Hagay community protests against impacts of Baling Dam

Hagay community protests outside Executive Yuan

Members of the Atayal community of Hagay (哈凱部落) protested outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei today. They called on the government to provide permanent housing to replace the temporary housing they have been living in for ten years. They also called on the government to take responsibility for the impacts of the construction of the Baling Dam in the catchment of the Shimen Reservoir.

The Hagay community originally lived in a remote location in Fuxing Township of Taoyuan County (桃園縣復興鄉). About twenty years ago the community decided to move to a new location near the Baling Bridge (巴陵橋) on the Northern Cross Island Highway to make it easier for the children to get to school. Continue reading

John Seed in Taiwan

Paiwan artist gives carving to John Seed

I have just spent ten days accompanying John Seed on a trip around Taiwan. John is an environmentalist from Australia well known for his efforts protecting rainforests around the world and also as a philosopher of Deep Ecology. I met John at the Taoyuan Airport on the morning of 28 March. We then took the high speed train to Kaohsiung where we met Dr Lin Yih-ren who arranged John’s visit to Taiwan.

Wutai in Pingtung County

After lunch in Kaohsiung we went to visit the Qimei Community University and then went on a tour around the Meinong area. By the time night fell we were high in the mountains of Pingtung County staying at the Rukai village of Wutai. The photo at the top of this post shows Paiwan artist E-tan presenting one of his works to John. We met E-tan at the Autumn Moon Cafe (秋月e店) just above the town of Sandimen. The cafe is an amazing spot and is filled with great artworks.  Continue reading

Thai New Year in Taoyuan

Thousands of Thai people gathered at the Taoyuan Stadium today to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year. The festival is also known as the Water Festival and often includes riotous water fights. It was a beautiful sunny day for the event in Taoyuan, although the water throwing was rather tame in comparison to what goes on in Thailand.

songkran-taoyuan-alms

The event began with the monks chanting blessings before accepting alms. Here the people are lined up ready to offer food to the monks.

songkran-taoyuan-monks1

Later there was more chanting by the monks on the stage. Continue reading

The ancient trees of Lala Shan

View of Lower Baling and surrounding mountains on the way up to Lala Shan

On my bike ride across the Northern Cross Island Highway I passed by the turn off to Lala Shan (拉拉山), just after Baling (巴陵). On Saturday I returned to the area again, this time via motorcycle, and visited Lala Shan. It is just as well that I didn’t make the detour on my bicycle. While the horizontal distance from Lower Baling is not so great, the vertical distance is. The road goes up and up and up. The photo above shows the view from about half way up.

Lalashan ancient tree number one

The air was noticeably cooler up at altitude. Eventually we reached the car park and then set out to walk around the stand of ancient cypress trees. The trees are numbered and the signs also show the height, girth and age of the tree. Continue reading

Cycling the Northern Cross Island Highway

scenery on northern cross island highway taiwan

I set off at six o’clock on Monday morning to ride across the Northern Cross Island Highway. This road, which Taiwanese call the Bei Heng (北橫), begins at Daxi in Taoyuan County and goes across the mountains to Yilan. I stopped to eat breakfast somewhere on the road between Xindian and Sanxia. Once I rode through Sanxia the worst of the traffic and urban ugliness was behind me. The scenery on Route 7乙 between Sanxia consisted of small farms with bigger mountains off in the distance.

David on bridge cycling the northern cross

At Sanmin I joined the Route 7 proper passing by Fuxing and the Xiao Wulai waterfall which I had visited before. I stopped on the Luofu Bridge to take a few photos. Continue reading

Taoyuan Airport Skytrain

Sky train at the Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan

I've ridden the HSR, MRT and TRA, but there was still one train system in Taiwan that I had yet to ride. It was the skytrain at the Taoyuan International Airport. I was at the airport today and had some free time so I thought I would take a ride and take some photos too. 

Skytrain travels between terminals at Taoyuan Airport, Taiwan

This little two carriage train shuttles passengers between Terminals One and Two of the airport.

tracks of the Taoyuan Airport sky train

The cars are self-guided running on concrete tracks, much like the Muzha line of the Taipei MRT. 

passengers on the skytrain at Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan

And here is a view inside the carriage. As the journey between the two terminals only takes a couple of minutes it is barely necessary to sit down.

More photos in the Taoyuan Airport set at flickr.  

INEB Conference in Taiwan

poster for 2007 INEB Conference in Taiwan

Back in May when I visited Bangkok I met Ajarn Sulak and he informed me that the INEB* Conference would be held in Taiwan in September. I offered to help and soon I found myself busily involved in the planning and organisation of the conference. 

The conference took place from 31 August to 2 September 2007 at Buddhist Hongshi College (佛教弘誓學院), near Zhongli. A four day study tour visiting Buddhist organisations around Taiwan took place after the conference. 

media at the INEB press conference at Keng Tu Yuan in Taipei

The first formal event of the conference was a press conference. This was held at the Keng Tu Yuan (耕讀園) in Taipei on 29 September. The media contingent was small but included BLTV (人間電視) and the Apple Daily (蘋果日報). The panel of speakers at the press conference was made up of Ven. Chao Hwei (釋昭慧法師) and Ven. Shing Guang (釋性廣法師) of Hongshi College, Dr Yo Hsiang Chou (游祥洲), chief coordinator of the conference, Mr Zhang, the owner of Keng Tu Yuan, and myself. I am not sure if any reports appeared in the Chinese media, but the China Post and Taipei Times both carried articles. 

Phra Taweesak and Phra Santithammarangsi register for the 2007 INEB Conference at Hongshi College

The conference bought together about 60 participants from 15 different countries. Most arrived on 31 August before the opening ceremony was held in the afternoon. It was great for me to be able to meet some of the people I knew from when I used to work in Ajarn Sulak's office in Bangkok. Phra Santithammarangsi, the monk on the right of the picture above, attended a course I taught at the Wongsanit Ashram in 2002. 

Ajarn Sulak with Ven Shing Guang and Ven Chao Hwei at Hongshi College on 31 August 2007

It was a great honour to be able to welcome Ajarn Sulak to Taiwan. The last time Ajarn visited Taiwan was in 1998 to receive the Unrepresented Nation and People Organization (UNPO) Award. He is pictured above with Ven. Shing Guang and Ven. Chao Hwei shortly after arriving. 

Opening ceremony of the INEB Conference in Taiwan, 31 August 2007

Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), Secretary General of the Presidential Office, was a special guest at the opening ceremony. She gave a short speech about her personal experience of Buddhism. The other speakers were Ven. Chao Hwei, Prof. Hsia Cheng-hua (夏誠華), President of Hsuan Chuang University (玄裝大學), Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa and Dr Yo Hsiang Chou. 

The theme of the conference was "Engaged Buddhism: from Social Welfare to Social Change". This is a point that Ajarn Sulak frequently emphasizes. He says simply offering charity to the poor is not enough. There is a need to challenge the status quo and overcome structural violence. As I was busy with working behind the scenes I didn't really have the chance to participate in the proceedings of the conference. 

At the closing ceremony Ajarn Sulak announced that Ven. Chao Hwei would become the fourth patron of INEB. The three patrons of INEB are His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and Ven. Somchai Kusalacitto representing the three main Buddhist traditions. Ajarn Sulak said he felt it was very important to have a bhikkhuni as patron for more balance. I don't think there could be anyone better qualified than Ven. Chao Hwei to take on this role. I felt it was a very special moment.   

I must express my sincere thanks to Ven. Chao Hwei and all the staff and students at Hongshi College. They were the most wonderful and generous hosts. A report on the study tour will follow soon.  

* International Network of Engaged Buddhists (國際入世佛教協會)

# More photos of the conference at flickr. Update: Also see the photos on the Hongshi College website.

Taoyuan train trip

Banqiao HSR Station in the early morning

I got up early this morning and caught the 7:25 high speed train from Banqiao to Taoyuan. I didn't really want to go to Taoyuan for any special reason. I just thought I would take another ride on the high speed train and then return via the regular train.

Platform of Taoyuan HSR Station

Travelling from Banqiao to Taoyuan the train passes through a number of tunnels and in about ten minutes the trip was over. The next time I take the high speed train I must go at least as far as Taizhong to get a longer experience. The Taoyuan HSR Station, like Banqiao, is also underground.   

High speed train at Taoyuan HSR Station

I took this photo of the train in Taoyuan Station. Notice the dirty marks on the front. They are probably a result of hitting birds.

High Speed Rail Taoyuan Station

The station was eerily quiet. In a few years there will be a rapid transit line here with connections to Zhongli, the airport and Taipei. Maybe there will be a bit more action then. I had breakfast at MOS Burger and wandered around the station for a while taking photos. 

Taoyuan HSR - Taoyuan International Airport bus

The photo above shows the bus that runs between the HSR Station and the Taoyuan International Airport. I took a different bus to the centre of Taoyuan City. There were buses to the airport, Taoyuan and Zhongli. They leave every hour or so, which matches the current frequency of trains on the HSR. 

Shop of dairy in Taoyuan

It cost NT$30 for the trip to Taoyuan by bus. There were only two passengers when the bus left the station, but it picked up quite a few passengers along the way. I was astounded when the bus passed a huge shed full of Fresian dairy cows. I didn't manage to get a good shot of the cows, but I caught the shop next door to the dairy.

Local train of TRA in Taiwan

The Qujian Che (區間車) of the Taiwan Railways is a stark contrast to the sleekness of the high speed train. The railway station in Taoyuan was buzzing, a stark contrast to the almost deserted HSR Taoyuan Station. The return journey to Banqiao was standing room only.