Wednesday, March 24, 2010


The National Palace Museum

The Pavilion within the 2-28 (Feb 28) Peace Park, downtown Taipei

The former Colonial Building now Oxford College

The former British Consulate in Dansui

Fort Santo Domingo, Dansui built by the Spanish in 1628

The iconic 101 Tower now beaten by new buildings in Shanghai

The Presidential Building

The Changing of Guards at the Martyr's Shrine

Zhonglieci or Martyr's Shrine

Residence of former President Chiang Kai-shek at Shilim

The statue of Dr Sun Yat-sen founder of the Chinese Republic in 1911

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

The statue of Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

The last time we were in Taiwan was in late December 1977 & early January 1978.

In fact we ushered in the new year from Kaohsiung. We could still vividly recall the sounds of the bull-horns being blown excitedly by ships in the harbour to welcome 1978.

So in early January 2010 I made a second visit to Taiwan traipsing the much changed Metropolis of Taipei & we took the High Speed Rail (HSR) from downtown Taipei to Kaohsiung disembarking at New Zuoying which is two railway stops from Kaohsiung Main Station at the city centre. By Metro New Zouying is 5 MRT stops away from the same rail/metro interchange of Kaoshiung Main Station.

Travelling by HSR my brother & I took 96 minutes to the dot from the time the whistle blew at Taipei Main Station to arrive seamlessly at the New Zouying Station. The bullet-shaped train stopped only once at Taichung. The journey was smooth & uneventful although the train at times gained speeds of up to about 300 kilopmetre per hour. We could hardly feel the bumps & vibrations.The one-way fare was Taiwan $1265. So there is a price to pay for speed, efficiency & comfort. We did not realise that we had arrived at the end of our journey until people started standing up to remove their luggage from the overhead compartment or to looked at themselves via their mirror, adjust their clothing or do other things to preen themselves in order to make themselves more presentable. Indeed everywhere people are vain & ostentatious.

The changes we witnessed after a lapse of 32 years is to say the least astounding. Back in 1978 Taiwan was a poor agriculture-based country with a per capita income lower than Malaysia then. In every city & town we passed by we observed that every available nook & corner were not laid to waste but used to grow vegetables, fruit trees & other plants for food consumption. Most of the land hitherto planted have now been invaded by roads, buildings & other man-made structures. The Taiwanese nowadays import much of their foodstuff although in the countryside agriculture activities still predominate. Rising labour & land costs mean that her agricultural products have lost their competitive edge.The economy was then very much at subsistence level. What we now see in 2010 was something beyond the wildest imagination of the economists if they were to compare & evaluate the economic performance between 1978 & now.

Taiwan's transportation infrastructure nows boasts as the third or fourth best in Asia-after Japan, the city state of Singapore & she is fighting neck-to-neck with South Korea. The country is the proud owner of two Metro systems, one in Taipei city & the other in Kaohsuing the second largest city Taiwan lay claim to having the second tallest building in the world, that is, the 101-storey Taipei 101 which soars up to 509 metres. Kaohsiung is the home to the 85-storey Tuntex Sky Tower which reaches a height of 348 metres. At present it is the 13th tallest building in the world.

There is still the balance between modernity & tradition & old world charm. As a matter of fact Taiwan has lots of both to offer to visitors.

Taiwan is generally a safe country as unemployment is low & her factories which have mushroomed over the years do not depend on any foreign labour at all. Her per capita income has overtaken Malaysia's several years ago.

March 25 2010