October 13, 2008

Attractions in Taipei

Backdated posts from our trip to Taiwan early this year

There isn't a lot to see in Taipei city itself, with only a handful of major tourist attractions such as the National Palace Museum, Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat Sen Memorial Halls, Longshan Temple and the much touted Taipei 101, the world's tallest building.

Occupying over 39,000 sq meters, the National Palace Museum was built in the style of an ancient Chinese palace. It was originally founded in 1925 in the Forbidden City in Beijing, which explains why the word "Palace" is used in its name. Beginning in 1931 the collection was crated and moved into the hinterland of China to avoid the ravages of the impending Sino-Japanese War. In 1949, with civil war raging between the Nationalist and the Communist forces, the government shipped about 600,000 treasures to Taiwan, and temporarily stored them in Yangmei, Taoyuan and Taichung. It was not until 1965 when the collection was moved to their present home.

The National Palace Museum is one of the four best museums in the world along with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Lourve Museum in Paris and the British Museum in London. It has the finest collection of Chinese art and culture that totals more than 700,000 bronze, jade, porcelain and ceramic items as well as writings, paintings and calligraphy works dating from Neolithic Age through the end of the Qing Dynasty.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, octagonal in shape with brilliant white walls and a rich royal blue roof was built to commemorate the late President Chiang Kai-shek. Inside is a bronze statue of Chiang, along with a multimedia room, art gallery, lecture hall, library and children's area and is surrounded by Chinese style gardens. It poses a dramatic contrast with the nearby National Theatre and National Concert Halls, which are built in bright red and gold in traditional Chinese palace style. At the National Theatre and National Concert Halls, many large-scale arts and cultural performances take place all year round.

In contrast, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall was built like an ancient Chinese palace. At the entrance of the building, the statue of Sun Yat Sen is guarded by two army personnel, and we were lucky to catch the changing of the guards' ceremony while we were there. Inside the building is a 3000-seat hall for cultural and educational activities. It also has mulltipurpose facility for outdoor recreation. The miniature landscape in Zhongshan Park in front of the hall adds a touch of natural vitality.

First built in 1738 during the Qing Dynasty, the historic Longshan Temple is the center of worship in the Wanhua District. It is dedicated to several deities, including the Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy and Matsu, the goddess of sailors and fishermen. It is beautifully decorated with carved niches and dragon columns.

The pride of all Taiwanese, Taipei 101, is a new landmark in Taipei. As the name suggests, this building has 101 storeys and the world's fastest elevator. It only takes 39 seconds to reach the observation deck of the world's tallest building to enjoy a panoramic view of Taipei. Unfortunately, as it was raining and cloudy when we were there, the view was less than spectacular. This skyscraper innovatively combines the traditional and the modern, and the fashionable with the classical. Traditional and classical epitomised by its eight-section bamboo decorated with the arabesques and cloud patterns often seen in Chinese art while modern and fashionable characterised by its resemblance of a space shuttle blasting its way through the clouds. It is a city within a city with a department store, supermarket, bookstore, boutiques and restaurants inside the building.

Other minor attractions of Taipei include the Office of the President, a renaissance-style building that has been the highest seat of government in Taiwan for over a century, first as the office of the governor general's office during the Japanese colonial period, and after 1949 as Taiwan's "White House". Others incluce the 228 Peace Memorial Park whichs has an open-air stage, a Japanese-style landscape garden, a pond, an arched bridge, and a walking path; and the Red Playhouse, a century old octagonal building. The Taipei City Government has transformed the Red Playhouse into a popular spot for listening to music, watching performances or simply enjoying a cup of coffee or tea.

228 Peace Memorial Park

About 30 minutes away, the mountainous area north of Taipei is famous for its beautiful scenery with traces of volcanic activities and abundant natural resources. Yangmingshan National Park is Taiwan's third national park and the one closest to a major city. Once called "Grass Mountain", its attractions include the sulphur fumaroles of Xiaoyukeng, the grassy pastures of Chingtienkang, Milk Lake at Lengshuikeng and flower gardens of Jhuzihhu. We only managed to visit the Yangming Park, despite going up Yangmingshan twice, no thanks to the weather and a lousy cab driver.


cre8tone said...

So nice~~ go kai kai

A Mom's Diary said...

Little prince's mummy - hehe..this post (and the coming ones) are sooo long overdue!

jazzmint said...

ya i heard alot bout the musuem!! Must go visit one day, I'm really a fan of history keke

A Mom's Diary said...

Jazz - there are several very interesting exhibits, and you can practically spend the whole day inside.