Photographs and Information about Taiwan's Culture, Nature and People by Rich Matheson





Dane’efu is excited about the launch

On February 24, Taiwanese people around the world celebrated when Ang Lee, who was born in Taiwan 58 years ago, won a second Best Director Oscar, this time for Life of Pi.

Now, on May 7, 2013, comes a new website introducing the scenery, cultures, history and cuisines of Taiwan. Life of Taiwan ( has more than 150 pages of information about the East Asian island.

Tuntex Skytower (85 Tower), Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Tuntex Skytower (85 Tower), Kaohsiung, Taiwan

“International arrivals have been growing for the past decade, and we think Taiwan’s tourism industry will enjoy a big lift thanks to the success of Life of Pi, which was made right here in Taiwan” said Mark Sinclair, founder and CEO of Formosa Services, the Taiwan-based startup behind Life of Taiwan.

“We’re providing high-end tailor made tours targeting professionals and their families. There is no safer place to travel than Taiwan and as everyone who has been here knows, the Taiwanese are a very special people.”

The website covers everything from Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes and their festivals to the island’s diverse and vibrant religious culture. Gourmands can read about Taiwan’s tastiest foods, while outdoors types will discover that Taiwan has more than enough mountains, rivers and dive sites to keep them busy, plus hot springs where tired muscles can be soaked at the end of a tiring day. And if they’re not already aware of Taiwan’s treasures, birdwatchers and other kinds of ecotourist will find the website’s description of Taiwan’s spectacular natural diversity engrossing.

Chihsi plaque bearers. Kai Lung Temple, Jung Shan Road, Tainan City, Taiwan

Chihsi plaque bearers. Kai Lung Temple, Jung Shan Road, Tainan City, Taiwan

The website is gorgeously illustrated with photos taken by Michelin and Asian Geographic photographer Rich J. Matheson. Rich specializes in images of religious events and Taiwan’s aboriginal groups; his work can be seen at

The text was written by Steven Crook, author of three books about the island – Keeping Up With The War God (2001), Dos and Don’ts in Taiwan (2010) and Taiwan: The Bradt Travel Guide (2010). Steven is currently updating his Bradt guide for publication in spring 2014. Links to many of his published articles can be found at

Sandimen, Pingtung County, Taiwan

These Aboriginal women have just heard the news

For further information feel free to contact us on or call +886 6 2088173.


Podcast Interview with Reality Abroad

I was recently interviewed by Alan for Reality Abroad, a travel website aimed at helping travelers see a country from an insiders viewpoint. He asks questions about Taiwan and photography. The podcast can be listened to or downloaded at Images of Taiwan-Reality Abroad.

Moonworld landscape, Erliao, Tainan, Taiwan

Moonworld landscape reflected in blue pond, Erliao, Tainan, Taiwan

Taiwan Nature Project

Nature Taiwan
Nature Taiwan

Sunrise on Hike to Yushan South Peak

Taiwan’s stunning geographic features and spectacular biodiversity is often overlooked…

Tainan Foreigner Assistance Center Grand Opening

I attended the Tainan Foreigner Assistance Center’s grand opening last Monday. Wasn’t expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised with the lovely space provided for the office headquarters. They must have some cash behind them. Let’s see what they can do.

Worth checking out for the free publications, I was particularly pleased with ‘The Splendor of an Old City.’ Sumptuous pictures and good English text.

Here is their website: Amazing Tainan It’s rough but there is some info there.


Pulling down the red paper. Robert Dawson-Tainan Bulletin Chief- far left and Mayor center. (more…)

Updated Website

Pawl from randomized design has updated my website:

(click pic to get there)

Still under construction, but all the pics are there.

South Peak (again)

Sorry if you have a slow browser. This is the only way I could get a sense of scale in the picture.

Update: I’ve linked it. If you want to see a larger size, click on the picture.


This is obviously a composite picture. it is also a stitch of three frames. for every frame i took several pictures of their progress, then overlaid the pics and punched a hole through using photoshop masks. It was actually a tough scramble when altitude (3800M+), tiredness (we got up at 4AM after a fitful sleep), remoteness (had we slipped and cracked something we were several hours from Paiyun) and all other excuses aside, it was pretty steep. I think you can see it in their expressions. At the top we were quite jolly, but we just wanted to get down this stretch safely. I kept trying to get Richard to pose for me, but he would hug the wall, making it look less steep than it was. There is a different version (just a straight three photo stitch) down below the wildflower post.

South Peak of YuShan


Richard (Barking Deer Tours) scrambles down a section of the south peak while Norman watches from above.

Hiking Ku Ha Nuo Shin Shan


Ku Ha Nuo Shin Shan


(and Guan Shan)

from Taiwan’s South Cross Island Highway


pics’r comin.

by: Richard Matheson

Taiwan is an incredibly steep island, going from sea level to 3952m and back down to sea level again in the implausible span of only 140km at it’s widest. Although this is the extreme of the island, it is safe to say that the mountains of Taiwan are steep. For me, the trail climbing from the South Cross Island highway to Guan Shan epitomizes the steepness of Taiwan. It is however, well worth the climb.

My girlfriend and I set out from Tainan on motorcycle a little after eight and arrived at the Guan Shan trail head on the South Cross Island highway before noon. Unfortunately, with two people and two hiking bags weighing down my poor old Sanyang 125, that was the last time it climbed Highway 20. The engine now spews thick black smoke and a mechanic suggested that buying a new motorcycle would be cheaper than repairing it. Perhaps a preferable way of getting to the trail head is by a public bus that runs from Tainan in the morning and arrives at Tienchih around noon. Two friends left Tainan by bus at 7:20 and arrived minutes before us. From Tienchih the walk to the trail head is only a couple kilometers and takes about 45 minutes at a leisurely pace, but a ride will likely be offered before reaching the trail. Although the trail receives little typhoon damage, the trail head was devastated in last summer’s typhoons and two new bridges that cross the river will take you to the trail head.

The 1.6km from the 2404m trail head to the 3026m hut on the ridge is some of the most sustained vertical trail that I have hiked anywhere. Oddly, on this typhoon lashed island, it is one of the trails that has shown the least changes through the years that I have been hiking in Taiwan. This durability in the face of avalanche threat is because at least 80 percent of this trail is stairs. The stairs, often raised off the ground and sometimes embedded in the ground, prevent the constant tread of feet from making deep water ruts and denuding the mountainside of stabilizing vegetation. The stairway also accounts for the steepness of the trail. Whereas a stair-less trail would slowly switchback up the mountain, there are places that these, sometimes gargantuan half meter steps, relentlessly plough straight up the mountain.

The trail is gorgeous; it shoots up through verdant moss covered old growth forest and near the top, only in the last few hundred meters before the hut, levels off into a waist height field of grass and bamboo thickets. From the hut you can continue to the 3666m Guan Shan or branch off to the lesser 3114m Ku Ha Nuo Shin Mountain. The trail to the Guan Shan Peak is at times quite difficult and there are steeper sections where ropes are necessary. Being late in the afternoon, we opted for the 1.7km to Ku Ha Nuo Shin Shan rather than the 3.8km and 500m higher Guan Shan. This pleasant trail first drops and then rises up to a final tree covered ridge that traverses to the peak.

The hike up the mountain was a pleasure but the real treat awaited us at the top. Arriving around five o’clock, we didn’t have much of a view in any direction and were expecting to be in darkness within the hour. In spite of expectations, the hour brought a spectacular clearing of the cloud cover that lasted us through the night and well into the next day. Furthermore, the light of the full moon illuminated our camp so well that we didn’t need flashlights. The peak has just enough flat space for a cooking stove and two tents and the views of Taiwan’s great peaks is one of the finest I have yet seen in Taiwan. Ku Ha Nuo Shin Shan is a great vantage point for viewing Yu Shan, Guan Shan, and Hsiang Yang Shan. The view of Guan Shan bathed in the cool light of the moon against a cloudless backdrop of stars was a great reward for the grueling walk up the stairs earlier in the day.


Published in the China Post in 2002, Friday April 12th.

Re-published in China Posts magazine Discover Taiwan

What’s changed since 2002? Well, not much but…

*My girlfriend is now my wife.

*Permit-less hiking seems to be a thing of the past. All the mountains we used to go up without a permit now require permits and this is strictly enforced. The first time I went up Yu-Shan in 1991 we were welcomed into the hut overnight, fed and sent on our way up. Since that highly pleasurable experience it has become increasingly harder as the years go by. We began being turned away at the entrance, so would hike around the back via Lu Lin Shan and be on our way. But the last time we snuck around Lu Lin we met some policemen at the saddle who asked for our permits. One of the officers was Bunong(same aboriginal tribe as my wife) and he told my wife to wait until they had gone and continue up (my wife doesn’t need a permit because her ancestors hunted in the area), but we were going to the east peak and were worried about other non-Bunong officers so we decided not to continue. I will probably be going up next week for my first ever hike with a permit!

*I will let Barking Deer Tour Company sort that out for me.

More info:

*Guan Shan (關山) is 3,666 m.

*The hike up Guan Shan is considerably more grueling but well worth the effort as well. There are some great camping spots between the hut and peak in lovely old forests, but there is no water. Rainwater is collected at the ?? hut now (as well as solar energy), but you would still be advised to bring your own.

*I once hiked Tainan to Peak to Tainan in a day with a guy named Donald who had forgotten his glasses up there the week before. Even had to push my bike for a while because I ran out of gas. Not advised if you are not in good shape and/or young. Never found the glasses, and yes, I just wrote that ‘cause I’m kind of pleased with myself for having done the hike in a day.