An extended trip allows time to explore the main island
During an extended stay in Taiwan, I took the opportunity to do some traveling. My journey began in Sanzhi, a rural town in northern Taiwan. Hometown of former President Lee Teng-Hui, Sanzhi is also home to the Li Tien-Lu Hand Puppet Historical Museum.
Next, I visited Tamsui, which sits at the confluence of the Taiwan Strait and the Tamsui River. On Tamsui’s famous Fisherman’s Wharf, people enjoy watching the sunset or taking the ferry to Bali, a cute little town on the left bank of the Tamsui River.
In the Tamsui River basin, I also visited Guando, situated at the junction of the Tamsui and Keelong rivers. A major stopover site for migrating birds, the Guando Nature Park provides an important wintering and breeding ground for many species of wildlife. Located nearby, the beautiful Guando Bridge, a 165-meter-long through arch bridge, spans the Tamsui River and links the Bali District to the Tamsui District.
Located in southern Taiwan, Meishan, in Chiayi, has Taiwan’s longest suspension bridge, the Taiping Sky Bridge. The 281-meter-long bridge (nearly 922 feet) has an elevation of about 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level. Most people travel there by bus or car, but some hardcore cyclists ride through 36 hairpin curves on a scenic mountain road to get to the bridge.
Neighboring Chiayi, Guanziling in Tainan is best known for its unique hot springs. Here you can experience natural mud spas year-round. I spent weeks there with my brother’s family, enjoying the annual hot spring festival. Then I headed east, to visit a rural mountain plot of land in Hualien. A pastor from Bellingham, Washington, and a group of volunteers helped to establish the Gen-Sing Garden there on donated land. Now it’s a spiritual training center for the Christian Born Anew Fellowship. I stayed a while to learn about the center’s missions and life at the garden.
Returning to southern Taiwan, I spent the rest of my time in Kaohsiung City, which is next to Taiwan’s largest seaport. Commercial cargo ships travel some 5,400 nautical miles from the Port of Kaohsiung to Seattle. The Taiwan Navy Fleet headquarters and naval academy are also located at the port. Shipbuilding is one of the city’s key industries.
Near the port, the Great Harbor Bridge is the longest horizontal swing bridge in Asia. With soft music playing in the background, each 90-degree swing takes only five minutes. When fully open, the bridge provides a 40-meter-wide ship channel.
During the final part of my journey, the Taiwanese government issued a Level Three Alert to control the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, people limited their outings and gatherings, masked up and scanned a QR code to notify the Taiwan CDC when they entered stores, stations, markets, and other establishments. That made it possible for contact tracing to reduce the spread of the virus. In two months, the number of cases decreased from 200-plus to around 10. Faced with a vaccine shortage, the government and citizens worked diligently to protect against viral infection.
This article originally appeared in the Bellingham Sail & Power Squadron/16 newsletter, Bell Signals.