October 30, 2013
Evergreen Maritime Museum
There are many museums around Taiwan, and especially in Taipei, on everything from stamps to crabs. Some are free and many charge just a few dollars, while some are privately run on an impressively large scale, such as the Evergreen Maritime Museum.
A bit of background first. Evergreen is one of the most respected Taiwanese companies with more than 25,000 employees worldwide and encompassing a variety of businesses including EVA Air and, most famously perhaps, the Evergreen shipping line. The founder and group chairman of the Evergreen group, Dr. Chang Yung-fa, started his career at a shipping line and then on the ships themselves, and this love of the ocean is displayed in full in the Evergreen Maritime Museum. Indeed, the creation of the museum was a lifelong wish of Dr. Chang, and the donation of some 4000 pieces has realised this wish for our benefit.
Actually, before you enter the museum, a quick word about the building itself. Now the headquarters of the Chang Yung-fa foundation, it used to be the headquarters for the KMT (one of the political parties in Taiwan) before being sold in 2006. The interior is quite luxuriant and makes a great setting for the displays and exhibits.
The mission of the museum is "to preserve and present the history, art and science of boats and ships, in the hope of generating public interest in maritime culture and in turn inspiring the pursuit of knowledge and the spirit of exploration." On entering the museum you are immediately faced with a full scale dhow and a traditionally carved boat from Orchid Island which sets the international flavour of the museum.
The museum is spread over five floors, and I'd recommend heading straight up to the fifth floor and then working your way down.
The fifth floor is perhaps the most interesting if you like models, and there are some wonderfully intricate models here charting the history of shipping through the ages. Many of the greats of the sailing era are on display and you can't help but feel a bit Master and Commander.
The fourth floor is more up to date, and if you are into warships this is the floor for you. There are some great models and many of the more well-known ships from the Second World War.
The third floor details the close history that Taiwan and the Taiwanese have with the sea. It's worth remembering that the name "Formosa" was given by Portuguese sailors when they first saw Taiwan in the 16th century (they called the island Ilha Formosa or beautiful island). There is also an impressive array of maritime related paintings on this floor.
The second floor is a bit more hands on and gives the impression of being on the bridge of a container ship. There are some interactive displays here for the kids (or indeed adults) to try.
There is a cafe on the first floor, and there is also a restaurant on B1 (the basement). Rumour has it that an orchestra occasionally practices in the basement, so if you are lucky you'll get free entertainment.
Overall, I think the museum is well worth a visit. Entrance costs NT$200 for adults and you might be tempted to spend a bit in the gift shop, but I think it's good value. The location of the museum is also a bonus, being next to the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall) and within walking distance of the Presidential Office Building, 228 Memorial Park, and National Taiwan Museum. It's easy to get to via bus or MRT, and it is well worth walking around the area (map: http://goo.gl/maps/Wv4FW).
•Previous article: Cycling in the Bike Kingdom
•Next article: Songshan Cultural and Creative Park