Friday, January 30, 2009

100-plus reasons to go for a soak in Taiwan

Taiwan has at least 100 hot springs, places where geothermally-heated water rises to the surface. Some of the springs are very sulphurous, others not; at least one is muddy. Different sources give different totals, perhaps because new hot springs occasionally appear and old ones dry up due to earthquakes. Almost all are in or up against the mountains.

Famous hot springs resorts include Guanziling in Tainan County, Beitou in Taipei City, Zhiben (Jhihben) in Taitung County, and Guguan in Taichung County.

Friday, January 23, 2009

400-plus reasons to go butterflying in Taiwan

Taiwan has 400-plus butterfly species, more than any Western European country, more than Japan (which has 10 times Taiwan’s land area), and more even than Sri Lanka, one of Asia's leading eco-tourism destinations. Fifty-six of these species - mostly tiny, easy-to-miss butterflies - are endemic.

Great places to see butterflies include Meinong's Yellow Butterfly Valley, Yangmingshan National Park, and Maolin (which like Meinong is in Kaohsiung County). But you needn't go out of your way - you'll see butterflies everywhere, especially in the rural lowlands between April and October.

Go here for a long article about Taiwan's butterflies I wrote a few years back.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Taiwan's 400-plus museums

Despite its name, the Chinese Association of Museums is a grouping of Taiwan's museums. There's some English on the website, but the most interesting and useful section - listings of museums by region, focus and status (government-supported or private) with a search function - is Chinese only. In all, the site has details of 461 museums.

The Council of Cultural Affairs, a central government agency, has a few details in English here. Taiwan's best-known collections include the National Palace Museum, National Taiwan Museum and the National Museum of Taiwan History. Less conventional but no less worth visiting are the 921 Earthquake Museum and the Museum of Drinking Water.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

258 reasons to go hiking in Taiwan

Taiwan has 258 mountain peaks over 3,000 metres high. The highest is Mount Jade (aka Yushan, Jade Mountain; 3,952m), centrepiece of Yushan National Park; the second-highest is Snow Mountain (aka Xueshan, Mount Shei; 3,886m). The latter lies within Shei-Pa National Park, which has 51 summits higher than 3,000 metres.There are also hundreds of lesser peaks, many of which are excellent for half-day or day-long hikes. Apart from those, there are dozens of other good reasons to head for the hills including birds; butterflies; trees; wildflowers; animals; plus star- and meteorite-gazing.
I've written about several of Taiwan's most notable hiking trails. Go here for an article about a multi-day hike, here for a general introduction to the hiking scene, or here to read about one of the easiest 3,000-metre peaks to bag.

These photos were taken by Rich Matheson.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

450-plus reasons to go birding in Taiwan

Taiwan's geographical diversity, together with its position on the East Asia and West Pacific flyways, gives the island a fantastic concentration of bird species. More than 450 avian species (some say more than 480) use Taiwan as a temporary or permanent home.

The International Ornithological Congress updated the world bird list in February 2008, crediting Taiwan with having 23 endemic avian species, birds seen nowhere else on Earth. BirdLife International has designated 53 places as important bird areas that cover more than 18 percent of Taiwan's total land area. The IBAs vary in size from the 36-hectare Cat Islet Seabird Refuge in Penghu County to Nengdan, a 134,000-hectare swath of central Taiwan's mountains.

For excellent photos of Taiwan's birds, take a look at this flickr photostream.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The contract

I'm starting this blog because I've been commissioned by Bradt Travel Guides Ltd., a British publishing company, to write a comprehensive Taiwan guidebook. Over the next 12 months, I'll be posting details of my travels and research, plus lots of photos. The book is due to hit bookstores in autumn 2010.

I've been living in Taiwan since 1991, and writing about it since 1996. Links to many of my articles - not just travel pieces - can be found on my blog.