Archive for the ‘Taiwan’ Category

As soon as my spinning wheel of work spat me out sideways, I grabbed my bags and lenses and ran away, by plane to the furthest reaches of the Earth where no mobile phone, marking or email could reach me.HeHuanShan1000

Recently, my love for the butterflies had gone with the hopping Harlequins, hopping and turning up every leaf towards Heaven, perhaps never to be seen again, as the great outdoors turned into yet another building, yet another expressway, yet another carpark for heavy vehicles.  Increasingly, all places seem to feel like yet another cubicle, with work waiting to be done.00-2

Thanks to Da Chang and Ah Quan, our newfound friends in Taiwan, we left the never-ending construction behind and fled to the mountains.

台灣玄灰蝶-(台灣黑燕蝶)-Tongeia-hainani

台灣玄灰蝶-(台灣黑燕蝶)-Tongeia-hainani

Our first destination was Gu Guan, a picturesque mountain with vegetation on either side of the wide mountain road, peppered with little Lycaenidae, with the occasional larger butterfly zooming over our heads down the mountainsides.

密點玄灰蝶-(霧社黑燕蝶)Tongeia-filicaudis-mushanus

密點玄灰蝶-(霧社黑燕蝶)Tongeia-filicaudis-mushanus

I enjoyed the breeze… and the lack of the sound of moving heavy vehicles gone to dig more holes in the ground, no depressing city skylines, and walked down the mountain roads, every corner a possibility for further exploration, whilst our friends posed with Hello Kitties on the ground.hello

The Taiwanese butterfly shooters place heavy bets when they pick up their gear and go on a butterfly photography road trip.  They travel 6 or 7 hours to reach a destination to face the possibility of fog, rain and other weathery impediments.  For us, we only face the possibility of facing a sign that says “Do not enter.  Construction in progress.” and the entire butterfly site cut out it seems with a giant cake knife leaving nothing but the orange mud flour of its insides gaping at the sky.

Tongeia-hainani-2

Tongeia-hainani-2

The better part of the first day was invested in Gu Guan, after which we began our long journey to La La Shan, Hua Lien.

Euploea-tulliolus-koxinga

Euploea-tulliolus-koxinga

Euploea-sylvester-swinhoei-(Double-Branded-Blue-Crow)

Euploea-sylvester-swinhoei-(Double-Branded-Blue-Crow)

Euploea-mulciber-barsine-(Striped-Blue-Crow)

Euploea-mulciber-barsine-(Striped-Blue-Crow)

We were at La La Shan in the hopes of spotting a Lycaenid which looked very similar to the Banded Royal in Singapore, the location of which however, had been replaced by a very important looking expressway.

拉拉山鑽灰蝶-(拉拉山三尾小灰蝶)-Horaga-rarasana-Sonan

拉拉山鑽灰蝶-(拉拉山三尾小灰蝶)-Horaga-rarasana-Sonan

We woke up early, and made the hour long drive to the gate of the Mountain, which opened at 7 sharp.  From 7a.m. we marched up the mountain 4 km to reach near the peak and waited beside a ubiquitous small tree for our winged friends to appear.拉拉山鑽灰蝶-(拉拉山三尾小灰蝶) Horaga rarasana (Formosan Onyx)拉拉山鑽灰蝶-(拉拉山三尾小灰蝶)-Horaga-rarasana-Sonan-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

And they did appear, putting up a fantastic aerial display, which I think would have been just like that at our National Day, which I never saw in my entire lifetime, as I never did own a Hello Kitty or Despicable Me Minion MacDonald’s toy, because queueing for days was required.

青斑蝶 Parantica sita niphonica (Chestnut Tiger)

青斑蝶 Parantica sita niphonica (Chestnut Tiger)

In my diseased, sleep-deprived state, steeped in the cancer of consumerism, I failed to recognise how important that moment was, while munching on a furry peach, watching my husband run around excitedly.  I might never see another Banded Royal again.  And here I was, not the least bit excited about a butterfly some Taiwanese shooters have never laid eyes on.

青斑蝶 Parantica sita niphonica (Chestnut Tiger) (2)

青斑蝶 Parantica sita niphonica (Chestnut Tiger) (2)

I must have left, within me, some small fire, yet to be extinguished, in my frustration and hopelessness, that I put down my peach and suspended myself from thinking about shopping, to pick up my camera and excitedly take a few shots of the pretty butterfly.

雙色帶蛺蝶(臺灣單帶蛺蝶)雄 Athyma cama zoroastres (Orange Staff Sergeant)

雙色帶蛺蝶(臺灣單帶蛺蝶)雄 Athyma cama zoroastres (Orange Staff Sergeant)

Looking back now, I feel like shooting myself.  I could have taken even better shots of the butterfly.  Now I might never get the chance to.  But I’ll always have Orchard Road.  How depressing.  I would throw myself off a mountain but there isn’t one high enough here.

黃斑蛺蝶 Sephisa chandra androdamas (Eastern Courtier)

黃斑蛺蝶 Sephisa chandra androdamas (Eastern Courtier)

To add salt to my injury, and everybody else’s that they don’t have a La La Shan in their backyard, La La Shan is more than rare butterflies as well.  Trees, the shape of bonsais, grow out of the sides of the mountain, like static ballerinas curving for the sky.  On a clear day, La La shan is a picture of how Heaven might have looked like, to a person who’s had nothing but HDB skylines.IMG_3220

A tip for the traveller though, you might want to venture further than just the area with the large trees because the scenery up there is worth it.  Really!  If the skies are clear and you’re early enough, the air up there is sweet enough to make you sing! (Hence the birds singing giddily!)

褐翅青灰蝶-(褐底青小灰蝶)-Tajuria-caeruela_

褐翅青灰蝶-(褐底青小灰蝶)-Tajuria-caeruela_

After La La Shan (I was a little sorry to leave even though my partner didn’t think I was) and a little chat with a yellow cab driver who mentioned rare sunbears in La La Shan, we made a stop at the butterfly garden where you can see a giant purple Nymphalidae statue.

紫俳蛺蝶(紫單帶蛺蝶) Parasarpa-dudu-jinamitra-(White-Commodore)

紫俳蛺蝶(紫單帶蛺蝶) Parasarpa-dudu-jinamitra-(White-Commodore)

It was here that we shot most of our Papilios and some Nymphalidaes.

紅斑脈蛺蝶 (紅星斑蛺蝶) Hestina assimilis formosana (Red Ring Skirt)

紅斑脈蛺蝶 (紅星斑蛺蝶) Hestina assimilis formosana (Red Ring Skirt)

台灣綠蛺蝶-Euthalia-formosana

台灣綠蛺蝶-Euthalia-formosana

台灣綠蛺蝶-Euthalia formosana (Formosan Duke)

台灣綠蛺蝶-Euthalia formosana (Formosan Duke)

After this stop, we travelled to Hui Tou Wan.XX-6

Papiliomemnon heronus (Great Mormon)

Papiliomemnon heronus (Great Mormon)

Hui Tou Wan is something out of a Chinese painting. Although I could not grab any photos of the scenery as Ah Quan weaved around and around the precarious sides sprouted over with small signs that have large rocks falling onto a running stick man (Beware landslides and falling rocks!), it was reminiscent of several movies rolled into one road trip.  The narrow road James Bond was on when he was racing several baddies in Quantum Solace overlooking cliffs falling away into nothing, the passing of Argonath in Lord of the Rings and vaguely Clash of the titans, as we looked with awe at some of the fallen sides of the mountain, the size of which you would thought was only possible with movie special effects.

Papilio nepheluschaonulus (Yellow Helen)

Papilio nepheluschaonulus (Yellow Helen)

Unfortunately, for all its great scenery, we did not have much fortune with the butterflies.  In spite of walking up and down the bends, all I could find were half-beaks and a straggly dog looking sad and wanting a friend.  We were in the path of an approaching Typhoon.

碧翠灰蝶 (江崎綠小灰蝶) Chrysozephyrus esakii (Esaki's Hairstreak)

碧翠灰蝶 (江崎綠小灰蝶) Chrysozephyrus esakii (Esaki’s Hairstreak)

Typhoons were common in Taiwan, sometimes mild, sometimes very destructive.  Butterfly activity was low.  Ah Quan took out his red jacket which he said the butterflies favoured but those butterflies were nought to be seen that day.

紫日灰蝶-(紅邊黃小灰蝶)-Heliophorus-ila-matsumurae-(Restricted-Purple-Sapphire-2

紫日灰蝶-(紅邊黃小灰蝶)-Heliophorus-ila-matsumurae-(Restricted-Purple-Sapphire-2

We left disappointedly for our next location closer to Bi Lui Shen Mu.  There we were enveloped in fog, and had the company of a Taiwanese couple cooking spaghetti on a portable stove, a lone Purple Sapphire butterfly perching on a yellow flower and a blue bug pretending to be part of the furniture.

白鐮紋蛺蝶-(白鉤蛺蝶)Polygonia-c-album-asakurai-(Comma-Butterfly)

白鐮紋蛺蝶-(白鉤蛺蝶)Polygonia-c-album-asakurai-(Comma-Butterfly)

白鐮紋蛺蝶 (白鉤蛺蝶)Polygonia c-album asakurai (Comma Butterfly)

白鐮紋蛺蝶 (白鉤蛺蝶)Polygonia c-album asakurai (Comma Butterfly)

We headed up to Guan Yun, a stone hostel with both rooms and dormitories for mountaineers and hikers alike.  The environment, reminds me of an old monastery, very simple and decorated with Chinese sayings.

琉璃蛺蝶-Kaniska-canace-drilon-

琉璃蛺蝶-Kaniska-canace-drilon-

 

琉璃蛺蝶Kaniska canace drilon (Blue Admiral)

琉璃蛺蝶Kaniska canace drilon (Blue Admiral)

Our next stop was Bi Lui Shen Mu. As this part of our journey was the most exciting, I will leave this for my next post.  Valley of the Kings Part 2 🙂

 

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Lethe chandica ratnacri – This butterfly shows its true colours under the flash.  Reminiscent of the Singaporean Bamboo Tree Brown, this butterfly flies close to the ground but however, does not fly straight into the thick foliage.  It hops short distances away, hoping that you’d eventually lose interest.

Now onto the second Taiwan chapter of Taiwanese butterflies.  On the last few days of the butterfly hunting adventure, we decided to try out Da Keng Camping Grounds.  We were initially told by our driver that it would not be a good idea as he didn’t remember any butterflies hanging around there.  Perhaps he hadn’t been to the camping grounds.  But it was a great gamble.  There were so many butterflies we couldn’t finish photographing every single one of them.

Da Keng Camping Grounds (大坑露營場)

Horaga-onyx-moltrechti

Da Keng is not a small area.  There are many treks to explore (whee!) and there are several camping grounds in the area.  One of these has a butterfly enclosure but it was locked and didn’t allow us access when we visited.  Around and behind this enclosure was a pretty plot of garden where it seems just about every Papilio species in Taiwan was hanging out.  You can spend the entire morning in this area and not get bored.

Papilio thaiwana

Papilio memnon heronus – These butterflies were trying to get it on.

Papilio dialis tatsuta

Papilio dialis tatsuta – upperside

Papilio bianor kotoensis -upperside… just a glimpse of that ethereal green.

Papilio bianor kotoensis

To add to the excitement of seeing these butterflies, you also had the screams and cheers of the Taiwanese youth coming from the camping ground to egg you on! Don’t give up!  And keep dancing!

Burara jaina formosana – This awl made it very difficult for anyone to photograph. Not that it was skittish. It couldn’t the least bit be bothered with us, having to make sure every single purple and white flower had been sat on in turn with its hairy legs and rightly probed with its long proboscis. It didn’t rest more than a few seconds on each flower!

Neptis hylas lulculenta

Heliophorus ila matsumurae

Cupha erymanthis

Celatoxia marginata

Graphium agamemnon

Of notable mention was this pair of mating Delias butterflies.  It’s on one of these rare occasions that one actually gets to see a somewhat stationery open-winged Delias.

Delias pasithoe curasena

Delias pasithoe curasena – the male open winged in flight

Delias pasithoe curasena – all by itself in its typical close winged pose

Also of notable mention were this pair of very territorial butterflies.  I’d seen this butterfly vehemently chase down a falling leaf… to ensure that it would indeed make its way down to the ground and not fight with it for its lofty perch.  Other butterflies, regardless of size, would also be chased down or away.  No, there are no exceptions for anyone.

Dravira chrysolora – your typical “I’m looking down at you” territorial pose

Dravira chrysolora – a different sex (I think this is the male). This was marking the entire tree as its territory. Mine. All mine.

Dravira chrysolora – an upperside view. How intimidating.

And then we hit the grand prize by shooting this special butterfly we’d been searching for a year now…

Polyura narcaea meghaduta – I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Unfortunately as with most great encounters, the butterfly did not stay long… or return… no matter how long we waited.

It was a perfect way to end the day at Da Keng….with one more flat thrown in:

Aimio tethys niitakana

Butterfly Waterfall (彩蝶瀑布)

I should say that this was the hardest trek of all the sites.  In order to access this site, one had to climb up steep slopes with the aid of a rope, scale jaggedy rocks and teeter on flat slippery stones to traipse to and fro the stream which was not shallow either.

I can’t seem to get an identification for this pretty little thing. I’ve searched in butterfly books from Taiwan and on online photo id lists. So if anyone comes across this photo and knows what butterfly this is, please tell me!

The weather was not very cooperative that morning when we were at this site.  I knew it cos I didn’t feel the hot sun and cold air blistering my lips and face (somehow these are perfect conditions for the butterflies.  Any less heat and you can sit down and read a book).  Instead it was just nice and cool, just like it would be before a good rain.  Thankfully though, it didn’t rain.  The sun came out after we’d been clambering about the rocks for close to 2 hours and we didn’t see many butterflies.  I was just about to give up, sit down on a rock and call it a hard day when the sun poked out of the clouds and sent many butterflies our way.

Deudorix epijarbas menesicles

Zizeeria karsandra

Timelaea albescens formosana – This skittish little fellow is not uncommon in Taiwan. You can find it on hills, in the grass brushes… but it just wouldn’t stop for you… that is… until it feeds on dead matter!

We found a snake that had expired on the rocks.  And on it, the very skittish butterfly we did not have much opportunity to photograph earlier on during the trip.  To our surprise, the greedy little butterfly didn’t move when we danced around it or shuffled our knees in the rocks right next to it.  It was concentrating SO HARD on probing the dead snake.

Timelaea albescens formosana – This butterfly has a beautiful upperside

Neptis soma tayalina

Neptis soma tayalina – upperside

Symbrenthia lilaea formosanus – this jester looking butterfly was also equally skittish. And just as greedy. When settled to puddle, nothing much can distract him!

Euthalia formosana

Euthalia formosana – another individual with much lighter or more obvious white spots on the forewing

Athyma selenophora laela – Another butterfly that’s into dead snake meat.

Heliophorus ila matsumurae – open winged Purple Sapphire

Heliophorus ila matsumurae

Cepora nandina eunama – There were schools of this butterfly fluttering around when the sun came out

One of the most beautiful butterflies we encountered in Butterfly Waterfall is the male and female of this pair:

Sephisa chandra androdamas – female

Sephisa chandra androdamas

Sephisa chandra androdamas-Male

Sephisa chandra androdamas-Male

This trip to Taiwan has been unforgettable.  We were happy we had more than enough shooting days to make two posts instead of just one.  And Taiwan, being Taiwan, probably a lifetime may not be enough to write about the wonderful things it has to offer.  If you like what you see, get a plane ticket to Taiwan and experience the wonderful country for yourself! 🙂

Finally, after some very irrelevant posts about overrated kitty cafes and some unforgettable Taiwanese food (just finished dinner… thinking about smelly tofu makes me hungry again), it’s time to come back to the main subject: Taiwanese butterflies.

We were not expecting to photograph many butterflies.  The best time to visit Taiwan to photograph butterflies is in Summer (June, July) where the weather is warm and balmy.  Nonetheless, we got ourselves a bigger haul than expected.  Grab your pillows this is going to be a long post.

To help myself and to make this post more informative for photographers heading to Taiwan, I will be organising my butterflies according to location.  Here we go…

Sun Moon Lake (Ri Yue Tan/日月滩)

When we arrived in Taiwan, it was raining heavily and we were not expecting to see any butterflies since we were leaving Sun Moon Lake early the next morning.  For this trip, we stayed at Itta Thao Pier.  Along the pier, there is a trail which leads past some small shops and some inns, along which you can find flower gardens and small weeds along the roads.  The sun came out the next day and we managed to photograph these few butterflies during the short window before being shuttled off to our next location.

Badamia exclamationis

Papilio helenus fortunius

Papilio helenus fortunius

Peacock Garden (孔雀园)

Our next location is Peacock Garden.  This is someway along the way to Pu Li.  Peacock Garden is really… a nice where they keep several peacocks behind some short stone fences and the peacocks strut around nonchalantly.  Round and about this garden are thick foliage on the paths leading to enclosures where … I supposed… young peacocks are kept (anyway, there are some peacocks wandering inside the enclosures draped with dark cloth.  Amongst the thick foliage are a good number of butterflies, mostly small Lycaenids, lots of skippers, some crows and one precious Delias.

Delias pasithoe curasena – We found this butterfly fluttering restlessly over the road next to the carpark.

Euploea mulciber barsine – This crow refused to grace us with its presence on a lower branch

Nacaduba berenice leei – This butterfly has a bright blue upperside and is a fast flier

I couldn’t ID this butterfly. It wouldn’t give me a shot of its rich chocolate underside.

Hasora-chromus

Telicota ohara formosana

Caltoris cahira austeni

Small Town Community Around Peacock Garden

There is a little park that stretches around a community area within a small neighbourhood close to the Peacock Garden which has several small farms.  Here I was charged by a shaggy dog as I had unwittingly (could I say unwittingly…. it did occur to me after that that I had trespassed onto private property) crawled over a farmer’s stone fence barrier in an attempt to photograph a large tiger butterfly.  I hadn’t noticed the dog was there.  But after it gave me a few warning barks, I was stuck in a dilemma of whether to let the butterfly go its merry way and back off or attempt to risk confronting Shaggy.  After a small cautious step, Shaggy charged forward growling and barking, something which I had not anticipated, having never really been charged at by a large fluffy dog.  I was stunned and I suppose, halted in my tracks to welcome Shaggy’s I-thought-I-told-you-to-GO-AWAY bite.  When the farmer returned just in time in his car and told the dog to back off!  I apologised for my intrusion and explained that I wanted to photograph the butterfly in his… front porch.  He said: “Go ahead! Don’t worry about the dog! He won’t bite!”

Tirumala limniace limniace – not an uncommon butterfly. There were many individuals around but at the point of confronting Fluffy this still had not occurred to me.

Shaggy, at being severely denigrated in front of an outsider from charging fearsome guard dog to a fluffy one with no bite, slunk away unhappily into the shadows of the large house, watching me with disdain as I crawled closer to my subject.  Minutes later, he emerged from the house with a small toddler clutching onto his fur, further reinforcing his image as the Cuddly One.

Tirumala limniace limniace – This individual was dying, which was why it was staying so still. The one in Fluffy’s front porch would not stay within 3 metres of my presence.

Danaus genutia – Another common butterfly in Taiwan. They can be found in the waysides and amongst grasses and weeds

Danaus chrysippus – Another common butterfly flying in close company to the butterfly above.

Catochrysops panormus exiguus – This small fast flying individual was hanging around outside Fluffy’s front porch. Not sure if it’s very common. Did not encounter it again (but did not investigate every similar sized Lycaenid that came our way)

Neng Gao Bridge (能高桥) and Neng Gao Waterfall (能高瀑布) (Literal Translation: Can Be Tall Bridge and Can Be Tall Waterfall)

Our next destination is a location we had also visited the last round.  However, I don’t remember encountering the seemingly mosquito like flock of small Lycaenids that flocked the area in droves.

Papilio hermosanus

Celatoxia marginata – one of the Lycaenids flocking the area

Junonia iphita – this territorial butterfly attempted to chase me away by swooping down on my head repeatedly. Go away… or I’ll… I’ll mess up your hair! – cried the butterfly.

Ixias pyrene insignis – This pretty butterfly is common in Taiwan and can be found in almost all of the sites we visited.

Athyma cama zoroastes – This butterfly flies in similar fashion to the Singaporean Commander butterfly. Fast in flight and extremely skittish, it takes a long while to approach the butterfly. It is, however, not so alert when feeding on … dog shit.

Nan Shan Xi Pu Bu (南山溪瀑布) (Literal Translation: South Hill Stream Waterfall)

At Nan Shan Xi, we visited two sections of the area… one upstream and one further downstream.  Photographing the butterflies here was difficult.  We had to climb down steep rocks and the butterflies, as with most of the butterflies in Taiwan, were extremely hard to approach.  They did not seem to tolerate the presence of photographers well and tended to fly away even at 3 metres distance away from the butterfly.  I don’t know whether this is attributed to the fact that there is considerable hunting of butterflies that they don’t take well to human presence or whether it’s due to the fact that there was a blistering sun going on that day and the butterflies were on an energy high.

Delias hyparete luzonensis – we encountered this other beautiful Delias very very early in the morning beside my roadside flowers

Discophora sondaica tulliana – This cleverly camouflaged butterfly was sitting quietly hoping that we wouldn’t notice it.

Junonia lemonias aenaria – The Lemon Pansy is common.

Zizeeria karsandra

Papilio memnon heronis

Papilio nephelus chaonulus

Papilio nephelus chaonulus

Neptis taiwana

Tirula septentrionis – the only cooperative butterfly in the entire Nan Shan Xi Waterfall area.

This is getting to be too big a post.  Next up in my next post: Cai Die Pu Bu (Butterfly Waterfall) and Da Keng Butterfly Garden.

I am not the kind of person to wear a big bow on one side of my head.  I’ve recently tried not to lean in on any particular thing or make Vs when I have the hard task of being in a photo.  However, it just so happened that we picked a hotel (Royal Palace) which happened to be smack across the street from where this highly raved, much fantasized about, published-in-tourist-books Hello Kitty Sweets Cafe was situated.  I don’t have to show you the shop front.  Judging from the number of cameras milling out front it seems it would have been shot to death by few years ago.

You can tell how important a person is by the number of portraits of the person on the wall…

To be honest the interior is… not as fantastic as the shop front.  But it WAS themed.

I quickly pulled at the tissue paper! But alas! There was no parts of Hello Kitty to be seen on it… sad… 😦

Since we were there, we thought we’d drop in to share a nice Hello Kitty head (actually a cake) priced at about SGD$10 and a Hello Kitty face (a coffee) but were told by the colourful pink Hello Kitty aproned staff that we had to spend at least NT$600 in total in order to sit in the cafe and eat our cake.  This was in spite of there…. being almost… no one…. in the cafe.  Hmmm…. is it a strategy to keep people from going within the cafe so they don’t have so much cleaning of Hello Kitty paraphernalia and utensils to get to?

The staff unlike all the other places that we’d visited in Taiwan were not as warm and friendly.  It seemed they also sported a rather premium demeanor too.  After all, they served Hello Kitty! Hello? Premium!

I had no doubt the cake decorators were great. I wondered if the baker happened to also specialise only in cake decorations

The cake sets came with a drink, which I thought was mocha.  When I tasted it, I changed my mind and decided it was probably hot chocolate.  But couldn’t understand why somebody would drink thick hot chocolate with thick chocolate cake.  After 3 mouthfuls and trying not to waste it, I decided that maybe the barista was having an off day and dunked syrup instead of milk cos it was waaaay too sweet.

“Drink me… I will give you sugar high… so high… you may feel a bit sick… “

I couldn’t force myself to drink another sip.  And to think I thought I had a sweet tooth.

I think brand premium and pretty decor can probably explain and justify a few things but I just couldn’t accept how bad the cakes were.  I mean… sure, maybe you can say most of the things here are sweet cos that’s why the cafe is called Hello Kitty Sweets but what is this thing?  Is it a cheese pie?  Is it… a cheese cookie?  If it’s a cheese pie, why is it so drrryyy?  If it’s a cheese cookie… I just… don’t know what to think of it.  The chocolate cake in the other set was so ho hum we couldn’t believe it looked so good on the outside.

Maybe it’s because I got spoilt by all the delicious cakes and cafes out there in Taiwan which I can’t get enough of that I find it so difficult to accept the quality of the cakes here.  It doesn’t taste the least bit premium.  I think you would expect some quality from an NT$300 – $400 tea set no?? Maybe… just maybe… it’s a photographer’s cafe and all people really do here is come to take photos.

We contemplated on whether the fake cakes tasted better than their real ones

Perhaps Hello Kitty should just go back to interior decorating and selling cute stuff! 🙂

I’ve been back from Taiwan for a few days now and I don’t even know where to begin.  First of all, the scenery there is gorgeous.  There are so many innovative varieties of food there you can’t help but wonder how they managed to figure it all out.   I can’t…stop… stuffing…my… face…yet I still lost weight cos I can’t…stop…plying…these…Taiwanese ….streets… just to see what’s around the corner!  On top of that, the prices of skincare in Taiwan is so crazy I spent most of my time gasping in amazement.  What?  Skin79  BB Cream for only $16??? Are you kidding me?  Has anyone managed to create a teleportation device to Taiwan yet?  Why haven’t they?  The SoGos there are ridiculously hot in comparison to the SoSo here…

To help myself from getting carried away, I’m going to narrate according to the photos that I put up so I don’t stumble over myself telling you all the streets and corners and places I went to.  One of the places that I went to was Sun Moon Lake.  Sun Moon Lake is reknown for its scenery but unfortunately it was raining romantically everywhere with a thick mist covering the Sun and the Moon, the islands shaped as thus.  So I indulged in photographing the aquatic residents floating around the harbour and the delicious food on their streets.

Just off the pier of Itta Thao, there is a stall selling tiny little roast chickens.  According to the hawker, these chickens don’t grow big.  The meat is sweet and tender and you’ll appreciate the piping hot sweetness on a cold Autumn day in Sun Moon Lake.  The chinese words are Kao Zu Ji (roast bamboo chicken).

Besides this, there is also a stall selling chicken wings stuffed with glutinous rice.  However, I would say this is just …  so – so…

There is a small stall selling Mochi (starch balls filled with a variety of filling) around these stalls.  In my opinion, these are the best amongst the rest of the stalls and they only cost NT$10 per ball which is like less than 50 cents singapore currency. Nom nom nom.

Moving along moving along… yes we must….or I’ll still be blogging about Taiwan 10 weeks from now.  Next up is Jiu Fen or, literally translated, Nine Portions.  This is a highly commercialised touristy location filled with… tourist stuff, souvenirs… none of which are particularly exciting, excepting for their Hong Zhao Rou Wan (Red Date Meat Balls) and their Almond ice cream popiah (you’ll know the stall when you see a man shaving away at a huge block of peanuts.  They shave away at the block, smatter the shavings onto a bread skin (popiah), dunk two balls of ice cream in there, wrap it up and viola! Ice cream popiah.  It looks like nothing interesting but tastes amazing!! The almond ice cream goes so well with the skin and peanuts.  I didn’t take any photos of the ice cream or the meat ball because I didn’t waste any time between receiving them with my eager hands and stuffing them into my face.  You can’t miss the meat ball.  They are displayed like slimy red spawn balls from the Alien movie all pink and translucent and gooey on the tables of the vendor and then spa-tunk! Into the hot boiling water they go, out they come in a nice soup for you and the taste will blow you away.  There’s no time to get the camera.

Gotta stop raving about the food.  Jiu Fen is a decommissioned mining town.  The town is so old the buildings are particularly interesting and have plenty of character.  Photographers will also love the stepped alleys.  Everybody keeps talking about the stepped alleys.  If you move further away from the shops, you’ll reach the residences.  There are some very pretty Min Su (motels which are basically the homes of local residents there) where you can enjoy the scenery of the ocean.

Before going to Jiu Fen, you should probably drop by Shi Fen (Ten Portions, literally) and Jin Gua Shi (which is the last stop of the shuttle bus that goes from Taipei to this area) so you don’t carry your popiah ice cream, grape juice, sun biscuits, souvenirs all the way down to the spectacular Huang Jing Pu Bu (Gold Waterfall), where the water of the waterfall has been coloured gold by mineral deposits.

We really didn’t go to Taiwan for the sole purpose of food so I can’t probably say for sure if these are the best that Taiwan has to offer (probably not, I have high expectations of Taiwan), but these are some really good food we came across during our time in Taiwan.  Below is a joint in Puli where many Taiwanese frequent.  Argh! I forgot the names of some of these joints.

Here is a non Red Date version of the popular meat ball.  Looks gooey but it really tastes good!

I decided these are such badly taken photos I can’t be bothered to watermark them.  Some of the “non-local” cuisine are pretty good too. Like the breakfast set from Perfume Dance in Sogo basement.  I can’t believe this set is only NT$130.  If only you could make something like this for breakfast, Long John Silvers!  I have no doubt something like this will cost $10 here.  The eggs benedict is sooo divine!

The Sushi place just next door to Royal Palace hotel in Taipei served really crunchy (yum!) sushi at very affordable prices (NT$880 for two people).

My next post… uncharacteristically will be about everything cute and saccharine sweet.  Yeah… so unlike me I know… but still it HAS to be said! 🙂

OK I know there’s been a DEHP scare in Taiwan recently.  And I’d recently come back from Taiwan and literally spent every meal in the company of a big cup of bubble tea with all the happy tapioca jelly balls shooting up the large straw straight into my milk tea addicted being.

Danshui

But I can’t say that I had a bad time there.  In fact I can’t even say I had an ok time there.  I had a fantastic time.  There was so much to do in Taiwan even though I only went with friends in the land of honeymoon and romantic couple spas.

Scratch couple spas and other couply stuff, there are enough night markets or Ye Shi in Taiwan to make sure that even your late nights are busy plying the streets in search of an even tastier smelly tofu or Chou To Fu and more more more bubble tea.

Symbrenthia lilaea formosanus: This butterfly can be found up in thick dark foliage on mountain slopes as well as loitering around near sunlit waterfalls and streams.

Each night market is different and boasts a different theme.  There are some which are mainly fashion wholesalers and you can get a steal of very frilly fashion at very low prices.  There are also some which are lined with fried chicken/ji pa, Taiwan sausage burgers/da chang bao xiao chang, squids, crazy tall ice creams, fruit shakes, candied tomatoes, lamb soups and tea eggs.  The Taiwanese even eat water cockroaches.  And you can get a T-shirt expounding the spirit of a common cockroach (which I bought).

Symbrenthia hypselis scatinia: This shy shade loving butterfly was somehow spotted by a friend near the forest floor amongst the unruly vegetation up on a hill at Sun Moon Lake.  Although not pristine and torn, the markings are strikingly reminescent of the Jester butterfly.
 
We visited a variety of locations around Taiwan, including night markets around Tai Zhong, Dan Shui, a coastal area famous for Sun Cakes or Tai Yang Bing, Yang Ming Shan off Tai Pei and a variety of waterfalls around Puli in search of butterflies.
 
At the trails around Sun Moon Lake, it was hard not to notice the numbers of silverline butterflies dotting the vegetation here and there.  Silverlines can be found in Singapore as well but there are only 2 known species in Singapore versus 3 in Taiwan (as much as I could gather from their identification books).  The silverline in these three photos are guessed to be the Spindasis syama, with the brown upperside to be female and the one with a greater blue surface to be male. 
 
There is one other different looking silverline shot that day which is suspected to be the Spindasis lohita formosana.  It has thicker lines across the body and 3 spots on the hindwing are connected instead of separated in the syama.  There is also a queer line running from the tail into the orange tornal area on the hindwing:
 

Other than silverlines, Taiwan has more papilio butterflies than any of my Singapore field trips put together.

These 4 photos are of the Papilio hermosanus.  In the identification books there is a very similar looking nakaharai which is identified by the less distinct post discal red markings on the underside of the hindwing.

These butterflies were congregated in groups and were flying off the surface of a small waterfall darting in and out, landing ever so often and then nervously taking off in like fickle-minded fashion.  They also appeared to be chasing one another and none of them appear to have all of their wings intact, whether its a tail, “moth eaten” fringes or even half a wing.  They also have a distinct green iridescent shimmer on the upperside of their wings.

But most of the Papilio butterflies are seen and recorded only in the appreciative eye as one treks up and down the trail admiring the procession of fleeting visits from this butterfly or that and like this Papilio bianor thrasymedes your best chance of even getting a record would be to hope that there are irresistable flowers around to allow these beauties to forget the big canons aimed hungrily at them.

Besides the larger butterflies, there are also plenty of fast fliers to give you a healthy run and frantic eye exercise.  This very elusive looking Prioneris thestylis formosana was one such butterfly.  It has the propensity to make a nearly there but didn’t press the trigger day a rather sad day after having to resign to the fact that it isn’t going to give you a second chance at capturing its beauty through your lens.  This butterfly will also puddle on the ground given the chance (if you’re not too close) but is generally nervous enough to bid you good bye if you take too long to get a shot or come too close.

These common-as-cabbages Pieris canidia canidia seem to be found everywhere including on roadside flowers.  The above top left photo shows a female looking like she is ovipositing on a weed.  They are especially abundant in farms and scores of them can be seen chasing and knocking each other away over one female perched on a leaf with her abdomen up.  Males and females are marked differently, with the female having darker and more spots than the male.  She also has a distinct yellowish mark on her hindwing when her wings are folded at rest.

The strikingly marked Penthema Formosanum was spotted both on the leafy slopes of Yang Ming Shan as well as on the leaf litter near rows of bamboo trees.  With a slow gliding form in flight, this butterfly is easy to trace but requires patience in order to wait for a landing.  It also tends to take a nice leisurely walk once it has landed frustrating the angle which a belly prone photographer has intended for the butterfly.

The beautiful Argyreus hyperbius or Hongkong Fritillery is also a slow flier and can be found in couplets.  However, throughout the trip, we only saw them once flying near a tea plantation at Sun Moon Lake.  Having the same propensity as my dog to chase other dogs, as well as being quite skittish, this butterfly is not easy to photograph in spite of its slow flight.  A hat was dropped in a drain, much scrabbling along rocky slopes was attempted and a mighty leap off a wall was executed in order to follow the butterfly around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Acraea issoria formosana is also a slow flier and flies very much like the Tawny Coster in Singapore.  They are abundant on most of the trails that we went to.  However, many of them appear to be dying, pasted to stems and withered as we understood from the locals that Taiwan is currently affected by a drought and a lot of the butterflies appear to be affected as numbers have dwindled in previously popular waterfalls.

These photos show the male (top left) and female (top right) of the Heliophorus ila matsumurae, a dimunitive butterfly with distinctly cheerful coloration.  Found trying unsuccessfully to be as bland as the grass it was hopping around in and on mossy stream banks, this little butterfly is the delight of many photographers.  Yes, you can photograph one of these little guys and then suddenly find other photographers turn bright green with envy.  Not staying for very long as each disturbance, this butterfly is however, common in Taiwan! 

 

The following butterflies from top to bottom, left to right are also common in Taiwan:

Lampides boeticus, Junonia orithya, Neptis sappho formosana, Neptis hylas luculenta

 

 

 

 

 

Last but not least, the higher shaded trails up Yang Ming Shan are home to some strikingly marked shade-loving butterflies like these:

The left shows a female Lethe europa pavida.  Males are distinguished by a much thicker white band across the forewing on the underside.  The photo on the right shows a male Lethe chandica ratnacri.  Both these butterflies were found in the same area not far from each other although the male ratnacri proved to be more difficult and more skittish to trace through the leaf litter. 

Taiwan sunrises are at 5a.m. and their sunsets are at 5p.m.  It will be noticeable that the butterflies have packed their little bags and gone back home around 4p.m.  There will be noticeably less butterflies if at all so it is important to hit the trails early.  Lots of butterflies can be found at waterbodies.  Less can be found on the mountainous trails, but this may be largely how good you are at spotting the shade loving butterflies, traffic on these trails as well as how patient you are when dealing with scrambling around rocky or grassy slopes in search of that elusive butterfly!

To end this lengthy post, Taiwan is a lot more than just bubble tea and butterflies.  The people are friendly, hate for you to say they are part of China and the scene is vibrant, colouful and will simply take you more than 1 week to get to know it all!