Superb landscape and cultural life of Taiwan

Dr. Syed Anwarul Haque

I had the opportunity to visit Taipei, capital of Taiwan, in connection with my participation to the 6th ESAFS (East & South Asian Federation of Soil Science) International Conference held from 24-29 November 2003 at the National Taiwan University, Taipei. The Conference programme was highlighted on Soil Management Technology, “Low-productivity and Degraded Soils”. I had an invited Key-note paper to present at the Conference on “Management of Low-productive Degraded Soils of Bangladesh”. It was a unique opportunity for me to visit Taiwan, a beautiful island country with varied tourist’s attraction. Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, was established by Chiang Kai-Shek, who was the former Head of State of China before communist’s takeover of China. Taiwan maintains relation with rest of the world as an independent nation, but yet to be recognized by the UN.
I had to go to Bangkok to get my visa for Taiwan, since we do not have any Taiwanese Consulate in Dhaka. I got the visa for Taiwan very quickly, applied for it in the morning and got the visa in the afternoon of the same day. I left for Taipei from Bangkok the day after I receipt visa for Taiwan.
Taiwan is a country, which is known throughout the world for its economic achievements. It is a small island nation situated 180 km east of mainland China. In the neighborhood of Taiwan located China to the west, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. Taipei, the capital of Taiwan is located in the north of the country, which is also known for its busy night markets, Chinese Imperial art at the National Palace Museum and one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, Taipei 101, a 509 meter-tall, bamboo-shaped skyscraper. It has a population of approximately 23.58 million (2018), with a high population density, 650 inhabitants per square kilometer.
Diversity of Taiwan indicates high mountainous region, deep gorges, rushing streams, tranquil lakes, offshore islets and shorelines of every imaginable shape. Its special geographic feature includes high peaks of mountains, such as the Central Mountain Range with a height of 4,000 meters. It provides Taiwan with a landscape which is extraordinarily rich in animal and plant life. It has world’s one of high extent of biological diversity per unit of land area. The plant cover ranges from tropical rain forest to temperate grasslands. The important feature of Taiwanese life is that it has a society that preserves diversified Chinese traditional culture, which is a unique.
I experienced the beautiful landscapes of Taiwan in our four-day tour of the countryside after a two-day conference programme was over also organized by the Conference Committee. A noticeable feature of the countryside was clusters of bamboo trees often visible along the road sides, a unique sight that a visitor will not miss. Bamboo trees are quite slender and tall, unlike ones we notice here in our country. One of such forest of bamboo trees is located in a valley high in mountains of Nantou. The climate there is cool throughout the year with unique wildlife.
Taiwan can boast of its agricultural development. Taiwan is especially known for its famous tea grown in different counties of the island, such as Dongding Wulong and Baojhong tea of Pinglin. Taipei has the reputation of very high quality of tea products for which Taiwan is also known as the “Kingdom of tea”. We the delegates to the Conference had an opportunity to visit tea production place and experience testing a good number of fine varieties of tea grown in Taipei. Some of the teas we tasted were of very high quality. Taiwan has world’s one of the most famous tea museum located in Pinglin, where different aspects of tea brewing are demonstrated.
We had wonderful experience of attending some folk dances during our tour to the country sides of Taiwan. Many aboriginal tribes still survive today in Taiwan. Because of their long association with nature and reliance on the bounty of the land, forests and water for their livelihood, aboriginals show their reverence towards heaven, earth, spirits and deities with rituals, singing, and dancing. During our tour programme in Taiwan, we also witnessed aboriginal dances, which were quite fascinating. It was a classic experience for us to witness their performances in their traditional colorful garb, which was simply wonderful.
I extended my visit to Taipei by two more days after the official programme of 6-day conference ended to see more of Taiwan, since the visit to Taipei appeared very interesting to me. One of my attractions of the extended visit in Taiwan was visiting the just opened world’s tallest sky-scrapper – the Taipei financial center, known as Taipei 101 because of its 101 stories. The Taipei 101 was the tallest building of the world in 2003, when it was opened on November 14, 2003. The height of Taipei 101 was 509 meters. The cost of construction of the skyscraper was US Dollar 1.7 billion. It has 64 elevators and 50 escalators including two world’s fastest elevators.
In my extended tour itinerary was also included a visit to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, which is a landmark in architectural design. Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial with its complex is located in the outskirts of Taipei. The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall was erected in honor and memory of the founder President of Taiwan, which was opened for visitors in 1980. The beautiful memorial hall is one of most attractive landmark monuments in Taipei. It is white on four sides with blue roof and octagon-shaped. The height of the memorial hall is 76 meters. It is interesting to note that the memorial has two sets of white stairs, each with 89 steps to represent Chiang’s age at the time of his death leading to the main entrance. At the ground level of the memorial hall located a library and a museum which was highly fortified like a bunker as told by the guide to the Memorial documenting Chiang Kai-shek’s life and history of development of Taiwan. It had a lot of precious Chinese articles brought from the mainland China when Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan and established his rule there before Communist take-over of the main land China. The upper part of the memorial Hall contains a large Bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek, where a guard of honor ceremony takes place at regular intervals. The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial complex covers a big area of 60 acres, within which are located Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall at the Liberty Square, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial park, Democracy Square, the National Theater and Concert Hall, all of which are worth visiting.
I left Taipei at the end of my visit to Taiwan with a wonderful memorable experience of the beautiful island country in the South-east Asia.
[The author is a retired Professor of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh.]

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