May 25, 2008
National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall
Taipei is a big, modern, bustling city which can be overwhelming for the newly arrived, although it becomes almost addictive after a while. Worry not though dear reader, as there are a few oases to relax in (see also the Lin Family Gardens post) such as the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park.
The first thing that strikes you when you walk into the park is that it's big. It covers 240,000 square meters, and as I find trying to visualize numbers difficult, here’s a picture.
The park itself consists of three buildings, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (also known as the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall but we won't get into why here) which is flanked by the National Concert Hall and National Theater. All of these buildings are worth a look, but unless you are actually going to a performance, the Memorial Hall will be of most interest (more later).
There are three gates into the park, the largest being on Chongshan South Road. Have the cameras at the ready as it does make a great background for photo. This is also close to the MRT (subway) station which is the best way to get here (take exit 5).?
The paved Memorial Square between these buildings is often occupied by groups practicing dance routines, families taking a stroll, flying kites, rollerblading, photographers taking snaps, and this is one of the attractions I think. It's a great place to people watch where people aren't rushing.
The area around the outside of the Memorial Park gives the park its name. It’s a pleasant, shaded area where you can take a break and enjoy a bit of green. As you are walking round, check out the windows in the surrounding wall and the differing shapes. They provide an interesting backdrop for photos and help to keep the city out of the park. There is also a pond with large koi carp which you can feed from the handily placed feed vending machine.
Moving on, the Memorial Hall is really the centerpiece of the park. Although you can enter the exhibition area directly, I think it’s better to climb the steps and enter from the top. The view over the whole park is great and the entrance is worth the climb?(see above).?Apart from the giant statue of Chiang-kai Shek, don't forget to check out the ceiling.
On either side of this room are entrances to the wonderfully air-conditioned exhibition hall situated three floors below, and I highly recommend you go and have a look. Although the first exhibition area you see will change, head to the back for the area dedicated to the life of Chiang-kai Shek, which is after all why this place was built.
The issue of what the hall should be used for, as with the name change is highly contentious, so I won’t go into any details here. However, whatever your opions of the man, I find this musuem like area really interesting as it gives an insight into the history of Taiwan. From the three ton bullet proof Cadillac to pictures of visiting dignitaries, to paintings by Madame Chiang, most of the exhibits have English explanations so there is plenty to see. It’s also well laid out so even if it’s busy it won’t feel too crowded.
My personal recommendation would be to plan for a half-day here. If you need a break from the local food (it happens and there is no need to feel guilty), get a sandwich and beverage and head down here for lunch, then spend the afternoon exploring. And don’t forget to bring your camera!
•Previous article: The Secret of Lotung Night Market
•Next article: Dragon Boat Festival