When Becky Liu (劉樾) visited the Plum Pavillion (梅亭) in Taipei’s Beitou District (北投), it reminded her of her great-grandfather, who, like the pavilion’s former resident, former Control Yuan president Yu You-jen (于右任), was an expert calligrapher.
“Through this connection, I can tell [tourists] about calligraphy in our culture and what it represents,” she says.
This is one of the personal experiences that local tour guides will relate during Sunday’s Beitou, Hundred Years a day walking tour, organized by Like It Formosa (來去福爾摩沙), formed by a group of twenty-something locals dedicated to a variety of walking tours all conducted in English.
Photo courtesy of Like It Formosa
“We want our guides to not read from a book but to incorporate their personal experiences and serve as storytellers and performers,” says founding member Julia Kao (高于晴). “We want to present to foreigners the perspective of local young people.”
She adds that visitors have joined the same tour multiple times just to hear different tour guides share their experiences.
Formed early last year, Like It Formosa started out last September and October with two pay-as-you-want weekly walking tours of Taipei — a historic one every Thursday that takes people through the old Taipei neighborhoods on the western end, and a modern one every Sunday that shuffles through the bustling East and Xinyi districts from Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall to 44 South Village (四四南).
They launched their first paid tour in November — an LGBT Taipei one that took visitors to locations such as an LGBT bookstore and Rainbow Sauna (彩虹會館), a 24-hour gay establishment. Sunday’s Beitou tour is their first time taking people to northern Taipei, and they have more tours planned for later this year.
These young Taiwanese aren’t just looking to show foreigners what Taiwan is about. They say it’s also a self-exploration of what it means to be Taiwanese, which is a question local students especially struggle with when asked to present their culture while studying overseas.
“When I went on the tours myself, I felt pretty impacted,” Kao says. “To locals, it’s a chance to get to know Taiwan all over again.”
“When we pass by the Presidential Palace, we can discuss the protests and democracy in Taiwan,” Liu adds. “In Ximen, we can talk about Japanese influence on the city. Through exchanges with tourists, we can in turn ponder deeper questions about where we live.”
In the space of a few decades, Taiwan has changed from a place where characterful old buildings were thoughtlessly bulldozed to make space for wider roads or bigger homes, to a society much more likely to cherish physical reminders of the past. The authorities have poured money into restoration and renovation work. According to a Nov. 10, 2020 post on Tainan City Government’s Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage Web site, in the first nine months of 2020, the Ministry of Culture’s (MOC) Bureau of Cultural Heritage approved 13 such projects in the southern city, setting a total budget of NT$281.6 million.
Writing about environmental issues can be dispiriting, but the outlook isn’t entirely bleak. Here in Taiwan, in recent decades, public attitudes to the environment have certainly changed for the better — even if citizens’ daily behavior doesn’t always reflect the priorities they express in opinion surveys. In this country as elsewhere, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) make it easier for concerned citizens to support and participate in conservation work. Nonprofits have played a key role in several successful environmental projects, including the two profiled below. SOCIETY OF WILDERNESS AND SHUANGLIANPI Protection of habitats and natural ecosystems is a core objective of Society Of Wilderness
June 27 to July 3 “The Sacred Tree (神木) is on fire!” Tseng Tian-lai (曾添來) didn’t believe it at first as it was pouring rain, but he sensed the urgency in the caller’s voice. The Alishan Forest Railway station master stepped out and saw smoke billowing from the direction of the beloved 3,000-year-old red cypress. The tree was struck by lightning in the afternoon of June 7, 1956, and a fierce blaze raged inside the eroded trunk, requiring nearly 200 people 20 hours to put it out. The authorities were especially nervous, according to a 1997 Liberty Times
The greatest worry Ma Yu-chuan (馬幼娟) has about death is not properly saying farewell to a loved one. And she should know. The practising Muslim recalls that she had a falling out with her father when she was in college. One night he tried to make amends, but she angrily rebuffed him. He died in a car accident the next day. “Why do we fear death?” is among the many questions posed in the first corridor at the Museum of World Religions (世界宗教博物館) in New Taipei City, where Ma serves as director. There is no correct answer, she says, but