On Wednesday, 27 August 2014, we left Taipei and set off down the West coast of Taiwan. It’s not a very interesting drive by the way – the motorway goes nowhere near the water and all the towns are industrial with very little to see – which is why every single guide book tells you to drive along the East coast (don’t worry, we did that on the way back… and it was spectacular!). Our destination was Sun-Moon Lake, but on the way we decided to stop at the 921 Earthquake Museum of Taiwan (formerly called the Earthquake Memorial Museum). The museum is a memorial to an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale that hit central Taiwan on 21 September 1999 and is located at the site of the former Guangfu Junior High School (some sources say elementary school), which was destroyed in the earthquake. The buildings have all basically been left as they were (with some propping up for safety!) so visitors can see the entire extent of the destruction. After paying for your entrance ticket, the first area of the museum you enter is the Chelungpu Fault Gallery, which crosses the actual fault line along which the earthquake struck. In there, you can see various photos of the aftermath of the earthquake – fallen bridges, destroyed railway tracks, collapsed buildings and people in emergency accommodation. After the gallery, the route takes you outside where you can see the school buildings. Luckily the earthquake struck at about 1 a.m. so nobody was in school at the time! Here are some of the photos I took:
(Click on the photos to see larger versions and read my captions)
There was also an Earthquake Engineering Hall in one of the former school buildings. In the hall, there was lots of information about how to build earthquake-proof buildings and secure items within your home against earthquakes. There were also various “hands-on” exhibits, where you could, for example, build various types of houses then simulate an earthquake and see which one collapsed first. The information board in the photos above is from the Earthquake Engineering Hall. Next, we headed into a newer building where there was a 3D film showing a story about the earthquake. The film was obviously aimed at children, but there were a few interesting bits. Then we moved on to another room. There, we were told to choose a cushion to sit on and not to move once the show had started. On one side of the room were objects that were just randomly placed on shelves, while on the other there were items that had been properly secured. First we were shown images of an ordinary school day (supposedly the day before the earthquake), then came a simulation of the 1999 earthquake. The lights went out – because it happened at 1 a.m. when it was dark – and the room shook. There was a brief pause, then came the aftershock. Once the quake was over, the screen continued to show images from the actual rescue effort that followed the earthquake. Then the lights came back on and we could see which how well the objects on each side of the room had survived the earthquake. All in all, the museum was a real eye-opener, especially coming from a country where an earthquake means a tiny tremor that may or may not even be noticeable. Seeing the devastation that the quake caused was sobering and certainly made you think about the power of nature! There is also a geological museum at the site which looked to have a lot of information, but unfortunately we were in a bit of a hurry by that point. Entrance to the earthquake museum is inexpensive and I would certainly recommend it! It’s a bit out of the way and I’m not sure how you’d get to it without a car, but I imagine there’d be bus trips from somewhere in the area.
Once we left the museum, we headed straight for our hotel beside Sun-Moon Lake. By the time we got there, it was clouding over and a few drops of rain had started to fall. Here’s the view from our hotel room window just before the heavens properly opened:
We had a “lake view” room, but mostly we saw the ticket office for the boats 😉 After dropping off our suitcases, we decided to head out despite the fact that it was now raining quite heavily. Food was needed as all we’d had all day was breakfast and a bag of M&Ms from a service station we stopped at on the road! First we headed down to the lake, of course.
Unfortunately it doesn’t quite unfold it’s true beaty in torrential rain 😉 Also, I’ve no idea what happened with the last photo… I’ve only just seen how blurry it is! After looking at the lake we went into a little souvenir shop where I bought postcards and we sampled then bought some rice wine. After wandering around for a bit and getting very wet, we finally decided where to go for food. It was a little road-side stand, but behind it was what looked like a converted garage with a few tables and chairs in! We chose one of each of the things in offer, all deep fried parcels. In the left-hand photo below you can see at the back a long, thin parcel which contained pork, cheese and onions, on the right a round one filled with cabbage and mushrooms and on the left a sort of flatish one that was filled with seaweed. We both loved the pork and cheese one so much that we ordered a second (that would be the terrible photo on the right 😉 ).
I wasn’t overly keen on the cabbage/mushroom one (I’m not a massive fan of cabbage and hate mushrooms!), but thought the seaweed one was tasty enough. I’ve already told you what we thought of the other one 😉 To go with our food, we were given a large cup of sweet iced tea. All Taiwanese cold drinks are sweet! Even the bottles of fruit juice had added sugar.
By the time we’d eaten, it was dark and late, so back to the hotel we went for a good night’s sleep before a full day of driving over mountains the following day! Before bed, I attempted to take a photo of the lake in the dark…
Yeah, the less said about it the better 😉 In my next post, you can look forward to some better photos of Sun-Moon Lake. I can promise you it is stunningly beautiful! Until next time, folks.