Monday, November 29, 2010

Taiwan Travelogue: The Taipei 101 (part 2)

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)

My recent post about the 101 was lacking one thing that I think is amazing about the 101.  I didn't include this in the original post because it wasn't a part of the trip that we took last weekend.  But one thing the 101 is known for is that they shoot fireworks off of it every year, so I want to add a few photos from the New Years 2010 fireworks display.  It's a pretty amazing sight.

Photos captured from a video by Emily Banducci

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwan Travelogue:  The Taipei 101
Random Asianess:  Oh Sure, Now We Decorate

Monday, November 22, 2010

Taiwan Travelogue: The Taipei 101

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)

We recently had a visitor from the US and we wanted to show him around a little. Taiwan is an interesting place so we took him to a number of “must sees.” There was a trip to Hu Tou Shan (Tiger Head Mountain) above Taoyuan City. We took him to Ying Ge’s famous Ceramics Old Street and of course the most popular tourist destination in all of Taiwan, the Taipei 101.

I wasn’t sure that I could easily find the 101, but then again, it towers over the city so, really, it would be hard not to find.  In fact I drove to it quickly and easily. Exit, Freeway 1 East at Jian Guo N. Road, turn right and drive to Xin Yi Road and turn left, this route will take you directly to the 101 and all it’s glory.

The 101 is the second tallest building in the world. It was the tallest building in the world until the completion of the Dubai Towers, but as they like to say at the 101, it is now the tallest "inhabited’ building in the world.

The 101 is designed to resemble the Chinese pagoda type of architecture. It stands at 508 meters (1,667 feet) tall. There is an indoor observation deck located on the 89th floor and an outdoor observation deck on the 91st floor. Two express elevators carry passengers to the observation floor at 1010 meters/minute (55 feet/second). In order to stabilize the structure an 800 metric ton steel sphere is mounted at the 88th floor. The sphere acts as a counterweight and uses a dampening system to mitigate the building sway.

The tower is home to Taiwan Corporate Headquarters of many international companies and also houses a very high-end mall with many beautiful (and expensive) stores and restaurants. If you are an expat living in Taiwan and want to see other foreigners, this is the place.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taiwanese History: The Chiang Kai Shek Mausoleum

Chiang Kai Shek was the president of the Republic of China from 1949 until 1975. he died in 1975 and was buried in a Mausoleum outside of Daxi, in Taoyuan County. You can get to the mausoleum by traveling the #7 Cross-Island Highway.

The Republic of China Government was the ruling government in Mainland China from 1912 until 1949 when the Republic of China’s Aqrmy was defeated by the People’s Liberation Army under Mao Ze Dong. Chiang fled to Taiwan in 1949 and reestablished the Republic of China on the Island of Taiwan. He remained president of the Republic of China, in Taipei until his death in 1975.  (Please see the Taiwan Adventure Blog post for October 21, 2010, "Taiwanese History:  Double Tenth Day," for more information about the formation of the Republic of China government on Taiwan.)

His presidency was not without controversy.

The 28 February 1947 arrest of a woman selling cigarettes without a license was the spark which led to large-scale public protests against repression and corruption. For some ten days, Chiang still on the mainland and his governor Chen Yi kept up the pretense of negotiations with leaders of the protest movement, but at the same time they sent troops from the mainland.

As soon as the troops arrived, they started rounding up and executing people, in particular scholars, lawyers, doctors, students and local leaders of the protest movement. In total between 18,000 and 28,000 people were murdered. Thousands of others were arrested and imprisoned in the "White Terror" campaign, which took place in the following decade. Many of these remained imprisoned until the early 1980s.

(  Remembering 2-28)

The mausoleum was closed in December 2007, by the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) under then president, Chen Shui Bian. On May 20, 2008 it was opened to the public as the KMT (Kou Ming Tang, the party of Chiang Kai Shek) once more took power under President Ma Ying Jiu.

Statues of Chiang Kai Shek were brought in from all over Taiwan and set up on the mausoleum grounds.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Random Asianess: The Rest Stop

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)

If you’ve ever driven down The Golden State Freeway, I-5 in California you’ve come across rest stops. They’re a place where you can stop your car, catch a little rest, use the rest room, empty your dog and walk around a little before you go on. Caltrans puts these places up every so often on the freeways in California. I suppose they are in other states as well.

But if you’ve ever used them you know that they’re pretty basic. There a restroom facility, usually pretty large and clean (well, functional at least). There’s a place to walk the dog and sometimes, if you’re lucky they might have vending machines. If you’re super lucky there might even be some entrepreneur with a catering truck, that is, if he can avoid Caltrans and the CHP. But that’s about it. Not much to write home about if you will.

This week my family drove National Highway 5 to Yilan. That is about a one and one half hour drive. The drive is remarkable because in the midst of it is a 12 km or 7.5 mile tunnel that crosses under the mountains that we drove through last week. [“Random Asianess: The Cross Island Highway,” November 1, 2010]. This isn’t as scary as driving over those mountains after dark, until you consider the millions of tons of dirt, rock and trees over you, or the air quality inside a tunnel.

The other remarkable thing about this freeway is the rest stops. Like Caltrans, the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau (TANFB) erects rest areas. The idea of course is to promote safe driving. But these rest areas are beautiful. As a man, prior to marriage I never really saw rest stops all that often. I’d drive until I needed gas and then use the rest room at the gas station. But since marriage and children I often get to view rest stops, this trip was no exception.

We stopped in a Service area. This is a little different than a rest area because you can get mechanical services in addition to the regular amenities. In the rest area, in addition to the restroom facilities you are able to find a store, a food court, ATMs, A monument, a freeway information person, and a TANFB office.

The information booth person will tell you the quickest way to get where you’re going from where you are. He’ll tell you which freeway you’re on and what obstacles are ahead, the points of interest along the way, as well as a lot of other useful information.

The restrooms are clean and well lighted as is the rest of the rest stop. The restaurants have a choice of foods available from small restaurants. We decided to have lunch there. My daughters ate Chicken Fingers, Onion rings, French Fries and soda. My wife had a type of chicken, in a broth and I had Fried Fish, Kelp, Togan, (A type of smoky flavored Tofu), Seaweed Soup and Rice. It was a lot better than a soggy vending machine sandwich without condiments and tepid water, which is what I had last time I ate in a California rest area.

The Restaurant Entrance
The freeways are well maintained and safe. The speed limit most of the time is 100 kph or about 65 mph. (62.5 mph for you purists who always write and correct me.) The freeways are all toll roads and cost $40.00 NTD ($1.25 USD) to travel 30km. From Yilan we paid $120 NTD. ($3.75 USD).

You know, it occurs to me that I really ought to be charging "Taiwan:  Touch Your Heart" the tourism bureau for all of this free publicity.  But I guess before they'd be interested I'd have to prove that I'm not the only one reading it.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwan Travelogue:  The Cross Island Highway
Random Asianess:  Driving in Taiwan

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Taiwan Travelogue: The Cross-Island Highway

One interesting thing I’ve discovered is that the meaning of certain words is different in Taiwanese English than it is in English-English. Huh? What does that mean? Take the word Highway, for instance.

Today we drove the #7 Cross-Island Highway. It starts out as a beautiful highway. It’s wide with double yellow lines down the middle and moves along easily at 60 kilometers and hour. In essence, it lives up to the name highway.

One minute we’re zipping along in beautiful mountain scenery. We passed a huge field of orange poppies: Then the immaculately manicured Chiang Kai Shek mausoleum. Then something happened to the road.

The highway was like a road with dual personalities…and suddenly the evil personality showed up. The complexion of the road changed. It narrowed a little, then a little more. Then it began to snake through the forest and up the side of the mountain; twisting and turning; even the switchbacks had switchbacks, until the Cross-Island Highway looked more like the Cross Island Goat track: And then I’m sure I saw a goat refusing to get on the road.

At times it felt like I was driving the car in the cartoons!  You know the one; the tires on one side of the car stay on the road and the others hang out over a yawning abyss. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating here, but not a lot. Then the road got really narrow and the sun began to set. Then it got darker and darker. The conversation turned darker as well. It was like driving through a horror movie. It got so dark that we couldn’t see to the trees on the side of the road. And then it got really dark. I thought it would never end.

He tried to get Emily
We had decided to drive over to Yilan. People had been telling me what a wonderful place it was, so we thought we’d make it a day and drive the 7.  Because I hadn’t been there before, I was watching the mileage signs; just before dark we saw a sign that said 28 kilometers to Yilan. So we continued to drive in the same direction for at least 10 more kilometers when we saw the next sign: Yilan 32 kilometers…wait…we were traveling in the right direction how did it get farther away. Then I’m sure I saw him…In fact, I’m positive I saw Rod Serling hitchhiking with a sign that said “The Twilight Zone.” Then it got really, really dark; it got so dark that the boogieman had a night-light.

Eventually about an eon later we came out of the mountains and into a good-sized city. We stopped for gas and a man gave us a road map so that we could find an alternate route home.

All in all it was fun and beautiful trip through the mountains.  We were all glad we made the trip, but next week we're going back to Yilan and then to the beach but we're going on the freeway.  It may not be as scenic, but it's a lot faster and a freeway here is what I call a freeway.

The following are some pictures that we took before the road went all Twilight Zone/Zombie Apocalypse on us.