It’s shameful that I just made my first trip to Taitung after living in Taiwan for thirty years. It’s always been one of those places that I’ve meant to see but somehow never managed to get there.
Even this weekend I had my doubts whether I would actually make it there after the main railway line was buried by a landslide between Ruifang and Houtong stations. Fortunately, we were able to get tickets for the high-speed, and surprisingly luxurious, buses that can now whisk you along the new highway from Taipei to Hualien in just three hours and then take the train down to Taitung. Continue reading Notes from the field: first trip to Taitung
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! It’s quite a relief to be able to take a short break after such a long and hot summer, particularly as the weather has decided to join in with the holiday spirit. The air was cool and fresh on the Four Beasts this morning and the views of Taipei under the clear blue skies were amazing. Here’s hoping that the weather forecast for the next few days stays true to its word.
On the subject of forecasts, I’m not sure I want to be in the business of making ones about the economy given the crazy times we’re living in, but what I will say is that we are seeing a rapid growth of interest in our VIA Mobile360 in-vehicle systems in China, Taiwan, the US, and the UK. Even though the hype about autonomous vehicles has abated, interest in adopting AI, Computer Vision, and Cloud technologies for transportation safety, fleet management, and new mobility services continues to accelerate. Continue reading Notes from the field: Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
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