Monday, February 29, 2016

Taroko's Lushui Trail

One of the region's best short hikes, the Lushui Trail in Taroko National Park offers gorgeous vistas in both sunny weather and, as the two images below show, when conditions aren't so kind. Long stretches of the 2km-long trail are in forest, so you're never far from shade, which is important at the height of summer. There's also a crudely-cut tunnel; it's so short it doesn't matter if you've forgotten your flashlight, but taller individuals should take care not to scrape their heads on the ceiling. 
Some visitors decide to skip this trail when they discover they must either retrace their steps, or march back along the road to where they parked your car or motorcycle. In my opinion, the trail is so attractive it's worth allotting the time and energy to do it both ways. You'll get different views, and you've a better chance of glimpsing endemic Formosan macaques.
No permits are needed for this trail, and the faint of heart can attempt it safe in the knowledge no section is nearly as precipitous as the Zhuilu Old Trail.    

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Public art on the east coast

This sculpture, called Time's Radiograph, was created by Panaite Chifu of Romania in 2005, as part of that year's Hualien International Stone Sculpture Festival. It's on permanent display near the border between Hualien and Taitung counties, on a vantage point which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. 

Public art isn't uncommon in Taiwan. In 1992, a law was passed which stipulated at least 1% of the budget of major building projects should be devoted to beautifying the surrounding environment with artworks. Several MRT stations in Taipei and Kaohsiung contain sculptures or installations; elevated stations in the latter are also striking pieces of architecture.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Taiwan for Muslim travellers

On a trip to Kaohsiung a few days before the Meinong Earthquake shook southern Taiwan, I noticed a Muslim Prayer Room near the back entrance to Kaohsiung TRA Station. This facility is part of the government's efforts to attract tourists from Muslim countries. Another important aspect of the campaign is encouraging restaurants at major tourist attractions to obtain halal certifications. Unlike the prayer room recently established at Taipei Main Railway Station, the prayer room in Kaohsiung TRA Station is very near washrooms where Muslims can carry out their traditional pre-prayer ablutions.

Very few Taiwanese follow Islam (no more than 0.3% of the population) but the progress Taiwan has made in transforming itself into a Muslim-friendly destination has got some recognition in target markets, such as Malaysia. Still, having been to Sun Moon Lake, Alishan and Taroko Gorge in recent weeks, it seems many of the Muslim visitors to these places aren't tourists from afar, but citizens of Indonesia and other countries already working or studying in Taiwan.

Information for Muslim travelers heading to Taiwan can be found here.