Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mihu Trail near Alishan

The Alishan area has an abundance of short but exceptionally pleasant hiking paths. One I hadn't tackled until recently – but which I'll be adding to the guidebook next time around – is the 2.3km-long Mihu Trail (迷糊步道), not far from the indigenous village of Dabang (達邦) and the Hakka hamlet of Dinghu (頂湖).
Most tourists arrive by car or motorcycle, and park at km66.4 on Highway 18. There are toilets here, but none along the path. The trail follows the Miyang Creek as it plunges toward the Zengwen River (曾文溪), but for the most part you hear rather than see the waters. The path is is well designed and well maintained. The concrete steps have been textured to resemble timber; there are wooden railings where necessary, as well as thatched pavilions where visitors can rest in the shade. In fact, thanks to the trees and bamboo, hikers are seldom exposed to direct sunlight. It's really worthwhile scanning the forest, and not only for the numerous birds that can be spotted. We saw lizards, and this bug, which reminded me of a moose...
Just be careful of the 'biting cat' nettles! At the end of the trail, you have three options. Like most people, we climbed back up to the car park at km66.4. If we'd had more time, and someone to pick us up there, we would've continued along the 1.88km-long Fushan Historic Trail (福山古道) to the village it's named after, and then to km68.6 on Highway 18. Alternatively, one could tramp along Road 169 to Dabang, from where a few buses each day head to Chiayi City. That would be time consuming, but very scenic.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hatta Road in Tainan

Speakers of Chinese will immediately notice the spelling on the road sign in the foreground is nothing like its pronunciation in Mandarin. The characters 八, which literally mean "eight fields," are pronounced batian, not hatta. The explanation is straightforward: The road's name honors Hatta Yoichi (八田與一), a Japanese engineer fondly remembered in the Tainan-Chiayi area for designing and overseeing the construction of an irrigation system which transformed what had been, in large part, "a sunbaked and malarial flatland, prone to both floods and droughts" into a highly productive expanse of farmland.  

Hatta Yoichi Memorial Park was opened to the public in 2011, but the famous statue of Hatta - kept hidden between 1945 and 1981, lest it be destroyed by anti-Japanese elements within the Kuomintang regime - is actually on display a short distance away, within the grounds of Wushantou Dam.

I've known about Hatta for years; I stopped and photographed the sign because it's one of very few examples in Taiwan of infrastructure commemorating non-Han Chinese people. Greater Taipei has Roosevelt Road (羅斯福路), a bridge named after General Douglas MacArthur, and a short street celebrating the missionary George L. Mackay. In Taitung, Chuangang Road remembers C.K. Yang (Yang Chuanguang, often spelled Yang Chuan-kwang), the first Taiwanese - and first Republic of China athlete - to win an Olympic medal. Yang, who died in 2007, was a member of the Amis indigenous tribe. 

While a great many place names in Taiwan are of indigenous derivation (often grossly corrupted), there is a question that's been bugging me for a few years: Could it be that Taiwan has more things named after white people than after indigenous people? It's shocking to me that not one of Taiwan's stadiums has been named after Yang, and that while Taiwan has roads named after places in China, and events that happened over a century ago on the mainland (Taipei's Xinhai Road 辛亥路, gets its name from the 1911 uprising that toppled the last emperor), a minuscule number reflect the island's Austronesian heritage. Siraya National Scenic Area bears the name of an unrecognized indigenous ethnic group, but perhaps the authorities simply can't think of aboriginal individuals who deserve official recognition.