YILAN, Taiwan (Reuters Life!) - For those in search of an unusual camping experience this summer, a Taiwan cemetery offers a nice view, great feng shui and a natural chill.
Sakura Cemetery Park, a 45-hectare graveyard in Yilan County in Taiwan's northeast, has become one of the country's most popular campsites, allowing campers to pitch their tents in a parking lot right beside the tombs.
Opened two years ago, the cemetery is selling underground spaces for more than 7,000 deceased -- and offering 15 campsites free to up to 10 families as part of a special event.
Visitors said they were attracted to the park-like grounds by the unusual idea and the beautiful view. The cemetery is located 750 meters (2,400 ft) above sea level and overlooks the scenic Yilan Plain.
"This is quite novel," said Ni Wen-chen, a 40-year-old civil servant there with a co-worker.
"I heard this is a park-styled cemetery with beautiful scenery, so we are here to see if we can camp."
The Mortuary Services Office said that since the cemetery opened for camping on June 25, roughly 100 people have already stayed there. Most weekends in July are booked up.
A camping event for 100 families will be hosted on July 16, with a concert planned for the same day.
Yilan County Magistrate Lin Tsong-shyan said he hoped that the camping events would help promote the idea of park-styled cemeteries.
Most Taiwan cemeteries are crowded with tombs and have little space to walk. Few people visit aside from the annual tomb-sweeping day because they also have a solemn image.
"In the future we wish to promote the beautiful landscapes for other cemeteries. I think this is a possible improvement," Lin added.
The Mortuary Services Office assures prospective visitors that 24-hour security and most Taiwan citizens' respect for ancestors will allow campers to rest in peace.
"I'm not scared at all," said camper Sun Chih-feng, adding that the trip was a way to be close to nature and teach his children to respect life.
"We and the cemetery each have our own world. It does not affect the camping atmosphere, but could be a rather special experience."
(Editing by Elaine Lies)