Feature Birding in Rice Fields near Beitou

First Visit to Taiwan

In Travel, Asia, Taiwan by tony2 Comments

Featured Image: Taiwan birding in rice fields near Beitou Taipei, on the opposite side of Beitou MRT Station from the hot springs and the mountains.

ORT_Logo  Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  21 May 2024

A First Visit to Taiwan by an Ignorant Foreigner

Main Points

  • First Impressions
  • Drums of war
  • Earthquakes
  • My Background knowledge of Taiwan
  • Physical description and population
  • History
  • Tourism
  • Museums, galleries and culture
  • Comment

1 First Impression and Preamble

1.1 My First Impressions

Travelling in to Taipei on the Express Metro from Taoyuan International Airport is an interesting mix of steep mountains and valleys. The steep slopes are covered in forest, while in the valleys the apartment blocks and buildings are grey and run down.

Things didn’t change on the Red Line MRT (metro) to our hotel a few minutes north of the CBD in Shilin District. The architecture of Taipei on first impression seems uninspiring and run down. This doesn’t change over time though one does find modern and relatively new apartment blocks around Taipei 101 (the tallest building), near the Botanical Gardens and in some other parts of the city. There is some excellent architecture, but the average is mediocre. One wonders on first impression whether Taiwan is as modern and progressive as one has been led to expect.

Zishan Station with apartments opposite

Zishan Station with apartments opposite


It certainly isn’t Bangkok with modern skyscrapers and multi-storey condos everywhere.

Nevertheless, my nephew says that property values are comparable with the highly inflated property prices of Sydney. Although, rents are much less, at least half the price of Sydney.

Partly this has to do with Chinese hanging on to property, but there are other more complex reasons. The interiors of some of these run down apartment blocks belie their exteriors. Though some apartments are indeed derelict.

Marvellous Taiwan Easy Card

Marvellous Taiwan Easy Card

Taiwan is a wealthy country full of a comfortably off middle class. The people themselves in Taipei and elsewhere are extremely friendly and accommodating to strangers.

The Taiwanese are very outdoorsy people pursuing Taichi, other exercises, even ballroom dancing, almost everywhere, including in special areas under bridges. They have excellent outdoor sporting facilities, cycling and walking tracks, endless small parks and interconnected large ones. Hiking in the mountains and wilderness areas is also popular.

We arrived at the airport at 4.40 am, by 6.15 am we were embarking on the airport MRT express. In the interim, we’d changed several hundred dollars Australian at a good rate, purchased Sim cards valid for a month (we were staying three weeks) and purchased easy cards (a wonderful single card for most forms of transport and many other things, including 7-11 purchases and some small establishment meals).

The train to Taipei Main Station from the airport takes about an hour. The transport for complete newbies is very easy. Arriving at Taipei Main, it was a few minutes walk to the Red Line MRT (metro), where we caught a train to our destination Zishan (13 minutes).

MRT Sign, Saying It's Raining outside, Just Clever

MRT Sign, Saying It’s Raining outside, Just Clever

Transportation in Taiwan by MRT, TRA (normal trains), HSR (high speed rail), buses, taxis and Uber is seamless and easy. By the end of our trip we used to joke that it was outrageous, when occasionally we had to wait three minutes for the MRT metro train to arrive (the usual time was 1-2 min). Public transport is ridiculously cheap and even taxis and Uber are inexpensive. Trains (TRA) and the HSR are always on time and frequent, like in Japan.

 Car rentals are also easy to obtain and comparable in price with most places.

It is quite different to Australia, where the public transport infrastructure everywhere is poor and rarely runs on time. Although, the authorities pretend otherwise.

Australia has had several opportunities to develop high-speed rail, initially from Sydney to Melbourne via Canberra. The opportunity has been lost. This is a country that has taken over 50 years, after the site was chosen, to begin building a much-needed second airport for Sydney and it won’t be quick.

HSR Train Approaches, Denise

HSR Train Approaches, Denise

One argument against high-speed rail in Australia is that the last few kilometres into the centres of Sydney and Melbourne are far too expensive. Taiwan has resolved this problem intelligently. Apart from Taipei, all HSR stations are on the outskirts of the cities. This is no problem because they have excellent TRA train, MRT (metro) and buses linking the HSR to the city centre.

Taiwan is a mixture of contrasts. English is not spoken everywhere, which we’d expected, and without extremely friendly people and smart phone translation technology, both spoken (conversations across an iphone) and image-based (reading food menus), things would have been harder.

1.2 Preamble

Drawing Class, Daan Park, Taipei City, Denise

Drawing Class, Daan Park, Taipei City, Denise

Sad to say, until my nephew Paul contacted me and we decided to go to Taiwan, my knowledge and understanding of Taiwan were very limited. We travelled to Taiwan for three weeks from 4 to 29 April 2024 and came away from the journey slightly more educated.

Nevertheless, as a naïve and ignorant outsider one sometimes gains insights and perhaps my musings will be thought provoking.

We stayed in a hotel called Boutech Archess (with a chess theme at the entrance), which was clean and comfortable. We grew fond of it and the location. We stayed there twice for 12 nights in total. I’d selected Boutech Archess because it was a bare two-minutes walk from Zishan MRT station on the Red Line. The Red Line is a good line for getting around Taipei. The hotel was across the road from a tiny triangle of a park with good seating on concrete, some trees and it was well-used by locals.

The general area around the hotel was also triangular with small alleys. It appeared down market but was rapidly becoming gentrified, with a tiny street food place open on two-sides just across from the park. There were two excellent Yakitori Japanese restaurants, a couple of fancy bakeries, other restaurants, a laundromat, and many other things nearby. There was also a fancy cafe and cocktail lounge favoured by well-off young people working on their computers, which we only discovered later. But, the triangle of lanes was quiet, a local backwater.

View of the quiet area outside Archess Hotel, with the Mountains in the Background

View of the quiet area outside Archess Hotel, with the Mountains in the Background

The other side of Zishan Station was a busy area containing a plethora of eating establishments. There was a large French Carrefour supermarket and retail shopping area and a Zogo Department store a few minutes walk away. With even more, further on.

The river nearby and Zishanyan Park were good for birding.

Zishan Station also had a convenient Ubike bicycle stand, which we used with our Easycards for longer expeditions. Ubikes are free for the first 30 minutes but inexpensive for longer expeditions. The App helps you locate other Ubike stations when you want to drop the bikes off.

2 The Drums of War

We’ve heard much about Taiwan in the news over the past few years in Australia, including sabre rattling by our conservative Coalition Government about imminent war with China and Australia’s need to protect international sea lanes for trade. It is all code for the South China Sea and the need to protect Taiwan.

All nonsense, of course, pandering to the USA. The idea that Australia could have any impact on China or the South China Sea is ludicrous.

Taipei 101 from Elephant Mountain

Taipei 101 from Elephant Mountain

In Australia the notion is all about submarines (8 maximum) originally diesel and now nuclear, under the AUKUS agreement proposed in the dying days of the Coalition Government and stupidly accepted in full by the current Labor Government. There is supposedly some hi-tech sharing between the UK, US and Australia and eventually some submarines by 2035 or probably later. (Hopefully, much later.)

In the current war with Russia, Ukraine doesn’t manufacture commercial aquatic drones. It cobbles them together. As it does some of its air-borne battlefield drones. Yet, Ukraine has sunk 28 Russian ships and one submarine to date in the Black Sea, using this equipment.

One suspects that nuclear submarines will soon be obsolete, probably before 2035. You can’t turn off a nuclear submarine and though they are unobtrusive, there is always a signature. If you can manufacture thousands of underwater drones of various types for a few thousand or a few hundred thousand dollars run by AI, what future is there for a submarine costing 3-5 billion dollars.

Central Taipei from Elephant Mountain

Central Taipei from Elephant Mountain

This rant is about my ignorance about Taiwan despite all the publicity. It reminds me of profound ignorance of Vietnam as a country by Australians in the 1960s and 1970s, during the Vietnam War. I know more about Taiwan but not much.

An interesting fact is that while 75% of Australians are concerned that China will invade Taiwan in the near future only 45% of Taiwanese are concerned.

Our reason for visiting Taiwan was because my nephew had lived there for two years and was quitting his job, freeing up his time.

3 Earthquakes

We had planned to visit Hualien and the Taroko Gorge on 12 April, the following weekend after we arrived.

The first major earthquake since 1999 of 7.4 magnitude hit Hualien on 3 April, the day before we left Australia. My nephew was confident we could still go to Hualien but not to Taroko, which might be closed for a year. However, mid-week when the hotel contacted him to cancel because they’d been damaged, we change our plans to travel down the east coast and across to Tainan City. A pity because the scenery down the east coast is supposedly spectacular.

We went to Taichung instead.

Architectural Apartment Block near Elephant Mountain, Denise

Architectural Apartment Block near Elephant Mountain, Denise

Note, the Yellow Ubike hire and deposit stand in the photo above.

We experienced earthquake aftershocks twice on our holiday. The first was around midnight on 22 April in the mountains above Dongshi (Dasyueshan). The magnitude was around 6 and the bed shook.

We were woken by that and by our iphones (not turned to silent) with an emergency message from the President of Taiwan. Denise liked the first part of the message ‘stay calm’ but was uncertain about the second part ‘seek shelter’. There was another aftershock about an hour later. Denise didn’t sleep all night. I went straight back to sleep having experienced earthquakes previously.

The Old and the New through Taipei North Gate, Central Taipei

The Old and the New through Taipei North Gate, Central Taipei

The second shock two days before we departed was in Taipei also around midnight on 26 April. Fortunately, our phones were on silent. We felt a very strong shock over magnitude 6 while we were in bed and a slightly lesser one an hour or so later.

Earthquakes are common in Taiwan, which is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Philippine tectonic plate boundary is off the East coast. Hualien is often the locus on land, but some earthquakes are centred elsewhere or are island-wide.

The government and populace are aware of and prepared for earthquakes. There are shocks almost every year. The anti-earthquake building codes are stringent especially following the 1999 earthquake and are revised frequently.

4 My Background Knowledge of Taiwan

I bought a 2017 Lonely Planet Guide on Taiwan, after we decided in January to go and undertook some detailed tourism research. More than usual, because everything about Taiwan was new.

Land Bank, Japanese Colonial Architecture, Tainan

Land Bank, Japanese Colonial Architecture, Tainan

I knew Taiwan was crowded with people. Taipei was a big city but there were other cities. I was aware that there were some mountains, but not that they were high or extensive.

I knew that Chiang Kai-shek with many of his Kuomintang troops had fled to Formosa/Taiwan, after he was defeated by the communists in China, shortly after the second world war. But, little else.

I knew that the National Palace Museum in Taipei held many of China’s treasures. Moved around China for years because of the war with Japan and finally to Taiwan.

I knew that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) considered Taiwan as a natural part of China, as with Tibet and Hong Kong. The PRC wants Taiwan to be merged with China. The bulk of the Taiwanese don’t want this to happen, or not yet. The ROC (Taiwan) is only recognised by a handful of insignificant small countries. The rest of the world has bowed to pressure from China not to recognise the ROC diplomatically.

5 Physical Description and Population of Taiwan

Taiwan is an island with several small offshore islands, some close to the coast of China. The main island is 35,808 square kilometres (slightly over half the size of Tasmania). It is 394 km long and 144 km wide. It lies about 188 km off the southeastern coast of China.

Mountains at Wulai near Taipei

Mountains at Wulai near Taipei

The island is relatively mountainous in the centre sloping steeply to the coast in the east. There is a broad coastal plain down most of the west coast of the island, where 90% of the population live. Much of the island is well-serviced by a modern road and rail system, including high speed rail down most of the west coast.

Taipei is the largest city in the north, with a population of 2.77 million, but there are several relatively large cities down the west coast. The total population of Taiwan is 23 million.

Yu Shan (Jade Mountain) is the highest peak at 3886 metres (12,749 feet). The east of the island is dominated by five main mountain ranges each running from north-northeast to south-southwest. There are over 200 peaks with elevations over 3000 meters (9800 feet).

Despite being highly populated, the eastern mountains provide a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife.

Tea Plantation and Mountains from Shizhuo B&B, Alishan District

Tea Plantation and Mountains from Shizhuo B&B, Alishan District

Given the terrain the average rainfall across the island is 2600 mm per year. (Canberra where I come from has an annual rainfall of 629 mm.) One needs to be prepared for rain in Taiwan but we didn’t find it intrusive, except on one day in the mountains where the weather made birding almost but not quite impossible.

6 Taiwan History

6.1 Austronesian People’s Prehistory

Neolithic people have inhabited Taiwan for at least 50,000 years

Taiwan is the starting place of the Austronesian diaspora of peoples (presumably from China perhaps 6000 years ago), around 2000 to 1500 BCE some began to move off the island.

The Austronesian peoples, sometimes referred to as Austronesian-speaking peoples, are a large group in TaiwanMaritime Southeast Asia, parts of Mainland Southeast AsiaMicronesia, coastal New GuineaIsland MelanesiaPolynesia, and Madagascar who speak Austronesian languages. They all passed through Taiwan and probably originated in China.

Not all migrated, and indigenous people lived on Taiwan largely undisturbed until the 17th century, along with Chinese fisherman who settled there about a 1000 years ago.

Narrow Building at Sun Moon Lake, Denise

Narrow Building at Sun Moon Lake, Denise


Denise noticed many narrow buildings like the one above in Taipei and around Taiwan. Perhaps an indication that you build where you can because of property values?

6.2 More Recent History

Apart from the indigenous peoples, people from China gradually came in contact with Taiwan in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and Han Chinese people began settling there, by the early 17th century in noticeable numbers. Portuguese explorers named the island Formosa. The south of the island was colonised by the Dutch in the 17th century while the Spanish built a settlement in the north, which lasted until 1642. These settlements were followed by an influx of Chinese immigrants.

The Dutch were defeated by Koxinga, a Chinese general loyal to the Ming turned pirate, in 1662 he established a dynasty. His descendents were defeated by the Qing dynasty in 1683. During the next two centuries of Qing rule the population increased by over two million, mainly Han Chinese, due to illegal cross-strait migrations mainly from Southern China. The Qing era was a turbulent one. The various immigrants from Southern China had regional, tribal and village associations and there was frequent unrest between groups.

6.3 Twentieth Century History

The Qing ceded Taiwan to Japan after losing the first Sino-Japanese War in 1895. There was some resistance to the Japanese for many years, among the Chinese and indigenous inhabitants. Nevertheless, Taiwan experienced industrial and agricultural growth under Japanese colonialism.

Original Chinese Trading Establishment, in Dihua Street, Taipei

Original Chinese Trading Establishment, in Dihua Street, Taipei

Even in difficult times in Taiwan’s History some prospered, especially traders at various times. Our walking guide said that Chinese families are superstitious and it would be bad luck to sell the property that made you rich. Hence though they rent them out, they also cling to the old shop houses in Dihua Street. Dihua Street was created in the 1850s, but renovated in the 1930s (art deco era) under the Japanese.

Taiwan was handed back to the nationalist Republic of China Government (ROC) run by the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1945 under somewhat dubious circumstances, never ratified. In 1949 after losing control of mainland China to the communists in the civil war, the ROC government run by Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT withdrew to Taiwan. He hoped temporarily. Chiang Kai-shek declared martial law in 1949, which was not revoked until 1987.

The KMT were not welcomed by the Taiwanese. There was strife and disruption under martial law. Nevertheless, Taiwan’s infrastructure and economy progressed under the KMT.

After Chiang Kai-shek’s death in 1975 things were relaxed somewhat and democratisation happened gradually. The 2000 presidential election marked the end of KMT rule, but the KMT still remains powerful in Taiwan’s politics and did win back the presidency. Although, they are not in power today. Since, 2000 there have been numerous political struggles and periods of growth and stagnation.

Old Style Manufacturing, Advertisement at Chiayi HSR Station

Old Style Manufacturing, Advertisement at Chiayi HSR Station

6.4 Current History

There is no left and right in Taiwan, the burning question is one of unification or independence. Although, recent events in Hong Kong may have put the concept of unification with China onto the back-burner.

My nephew says that his Taiwanese friends never discuss politics. When one understands the recent history of Taiwan, the splits and tensions within the society and the looming threat of China, this is probably not surprising. Feelings about Chiang Kai-shek in the country are mixed (see below). Taiwan has had a difficult history. Japanese colonialism is remembered by some fondly. Chiang Kai-shek repatriated almost 90% of the Japanese population about 200,000 people back to Japan in 1946.

An interesting sidelight of history is that President Truman placed American warships in the Taiwan Strait post 1949 to prevent either side launching an attack on the other.

Men's Public Toilet Display, the Women's display is more useful. Again Clever

Men’s Public Toilet Display, the Women’s display is more useful. Again Clever

Despite martial law but with post-war aid from overseas particularly the US, Taiwan transformed from a relatively poor country in the 1970s into an affluent one today. Like Japan before it, Taiwan became a manufacturing powerhouse and technological innovator. Today its position as a chip manufacturer and its capacities at the forefront of developing the hardware basis for AI, make Taiwan’s future economic prospects slightly rosy.

Currently, Australia is the 12th largest economy in the world and Taiwan about 20th.

On researching transport options for tourism, one quickly finds that Taiwan’s government websites leave something to be desired. My nephew in IT quips that Taiwan is formidable in hardware and IT infrastructure, but not so successful in software.

7 Tourism

One comes across the comment that Taiwan is boring for western tourists. I encountered this from tourists who had been to Taiwan and from a couple of expats in Taiwan, including a South African who had lived in Taipei for 19 years and loved living in Taiwan.

Certainly, my nephew, his Thai wife and son love living in the Shilin area and prefer Taipei over Bangkok. Others we met who live and work in Taiwan in Taipei and elsewhere were very positive about the lifestyle.

The boring comment is unfair but it is inspired by the thought that most tourist attractions in travelling around Taiwan other than the outdoors tend to pall after a time for the Western palette.

Xia-Hai City God Temple, 1859, Dihua Street, Taipei

Xia-Hai City God Temple, 1859, Dihua Street, Taipei

An exception was an Australian couple we met (she was possibly of Taiwanese heritage) who were travelling around Taiwan by car for three months in a leisurely manner and having a great time. We envied them because we were on a tight schedule, quite unusual for us.

They’d visited Hualien three times before the earthquake and loved the east coast. They weren’t hikers, mountaineers or birders, but they did like the outdoors and were enjoying their Taiwan adventure.

By contrast Taiwan is a tourism destination for Asians, primarily for the food but also for the tourist attractions.

Taiwan had 11.8 million international visitors in 2019 (pre-Covid) while Australia had 9.5 million. Visitor levels in 2024 in Australia are almost back to pre-Covid levels but not yet in Taiwan. Given the thaw in relations with China, Australia should see Chinese tourism increase again in the next few years.

Taiwan’s tourism is dominated by nearby Asian countries. Australia’s tourism is also made up of a similar mix of Asian countries. But, beside China, New Zealand, the USA and the UK (and other Europe) dominate Australian tourism. India is also high on the list (probably because of the Indian diaspora in Australia).

8 Taiwanese Museums, Public Galleries and Culture

Apart from the National Palace Museum (which everybody goes to) all the other museums and art galleries we went to were excellent, often new with superb facilities and they are only a few amongst many dozens that we didn’t visit.

Interior, Tainan Art Museum, Building 2

Interior, Tainan Art Museum, Building 2

We felt that the Taiwanese government is and has been spending a large amount of money trying to establish a unique history and culture that defines Taiwan (few buildings other than forts are older than anything in Australia and there aren’t that many old buildings). Similarly, the remaining indigenous people are provided with money for facilities and treated with respect.

We felt that cultural funding was not only a response to the threat from China, but also a response to Taiwan’s difficult history and a wish to define what it is to be Taiwanese.

We visited a 228 incident memorial museum in Tainan in memory of those slain. There are two such museums in Taipei and others around the country.

On 28 February 1947 the KMT government in Taiwan slaughtered a few thousand civilian protestors around the country, though a figure of 10,000 dead flowed from the incident.

The flashpoint for the protests came on 27 February in Taipei when agents of the State Monopoly Bureau struck a Taiwanese widow suspected of selling contraband cigarettes in front of a prominent Tea House or Club. They then fired into a crowd of angry patrons and bystanders killing one man. Protests developed next day.

Tianma Tea House, Where it all began 27 February 1947, Taipei

Tianma Tea House, Where it all began 27 February 1947, Taipei


Two years later and for the next 38 years the island was placed under martial law in a period called the ‘White Terror’. Another 3000 to 4000 citizens were executed and 100,000 imprisoned under martial law over this period, which is why Chiang Kai-shek is not universally loved in Taiwan.

Other than the threat of China the other reason for the strengthening of Taiwanese identity and culture is the difficult intellectual history of the island since 1895. Around the corner from the Tainan 228 museum is the National Museum of Taiwan Literature.

The National Museum of Taiwan Literature is much more interesting than the title would suggest. Excellent display boards contain enough English to give a nuanced view of the difficulties and tribulations of being a Taiwanese writer during the Japanese Colonial period and with the arrival of Chiang Kai-shek and rigid censorship.

A small example is that with the arrival of Chiang Kai-shek, some writers who could only write in Japanese were completely dis-enfranchised.

Artwork outside National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung

Artwork outside National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung

In Taichung we went to a marvellous retrospective exhibition Ode to the Sun and the Moon by artist Yen Shui-Long (1903-1997) at the National Museum of Fine Art. Shui-Long experienced much of 20th century Taiwan. He studied his art in Japan and Paris. He was a champion of indigenous Taiwanese culture and also of developing a unique Taiwanese culture.

Yet, reading between the lines he had a frustrating career convincing different regimes and bureaucracies of the importance of a unique Taiwanese culture and of developing local arts and crafts.

Yen Shui-long’s dedication spans across various fields, from crafts, design, advertisement, architecture, public art, to his personal artistic expressions, all of which serve as exemplary practices left to Taiwan. National Museum of Fine Art, Taichung.

9 Comment

This is hopefully a useful general view of Taiwan from an ignorant foreigner’s perspective. I will write a bit more specifically on what we did and the food we ate in another article.

A couple of things puzzle me. Why are the Taiwanese so nice? I’ve found the Thais, despite the terrible things they do to one another on occasion, to be amazingly accommodating and solicitous of strangers. Even Australians in the right circumstances can be amazingly nice and helpful. But, in Taiwan it seems to be at another level and I think that it may have something to do with Taiwanese culture or the attempt to create something different from mainland China. (Incidentally, the Taiwanese are completely mad about food and will go to great lengths to access culinary treats.)

The other thing has to do with business. The Taiwanese have a reputation as clever innovators, entrepreneurs and business people — a Chinese trait. However, as you travel around Taiwan, particularly in the cities and in Taipei, you come across small businesses that shouldn’t exist. In Taipei you come across this frequently, often to do with food and drink, but not always. It is most obvious with middle-class, sometimes young people, who are obviously well-off. Their shops have often been designed with taste and the fittings are expensive, but it is completely obvious that they could never earn enough money to make a living.

One example, was a flower, coffee and beautiful snacks shop in a trendy edgy area, but it had little to sell and was much too small to cover costs.

These types of businesses were too common for a rational explanation.

Public Art near Fine Art Museum, Taichung

Public Art near Fine Art Museum, Taichung

Key Words: Taiwan, Taipei , Airport Express Metro, Taoyuan International Airport, Red Line MRT, CBD, Shilin District, architecture, Taipei 101, property prices, Zishan Station, Easy Card, Taiwanese, outdoorsy, Taichi, sporting facilities, cycling, walking tracks, small parks, large parks, hiking, mountains, wilderness areas, rice fields, Beitou, hot springs, tea, Sim card, Taipei Main Station, MRT, trains, HSR, high speed rail, buses, taxis, Uber,  car rental, HSR stations, outskirts of cities, Chinese, friendly people, phone translation, Boutech Archess Hotel, small alleys, Yakitori Japanese restaurants, Carrefour supermarket,  Zogo Department store, river nearby, Zishanyan Park, birding, Daan Park, Hualien, Taroko Gorge, earthquake, Pacific Ring of Fire, anti-earthquake building code, Taichung, Elephant Mountain, Dongshi, Dasyueshan, Land Bank, Japanese Colonial Architecture, Tainan, Chiang Kai-shek, Kuomintang, KMT, Formosa, National Palace Museum, People’s Republic of China, PRC, ROC, coastal plain, Yu Shan, Jade Mountain, Austronesian people, Yuan Dynasty, Han Chinese, Koxinga, Qing Dynasty, Japan, first Sino-Japanese War, Japanese colonialism, Wulai, Dihua Street, art deco, martial law, communists, unification, independence, tea plantation, Shizhuo, Alishan District, narrow building, Sun Moon Lake, politics, presidency, growth, stagnation, Chiayi HSR Station, expats, Taiwan lifestyle, Xia-Hai City God Temple, birder, mountaineer, tourism, food, Tainan Art Museum, Tianma Tea House, 228 memorial, White Terror, National Museum of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Yen Shui-Long, indigenous Taiwanese, Taiwanese culture, arts and crafts, public art, Nick Kembel, Taiwan Obsessed, Spiritual Travels

Further Information

Detailed information on Taiwan

The 2017 Lonely Planet guide book was often frustrating but I soon found Nick Kembel’s articles in Taiwan Obsessed, Spiritual Travels and his travel site on Facebook covered everything you need to know in great detail. I can’t recommend Nick’s sites more highly.

I’ll also refer to Nick on food and other things in more detail in my next article.


Nearly all photos were taken on iphone by Tony and Denise.


Wikipedia has a more detailed description of Taiwan’s earthquakes and a list of earthquakes from 1736.

Austronesian Peoples

The emergence of Austronesian peoples from Taiwan is an important part of world history, particularly of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. The pathway through Indonesia, mainland Asia and the spread to Madagascar is less-well understood.

I summarised what was known of the Austronesian peoples expansion into the Pacific in my article Polynesia a natural experiment of history.

Property prices

Property prices are roughly comparable between Taipei and Sydney but both are less than property in Singapore and Seoul.

Artist Yen Shui-Long

Ode to the Sun and the Moon by artist Yen Shui-Long (1903-1997) at the National Museum of Fine Art.


Bakery near Archess Hotel, Taipei, Denise

Bakery near Archess Hotel, Taipei, Denise

Published in Canberra



  1. Nice read Tony. You know more about Taiwan’s history than me! It was great to see you both.

  2. Thanks so much for taking me down memory lane. We had a wonderful time in Taiwan, but you have given me much more insight as to its history and existence.

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