Monday, September 28, 2009

Chang Kai-Shek Memorial, Taipei, Taiwan

On Friday, Nick and I began an 8 day vacation to Taiwan’s east coast. Our first stop was Taipei.

We were lucky to get two absolutely beautiful days in Taiwan – blue skies and a pleasant breeze.

After arriving in Taipei and dropping our bags off at the hostel, we headed straight to the Chiang Kai-shek memorial for our first stop. As we emerged from the on-site MRT station, we saw a mass of Taiwanese tourists heading towards the monument!

They moved together like a heard of buffalo on the run, all of them scurrying up the stairs together in a wave of people. Nick and I trailed behind; a bit disappointed to see them, but realizing that if I just waited a couple of minutes, they would all be herded inside and I could take a picture of the memorial with no one on it.

Once we arrived the inside, we realized that they were all rushing to catch the changing of the guard which happens every hour at the memorial – and we were just in time.

The ceremony lasted about 5 minutes and was a pretty cool sight with bayoneted-rifles and very serious-looking young soldiers.

Immediately after the changing of the guard, the herd receded back to their tour bus shepherded by a flag-bearing, microphone-blaring tour guide. In the blink of an eye, all the people were down the stairs and out of sight. It was amazing. There was neither time for individual exploration of the premises nor time to relax and take in the beauty of the park.

They sure don’t like to waste any time!

It was good for Nick and I though, because we could relax and take it all in in relative peace and quiet.

The monument is an imposing blue and white structure with great landscaping and matching gates to the north, south, east, and west. It really is a beautiful memorial.

The hall is flanked on either side by the National Theater and National Concert Hall (above)

(This is of the National Theater which is located in the park with the CKS memorial)

They actually have a museum in the lower level of the structure, but we didn’t even realize it was there the first time we went and missed it altogether (the signs are not in English.)

On Saturday, though, we returned to check out the museum and we weren’t disappointed. The exhibit areas are full of pictures of the late president and glowing reviews of what an inspiring person and valiant leader he was for the Republic of China.

Chaing Kai-Shek.... world advocate for democracy - except for in Taiwan, which he ruled as a dictator

Unbiased? Definitely not.

Interesting and fun to visit? Definitely.

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