I went to Taipei on a business trip December 13-15. This was my first visit to Taiwan ever, even though my parents grew up there. Aside from going to a bunch of meetings, I had the chance to do a few touristy things, which are the topic of this post.
I visited some major government-related sites. Below is a photo of the Republic of China Presidential Building:
The Presidential Building sits kitty corner to my mom’s high school:
Very close to the Presidential Building (and my mom’s high school) is a memorial to Chiang Kai-Shek that was built after he died. Chiang was the leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and was the head of the internationally recognized Republic of China government for a long and momentous period of time, which included winning the war against Japan and losing the Chinese Civil War. Both of my grandfathers were in Chiang’s army, which is why my parents grew up on Taiwan.
Among other things, the memorial included a really big plaza named Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Square. When the other party came to power in Taiwan, they renamed the plaza Liberty Square (Chiang Kai-Shek is something of a controversial figure). Below are some photos of the plaza:
The centerpiece of the memorial is the National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which is notable for not being renamed during the other party’s time in power:
One thing that isn’t clear from the above photos is that there were hundreds of Japanese students visiting the memorial when I was there. Chiang spent 15 years fighting Imperial Japan after Imperial Japan invaded Mainland China before and during the second World War. I wonder what the Japanese students, during their visit, were learning about Chiang.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a bronze sculpture of Chiang. The design of this sculpture clearly was influenced by the design of a famous marble sculpture of a dead American president.
However, I don’t recall Marble President Lincoln having a military guard around him in the way that Bronze President Chiang does:
Chiang rode around in a big black Cadillac:
Another thing that was inside the building was an art museum. Unfortunately I didn’t do a good job with my camera so the photos came out blurry, but the art inside was really interesting. The KMT had a Leninist party-state structure for a long time, in part because the USSR supported the KMT during its early days. From the looks of the KMT political art, organizational practices weren’t the only things that the KMT adopted from the USSR:
The photos above are KMT propaganda drawn in essentially a Socialist Realist style. Socialist Realism was the dominant artistic style in the USSR and other communist countries.
The KMT had a complex but close relationship with United States for a long time (and actually, it still does today, though these days the KMT is not organized along Leninist lines and is much more of a “normal” Western-style political party), and this closeness was reflected in its political art:
I want to emphasize just how weird it is to see pro-KMT (anti-communist) art drawn in a style popularized by the communists.
There was also this cool portrait of Chiang Kai-Shek drawn using the words of Sun Yat-Sen’s will. (Sun Yat-Sen was the founder of the KMT and had been Chiang’s mentor, though Chiang’s China ended up looking quite different from what Sun had dreamed.)
On a lighter note, the middle of the memorial plaza featured a giant tent set up to promote some kind of activity related to Disney’s Frozen. This would be like putting a big Frozen tent right in front of the Lincoln Memorial (or, well, maybe the Andrew Jackson Memorial if there was one).
The tallest building in Taipei (and, for a time, the world) is a 101-story tower called Taipei 101. Funny how the name worked out, eh? Taipei is maybe 40 stories taller than any other building in the vicinity. Here’s a photo of it from the base:
To get to the top, we bought tickets and took the world’s fastest passenger elevator. My ears popped repeatedly on the way up and on the way down. I wonder if the elevator operators (who go for dozens of rides every day) develop otolaryngological problems from the constant ear popping.
With reference to the red English lettering top center in the photo above, the jury is still out on whether this particular journey changed my life.
My camera work was a total failure when I got to the top so I don’t have any non-blurry photos of the view from the top. But it was nice. However, I do have some good photos of the big hanging metal ball (“tuned mass damper”) inside the tower. Aside from being really fun as a tourist attraction, the metal ball also serves some kind of structural stability purpose (for wind storms and earthquakes).
Note: The ball is not made of solid gold. It is made of base metal and is spray painted a gold color.
Inside or near Taipei 101 was a really big shopping mall featuring an extremely fake Christmas tree:
Taipei has a chain of bookstores called “eslite.” One eslite location, which I visited, is near Taipei 101. One distinguishing feature of eslite is that their escalators look like they could be in a scene in Inception:
I visited the Taipei arts district, which is analogous to Beijing’s 798 district. Like 798, the Taipei arts district is built on the grounds of an old industrial site, in this case an old cigarette factory:
No smoking was allowed in the arts district.
Somehow I don’t have any good photos of the inside of the arts district. But I do have an acceptable photo from the park surrounding the district:
The organizers of the district tried to keep some of the stuff from the old cigarette factory on display. Bean counters used cruder implements back in the day:
In the same area, a stadium-like building was under construction:
The fence around the stadium-like building tried to be environmentally friendly:
But construction was on hold, perhaps because of popular resistance:
Raohe Night Market
Another thing that Taipei is famous for is night markets. These are agglomerations of small stands selling food and knickknacks that open up at night.
The stands here were somewhat more fire-safe than were the petty peddler stands in Siem Reap:
Raohe Night Market had some very literal signs:
I tried a new fruit. It looked like a cross between an apple and a pear, and had a texture that was very light (in the sense of low density) and somewhat apple-like. The taste was like a bit like starfruit.
I also ate a hot dog that used rice instead of bread for a bun:
One of the biggest banks in Taiwan is literally named Mega Bank. Here’s a photo of the Mega Bank branch at Taipei Taoyuan airport:
Scooters are a very popular form of transportation, so much so that many parking garages had lots of spaces specially allotted to scooter parking. Below are some photos of disabled-accessible scooter parking spaces:
Google is essentially not present in Mainland China because of a big dispute in 2010, but Google is very much present in Taipei:
Taipei hosted a marathon, which I didn’t participate in: