residence from when Taiwan was still a Japanese colony. I hear it is interesting inside, but I gave it a miss as there was a long queue outside both times I walked past, and there were many other things I wanted to see.

Further along the route is the Crown Prince Chalet, another traditional Japanese style house once occupied by Emperor Hirohito. The interior of this house is off-limits, but the beautiful garden complete with a small golf course and archery range is worth seeing.

The Museum of Gold (黃金館) is in the former offices of the Taiwan Metal Mining Corporation. The first floor contains numerous artifacts from the town's mining history, including tools, mining transport systems, and cultural artifacts. On the second floor of the Gold Museum you can see various products made of gold and the world's largest gold brick. You can even touch this 220 kilogram pure gold brick!

The Benshan Fifth Tunnel (本山五坑),  is an abandoned mine next to the Gold Museum.  It is an interesting place to learn more about the daily activities of miners. There is a $NT50 entrance fee. Benshan used to be called "Dajingua" (大金瓜), which means "big pumpkin" in Chinese. The discovery of gold here was the catalyst for the prosperous development of Jiufen and Jinguashi. The tunnel is a real life example of what it was like to work below ground.

The area outside the Geological Park is also visitor-friendly, with many scenic walkways, trails for mountain climbing, as well pagodas and benches to take a rest and enjoy the view.

Cyuanji Temple

The Cyuanji Temple was built in 1896. It boasts having the largest statue of Guan Gong (關公)—the God of War—in the world on its roof. The gold and bronze Guan Gong statue weighs more than 25 tons.  

Some of the pagodas offer a wonderful view of the bay below. You can also see the Ying-yang sea.  This is a strange sight  where the sea is a mix of yellow and blue.  It was believed that the sea color was the result of smelting activities from Taiwan Metal Mining Corp. But, the company stopped activity there over 10 years ago and the Yin-yang Sea is still there. Scholars say that the land in Jinguashi has a large amount of pyrite that has formed Fe3+ which does not dissolve easily in water. This forms iron ion particles which float into the sea.

Souvenir steel lunchbox from one of the diners at the Geological Park

After walking around the park, I took a bus down to the Gold waterfall. The waterfall on the golden earth is one of the sources of the Ying-yang sea.  The heavy rain seeps into the mine shafts through cracks in the rocks, and reacts with the pyrite and energite underground, undergoing oxidation reduction to become acidulous water. It is a spectacular sight. It's best to see it after heavy rains for the full effect.

Golden waterfall on a mountain
Gold Waterfall at Jinguashi
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

There are a few other sights around Jinguashi that should be seen. I will return again soon to take photos of these other places. If you decide to take a trip here, don't forget to just spend some time walking around the mountain paths and trails.

For more information about the Gold Ecological Park, visit their website:

To see more photos from around Taiwan, visit my website:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Feitsui Reservoir in the Pingling District

After leaving Shiding, I was still intent on getting to Shifen before the light faded.  Shifen appeared to be on highway 106 after Pinglin. However, when I reached the Pinglin District, I realized I had gone onto Route 9 at some point as I was only 16 kilometers away from Xindian.

The Pinglin District (坪林區) is the third largest district in New Taipei City, Taiwan. It's a rural area in the mountains which connect to Yilan County on the east coast. It took about 20 minutes to get there from Shiding by scooter. I think this was Yongan village.

Buddhist Guanyin Statues protecting a dangerous part of the road to Pinglin
Buddhist Guanyin Statues protecting a dangerous part of the road to Pinglin
I decided that rather than backtrack and try find the route to Shifen, I'd have a look at the beautiful reservoir with an emerald surface I saw from the road. There were no safe places to stop along the highway, but I finally found an entrance to the reservoir itself.

It turned out to be the  Feitsui Reservoir, which  flows all the way from the Fetsui Dam (翡翠水庫)  in the Shiding District.  The Feitsui Dam spans the Xindian River and is one of two major reservoirs supplying water to the Taipei-Tamsui-Taoyuan region. The other is Shimen Dam in Taoyuan County. This hiking and bicycling area around Pinglin is one of the few places the reservoir is publicly accessible.
The enchanting views of these serpentine bright emerald green waters among the steep hills and tea farms is quite spectacular.

 To get there directly from Taipei, ride along Route 9 from Beishin Road in Xindian. Or to go through Shenkeng, and Shifen, take Route 106 from near the Taipei Zoo in Muzha.

To learn more about interesting places and sights to visit in Taiwan, check out my list of Places to see in Taiwan

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shiding (石碇區)

It's winter time here, but today was an unexpectedly great day weather-wise. So I decided to head out and make the most of the good weather before the winter rains start. They usually don't stop for a month or so. I wanted to go see Shifen, which I have heard lots of good things about. However, on the way there I stopped at Shiding and Pingling which took up most of the day.

This was my first time in the Shiding District (石碇區), despite it being only an hour away from Taipei. Shiding (literally "stone anchor") is a wonderful rural district in the mountains in southern New Taipei City, Taiwan. The area was developed during the Qing Dynasty, presumably for tea farms. The town had a boom in its development when coal was found there during the period of Japanese occupation.
Beautiful rock formations under Wanshou Bridge in Shiding, Taiwan
Beautiful rock formations under Wanshou Bridge in Shiding, Taiwan
Shiding used to be an important distribution point for local of local products. The logistical advantage it had declined when the Taipei-Yilan Freeway opened. But, the tea plantations still remain an important industry there. Shiding recently began to host the local Shiding Oriental Beauty Tea Festival in an attempt to attract more people to Shiding.

These days Shiding is a peaceful town, where tourists can relax at coffee plaza, walk around Shiding Old Street, and try the famous tofu. There are some interesting things to see that are unique to Shiding such as the suspended architecture and the last old blacksmith.

Shiding Old Street

Wanshou Bridge, which is built entirely out of stone, divides Shiding Old Street into the East and West streets. On the west Street is Jishun Temple Square and on the East street is Bujientien Street, stone houses, century-old Wang’s Tofu and Fubou Restaurant.

Diaojiaolou and Bujientien Street

The unique Diojiaolou (“Suspended" or "Hanging Houses”) are the first thing you see when coming into Shiding.  Due to the limitations of building houses in mountainous areas, the people living there had to suspend a part of the house in order to build their houses in a good location. Which is why the houses facing the stream on Shiding’s East Street are supported by beams. This unique architecture is a remnant from the Japanese colonial period.  

The covered passage between the houses on Bujientien Street result in the sunlight never reaching there. The name "Bujientien" means literally "do not see the light of day."

Diojiaolou Suspended Houses in Shiding
Diojiaolou Suspended Houses

Jishun Temple

Jishun Temple (No. 9, Shiding West Street, Shiding District, New Taipei City) is an important religious center for the people of Shiding. The temple enshrines Ludongbin (or Divine Emperor of Broad Protection) on the second floor. Ludongbin is known as the god of coal as this area was originally used for coal production. In the days when Shiding was an important distribution center, tea buyers and tea vendors used a tiny square in the courtyard of the temple as a tea market.

The Century-old Stone House

The Century-old Stone House, (No. 53, Shiding East Street, Shiding District, New Taipei City ) built in 1905, is just over Shiaochen Bridge. The first floor of the stone house displays traditional appliances and kitchen utensils.

Eating in Shiding, Taiwan

Wang’s Tofu is a hundred-year-old restaurant. It uses Shiding's pure mountain spring water in its traditional ancient tofu making process. Wang’s tofu doesn't contain any unnecessary artificial ingredients, so the pure scent and flavor of the soybeans is sealed inside each delightful piece of tofu. I found the sweet scent of tofu enveloping the streets due to the bean curd dessert and soy milk that Wang’s Tofu sell over weekends.

Fubou Restaurant is popular with tourists for its local Taiwanese dishes, such as, "White Chicken,” “Tofu Eaten 3 Ways,” and “Thee-Layer Pork.”  The tofu here is also made using Shiding’s pure mountain spring water and traditional methods, which gives it a slightly charred flavor. 

Shiding Danlan Art and Culture Hall

I didn't go in here but plan on going back soon to check it out. Shiding Danlan Art and Culture Hall  is an exhibition showcase for local culture and historic groups and artists as well as ecological industries.  Many artists have made a name for themselves here, resulting in more and more people visiting the culture hall, turning it into Shiding’s most famous tourist attraction. 

So for anyone in or visiting Taipei, I recommend taking a trip to Shiding. It only takes about an hour to get there by bus or train. Going from Shenkeng to Shiding to Pingling makes for a great daytrip and pretty easy to do with buses.

To see more of my photos of Taiwan, please visit

To learn more about interesting places and sights to visit in Taiwan, check out my list of Places to see in Taiwan

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Songkran Festival (潑水節) in Little Burma

There are over 40,000 Burmese Chinese in the Zhonghe District, which is 10 percent of Zhonghe's population and is one of the largest communities of Burmese Chinese outside of Burma.

People celebrating Songkran
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

Huaxin Street (華新街), in Zhonghe near the Nanshijiao MRT Station, is home to "Little Burma." A street filled with stores and restaurants selling Burmese products and food. Burmese cultural events are held there on occasion.

People celebrating Songkran
Foreigners celebrating Songkran in Taiwan
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

One such annual occasion is Songkran, which is celebrated in April each year. The Burmese believe that splashing water washes away one's misdeeds and dirtiness. So the Songkran Festival is celebrated at the beginning of Burmese New Year. 

People celebrating Songkran
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

At the festival, the street is filled with people of all ages splashing each other with water to wash away the dirtiness of the old year in order to have a clean body to welcome the New Year. There is also a stage where traditional dance and folk songs are performed. The "water battles" are loads of fun to watch. People use a variety of ways to splash and spray each including using water ladles, buckets, toy water guns, and water pipes.  Many westerners also take part in the festivities. I was keen to join in the activities too but would have been impossible to do without getting my camera soaked.

People celebrating Songkran
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

If you in Taipei, I'd recommend checking it out in April. It is worth also worth going there at any other time of the year to try out authentic Burmese food. The dishes there were just as good as the ones I tried in Burma.

Getting there:

  • MRT: Take orange line to Nanshijiao MRT station in Zhonge, then turn right on Xingnan Road and go straight for about 15 minutes until you get to Huaxin Street.
  • Bus: Bus 242, 249, 670 or the Zhonghe District Shuttle Bus to the Huaxin Street Stop. 
People celebrating Songkran
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

To see more of my photos of the people of Taiwan, please visit

To learn more about interesting places and sights to visit in Taiwan, check out my list of Places to see in Taiwan

Monday, October 21, 2013

2013 Dream Parade in Taipei

Costumed revelers march with floats in the annual Dream Parade o
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

I've heard about and seen some interesting photos from past Dream Parades in Taipei, but I had never been to one. These parades are an annual Mardi Gras-style event put on by the Dream Community.
Costumed revelers march with floats in the annual Dream Parade o
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

The Dream Community is an art-centered community founded in 2001 by Gordon Tsai and partners.  It is situated in Xizhi, New Taipei City. It puts on the annual carnival parade in Taipei, and also sends artists and musicians from Taiwan and abroad to towns and villages around the country to promote artistic activities.

Tsai was inspired by carnivals around the world, such as the New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, Rio de Janiero’s Carnival, Seattle’s Fremont Solstice and the Burning Man festivals in Nevada. 
Costumed revelers march with floats in the annual Dream Parade o
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency: This year's parade, held on October 19, was fabulous. The streets between the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and Ketagalan Boulevard were filled with revelers dressed in costumes of glitter and feathers, live bands, Aboriginal children's drumming teams, "samba grannies," and elaborate floats.

The parade started at 3 p.m. when the revelers started off at the main gateway of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall plaza. They then went up Zhongshan South Road along the 1.2 kilometer route and heading back to Ketagalan Boulevard where the parade ended at a stage area in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Costumed revelers march with floats in the annual Dream Parade o
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

Each year a group of foreign artists are invited to live and work in the Dream Community and take part in the parade. This year, a five-person team from France lived there for three months. Their float was a giant “demon fish” float named Boing Boom Tshaak, which to me was the most impressive float there.

Costumed revelers march with floats in the annual Dream Parade o
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:
Teams from Brazil, Japan, America, and Indonesia, as well as design and architecture students from several Taiwan universities also took part in this year's parade.

The founder himself, Gordon Tsai, took part dressed as a purple fighter.  Wearing purple body paint, he danced around the floats on the street while breathing fire.

Costumed revelers march with floats in the annual Dream Parade o
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:

One of the focal points of the parade is the Aboriginal children's samba drumming teams from communities and villages around Taiwan. About 35 teams took part in the National Dream Cup Samba Drum competition. The teams were all excellent. As a former percussionist I realize the difficulties involved with playing samba grooves without being culturally immersed in the tradition. But the children pulled it off, subtle nuances and all.

Costumed revelers march with floats in the annual Dream Parade o
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:
If you didn't make this year's parade, be sure to catch it next year. It is definitely one of the most interesting and colorful events in Taipei.

To see more of my photos of events in Taiwan, please visit

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bridge to the sky

I was out taking photos of Treasure Hill near Gonguan. Just as I was wrapping up, I saw this beautiful sky behind me. I had my camera set to bracketing for some HDR photos, but I thought this didn't need HDR as the silhouette stood out on it's own.

Here are some of the houses by Treasure Hill.

To see more of my photos of Taiwan, please visit

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Typhoon Soulik

Typhoons that come over Taiwan seem to do a lot of damage to the south and simmer down to tropical storm level before they hit Taipei. Typhoon Soulik simmered down to a category 2 typhoon. We went out to Jiaoxi and Su-ao to film the Typhoon Soulik passing over.

Footage from Typhoon Soulik in Jiaoxi, Tawan

Typhoon Soulik reached speeds of 173 km/h (100mph) on Saturday morning.  Blowing over scooters and uprooting trees. One person has been reported dead, and about 20 injured.

Footage from Typhoon Soulik in Jiaoxi, Tawan

Tree being blown into the tunnel.
Emergency evacuation procedures were implemented.  Roads and bridges that were likely to get damaged were closed and fishing boats returned to the shore before the typhoon arrived. Five thousand residents in the South were taken to shelters.

Stock Footage of Typhoon Soulik in Jiaoxi, Tawan

Scooters piled up.

Blue truck blown over.

Tree blown over by Typhoon Soulik

Two cars under some trees that Typhoon Soulik blew over

Xindian River in Taipei flooded after Typhoon Soulik

Xindian River in Taipei flooded after Typhoon Soulik

Xindian River in Taipei flooded after Typhoon Soulik

HD Stock Footage ofTyphoon Soulik in Jiaoxi, Tawan

For more HD Stock Footage of typhoons please see my collection on Pond 5.

To see more of my photos of Taiwan, please visit

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mengjia Longshan Temple

One of my favorite temples in Taipei is Longshan Temple in the Wenhua district of Taipei. My friend, Richard, just bought a camera and was looking for some places to shoot. I suggested Longshan as being a great temple for some temple shots. I realized that I had not been here since I took my mother here on her visit in 2008.

Mengjia Longshan Temple (Chinese: 艋舺龍山寺) was built in Taipei in 1738 by settlers from Fujian Province, China. It was used as a place of worship and a gathering place for the Chinese settlers.
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Longshan Temple primary deity is Guanshiyin Buddha, but Longshan is a multidenominational temple and the temple enshrines 165 other deities. Along the back wall are several partitions containing different gods: on the right is the patron of scholarly pursuits, on the left is the god of military pursuits and business people, and in the center is the goddess Matsu who provides for the safe return of travellers by sea or land.

People in Temple
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:
The design of Longshan Temple has three sections: the front hall, the rear hall and the middle hall. From the outside you can see the two dragons protecting the middle hall. The courtyard has beautiful waterfall to the right. The stones lining the courtyard of the temple were originally ballast on the ships that carried Fujian immigrants across the Taiwan Strait. Inside the main building, there are numerous bronze incense burners and carved-stone columns. Crowds of people gather there at 6 a.m., 8 a.m., and 5 p.m. to worship—this is a good time to visit to experience the hypnotic chanting.

People in Temple
© Photographer: Imagesbykenny | Agency:
There are a number of vendors outside the front gate of the temple including old monks selling wooden beads, and old women selling flowers. There is an underground market across the road from the temple as well as a variety of other shopping areas in the immediate vicinity and surrounding streets for shopping for religious items, Chinese medicine, and assorted trinkets.

While Longshan Temple is not the biggest temple in the city, it has a unique atmosphere and beauty about it that keeps people coming back.

To see more of my photos of Taiwan temples, please visit

To learn more about interesting places and sights to visit in Taiwan, check out my list of Places to see in Taiwan