START MY TRANSFORMATION

Uncovering Green Island Prison Taiwan

By Alice Teacake

This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my affiliate disclaimer here.

Far away off the Eastern coast of Taiwan, lies the charming and isolated volcanic land of Green Island. Amongst the crystal clear waters where tourists flock to scuba dive and sit in one of only three seawater hot springs in the world, lies a repressive past. Political prisoners were shipped off here to the concentration camp of Green Island Prison to live a terrible life of thought and hard labour reform. The prison remains standing today and open to exploration. Read on to see what Teacake discovered.

Inside Green Island Prison Oasis Villa

A Quick Teacake Taiwan History Lesson

Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule for 50 years until 1945 when China took back what they considered stolen. Under China’s control, Taiwan’s idea of a ‘happy-ever-after’ ending rapidly turned into a nightmare. The KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party), considering the Taiwanese to be too ‘Japanicised’ and ‘degraded’, began looting their commodities and resources. Taiwan’s economy went down the pan and in 1947, violent riots against the government broke out. Anyone suspected of going against the government was rounded up and executed (an estimated 18,000 to 28,000 people were killed), with the KMT stating ‘We would rather kill 99 innocent good people by mistake than miss a guilty one’.

The 2-28 Incident

Paintings by prisoners at the Prison Museum Exhibitions show the truth about what happened when the madness begun

Taiwan was under Martial Law from 1948 to 1987 with the KMT arresting all the ‘communist agents’ they could who they believed to be enemies of the state. Over 140,000 people were arrested with some 3000 to 4000 executed. Many served their sentences at Green Island Prison.

Green Island Prison

Two prisons were built on Green Island to accommodate the unfortunate who were arrested. The New Life Correction Centre (1951 – 1965) and Green Island Reform and Re-education Prison (1972 – 1987).

Green Island Prison Observation Tower
Green Island Anti-Communist Propaganda

Anti-Communist Propaganda

Walking through the Oasis Villa grounds today, you can still see the anti-communist propaganda painted across the walls and chiselled into the cliffs. The different messages here include, ‘Taiwan Independence is Poison for Taiwan’ and ‘Communism is misery for all’.

Green Island Prison Propaganda
Green Island Wall Painting

Human Rights Graffiti

The Taiwanese have answered back and depicted through their graffiti that mind control and high-pressure domination were imposed on them by the government.

Green Island Prison Graffiti Mind Control
Green Island Prison Graffiti Freedom
Green Island Prison Devils Gate

Devil’s gate

When prisoners arrived on the island, they had to walk along the coast past this rock shaped like an elephant’s trunk. It is nicknamed Devil’s Gate.

Green Island Swallow Cave

Swallows Cave

Further along the coast of the island, a path passes a pillbox which was used by the KMT as a solitary confinement cell dubbed the ‘water cell’. At the end you will reach a cave called Swallow’s Cave. This is where prisoners were forced to perform political plays.

The Lighter Side of Green Island

Overall, it’s depressing stuff but there are some wonderful sights to be seen on Green Island. Teacake recommends seeing the prison first and then enjoying the rest of your time here scooting around, diving, hiking, sitting in the hot springs, trying to spot deer and checking out the abandoned village of Youzihu.

Pekingese Dog and Sleeping Beauty Green Island

Scooting Around

Bring your own scooter on the boat for 200 TWD one way or hire one here on the island (300 – 400 TWD per day). There is also the option to hire an electric bike, which I really would recommend: if you can help save the planet, do it! Riding around this 19 km island is a pleasure within itself. Enjoy the fresh air and views!

Diving and Rocky Beaches

Shilang Diving Area Green Island
Green Island Beach

If you love diving, Green Island has some amazing spots. The water is unbelievably clear with beautiful coral reefs and a variety of sea life. I swam with Blue Safari Diving Center and as a solo female traveller, managed to hop on a boat and join a group who had already booked! Try and do the same if you’re travelling solo. I got a whole morning of diving (2 dives) and my own personal instructor who spoke excellent English for 3100 TWD = £64 / $94.

Hiking on Green Island

Hiking

There are different trails you can take through the island. I’m going to be honest and say the routes and views are no way as good as Lanyu Island but if you fancy a stroll and some exercise, go for it. From near the lighthouse on the northwest side of the island, you can take your scooter up the mountains and easily do the Amei Hill Trail and back. Or, you can hike from the East side of the island up two different trails.

The Abandoned Village of Youzihu

Green Island Youzihu Abandoned Village
Green Island Youzihu Abandoned Place
Green Island Youzihu Abandoned House

I love abandoned places! This abandoned village was the first settlement on the island. The old stone houses remain standing and being right by the sea, it’s a serene and tranquil spot to do some snooping around.

How do I get to Green Island?

There’s two options. You can take a boat or you can fly.

Taking the boat

Teacake took a boat from Taitung’s Fukang Harbour. Boats run hourly but the schedule can easily change outside of Summer time because of weather conditions. Use your hostel or hotel to help you book a day in advance or turn up early in the morning yourself and book. Tickets cost 460 TWD one way, plus an extra 200 TWD if you take your scooter there with you. The journey takes about 50 minutes. Warning: the ferry ride sucks. Expect to vomit at any moment.

Taking a Flight

Daily Air Corporation has three daily flights between Taitung and Green Island costing 1028 TWD and taking around 15 minutes. You’ll need to book several weeks ahead in summer and flights can easily be cancelled in Winter. You can book your ticket here but I’m afraid the website is only in Chinese.

Hostel Green520

Where should I sleep on Green Island?

Accommodation is generally quite expensive and gets booked up fast! There are some cheap options: you can try and get a bed at the Big Blue Diving Center in Gongguan on the north of the island or at Da Shack Hostel on the East of the Island. If you’re a last minute planner like me and want the cheapest option with some awesome comfort, stay with Julius and Lily at Hostel Green520. Their fairytale themed accommodation is top notch and just across the street from the Diving Centre! They are incredibly friendly and fun and gave me all the English Tea I could ever dream of. Thank you guys!

Teacake’s Top Tips

Bring cash! There is an ATM on the island next to the Post Office but it does not accept International Cards. If you want to spot deer, a night drive is recommended. Please be careful of crabs on the road too. Their numbers have drastically gone down since tourists have started whizzing around: keep an eye out for them on the road and keep Green Island’s wildlife alive and kicking.

Interested in visiting other islands in Taiwan?

Check out my unforgettable Lanyu Island experience here!

Save This Trip! Pin Me!
Uncovering Green Island Prison Taiwan

Destinations

2020 Best Solo Female Travel Destinations

Self Esteem

Self Love Exercises

Travel Blog

How to create your own travel blog

About Alice Teacake

I'm a feminist British kickass solo female traveller who believes in women facing their fears, pushing their boundaries and reaching their full potential through solo adventure travel! I have been featured in Nat Geo Traveller UK, Lonely Planet, the Daily Mail and Buzzfeed and spoken about solo female travel safety on BBC One, whilst working with a bunch of awesome brands. Follow me for travel advice and inspiration, so you can go forth and challenge yourself to reach your own personal goals!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Uncovering Green Island Prison Taiwan

  • I am a Taiwanese -American now living in the United States. My father was a political prisoner sent to Green Island during the White Terror Era (1950’s – 1980’s). It was not talked about and I only learned of this traumatic history when I overheard a conversation about my father after I came to the United States.
    Thank you for your sensitive and poignant post and photos about Green Island and it’s dark chapter, especially startling against the present day tourist-oriented new identity of this remote but beautiful island. May its past not be forgotten and may its future always be bright, joyful and free.