Nearly three centuries ago, the Dutch stormed the shores of Taiwan and seized a military bastion near the beach in Tainan as their command center. They called this place "Fort Zeelandia," (遮蘭堡) and put the finishing touches on it in 1634, replete with mounted cannons, high brick walls, and a lookout tower to keep an eye out for aboriginal or Taiwanese insurgents.
Meinong (美濃), around 40 kilometers northeast of Kaohsiung City, is special for two reasons. First, it is a bastion of the Hakka ethnic minority. Second, it retains some traditions that have disappeared from other, more industrialized parts of Taiwan.
Taiwan is littered with evidence of geothermal activity. There are dozens of hot springs, steam vents like those in Yangmingshan National Park, and, strangest of all, a number of mud volcanoes.
Looking out at the sparkling harbor - bejeweled and exquisitely beautiful like a newly wed bride - I feel glad to be here for my after dinner sojourn despite the ominous urge to rest and retire after a tiring day.
Though my Kaohsiung born friends advocated endlessly, it took me more than three visits before I finally managed to get to the riverside, and for that I have only myself to blame. One glance at the city that looked as concrete, busy and urban as Taipei, and I lost the urge and inclination to venture out, fearing the riverside would be as dull as Taipei.
Located where Highway 20 (the Southern Cross-Island Highway) and Highway 21 (which links the lowlands to the very scenic aboriginal district of Sanmin) meet, Jiasian has long been popular with tour groups. On any given weekend, busloads of visitors stop to taste taro-flavored ice cream and other local products, or to visit the fossil museum on the outskirts of the town.
Traditionally, trips to Taiwan's west coast have involved the consumption of seafood and the appreciation of the sunset. The Shuangchun Coastal Ecology Park in Beimen Rural Township - a thinly populated district in the northeastern part of Tainan County - offers quite different attractions.