Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taiwan for Culture Vultures: Kindle version now available

Taiwan for Culture Vultures: Taiwan's Historical, Religious, Artistic And Architectural Highlights, the downloadable guide I wrote for Guidegecko in the second half of last year, is now out in kindle format.

Monday, May 14, 2012

On the trail of the Purple Crow (Travel in Taiwan)

Taiwan's butterflies have yet to attract the kind of international attention the island's birds now enjoy. But just as birdwatchers come to seek out species seen nowhere else in the world, butterfly enthusiasts who arrive at the right time of year can see a remarkable natural phenomenon: The annual 250km migration of purple crow butterflies (紫斑蝶).

To the untrained eye, Taiwan’s four Purple Crow species are hard to tell apart. Wingspans range from 60mm to 75mm. All four appear dark brown when stationary, but eye-catching patches of blue and purple become visible when they open their wings.

Researchers and volunteers are working hard to better understand the lepidopteran treasures that flutter in Taiwan's fields and forests. Travel in Taiwan recently met up with some of these dedicated individuals for a whistle-stop tour of two purple-crow hot spots – Linnei in Yunlin County (雲林縣林內鄉) and Kaohsiung City's Maolin District (高雄市茂林區).

Approaching Linnei by train, it's the hills inland of the railway line which grab your attention, and we soon learn that topography is one reason why this little township is a bottleneck along the purple crows' migration route. Prevailing winds and the availability of food also influence when and where the butterflies move, but in recent years a stretch of National Freeway No. 3 in Linnei has become famous for the vast number of purple crows (sometimes 500 to 1,000 per minute) who fly over it early each spring. In 2007 - in a move reported by the BBC, National Geographic Channel and other global media - the authorities closed one lane of the freeway and erected 4m-high fencing along one side in an effort to cut the number of butterfly road casualties...

The complete article is in the May/June issue of Travel in Taiwan magazine.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Traveling in Taiwan for Muslims

I've just received my copy of this new 104-page booklet issued by Taiwan's Tourism Bureau in conjunction with the Taiwan Visitors Association. I wrote half of the 17,000-word text, the bulk of which is no different to other guides to the island. There are descriptions of tourist attractions like Jinguashi and Lugang - plus also details of halal restaurants and information about mosques. Before working on this project, I had no idea there was a masjid in Tainan (it's located less than 5km from where I'm working at this very moment).

When I mentioned to friends I was helping write a guide for Muslim tourists, a common response was incredulity: Several people said, quite reasonably, that eating would be a problem for observant Muslims because so many Taiwanese dishes include pork. Nevertheless, I think publishing this booklet makes sense. Even though it doesn't contain a lot of fresh information, it sends a signal to potential visitors in Muslim countries that Taiwan welcomes then. Now that Muslim tourists aren't especially welcome in the US and some other places, it's a market that may well show lot of growth.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writing about Thailand on

Since our three-week trip to Thailand over the Chinese Lunar New Year (the sixth time I've traveled there), I've been contributing to, adding pages about elephant riding, bamboo rafting, getting around on a rented motorcycle and other topics. I would happily contribute more, but I think spending time on projects for which the financial outcome is certain and guaranteed is more important than working on revenue-sharing webpages, even though the latter can be a lot of fun.

I seldom blog for the sake of blogging, but the Thailand trip did prompt me to note some differences between Taiwan and Thailand which concern Western tourists.