Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Part of Highway 21 becomes Highway 29

At the end of last year, the southern section of Highway 21, from Namasia to Linyuan (both in Kaohsiung City), was redesignated Highway 29. According to Chinese-language media reports, this signals the central government's abandoning of any hopes to connect the northern segment of Highway 21 (which runs from near Puli in Nantou County to Tataka in Yushan National Park via Sun Moon Lake) with the southern part of the road. 

Environmentalists are applauding the move, as it will better protect ecologically-rich uplands. Highway 29 is 112km long; the southern end meets Highway 17, on which it's a short hop into Pingtung County's Donggang Township. Towns along the way include Jiaxian and Qishan. South of the latter, it passes right by Foguangshan and the Buddha Memorial Centre. Also accessed by the highway is San-He Tile Kiln, where I took these photos a few years ago. 

At the time of writing, the road was still labelled as Highway 21 on Google Maps.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Kanakanavu and Hla'alua Tribes

During a recent revisit to Wulai Atayal Museum, I was pleased to see they've kept their displays bang up to date and list all 16 Austronesian tribes recognized by Taiwan's government. The two 'newest' tribes are the Kanakanavu and Hla'alua peoples; the former live in Kaohsiung City's Namasia District (那瑪夏區), while the latter are found in the same city's Taoyuan District (桃源區). As you can see from the photo - part of a map in the museum showing the locations and sizes of all 16 tribes - both are tiny minorities within Taiwan's aboriginal population, which itself is little more than 2% of the total population.

The groups' applications for recognition were approved in June 2014. Cheryl Robbins has written about the tribes and their campaigns to have their identities separated from the neighbouring Tsou and Bunun peoples. Visitors interested in exploring Taiwan's indigenous villages are advised to buy her specialized guidebooks

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Taiwan's northernmost point

The lighthouse at Fugui Cape (富貴角), the most northerly point on Taiwan. The government in Taipei does control territory further north, namely in the Matsu Islands. The weather here is often blustery but walking all the way around the cape - starting or ending in the quiet seaside village of Laomei (老梅) - is worthwhile.

Travel in Taiwan magazine recently visited this part of the world. Click here and flip to page 41 to see the article by Joe Henley, who's also written a Taiwan-themed thriller. For more about Taiwan's lighthouses, see this 2012 blog entry.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Pritzker Prize winner's church in rural Taiwan

Houbi (後壁) in Tainan is best known these days for being the center of Taiwan’s thriving orchid export industry and the site of an annual orchid-related trade show. But if you're more interested in heritage than horticulture, head to the village of Jingliao (菁寮), which has a photogenic old street and a strikingly modernist church. The latter, Saint Cross Church, is a Roman Catholic place of worship designed in the mid-1950s by Munich-trained architect Gottfried Boehm (b1920). 

At that time Boehm was not famous, but his career quickly took off. In 1986 he won the Pritzker Prize, one of the world’s premier architecture awards. His landmark is impossible to miss. The spire (shown above) is a cypress-framed alloy-covered pyramid that’s higher than - and in terms of color quite different to - anything else in the village, which itself is surrounded by flat agricultural land. To learn more about the church and its founding, see this excellent article.