Thursday, August 21, 2014

The keymaker of Hsinchu

Spotted earlier this year in a side street in Hsinchu's city centre: A hand-painted ad for a maker of keys, chops and similar items. Hsinchu is usually associated with high-tech industries but it's unusually rich in relics of the Qing period as well as the Japanese colonial era.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Things to do in Taiwan when it's raining

The summer is Taiwan's wet season. In Taipei, almost two thirds of each year's rain falls between May and September. In the south, the difference between the wet and dry seasons is even more pronounced. Tourists who visit during the hotter months may not be able to explore the mountains, as road closures due to landslides are common (see the photo accompanying this post for a typical Taiwan rockslide), and heat may drive them indoors. How best, then, can summertime visitors use their time?

Good answers include temples and museums. Taiwan has an incredible number of both, thanks to a lively religious culture and governments that have shown great willingness to invest in museums which entertain and educate. While gloomy conditions may frustrate photographers' efforts to capture the beauty of shrine roofs, there's so much art and detail inside major shrines - not to mention all sorts of human activity - that they're a top choice whatever the weather. If you stumble across a place of worship that's in the midst of renovation, do take a closer look, as the way in which wooden panels and beams are replaced and paintings retouched is fascinating. The photo here shows a renovation artist working in Tainan's Temple of the Navigation Superintendent.

Taiwan's best-known museums, including all five mentioned in this article, are government run. However, wealthy individuals and non-profit foundations are behind some worthwhile public collections, such as one in Dajia that'll appeal to those curious about the Mazu cult.

The Central Weather Bureau's bilingual website has clear and useful forecasts which are very useful when planning travel around Taiwan. The site also has reports of seismic activity and rainfall statistics - several places in Kaohsiung received more than 150mm of rain yesterday!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Budai Seafood Market

When updating my guidebook, I had to drop a few locations to make space for new attractions such as the Buddha Memorial Centre, and also so I could expand my coverage of, among other places, the East Rift Valley. One place I cut out is Budai Seafood Market (布袋漁市) in Chiayi County, pictured here.
It's still worth going to if you enjoy eating super-fresh seafood, as within the market there are around 40 restaurants, none of which are very expensive. Late morning to early afternoon is the best time to go; don't expect English to be spoken or English-language menus, but this isn't a problem as most eateries have picture menus and/or tanks from which you can select the creature(s) you want to enjoy.
Photographers take note: Even if you don't much like seafood, you may find the market worth visiting for visual reasons. The market is very easy to find, being on Zhongshan Road, the main road through the town to its port. Buses from Chiayi City and Xinying in Tainan stop within 20m.