Friday, July 15, 2005

Mapping Taiwan

I grew up in Taiwan, and I wanted to show Cathy but had a hard time locating my old stomping grounds on Google Earth. I finally found a Taiwan map site and can show Cathy my old neighborhoods.

It is no surprise that the satellite photos available for Taiwan via Google Earth are not as detailed as North America, given the political tension across the Taiwan Strait. But there's always a way, though, and here's how you can map addresses on Taiwan.

Mapping Taiwan is not nearly as convenient as the way Google Maps works. None of the major portals I've used (Yahoo!, Google, MSN) have mapping programs for Taiwan, although Mapquest has coarse international maps including Taiwan. I say coarse because you have city-level detail, but not street-level detail. But, there are two related web sites that allow you to map Taiwan addresses.

The main site is in Traditional Chinese and allows you to find the address by county, city, township, village and street address. This is the most precise search, although the limitations are obvious for English-speakers, and a free (though tedius) registration is required for street-level detail.

The secondary site is in (broken) English and simply allows you to search by number, street address and city/county. Surprisingly, no registration is required for the English site and street-level detail is available. The biggest problem is figuring out how to properly spell a location name; is it Kwaisan or Gueishan? I found the Taiwan Postal Service's Enlgish web site very helpful in this regard, as you can just search for post office locations by postal code to arrive at the proper village, township and city/county.

In order to locate my high school, Morrison Academy, I looked up the English address and got this result (#136-1, Shui-Nan Rd., Taichung, 406, Taiwan). By zooming out on the map, I was able to locate the general region in Google Earth, and locate the school here.

For more rural regions, spelling becomes a real issue. I looked up my parent's postal code in order to correctly spell their address (my letters have always gotten there, but I think my next letter will arrive sooner). In the end, my Google Earth pictures are as follows:

Taiwan, with the relative position of my high school and where my parents live, as well as the region around my high school and the city that formed me as a young man.

My parents live close to the major internation airport of Taiwan. I used to practice Nun Chucks in the field southwest of my parent's house, and my dad & I spent a lot of time walking the park behind our house.

Obviously, I've got more to show Cathy, but this post will give my old alma mater's new students something to ponder.

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