Saturday, September 30, 2017

Taipei: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the Changing of Guards

My brother-in-law has been to Taipei a few years ago and he told me that if ever I will be visiting the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial monument, which is a very popular attraction in Taipei, I better go and check out the changing of the guards.

My plan really is to visit the CKS memorial monument but I didn’t know about the changing of the guard's ceremony. So I did some quick research and found out that the ceremony happens on the top of the hour from 10:00 to 16:00, thus, on an hourly basis.

I have seen a couple of changing of the guard's ceremonies in other capital cities, namely the Royal Palace in Stockholm (Sweden), the Parliament Building on Syntagma Square in Athens (Greece) and the Buckingham Palace in London (United Kingdom) where I got bored waiting together with the massive crowd that I decided to leave.

I may have seen more changing of the guards in other countries but these 3 are the ones I can recollect quickly.

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The Liberty Square Main Gate. I wanted to take a picture of the gate without people on the foreground but that was impossible. It did not turn out so bad in the end.

In Taipei, I bought the Taipei Pass (a metro/MRT card) which you can buy in 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 days. The city’s public transportation infrastructure is wired excellently with the underground metro. It is the most efficient, cost-effective and fastest way of travelling around Taipei. Unless you go with a group and with older people, which a taxi then would be more easier and stress-free, the metro is hands down the best choice for able-bodied people.

From my base in Ximending, I took the metro to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. My plan was to stroll around the square and gardens, appreciate the buildings, check out the shrine dedicated to Chiang Kai-shek, the old president of the Republic of China and watch the changing of the guards. Then afterwards, I will be going to the Yangmingshan mountains for the tea ceremony I booked.

Trivia: Did you know that the official name of Taiwan is Republic of China (ROC) and the China we know is called, People’s Republic of China (PRC)? The naming convention of the latter came later though.

There is a long and complex history between China and Taiwan that is very interesting to read. This is an ongoing issue that has no closure, yet. From the beginning of the plight of the Chinese dynasties, then the European trade and exploration, the tragic 2nd world war, followed by the unfolding of the Chinese civil war where the nationalists lost the battle to the communists, and the rise of capitalism in our present generation resulting to new ideologies challenging traditional Chinese life values, culture and the status quo.

A Buddhist monk walking on the still wet from the earlier rain Liberty Square with the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in the background.

Saw some locals doing the Tai-Chi outside the Concert Hall. This is a common sight in Taiwan.

I arrived at the CKS memorial grounds at around 11:30 which is timely because the changing of the guards will happen at 12:00. This gives me ample time to go around the plaza before climbing the memorial hall for the ceremony which will happen sharply at 12:00. They usually start preparing the event, the place and the crowd 10 minutes before.

I managed to take 2 short videos of the ceremony. Here is one of them:

The guards are all so young. This is what really stood out for me. I cannot really say they were men. Men in uniform, helmets and rifles. I see them all as boys. They could have been my son’s age if I had a son. It is even stranger to think about it because I do not have a child. Never had one. I also never desired for one, although I did think about it when I was in my teens, which does not really count. When you are a teenager, you do not really know what you want in life, yet.

Oh well, when you are in the middle age bandwagon, you start to realise that a lot, if not, the majority of the people around you are younger than you. The realization sinks in that there are more years behind you than before you. But it also gives me some comfort, knowing that I have ‘been there’ (right, done and dusted!), and the younger people are ‘still going there’. But I guess, I can only say that now with confidence because the present has turned out all right for me.

We can only tell the future by grabbing the present and living in the moment.

The same goes for Taiwan. For now, we see Taiwan as an independent country from China (although not officially recognised), but we do not know if it remains one in the future. Will there be unity between China and Taiwan? The now will for sure shape the future.

I hope you enjoy the pictures!

On the Liberty Square are the National Concert Hall (north / left if facing the memorial) and the National Theatre Hall south / right if facing the memorial), flanking the CKS Memorial Hall.

The Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) Memorial Hall.

On the granite steps (89 steps) of the CKS Memorial Hall with the view of the Liberty Square Plaza and the Main Gate.

The bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek, former President of the Republic of China who retreated to Taiwan after the Nationalists were defeated in the Chinese Civil War (which ensued after WWII and the Sino-Japanese War) by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has established the current Chinese government under the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Yup, the changing of the guards has become quite a tourist attraction!

The men, er the boys, they all looked so young.

Two guards mounted near the bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek. The guards are changed hourly, from 10:00 to 16:00. The changing occurs on top of the hour. 

Northen Asian-style manners, when it's raining, you must pick a plastic to cover your dripping umbrella. I do not think the "green/eco" activists would like this.

The gardens on the Liberty Square were well taken care of.

The CKS Memorial Hall is flanked by the National Concert Hall and National Theater on the Liberty Square. It is a nice place to walk around here.

There is a Chinese garden with a lake, flora and fauna and traditionally designed Chinese arch bridges beside the CKS Memorial monument.

Travel Period: January 2017
Destination: Taipei, Taiwan

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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