About This Blog

I have been living in Taiwan since 2000. The first ten years in Taipei – a huge, crowded, polluted and busy Asian megalopolis. In 2010 I moved to Taitung in south-eastern part of Taiwan, a much quieter place with no industry and many scenic spots. In this part of the island most people make their living by farming tropical fruit – mainly annona (a central American fruit that, for some reason, has become very popular in Taiwan), but also bananas, mangos, pineapples, coconuts, papayas, litchi, passion fruit, Chinese dragon fruit, coffee and others. Sadly, many young people have left the region as farming seems much less attractive than studying and working in Taipei’s and Kaohsiung’s air-conditioned offices.

Although Taitung is barely 400 km south of Taipei, in terms of climate the difference between the two cities is enormous. Taipei is a rather unpleasant place to live – very hot and humid in summer, cold, miserable and rainy in winter. In contrast, southern Taiwan is much more comfortable – in winter it’s usually 5 – 8°C warmer than in Taipei, while in summer it’s often slightly cooler than in northern Taiwan (although, admittedly, still very hot). Taitung, sitting at 22°45′30″N, is just south of the Tropic of Cancer, which means that its coastal regions fall into the tropical band and the higher altitudes of southern Taiwan receive enough rain to form part of Asia’s tropical rain forest. The climatic difference between Taipei and Taitung is clearly reflected by the vegetation – for example, unlike coconut trees in Taitung, those in Taipei never produce any fruit and many of the tropical plants grown in the south are completely absent from the north.

Ever since moving to Taitung I became fascinated by the enormous variety of tropical plants that grow around here. Although many of them were imported to Taiwan from other tropical regions, it is still very satisfying to see the plethora of shapes and colours the nature has created, adaptable enough to survive in the world of competing vegetation. The fauna of this populous island is also unique, with many endemic species still surviving against the odds, due to ever expanding farmland and industrial areas. Of course, one really needs to be in the least populated part of the island to see the many treasures. Taitung and its surroundings is possibly the best region to still enjoy the animals of the once pristine island. As an example, hardly a day goes by during which I don’t see a snake or two. Sadly, they are almost always dead – killed by vehicles or ignorant people. Still, the fact that there are 50 species of snake on an island slightly larger than Portugal, gives an indication about the richness of the animal life here.

Besides Taiwan, I also enjoy travelling around the region. My recent visits to Malaysian part of Borneo and northern Australia provided enormous insight into the flora and fauna of other tropical parts of Asia and gave me plenty of material to write about. Although I am neither a botanist nor a zoologist, I do enjoy learning and always research the plants and animals I come across in my backyard on during my travels. Nevertheless, I’ll probably make some mistakes from time to time, perhaps mislabeling a plant or incorrectly identifying an animal. In these cases I’ll be grateful for any corrections – either in the comments section or by email as noted below. Otherwise I do hope that you will enjoy the original articles and photos from tropical Asia.

Ladislav Bodnar ladislav@tropics.nu

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