Since this was my first trip to Taiwan and Taipei, I decided to take a couple of guided tours. My hotel, the Sheraton Four Points Zhonghe, was in a suburb. It was so far from downtown that I had to take the subway to get to the pick up location at the Sheraton hotel. Fortunately, I had taken the subway before and it was easy to get there and back after the tour.
We stopped first at a local shrine where some monks were working.
The next stop on our tour was the Chaing Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
The Memorial Hall is a sprawling complex with a central hall full of memorabilia celebrating his achievements throughout his life. It describes Chaing’s early involvement with Sun Yat-sen, the Father of Modern China (who at one time held a Hawaiian birth certificate btw) and his rise to President of the Republic of China in 1925. There is a large section on WWII and his flight to Formosa in 1949. Chaing and his Kuomintang army fought the Japanese in China along with support from American forces under General “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell who had a famously antagonistic relationship with Chaing.
The 1949 victory of the Communists in the resumption of the Chinese civil war that followed Japan’s defeat in WWII forced Chaing, his wife, Madame Chaing, and the Nationalist forces to flee to Formosa (Taiwan) where Chaing ruled as President of the Republic of China and General of the Kuomintang until his death in 1975.
Until his death, Chaing plotted to invade and retake mainland China from the communists. If the Chinese Communists ever succeed in controlling the Republic of China, Chaing’s Memorial Hall will literally be history.
Our next stop was the National Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine. It is sort of Taiwan’s version of the Forbidden City. We were there to see the changing of the guard.
The guards marched in halting steps with machine like precision. It was quite a spectacle. It took about 20 minutes for the guards to march from the front of the shrine to the back where the entrance to the forbidden portion of the shrine is guarded, change guards and then march back to the front of the shrine where the relieved guards retire.
The National Palace Museum was the last stop on the morning tour of Taipei.
The National Palace Museum has three floors of ancient Chinese art, artifacts and calligraphy. It was Chinese New Year and the museum was extremely crowded. It was so crowded that I bypassed the most popular galleries altogether. No pictures were allowed inside.
We drove by the Taipei 101 Tower but did not go in.
The Northeast Coast and Jiuofen
The afternoon portion of the tour was a one-hour bus ride to the Northeast Coast of Taiwan and the town of Jiuofen. The coast bordered the Taiwan or Formosa Straight that separates the East China Sea from the South China Sea and separates Taiwan and mainland China.
We stopped at a fishing village on the coast with some picturesque rock formations.
There was a seaside restaurant at Two-Color Bay and hiking trails going into the hills behind the beach.
Restaurant for freshly caught seafood
Most of our time was spent exploring Jioufen, which had been a busy mining town in the first half of the last century until the gold ore was exhausted. It now caters to tourists.
The town is built on the side of a hill. There are steep steps to navigate to get to the shops, restaurants and tea houses that are terraced for several hundred feet up the hill.
Jioufen had the first movie theater on Taiwan. It is now a tourist attraction.
I stopped at one of the tea stands to purchase some Oolong tea.
I tried tea service at one of the many tea parlors in Jioufen.
The return to Taipei took twice as long as the outbound trip because of heavy traffic. I grabbed a quick bite at a downtown restaurant before hoping on the subway to get back to the hotel.
I didn’t get to see a lot of Taiwan but what I saw was intriguing. The dancing scene and running into people I knew was really a treat. Taiwan definitely merits a another and longer stay.