My latest book, Taipei 101: Essential Sights, Hikes and Experiences on Isla Formosa, will be published in May (in two volumes), and the photos in the following six blog entries describe just some of the hundreds of places and events that appear in the book’s 101 chapters. After this main part, a substantial section at the end of volume two gives a run-down of Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes, the island’s listed historic relics, its National Parks, National Scenic Areas and National Forest Recreation Areas etc. and there are tables with info on the complete Top One Hundred Peaks and the Little Top Hundred Peaks. About 800 GPS coordinates pinpoint the locations of all the main places described in the book, and there’s info on car and scooter hire from various cities around the island, and bus/train access, where available. It’s been the hardest of all my books to put together, but immense fun, and during these several years of selecting which places to include, re-visiting many favorite places and visiting many new ones for the first time has only reinforced what an incredibly dynamic, diverse, and outrageously beautiful place Taiwan is!
The offshore islands take up only a couple of chapters in the new book because they were covered fairly comprehensively in The Islands of Taiwan, but returning to some of them again, I still found some fascinating new sights and places to explore. Finest of the new discoveries is Hua Island, one of the remotest inhabited islands in the Penghu archipelago. Unlike those other secluded gems Xiyu, Xipingyu and their two companions, which together comprise Taiwan’s newest national park, yet can only be reached by charter boat, there’s a public ferry to Hua Island. The catch is it runs only three times a week, and there’s no hotel on the island, so it’s by far the most laid-back, unspoilt accessible island in the whole archipelago. It’s also amazingly scenic, dotted with loads of small but strange rock formations, and indented with lovely small bays.
Three chapters are dedicated to Kinmen, easily the most historically fascinating corner of Taiwan-controlled ROC. The finest collection of old architecture in the whole of the country, over 70 unique Fengshiye (‘wind lion god’) statues, and many sites related to three remarkable decades of war with China, just a few kilometers away (including quite a few places that have been opened to civilian visitors since the Islands book came out) make this a constantly fascinating place to visit. Kinmen also has two of the five extraordinary underground harbors built by the ROC army around the early 1970s to protect army boats from mainland Chinese bombs. The remaining three are on the Matsu archipelago, a much more scenically spectacular place than Kinmen, with some magnificent coastal landscapes, especially on tiny, little-visited Dongju island.
Green Island is a famous and scenically stunning summer getaway for both locals and increasing numbers of foreign visitors. Its most remarkable attraction, though, is the Human Rights Culture Park, which protects the two penal colonies built on the island during the White Terror period. A visit makes for a rather somber morning, but an essential one. Finally, there’s the incomparable Lanyu, quite simply Taiwan’s most magical corner. Completely unlike anywhere else in Taiwan, with its spectacular scenery and Taiwan’s most intact aboriginal culture by a long shot, it feels more like a Pacific island towed in and dropped here by accident. It’s already changing though (the first 7-Eleven made it to the island last year), so get there quick!