Taiwan earthquake

Beyond broadening the mind, travel has a remarkable ability to forge profound connections to distant places. Through firsthand experience, you can cultivate a deeper sense of empathy and compassion towards the people and cultures encountered along the way.

Before my visit to Taiwan, I admittedly knew little about the island. And if it had remained that way, I would have paid little attention to events there last week. However, the warmth and hospitality of people I met left a mark on me.

This time last year, I’d been travelling around the country and was on the verge of going to Hualien, which was close to the epicentre of last week’s earthquake on the east coast. When I saw photos of the damage, the places were instantly recognisable. Suddenly, this was not a remote tragedy but something viscerally real. Thirteen people have died and over a thousand injured.

It reminded me when, just before reaching Hualien, I had seen the effect of a landslide on a hike in Alishan. It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that there could be an earthquake at any time even though, just a few days before the hike, I’d gone to the Earthquake Museum!

As if to drive the point home, I saw a report about two missing Australian hikers who were following the footsteps of me and thousands of others who’d hiked the Shakadang trail in Taroko Gorge. The gorge is now closed because fallen boulders and debris have blocked roads and paths.

I contacted Jianyuan, who’d graciously shown me around the eye-opening Earthquake Museum and other parts of Taichung. Being on the west coast, he was unharmed. We reminisced about my trip and noticed that it had been 25 years since the last major earthquake in Taiwan. If it had been 24 years instead, it would have been in the middle of my trip. Jianyuan summarised the fragility of life, observing that the earthquake “reminds us that things change and we should value every moment”.

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