More things I loved about Taiwan…
06 The National Museum of Marine Science and Technology
Taiwan has an museum complex set in an entire town focusing on marine sciences and technology. The museum building itself is situated in the old fire power plant built by the Japanese in 1937 at the town of Badouzi in Keelung City. Badouzi was discovered to have rich mineral deposits in the early 1800s– the reason why the Japanese chose the site. By 1975 Badouzi had become a busy harbour with fishery manufacture and storage facilities. By 1990 the coal mining business and fire power plant had to close down because of the awareness of air pollution. The town also started to suffer an economic downturn because of the decline in fishing profits.
Enter this idea of building a museum complex in the old power plant. In addition to the National Museum of Marine Science and Technology, the site includes an IMAX theatre, a proposed national aquarium, a park and a harbour village. What once was a city in decline is now on its way to becoming a more dynamic place where people can work at or visit the museum, do research or enjoy a relaxing weekend by the harbour.
The museum building has 9 galleries and various exhibits. The 9 galleries are Marine Environment, Marine Science, Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering, Fishery Science, People and the Sea, Wonders of the Deep Sea, Deep Sea Theater, Kid’s Exploration, and Regional Exploration. Steve Zissou would be very happy.
07 Taipei 101 and Public Art
I love that Taipei 101 invested more than 0.5% of its total construction budget for public art. (In the city of Toronto, back when I still lived and worked there, developers were mandated to spend 1% of construction budget and area on public art).
Detail of the Partner’s Monument. Made of glass by Florence Ng. This is a tribute to all the people involved in the building and creation of Taipei 101. Their names are inscribed in these colourful glass bricks that illuminate at night. Beautiful.
08 The art of lantern making
We drove almost an hour out of Taipei to visit a remote hillside town called Pingxi. The setting was picturesque with zigzag roads, forested hills and quaint little houses. Here, the art of lantern-making is still well-preserved. Generations ago, sky lanterns were used as a means of communication. Over time, the practice has evolved to symbolize a prayer for peace or good fortune. We met the president of the lantern-making association — Mr Wang Chaw-Jing, a gentle man, passionate about his craft. If you have an extra day to explore the northern part of New Taipei City, I recommend you visit and explore Pingxi. It’s accessible by bus or rail.
Mr Wang Chaw-Jing is the president of the lantern-making association of Pingxi. Every year on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, Pingxi holds the Lantern Festival. Celebration of the lantern festival actually takes place all over Taiwan. Thousands of sky lanterns are released to the sky. It’s become a popular favourite among international tourists.
After Mr Wang built the paper lantern, he hung it by the side of the road and asked all of us to write down our wishes. I’m sharing with you my wish – that I get to build our little cottage up in our small plot of land in the countryside. I need to get my act together on this one. But that’s the wish. A cottage.
We loved Mr Wang’s organized clutter. He even gave us free postcards so we can send our good wishes home. Then he offered to put stamps on them and mail them for us. What a sweet man. Our postcard arrived a couple of weeks later.
It was drizzling quite heavily but we all ran to the bridge by the river and released our wishes to the sky. It was quite touching. I can only imagine how beautiful it is to see thousands of lanterns flying in the sky.
09 Chiang Kei-shek Memorial Hall
A must-see for all first time visitors to Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall commemorates the life and work of the late Taiwanese president. They had Chiang Kai-shek’s memorabilia, photos, and even his cars, all telling a story of his very interesting life. Great way to learn about Taiwan’s history.
View from the shrine — the National Theater and National Concert Hall. We entered through the back of the Memorial Hall, went through the museum on the ground floor, then took the elevator to the top to see the actual memorial hall and witness the changing of the guards.
The Memorial Hall is built with so much imagery and symbolism. It is white with four sides. The octagonal roof, 8 being a symbol of abundance and good fortune, is made of blue glazed tiles. The blue and white colors of the building and the red colour of the flowerbeds echo the colours in the flag of the Republic of China.
This shrine was built in 1969, recalling the architecture of the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing’s Forbidden City. The structure houses the spirit tablets of about 390,000 persons killed during the Xinhai revolution and wars that followed.
10 Accessibility and services
I love the ease and accessibility of public transport. Our hotel, Palais de Chine, was situated across the Taipei Main Station. From there we took the train to the northern part of Taipei.
Check out the first part of this list – Ten things to love about Taiwan Part One.