Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 dominated the most read topics in Features over the past year. What made our COVID-19 coverage unique, especially in the early days, is that we explored it through first-person accounts of contracting the virus or being quarantined after returning from abroad.
Surprisingly, other most-read stories included the Black Lives Matters movement in the US and how it impacts the global discusson on race. Two stories here examine what impact the movement has for Taiwan.
Whimsical stories also had a strong showing. Two articles took deep dives into different aspects of local culture: how magic folk beliefs remain a powerful part of people’s lives and the proliferation of assholes hiking in the mountains of Taiwan. Read on to see what most interested our readers this year:
Photo courtesy of Bertholeen Ngo Penda
10. COVID-19 tips and reminders for non-Taiwanese (April 1)
It should be no surprise that this should appear on the Top 10 because many expats were confused about issues such as navigating the 14-day quarantine and what to expect if you contract COVID-19. The 10 tips given by contributor Douglas Habecker are as relevant today as they were eight months ago.
Photo: Noah Buchan, Taipei Times
This was the only wire story that made it. It lays bare China’s will to exert influence, not just over Chinese citizens in China, but also against permanent residents and citizens of other countries.
8. In Palau, no coronavirus — or tourists (April 15)
Contributor Katy Hui-wen Hung explores how COVID-19 impacts tourism in the Pacific island chain and how Taiwan, which has diplomatic ties with the country, helped test the first suspected case of COVID-19. She also quashes the myth that bat soup is responsible for spreading the virus.
7. Government unwilling to vouch for own rules (July 8)
While everyone at home and abroad were justifiably praising Taiwan for its handling of the global pandemic, contributor Steven Crook asks the government why permanent residents were not entitled to the first round of Triple Stimulus Voucher Program, NT$3,000 vouchers handed out to Taiwanese citizens and their spouses (after first paying NT$1,000). For many, it was much less about the money, which for the individual consumer wouldn’t amount to much, and more about the symbolism. But it seemed Steve’s message, and that of others who complained vocally, got through because permanent residents were eligible for the vouchers when the second round came out. If you see Steve, be sure to buy him a beer. Or three.
Photo: Noah Buchan, Taipei Times
6. Why Black Lives Matter in Taiwan (June 12)
It may seem strange that an issue, which on the surface doesn’t impact Taiwanese, would receive so much attention, but as staff reporter Han Cheung shows, the George Floyd killing at the hands of police became a space within which people could discuss the broader issue of racism and discrimination. It also showed that many in the expat community were united in their belief that racism remains an unresolved problem in the US.
5. COMPLAINT: A-holes on Taiwan’s mountains (Sept 3)
Photo: Douglas Habecker
Technology has brought with it incredible convenience, but also some annoyances. Taiwan has some of the best hiking anywhere is Asia — and you don’t have to leave Taipei to experience a taste of it. With COVID-19 essentially halting international travel, I spent a lot of time climbing local mountains — and learned that plenty of assholes do too. Drawing on the work of a US philosopher, I come to terms with these people polluting the mountains with their noise.
4. Blackface rears its ugly face in Taiwan (June 4)
From time to time, people being insensitive to minorities and history make headlines. Everybody remembers the Nazi cosplay at Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School in 2016 or the Long Live Nazi spaghetti (納粹萬歲麵) found on a restaurant menu in 2014. Blackface continues to be an issue, as Han Cheung writes in his story about how Super Entourage wanted to perform a rendition of the wildly popular “Ghana Coffin Dance,” a meme that took the world by storm. The group deleted the performance a few days later following a massive outcry from netizens.
3. Taiwan: the island retreat (April 21)
The headline pretty much says it all. Seeing that the number of cases in Taiwan remained low, contributor Laurence Marcout on March 15 ordered her son to return from Scotland, where he was doing a one-year exchange program. She then gives a personal account of the 14-day quarantine that he endured at home alone and the impact it had on their entire family and community.
2. How a snack protects Taiwan’s tech (Nov. 19)
This was a nice distraction from COVID-19, the protests in the US our increasingly dangerous neighbor across the Taiwan Strait and all the other problems facing the world this year. Taiwan managed to handle the pandemic better than most countries, with barely any disruptions to daily living. And yet, in such a technologically-advanced society, one that reveres doctors, lawyers and engineers, the folk belief in magic remains pervasive. In this story I explore how a savory snack, called Kuaikuai, is widely used by IT professionals as a talisman or amulet to protect their tech, tracing similar practices back to antiquity. Today, the snacks are also used as a kind of messaging: politicians cite them when campaigning for public office and police officers place them in their precincts to protect them from criminals. The fact that magic remains so prevalent makes living in Taiwan endlessly fascinating.
Long-term expat Douglas Habecker gives a first-hand account of his experience catching coronavirus and then spending two weeks at a hospital in Taichung. The moving account discussed his symptoms, the great care medical staff provided him and his experiences with his neighbors after he returned home.
As one Facebook user wrote: “Thank you for taking such care in describing your dance with the coronavirus. It is a testimony to the medical professionals, your friends and those who were behind the scenes that wanted you to recover.”
Benjamin Chen (陳昱安) didn’t know how intense a hackathon could be. “You literally work non-stop. You don’t eat breakfast, you don’t eat lunch because you really need to finish the product,” the 10th-grader from Taipei American School says. “You feel the adrenaline rushing… It’s refreshing, I was like a new person.” Chen became fascinated by these round-the-clock competitions to create technology or software products, and participated in 10 more before he decided to start one that focused on his twin passions of economics and technology. He says there are many hackathons that delve into social and environmental issues, but few have
The town of Baolai (寶來) is located along the Southern Cross-Island Highway in the upper reaches of Kaohsiung City. After suffering a devastating setback at the hands of Typhoon Morakot, the town’s tourism industry is finally showing signs of recovery. While the town itself has many commercial hot spring offerings for tourists, the adjacent Baolai River also has at least five different wild hot springs available to those with a more adventurous spirit. SHIDONG AND WUKENG Just before entering the town of Baolai, make two right turns to reach the bridge across the Baolai River. Immediately after crossing this bridge, there is
Jan. 25 to Jan. 30 It was the beginning of the end when Dutch sergeant Hans Jurgen Radis walked out of Fort Zeelandia and surrendered to the besieging army of Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功, also known as Koxinga). The Dutch had already been trapped in the fort for nine months, and they were sick, hungry and in despair. After one defection during the early days of the siege, Dutch commander Frederick Coyett set up checkpoints around the fort’s perimeter, in what is today’s Tainan. Radis told his bunkmate he was going hunting, but by the time they realized where
“Well, if it cannot happen this year because of the pandemic,” Tourism Bureau Director General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰) says at the end of his interview with Cycling Shorts last week, “at least we’ll be ready to promote it next year.” Chang is discussing the Year of Cycling Tourism (自行車旅遊年) that has long been planned for this year. He has spent the previous 30 minutes introducing the various infrastructure projects undertaken over recent years and those proposed for the next few. Essentially, the Bureau, under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), has been pulling together resources from a wide range of