Two magnificent hikes up Jiuwufeng this weekend. While I wouldn’t say that I actually flew up the mountainside, I made the best times I’ve ever recorded of around thirty-five minutes from the Four Beasts entrance to the summit. Perhaps Malcolm Gladwell is right about his ten thousand hours theory – at least when it’s applied to activities like hiking that require discipline and determination rather than any innate talent. I’m yet to be convinced that it is equally valid for more ethereal pursuits like writing.
On the trail this morning I found myself thinking about how my critical decision points along it have changed. In the first half of the year, I would always debate whether to continue up to the top of Jiuwufeng or turn right and skirt the hillside past a couple of charming little temples to either Tiger or Leopard Mountain. These days, I go right past it with barely a thought and head straight up to the summit of Jiuwufeng. Continue reading Notes from the field: decision points on the Four Beasts trail
I can’t say that I had particularly high expectations the National Center for Traditional Arts (國立傳統藝術中心) when I visited it during my trip to Yilan, but I really enjoyed myself there.
The center’s beautiful 24-hectare campus is located on the banks of the Dongshan River, and features a colorful mix of traditional and modern Taiwan architecture, painting, calligraphy, sculpture, handicrafts, and food. Regular music, drama, and operatic performances are held in various venues throughout the complex, and boat rides along the gentle waters of the river run throughout the day. Continue reading Notes from the field: Taiwan National Center for Traditional Arts and Suao
Meihua Lake (梅花湖), or Plum Blossom Lake, doesn’t come anywhere close to Cuifeng Lake in terms of elevation, but it is set in an equally spectacular location that is bordered by luscious green hillsides on three sides. The lake also has the advantage of being much easier to get to by road or rail. It’s only about half an hour from Yilan compared to two hours for Cuifeng Lake.
The best place to view Meihua Lake is from the Sanqing Temple (道教總廟三清宮), which overlooks it from a perch on its southern slopes. Confusingly spelled as Sanchin/Sanching, the temple is the headquarters of Daoism in Taiwan and is dedicated to the three most important deities in the Daoist pantheon known collectively as the Three Pure Ones (三清; sānqīng) (1). Continue reading Notes from the field: Meihua Lake and Sanqing Daoist Temple
Definitely a tad cooler on the Four Beasts this morning – though not enough to prevent me from sweating buckets for most of the hike. Even after thirty years in Taiwan, my body has never quite been able to adjust to the humid climate.
Today’s hike took me up to Jiuwufeng and then on to Elephant Mountain. Between the two peaks is a delightful little shrine nestled below Muzhi Mountain. It’s dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, and a host of other Buddhist and Daoist deities. Many people stop there to pray with an incense stick before going on their way. It’s one of my favorite spots along the trail. Continue reading Notes from the field: from Jiuwufeng to Elephant Mountain
Perhaps I was just imagining it, but the temperature on the climb up Jiuwufeng was slightly cooler than usual this morning. Here’s hoping that this marks the end of what has been an extremely hot summer this year in Taiwan. Let’s see. Thank goodness for air conditioning – quite possibly the greatest invention in human history.
I assume that the weather must be nice and cool at Cuifeng Lake (翠峰湖), another of the main attractions in the Taipingshan National Forest Area (平山國家森林遊樂區). About a forty-five minute drive from Taipingshan Villa, this is the defined as the largest high-mountain lake in Taiwan. During the rainy season it can reportedly cover an area of up to 25 hectares – though it was a lot smaller than that when we visited it. Continue reading Notes from the field: Cuifeng Lake in Taipingshan
The Taiwan tourist industry has experienced quite a boom thanks to the restrictions on international travel resulting from Covid19. Ironically, this has meant that formerly sleepy backwaters like Taidong, Penghu, and Jiaoxi have been so swamped with visitors that the peace and calm they were once known for have been snuffed out by the noise of the traffic and crowds.
I was lucky enough to make it out to the hot spring resort of Jiaoxi (礁溪)before the boom really took off. Despite recent efforts by the county government to spruce it up, it’s not a particularly attractive town but it does provide a convenient starting point for excursions to nearby attractions in Yilan County. Continue reading Notes from the field: ancient cypress and Chinese hemlock trees at Taipingshan
We’ve been very lucky that we’ve had very few restrictions to our daily lives in Taiwan as a result of Covid19, apart from the very minor inconvenience of having to wear masks on public transport. The biggest change for me has been the lack of international travel. I can’t remember the last time I’ve spent more than four months in one place without having to step on a plane.
Not that I’m complaining about that. The reverse in fact. It feels good to have much greater control of my schedule rather than having it governed by the demands of the next flight. So much of my time and energy was spent on traveling or preparing for trips that I put a lot of personal and business issues on the backburner. The past few months in Taiwan have given me the chance to address them. Continue reading Notes from the field: a regular exercise regime
My last weekend in Taipei for a while, assuming of course that Embedded World 2020, Work Truck Show 2020, and CONEXPO-CON/AGG go ahead as planned.
There was a sultry air hanging over the Four Beasts this morning, almost as if spring had passed by in the blink of an eye and summer had arrived. For the first time, I was able to capture a close-up of a butterfly along a hillside trail. A symbol of hope for the future perhaps. Or more likely just a lucky break. Continue reading Notes from the field: a sultry air hanging over the Four Beasts
A couple of views of Leopard Mountain from my morning hike in the Four Beasts Scenic Area. I took them from the YongChunPi Wetland Park (永春陂生態濕地公園), a former military camp that is being converted into an ecological zone. Very impressive work by the Taipei City Government.
It’s quite amazing how much progress has been made in improving the quality of life in the city over the past twenty-five years. The construction of the subway has of course played an important part in this process, but so too has the imaginative urban planning that has complemented it. Holistic is a horribly overused adjective to describe this kind of approach, but in the case of Taipei I think it’s appropriate. Officials of other cities looking to improve mobility and livability in dense urban environments can learn a lot from the work that has been done here. Continue reading Notes from the field: views of Leopard Mountain
I was greeted by the traditional cacophony of fire crackers heralding the first day of work after the Lunar New Year Holiday when I reached the office this morning. As is the custom, people gathered to express their wishes for a healthy and prosperous Year of the Rat as they gave their offerings and prayers to the deities and spirits. Given how ominously the new year has started, let’s hope that they were listening!
Over the holiday, I spent quite a bit of time reading a pile of articles and reports purporting to predict the key technology trends that will have the deepest economic and social impact over the next decade. What struck me most about them was their startling lack of originality. It’s almost as if they were written from the same set of talking points prepared by the marketing department of a silicon vendor for time-pressured journalists and journalists. Yes, yes, we get it. 5G is going to be revolutionary and disruptive. So too is, AI, IoT, VR, AR, and a host of other new technologies… Of course, they’re going to transform the way we live. Continue reading Notes from the field: the next big thing?