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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection
Riding deeper into southern Pingtung

Travelogues

My travel writing is mainly in the form of journal entries and letters sent home to friends and family. I write about my individual experiences in a very personal way.

If you are more interested in practical advice, guides, reviews, tips, photos, and other such content, try browsing by place: Taiwan 台灣, South Korea, Hong Kong 香港, Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Taitung City

Looking northwest from Liyushan 鯉魚山 in Taitung City
The view looking northwest from Carp Mountain, Taitung City, across the alluvial plains toward the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

Taitung City 台東市, the administrative capital of Taitung, was my final destination on a multi-day bicycle tour around southern Taiwan 台灣 in the summer of 2015. Previously I shared words and photos from every day on the road so this post will act as something of an epilogue. Start at the beginning or read the last chapter to get up to speed—or treat this as a singular post about some of what I saw in an extra day of exploration around the most remote major city on the Taiwanese mainland.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Tainan to Pingtung City

Tainan country roads
Riding through the countryside in southern Tainan 台南. This looks remarkably like the area near where I grew up.

Bicycle touring is one of the best ways to experience Taiwan 台灣. I don’t have an opportunity to go touring as much as I’d like but managed to find some time last year, in June of 2015, to embark upon a multi-day bicycle trip around southern Taiwan 台灣. My intention was to cover some of the same territory that I had rushed through on my first bicycle trip down south in 2013. I ended up racing a typhoon from Kenting to Taitung City 台東市 that year—so the chance to explore the backroads of Pingtung 屏東 at a more relaxed pace really appealed to me. I started my journey in Tainan 台南, my favourite city in Taiwan 台灣, and cycled through Kaohsiung 高雄 to Pingtung City 屏東市, putting about 70 kilometers behind me. Gathered here are some photos from the first day of this trip, continued here.

An Overnight Trip to Keelung via Jinguashi and Jiufen

Jinguashi from the Ogon Shrine in January
Jinguashi from the Ogon Shrine.

Last weekend I enjoyed a couple of days outside of Taipei 台北 in the northern part of Taiwan 台灣. I went there with friends, ostensibly to show them around Jīnguāshí 金瓜石 and Jiǔfèn 九份, the town that famously inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, and ended up staying in Keelung for the night on a whim. Having recently purchased a great new phone I bombarded Instagram with numerous pictures and plenty of commentary as the trip progressed. This quick and dirty post is a collection of some of my better smartphone snapshots as well as an experiment in blogging with broader brushstrokes. Perhaps you will get a sense of how I travel: spontaneously, intuitively, and with a keen eye for details.

Postcards From Nanfang’ao 南方澳明信片

Returning to Nanfangao harbour
A fishing boat cruising through the outer reaches of Nanfang’ao harbour.

Nanfang’ao 南方澳 is a major fishing port in Sū'ào 蘇澳, Yilan, on the east coast of Taiwan 台灣. It is located just south of the end of the Lányáng Plain 蘭陽平原 where a rocky headland juts out into the ocean to form a natural harbour. It opened in 1923 after development by the Japanese colonial authorities and is now considered one of the top fishing ports in the nation, often ranking in third place by measures unknown to me, and is particularly known for its record-breaking mackerel catch. Part of why the port is so productive has to do with the nutrient-rich Kuroshio Current 黑潮 (literally “black stream”), which lies just offshore.

Crossing the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan

High in the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan
High in the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

In the summer of last year I was nearing the end of my first sojourn in Taiwan 台灣. By the beginning of August I would be in Canada for a wedding in the family with no idea what I’d be doing after that. Since I wasn’t sure if I would be returning to Taiwan I made vague plans to go on a road trip. With only about a week to go before my departure the weather took an ominous turn as Typhoon Matmo 麥德姆 barreled toward the island. On July 20th, with the pressure of time bearing down on us, my girlfriend and I hopped on a 125cc scooter—the same kind of dinky, puttering scooter you see people riding around any Taiwanese town—and set out from Changhua 彰化 with the goal of crossing the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 at Wǔlíng 武陵, the highest paved (and publicly-accessible) mountain pass in Taiwan at 3,275 meters above sea level. With luck, time and weather permitting, we’d be able to visit Héhuānshān 合歡山 and maybe even drive down into the amazingly scenic Taroko Gorge 太魯閣峽谷 on the east side of the island.

First Dispatch From Zhongli

The grand entrance to Renhai Temple 仁海宮
The grand entrance to Renhai Temple in Zhongli.

Last week I moved from Taipei 台北 to Zhōnglì 中壢, a mid-sized city of approximately half a million1 about 45 minutes down the Western Line 西部幹線 in the heart of Taoyuan. I have been all around the island but haven’t explored much of what you might call the “middle north”, the strongly Hakka-influenced area stretching from the rugged borders of Xinbei south to Taichung 台中 that includes Taoyuan, Hsinchu 新竹, and Miaoli. Perhaps by staying here awhile I will find opportunities to explore more of this part of Taiwan 台灣 and fill in some blank spots on my personal map.

The Quirky Temples of Lotus Pond 蓮池潭

Xuan Wu on Lotus Pond
A mysterious warrior on Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung.

Lotus Pond 蓮池潭 is a manmade lake in Zuǒyíng 左營, Kaohsiung 高雄, widely known for its quirky assortment of pagodas, pavilions, and temples. Earlier this year I made a short stop at Lotus Pond on the way to the old walled city of Zuoying a little further south. I like exploring temples in Taiwan 台灣 but was mildly concerned Lotus Pond would be a bit too touristy for my liking. Turns out I had nothing to worry about—and my brief tour of the southwest side of the lake was memorable and fun.

The Old Walled City of Zuoying 鳳山縣舊城

Gongchen Gate 拱辰門
Outside the north gate to the old walled city. This gate is formally known as Gongchen Gate 拱辰門.

A month ago I embarked upon a day trip to Zuǒyíng 左營 to check out the famous temples and pagodas of Lotus Pond 蓮池潭, one of the main tourist attractions of greater Kaohsiung 高雄. Afterwards I wandered over to have a look at the old city of Zuoying 左營舊城, originally built in 1722 by the ruling Qing Dynasty in response to the many uprisings that regularly plagued Taiwan Prefecture 臺灣府.

Nishinari and The Way Things Ought To Be

Tsutenkaku and the moon
Tsutenkaku and the moon.

Nishinari is widely reputed to be the most run-down, crime-ridden, and dangerous part of Osaka—and about as close to a slum as you are likely to find anywhere in Japan. This may explain the preponderance of cheap backpacker accommodation in Shinimamiya, the area just south of Shinsekai 新世界 (literally “New World”), where I stayed for a single night last May before returning to Taiwan 台灣. Although I only had a few hours to work with I couldn’t resist wandering around Nishinari to see just how bad it was. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the Downtown Eastside, the festering carbuncle of Vancouver, which I had wandered through on many occasions.

Scenes From Everyday Life in Wenshan District

Street art in a Wenshan back alley
Street art in back alley Wenshan.

I lived in Wénshān District 文山區, Taipei 台北, from October 2013 until April 2014 when I moved south to Tainan 台南. In those six months I captured a great many photographs from in around the area, the finest of which were previously shared on this blog in a post about the urban landscape of Wenshan. It was my intention with that post to portray southern Taipei from the vantage point of mountaintops, hillsides, river banks, and pedestrian overpasses, with only a couple of shots from street level. This time around I would like to zoom in and share scenes from everyday life in Wenshan.