Longterm plans were to travel to Taiwan and stay for 3 months. My intentions were to check out different cities with the view of staying longterm. Taipei, the capital in the north of the island, was not for me as I like smaller cities and a slower pace of life. The north was too cold and damp, even in spring, though I suspect the summers would be stifling in this densely populated city. So having moved south to escape the misery of the temperature, I arrived in Tianan. It became apparent, this previous capital city was not going to be much better, though on days it was warmer, though even when the sun shone, a rarity due to the pollution filled sky, this also was a grey, gloomy, ugly city.
Taiwan’s population is a mixture of the island’s original inhabitants, the indigenous people, descendants of Han Chinese settlers, nationalist Chinese who arrived after the Chinese civil war in 1949, Japanese from the colonial era, and SE Asia culture all blended together making a very interesting combination. The Taiwanese curiously are little like the mainland Chinese, though my opinion of the Chinese can only be based on those loud, culture lacking, swarming tourists I’ve met on my travels. The Taiwanese are kind, generous, thoughtful, unassuming, unpretentious, quiet, almost introverted, though of course they can’t all be.
Sightseeing. Once I’d made the decision that Taiwan wasn’t going to be a long term home I put on my tourist hat and off I went in search of more adventures sightseeing. Travelling from Tainan to Kaohsiung, the second largest city of Taiwan was easy, I caught a taxi to Tainan train station and in less than an hour I’d arrived. It’s easy to navigate as like Taipei it has an MRT system. Curiously one of the stations, Formosa Boulevard, has the largest glass works in the world, named the Dome of Light. Some say it’s mimicking the Sistine Chapel in a modern way. It’s made up of 4,500 glass panels.
Indigenous: what does it mean on an island full of Chinese? Were you even aware of indigenous people in Taiwan? I wasn’t. Had I done any research I probably would have, but rarely do I before visiting a new place. I like to arrive with no prejudgements and make my own discoveries.
Wanting to get out of the heavy rain this evening, as I forgot my trusted umbrella (usually used for sun protection), I walked into a vegan restaurant called Farmers’ Kitchen in Hualein. Finally I hoped I would be able to find some food, not pork and without MSG or sugar which coats almost every dish in Taiwan; not good news if you’re diabetic or have a high blood pressure or like me just don’t like extremely salty sweet things.
Taroko National Park near Hualien on the east coast of Taiwan is definitely worth a visit. I joined a group organised by Hualien Wow Hostel (press here for their details) and spent a day exploring the marble walled gorge with the Liwu River carving it’s way through.
Inside the gorge Eternal Spring Shrine Park was built to honour the hundreds of workmen who died building Highway 8 across the country from east the west. It also faces the East Gate archway, the entrance to the highway. During typhoon season water would be gushing down the hills and a fast rapid flowing river with dangerous currents shifting boulders along the way. You can make out on the hills how the water has eroded it’s pathways over thousands of years.
This grand Memorial Hall was built in memory of President Chiang Kai Shek who died in 1975. He was a former Chinese political and military leader under the Chinese Nationalist Party, but was defeated by Chairman Mao in the civil war, so he fled to Taiwan and helped make Taiwan what it is today .
The Memorial Hall, Taipei, is located at the end of a large square an area of 240,000 square meters. Close to the western entrance is the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall.