Thursday, January 24, 2013

Twelve months, 388 bird species

Birding and ecotourism guide Richard Foster has wrapped up his Taiwan 'Big Year', having got 388 species. For a full report including hits, misses and 'what ifs', go here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Koxinga shrine with a difference

It can be argued that Koxinga is one of the three or four most significant individuals in Taiwan's history. If it wasn't for him, Taiwan may well have beea Dutch colony until after World War II. If he hadn't set up a mini-kingdom in opposition to China's Qing Empire, it's quite possible the Qing would have ignored Taiwan, in which case Taiwan may well have been incorporated into the Japanese Empire a few decades earlier than it was.

Temples dedicated to and named after Koxinga can be found in several parts of Taiwan. This one, near Dajia in Taichung City (台中市大甲區), is unusual in having a domed roof [top left], “a bit like a mosque,” according to the local history expert who showed us around. The broken safe [pictured right] was the result of the temple's managers forgetting the secret combination, not robbery, he said. There's no evidence that Koxinga himself visited Dajia, but during the siege of Fort Zeelandia, he sent foraging expeditions to this area (and other parts of Taiwan) to gather food for his army.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bradt named best guidebook brand

Bradt Travel Guides has come out on top in a poll of over 2,500 Which? members to find the best guidebook brands for country, regional and city guides. Bradt heads the list for country guidebooks with a customer score of 75%. Guidebooks from DK Eyewitness are close behind on 73%, while Rough Guides is third with a score of 65%.

Which? is a product-testing and consumers' rights charity based in the UK. They've been publishing a magazine with that name since 1957. To see the online report, go here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fresh Facts VII: Taiwan's first bus route

One hundred years ago to the day, Taiwan's first public bus service was launched. It linked Taipei's railway station with Yuanshan (圓山) in the city's northwest. That neighbourhood is now best reached by the MRT's Red Line; attractions in that part of the capital include Dalongdong Baoan Temple and Taipei Confucius Temple.