My first trip to Taiwan. They still had a quarantine on entry for COVID for 3 days at a hotel – I could have a long dissertation complaining about the bureaucracy of the process, but at the end of the day, I chose to go at this time, so no whining. Ended up 3 days quarantine in the hotel, 4 days work and/or hotel, and a Saturday off – all in the rain. Masks are required 100% of the time outside of my hotel, even walking in the street.
While in quarantine, I did watch some videos on Taiwanese history, and it is very similar to South Korea
• Semi-autonomous up until the early 1900’s
• Then occupied by Japan until 1945 – brutally just like Korea.
• Then after some years of consolidation, settled into a non-democracy under martial law
• Then in the 1980s started a true transition to democracy and economic growth
What I didn’t fully understand and learned more during my day off Saturday (in the rain at a museum) is that before the Japanese occupied in the early 1900’s, that Taiwan was under Chinese influence but not fully part of China. From 1945-1949, Taiwan actually had some autonomy as a province of China. But In 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek lost to the communists in 1949 and moved the Republic of China government (and a couple of million refugees) to exile in Taiwan, it adopted the full history of China pre-1949. Walking through the National Palace Museum, almost every exhibit was related to mainland China history like the Ming and Qing Dynasty – very little to the history of the island of Taiwan.
Another similarity is the daily attitude towards China (or on South Korea, North Korea), they are not worried at all. The conflict is probably discussed more in the USA than it is Taiwan.
Taipei is also similar to Seoul, large and modern and pretty much rebuilt since the 1950s…although smaller at only about 7 million people in the metro area. Denser that any city in the US except for Manhattan. One difference from Seoul is that Taipei was quieter, and it could have been the COVID impact, as in Seoul there were bars in every shopping area with music blasting out windows. The night market that I went too was basically like a county fair with a lot of food trucks and very family friendly – I didn’t find anywhere like Itaewon.
I ended up spending more time at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial than I originally planned – it was interesting how they kept the memorial somewhat in tact from when Chiang Kai-shek lived in the 1970s which only showed the positives of rule since 1949. They added new exhibits which did show the oppression during the period of martial law right besides the original exhibits.
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