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Pingtung: Expect the Unexpected (Part one of two)

One of these days the good folks in the Taiwan Motto Making & Sloganeering Bureau will listen to me and adopt Taiwan: Expect the Unexpected as the official slogan of Taiwan tourism. For now I’ll just have to appropriate it as the title for this story about three surprise-filled days I spent in Pingtung, Taiwan’s southernmost county. I’d come with a group of Internet Media professionals from Malaysia and Hong Kong. Like me, my fellow journalists knew Pingtung primarily as that part of Taiwan where Kenting is, and as such were mostly expecting beach oriented activities. I’ll get to the sea kayaking in a bit, after listing a few of the activities that I didn’t expect to encounter out of the way: I did not expect to find myself riding a four wheel ATV across sand dunes in a chunk of Taiwan so remote it might well have been the…

There’s never been a better time for GLBTQ travelers to come to Taiwan. Arguably Asia’s most progressive country (Taiwan’s military struck down sexuality-based discrimination way back in 2002),…

We Never Made it to Jiufen

Having overstayed its welcome here as in much of the rest of the northern hemisphere, Summer is finally over in Taiwan. The forecast is for heavy rain over most of Northern Taiwan through the weekend, which means movies and Netflix, and maybe a wet bicycle ride. So it’s a good thing I made the most out of last week’s four day weekend by spending much of it outdoors, bringing a friend from Singapore on a personalized tour of Taipei including a food tour of the Raohe Night Market, a tea hike through Maokong, and the all-night art, music and culture party that was the 2017 Nuit Blanche Taipei festival. We were also supposed to go to Jiufen, only we never made it. We tried, though. We had every reason to go. I’d not visited Jiufen for several years, and my partner Stephanie had never been. Tony, like most Singaporean men,…

Customizing travel, or Infinite diversity in infinite combination

As an exceptionally warm and eventful September gives way to a (presumably) cooler October, I find myself reflecting on two important events of the past month, events that are on the surface unrelated but that I, in true gonzo journalist tradition, plan to not merely connect, but to do so in a way that makes sense. The first of the two events is that September has seen MyTaiwanTour busily creating customized tours for a series of bloggers, journalists and other influencers visiting Taiwan as part of an ongoing program sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. The program, called Live Like a Local, differs from standard FAM trips (of which I’ve done plenty as a travel writer) in a few ways. Rather than coming as a group, the influencers are all visiting individually. And Instead of being carted around on group tours, they’re traveling independently, charting their own courses based on…

Waterfalls and Sky Lanterns: A day tour to Shifen and Pingxi

Today’s excursion brings us to the charming towns of Pingxi (平溪) and Shifen (十份). Located in Taiwan’s Northeast about an hour from Taipei, both are former Japanese era coal mining towns that today offer rich histories, quaint streets offering a good feel for old Taiwan, and of course, great street food.  We start our journey in Shifen, a pretty little town surrounded by mountains and bisected by train tracks. Like Pingxi, Shifen is known for lanterns, and souvenir shops selling lanterns of all varieties abound among buildings dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Shifen’s most famous attraction (outside of the town itself) is the Shifen Waterfall (十份大瀑布). It’s an easy and lovely hike from the town to the falls on a well-trodden path passing over an old bridge and past train tracks dating back to the days when trains were used to transport coal in the…

Sky High-Climbing Up to the Roof of Taiwan: A Wushe to Mt. Hehuan Excursion

Text: Rick Charette Photos: Chen Cheng-kuo Mountain scenery of Mt. Hehuan On a three-day adventure along the Central Cross-Island Highway in the Nantou County section of the soaring Central Mountain Range, I visit Wushe, an indigenous town best known for being at the center of the last great uprising against the Japanese during the 1895-1945 Japanese colonial period; enjoy the eagle-view scenery and ranch experience at mountainside-hugging Qingjing Farm; revel in the grand experience of being at eye level with scores of peaks above 3,000 meters at Wuling, Taiwan’s highest paved-road point; hike and walk high-mountain trails; lose myself in a sunrise perched on a spot over 3,200 meters up; feast on the culinary inventions of mainland China’s Baiyi people; visit a Baiyi settlement; watch Taiwan’s Sediq tribe members weave cloth the traditional way; watch thrilling horse-riding acrobatics performed by an outer Mongolian troupe; visit local museums, … Let’s be…