The capital of Taiwan is a true gem with impressive landmarks, majestic temples, spacious parks, world class museums and an exemplary green modern sophistication. In fact, teams from other countries have been sent here to research and emulate Taipei’s garbage recycling program.
Our ship docked in the northeastern town of Keelung, Taiwan, and we took a full-day motor coach tour that began with the National Palace Museum, a culturally fascinating stop boasting one of the largest collections of ancient Chinese Art worldwide. The exhibitions rotate quarterly, so, theoretically, one could see the entire collection over 12 years.
As the Republic of China’s renowned national Museum, the noteworthy collection showcases ceramics, bronze and jade pieces, as well as ebony furniture dating back to the Qing, Ming and Sung dynasties. The oldest pieces of the collection are a necklace and earring set made of jade that dates back some 8,000 years. Be prepared for massive crowds. I’ve never seen or experienced so many people in the same museum at the same time. Indeed, the treasures of the National Palace Museum draw 10,000 visitors a day!
Taipei is a unique cultural jewel that is not only a tourist attraction, but also a chief international industrial center. Heralded as one of China’s primary cultural, commercial and recreational hubs, Taipei has developed impressively throughout the years. Her history is fascinating.
While under Japanese control from 1895 to 1945, Taipei experienced significant advances in modernization and developed into an influential political core. Soon thereafter, Taipei served as the headquarters to the Nationalists after the Communists drove Chiang Kai-shek’s government away from the mainland of China in 1949.
Taipei gained the title of special municipality in 1967, providing a standing similar to that of a province. Our wonderful tour guide, Batik Shiau-Hong, a native of Taiwan, informed us that the Taiwanese people experience great difficulty whilst traveling abroad because their passports boldly state on the cover, “People’s Republic of China,” when, in fact, Taiwan is recognized by 142 countries and, as such, these countries do not require visas for tourists and business travelers from Taiwan. However, since the covers of their passports seem to indicate Chinese citizenship, it can be burdensome on the traveler to explain at customs why they do not need a visa.
This one hundred year old bustling city in the East China Sea is situated about 18 miles west of Keelung. Now the country’s largest and most modern city, Taipei has not forgotten its culturally rich history. You can explore a stunning monument named Martyr’s Shrine as a tribute to the 330,000 courageous men that sacrificed their lives during pivotal Chinese battles throughout history. It also features noble and stoic officers dressed in white guarding a magnificent red main gate. Continue to revel in spectacular design and engineering at the Taipei 101 skyscraper, named for the number of floors, which makes this building the second tallest in the world.
We also visited the Confucius and Pao An Temples. The Taipei Confucius temple, modeled after the original in Qufu, China, was constructed in 1925. Dedicated to the God of Medicine, the striking Pao An Temple, completed in 1830 and fully restored in 2002, amazes with intricately carved dragon pillars, imposing stone lions and historic tablets inscribed by Chinese scholars. These amazing temples attract large crowds of worshippers and tourists alike.
A highlight of the day included the impressive and elegant lunch buffet at the five-star Grand Hotel, which was designed in the fang-shui style by the former First Lady, Soong May-ling, who lived over the course of three centuries, having been born in 1897 and succumbing at the age of 106 in 2003. She served as First Lady for 30 years.
Situated on the Keelung River, two giant lions stand guard at the front gate of The Grand Hotel. The red Chinese architecture of the building continues inside with red carpets, red columns and red lanterns. The lobby was accented by perhaps the largest arrangement of fresh orchids on the planet. A never ending buffet began with salad and soup, cold entrees, as well as fresh chilled seafood and continued with hot entrees, a noodle station, made-to-order Malaysian creations, sushi, espresso, tea and desserts. There’s even a freezer where you can help yourself to scoops of Haagen Dazs ice cream.
We alighted our tour bus at the final stop of the day, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Situated in the renowned Liberty Square, Taipei’s impressive monument honoring the former President of the Republic of China features a blue tile roof with gleaming gold apex and fascinating artifacts pertaining to the late president. Upstairs is a larger than life bronze statue looking out over gardens, the National Theatre and the Concert Hall, all done in the ornate and impressive Chinese style.
A unique blend of old and new, Taipei enjoys a subtropical climate with an average temperature of 74 degrees. I was soaking wet from heat and humidity the day we visited. Superior architecture meets a true sense of history in this city of over 2.6 million. With a currently enviable economy, Taipei’s main industries are publishing, fruit canning and sugar refining. From splendid temples to remarkable museums, Taiwan’s dynamic capital city is a sophisticated metropolis with a youthful spirit.