Tantalising Taiwan

Tantalising Taiwan

While the vibrant city chaos, hot springs and the dormant volcano are big draws in Taiwan, Vathsala V P suggests a few must-see places that offer something for everyone

Rainbow Village

As I landed in the Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, I was reminded of the fact that it is one of the most populated countries in the world. Everywhere I saw, there were heads, heads, and more heads. Nothing different from my home country, I thought, and smiled to myself. But, over the course of my 10-day stay in the beautiful mountainous island nation, I fell madly in love with it. The history, culture, scenic beauty, and the food this nation, officially known as the Republic of China, had to offer, bowled me over. Though there are plenty of options for a tourist to explore, here are my top five picks:

921 Earthquake Museum
921 Earthquake Museum

921 Earthquake Museum

September 21, 1999 was a black day in Taiwan. For, at 1.47 am, the central part of Taiwan was struck by an earthquake that measured 7.3 on the Richter scale. This devastating earthquake left over 2,000 dead, and property worth crores damaged, earning a place in the list of the worst natural disasters of the past century in this island nation, prompting the government to build a museum to document the damage and also serve as a reminder to the people about the need for disaster preparedness. The location is a school, Kwangfu Junior High in Wufeng District, Taichung, on top of the fault line where most of the buildings were completely destroyed. A walk around the museum is heartbreaking. With the help of steel frames, the entire destruction, including the collapse of classrooms, is preserved. There’s the Chelungpu Fault Gallery, Earthquake Engineering Hall, Image Gallery, Disaster Prevention Hall, and Reconstruction Records Hall, all of which give a picture of the devastation and its aftermath. The earthquake simulator room is also worth a visit, where a short, 5-minute programme made me experience the very moment of the earthquake with its violent vibrations.

Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm; closed on Mondays.

Distance from Taipei: 200 km from Taipei, 17 km from Taichung.

Rainbow Village

Yes, the name says it all. This tiny settlement of 11 houses in the Nantun district of Taichung has its houses and streets in vibrant colours. The story behind it is equally interesting. Known originally as Caihongjuan Village, it was a military settlement housing veteran soldiers and their families. However, with the passage of time, it started attracting the attention of property developers, resulting in multi-storeyed buildings and contemporary structures. This development worried one former soldier, Huang Yung-Fu, who did not want his house too to be acquired by real estate giants. His show of resistance came in the form of paintings. He began painting his house with images of comic characters and animals in vibrant colours, and soon painted all the 11 houses in that particular settlement. This story of an 86-year-old’s desperate attempt to save his village attracted the attention of local university students who spearheaded a campaign to save the settlement, and it was saved. Known as the Rainbow Village now, it is today a public park, attracting a large number of visitors. Huang Yung-Fu is 97 years old now, and still interacts with the visitors.

Opening hours: 8 am to 6 pm; entry free.
Distance: 172 km from Taipei, 9 km from Taichung.

Sun Moon Lake

If scenic beauty has an address in Taiwan, it has to be Sun Moon Lake. No exaggeration. Being Taiwan’s largest lake, it is located in the mountains of Nantou County, the geographic centre of the island nation. It owes its name to its resemblance to sun on the eastern side, and to crescent moon on its western side. In the middle of the lake is Lalu Island, considered holy by the aboriginal Thao tribe that lives around the lake. According to Thao mythology, Thao hunters spotted a white deer in the mountains and chased it to the shore of Sun Moon Lake. They were so impressed by the lake that they decided to settle there. A scenic splendour with its stunning mountainous backdrop and clear turquoise waters, Sun Moon Lake also plays host to the Swimming Carnival, a 3 km swimming race, during the Mid Autumn Festival (celebrated on September 13 this year) every year when it attracts a large number of participants. The other attractions are the Wenwu Temple, Ci En Pagoda, and the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway.

Distance: 260 km from Taipei, 82 km from Taichung.

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village
Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village

This cultural village, accessed by the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway from Sun Moon Lake, is spread over 62 hectares of land, and serves as an introduction to the lives and traditions of nine different aboriginal tribal communities of Taiwan. A large outdoor museum, it displays the traditional homes of the tribals, giving the visitors a first-hand feel of ancient Taiwanese villages. This is a place that proves to be a treat for all ages as it also offers an appealing European garden with its gothic clock tower, the Roman fountain, and the like. A visit to the park also ensures ample cultural performances and craft demonstrations by the native aborigines.

Opening Hours: 9.30 am to 5 pm.

National Taichung Theatre
National Taichung Theatre

National Taichung Theatre

Located in Taichung city, this new landmark of Taiwan is a hub of cultural activities. Functional since 2016, this 6-storeyed building has a 2007-seater Grand Theatre, an opera stage, a Play House that can seat 800, and a Black Box theatre with a seating for 200. Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Toyo Ito, this theatre is a fascinating place for design enthusiasts with its curved, irregularly shaped entrances that are featured throughout the building. “If you see the entire world as a river, then I want my buildings to be like a whirlpool,” is what Toyo Ito had said about his buildings, and this theatre is no exception. Facilities in the building include rehearsal spaces, a restaurant, and a roof terrace.

Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday – 11.30 am to 9 pm; Friday to Saturday – 11.30 am to 10 pm.

 

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