X Gen and Under

Ximen District, Taipei, Taiwan

20190111-P1010305.jpg
20190111-P1010311.jpg

We had some time before leaving Taipei to visit the young and hip Ximen District. The streets were busy with young people sipping drinks, shopping for shoes and hanging out with friends.

This area is also known for its street art and we found it very skilled and talented. If you ask Google “Where is the best street art in Taiwan?” Google will supply several blogs and articles about the Ximen District.

I like to collect photographs of street art. I am always surprised by what more I see after I leave the street. Street art is rarely viewed straight on and I think most of it is viewed in passing.

I really liked Taiwan and it is worthy of more time. I think I’d like to return one day. It is a great stopover for so much of Asia, and it is worthy of a return trip.

Here are some of my favorites from the Ximen District, our last stop in Taiwan.

20190111-P1010342.jpg
20190112-P1010357.jpg
20190111-P1010345.jpg
20190111-P1010321.jpg
20190111-P1010324.jpg
20190112-P1010360.jpg
20190112-P1010358.jpg
20190111-P1010330.jpg
20190111-P1010356.jpg

There Are Parks, And There Are Parks…

Taijiang National Park, Tainan, Taiwan

The boat ride through the Green Tunnel, Tainan, Taiwan

The boat ride through the Green Tunnel, Tainan, Taiwan

In America, when we think of a National Park, we envision Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, or maybe the Everglades. Big skies, expansive landscapes, spectacular views, open spaces, clean water, clean water, quiet sounds, trails, and solitude.

But National Parks in other countries are not necessarily like our National Parks in America.

20190119-P1010575.jpg

My National Park hiking companion and I took a day to visit one of Taiwan’s National Parks. Taijiang National Park in Tainan. It is a young park and was established in 2009. We knew to not expect what we have back home, and we found a unique park experience.

An early bus took us several stops to the National Park Headquarters. A large temple greeted us, and we needed a few minutes to decipher where was the Park?

Not much of the map is translated into English.

Not much of the map is translated into English.

Our homework taught us about the “Green Tunnel Tour” through the mangroves, showing the local aquatic plants and animals. Crabs, birds, butterflies and assorted plantlike were the focus of the boat ride.

We bought our tickets for the Green Tunnel Tour and for about an hour we were inflicted with constant and consistent narration. We didn’t understand a word. It was clear that we needed to duck a few times to avoid getting struck by a mangrove branch, but otherwise, it was incomprehensible and annoying. Picture the jungle ride in Disneyland with loud Chinese narration, trash in the water, but no alligator.

20190119-P1010572.jpg

I love mangrove areas, but I’m not sure this ride was a good representation of a mangrove ecosystem.

The tour did have a moment or two where the mangroves were reaching to meet one another.

The tour did have a moment or two where the mangroves were reaching to meet one another.

IMG_7606.jpg

Having enough noise from the narrated boat ride, we decided to strike out on our own and walk along an unmarked road. That is where we found peace and quiet and a more authentic view of the wetlands of Taiwan. We walked along the edge of the park with Google maps as our guide. I reminded myself that sometimes the best experiences are the ones that are not in a designated area. Sometimes exploring means “let’s just walk along this road and see what is out there.”

Piles of clam and oyster shells, holding ponds for aquaculture, an old man fishing over the bank, small huts, planted fruit trees, and guard dogs greeted us in the quiet of the wetlands. Here was working water. People living their lives in their environment. We found a sign that showed that the road we were walking was the border between the National Park and agriculture.

20190119-P1010576.jpg
20190119-P1010573.jpg

After our walk, we went for lunch at a nearby food court.

Some of he worst food I have eaten while traveling was at an American National Park (Ok, Kings Canyon National Park.) So we have low expectations, even in Taiwan.

There were no english menus, so we got help. “Specialty, egg and oyster and vegetables.” Sounded harmless. The omelet was cooked with bean sprouts and the strangest gooey partially fried starchy blob, all covered in some kind of gravel. It truly challenged my texture gag reflex. We agreed that it was one of the strangest foods we have ever eaten. We ate it, but it was strange.

IMG_7609.jpg

Sometimes I think we don’t know when to quit. We bought two more tickets for a second tour on a larger boat out into the more open waterway. This one had a very loud speaker and a tour guide that, I swear, did not take a breath the whole time. I guess we didn’t learn our lesson the first time.

20190119-P1010593.jpg

On the ride, we saw dogs on a beach, men fishing, several hotels, a grey heron, overcast skies, and non-stop Chinese narration. By the end of the ride, our ears were ringing, and we were tired.

20190119-P1010594.jpg
Not a mangrove leaf, but an interesting leaf.

Not a mangrove leaf, but an interesting leaf.

The tours were annoying, but I found it encouraging that these boat rides were popular. There was a long line for the Green Tunnel and a large crowd on the open water boat. People liked them. There was something about being in the wetlands, and on the water that attracted people. It wasn’t a shopping mall, or a museum, or a sports event. It was just a place where people were living next to wetlands, and people liked it.

If a park connects people with the environment, it is a good thing. If it takes a dramatic landscape or a constant narration, it is the relationship with the environment that makes an area worthy of the title National Park.

20190119-P1010567.jpg

Urban Art Renewal

Pier 2, Central Park, The Dome of Light, and Outgrowing in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

When my skilled and knowledgable travel partner and I left the Puget Sound, the big news story was “Viiadoom.” The highway 99 viaduct in downtown Seattle is being removed. Today’s Seattle Times reports that the Seattle City Council approved $160 million tax on downtown property owners for a new waterfront park.

I have also seen waterfront renewal in San Francisco, Vancouver, Canada, and my old hang out Eureka, California. While visiting Kaohsiung in Taiwan, I saw another waterfront urban renewal project in progress.

 
A hazy, bad air day in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

A hazy, bad air day in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Pier 2

20190115-P1010379.jpg

One of their top attractions listed for Kaohsiung is the art district Pier 2. Kaohsiung is looking to change its waterfront areas from areas of industry to areas of people, culture, and art.

20190115-P1010380.jpg

When we first arrived at the waterfront, it was mid-morning, and we had the place to ourselves. There are large murals on the sides of the buildings, small art incorporating pipes and building support structures, and there was free standing art along the central walkway. It is a nice place to stroll and take selfies, which is a common activity in Taiwan. I like to collect photos of street art to use as a screensaver on my television back home. I found a lot to photograph.

Selfie in the mirror.

Selfie in the mirror.

20190115-P1010400.jpg
IMG_7517.jpg
20190115-P1010402.jpg
20190115-P1010447.jpg

Many of the old waterfront warehouses were now housing local art, jewelry, and assemblage artworks. I can imagine that there are nighttime events that really get the streets rocking. The area isn’t 100 percent occupied, and there is a lot of room for growth, but Kaohsiung is apparently trying to make a friendly and safe place for artists to display new works and a safe place for families.

A dome of chairs.

A dome of chairs.

There were many school groups touring Pier 2.

There were many school groups touring Pier 2.

On one end is new construction, on the other end is a small railway museum and the light rail that wraps around the waterfront and connects with shopping, stadiums, residential areas, and other train systems.

The Chinese Zodiac are surfing dudes.

The Chinese Zodiac are surfing dudes.

Central Park

When you enter the Kaohsiung Central Park, you can tell that they link art with cultural, economic and social progress. As I check out the artwork pieces, including the beautifully designed and re-constructed metro station, I see a lot of effort. There are new pieces and several works that look like they have been sitting there for a while with little or no maintenance. The park demonstrates that it is one thing to make new installations, it is another thing to keep them up to date and looking fresh.

20190116-P1010483.jpg

I find this inscription next to “The Eye of the Future.”

“The Eye of the Future” I found the statement more interesting than the work of art.

“The Eye of the Future” I found the statement more interesting than the work of art.

“Kaohsiung Central Park is in the heart of the city. The overall shape is based on future expectations and hopes of Kaohsiung. The round eye symbolizes flow and changes the city. At night, the flashing dual concentric circles represent the brilliant multi-colored lights of Kaohsiung, sharing a heart with the city and the world. The “Eye of the Future” represents Kaohsiung’s progress, guiding the city’s close connectivity as a compass to greater global involvement.”

It is good to have goals, and I can see that they are still working on reaching their dreams for the future.

The impressive Central Park Metro Station, with large daisy pinwheels in a vertical garden.

The impressive Central Park Metro Station, with large daisy pinwheels in a vertical garden.

The Dome of Light, Formosa Boulevard Metro Station

The Dome of Light, Formosa Metro Station, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

The Dome of Light, Formosa Metro Station, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

The Dome of Light is within the Formosa Boulevard metro station in Kaohsiung. This works boasts that it is “The largest glass work in the world.” When we visited this station someone was playing the piano, and most people weren’t bustling onto the next train, but instead they too were enjoying the art.

Birth, life, death, re-birth, space, oceans, trees, wow, - all towering overhead in vivid colors. The Dome of Life is an impressive 30 meters in diameter with 4,500 glass panels. I like big art. This piece is big, bright, and beautiful.

20190117-P1010543.jpg
20190117-P1010541.jpg

Mona Caron Outgrowing

The Outgrowing mural by Mona Caron was featured by Wallriors Festival, and it was commissioned by City of Kaohsiung, Lingya District. It is a “WOW look at that!” when you first see it.

Previously, I saw a video showing a time-lapse of Mona Caron painting this mural. Flowers and a butterfly rise over industry and missiles while children look above. Beautiful and uplifting in the middle of a busy urban area. ⠀

The 2017 mural stands tall as an inspiring work of art. We looked this one up on the internet and set out to find it. On a busy street with retail shops and residences, her expressions of hope and optimism stand tall.

20190117-P1010527.jpg

It is beautiful, and there is not a speck of graffiti or vandalism in the area. I hope the people love this piece as much as I do. It was amazing and my favorite wall mural.

20190117-P1010521.jpg

Seattle learned that urban renewal takes a lot more than art. Kaohsiung knows that supporting public art is a good starting place. People will learn about the city, they visit art, hang out, and they will have expectations for future respect and development of the town. Kaohsiung has started the process of change, but they will need more than artists to revitalize the waterfront and the downtown.

I like their art, and I wish them the best of progress.

20190116-P1010470.jpg

Going "Au Naturel"

Four Natural Areas in Urban Taipei, Taiwan

Long-tailed Shrike, Guandu Nature Park, Taipei, Taiwan

Long-tailed Shrike, Guandu Nature Park, Taipei, Taiwan

I woke up, and it was still dark. Dang.

20190110-P1010249.jpg

I thought that maybe I was experiencing a jet-lag moment. But I wasn't. 

My ankles and legs were itching and displayed the all too familiar little red bites.  The day before, I had forgotten one my basic rules and now I was paying the price. 

One of my reasons to wander is to explore natural environments.  I like using my long background in ecology, biology, and environmental sciences. My career and personal history allows me to see the trees in the forest and the forest from the trees.

Also, I just like being outdoors. I’m on walkabout in Taipei, Taiwan.

 

While staying in Taipei, I found four different local and accessible ways to commune with Taiwan natural environments.  My trusted travel partner and I are getting out and about using public transportation, and of course on foot, to Daan Park, Guandu Nature Park,  the Taipei Botanical Garden, and the Yangmingsham National Park.

Rather than running from one area to another, we kept a schedule of only one natural area per day. Rushing through a park, even if you see remarkable things, can ruin a day. We slow down to ‘smell the roses’, take photographs, and look for birds.

Manhole covers all over Taipei remind people that the water under foot is used by wildlife.

Manhole covers all over Taipei remind people that the water under foot is used by wildlife.

Daan Park

Stepping out of the metro station at Daan Park, we can see the famous Taipei 101 on the horizon. The metro station features a new shaded and cool (not blazing hot) underground garden. In the park we walked the meandering dirt pathways, past playgrounds, mature trees, newly planted trees and several wet areas full of birds, turtles, and and a shy fish or two. I was very excited to see a dawn redwood, a deciduous redwood native to China.

I don’t get it. What is he photographing?

I don’t get it. What is he photographing?

Daan Park was close to our Airbnb, easy to access, and it is a place where ordinary people do their everyday ordinary things. I don’t think it qualified as a ‘tourist attraction,’ but it is in the guidebooks as a good place for some urban quiet time.

It was fun to watch a gaggle of 15 to 20 male photographers with their big Canon lenses and tripods, photograph the egrets, grey herons and night herons hanging out in the park. What we consider common birds in Washington State were a day in the park for these gentlemen.

The Daan Metro Station on a beautiful day.

The Daan Metro Station on a beautiful day.

We didn’t see many flowers in bloom, but the foliage still made a good show.

We didn’t see many flowers in bloom, but the foliage still made a good show.

The park was busy with people walking their dogs, jogging, taking the kids out to the playground, and enjoying a lovely day. Its the normal kind of stuff we would find in Olympia, Washington, but we were on the other side of the planet.

I like seeing that we all have so much in common, like a day in the park with our family.

Guandu Nature Park

In the middle of the busy urban landscape of Taipei, Taiwan, Guandu Nature Park sits as a natural wetlands with easy access. Facilities include displays, an auditorium, conference room, exhibits, an information desk, a classroom, a cafe, and a gift shop.

A panoramic view of Taiwanese wetlands from the Guandu Nature Park Visitor Center.

A panoramic view of Taiwanese wetlands from the Guandu Nature Park Visitor Center.

It is a landscape with a variety of freshwater and brackish ponds, mudflats, marsh, rice paddies, and woodland surrounded by the busy urban landscape. Their brochure says “The mission this park is to protect these valuable natural resources. Guandu is a major stopover site for migrating birds, especially waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as an important wintering and breeding ground for many species. 250 species of birds haven been recorded at Guandu so far, qualifying this wetland as an Important Bird Area (IBA) recognized by BirdLife International.”

I remember learning about mud-skippers in biology class, the this is the first time I have seen one in-situ.

I remember learning about mud-skippers in biology class, the this is the first time I have seen one in-situ.

I always like to see school groups at nature areas.

I always like to see school groups at nature areas.

This may be a Common Kingfisher, but getting a shot like this is not common for me.

This may be a Common Kingfisher, but getting a shot like this is not common for me.

With the help of the docent, Keith takes a look through the largest binoculars I have ever seen.

With the help of the docent, Keith takes a look through the largest binoculars I have ever seen.

We are not accustomed to the heat and after walking the trails, we hang out in the visitor center and get a fruit smoothy from the cafe. The docent was very helpful in sharing the biggest binoculars in the world. I sat for a while and photographed a common kingfisher who was quite happy just perching on a stick, diving for fish, then returning to the same spot where he started.

Taipei Botanical Park

Even my son enjoyed strolling through the Taipei Botanical Garden.

Patrick and Keith pose for me at the botanical garden in Taipei.

Patrick and Keith pose for me at the botanical garden in Taipei.

The Taipei Botanical Garden was first built in 1896 and the landscape is mature and rich. It contains several exhibit and cultural areas that are managed by the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute. It is also an archaeological relic with 4,500 years of habitation.

20190111-P1010295.jpg

Even though all the vegetation in botanical gardens is planted, the area still has an abundance of native plant life and it becomes a part of the local environment. Birds are plentiful, and photography of foliage and flowers is readily accessible.

The Taipei Botanical garden is also home to a conversation organization which is working to ensure world-wide conservation of threatened plants, the continued existence of which are intrinsically linked to global issues including poverty, human well-being and climate change.
I liked the mature gymnosperms and the Plants in Literature area that featured plants and plant names associated with the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac.

Yangmingsham National Park


I wanted a quite day in to stay in and blog. My favorite traveling birder companion (a.k.a my husband) was eager to get his daily “life bird” so he headed out to Yangmingshan National Park.

My favorite birder counting his accomplishments.

My favorite birder counting his accomplishments.

Keith accessed this National Park by taking a metro train, then a public bus. I don’t think I have ever used public transportation to get to an American National Park. The Park Headquarters had very nice maps in English and the staff also spoke English and were very helpful. They warned him to avoid one of the trails on the map because the cows in the fields were chasing and attacking hikers. It is always good to know your trail hazards.

There were many hikers along the trail that sang out a cherry “hello” in English and Chinese. Keith hiked three trails, each about two miles long and all were well signed, maintained and enjoyable for an afternoon’s hike. He was also happy to see several bird species that he had never seen before.

A waterfall in  Yangmingshan National Park .
Watch out for not just any owl, but a Scops owl.

Watch out for not just any owl, but a Scops owl.

If I could be in two places at once I would have joined him, but I enjoyed missing this outing to stay in and work on my blog.

In the middle of the night, I woke up after being attacked by the local critters. I had forgotten that insects love me and I was walking around with bare legs and no bug repellant. Insects like to eat me. Somehow, I can be with a crowd of people, and no one else would be attacked by insects, except me.  

No more going ‘au naturel’ for me.  I have committed to my new best traveling partner, Ben. He and I have a lot of traveling to do together. There are a lot of parks, and trails, and natural areas to explore and I made a promise to him that I won't forget to bring him along.  

Ben, I won’t wander without your wipes.

APC_0078.jpg