The flight from Jinan to Taipei is about 2 hours. The Island of Formosa or “Beautiful Island” in Portuguese, named by the first European sailors to reach it in 1544.
One interesting resource I accessed prior to going to Taiwan is ytravelblog.com
The weather was tropical and I should have dressed more for summer. Shorts and sandals would have been much more comfortable than jeans and tennis shoes. Daytime was humid and warm. The cloud cover and gentle breeze kept it from becoming unbearably hot. Evening was mild and I was comfortable in a t-shirt while walking the open air street markets.
The air quality was poor in the city but better than most of the cities I have visited in mainland China. There are many parks and green-spaces, the sidewalks and streets are relatively clean and traffic is orderly. Taiwanese seemed more accustomed to seeing foreigners / Westerners. I received only a few stares and many of the locals spoke English fluently.
The Elite Bookstore is famous for a wide selection of books in both English and Mandarin. I checked to see if they had a copy of Jung Chang’s book in Mandarin – THE WILD SWANS -three daughters of China is a fascinating personal account of three generations, grandmother, mother and daughter- the author, during the 20th Century. I read the English translation about ten years ago and wanted to share it with Echo’s father in the hope of further conversation. It just so happened that Baba had a birthday while I was there, so I gave him a copy of the book as a gift.
The vegetation helps to clear the air and the drive through Yangmingshan National Park was a glimpse of paradise covered in lush vegetation. From the lowland grasses and broad leaf plants up through the jungle of vines and bamboo to the dormant volcano and sulfur springs atop the steep but moderate size mountains. The park is in Taipei and about an hour drive from downtown area of Taipei city.
On day one there was a terrific shaking around 6;30 AM I figured it was an earthquake and was pleased it didn’t get out of control or last too long. The thought of running down 12 flights of stairs to hurriedly make an emergency exit from the building as the first exercise for the morning did not make me particularly comfortable. At breakfast I asked the desk clerk if that was an earthquake a short while ago and he responded, ” I think so”, in a mater of fact way. Apparently, living on the Pacific Rim makes some folks complacent about seismic activity. So, not satisfied with his answer I went online to do a bit of research and determined that the epicenter of the quake was not far away in Yonakuni, Okinawa. It registered 4.9 on the Richter scale. Not my favorite way to wake up!
Highlights from this trip include; The National Palace Museum in Taipei was impressive with its extensive collection of ancient art and artifacts. Many gold, jade and bronze religious relics as well as ceramics and porcelain. The National Museum was one of the key attractions that had been recommended to me by an native of Taiwan. Considering the extent of vandalism and defacing that similar religious artifacts suffered on the mainland, during the Cultural Revolution, it was an act of significant forethought for members of the nationalist movement to remove these specimens from mainland China else they might have met the same fate.
Sun Yat-sen memorial hosted a series of events to commemorate this “Father of the Nation” on what would have been his 150th birthday. The doctor turned revolutionary was, in his day, known for his appeals to unify and modernize China. He wanted to keep apace of the advances in science and technology experienced in the western nations and was frustrated by the corruption of the Qin Dynasty. His revolutionary vision was to overthrow the dynastic system and guide China into development of a republic.
He advocated what is known as the “Three Principles of the People” – Nationalism, Democracy and Livelihood. His attempts were cause for his exile and later for his recognition by the Kuomintang as the leader who was instrumental in bringing China forward into the 20th Century. He was a strong voice for independence and was successful in helping to keep China from being carved into a bunch of small European colonies. He was a man of terrific vision and is revered today particularly in Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong.
dedicated to the Chinese military and political leader and follower of Sun Yat-sen. In 1926, after Sun died, he attempted to carry out the dream of a unified China. Unfortunately, he was not able to untangle the complex political and military rivalries.
A decade later Chiang was kidnapped by the Manchurian warlord, Chang Hsüeh-liang and forced to accept the demands that he join with the Communists in a unified front against the invading Japanese forces. He returned to Nanking a national hero, but he underestimated the power of the Marxist Mao Tse-tung who, at the end of the Second World War seized control of nearly 100 million Chinese. Chiang led the Chinese Republic during the Second World War, but by 1948 he was forced to flee to the Island of Taiwan and was able to establish many of his goals. He served as President of the Republic of China and made alliances with the U.S., though he received little respect from Churchill and Stalin. Chiang died of a heart attack in 1975.
Both Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yatsen had been influenced by Western culture and both had accepted the Christian faith.
Taiwan enjoyed an economic boom after 1954. Many in Taiwan hold the position that Taiwan and Mainland China are two separate nations. The Communists in Beijing have the opposing view, that Taiwan is part of China. Richard Nixon was of little help to the cause of Taiwan’s independence. He inflicted a set-back to Chiang while visiting Mao on the mainland and stated that Taiwan was part of China.
I have favored the underdog in most fights and Chaing fought for what he believed only to reach a defeat of his ideal goal. I admire both Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen for their vision of an independent and unified nation. It is my opinion that all people have the right to self-determination free from force and coercion. I think it is also very tragic to consider the brutality with which Mao ruled and sad to know that there was another way.
Throughout the city taxi drivers were engaging and often offered suggestions of places to see and where to find the best food. One good tip we received was to skip the “101”, Taipei’s tallest building is not worth the cost of admission.
Taipei is known for street food and one evening we strolled through the many stalls of food vendors. Some of the offerings were delicious others were not so great. I think the key to finding the best food stalls is to look for the places that have a line. It is usually a safe bet that waiting in a line for 5 – 10 minutes is a good indication the food is worthwhile. The best stall I found was one offering a quarter section of chicken that was cooked to perfection!
On the last night in Taipei, we accepted the recommendation of one taxi-driver who directed us to the cities seafood market and group of restaurants that specialize in seafood. We forgot to snap pictures of the food but it was delicious!
Buddhist Temples are a big attraction in Taipei city. Many of the islanders carry on religious traditions that were long ago lost on the mainland. In the next article I will share pictures from two temples we visited.
The island is quite large and any future visit to Taiwan should include;
Taroko Gorge in Hualien
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial in Kaohsiung.