Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Trip To Taiwan 台湾: New Taipei 新台北 - Remains Of The Thirteen Levels 十三层遗址 / Shuinandong Smelter 水湳洞精炼厂 + Yin Yang Sea 阴阳海 + Golden Waterfall 黄金瀑布

Photo By: Elin Chow
Address: Ruifang District, New Taipei City 新北市瑞芳区

We started our ninth day of our 11 days 10 nights Taiwan trip in Taipei City 台北市 the next morning and set off for the old gold and copper mining town of Jinguashi 金瓜石.

Jinguashi 金瓜石

Jinguashi is a old mining town adjacent to Jiufen 九份 in Ruifang District 瑞芳区, New Taipei City 新北市, famous for its gold and copper mines. Situated between the mountains and coastline, the town was once a famous prosperous mining town during Japanese Occupation.  

Located just an hour drive away from Taipei City, Jinguashi is well-known for its exceptionally stunning nature scenery and its abundance of historical buildings and relics. An once forgotten mining town, Jinguashi is now one of the most popular tourist attraction in New Taipei City.

Remains Of The Thirteen Levels 十三层遗址/Shuinandong Smelter 水湳洞精炼厂

We arrived at a large parking lot located near the coast to get a glimpse of Remains Of The Thirteen Levels 十三层遗址 (also known as Shuinandong Smelter 水湳洞精炼厂). The Shuinandong Smelter was a copper smelting refinery built during the Japanese Occupation for refining gold and copper ores which were abundant in the area. 

The Shuinandong Smelter was also known as the  Kinkaseki Copper Mine during the Japanese Occupation where Prisoner of War were forced to labor under extreme harsh conditions.

Following the surrender of Japanese and after the restoration of Taiwan, the state-run "Mining Bureau of Gold and Copper" was established by Taiwan government in 1946, which was later renamed " The Taiwan Metal Mining Company"when the gold ore reserves was gradually depleted. Following the change, the focus of the mining in that area also shifted from gold and silver to gold, silver and copper.  

However, the gold and copper output began to decline after 1973. In order to increase the production, the company decided shifted its focus to mineral refining and processing and took up bank loans in order to build the Lile Copper Refinery in the area where Golden Waterfall is located today.

Unfortunately, the company has difficulty maintaining satisfactory profit levels as the cost of extraction and refining was simply too high. Due to a collapse in copper price, the company was unable to meet its debt obligations, which eventually led to its bankruptcy. 

The Shuinandong Smelter was abandoned when the Taiwan Metal Mining Company went out of business, marking the end of an era for the once-mighty mining industry in Jinguashi. Following the closure of the company, Jinguashi's economy eventually shifted from the mining industry to tourism. 

Even though the once-mighty mining industry have faded into history, the incredible fortress like ruins remains. The Shuinandong Smelter actually boasts one of the largest concrete pipeline ventilation system in the world. As refining of ore releases huge quantities of toxic gases into the atmosphere, the purpose of the pipelines were to carry the harmful gases over the mountains, away from the refinery and inhabited areas.

Although you can find many other remains of the mining industry in the area, the Shuinandong Smelter is certainly one that cannot be missed. Perched atop a mountain, overlooking the ocean, the complexity of the architecture is extremely fascinating.  

However, I wonder why it is named Remains Of The Thirteen Levels even though there are apparently, a total of 18 levels.

Yin Yang Sea 阴阳海

After our photo opportunity, we got back in our car and continued our drive up the curvy mountain road.

We stopped at an observation deck to view the natural phenomenon of Ying Yang Sea 阴阳海.

Ying Yang Sea is a bay where the sea is a mix of yellow and blue. The surrounding landscape and lush green mountains provide a striking contrast to the yellow-blue sea. What a splendid sight!

Over the years, locals believed that Yin Yang Sea was the result of pollution due to smelting activities in the area. However, even after Taiwan Metal Mining Company ceased its operations for more than a decade, the strange phenomenon still exists.

It was later discovered that the strange phenomenon is actually natural to the area. The geology of Jinguashi is said to contain a high amount of Pyrite (also known as Fool's god), which resulted in the formation of iron ion particles (Fe3+) that does not easily dissolve in water, thus creating the strange sight of Yin Yang Sea.

The weather was gloomy with a slight drizzle on the day we visited, hence the phenomenon was not exceptionally spectacular. Nevertheless, it was still a fascinating sight! 

Golden Waterfall 黄金瀑布

Driving further uphill, you will find one of the most unusual landmark in Jinguashi -  the Golden Waterfall 黄金瀑布. I believe almost all tourists visiting the area will include a stop at the Golden Waterfall in their itinerary

The Golden Waterfall is located near the Gold Ecological Park 黃金博物園區, beside the main road. There are no special parking bays around, so Mr Tsai have to park the vehicle along the road side.

Along the way, you will find a lot of abandoned factories and remains of the mining industry which adds a nostalgic atmosphere. But among all the remains of the mining industry that you will find in Jinguashi area, the Shuinadong Smelter is perhaps the most visible and well-known one.

Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the Golden Waterfall shine a bright yellowish brown as it contains a high level copper and iron deposits. When it rains, the rain water will seep into the old mines and carries these deposits down, turning the grassy hillside into a bright orange color.

The waterfall was not big, but it was quite attractive. If you follow the river downstream, you will realized that the water ultimately flows into Yin Yang Sea. 

I feel so tempted to touch the golden rocks but I did not dare to. The rocks and water are highly toxic because it contains a high amount of dissolved Pyrite, which could result in the formation of Sulfuric acid. The toxicity in the water is said to make it unsafe even for touching.

Surprisingly, the area around the waterfall was not crowded. In fact, we were the only group of visitors visiting the waterfall at that time - perhaps because we visited it early on a weekday morning. 

Thus, we get enjoy uninterrupted photo taking time without having to wait for other visitors to walk pass first before proceeding to take pictures. It felt as though we had the entire place to ourselves!

The natural beauty of the waterfall also makes it a popular spot for wedding photography. 

As you go further up the mountains, there are many scenic spots where you can stop to take pictures or simply enjoy the view. Apparently, the higher you go, the better the view.

Named an UNESCO World's Heritage Site in 2002, Jinguashi is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the fresh amazingly fresh air while surrounded by breathtaking scenery. The surrounding mountains offers some of the most untouched and beautiful scenery in Taiwan. I would certainly recommend anyone to include a visit to Jinguashi area if you are in the area.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

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