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

A SUMMER IN SWITZERLAND

By Natasha Azevedo
Contributing Writer

This is the first article in our 2014 Week of Photo Journals: Changing Perspectives. Check back each day this week to see more beautiful photography and travel accounts from UC San Diego students.

A Sunny Day on Lac Léman

A Sunny Day on Lac Léman

The Swiss Alps frame Lac Léman (commonly known as Lake Geneva) on a bright July afternoon. Trains in the southwest of Switzerland run along the lake, making stops at small lakeside cities such as Montreux in the Canton of Vaud. Known for its charming jazz festivals and scenic walkways, dozens of docks line the French-speaking city, serving as ports for local fishermen and sailors. I captured this photo on a three-hour walk along the lake with friends from Moldova and Ukraine.

Sunrise at Rochers de Naye

Sunrise at Rochers de Naye

During a summer internship in Switzerland, I hiked a well-known mountain called Rochers de Naye in the Swiss Alps. While tourists normally ride a train to the top of the mountain, my fellow interns and I decided instead to hike for six hours to reach the top before sunrise. With an overly-eager Romanian friend leading us and a single iPhone flashlight to light the way, my four friends from Egypt, Germany, China, and Thailand joined me as we hiked through forests and rocky cliffs in the pitch black. After a few bloody knees and breaks to watch the stars, I captured this photograph at the summit just in time for the sunrise.

Fribourg, Switzerland

Fribourg, Switzerland

After taking a train to Switzerland’s capital I decided to make a pit stop at a small city called Fribourg. This quiet city has dozens of picturesque scenes such as the one captured here. Houses are built into the mountains and charming wooden roofs sit atop shops lining the Sarine river. The city is small enough to walk through on foot and provided a nice contrast to the bustling streets of Bern as the town seemed less privy to tourists. Rather, it exuded authenticity and quietness; a hidden gem along Switzerland’s borders.

Caux Palace at Sunset

Caux Palace at Sunset

This photograph captures the Caux Palace, often referred to as the ‘Mountain House.’ It is situated near the top of the Alps overlooking Lake Geneva and is said to have inspired the castle in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Every summer it hosts a conference for Caux: Initiatives of Change where global leaders, diplomats, NGO coordinators, and international economists gather to discuss global conflict and cooperation. A subsidiary of the United Nations, the European Union-affiliated organization hosts a seasonal internship where 36 interns from across the world participate in global leadership programs. I had an opportunity to live and work as the youngest intern and only American at the Mountain House for the summer and spent evenings trying to capture the beautiful sunsets near the castle.

Big Ben at 6:18

Big Ben at 6:18

This image captures one of London’s most iconic landmarks. During one summer in the UK, I captured the clock tower surrounding Big Ben in Westminster. I took this photograph from a boat on the Thames at dusk. The clock tower is one of England’s largest tourist destinations.

Bern at Bird’s Eye

Bern at Bird’s Eye

After climbing 300 steps up a small tower in Bern’s largest cathedral, I was able to capture Switzerland’s capital in a new light. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the city was once the workplace of Albert Einstein and is the home of the attractive yet controversial “Bear Parks.” Bern is a primarily German-speaking city and has been ranked as one of the world’s top cities for a positive quality of life.

All images by Natasha Azevedo, Prospect Contributing Writer