TAIWAN: FROM SUNRISE AT ALI MOUNTAIN TO SUNSET IN KENTING

Dome of Light in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

By Kirstie Yu
Staff Writer

My previous photojournal invited the reader to traverse Taiwan through its cuisine. There is so much else Taiwan has to offer, including impressive architecture, wondrous nature, and many simply unforgettable sights. I wanted to capture Taiwan’s most enticing tourist spots outside of its capital Taipei in this sequel.

Ali Mountain (阿里山)

Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區) in central Taiwan is best known for its cloud sea and sunrise, which we woke up at 3 a.m. to catch. Although the sunrise usually attracts throngs of tourists, we were fortunate enough to arrive slightly before a typhoon warning closed off the mountain road. We were thus able to watch the sunrise from a perfect vantage point without having to fight too many other tourists for the best viewing spot.

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We took the first train of the day to the sunrise viewing location. The Alishan Forest Railway is a 53-mile network that was originally constructed by Japanese colonialists in 1912 to transport wood down the mountain. The trains themselves are famous as well, and there is even an Alishan Forest Railway Garage Park (阿里山森林鐵路車庫園區) for retired trains in the city of Chiayi (嘉義) at the base of the mountain.

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Xitou (溪頭)

Also in central Taiwan, the Xitou Nature Education Area (溪頭自然教育園區) was established for research purposes for the National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學). President Chiang Kai-Shek famously posed for a photo with college students on the bamboo bridge at University Pond (大學池) within the recreational area. I found the bridge itself to actually be quite steep.

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Within the Forest Recreation Park (森林遊樂區) are many unique natural creations, including a tree in the shape of a heart (pictured below) and a 3,000-year-old cypress tree called Shen Mu (神木) or “God Tree.”

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Within Xitou is a small Japanese-inspired Monster Village (妖怪村) built in 2011 that has eccentric monster statues, red lanterns and hidden secrets throughout. The village, which contains a wide array of themed souvenir shops and restaurants, is eerily pretty when the lanterns are lit up at night.

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Jiufen (九份)

Jiufen, only an hour away from the heart of Taipei by bus or train, attracted attention in the late 1800s due to the discovery of gold in the region. With the vibrant and bustling Jiufen Old Street (九份老街) and hillside town speckled with houses, it is not hard to understand why director Hayao Miyazaki drew inspiration from this town for his film “Spirited Away.”

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Yilan (宜蘭)

The Lanyang Museum (蘭陽博物館) showcases the geography and history of Yilan county in northeast Taiwan through its Mountains Level, Plains Level, and Ocean Level permanent exhibitions, as well as other special exhibitions featuring the culture of Yilan. Inspired by the cuesta rock formations in the region, the architecture mimics a rock or mountain rising from the earth.

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Tainan (台南)

In southern Tainan, remnants of Dutch and Japanese rule in Taiwan still remain in the form of preserved architecture. Fort Zeelandia (熱蘭遮城) was built in the early 1600s by Dutch settlers and still stands today as a museum filled with history about Dutch rule in Taiwan. It was fascinating to see something so European in Taiwan.

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Formerly a warehouse owned by British trading company Tait & Company established in 1967, the Anping Treehouse (安平樹屋) has since been taken over by banyan trees that have turned the warehouse into a fairytale-like building due to years of neglect. Roots and branches snake along every wall, and trails and stairs were built in 2004 to allow visitors to explore every inch of the mysterious building.

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Kaohsiung (高雄)

Public transportation is extremely convenient, accessible, and cost-friendly in Taiwan. Taiwan’s transportation includes the MRT (mass rapid transit) a.k.a. metro system in Taipei City and Kaohsiung, train, HSR (high-speed rail) that runs from Taipei in the north all the way to Kaohsiung in the south), city bus (a low-cost comprehensive bus network), Taiwan Tourist Shuttle, and taxis galore. Formosa Boulevard Station (美麗島站) is the central station where Kaohsiung MRT’s two lines meet, and it houses the Dome of Light (光之穹頂), the largest glass work in the world.

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Kenting (墾丁)

Kenting’s unbridled natural beauty and year-round tropical weather always attracts visitors to Maobitou Scenic Area (貓鼻頭), the southwestern-most tip of Taiwan, and Cape Eluanbi (鵝鑾鼻), the southeastern-most tip. I saw the bluest cerulean ocean water I’ve seen in my life at Maobitou, which means “cat’s nose.”

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Eluanbi Lighthouse is called “The Light of East Asia” because it is supposedly the brightest lighthouse in Asia, or at least in Taiwan. Eluanbi means “goose’s beak.”

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The Kenting Night Market (墾丁大街) bustles with life after dark with locals and tourists alike eager to snack on traditional Taiwanese food, win prizes in a variety of games, and buy souvenirs from the numerous vendors after a long day at the beach.

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Finally, one cannot leave Kenting without going to Guanshan (關山), a seaside hill that was named one of the top sunset spots by CNN last year. I have been to Guanshan to see the sunset twice, and the colors and aura of the sunset are never the same each time. Pictures do not do the sunset justice, so this definitely must be seen in person when visiting Taiwan.

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All images by Kirstie Yu, Prospect Staff Writer

VOYAGE TO THE MOTHERLAND: A LOOK AT INDIAN CULTURE AND HISTORY

Lotus Temple in New Delhi

By Param Bhatter
Staff Writer

Every few years, my family and I travel back to India to visit all of my cousins and relatives who live there. This winter break, I decided that I should spend more time learning about my cultural heritage, which stems from my North Indian roots. I decided to visit two separate cities, New Delhi and Jaipur. The former is where I was born and the latter is where my family originates from.
This photo journal displays some of the rich history, religion and culture that can be found in India today. From the palaces of Maharajas and Maharanis (kings and queens), to the Hindu and Muslim relics throughout the city, and the crowded streets with cultural crafts and food, India has much to display.

New Delhi

The largest city in the north of the country, New Delhi is also the capital of India. Due to its proximity to a Pakistan, there is rich Muslim culture found throughout the city and its relics, even though many citizens are still Hindu.

The Lotus temple, which was constructed in 1986, is probably one of the most recent landmarks to be built in the city of New Delhi. It is actually a Baha’i temple, and one of the largest of its kind. As indicated by its name, the temple is designed in the shape of a lotus flower, which represents divinity and spirituality in Indian culture.

Qutb Minar is one of the oldest standing towers in India, measuring about 73 meters in height. Built from red sandstone and marble in the year 1192, this tower is actually an Islamic monument covered with Arabic inscriptions. This tower is the main attraction of the Qutb complex, which over 500 years ago was a religious sight where many people of the Islamic faith would gather and pray. Most of this site has been damaged over time from pollution, and the tower is the only building in the complex that has ever been restored.

This giant statue found in Karol Bagh stands over a 100 feet tall on the outskirts of the Chatarpur Temple. The god shown here is Hanuman, who is famous in Indian folklore and from one of the most celebrated religious texts of Hindu culture. Legend has it that he once lifted an entire island on his finger to aid a dear friend in need of a lifesaving herb from that island. Hanuman is the deity that is often worshiped to protect against trouble from evil spirits.

The Red Fort, though no longer very red due to the pollution found in New Delhi, is located at the heart of the city. It was the center of residence for the Mughal emperors for a good 200 years, until it was put out of commission in the mid-17th century. It was built by one of the most famous Indian emperors of all time, Shah Jahan. Even though the Mughals were Muslim, the architecture of the Red Fort reflects Hindu and Persian cultures as well.

This central suburb in New Delhi is known as Chandni Chowk, one of the most famous markets in India. The streets are full of traffic from sunrise to sunset, occupied by motorcycles, cars and rickshaws. Specifically, the market focuses on textiles and electronics, with many great street food vendors all around. Unfortunately, I got the stomach flu from eating the street food here, which I probably shouldn’t have done as a foreigner. Even though the food was amazing, it was definitely not worth the trouble!

Jaipur

Jaipur is located in the state of Rajasthan, one of the most beautiful states in all of India. Although mostly desert, the state has been home to many palaces and emperors, who have created many monuments. The city of Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, and just happens to be the home of the type of Indian that I am, which is Marathi. My family and I spent a couple days here touring the many palaces and temples that were built in India, many of which were the oldest of their kind.

This palace, surrounded by water on all sides, is known as Jal Mahal. Closed to tourists, this is the closest you can get to actually entering the building. It is located in the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur, and is built out of red and pink sandstone. Unfortunately, the pollution in the air limits the view of the surroundings, but without the pollution you would be able to see that the temple overlooks one of the largest dams in India.

Built in 1799, Hawa Mahal is one of the most famous landmarks in the city of Jaipur. Its translation in English means the Temple of Wind. The reason it was given this name is all the tiny holes and windows in the structure, which can be seen above. These holes would let wind run through them and resonate, causing sounds to be made that were noticeably audible. Originally, the Hawa Mahal was built as a way for queens to view public processions. Because they were not allowed in public but still wanted to watch, the King built this giant temple with many windows that the Queens could look out from.

This view of the city of Jaipur is taken from a tall watchtower upon a mountain close to the city. The big structure towards the left of the picture is one of the most famous attractions in Jaipur, the Amber Fort. Built in 1592, the Amber Fort was the home of the rulers of Jaipur for over 300 years. Many members of the royal family, as well as the military took residence here, while overlooking the city.

Of course, you can’t visit India without riding an elephant! For about $15, you and a friend can take a 30 minute ride up to the top of the Amber fort. This was definitely a highlight of my trip, and for many other tourists as well. In fact, the government keeps over a 100 elephants to make daily trips up and down to the fort, showing how popular this attraction really is. Everyone feels great to be standing tall and treated like royalty I suppose, even if only for half an hour!

Perhaps one of the most interesting architectural pieces that I encountered on my trip is this room within the Amber Palace known as the Sheesh Mahal. Translated to the Mirror Palace, there is a famous legend behind the building of this room. Supposedly, one of the kings who lived in the Amber Palace, was very fond of one of his Queens. He told her that she could have anything she wanted, and she demanded a piece of the moon. Knowing that this was impossible, the king built this room, which has thousands of tiny mirrors to amplify the moonlight on a starry night to one place in the room, so as to ‘capture the moon(light)’.

Just through exploring these two cities, I learned many things about my rich cultural and religious heritage. I encourage foreigners to visit these places in India, as well as other site around the country, especially if they are interested in the stories of kings and queens, Middle Eastern religions, and amazing architecture. I myself can’t wait to return to India sometime soon to explore other cities.

All images by Param Bhatter, Prospect Staff Writer

MAKING ENDS MEET IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL

By Rebecca Benest
Staff Writer

While Spain and Portugal seem to be two European countries in deep economic trouble, it takes a second glance to notice that anything is awry. Spain has an unemployment rate equal to that of Great Depression era United States (over 50 percent of the working class under 25 are unemployed), and yet the nightlife still flourishes while the number of homelessness in Madrid—or any part of the Iberian Penninusla for that matter—is equal to Los Angeles. The culture of these Mediterranean countries provides an incredible support system for those out of work, making it common for the younger generation to live with their parents and grandparents. Sometimes entire families survive off the earnings from the social security of one individual in the household. Taking a closer look, however, the economic crisis is still incredibly present in the lives of everyday Spaniards and Portuguese.


In the fall of 2013, the basureros, or garbage men, of Spain went on strike. After the Spanish government privatized the trash system, private companies in control of Madrid’s waste disposal proceeded to fire almost 50 percent of the basureros and halve the pay of the remaining workers. While the strike lasted more than two weeks, trash built up to the point that this scene, taken on the corner of one of Madrid’s main streets, was a common sight.


During the basurero strike, the streets never got cleaner than this. The woman in this photograph wearing mourning clothes, holds a sign imploring pedestrians to help her feed her family. Walking through the streets, I was constantly shocked by the number of men and women who constantly asked me for spare change in a paper cup. As the economic crisis worsens, people who once had steady incomes and nice houses are suddenly found on the street without any other venues, confused as to how they got there.


This homeless man, who I met on a bus outside of Lisbon, Portugal, wandered through the city playing his guitar for money. He was completely blind, but told me people were always wiling to help him. Arriving in Madrid, I initially thought there was a more widespread blind community, but was later told there was just better infrastructure to encourage them to get jobs and leave their homes on a daily basis.


Street performers like this man from Coimbra, Portugal are an incredibly common sight. Performing on the street is a basic way to make a living, with almost every instrument from the accordion to the cello. Additionally, the red words behind him, which translate to “your voice” in Portuguese, were a part of a large system of anti-capitalism graffiti all over the walls of the city.


This little boy, from the small city of Evora, Portugal, played the violin on the street with his father. While street performers are a common sight, this little boy stood out due to his young age. As he took a break, his father walked through the crowd asking listeners to drop tips into a hat.


This woman often sat along Gran Via, one of the main shopping streets of Madrid. You could pet and take pictures with her pig in exchange for a few coins in the wood container. Interestingly enough, things like this were common, and I saw several homeless people using pigs and other animals to entertain passersby for money.


This sign was taped to a building in Barcelona, which was previously a residential complex and was in the process of being turned into rental homes for tourists. Seasonal tourism is a problem for those living in Mediterranean beachside communities. Tourists come in by droves during the high seasons, taking away any sense of traditional culture and leaving these community economically deprived during the low seasons.


I found this while wandering the backstreets of Madrid late one afternoon. It translates roughly to, “I’m still looking for work,” a phrase that completely captures the economic trouble that faces young Spaniards. Jobs are so rare that many university graduates are willing to take work that pays incredibly low wages or nothing at all. For many, the ability to get a job depends mainly on whom you know. Despite the appearance that all is well in Spain and Portugal, there is still a sense of despair that seeps into daily conversations with many people about family and future.