Liberty Square - National Theatre to the left, Liberty Gate in the middle and National Concert Hall to the right.

Taiwan 101: Intro to Taipei

Sep 17, 2014 - Carlos

Taiwan, or Ilha Formosa, was the third stop in our journey throughout Asia. Even though Taiwan is a small island and doesn’t show up in a lot of world maps, it has so much to offer. From amazing food to unique culture, rich history to modern cities, we enjoyed every aspect of Taiwan.

We flew into Taipei from Hong Kong. The biggest and most well-known city in Taiwan, Taipei was a great first stop to learn more about Taiwan’s history and see some iconic landmarks.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (中正纪念堂)

Sitting in the heart of Taipei, Chiang Kai-Shek (CKS) Memorial Hall is a monument built in memory of the former Taiwanese President and important political and military figure, Chiang Kai-Shek. The roof of the Memorial Hall is a beautiful blue color.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Growing up in Brazil, I’ve never heard CKS’s name before; however, the museum on the ground floor of the monument was a great opportunity to learn about his personal life, as well as his role as a leader in Taiwanese history. The main Memorial Hall houses a giant statue of CKS, similar to the Lincoln Memorial in DC. 89 steps lead up to the entrance of the memorial, which represents the age of CKS at his death.

CKS Museum
CKS Museum

The CKS statue is constantly watched by two guards on either side in hourly shifts. They are so still they could be statues themselves. The changing of guards is an attraction in and of itself, where people crowd around to see the commander and two new guards replace the previous ones. Only during the changing process do the previous two statue-like guards come to life. Together, all five guards perform a long, complex routine with precise and synchronized movements.

Changing of guards at CKS Memorial Hall
Changing of guards at CKS Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall was definitely one of my favorite attractions in Taipei, for combining history, culture, art and architecture all in one place.

Liberty Square (自由广场)

From CKS Memorial Hall, a large square known as Liberty Square extends out in front. Entering through Liberty Gate, Liberty Square is where the nation’s public gatherings occur, serving major arts events and festivals, such as the Lantern Festival. It is also a place where people can express their opinions about political matters and the current state of the country.

Liberty Square with CKS Memorial Hall in the background
Liberty Square with CKS Memorial Hall in the background

National Theatre and National Concert Hall (国家戏剧院 and 国家音乐厅)

On either side of Liberty Square lies the two main performing arts venues in Taipei – the National Theatre to the left, and the National Concert Hall to the right.

Liberty Square - National Theatre to the left, Liberty Gate in the middle and National Concert Hall to the right.
Liberty Square – National Theatre to the left, Liberty Gate in the middle and National Concert Hall to the right.

Both buildings were wonderful examples of Chinese-style architecture. While we did not attend any shows, the atmosphere around the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall seemed to inspire much creativity. We saw many young student dance groups practicing their moves here!

Julie at the National Concert Hall
Julie at the National Concert Hall

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (国立国父纪念馆)

Sun Yat-Sen is considered, by the people, as the father of the nation. He was responsible for Taiwan’s independence and prosperous development. The memorial is an open area, with a main building containing a museum dedicated to Sun Yat-Sen as well as his statue. Two guards also keep watch in hourly shifts, similar to CKS Memorial Hall.

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial
Sun Yat-Sen Memorial

Since a lot of what was presented here was already covered at CKS Memorial Hall (Sun Yat-Sen highly influenced CKS’s life), we came here to get one of the best night views of Taipei 101 you can get in the city, and it was totally worth it!

Night view of Taipei 101 from Sun Yat-Sen Memorial
Night view of Taipei 101 from Sun Yat-Sen Memorial

Taipei 101 (台北101)

Taipei 101 was one of the few things I knew about Taiwan before we arrived here. One of the tallest building in the world, it has 101 floors above ground, meant to symbolize new years to come and high ideals of more than perfection. The building design resembles bamboo with eight segments, rich in symbolism and feng shui. Visitors can go up to the indoor observatory on the 89th floor, the damper room on the 88th floor, and the outdoor observatory in the 91st floor. With the fastest elevators in the world going from 5th to 89th floor in a mere 37 seconds, the elevator is pressurized and cost millions.

First, we went to the indoor observatory that offers a panoramic view of Taipei and surrounding New Taipei. From the west side of the building, you can see an ocean of buildings extending themselves to the horizon, while from the east side, you can see the Four Beast Mountains rising from the ground. We highly recommend the free audio tour that taught us a great deal about Taipei 101 and Taipei/New Taipei in general.

View of Taipei from Taipei 101 indoors observatory
View of Taipei from Taipei 101 indoors observatory

The 88th floor damper room is an exhibition of engineering design and execution, intriguing our engineering minds with knowledge and amusement. Taipei 101 has the largest damper sphere in the world, reducing up to 40% of its lateral movements to stabilize the building and make sure it withstands typhoons and earthquakes. The Taipei 101 mascots are damper babies!

Taipei 101 damper
Taipei 101 damper

We were lucky enough to have good weather on the day of our visit, which meant the outdoor observatory was open! The already breathtaking views from the indoor observatory became even better. Seeing the sunset over the Taipei skyline from one of the world’s tallest building was priceless. After sunset, the entire city lit up, and the main roads leading out from Taipei 101 looked like large veins in a network of lights.

View of Taipei at night from Taipei 101 outdoors observatory
View of Taipei at night from Taipei 101 outdoors observatory

This was just the beginning of our stay in Taipei, and it has already dazzled us with amazing architecture and culture. We couldn’t have asked for a better introduction. More to come about some day-trips we took in and around Taipei!