Exploring the beautiful isle
Inside the heart of The Republic of China (Taiwan)
Inside the heart of The Republic of China (Taiwan)
Adecade or two back, before our nation’s current obsession with everything Korean pop culture—from arts to cosmetics—we were all into everything Taiwanese. This craze, which I think most of my fellow’90s kids would agree, took our early 2000s by storm. Mandopop was our jam and watching Taiwanese drama was our noontime routine. Meteor Garden was probably the most iconic foreign TV series of our youth. I mean, who didn’t follow Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai’s rocky-road relationship? They were the OTP of multiple Filipino generations. Lee Shin and Lee Gyu Won who?
In turn, Taiwan solidified itself as a top dream destination for Filipinos. Even now, with the craze long dead, the country, with its own brand of charm, remains a favorite choice for the traveling Filipino. And if you’re someone who has always desired to visit the “Ilha Formosa” or “The Beautiful Isle,” then now might just be the best time to do so. Just last year, the Taiwanese government made everything much easier by making a visit by a Filipino national, which will not exceed 14 days, to their country visafree until July 31.
So, where should you go? In this country, you could go anywhere and you’d still find something interesting. Aside from its breathtaking scenery and natural spectacles, the beauty of Taiwan lies on its versatility and progressiveness In this country, you could go anywhere and you’d still find something interesting. as a nation, transcending its tourism industry to three rich aspects—culturaland historical, spiritual, and technological. And if you are going to visit Taiwan, it’s best to experience all three.
They say you can measure a nation’s development through its mode of transportations. Well, Taiwan’s efficient and intricate transportation system is a tourist attraction in and of itself. With over a hundred stations ,117 to be exact, the country’s mass transit system moves two million people on daily basis. In fact, the capital’s train system, Taipei Metro, is continuously named as the most reliable subway system in the world. Owned 90 percent by the government and staffed with dedicated workers, technical problems within the train system are said to be immediately resolved at an average of two minutes.
Oh, you think transportation couldn’t get better than that? In Kaohsiung, the massive port city in Southern Taiwan, they mixed progressive transportation with even more progressive technology, which resulted to a state-of-the-art aerial entertainment attraction called the “i-Ride.” The five dimensional, hyper-realistic ride gives an immersive bird’s eye view of Kaohsiung. Dangling feet and special effects like wind, sound, light, mist, and scents add to the sensation of soaring through the air!
And if talking about Taiwan’s overall industrial and technological development, Taipei 101 is hard to miss—literally! Erected at the heart of the capital, Taipei 101, the tallest green building the world, flexes Taiwan’s urban muscles. With an observatory that is spread over four floors, it is an access to the city’s fantastic panoramic scenery, and also a classroom to learn about the country’s architecture titan. It is also the home to probably the most famous engineering icon in Taiwan, the wind damper, a 5.5 meter diameter, 660 ton ball suspended within the building to offset the force of wind and help 101 to always stand upright.
Oh, and you also don’t have to stress out about connecting to the internet when in Taiwan, there’s few WiFi accessible by everyone, yes, including tourists. At the airport, upon arrival, tourists can just proceed to the Tourist Service Center for registration.
THE CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL
Modern Taiwanese culture is often referred to as the result of many influences—blending Chinese, Austronesian, Japanese, and Western influences. Taiwan’s art is probably one of the widest in the world. You can find the country’s face of expression anywhere, from its historical-sitesturned-modern-cultural-hubs to its legendary museums. While unified by the same history, every part of Taiwan, as in north, center, south, and east, still has a unique identifying characteristic each. This, in my opinion, is where Taiwan gets most of its world-famous charm, in its super rich and diverse culture and history, and it is used well.
If you’re someone who has a knack for ancient history, or just want to explore more of Taiwan’s rich heritage, then the National Palace Museum is a
must in your itinerary. Filled with over 700,000 ancient Chinese artifacts, it is the largest of its type and of its own kind in the world, and nothing comes close. The museum boasts an eclectic collection of historical gems, from the Neolithic Period up to World War II. These century-old treasures will easily leave anyone’s jaw dropped, but two of its best attractions may leave some people famished. One is the jadeite
cabbage, which is believed to have been made in the 19th century and the meatshaped stone made of jasper and which they say was naturally carved into the shape of dongpo pork.
As Taiwan’s industrial status continuously rockets to quick progression, it utilizes old backward factories to its advantage, like one sugar mill in Tainan. During the Japanese Colonial Era, a huge amount of sugar cane was planted in Taiwan, because the climate was suitable and the war demanded sugar. But when the Japanese withdrew from Taiwan, after World War II, they left a few sugar mills and exclusive railways, which were out of touch in so far as technology is concerned. Instead of destroying these factories, they were made historical landmarks, some preserved and remodeled into a creative park. The Ten Drum Art Percussion Group, a performing arts and music group that is dedicated and committed to creating a truly unique Taiwanese drum music, has procured two mills, one of it is in Rende, Tainan.
Among the historical and cultural places in Taiwan, I would personally suggest The National Museum of Taiwan Literature (NMTL) in Tainan. NMTL is inside another historical building, which could be traced to 1916, a European-styled architecture that was then built to house the Tainan Prefectural Government. Now, as NMTL, it records, organizes, and explains Taiwan’s literary heritage. Inside are educational activities that promote awareness of Taiwan’s literary traditions. The museum includes literature and children’s literature reading rooms as well as a literary experience center designed to both excite and educate. THE SPIRITUAL
Like in the Philippines, Taiwan has a tourist market for religion, more specifically its colossal monasteries. Because Taiwan never experienced any form of communist leadership, traditional religious practices and ancient customs are still heavily retained, some of which have even disappeared from the Chinese mainland. In some instances, because of these retained practices, Taiwan is called ‘more Chinese than China itself.’
One of the most notable monasteries in Taiwan is the Nung Chan Monastery. It started as a farmhouse in a bamboo grove, some 30 years ago. Master Sheng Yen became its Abbot, continuing Master Dong Chu’s tradition of practice, inspiring multitudes to learn about and uphold the Buddhadharma. In the monastery, a placid pool reflects the splendid Buddha hall, transformed into a scenic practice center where Master Sheng Yen’s compassion and abundant teachings continue to guide seekers to enter the way of compassion, contemplate, and return to their true nature. Nung Chan Monastery welcomes absolutely everyone who wishes to calm their body and mind, and cultivate blessings and wisdom.
Fo Guang Shan, the big international Chinese Buddhist monastic order and new religious movement based in Taiwan, has its headquarters located in Dashu District, Kaohsiung, which is the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. Now a major tourist destination, the monastery peaks up to 10 million visitors a year. It also has a growing community within it, in fact it is second to the Vatican when it comes to religious population. Sitting at the Fo Guang Shan Monastery is the biggest seated Buddha of all time, 108 meters high.
With a growing number of visitors each year, Fo Guang Shan playfully integrates ancient and modern elements to the monastery premises, at its lobby are commercial food chains and shops like Starbucks. The point of these, however, was to simply invite the people in. That’s according to vice abbot venerable Hui
Luen. According to him, most important is that the message of Buddha is delivered across the people’s consciousness. Ultimately, according to the vice abbot, Fo Guang Shan promotes humanistic Buddhism, a helping hand to those who has problems mentally, psychologically, and spiritually. Buddhist or not, the monastery offers its welcoming halls to everyone.