National Geographic : 1950 Feb
The National Geographic Magazine Hengchuli , Hungtou Railroads Roads-- FORMOSA o STATUTEMILES Theodora P. Thompson and Irvin E. Alleman Shaped Like a Fish Ready for the Pan, Formosa Has a Backbone of Rugged Mountains Facing Asia are fertile plains, but on the east coast the mighty spinal range comes down to the sea. There a one-lane highway clings to the cliffs. After four mainland capitals had fallen to Communists in a year, Chinese Nationalists made Taipei their capital in December, 1949. About 240 miles long and a maximum of 85 miles wide, Formosa contains fewer square miles than Connecticut and New Hampshire, but three times their combined population. in Japan, had decreed a postwar change-over from the Japanese left-hand rule of the road. As we rolled through the business section in a pedicab, a Taiwanese newsboy stopped us. Briefly and furtively he revealed an English-language newspaper printed in Hong Kong. This he wanted to sell-for four dol lars, Taiwan (80 cents, U. S.). We declined the doubtful bargain. Later we learned this was bootlegged news. Mainland English-language papers had been temporarily banned. Across a wide plaza from our hotel stood the huge red-brick Jap anese-built Govern ment Building, accu rately bombed during the war but repaired. Now Chinese troops were quartered there, and it bore a new name translated for me as "Long live Chiang Kai shek Hall" (page 150). Daily Dozen at Dawn From this direction, soon after dawn every day, came staccato barks in Chinese. The Generalissimo's troops were taking calis thenics. The hotel, tucked in a corner of a park full of flowers and waving palms, provided excel lent Western-style meals often topped with sweet Formosan pineapple, watermelon, or bananas. When I asked the waiter the name of the blooms that decorated the din ner table, he replied, "We call 'Smells-good at-night flower.' " To me it smelled good any time. Beds were equipped with mosquito nettings, and all night hordes of hungry hunters whined just outside in peevish frustration. In the morning when I reached for my clothes a small cloud of them flew out of the closet. Water was a problem. More often than not, when we turned the tap, none emerged. City water pressure, the management ex plained, was now insufficient to reach the second floor. The hotel had a pump, but it was often out of order. We became adept at bathing from buckets-in a country whose rushing rivers have vast power potentialities. Shortly after noon skies usually clouded and produced at least a squall. "At this time of year," observed an Ameri can friend, "you're wet with sweat in the morning and wet with rain in the afternoon."