Taiwan 101: Part 3. Aspects of Taiwan

Museum of Marine Biology, Pingtung County

Museum of Marine Biology, Pingtung County

Guardian at the Zheng Chong-he Tomb , Miaoli County

Guardian at the Zheng Chong-he Tomb , Miaoli County

On the 8-day-long Longde Temple Matsu Pilgrimage, which starts in Taoyuan City and heads all the way down to Yunlin County and back

On the 8-day-long Longde Temple Matsu Pilgrimage

Salt fields at Jingzaijiao, Tainan County

Salt fields at Jingzaijiao, Tainan County

 

While the natural beauty of Taiwan will always be its greatest allure for me personally, the island also has an extraordinary wealth of cultural, historic and industrial attractions. Salt harvesting has been carried out on Taiwan for hundreds of years (with a history of eight centuries on the ROC-controlled island of Kinmen). Today salt production is a very minor industry here, but some of the salt fields (and a pair of unusual salt ‘mountains’) remain; the best have a strange beauty that’s quite unlike anything else on the island. Sugar, one of Taiwan’s biggest industries in the 1950s and 60s is now produced at only two sites on Taiwan, but some of Continue reading

Taiwan 101: Part 1. The North

The Candleholder Rocks, Jinshan

The Candleholder Rocks, Jinshan, New Taipei City

Disused logging railway tracks at Taipingshan, Yilan County

Disused logging railway tracks at Taipingshan, Yilan County

The Buddha's Tongue, Stegosaurus Ridge, New Taipei City

The Buddha’s Tongue, Stegosaurus Ridge, New Taipei City

Cave of Foreign Words, Keelung

Cave of Foreign Words, Keelung

I’ve started exploring new places again, and should start getting back to regular blog posts in the next couple of week. Meanwhile, I thought I’d make a few posts giving a short overview (in photos) of my latest book, Taiwan 101, which aims to show the incredible variety of sights around Taiwan (and the ROC-controlled islands). It really is an amazing place, and I’ve come to realize this even more during the several years I’ve spent researching and writing the new books (there are two volumes), during which I’ve seen loads of places, attended a number of amazing festivals, and done quite a few things that I’ve never done here before. Hopefully I’ll get out six posts, one for each of the six main sections into which the two volumes of the book are dvivided.

 

First up: the north: Taipei, New Taipei City, Taoyuan City, Keelung City and Yilan County. Here’s a taste of the many, many places to Continue reading

Silver Stream Cave and Four Beasts Mountains: Two Fantastic Walks in the City

Climbing the easiest (!) of the five routes up the Nangang Cliff

The natural cleft known as ‘A Thread of Sky’

Despite the horrible weather, there have been a few breaks in the rain, and since I’ve had an unusual amount of free time (few piano students over the Christmas hols, and no way to practice my own piano, since my right little finger is still too tender to play) there have been a couple of chances to get out hiking – if only in the area around the city. Continue reading

The Yangmingshan Project V: White Cloud Hill and Banling Trails: the Wilder side of Tianmu

Emerald Mountain Waterfall, just above Tianmu

Both trails are described in detail on pages 109-115.

Both trails are described in detail on pages 109-115.

I find it amazing (although, for selfish reasons, I think it’s also very fortunate!) that almost all of Tianmu’s health-conscious inhabitants (and indeed many residents from elsewhere in Taipei as well) limit their longer walks in the area almost exclusively to that long, dull trudge variously known as the Tianmu Steps, the Pipeline Trail or Tianmu Old Trail. It’s not a bad way to get from Tianmu onto the mountainside, and after the steps the contour path along the steep hillside is admittedly very attractive, with its wide views over the city, but the fact is there are (at least) another three ways to get from Tianmu up onto the Chinese Culture University area of the mountain by footpath or trail, and two of them make for an excellent loop walk, which a couple of us enjoyed the other day, during an expected and welcome break in the long streak of thoroughly grotty weather we’ve been slogging though the last couple of months. Continue reading

The Yangmingshan Project IV: Jiaokeng Old Trail

Slipping around on the Mudbath Trail

The route is described on pages 265-267, but take care as several new trails have sprung up here, making route finding more tricky in a few places.

The route is described on pages 265-267, but take care as several new trails have sprung up here, making route finding more tricky in a few places.

I used to consider it a good rule of thumb that even if the weather on the high tops of Yangmingshan National Park was horrible, the Pingdengli (平等里) area in the southeast corner of the National Park was nearly certain to be a good, relatively dry stand-by.  Not true, it seems, this winter; the cold season is only just getting started, but (aside from our amazing good luck on Mount Nanhuda, way down south, a month ago) our last dry hike is fast becoming a dim memory – somewhere back at the end of summer, I think. Continue reading

The Yangmingshan Project II: Seven Star Mountain and Mount Chigu

Descending from Seven Star Mountain towards Lengshuikeng

The four routes up Seven Star Mountain are described on pages 187-194 and 173-174.

The four routes up Seven Star Mountain are described on pages 187-194 and 173-174. The trail up Mount Chigu is described on page 179.

Just as the first hike in our attempt to conquer all the peaks in Yangmingshan in a series of hikes this month reminded me just how fun and rewarding hiking Taipei’s National Park can be, our second installment hammered home the two main reasons I don’t often venture up there any more – the often miserably overcrowed buses up there (and down again), and the bloody awful weather! Continue reading

The Yangmingshan Project I: The Western Peaks

The very muddy, very steep and veeerry slippery descent of Datun West Peak

The route we took combines routes described on pages 168-170 and 221-226.

It’s so long since I’ve done any serious hiking in Yangmingshan that I’d forgotten how fun it can be!  Despite on-and-off light rain, heavy cloud and the occasional leech bite, the first in a series of trips to (hopefully) bag all the main summits in Yangingshan National park was great fun and – best of all – proof that walking in Yangmingshan doesn’t have to mean a dull plod up steep stone steps or along wide paths of stone slabs. Continue reading