Orchid Island

Travel Guide Asia Taiwan Orchid Island

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Introduction

Orchid Island or Lanyu (蘭嶼 Lán yǔ) is a beautiful island located in Taitung County off the coast of Taitung. The island is home to the Tao, an ethnic minority group who migrated to the island from the Batan Archipelago 800 years ago. The island is known to them as Ponso no Tao "Island of the people" or Irala. Out of a total current population of 4,000, approximately 2,400 belong to the aboriginal Tao community and the remaining 1600 are mainly Han Chinese. In neighboring Philippines the island is referred to as Botel Tobago.

The Lanyu nuclear waste storage facility was built in 1982 without prior consultation with the island's Tao natives. The plant receives nuclear waste from Taiwan's three nuclear power plants operated by state utility Taiwan Power Company (Taipower). About 100,000 barrels of nuclear waste from the nation’s three operational nuclear power plants have been stored at the Lanyu complex. In 2002 and 2012, there were major protests from local residents, calling on Taipower to remove the nuclear waste from the island

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Geography

There are eight mountains over 400 metres high. The tallest mountain is Mt. Hongtoushan (紅頭山) at 552 metres. The rock on the island is volcanic tholeiite andesite, and volcanic explosive fragments. The volcano erupted in the Miocene period. It is part of the Luzon Volcanic Arc. Magma was formed from underthrusting oceanic crust under compression about 20 km deep. The andesite rock contains some visible crystals of pyroxene or amphibole. The geochemistry of the rock shows it is enriched in sodium, magnesium and nickel, but depleted in iron, aluminium, potassium, titanium, and strontium.

Lesser Orchid Island (Wade-Giles: Hsiao Lan Yü; Pinyin: Xiao Lanyu; Little Botel-Tobago), an uninhabited volcanic islet near the main Orchid Island, is the southernmost point of Taitung County. It has been the target of military airplanes' target practice. It is home to a critically endangered endemic orchid, Phalaenopsis equestris f. aurea.

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Villages

The main area for hotels is Hongtou Village, a couple kilometers southeast of the airport.

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Sights and Activities

Visit churches: Christianity is pretty big here; each of the six villages on the island has exactly one Catholic and one Protestant church. (The Protestant ones are larger and in better repair.) Access and times of services vary. Ask around!

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Events and Festivals

Buddha Bathing Festival

The Buddha bathing festival takes place on April 8 and is a Buddhist religious ceremony celebrating the birth of the Lord Buddha. The faithful bow three times to the Lord Buddha and then pour water and flowers of a statue of the baby Buddha.

Tomb Sweeping Day

Tomb Sweeping Day usually falls in early April and is a public holiday in Taiwan. Taiwanese people pray and tend to the graves of their departed relatives. Willow branches are used to decorate graves and doors in some areas and the flying of kites, carrying of flowers, and burning of incense, paper and joss sticks is common.

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is a June public holiday originating from China that is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The day is celebrated in Taiwan with dragon boat races, eating glutinous rice dumplings, drinking wine and writing spells.

Autumn Moon Festival

The Moon Festival talks place in late September or early October, on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The festival celebrates harvest time and is characterized by giving and eating moon cakes. Dragon dances, floating lanterns, fireworks and burning incense are also common.

Ghost Festival

September is Ghost Month in Taiwan with the gates of the underworld opening on the first day and closing on the last. Throughout the month, both Buddhist and Taoist religious rituals take place that include to offerings of food, drink and burnt paper money appease the dead. Many Taiwanese avoid moving house or getting married during this month.

Double Ten Day

Double Ten Day falls on the tenth of October and is the Republic of China National Day, celebrating the start of the Wuching uprising in 1911 that resulted in the defeat of the Qing Dynasty. Proceedings begin with the raising of the Republic of China flag and singing of the Republic of China national anthem. There is a Taiwanese presidential speech and celebrations include lion dances, drumming, and fireworks.

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Weather

As the island is within the tropics, the island experiences a warm and rainy tropical climate throughout the year with humidity often reaching more than 90%. Rainfall, abundant throughout the year, cools the temperature significantly. The climate is classified as a monsoon-influenced Koppen's tropical rainforest climate (Af), with annual temperatures averaging around 23 °C on the mountain and 26 °C on the coasts, one of the highest in Taiwan.

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Getting There

Daily Air has around 6 flights a day from Taitung to Orchid Island's airport on the central west coast. You can easily become stranded on the island for days when winds pick up even during non typhoon weather. Daily Air will cancel flights when the winds are even as low as 55 kilometres per hour. You can also take a ferry from Taitung, but be aware that the seas can be very rough.

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Getting Around

Other than walking, the only practical means of transport for tourists is hiring a scooter. These can be hired from an area next to the ferry port, which is also the location of the only petrol station on the island. Hitch hiking is also possible, although you may have long waits between rides due to the low number of vehicles on the roads.

There are basically only two roads on the island - the loop road following the coast circumnavigating the island, and the mountain road, dissecting the island in two (east-west).

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Eat

Tribe Bar is probably the most popular place for western tourists and offers a mix of Asian and Western dishes.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 15:10 on Mar 11, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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