Taipei (III) 101 and the Leaders

07.07.07…I guess there were many weddings throughout the world today. Unfortunately not including me, I wasn’t even invited to any one, nor did I see any one here. I would probably not even have noticed the rarity of today’s date if not the morning newspaper had an article about a Libanese couple, which wanted to marry on this date no matter what (in fact: the bride wanted, but the bridegroom accepted it so it would be easier to remember the date ;))

Well, the best I have done with this date was to get on Taipei 101’s observation deck, which at least provided me with a dated ticket I will now use forever as a bookmark; it’s print reads “2007/7/7 12:00”.

Taipei 101 again

The world’s fastest elevator in the world’s tallest building (both in terms of “highest structural point” as well as “highest used floor”) brings you to the 89th floor in just 37 seconds for a whopping 350 TWD (that is just 7.80 EUR, but looks expensive if compared to just 20 TWD for the boring National Museum or 160 TWD for the Palace Museum). At least this money includes a free audio guide, which is even available on German, contrary to in the Palace museum, where you have to be content with an English version. All recorded by native speakers, at least that.

TP_20070707_115908.jpg: Wherever you look at…there’s city around. At one side you did see small mountain forests comparibly close. But otherwise it all looks like this. This is, if I remember correctly, the view towards West, somewhere in the mist you can try to make out the railway station. Have fun… 😉

TP_20070707_120201.jpg: An outside architectural element, of which I heard only later on the audio guide that it is to resemble similar elements on Chinese decorated roofs like dragons or the like.

TP_20070707_120326.jpg: Dr. Sn Yatsen Memorial Hall. Flat, but still an easy to make out sight from 101. We’ll come back to that building.

TP_20070707_124813.jpg: There was one thing I really wanted to see about 101. Honestly, standing on that tower and looking down doesn’t make you feel so excited. But this thing I wanted to see. It had been mentioned in a lot of feature articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. What is it? 😉 Tip: It is some 650 tons heavy.

TP_20070707_124734.jpg: That’s how it is connected to its ceiling a few storeys further up.

TP_20070707_125908.jpg: After so much excitement I could do with a good coffee in the already mentioned 4th floor. Only later I saw that taking pictures inside is not allowed…don’t know why…but all my inside pictures are actually illegal. Enjoy them with care! 😉

TP_20070707_142356.jpg: Nearly a bit disappointing that this thermometer reads just 36°C, it felt more like 86°C plus 96% humidity, shortly before boiling. I started to understand the behavior of fishes, who sometimes in scarcely moving water come to the surface and take a deep breath through their mouth. Breathing through the nose was insufficient to compensate for the extraordinary effort of slow walking in the shadow. You had to breath through the mouth every once in a while for sufficient oxygen supply.

TP_20070707_143010.jpg: And take breaks. That’s the final product of a series of attempts to use my fantastic multi-joint super-duper mini-tripod for a self-timed picture. There were certainly no other people around silly enough to walk through this area, which can only be reached by 30 seconds walking through open sun. I’m a hero!

TP_20070707_145127.jpg: But in the way of 101, though intentionally. Thus, here again, just in case you are unfamiliar with its outside appearance. Compare it with Jin Mao in ShangHai, if you like. You’ll find that some ideas reappear. And indeed both buildings took a palm tree as the founding idea.

Dr. Sun Yatsen Memorial Hall

TP_20070707_143627.jpg: It happens to be a 5 minute walk from 101, otherwise it would probably not make much sense to take on any lengthy travel to see this building. From the outside it is supposed to resemble Chinese temple architecture.

TP_20070707_144154.jpg: Inside is a huge statue of a sitting Dr Sun Yatsen, not unlike a Buddha, guarded by two still-standing soldiers, who have one hour turns. Not my job either…

There are also two halls to both sides with some historical background information of Dr Sun Yatsen, honored as father of the Chinese Republic. As he is also high esteemed on the mainland (see as just one example his mausoleum in Nanjing, of which I have several picture, though none of my two Nanjing trips is yet published here) it doesn’t seem quite clear which party (Communist or Kuomintang) sees itself as successor of his ideas. Probably both… Taipei itself is proud of 3 visits (three, drei, 三个) of him to Taipei, one of them lasting for a few hours only. Wow…

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

This one is considerably more impressive, though not necessarily larger than the hall for Dr. Sun Yatsen. As founder father and first president of modern Taiwan (Republic of China) he certainly is an important figure here, similar to Chairman Mao’s importance to the mainland. And Chiang Kai-Shek is certainly never mentioned on the mainland, neither is Mao here. At least not positively. I hope I don’t get beaten up on account of mentioning both of them in the same sentence…

The area covered here is even larger than for Dr. Sun Yatsen. Which gives even less shadow walking from one house to the next. And I now keep worrying about the combination of heat, sweat, and the well-being of my camera.

TP_20070707_161630.jpg: Already the subway exit looks dramatically different, more like a gallery of various types of arts. I have not figured out at all why that is…but looks great.

TP_20070707_162147.jpg: Outside blistering sun. All I wanted was to get back into the subway. But then? Where to go then? So I took a deep breath and walked across this huge tiled square were the air basically didn’t move. It’s big… The gate is inscribed (right-to-left reading!) 大中至正 (modern Pinyin: “Da Zhong Zhi Zheng”, meaning something like “great centrality and perfect uprightness”). In a complete confusion of romanizations the accompanying English text (otherwise perfect, unlike on the mainland) translates the characters as “Da Jhong Jhih Jheng” and explains that Chiang Kai-Shek was also known as Chiang Chung-Cheng, and that he has chosen this latter name from the cited for Chinese characters. The unfamiliar reader might now wonder what “Da Jhong Jhih Jheng” had to do with “Chung-Cheng”, and even I can only guess that he picked character number 2 and 4, i.e. effectively the characters nowadays transliterated “Zhong Zheng”, “central / upright, correct”.

TP_20070707_162708.jpg: The probably best shot you can currently take of the actual memorial hall: It is under renovation, and the middle fence pillar hides the scaffolding. Another similarity with Chairman Mao…

XiMen (西)

TP_20070707_170243.jpg: Yea…I wanted back into the subway. But somewhere I had to get out again. I picked XiMen for this exercise as there was supposed to be some shopping area. And I had the hope of seeing something of the river passing by nearby. Maybe a nice riverside promenade with cafes with air condition or so… Well, the shopping area I surely found, and it was even quite enjoyable. Lots of young people around there. Or it’s just because I’m getting old. But while moving west towards the river, after some point the mass of people was just gone. I walked one block further but couldn’t see anything except for elevated roads. No riverside promenade.

TP_20070707_172720.jpg: Disappointed I turned around and walked slowly back towards train station and came across this building by pure chance, of which I don’t know excactly what it actually is. Probably a theater.

I missed to visit any of the night markets renowned for their snack food. But it is still well above 30°C, even without sun. I have no intention to eat outside this time. So I picked a restaurant (“Jolly” or so) near the hotel with own brewery and, hence, good beer. Also good food actually. Just the service was sometimes a bit unattentive, though friendly.

BTW: The Delight Hotel is small, but great! If you consider staying in a middle-class hotel in Taipei, you’re right here! Tip-top rooms, fancy bath (some rooms with slightly higher rates even have an integrated Spa), friendly staff with quite OK English knowledge. And can organize for transportation to the airport for just 1.200 TWD. That I reserved for tomorrow morning as I have to leave very early. My flight via Macau back to ChengDu goes off at 09:45. I am scheduled to arrive in ChengDu somewhen around 16:00. And then I’ll try to hop directly on another flight to KunMing and find some hostel to provide lodging for me. End of the luxury days… Though I haven’t heard anything of him lately I still expect to see Payam in Kunming for travelling together.

Hence, don’t expect any update to this site tomorrow. I’ll be travelling all day.

In case you still didn’t figure out what that 650t heavy ball in Tapei 101’s top is about, here’s the solution; It is the compensation weight to smoothen the building’s swaying in case of heavy winds or earthquakes.

Today’s Lesson: 中正, Zhong Zheng, Jhong Jhen, Chung-Cheng…all the same.