Cate Blanchett in Sun Moon Lake Taiwan for SK-II TV ad
Cate Blanchett is a woman empowered, she seemingly has an amazing life as an actress, business woman and fashion icon. She has been the face of Japanese beauty brand SK-II for 9 years now so it seems like a bit of a surprise that the Oscar winning actress has yet to front a television commercial for the brand. But all that changed over the weekend, her first TV ad for SK-II aired on Australian television.
“We shot the commercial in the Hsitou Bamboo Forest in Taiwan,” says Blanchett about the commercial, shot my famed photographer Rankin. “It was one of the most extraordinary places on earth I have ever been in. The light was so delicate, I was in a beautiful white dress, against all the green – it was just exquisite.”
In the ad Blanchett shares the history behind the brand and the journey of discovery in a Sake brewery 30 years ago to find SK-II’s “miracle” ingredient Pitera. Glowingly smooth and perfect skin is something I think we all crave and SK-II is one of those brands who I think does an amazing job in helping you achieve it over time.
I don’t often gush about skin care products here, but I am in love with the SK-II Facial Treatment Mask. It gave me smooth skin and visibly smaller pores after the first use and their secret is Pitera, a yeast ferment filtrate of sake that contains vitamins, amino acids, minerals and organic acids. According to SK-II they all work together to help allow the skin surface’s natural renewal process to function at its prime – and something that Blanchett credits as the product that transforms her skin to crystal clear clarity within 14 days. Though I’m guessing it helps that she has had seemingly perfect skin for years…
“When I first discovered Facial Treatment Essence, the effect that it had on my skin was quite remarkable,” Blanchett says of her experience with SK-II. “Its condition improved within a few weeks because I used it regularly, which is the key to SK-II – the benefits of using it consistently boosts the results. Within a couple of weeks, the tone of my skin was incredibly even, incredibly hydrated.”
Cate Blanchett in her role as global brand ambassador for prestige skincare brand SK-II appears in her first television commercial (TVC) for the brand The TVC was shot in the Hsitou Bamboo Forest in Taiwan.
VIDEO: Cate Blanchett’s first SK-II commercial, introducing the miracle of Pitera
VIDEO: Behind the scenes of Cate Blanchett’s first SK-II commercial and the SK-II
Just two hours south of Taichung's sprawling metropolis lies a beautiful forest area known as Hsitou. Well-known among the locals but often snubbed by the ex-pats, it actually makes for a pleasant excursion. It also offers a glimpse into Taiwan's efforts in environmental conservation.
Provided you can make it on a weekday, you'll enjoy peaceful strolls along quiet mountain trails. Avoid weekends; Sundays in particular, become rather re nau, hardly the best environment to appreciate nature.
Hsitou actually comprises only a small part of a larger entity: the National Taiwan University Experimental Forest. The Experimental Forest was established ninety-seven years ago, when Taiwan was still under Japanese occupation. Its major objectives are research, teaching, conservation and recreation.
Hsitou was established as a recreation area in 1970 and since then, the number of annual visitors has averaged about one million.
There are currently over 150 projects in progress, including several long-experiments. The area is divided into six tracts, each with its own classrooms and student dormitories. The forest provides a natural, open-air laboratory for forestry students to conduct field practice.
Originally, the Experimental Forest was funded through the sale of timber products. Subsequently, focus shifted from timber production to forest protection, and funding went through an evolution as well. As logging decreased and tourism increased, revenue became increasingly generated by visitors.
In recent years, as the Experimental Forest grew in importance as a teaching and research center, it was decided that economic self-sufficiency was not a practical goal and in 1993, the area's operating expenses became included in the government budget. This was good news for forest management officials who no longer had to deal with financial shortages and could tend to the business of running a forest.
Forest operations involve a surprising amount of work. The first step toward a healthy and growing forest is regeneration. To this effect, 700,000 seedlings are raised each year in the forest nurseries.
Due to the cessation of logging in recent years, there has been a corresponding reduction in reforestation; now the majority of replacement planting is in cases of damage from human destruction and natural causes.
To address the problem of human destruction, management officials attend village meetings to discourage the illegal cultivation of forest property. To back up their words, they can legally reclaim and reforest improperly appropriated land. The main criminal element from the natural world are squirrels. Squirrel damage has long been a problem in the experimental forests. When an area comes under particular attack, measures are then taken, normally in the form of poisoned bait. Recently, planting squirrel-resistant hardwood trees and growing squirrel food plants has proven to be an effective alternative method.
Geographically, the Experimental Forest encompasses an area 37 kilometers long and 6 to 14 kilometers wide and stretches roughly from Sun Moon Lake to Jade Mountain, Taiwan's highest peak. It ranges in altitude from 220 to 3,952 meters above sea level, due to the inclusion of Jade Mountain within its boundaries. Due to its topographical range, it represents the four climatic zones in Taiwan: tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and frigid, making it a particularly convenient site for conducting research and field practice.
Hsitou is very green for a good reason: it rains a lot. On the average, nearly a meter of rain per year falls on Hsitou's forests, making an umbrella a useful accessory to bring along.
Within the Experimental Forest, there are a large variety of mammals you would not expect to see in Taiwan such as the Formosan black bear, Formosan wild boar and leopard cat. Don't expect to see them at Hsitou, however; they are residing in the more remote regions of the area.
Hsitou is known for its forests, over 30 percent of which are man-made. There are over 40 species of trees represented, with the first grove having been established in 1908. The more common varieties of trees include conifers, bamboo, ginkgo and numerous hardwood species. There are also many introduced species such as eucalyptus and acacia.
Hsitou has a few interesting sites to investigate such as its longest-residing inhabitant, a red cypress estimated at 2,800 years old. The bamboo plantation, with over 50 different species, is also worth a visit as is the picturesque, terraced seedling nursery. Another Hsitou landmark is the arched bamboo bridge at the University Pond. But the most rewarding activity to be had is simply absorbing the beauty and serenity, two things which are not always easy to find in Taichung.
For residents of central Taiwan, Hsitou makes an easy day-trip. For those who want to make a longer getaway, there is plenty of accommodation during the week.
The most inexpensive option will run about NT1,000 for a comfortable double. Restaurants are notoriously expensive here, so if you are on a budget, bring your own snacks.
There are direct buses to Hsitou from Taichung and Chiayi; from other locations, you can get to Hsitou via Chushan, the town at the base of the mountain. Tickets are about NT$100 one way for the 2 hour bus ride from Taichung.
Highlights of Hsitou
The Hsitou Forest Recreational Area's forests contain Ginkgo, Giant Bamboo and Red Cedar just to name a few. There are even huge Cypress trees there some of which are called shen mu or 'Divine Trees' because their age is upwards of 1800 years. One shen mu in particular is almost 13 meters in circumference and more than 40 meters tall!
Hikers along the trails will notice clear streams, massive ferns and adequate direction signs to keep from getting lost. Among the more interesting of the signs is "Giant Rock". Giant Rock is exactly what it claims to be - a huge rock. During the 921 earthquake the boulder broke away from the mountain and rolled partially down the mountain.
To get a different perspective, there is a 22 meter high suspended walkway spanning about 180 meters of forest. Orchids, ferns and other plants and animals that dwell in the forest canopy can be seen from the walkway.
Other activities include mountain climbing and special events coordinated by the Youth Activity Center. For those that spend the night, there is also a sunrise tour available.
Depending on where you are coming from, take National Hwy.3 north or south to Provincial Highway 3. The off ramp will put you at Jishan Rd. (éå±±è·¯), turn right. Turn left at Dongxiang Rd. (æ±éè·¯) to get onto County Route 151 and follow signs for either Lugu Township or the Department of Tourism sign for Hsitou Forest Recreation Area.
Birding Locations - Hsitou Forest Reserve, Nantou County
Hsitou Forest Reserve is situated in West-Central Taiwan's Nantou County. Hsitou is a national forest reserve at an altitude of 1150m in Taiwan's central mountains.
Hsitou is recognized as one of Taiwan's top birding areas. Hsitou is a very popular weekend get away spot so the best time for birding is during the week or very early morning on weekends. Hsitou is easy to access and can be done as an easy day trip or even a half day trip.
Hsitou is a good spot for Taiwan's low and mid altitude birds. The endemic Steere's Liocichla, White-eared Sibia, and Taiwan Yuhina are common all year round. Hsitou is also one of the better sites for looking for the Taiwan Tit. The endemic Taiwan Whistling Thrush, Taiwan Barbet, Taiwan Scimitar Babbler, Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler, Taiwan Barwing (very common in winter with smaller numbers present all year), Rusty Laughingthrush, and Taiwan Bush Warbler (look in the grassy area behind the hotel) can also be seen. There are Taiwan Partridge and Swinhoe's Pheasant in the area but they are not easy to locate.
Other birds to look out for are Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Pygmy Wren Babbler, White-browed Shortwing, Vivid Niltava, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Eurasian Jay, White-tailed Robin, White-bellied Green Pigeon, Ashy Wood Pigeon, Collared Owlet, Large Hawk Cuckoo (summer), Ferruginous Flycatcher (summer and rare resident), Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Eurasian Nuthatch (mostly winter), Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler, Grey Treepie, Rufous-capped Babbler, Rufous-faced Warbler, Island Thrush (mostly winter), Black Bulbul, Black-throated Tit, Grey-chinned Minivet, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Little Forktail and Large-billed Crow. In winter some of the high mountain endemics can be seen in Hsitou.
About 20km by road from Hsitou there is the Shanlinshi National Forrest Reserve which is part of Hsitou and well worth a visit as it is slightly higher at 1600m.
There are a number of hotels in and around Hsitou. Hsitou is best visited on week days or early over weekends. Open 7:00-17:00. If staying in Hsitou the forest can be accessed anytime. There is a restaurant and food kiosk inside Hsitou and a number of shops outside the entrance.
By car Hsitou is about 50km south of Taichung and easy to access from Taiwan's No.3 National Highway. Exit at Jhushan-Mingjian and follow the Lugu-Hsitou signs to Hsitou. Lugu is about 10km before Hsitou. Lugu's Oolong tea is amongst the finest of all Oolong teas and a great stop for tea lovers.
By bus from Taichung, take the Lienyin Express Bus bound for Hsitou and Shanlingshi. Alternatively, at Jhushan, take the Yuanlin Express Bus bound for Hsitou and Lugu. At Hsitou, there is a bus running between Shanlinshi and Hsitou.
Jhushan is easily accessed by taking the train or bus to Douliou or Linnei and then taking a bus (Taisi Bus Company) to Jhushan from the back of the Douliou station or along the main road in Linnei heading in the direction of Jhushan.
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